My third Foot It venture yesterday and I decided to make it a big one, a great big 15.59 mile (that's what the GPS said when I got back) round trip taking in a variety of habitat from mature woodland, farmland, heath (well the nearest thing that we have to it) a reservoir, reclaimed mining areas and a couple of subsidence flashes.
Leaving the house I struck Foot It gold, just 100m from the front door, with a species that I've never seen in the Rother Valley during 30 years of birding the area - Nuthatch! Obviously this wasn't on my target list, they just don't occur around here, even in the most mature woodlands. A great start and exactly what this challenge is about, finding out what's on your doorstep.
I'd actually added another doorstep species earlier in the day with a Tawny Owl calling at 2am starting the day on 58 species. Given the saturated ground this was going to be a walk in wellies, so I had a plentiful supply of blister plasters.
The first few miles was fairly sterile soggy arable farmland. I picked up a few easy species namely; Skylark, Fieldfare, Stock Dove and the target species here Red-legged Partridge. I failed to pick up Grey Partridge here and everywhere else today. Walking through to Ulley I got Bullfinch, Goldcrest and Green Woodpecker. The target species here was Tree Sparrow and tweeting the semi-resident ranger the afternoon ensured that the feeding station was stocked up and I duly connected albeit with just one. A text to a former Ulley birder gave me a tip off for Long-eared Owl, it just so happened that I was stood in the exact spot when he rang me and some one of the harder target species was on the list.
Dropping down towards the River Rother and Blue Man's Bower I crossed a field with three sheep, well two sheep and a very inquisitive ram. After an initial sniff at my bag, presumably drawn to my delicious pie, his inquisitiveness turned to aggression and a couple of firm strikes to my side had me legging it across the field! I only picked up a Lesser Redpoll between Ulley and Blue Man's Bower but added Water Rail at Bolehill and Little Grebe at Catcliffe Flash before having the last few hours of daylight at Orgreave.
I knew the patch wouldn't let me down and I was right. The Red-crested Pochard that I'd found on a non-Foot It visit the day before was still present and a Short-eared Owl posed for me on a post, unfortunately I'd left the camera at home so had to settle for a woeful phone through bins shot. A few big gaps in the list were filled namely; Common Gull, GBB Gull, Linnet, Meadow Pipit and a conscience easing Shelduck - the RV bird although wild is too fond of the plastic ducks.
I could have gone to another nearby site for Snipe and Jack Snipe but decided to leave them for next weekend. The journey from Orgreave to home is 3 miles and usually takes a few minutes in the car, however this time I would have to do it on foot to validate the whole day. It's not only 3 miles it's also uphill all the way. By the time I got home I was hurting but Jo had the bath run and the tally at 77 species was well worth it.
I only had an hour to spare this morning so had a short walk around the woods behind the house succesfully picking up Treecreeper and Buzzard. Unfortunately the two Caspian Gulls on the patch this evening were car assisted so it looks like next weekend will involve carting the scope/tripod around.