11 November, 2021

Holne At Last! Pt.1, Lords Of the Moor

Determination finally got me up out and up on to t'Moor on Saturday.

Stuff the weather.

I went up to play my traditional game of Fieldcraft Vs Fieldfares about Holne Moor and the Mardle, and despite it blowing a bit of a hoolie and even more despite the bands of sideways rain [the really sneaky stuff which pretends to be drizzle and then you're suddenly soaked to the skin...] I even saw some!

Fieldfares, that is, which were my first of the Winter. Been thin on the ground due to warm weather over Scandi way [hmm, wonder why?]. There weren't huge numbers, but there were Ring Ouzels, too, which was even better, though they wiped the floor with me...

My mission, as I'm sure you remember from every year, is to get in photo range of winter thrushes without disturbing them. Ghillie suits are cheating. Sometimes this works quite well, sometimes not. I like it as it not only helps with fieldcraft practice, but also lets me go looking for my own birds off-Patch. Letting The Artist, MK, et al find all the good stuff is very easy, but doing it all yourself is better for the soul. Even if other peoples' birds do always seem to show better [2017 anyone....?]
Also I like wandering off on my own, and a soggy Mardle is rarely busy! [Unlike the Avon....] You have to yomp to get there, so exercise too! :)

Ok, ok, getting on with it.

I'm cutting out of order for the title photo, and this is another 'camera saw what I missed'. Yup, two in as many days and this is a doozie. I was photo'ing the re-wilding tree planting stuff [sleeves to stop deer eating saplings, wooden fence to stop coobeasties flattening the whole thing...] across the valley and it wasn't until I got it up on the 'puter screen that I saw what else was up there.

The first of my Lords of The Moor, and his 'lady friends';

Red Deer stag and harem!!!

I'd been photographing the more plastic versions earlier;

Wind-assisted proximity

Even the farmed ones take some sneaking up on. Unlike most of my thrush efforts, I got in and out cleanly.

But that stag, though! Wooo...

Getting back to the start.. Finding hillscraper clouds wasn't promising, but I kept on and went the other way - up Holne Lee - towards the Mardle. At first everything was thin on the ground, but there were birds, hiding in sheltered folds, and sometimes I even saw them first.
It was rather scenic, as it's not just trees that go technicolour in the Autumn,

Looking across the Mardle valley
from Holne Lee towards Pupers

And yes, it had just stopped raining sideways at this point...

Redwings are teeny*

My best result, Holne Lee. Actual rain is why it is so grainy, as I was nicely in range if the light had been better. [Excuses excuses]
After that encounter, I saw a decent-sized group [about 50] of thrushes over the Mardle, so pressed on. Arriving, I heard Redwing calls from down in the steep bottom; well out of the wind - and sight - of course! I started to double back to get behind them and met my first Ouzel, on a muddy path between two big Gorse bushes, at maybe 15m!! A 1cy by the quality of the alarm call it gave as it dived off downslope.


I carefully circled far around downstream and worked up the old leat bed.
Sneaking about the Mardle


Turning back, I rounded a small Gorse bush and there, less than 10m away, eye level on a little bit of Hawthorn, an adult female Ring Ouzel. Split second of eye contact, then she peeled away downslope and away with not a sound.

Double bugger with extra Bug.

Repeat the exercise, getting to skimming the fence of the deerpark, and again no sign of visible thrushes. Moving back up valley, ah Fieldfare calls!
Overhead are thrushes, Fieldfares? I count them and get 34, no wait, that's a male Ring Ouzel with them! [Lovely white bit]

Oh, come on.....

They head over the ball into the upper Holy Brook, so I follow, deciding to try the open access top paddock of the park. Much very careful sneaking reveals no sign of any thrushes. No, wait, there's a group of about the right size.   Flying off over the ridge towards Venford....

I do find deer [see above], and these are far more obliging about not flying away.

I also found a nicely sheltered spot with a good view down the Holy Brook towards, well, The Patch actually!

Lunch ensues, and I end up staying there for an hour and a half, because things just keep flying by!

There's a passage westward of finches and thrushes and you get numbers! [Woo]

Chaffinch  225 [biggest group 71]
Bullfinch  9
Greenfinch  4
Goldfinch  5
Brambling  3 [together, none picked out amongst Chaffinch due to angle of view]
Siskin  5
Starling  20
Song Thrush  3
Mistle Thrush  1
Redwing  74
Fieldfare  38
Grey Wagtail  1
alba Wagtail  1+
Woodpigeon  40

Also of note were vocal Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Nuthatch, and a Sparrowhawk which took an interest in a passing Chaffinch flock.

Not too shabby? 
It may be relevant that the inland flyways up the Teign valley and between Greater and Little Haldon point right at this route, which is only two ridges from the Plym valley.
Sat down in shelter, I had to try to get some on record;

Blurry dots

[don't they look like Starlings in silhouette?]

I eventually tore myself away and worked up over towards Venford [I could dream].
Eyes kept open as I went picked up movement. Up valley towards Ryder's. Low down, pale grey, long angled wings with black tips.  It's a Herring Gull? [It's always a Buzz Herring Gull], bins up on principle and- no it BLEEEP!ing isn't!

Male Hen Harrier!!! Adult!! Quartering away up the valley, and I'm running up to get a clearer view 'cos I've got to get a photo...

Yes, this is it,
this is the photo

I've learned the hard way to take a snapshot as soon as possible, then zoom in to get in the hope of something better. You can see by the band of sunshine that the light wasn't bad, so with full zoom I had a chance of a coloured shape at least, even at what was now several hundred metres.
Except this is it. 
He only went and caught something. Dropped on it and - as HH tend to do - stayed down. I waited and waited and waited. Nothing.
Not the slightest chance in hell I'd go close, because I'm a responsible birder.

[I am rather suspicious that that pale streak-thing by the Hawthorn in the near centre of shot - just on the far edge of the light - is the bird, wings up in the act of pouncing...

But maybe not.]

Oh well, I got the last one [again after a mad dash across country while dragging my camera out and frantically aiming..].
And I got about 5 seconds of wonderful if a bit distant view of him through disbelieving bins. 
What a wonderful bird, and on probably the only moorland in these Isles where he doesn't have to worry about being blasted out of the sky...

Right, where was I?

Oh yes, after crossing the ridge to Venford Mine - and grinning cheerfully at some soggy students out on fieldwork - I finished off my coffee looking the other way. There were 3 Goosander - all redheads - on the Reservoir [::Cough yeartick, oh the shame, cough::]  but nobody flushed a Woodcock for me this year. As I headed back, a couple of Crows put up 10 Golden Plover from the sheltered slope of Holne Moor, but they were too low and fast to try a photo.

10km, 3 yearticks, a whole lot of rain and despite the vexations, a whole lot of fun.

I can't wait to get back up there!

Coming up in Part 2; Photos in focus [ish] of things interesting [to some]

Be Seeing You...

[[ *That's a Blackbird, don't get excited... ]]

No comments:

Post a Comment