Trip reports

Dunsop Valley

Male merlin perched on old fence post, Shetland

Saturday, 19 March 2011

14 of us set off up the valley, a chill on the wind, but sunshine with passing clouds. Early progress was slow as each new species was identified and logged. A pair of kestrels sitting out at the edge of the wood were admired, a precursor to an explosion of raptors. Buzzards had already been noted, but now there were 3 overhead, and "What's that other one with them?" The "other one" was a sparrowhawk. Above these 4 another bird - the classic sickle shape of peregrine circling at height. Buzzards drifted left, the sparrowhawk disappeared, there were 2 peregrines on the right skyline. Then a call of "goshawk". A lot of "Is its?" Yes it was. We watched it disappear right, to re-appear with a second bird. 2 flying goshawks together in the 'scope. A "wow" moment for everyone. They circled together, then went down somewhere towards the back of the wood. We walked on. A flock of about 30 siskins came down the valley and into the trees beside us. Some went out of sight, but a handful fed on the cones at the edge of the wood, spectacular in the sunshine when viewed through the telescopes. A check on "that small bird on the wire" added stonechat to the sightings. A pair of goosanders flew by, plumage details clear in the sun. By now lunch was occupying some minds, so we accelerated up the Whitendale Valley to find a sheltered viewpoint near the eagle owl site. Red grouse and meadow pipits added a couple of moorland species as we ate. Then Lancashire Constabulary's Raptor Officer appeared. "The male eagle owl is visible just back there." It was, and it just sat there as everyone took their opportunity to view it through the scopes. A couple of members at the back of the group picked up a male hen harrier as we passed the end of the track to the Brennan Valley, but it did not wait for the rest of the group when they were called back. No one minded, fortune had smiled on us.
P.S. Started today's Guardian Crossword after writing the above. 1 Across: "A raptor or two produces ecstasy - we all go mad."
John Webb