CRACKING KINGFISHERS @ HIGH BATTS
On Sunday, the day after visiting Rodley Nature Reserve, my father and I visited High Batts Nature Reserve by the River Ure, just North of Ripon. This is a members only reserve, which you can join for just £11 a year which quite frankly is a bargain as this reserve is one of Yorkshires hidden gems. I have been to this reserve several times now and it never fails to deliver some great wildlife sightings and photographic opportunities.
The reserve is located a few miles north of Ripon on the A6108, just after the entrance to Lightwater Valley on the left, the entrance is on the right signed Hanson. The reserve is then accessed down the quarry track, via a gate which is unlocked via an access code which you get when you become a member. This access code also unlocks the hides. There is a members hide overlooking a pond and stream, with 2 other hides on the banks of the River Ure.
Upon arriving at the reserve we went straight to the Members Hide, from here there were plenty of Chaffinches, Tree Sparrows, Great Tits & Blue Tits. Just in front of the hide where 3 Pheasants, with one male making an almighty racket. There was also a Moorhen with several young chicks weaving in and out of the reeds in the middle of the pond before making its way over to one of the feeders. Just then there was the distinctive high pitched "ki-kee" call of the Kingfisher and it flew down the stream and perched on a branch overhanging the pond.
Sadly one of the feeding stations partly blocked my view of it and I was only able to get some ok pictures of it before it flew off down towards the river. A few minutes later we decided to head down to the first river hide, incidentally called the River Hide. However we could not get into the hide, we had the right code, but the door would just not open. It was not until we got back to the members hide that we found out the lock is opened the opposite way to the other hides!
We walked along the grass path to the Hotel Hide as a trio of Kingfishers had been reported flying about in front of the hide. Upon arrival at the hide there was no sign of the Kingfishers, but after 3 or 4 minutes a Kingfisher arrived and perched on the left hand branch over the river. But no sooner had it arrived, another Kingfisher came along and pushed it off and they went up the river at same time as another Kingfisher went the other way. At the end of the left hand branch there was a cage placed to trap Minks. One of the Kingfishers then returned and perched the other side of this cage. I was beginning to think that the Kingfisher would prove elusive for a good photo.
After perching behind the cage for a good 5 minutes it flew off, but just a couple of minutes later it returned and perched the other side of the cage. This time though it had its back to us, yet again I was being thwarted by the Kingfisher. But then it flew down in to the water and re-perched on the right hand perch a few meters to the right and I managed to get a few pictures. After 2 or 3 minutes it dived down again, but this time it was successful and returned to the perch with a Stickleback in its beak and again I managed to get a few great photos.
After eating the Stickleback the Kingfisher disappeared down the river and then my attention was drawn to a bird moving about on a log in the middle of the river. After taking a few photos we at first thought it might be a Wagtail, but it did not have the tail of a Wagtail. We then thought it might be a juvenile Dipper, but after having a brief snooze the bird flew off in a smooth flight down the river, thus ruling it out as Dipper. I suspected it was a Common Sandpiper, this would later be confirmed by a fellow visitor in the Members Hide.
A couple of minutes later the Kingfisher returned to the right hand perch and I got a few more photos. Once it had left we made our way back down to the Members Hide, sadly there was still not much about apart from a Robin and a few Chaffinches & Tree Sparrows visiting the feeders. A few minutes later a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker briefly visited the feeders, followed by a Coal Tit and then a Marsh Tit which I managed to get a picture of.
About 15 minutes before we were due to leave we decided to try the first river hide again, but sadly there was nothing there and just before 4 o'clock we left. In summary some cracking views of Kingfishers and a rare sighting of a Common Sandpiper on the river were the highlights. I have attached my full sightings list and my photos from the trip.