Sunday 25 April 2021

Easter 2021 - Snow Ouzels and a passage Osprey

The crossover of birding seasons evident on the South Yorkshire moorland edge this Easter. Flocks of Fieldfares remained working the hillside fields now showing a bolder plumage as summer creeps forward. As they foraged the first Swallows hawked insects overhead and a passage Sand Martin noted way up a moorland Clough. Nearby, Chiffchaff sang from a valley bottom, a site where Willow Warblers returned as April hit double figures. Listening to the different songs of these Phylloscopus lookalikes during snow showers was a little different to the usual Springtime scene, and nearby returning Ring Ouzels had become less vocal at their summer home as the weather deteriorated. The 'Mountain Blackbird' featured as the period progressed, birds back on territory with singles appearing at staging grounds after the Easter weekend. On one day a group of 3 alighted briefly before flying up into the moors. The increased sightings coincided with a push of Ring Ouzels nationwide.

A large flock of about 200 finches split unevenly between Siskins and Lesser Redpolls dwindled over time. They fed amongst the conifer treetops of a moorland reservoir and were joined by nomadic Crossbills that would show most days in varying numbers as part of the mixed finch flock or on their own. Although at least 75 in the area and possibly more, views were often of a regular dozen or so perched up for a while before flying further into cover or commuting between neighbouring reservoir conifer canopies. One day saw Bramblings on the move, not many but nice to pick out at a handful moving north during a watch. An unusual commuter between such moorland reservoirs was a female Mandarin Duck that 'wheezed' overhead  one morning along the Crossbill flight path. Present at similar sites about 10 mies away maybe their range is expanding along this moorland edge.

Meadow Pipits were 'in' and one day there seemed to be a passage from the East. Many Curlews present 'bubbling away and doing their finest Curlew-raptor impressions over the ridges, a couple of pairs of Oystercatchers were in one area that hosted several displaying Snipe. It's larger relative the Woodcock started their roding at dusk over the conifer canopy with one seen flying from cover in the middle of the day. One pair of Golden Plovers displayed over a moor, their haunting song carrying for miles, and yet only a couple of miles away a flock of a hundred or so remained 'wintering' before presumably heading to higher latitudes in the coming weeks.

Passage cream crown Marsh Harrier was early but nevertheless nice to see, and more expected for early April, a migrating Osprey. I was lucky in being in the right place at the right time as just before midday on 09 April 2021 looking along a moorland edge a large raptor with brown upperwings and a gleaming white "headlight" drifted into the light breeze heading towards me, before crossing the valley and heading north. Wasn't expecting it to pass through so low instead of soaring overhead. A lack of heat presumably a factor for its behaviour as whilst it was sunny it was very cool, verging on cold for the time of year. As they've done so in the past this Osprey didn't hang around.

Away from the uplands caught up with the lingering Iceland Gull in the lowlands at Old Moor RSPB as viewed from Warbler Way from where a Cetti's Warbler could be heard blasting out its song from across the river, on the reserve. Views of a Red Kite, one of two blogging the reserve, was a much welcome 'Wath Area' tick No. 198.