Despite the shattering disappointment of the day previous early morning saw us visiting Padley Gorge in the Peak District National Park on the Yorkshire-Derbyshire border. This mixed deciduous woodland abounds with birds and in improved weather we revelled in the songs of Wood Warbler, Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher, and Pied Flycatcher. Pairs of the latter were attending nest sites and besides these we also had Lesser Redpoll, Nuthatch and Green Woodpecker as well as a supporting cast of titmice species.
Out on the nearby open moor we had Whinchat and at least one pair of Stonechat with young. Transferring across to the nearby Burbage area our attempts to locate Ring Ousel where we have previously found them met with no success but, again, we had Stonechats, which was very encouraging given widespread reports of various local populations having suffered due to the bad winter. Our journey back to the car around 1300 hours saw a Red Kite flying high to the SW after possibly moving over Sheffield itself.
Further walks in the Stannage Edge area brought no success with Ring Ousel but tantalising views of a Weasel moving its kits, its swift bounding gait across a wide path swinging the small offspring to and fro in what must have been a scary transfer! Further in to urban Sheffield we stopped at Tyzack's Dam where we had 5 male Mandarin Duck tucked along one of the small feed channels. This put the single bird we saw last year to shame and raises expectations of a thriving breeding nucleus begining to form. A single Grey Wagtail overflew the site as we took in the gaudy colours and patterns of the ducks' plumage.
An examination of Sheffield's General Cemetery, ostensibly for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, also generated the products of Matthew's humour with ribald references to prime viewing plots being available, good area to be in residence to start your year list and so on. I told him I'm much converted to the effects of haunting! Having survived all that (!) the area is actually good for birds. It's fully abandoned I believe, but maintained by volunteers with some Local Authority support, and presents some great swathes of dense cover out of which rise some magnificently mature trees, the canopy of which , for some , must be around 40 feet. Such areas must be a haven for birds in severe winters, to which the numbers of Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Treecreeper and Wren lent some credibility separate from the attendant summer migrants which were present.