**NOTE** My computer is having technical difficulties (I think it has a virus) and as such I am unable to add many photos to the next few posts. However, the missing photos will be added back in when my computer is back up and running. Thank you for your consideration.
Every two years, my family and I visit a different place in England to visit family. This year, the selected location to visit was the Yorkshire Dales. While I have been to Yorkshire before, I was very young so I was quite excited to go back. An added bonus was that we would be in England during the World Cup so I would get to watch the greatest soccer team on earth play. Since it was a long trip whose sole purpose was not birding, I am going to do what I did with my recent trip to Mexico and simply write about the highlights. Common Kestrel One of the highlights of the trip was that there were a few footpaths which were good for birding, just a short walk out of town of Kettlewell in which we were staying. One of the paths went through a wooded riparian area along a stream where I was able to get some of the classic English woodland birds like common redstart, mistle thrush, and great and blue tits. There was also a spot which held common reed buntings along this footpath. Another footpath went up through open farmland and held many opencountry birds like Eurasian oystercatcher, Eurasian curlew, northern wheatear, skylark, and meadow pipit.
One of the things that I was most looking forward too on my trip to Yorkshire, was to see some of the classic British moorland birds. I was especially hoping to see red grouse. One afternoon, it seemed like I was going to accomplish that goal. Close to where we were staying was a location known as Barden Moor. This is a large area of heather moorland which is apparently good for red grouse and many of the moorland breeding birds.
As we were getting close to the moor, we saw what appeared to be lapwings sitting in a farm field. As this would be a life bird for me, we pulled over. Getting out of the car, we saw that they were in fact lapwings and that there was a common snipe with them (another life bird). Seeing these birds made me excited for what would come next when we got to the moor itself.
Arriving at the moor, we began to walk along one of the paths that runs through it. One of the downsides of birding in moorland is that there are relatively few species that can be found in them. However, many of the these species are very interesting and sought after birds.
Due to this lack of species, the birding was pretty slow as we walked along. There were many meadow pipits as well as a skylark, but not much else. It wasn’t long however until two game birds flushed from out of the heather. Closer inspection (and the distinctive sound that they were making) revealed that they were red grouse (willow ptarmigan)! During the rest of the walk we saw a lot more grouse as well as many meadow pipits and Eurasian curlew. However, there was no sign of the ring ouzel that I was hoping for (this was a bird that I ended up not seeing by the end of the trip).
Another highlight from the trip was the day trip to Whitby that we took. While it was not a birding trip, I managed to convince my family to stop at a pond in a small town that is known as a good birding location. There we were able to pick up little grebe and tufted duck.
Least Grebe on Nest
Whitby itself is along the shore and so, without much effort, I was able to pick up great cormorant and(much to my happiness) northern fulmar. These were my first fulmars and I absolutely fell in love with them. I was able to watch them for a little bit and I absolutely love how they fly and how graceful they are. I have heard them described as gull-like before but until I saw them, I had never really realized just how gull-like they really are.
Another location that I really enjoyed birding was Strid Woods. This is a woodland near where I was staying that has wood warbler, common cuckoo, and common redstart, all of which are birds which I really wanted to see.
The first morning that I was there, I didn’t have all that much time and as such, I wasn’t able to see much on the passerine front. However, I did see common merganser, common sandpiper, and mandarin duck (there is a large population of mandarins along the river). I was also able to see blackcap and hear a redstart.
The second time I was there however, was much more rewarding. For starters, I was able to get fantastic looks at wood warbler which came down to within eight feet of me. I was also able to hear a common cuckoo which is something that I have really wanted to hear (it would have been nice to see it too but just hearing it was nice). I was also able to see a total of three kingfishers which are really beautiful birds and are a nice change of pace from the belted kingfishers found in most of North America.
To top all of this off, I was extremely pleased to have fantastic looks at a tawny owl which was perched in a tree just off the road. I was hoping to see at least one European owl of this trip and so I was very happy to see this magnificent bird.
The last highlight of the trip was finding a short-eared owl flying over a moor and being harassed by curlew. Short-eared owl is my ABA area nemesis (a bird which despite huge amount of effort has always avoided me) and while I would have like to see it in North America, seeing it in Britain is pretty good too. I actually was able to see the owl on two different occasions. The first was while it was being harassed by the curlew and the second was a few days later (it was in the same spot so I am assuming that it was the same bird). The second day, I was able to get really great views of the owl flying and hunting over the moor.
Overall, it was a really great trip to a really beautiful part of Britain and the world. While there were a few target birds that I missed, I was able to see some great birds and a great area.