Trip reports

Visit to Hay Bridge

Cuckoo perched in tree
Cuckoo by RSPB-images

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

On the 17th July we were once again guests of the Hay Bridge Nature Reserve Society. Their extensive nature reserve in the picturesque Rusland Valley is a mosaic of habitats and as such is home to a wide variety of creatures. As observers of nature, the nineteen of us we were not to be disappointed.

We began our day at the reserve's study centre, where, from the verandah and with the aid of telescopes, we enjoyed good views of a nesting pair of ospreys with two young some quarter of a mile distant.

Just into our walk we passed two reminders of the woodland industries that thrived many years
ago - the conical charcoal burner's hut and nearby, a circular stone-lined potash pit that would have been used in bracken burning, the resultant ash being of use in the manufacture of soap and also for use as fertiliser.
A little further on we reached Byron's Hide which from its hilltop position, offers a vista of virtually the entire valley. Before us lay Hay Bridge Moss and beyond the Grizedale Forest with the peak of Coniston Old Man just showing on the horizon. It was here that we enjoyed a splendid view of one of the osprey pair, and we could clearly see that the bird was holding a fish in its talons.This osprey was to circle and soar above the treeline for several minutes before returning to its mate and chicks at the nesting platform in the valley below. Nearer to
several swallows flew overhead, no doubt feeding upon airborne insects.

To conclude the first half of our walk we re-entered the woodland where we could hear the mewing calls of a buzzard, the penetrating song of wrens and the piping calls of blue tits.

At White Moss Tarn several species of waterfowl were visible - a grey heron, a moorhen, and a little grebe.
After taking a break for lunch we took to the boardwalk that skirts Hay Bridge Moss - an area of acid peat bog with a cover of heather, billberry and cotton grass. In one of the ditches two species of damselflies were seen -the banded demoiselle and the beautiful demoiselle. These elegant insects seemed to be engaged in a fluttering courtship dance about a foot or so above the surface of the water.

Looking towards the ajoining Rusland Moss we could see a female red deer with its calf and further on within the stands of Scots Pine we could make out a larger group of these animals. We completed our walk by returning via a footpath on a hill to the east of the mosses, and it was here that a hawk-like bird with a barred chest flew swifltly into view and settled on a dry stone wall. Our "hawk" was in fact a young cuckoo and as it turned out, a moment or so later we could see the bird being fed by its parasitised host - a comparatively tiny meadow pipit. The orange gape of the begging cuckoo chick being an obvious and irresistable lure to the pipit!

The other species we noted that day were as follows: house martin, reed bunting, fallow deer, buzzard, blue tit, tree pipit, rabbit, sparrowhawk, pied wagtail, chaffinch, blackbird, stonechat, chaser dragonfly.

Michael Gardner.