Peak District Pied Flycatchers


A site that I try to get to each spring, and one of the first places I went “out birdwatching” Near Grindleford in the Peak District.




Situated just outside my Hometown of Sheffield an ancient oak and birch woodland set in a gritstone gorge thats nicely sheltered and summer home to good numbers of our scarcer breeding and most beautiful woodland birds.  Todays visit was really about Pied Flys which were in good numbers. I had probably 10-12 singing males and a single female.









Scores of Willow Warblers and two or three Redstarts were also singing high in the mostly bare trees and it was nice to see Treecreepers, Nuthatch and coal tits. Dippers and Grey wags patrolled the deep gorge itself.

Previously around the first weekend of May I have seen and heard Wood warbler in this spot and later in season it’s great for Spotted Flycatchers.



The open moorland above the gorge can hold Whinchats, Cuckoo, Tree pipits, Curlews and scores of Stonechats and Meadow pipits (below) Except for Whinchat I had all of the above on this occasion as well as a singing Ring Ousel.


Sunday night I made my escape back down to London. Hopefully I can come across something on its way here this week before the window closes until autumn.

Beachy Head, Easter Weekend

Another visit down south to see m’old mate Laurence Pitcher on Beachy Head was just the spring birdy injection I needed! We did the whole site on foot and tallied up 36km back and fourth over the 2 days.


On the Sunday we counted around 25 Willow Warblers (below), 7 Wheatears, 3 Common Redstarts, a Yellow Wagtail and single siskin over, a Black Redstart (above)…


… as well as many Black caps and Chiffies, a Lesser White throat and a few Common White throats (below). A firecrest was in the pines on Birling lane and over at West rise a drake Garganey and a couple of Water pipits were seen as well as fairly good numbers of all 3 Hirundines hawking insects over the water.


The highlight of the day was a female Pied Flycatcher that Laurence picked up in a dense and sheltered group trees at Went Hill. We spent a good while watching and photographing this welcome little beauty.



A female Merlin (below) was seen on both days.


The Monday saw winds turning more northerly and similar numbers of birds were counted, another 7/8 Wheatear, a Redstart etc , A white Wag (below) was hanging around the light house at Belle Tout…


… The highlight of today was an adult male Hen Harrier (below) that I picked up thermaling over the headland. It gained height and headed north, an apparently scarce passage migrant and a good bird for the area.

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Other than 20 or so Yellow Wags in off that flew over our heads that was about it for migrants, I managed a some shots of a local Corn bunting singing from the side of the road in nice light.  Great birds and other than my visits down here I don’t see them this well very often.





We checked west rise again on the way to the train station and saw the long staying Long Tailed Duck (below), the drake Garganey as well as the many Hirundines again.


Great couple of days, Cheers Laurence.

3 – 15 April


Its been fairly slow going, with my pre-work walks turning up the odd migrant or two. Handfuls of Willow Warbler, a few each of White Throat, Sedge and Reed Warbler and in the last couple of days the rattle of Lesser White throat has been noted. Sand Martins are on breeding grounds at the bottom of Lockwood and though I’m yet to see a House Martin I’ve probably seen close to 50 swallows go North over the week.


My first Yellow Wagtail of the year was on the East Warwick also a few White Wagtails have been noted including a small flock of 6 on the Lockwood on the 14th these are a particular favourite of mine and come through in small numbers most noticeably in spring.





The grassy banks of the aforementioned Reservoir held this Skylark for a few days, only the second I’ve ever seen grounded at this site. It was nice to take it in,



A Wheatear on East Warwick on the 13th came close enough to reveal several features of Leucorhoa or Greenland Wheatear, a likely much under counted sub species in Britain.


Leucorhoa  Wheatears migrate alot further and are longer winged showing 7/8 primary tips in the closed wing (Our native birds showing 5/6). 7 were counted on the East Warwick bird as well as warm buff tones reaching right down to the vent, brown marks in the Ear coverts and mask as well as a ‘dun brown’ in the mid mantle apparently fitting of a Greenland Male in spring.  Traditionally Greenland Wheatears were thought to come through later in the season but ringing records have proved this not always to be the case.  I tried to note size, structure and stance and although it was alone it did seem quite a thick set bird and when first picked up seemed very upright in posture,to be honest I think any wheatear in longer grass is likely to adopt this kind of posture so i dont think its of use really. I think my presence was noted and whilst photographing it stayed in a fairly similar ground hugging pose.


Our Local raptors are all present and correct. Displaying Sparrow hawks and mating Kestrels in their nest tree. Peregrines have been active and are seen most visits as well as flyover Red Kites and Common Buzzards. 


Rain over night on the 14th meant I was down on the Waterworks first thing this morning and brief but close views of a Male Redstart were the reward. no pics unfortunately but Its a good feeling to get the Redstart find out of the way and set hopes a little higher before the end of spring. 

This Weasel was compensation for missing out on Redstart shots.