Given Matthew had to return to work on the 28th I'd elected to spend some time on my own in East Yorkshire where there are endless good sites for birdwatching. By now the snow had virtually disappeared and access to all sites was easy.
After leaving Matthew and Rose's flat in Sheffield I decided to take a trip down memory lane and visit several sites in the Penistone area where I used to live. In truth I didn't see very much that was of particular interest, but the visits rekindled particular memories that , in themselves, were enjoyable. With the upland reservoirs having just lost their ice covering only the most hardy remnants of the previously present Mallard and Tufted Ducks were in evidence. One area I visited ( Whitley Common ) brought back many memories. In times past it had held breeding Common Snipe, Redshank, Curlew and Mallard and surrounding fields attracted spring flocks of Golden Plover and the almost annual small trip of Dotterel, although one spring saw in excess of twenty.. On occasions the area was the location of wintering Short-eared Owls, with larger roosts present in times of passage. Due to some stupid decision by the Barnsley Planning Authority permission was granted for an area to be "landscaped " and for it to be the permanent site for a model aircraft club. The birds, of course, disappeared and the area, admittedly still in use, reduced to the single common denominator of usage that could have been accommodated at any number of sites. Given its location on the Pennines flanks the usage of the now flattened grassed-over area is limited due to weather, but the loss of wildlife is permanent. Such is progress we are told! However, I was amazed to find that in a number of fields to the south various "new generation" wind turbines had been erected, the sort that are very large and only one per field is the order of the day! I do hope the model aircraft never stray off course!
Of more interest to me were Little Owls! Whilst their short -eared cousins would never return, along with the Dotterel, I wondered how the local pair of these small owls was faring. I certainly didn't see any, either at a favourite barn or within the crevices of a much used stone wall. Whilst I concede the blades of these huge units would undoubtedly allow the passage of Little Owls below their scything arcs, would the very presence of this "disturbance" effect cause birds to abandon even traditional sites? A case of a disturbance effect, as opposed to an interference effect. I haven't the answer, although I somehow guess, somewhat sadly, that it would. Certainly I shall be overjoyed on some future occasion to find them in residence, but the point still troubles me that such effects are not something we can easily examine or determine and yet the outcome could be quite drastic. For such a past rough area to have been promoted to one with "relevant usage", but no longer carrying any of the intrinsic wildlife value it was capable of sustaining, and proven to sustain previously, is perhaps one of the more damning lessons of our land use policies and the utter inadequacy of the planning system, in terms of the retention of wildlife value, and the people who preside over it.
After completing a call at a supermarket for routine stores for the week ahead I travelled to my base near Hull and made plans for the following days.