YEO VALLEY – LAMBERT’S CASTLE, DEVON
WEATHER: a superb bright and sunny morning, cloudy later, light cool breeze. Top temp 18C
What a super morning, those miserable, rainy and cloudy days are soon forgotten when you wake up to a morning like this, it was fabulous out there. You really appreciate the good days after a series of bad ones, what a terrific start to September!
just look at that sky - marvellous view from the top of a hill on my local patch
I left the flat at 7:30am it was perfectly still with a clear blue sky, just dandy for birding in the Valley. I saw both Blue and Great Tits at my feeders and the usual Jackdaws on the roof of the houses opposite our flat. A robin sang in the car park (the first of three that I heard this morning). As I walked round to the valley track along the lane I found a moribund Blackbird lying in the road, an obvious casualty, I nursed it my hand for 5 minutes but unfortunately it passed away, I still ticked it, it was the first Blackbird for the month!!
one of the first birds I encountered was this road victim - juvenile Blackbird
As yesterday I turned south and walked upstream instead of turning into the valley, I found a Wren in partial song and more Blue Tits as I walked through the wooded area. Once I had broken out into the hay meadow I looked back and watched the hedgerow and trees in front of me. They were in bright sunshine and were perfectly still, soon a mixed flocked came through the trees. I saw a dozen Long-tailed Tits with one or two Chiffchaffs and plenty of Blue & Great Tits.
Common Chiffchaff - this bird was still feeding its fledged young!
Walking back northward in the meadow I continued to scan the hedges, I saw more Chiffchaffs, I am sure that they were local breeders and not passing migrants because the young were begging for food from the adults. I added Goldcrest, Dunnock, Magpie, Rook, Herring Gull, Carrion Crow, Common Starling and Goldfinch to the list before I entered the track into Yeo Valley.
A Common Kestrel has been hanging around in the valley these past few days and he was there once again today, its amazing really, I had not seen one all year here until recently. Both Pheasant and Red-legged Partridges were in the recently cropped wheat fields and I could hear a Common Buzzard but I never saw it.
my first picture of a Kestrel on my patch - taken through a 'window' of an oak tree
Up to now I had only heard Green Woodpecker calling and Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming, but now I saw the Green Woodpecker in flight and a dozen House Martins and I counted fifteen Barn Swallows flying south. At the stream I crept up to the bank and saw the Kingfisher, I gently slipped my scope off my back, set it up and reached for my phone……oops! Off he went.
Red-legged Partridge - the highest count so far this year - 7 seen today
I walked up and over Rook’s Hill seeing the Green Woodpecker again and hearing a Raven cronking, I never saw the Raven and I never added any species to the list at the River Yeo.
a stunning little insect - the Small Copper Butterfly
Dawn and I had planned to go out around 11am so I made sure I was heading home before 10:30am, I stopped to watch a few butterflies at the exit gate to the valley, Meadow Brown, Small White, Large White, Red Admiral and Small Copper were on the wing, I also saw a Common Darter Dragonfly sitting on the gate.
Just after 11am Dawn and I drove to Lambert’s Castle for a walk and a picnic in the sunshine. It took nearly an hour to get because of road-works and slow moving vehicles! The sun had disappeared behind a bunch of clouds and a chilly breeze swept across the open meadows. We donned our fleeces as we sat on a bench to eat our lunch, burrrrr... it was quite chilly.
the view from the top of the east facing escarpment at Lambert's Castle
Soon the sunshine returned and we were happy walking along the escarpment looking at the stunning views, we saw a couple of Northern Wheatears at this point. Our walk took us into the compound of the ‘Castle’, which is essentially a cleared area with a ditch around three sides of it, an iron-age settlement.
another view - the ridge in the distance is actually Portland
Three large compounds of the castle have many crab-apple trees and they border a huge oak and beech woodland, we walked as far you could go through the compounds. A Sparrowhawk circled over us and Bullfinches called from the orchard. We stopped to watch a Nuthatch and then a few more birds appeared. A couple of Spotted Flycatchers flitted out and back into the trees as they do, a pair of Coal Tits worked their way across a pine tree.
I then got onto a very small bird and soon it showed its head, it was a FIRECREST, whoopee!! My first for the year (I think), a great sighting all the same and now I've seen both 'crests' in one day. We went on to see four more Spotted Flycatchers, a group of six Bullfinches, a couple of Chaffinches and a Flock of Goldfinches.
It wasn’t until we were nearly home that we saw our first Common Buzzard of the day!! That is 35 species on the September list, a great start because of the Firecrest, I am hoping to exceed 130 species this month, 12 more than August’s total of 118, watch this space.