Sunday 27th August 2023
Milldale to Gypsy Bank
We met in the car park that lies on Hopedale, just above the village, at a very reasonable 8am. We had a full group of 6 people, Clare, Carrie, Jane, Mick, Guy & Rachel, and they were all smiling despite the rain. The forecast had been for a dry morning with rain in the afternoon. It arrived early.
So, we all set off, waterproofs on and raring to go. The first stop was an early toilet stop in Milldale. As a wise person once told me, Lynne, go when you can, don’t wait until you need to. What’s this got to do with birds I hear you cry, well having places to stop can be important for some and having 2 toilets available on this walk is a good thing.
Anyway, I digress. The first bird of the day was Mallard on the River Dove, followed by a small group of Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit and a lovely Marsh Tit being very vocal. Inevitably the conversation moved from Marsh to Willow and the importance of dead wood in the countryside and how we are too tidy. That’s a conversation for another time. We stopped for a couple of minutes to see if the Redstart that held territory around here was still around. No sign of the Redstart but a male Bullfinch grabbed my attention.
We left The Pinch and followed the footpath that hugs the river. A couple of Goldcrest were calling high in the trees and Coal Tit could be seen too. A little further along and a Wren, Robin and Blackbird were soon added to today’s list. A few more Mallard and a single Moorhen fed on the river, but the river was quiet. The skies opened up in a clearing and our first Buzzard was seen perched high up on the slope. Kestrel and Sparrowhawk soared over the valley as House Martin gathered above the tree line.
Goldfinch were feeding on the heads of the knapweed while Nuthatch and Chiffchaff called from a nearby Oak, just for a second it sounded like spring. We moved upstream with our eyes constantly checking to outcrops above us for one of the Peregrine that lives in this valley. A coffee stop was called for as the rain finally eased off. A Redstart called from over the river and we all franticly searched the Gause on the bank. A male popped up to show well and a few minutes later a second, the scope was a little wet, but everyone managed to a good view.
As we walked, we disturbed a Grey Heron and 3 of the group had the quickest of flashes of a Kingfisher. Overhead, Woodpigeon, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Carrion Crow, Magpie and a pair of Raven passed over. Jackdaw were a constant presence in the valley, but the Dipper was being elusive, the banksides were overgrown, and this made it tricky. We decide to make our way to Gypsy Bank bridge where we could look up and down the river, and this paid of with decent views of Dipper at last.
After a while the steep slope of Gypsy Bank was calling us and we all made it to near the top where we stopped for lunch. We all told stories of great wildlife encounters we’d had and the rain had stopped so we started to dry out and remove some layers. A Great Spotted Woodpecker called from the top of a dead tree and stayed long enough to find it in the scope. Through the scope we also saw 2 female Chaffinch. Feeling regenerated after food and coffee we all set off to the top and on to the pasture belonging to Town End Farm. We all looked out in the hope that the resident Wheatear was still around. 2 birds were spotted on a stone wall, one of which was a young Wheatear and the second a Pied Wagtail. Swallows were feeding low over the fields and Collared Dove were hanging around the cow sheds. Greylag Goose were in a nearby field.
From here we headed back to Milldale, the walk through Alstonfield was a little on the quiet side, but it was the time of day when that can happen. By the time we reached the carpark we had all dried out had a quick recap of the day then said our goodbyes.
Another very enjoyable walk that I think will make a few people stop and look at what is around next time they are out and about.