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Walks Ends With 'Golden' Treat. (1 Viewer)


Botanical Birder
27th Nov. It was a cool, but bright morning as I left to start my pond, woods and coast walk, with the rising sun still painting the sky in the east a rather nice shade of orange. My first excitement of the day was to have a Kestrel fly directly at me as I walked between the village and pond. I’m not sure if I had put it off a target prey item, but it appeared to fly directly at me until making a manoeuvre and flying over the nearby rooftops. I remembered a similar experience I once had when a hunting Sparrowhawk had narrowly, it seemed to me, missed my face as I walked through woodland. I also had a similar experience with a Barn Owl which flew directly at me, as if I wasn’t registering with it, before to veered off over a hedge.

I must say recent visits to the pond have not been especially productive in terms of bird numbers. Today I was expecting much, but was rather disappointed. The expected flocks of waterfowl, especially Teal and Wigeon, just weren’t there. I found no Teal at all and only one pair of Wigeon. Have I just been unlucky? I found only one pair of Goldeneye, a small flock of Pochard and one Little Grebe amongst the Mallard, Moorhen and Coots. A small flock of Lapwing and four calling Redshank made a brief appearance over the pond. The feeding station I know has been the target of vandalism and that may explain the lack of available feed, but what was there was attracting tits, and small numbers of Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Dunnock, Robin and Wren, along with a female Pheasant. The water of the pond was quite high and judging by the waterlogged surroundings had been much higher in recent days. I decided to take a look from the public hide to see if I had been missing anything and just then numbers of Greylag and Pink-footed Geese flew in and landed on the fields behind the tree line. Only one lone Greylag called from the pond, as if it had drifted from its companions. Gulls on the water were, Black Headed, Common, Herring and Greater Black Backed. I found nothing more from the public hide from where the pond looked even more bereft of birdlife. Having spoken to a passerby the pond seems to have been very quiet recently. Having said this, there had been enough activity to make the visit well worthwhile. Sadly a dog walker found it quite ok to let his two dogs run loose around the reserve and down to the pond. I think I have seen more unacceptable behaviour by dog walkers on this my favourite local walk, than anywhere else I visit.

The woodland of the dene didn’t provide large numbers of birds either, apart from a constant fly past of Great, Coal and Blue Tits. A male Blackcap give a good showing as did a pair of Grey Wagtails that were found on the mud at the side of the burn, their wonderful colouring showing especially well in the limited light that was available. A passerby asked if I had seen the Kingfisher. He had watched it fly up the burn. Needless to say I have still to see Kingfisher in the dene. Perhaps I need to spend a day on one of the bridges to break my duck in this respect. A Brown Hare rested under the trees as I passed by and another Kestrel flew overhead.

The tide was high so there was good numbers of Redshank around the area of the salt marsh. I also had a good close sighting of a female Goldeneye here before it decided to fly up the burn. A Little Grebe was also on the burn, but dived and wasn’t seen again. It was now time to sit down for my fish and chip lunch, but not before finding a number of Oystercatchers along the verge by the roadway. It had been a fine morning weather wise and so I found it odd that there were so few people about, and even the fish and chip café was very quiet.

The tide was beginning to recede as I walked towards St Mary’s Island. There was little on the sea apart from small rafts of Eider Duck. Oystercatchers, Redshank and an odd Ringed Plover made an appearance on the shore below. A lone Lapwing and Curlew was found in the fields along with a pair of Stonechat. As I continued the walk I saw in the distance flocks of what I initially mistook for Starlings. Strange how distance can play tricks on the eyes. I soon realised they were Golden Plover, and by the time I reached the ‘mast’ field small flocks had gathered into a large flock and were calling in unison from the field. More and more birds flew in to join the growing flock and this made for quite a sight. This was catching the attention of a number of none birders who were keen to know what species the birds were. A photographer was busy taking photographs and I heard him admit he wasn’t a birder but had been ‘taken’ by the sight. I reckon there were at least a thousand birds in the field by the time they had all flown in. I watched and listened for some time. The birds stopped calling as one and as I expected took to flight. At times the flock provided a display that was on par with Starlings coming into roost. For the rest of the afternoon I was entertained by flocks of Golden Plover. This was quite a sight in the and there was perfect light and conditions for watching this show which to me seemed to be birding at its very best! Certainly wader watching at its best!

