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 Snipe 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?A 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 GullMy 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.
Haw ParkWe 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 TearoomsApart 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 bird-watching.