GLOURIOUS GOOSANDERS @ HIGH BATTS
On Tuesday I decided to head to High Batts Nature Reserve, a member only reserve just north of Ripon on the banks of the River Ure. Yearly membership for this reserve is just £11. There are three hides on site, one raised up overlooking a pond with the other two on the river bank. During the Summer months this reserve can be quiet but is still a very good spot for seeing Kingfishers. It was a cloudy day when I arrived and as I walked down the hill to the reserve entrance, I visited a newly built, two-man photography hide which had opened in the last couple of weeks.
There were around half a dozen Great Tits in the trees to my right queueing up to visit the feeders. I continued on to the first hide, which is a double decker hide with viewing areas on the ground and above up a set of steel stairs. I climbed the stairs to the upper level where in the past It has been a good place to see Marsh Tits and during the colder months Siskin and Lesser Redpolls. In front of the hide is a large pond with the water entering the pond from the far lefthand side in the distance and exiting via narrow stream into the River Ure on my right-hand side.
Visiting the feeders just in front of the hide were Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Dunnocks, Robins, Blue Tits, Great Tits and Long Tailed Tits. In the trees to the left and right of me were at least half a dozen Collared Doves with several Pheasants on the ground hoovering up any food dropped from the feeders. After a few minutes I noticed a male Brambling had sneaked in amongst the Chaffinches feeding on the ground. After a couple of minutes, the Brambling disappeared into the bushes before briefly returning to the ground and then flying off into the trees.
On the far side of the pond were six Mandarin Ducks and as I was watching them a female Siskin landed close to a feeder just in front of the hide. It was soon joined by two male Siskins, with one using the feeders in front of me and the other perching in a tree just a few feet to my right. On the pond were Coots, Moorhens and a lone male Teal as trio of Crows flew over the trees at the far side. A male Great Spotted Woodpecker landed on a large tree in front the hide, just to the right, before inching its way down to a feeder, flying off when another Woodpecker came flying in.
I left the hide and descended the steel steps and turned to the left towards the river and at either side of the path was the uncommon wild flower “Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem” which was being protected with wire cages. The first of the two hides on the River Ure is the River Hide which has been a great place to spot Kingfishers. When I sat down in the hide I was delighted to see a male Goosander on the far side of the river with a female diving under the surface to my far left. The female reappeared to the far right, down river, and once the male had spotted her he began to swim towards her, almost gliding along the surface of the water.
A Grey Heron now flew along the river before turning to the left and flying over the trees and out of sight. From here I walked along the path towards the next hide and in the trees to my left I could hear a Chiffchaff singing away while overhead a group of Long Tailed Tits moved from tree to tree. The second hide is called the Hotel Hide, which again is a great place to see Kingfishers but on this occasion I was unsuccessful. There were however Mallards and to the left a few hundred yards up river was another Grey Heron. On the grass between the hide and the river was a male Pheasant and visiting the feeders was a Great Tit and a Nuthatch.
I now made my way back along the path to the main hide over looking the pond which was still very busy and, on the pond, a Little Grebe was diving for food. There were still large numbers of Blue Tits, Great Tits, Chaffinches and Goldfinches visiting the feeders with Tree Sparrows also in attendance. After a minute or so the three Siskins also returned and ten minutes later the single male Brambling also landed on the ground below the feeders. Flying over the trees in the distance I saw a pair of Greylag and Canada Geese flying over towards Lightwater Valley.
At the base of a tree trunk to my right a Treecreeper landed and inched its way right round the tree moving about a foot up the trunk before stopping to probe the bark for food. It then flew off over the pond and disappeared into the trees as a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew the other way and continued over the hide. I had been here two hours and still hadn’t seen a Marsh Tit or Kingfisher which is very unusual for High Batts, but it was now time to head home so hopefully I’ll have better luck next time.
I have attached a few photos below from my visit to High Batts Nature Reserve.