I travelled up the M5, M6 and M1 yesterday from Exeter to Huddersfield. You can't imagine that this would give any wildlife watching opportunities whatsoever but, if you are as interested in wildlife as I am, even a trip like this can give you some interesting sightings. It is well known that Motorway verges are a wildlife haven and a good place to see Kestrel ( Falco tinnunculus). The grass verge habitat is a good environment for rodents, a favourite prey item for Kestrel, however, is it my imagination, or do you see fewer of them on the Motorway system now? I always stop at Michael Wood Services not because the coffee's good but I have sometimes seen Common Gull amongst the "gang" of Black Headed Gulls. I didn't see any yesterday but I did enjoy getting close to the almost tame Rooks, such ugly birds! As I sat in the car drinking coffee I could see a pair of birds spiraling above a wood opposite. I took a photo even though they were quite a distance away and very high. When I zoomed in on the picture they turned out to be a pair of Ravens. This was a nice surprise and a good spot.
Today, I went out to Scammendon Dam close by, on the edge of Saddleworth Moor. I always like to go to places that I am familiar with and then get to know them even better. As you may remember, I had seen a very special Short Eared Owl there in August so I am drawn back, again and again whenever I visit my son here in West Yorkshire. The weather today has been clear and bright but intensely cold in the watery sunshine. The light was good for photography when I first arrived but unfortunately there was very little sign of wildlife, and it was cold............ very cold!!! I wandered down to the reservoir through a path winding by a stream and through a copse to the vast expanse of water, It was really quite beautiful in a stark but definitely not drab way, even though the predominant colours were now browns and beiges. The trees reflected a golden brown on to the surface and caught the sun's almost orange reflections. In short, it was magical and I was loving it! Now, there was even a bird. A Carrion Crow arrived on to a dry stone wall in the distance, hardly exciting. Suddenly something scurried down the fence line, disappeared and almost as quickly appeared again, a Weasel, my first for a year os so. I stood still remembering that Stoats and Weasels are known to be inquisitive and will come back for a look at what they had seen, this is a good strategy to get a better look at this very quick little mammal. Unfortunately it didn't happen, and as quick as it had been there, now it was quiet as though it had never been there.
Out on the water, a small "raft" of Mallard were forlornly paddling around. Who'd be a duck in this weather? I had a look to see if there was any sign of the Great Northern Diver, reported at the start of the month. There was a distant shape that could have been him but too far to have any idea. On my walk back, now with the light dimming as dusk rapidly took control, I heard a high pitched and excited call, very close from the midst of a holly bush ................ a lovely little Goldcrest, there were two.
This was a good find. Goldcrest, as a species, are known to have been decimated in the recent cold weather and the cold spells of last winter so I am particularly pleased to have seen them. How do they find enough to eat in these cold conditions, they will be eating microscopic insect life and their eggs and the like, all of which must surely be scarce in cold conditions. As I stood there watching, a male Sparrowhawk zoomed past me and, had I not been there, I feel sure he would have gone for one of the Goldcrests. So from there being almost absolute silence and seemingly no life whatsoever, some interesting wildlife showed its self. I mentioned at the start that it's good to get to know a place well. It's amazing that this can apply to individual birds, particularly one's who hold a territory. I have seen a Kestrel in the same small area every time I have visited Scammendon. Today was no exception. I plan to return tomorrow when the sun is still shining in the late afternoon. Hopefully, from the car I will be able to get some decent Kestrel shots.