Thirteen members of the Ornithology Special Interest Group concluded the year’s outings with a short, but interest filled and sociable, walk alongside the Wharfe at Buckden. We started in the YDNPA car park, which provided us with a good view of a Kestrel sitting at the very top of a boundary tree. Enthused by this good start, we set off downstream alongside the river. This stretch of the Dalesway path provides a good variety of habitats in a short stretch – the river itself, the bankside trees and other vegetation, valley bottom meadows, a collection of varied mature trees below Birks Wood, and good views of the valley sides. However, at this time of year, what may be spotted is down very much to luck. For example, small birds such as tits form flocks and move about together. Coming across a flock can provide an interesting challenge to identify the varied birds which are all flitting around the trees in a lively manner, searching for what ever food they can find. Winter days are short and feeding up with enough to last the long nights is an urgent necessity. But coming across a such a flock is quite unpredictable.

Eccup Reservoir - Treecreeper

Eccup Reservoir – Treecreeper © UWFS

Malham Nuthatch © UWFS

Malham Nuthatch © UWFS

Given the sociable nature of the outing, the chat along the way, and the intermittent and sometimes brief views of birds meant that not everyone saw everything, but the many eyes on the skies ensured that we all saw a decent share of what was about. Luck was particularly with us when we stopped for a collective coffee break below Birks Wood (standing up – unfortunately no seats available). A hoped for flock of small birds was working over a collection of small trees nearby. Along with the mixed tits, there were also Goldcrest, Nuthatch and Treecreeper, the latter especially nice to see as it is a relatively uncommon bird with interesting habits and excellent camouflage. The river itself proved unproductive apart from views of a Little Egret. Even 10 years ago, reporting an over-wintering Little Egret at Buckden would have stretched the credulity of the reporter. Now, as a result of climate change, they are regular, if only in low numbers.  The Goldcrests may have been Scandinavian winter migrants – it’s astonishing to think that 5g of bird can make such a journey.

"Goldcrest, eating the silver birch buds" by Wildlife Boy1 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

“Goldcrest, eating the silver birch buds” by Wildlife Boy1 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

This rewarding walk was followed by a very convivial lunch at the Buck Inn. The participants thanked Win very much for arranging such an enjoyable end to the season.

Overall, our list of birds seen was:

Pheasant, Cormorant, Little Egret, Buzzard, Kestrel, Common Gull, Woodpigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Robin, Blackbird, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Jackdaw, Rook.

Winter days are short and the weather often bad, so there is no January outing. For further information consult the Calendar.

Chris Alder

Images from a variety of sources