Trip reports

Guided Walk at Eccup

Guided Walk at Eccup
Paul Barrett

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Eccup is between Leeds and Harewood Estate, closer to Harewood. Our walk took us past the set of Emmerdale and to Eccup Reservoir then to the New Inn (Eccup) where we ate lunch. The weather forecast for the day was awful but wrong, so the group of birders was small but we walked in perfect bright dry conditions.

So, what did we see? It felt like not much which goes to show that it's worth keeping a list so that one can look back on the day's sightings and realise that actually, you saw quite a bit. The walk's highlights were red kite hunting low and hundreds of greylag geese heading in skeins from who-knows-where towards Eccup reservoir.

For anyone wondering what a skein is, it's a flock of geese or swans in flight and the term implies a V formation. Birds fly in V formation because just behind and to the side of each bird is a little pressure wave that another bird can ride. You can feel this phenomenon when you're overtaking lorries on a motorway: do keep your wits about you if you decide to give it a try. All the birds in a skein have the benefit of this little wave from their leading neighbour except the bird at the apex of the V. The job at the pointy bit of the V is therefore shared and we marvelled at how the birds took turns at the lead.

Each skein was in continuous flux as no individual goose seemed to have more than 3 or 4 wing beats at the front. In some skeins, the lead bird then dropped back down the centre and made its way to the trailing edge of the V, whereas in other skeins, the point of their V moved across the line of birds. Even if you're not a fan of geese, you have to admit that they're well organised.

Now here's our morning's list: red kite, crow, magpie, mistle thrush, woodpigeon, chaffinch, meadow pipit, dunnock, jackdaw, black headed gull, greylag goose, Canada goose (just the one, hanging out with the greylags) swallow, mallard, coot, pied wagtail, great crested grebe, heron, blue tit, starling and sparrow. We did indeed see quite a bit!