Friday, 5 June 2009

Quest for the Mountain Blackbird

June had arrived and with it some very warm weather, which was long overdue. It was an ideal opportunity to get back to the wilds of the Forest of Bowland and continue my search for the Ring Ouzel or Mountain Blackbird as it is sometimes known. A friend, Peter joined me on my first foray into the wilds. It was a very warm day but a little cooler up on the fells. We had an excellent session seeing some of the Bowland specialities. We saw pied flycatchers , spotted flycatchers and redstarts in the woodland and on the open fells we saw whinchat, stonechat, wheatear and a pair of nesting canada geese. Overhead a pair of peregrine falcons were patrolling the skies and we had fleeting views of a male hen harrier but didn't see or hear ring ouzel.
The Ring Ouzel is now a very scarce bird in Lancashire, Bowland is it's stronghold but it has been estimated that there may only be some twenty pairs or so now breeding. For my second excursion of the week Paul joined me and we hiked up to a remote valley where we had previously had tantalising glimpses of ring ouzel but on that visit the constant rain had definitely put a damper on things. This time the weather was very different as the very warm weather was here to stay . We had a very enjoyable afternoon and eventually we were rewarded for our efforts with views of a male ring ouzel on territory as he sang from a nearby rowan tree.We managed a few hasty shots before we had to return to civilisation.
On my third visit of the week to Bowland I was alone and decided on a return to the remote valley where Paul and I had previously seen the ring ouzel. Again the weather was very kind and it was pleasantly warm and sunny. The ring ouzels were about but I only had views of the male bird as he returned periodically with food for his family. Again I managed a few shots but the bird was wary and didn't like me being there. Satisfied with my efforts I walked down to a nearby beck where a whinchat was singing but was unable to locate it. I did however get some wonderful images of a meadow pipit with a huge moth in it's beak, food for it's hungry brood. The moth was a big one, similar to Emperor Moth, but as yet I have not identified the species. Well pleased with my afternoon's efforts I made the long walk back to the car and civilisation. The images show a female redstart returning to a nest site in a Bowland wood, a meadow pipit with a beak full of moth and the male ring ouzel on territory in the lonely valley high up in the Bowland fells.


  1. I enjoyed reading this with the same enthusiasm as the day itself Brian which will go down in my history book as nothing less then put it mildly.

    A birding day of all days.

  2. Lovely images Brian, especially the female Redstart.

  3. I must say I was glad to see your comment as I had not seen much of anything from you in a while. I did enjoy the birds you presented in this post and while they are all strangers to me, I really like your photographs of them. Up close and personal like is the only way I like to see birds whether I know them or not. If there is a fault with books about birds it is, in my opinion, they usually have some lousy photographs, too far away and not showing the things a birder ought to be able to see. I have four of those on my shelves at the moment and have to use all four to identify anything -- going back and forth. LOL

  4. Hello
    Please could you send the 6-figure grid reference for the moth record privately (so you dont disclose to less scrupulous photographers the ring ouzel location). Thanks. The moth is Light Knot Grass and is fairly local on moorland, hence worth "dotting" on a tetrad map. Pete W has my e-address. Thanks again.