An early start to visit Padley Gorge just over the "border" in Derbyshire, a wonderful wooded gorge set amidst dramatic open moorland and descending down into Hathersage. Compared to a visit last year when the sun was pouring down, today was rather more sombre and exceedingly cold. Whilst slightly earlier, in calendar terms, the contrast was immense with fewer birds in evidence and song somewhat subdued to say the least.
Nuthatches were everywhere and kept the show alive, but apart from a showing from Chaffinch, Treecreeper and a few titmice, it was hard work until we finally pinned down one, and then two, Pied Flycatcher. Very restive within what we assumed were their recently selected territories, they moved around giving short bursts of song from a variety of perches. One bonus was that the trees aren't yet fully in leaf and so we had exceptionally good views of the birds. With very little else discovered we moved out on to the open moor and had great views of a Dipper along the stream which eventually tumbles through the gorge, before deciding to try elsewhere.
A necessary visit to the Hathersage Bakery was a welcoming experience with scores of "9" being awarded the respective breakfast sandwiches. Always best to go local!
On to exploring one of the gritstone edges which, initially, looked as if it was devoid of birds. Curlew, Meadow Pipit and a couple of Wheatears seemed to be all that was on offer until we approached the outcrop from a different angle. Suddenly up popped a resplendent male Ring Ousel and began singing , probably one of the best views I've ever had of the species. After being perfectly confiding for a short while, it moved farther along the gritstone boulders and sang from a perch overlooking the whole valley. A quintessential, first class, moorland image!
On to the Redmires area where, other than several displaying Common Sandpipers along the shores of the very full reservoir, and hearing a lone Golden Plover giving out its plaintive call from nearby moorland, bird activity was at a low ebb. Moving down valley a little to Wyming Brook, the temperature did actually rise somewhat given the shelter along the well wooded water course, but not enough to entice more than a few birds into song. Certainly summer migrants were in short supply and the continuing effect of the north east winds appears to be being maintained in holding back the arrival of many birds.
Conceding defeat, we returned and spent time talking about the comparative ways in which spring migration can proceed, following on from Matthew's recent experience in New York and daily visits to Central Park where the progress of northerly moving migrants changed on a daily basis!