White Coppice to Anglezarke and back 11/05/2022


Well, the day started badly. It was windy and raining and I already knew there would be a few regulars unable to attend so I was not expecting a horde of people at the meeting point in Standish. I was not prepared for there to be any. So I fired off a text and set off for Anglezarke. I was delayed a little and got to Anglezarke and looked around for Mike who had said he would meet me there. Where was he so I sent him a text and eventually got a phone call back, he was at White Coppice thinking he had missed me at Anglezarke. As there were just the two of us to consider I drove to White Coppice and the day could begin properly.


A cuckoo had been heard recently to the north of White Coppice, so we first set off up the valley in that direction. This is the opposite direction to Anglezarke. Willow warblers were singing all around interspersed with blackcaps. An occasional whitethroat joined in but not in the same numbers. The track is narrow and rough underfoot so not conducive to walking and looking around at the same time. Mostly we were relying on our ears to alert us to nearby birds. Just as we had reached the point where we were planning to turn back, we heard the call of the cuckoo. It was behind us, so we turned and started scanning the hillside. We had seen blackbirds on the slope before and we saw some distant birds with a thrush like silhouette behaving as if they were mobbing something, but we could not see what. We set off back down the track to try and get closer. Another man walking up the valley towards us told us that two cuckoos had flown past him down the valley towards White Coppice. We may have seen them but didn’t know it. That was it though, no more calls or the hint of a sighting of a cuckoo.

Cuckoo


Cuckoos tend to have a particular host species, dunnock, meadow pipit or reed warbler being common choices. The eggs they are lay are marked like the host species but obviously, considerably larger. We speculated what the host species could be for the cuckoo we heard, whatever it was, and we thought probably meadow pipit, there was certainly a paucity of evidence for any of the common host species. During the whole day we neither saw nor heard either dunnock or meadow pipit. At home dunnocks are singing regularly so presumably there were not many around.


Walking back to White Coppice and then beyond towards Anglezarke we saw or heard blue tit, great tit, chiffchaff, goldcrest, nuthatch, mistle thrush, and chaffinch in the woodlands and on or near the reservoirs, black-headed gulls, swallows, tufted duck, mandarin duck, mallard, oystercatcher. What was missing was of as much note as what was there. The spotted flycatcher that used to nest on the wall of the waterman’s cottage was absent, there was a goldfinch to add to the chaffinch but that was it for finches.


Lunch was eaten on the edge of Anglezarke reservoir before we started back to White Coppice. The route back was a little different, on the other side of the River Goit, but the number of birds was not any higher. At White Coppice we walked on towards the north along the Goit hoping to see the dipper that is frequently sighted but not today. We did add treecreeper as we listened for another cuckoo call but in vain. Here we were in May, probably the peak month for birds and the count was a disappointing 29. This tallied with our shared experience that bird numbers are down, the species are there but in smaller numbers, so reaching the counts we achieved in previous years is harder.
Duncan Turner