Start Birding in September: new programme begins

Dear readers

This week marked the start of my new programme of birdwatching walks and classes.

I was really excited to open the new line-up with my Birdwatching for Beginners classes which will be taking place regularly at Rodley Nature Reserve on Monday and Wednesday evenings. This week my new birdwatchers learned what they needed to know about binoculars and practised some valuable techniques to help them to improve their birdwatching skills.

We had some fun learning to use our binoculars properly and I hope that everyone has been doing their homework over the last week to build up those arm muscles!

This coming week we will be learning about what makes a good field guide and will start learning to identify some birds.

On Saturday, my first walk was to the Lower Derwent Valley. We watched birds from the Bank Island tower at Weldrake; the viewing platform at Thorganby and North Duffield Carrs.

It was a beautiful day on Saturday and a heat haze was already creating some difficulty in viewing distant birds from the tower at Bank Island. despite this, we managed to pick out eclipsed shoveler, teal, mallard and wigeon and, among a flock of lapwing, around 20 snipe playfully feeding in the shallow water. There was an air of overlapping seasons as dragonflies danced around us and skeins of greylag geese periodically drifted noisily onto the deeper water. We all enjoyed the last remnants of summer while, at the same time, felt pangs of yearning for the autumn months ahead.

As we watched the distant lagoon, the lapwing and snipe rose up and, searching the sky, we found an immature marsh harrier being mobbed by gulls. It swept downwards towards the lagoon and disappeared in the vegetation. Only because we had followed it were we able to make out the creamy head feathers above the foliage.

Marsh harrier’s head just showing in front of the greylags

At Thorganby, there was no water visible to attract waders, wildfowl or terns. A search of the area provided great views of little owl, stock dove and a yellow wagtail family. North Duffield Carrs was very quiet for birds. Heron, reed bunting, blue tit and tree sparrow made an appearance but the majority of our time there was spent watching dragonflies and butterflies. Here we saw emperor dragonfly amongst more brown hawkers. Butterflies included speckled wood and comma.

Watching dragonflies and butterflies in the sunshine was a real highlight after such a terrible summer generally for insects this year.

For more information about my birdwatching classes and walks you can either contact me directly at or visit my website

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