Coach Trip to Potteric Carr on Sunday 23 March 2013

On Thursday the weather forecast was dire, and by the Birdwatching group meeting on the Friday evening the snow had fallen all over Yorkshire and closed Woodhead and the Snake trans- Pennine roads. The big question was ‘should we cancel the trip to Potteric Carr on the Sunday? In the end it was decided to brave the elements and run the Potteric Carr trip. I think everybody who came on the trip will agree that it was totally the right decision and a good birdwatching day was had by all.

On Sunday the wind was blowing strongly, and bitterly, from the east and the sky was blue with fluffy clouds when we arrived at Potteric Carr, after a longer journey than normal via the M62. We were greeted enthusiastically by the staff at the Visitor Centre and most of us proceeded to view the feeders from the warmth of the centre. This viewing was very worthwhile and a good variety of the usual feeding area birds were seen including tits, chaffinch, goldfinch, robins, blackbirds etc and excellent views of lesser (common) redpoll. It was possible to compare the plumage of male, female and immature redpoll in one sighting!

Potteric Carr is a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve of approximately 500 acres. Its habitats include open water, Phragmites reed fen and swamp, slow moving water in drains and ditches, open grassland, willow and alder wet woodland, birch woodland and a recently planted oak stand. It has good footpaths, which were mainly free of snow, leading to a number of hides.

After leaving the visitors centre, the open waters of Decoy Marsh provided views of gadwall, teal, wigeon, shoveler and pochard, as well as the ubiquitous mallard. In addition, Iittle grebes were seen and later great crested grebes on Piper Marsh.

Some members had good views of the kingfisher flying along one of the ditches near the Field centre. In the same vicinity, a great spotted woodpecker visited one of the feeders, with a pheasant hoovering up any seeds that fell from the feeders. Reed buntings, in bright spring plumage, were visible in the reed beds.

A bittern had been reported at Piper Marsh and so most members spent some time at the hide looking for this elusive wader. On two occasions, it was seen flying and then settling in the distant reed beds.

The open waters on the reserve, including Huxter Well Marsh, allowed sightings of other water birds, such as mute swans, cormorants, greylag and Canada geese and black-headed, common, lesser black-backed and herring gulls.

The highlight of the day for some members was in the final ten minutes of our time at Potteric Carr. Several of us were having a final look from the visitors centre at the bird feeders, when a female sparrowhawk flew in, chased a small bird, the bird managed to escape, and the sparrowhawk rested in a nearby tree giving a very good view of its plumage and features. It was a really excellent close-up view of a sparrowhawk.

Potteric Carr provided a good days birdwatching with a total of 54 species and it didn’t disappoint those indulging in huge bacon rolls at the on-site café!


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