Thursday 4 May 2017

Birmingham and Dunsop Bridge, 4th May 2017

adult ♂ Pallid Harrier at Dunsop Bridge
Banished to Middle England for work, after noting Lesser Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler singing in central Birmingham, I had most of the day free so what else to do after clock-off than tackle the extra couple of hours to Lancashire where a raptorial celebrity was on offer? Soon after breaking into beautiful Bowland, it was a matter of dropping the gears to complete the last few sloping, winding miles to the sweet little village of Dunsop Bridge. The surprisingly large pay and display car park was also surprisingly full so I was grateful to the thoughtful chap who secured me his space when he left and gave me his parking ticket, as well as giving a detailed run-down of the bird's location and habits.

With a spring in my step, the kind that comes along with a bright and smooth-sailing day and no serious time constraints, I embarked along the bridleway towards the Whitendale Valley. Willow Warbler song trickled off the slopes while the stony stream rang with the calls of Common Sandpipers and Grey Wagtails. Stinted bursts of song a little further along alerted me to a gorgeous male Pied Flycatcher, although he didn't hang around for a picture. It felt about twice as long as I expected it to be but I eventually reached a huddle of birders who reported that the harrier had gone AWOL for the last hour or so. Bugger. A Red Grouse was showing, which was my first in a while and raised the spirits again.

The voracious wind made it challenging to scan the valley to the north properly but perseverance soon paid off, the adult male PALLID HARRIER sliding into my field of view from the west and plonking itself on the opposite side. And there it stayed for at least the next 90 minutes, at which point I felt I ought to make tracks. Unfortunately it didn't perform any of the grand aerial displays or calls that I was hoping for, instead affording fastidious attention to its plumage condition, only allowing itself a few moments at a time to nestle into the heather between bouts of almost obsessive preening. With the wind behind me, the descent back to the car was a breeze and made all the better by calls of Crossbills somewhere overhead.