The shoreline close to St Mary’s, both to the north and south held good numbers of waders. Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Turnstone, Sanderling, Purple Sandpiper, Redshank and Curlew were all there, generally in good numbers. There were also numbers of Rock Pipit. I thought I best give the wetland area a quick look over just in case! In fact there were good numbers of Gadwall and Teal there with the odd pair of Wigeon and a Mute Swan.

It was time to make off towards home now and as I did so I found the sky turning a pale orange again reflecting the fact that the days are so short at this time of year. The temperature was dropping quickly. What had seemed such a quiet day had turned up 57 species of bird and a display by the Golden Plovers that will go down as one of this years birding highlights.

The photo shows only a small number of the Golden Plover. 200+ perhaps.


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Well-known member
That's a wonderful outing, Brian!!! Sooooo many birds to see! What a shame that the dog person wasn't a ~bird person~ too and let his K-9s run loose around the pond. Still .... you have quite the impressive list of birds observed!

Your photos are awesome! The Golden Plovers ... Excuse me while I wipe the drool from my chin and keyboard ...




OK I'm back..........

I too have been *challenged* by a bird of prey. A few times by a Red-tailed Hawk or our resident Cooper's Hawks. I think I interrupted their hunt / concentration. Maybe it was the same for you?

Thanks for ~taking me along~ with you in your report!


Well-known member
Smashing trip out Brian. Lovely selection of birds seen. A great read of events, don't you just love those 'little and often' days? I've a feeling that this year is an exceptional one for Golden Plover, with regards to numbers. My patch in 'the fens' is chocker block with lapwings and golden plover, many more than in recent years. Nice to know that you have resident Blackcap's 'oop north'.


Picture Picker
What an enjoyable read, Brian. You certainly saw a huge selection and what stunning photos. Thanks for sharing your visit with us.


Well-known member
Not a bad day after all, Brian, for birding. I love the Golden Plover photo, used to see them in large numbers on Dartmoor this time of year, while out horse riding. I don't know if any still Winter up there though.

Did you say anything to the dog walkers?
I have done in the past, at a well known, here in Devon, nature reserve, which plainly says dogs on leads at all times. Guess I looked like a warden too, in my camoflage clothing & all the gear, as they quickly put their dogs on leads & vanished. |8.|My friend was most impressed!:-O:-O


Botanical Birder
Thanks for the comments Lydia, Joe, Kits and Val.

I'm glad I took the walk when I did as the weather has not been too good since.

To answer you question re the dog person Val. No, I was to far away to make a point about this. I have to be honest and say I'm not sure I would have done even if I'd been able too, as I'm always wary about this sort of thing when out alone, especially when someone has two 'great' dogs with them. To be honest I think on this occasion it would have made little difference as I understand from what has been said to me on a local site that this is likely to have ben a guy who lets his dogs run loose on the reserve on a regular basis. Attitudes in some people are difficult to make an impression upon.


Well-known member
I agree with you there Brian, you have to be careful whom you say anything to about their dogs running wild. If it had been a couple of big men with pit bulls, I'd have gone in the opposite direction. I might have reported them though, to the authorities.The two I tackled were just thoughtless, not thug types & with nice dogs.


A cracking walk that was Bonny Lad. The species numbers might not have been what you hoped for, but the numbers of species was good. Get me started on thoughtless dog walkers, and I'll talk a glass eye to sleep. I find them most irksome.

I enjoyed your post very much, and your pics are smashing.



Botanical Birder
A cracking walk that was Bonny Lad. The species numbers might not have been what you hoped for, but the numbers of species was good. Get me started on thoughtless dog walkers, and I'll talk a glass eye to sleep. I find them most irksome.

I enjoyed your post very much, and your pics are smashing.


Cheers Baz. It was a good day, with some nice skies.

When I write my memoirs I am going to reserve at least one chapter for 'dog walkers with rice pudding between the ears'. ;)
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