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coal tit

Anglers Country Park

Wednesday, 26th December 2001, West Yorkshire

wigeonstufted ducks

AS USUAL for this time of year there are Wigeon (above, left), Pochard, Tufted Duck (above, right), Ruddy Duck and the odd Shoveler on Anglers Lake. A few snipeSnipe fly overhead, apparently in a hurry, as they usually are.

We face an icy wind as we follow the footpath down the slope to Walton Park, but for the rest of our circuit, although the temperature hovers around freezing, it is pleasant to walk in the sun in the shelter of trees.

The Poachers' Plan?

Walton HallA marking on one of the sandstone blocks that make up the wall around Walton Park (left) intrigues me. To judge by the weathering it's quite old. You might think it was merely natural erosion except that part of the design is a crescent with a dot at its centre. As this wall was built by Victorian naturalist Charles Waterton to protect the pheasants and wildfowl of the park from gangs of poachers it occurs to me it might date from those days. This is one of the quietest corners of the park, well away from the main entrance and the track that passes the park on the opposite side. The inscribed design resembles a map with a simple network of tracks leading to the crescent. Could this represent a pheasant covert?

I believe that Waterton planted up a semi-circle of hollies somewhere in the park to give cover to pheasants. It may well have had some kind of structure that acted as a nesting box at its centre.

Common Gull

black-headed gullsMy friend David, from Cumbria, points out two Common Gulls amongst a flock of Black-headed (left) which are walking on the grass by the Waterton Park Golf Club. Common gulls, David tells me, really are the commonest variety in the fields of his corner of the Lake District, not far from Morecambe Bay, but here in West Yorkshire, as far from the sea as we can be, black-headed are our most frequent species.

  • Common gulls lack the black spot near the eye that marks the black-headed gull in its winter plumage.

  • Their legs are pale greenish, rather than red.

  • They appear to be a little bit larger than the black-headed and, to me, they seem to hold their head more erect. The black-headed by comparison seem to keep their heads tucked down nearer their shoulders.

Haw Park

Haw Parkcoal tits We expect that we'll see a Goldcrest on our walk through the conifers of Haw Park. But, apart from Robins, the odd Blue Tit, Dunnocks and Wrens, the only foraging party we come across in the wood consists exclusively of Coal Tits, which hop from treetop to treetop investigating the Larch cones.

The Squire's Tearooms

Apart from the birds, the sun and the crisp cold weather the other thing that makes the day so pleasant is the chance to punctuate the walk with an all day breakfast at the Squire's Tearooms at the Heronry, Anglers Country Park, followed by coffee and cake later in the day. Now, that's what I call civilised page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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