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On a crisp, frosty morning I waited for me mate. This was enlivened by Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush and Redwing all in the same field of view. The brief ‘chack’ above wasn’t repeated and so Fieldfare remains as a possible. Soon after Keith appeared and we set off.

Today’s target was to check out a possible sighting of Black Grouse. This was not to be, I suspect the original report was erroneous. Red Grouse can look very dark. For what it’s worth the site looked very promising; a conifer plantation adjacent to moorland. This is exactly the sort of habitat where I used to stumble across them when surveying in County Durham and Northumberland.

We had planned to look last week but hill fog scuppered any ideas. The weather was fantastic on the day, as was the location. It was one of those magical mornings you encounter from time to time when the world seems fresh and new. Visibility was near perfect and the views were extensive. On the trip over the snow-covered Dark Peak had glistened in the sun as we headed north from Otley. As we kitted up for the walk we took time to enjoy the vista. It was possible to pick out the Langdale Pikes and the amorphous moors of the Yorkshire Dales.

Once we had dropped down from the road the cutting north-easterly wind disappeared and our multiple layers became excessive. Keith even removed his dead badger hat. A very pleasant walk but no BK. Ho hum.

For the afternoon entertainment we headed to Bolton Abbey. After walking down Storith’s Lane we pottered off up the path towards the stone hut. Out of the wind I was clearly over-dressed and I disrobed. Stupid me put my coat over the camera and promptly walked off without it. Luckily it was still there when I returned a few minutes later.

People-wise it was quite busy and we had to wait for a seat at the hut. All the usual suspects showed extremely well although my attempts a photography yielded empty frames. It’s early in the season but I wondered about the lack of territoriality. There were at least a dozen Great Tit and a couple of Nuthatch and multiple Coal Tit (and freaking Mallard). What happens to those birds that choose to nest in the area? Does breeding success decline as they spend so much time defending their territory?

Suitably rested we wandered off towards Barden Bridge. The climbs seem harder in this direction. At the view of The Strid Keith picked out a Dipper stood on a rock. The water level was low and that’s the first time I’ve seen one ‘in’ The Strid. Shortly afterwards he picked up a Treecreeper on a nearby ash tree. Second year tick of the day.

I’m very much looking forward to the spring meet. Wood Wobblers, Redstart and Pied Flickers. Tasty.

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