Sunday, 27 October 2013

Autumn fun in the Malvern Hills

Yesterday, as part of my continued making the most of my short study break before my next Open University module starts, I decided to go to the Malvern Hills. They're always a favourite destination for me anyway - they're very easy to get to, have a good range of habitats and feel like proper hills that you can have a good walk on, whilst still being very manageable - it's impossible to get lost there, and there are plenty of places in Great Malvern to refuel with tasty grub (very important for my shrew-like metabolic rate). My decision was also influenced by Worcestershire Birding's tweet from Thursday, maybe this time I would finally get lucky and see a flipping Ring Ouzel!

I started by walking very slowly up Happy Valley, as this was one of the places Ring Ouzel had been reported. Plus it had also started raining so I was in no hurry to get to the top! Treecreeper and Green Woodpecker were nice sightings as I made my way up through the trees. Unfortunately it seemed as though the Ring Ouzel had probably moved on since Thursday....however I was soon distracted from Ouzel-related thoughts towards the top of the valley, by a Rowan tree a short distance from the path which turned out to be stuffed with Brambling, and topped off with a single Fieldfare! I was dead excited as in my limited experiences, I'd only previously seen Bramblings as individuals, not flocks, so it was great to see around 25 of them quietly and busily feeding away at the Rowan berries. It was a year tick for me as well, brills! I watched the Bramblings until they flew off together, and at the top of the valley saw the flock again a couple of times, now grown to towards 40 birds.

Record shot from my clunky camera - how many Bramblings can you count?

The top of Happy Valley.
Up on the top, the usual Meadow Pipits and Ravens were about, as well as lots of Redwings and Fieldfares to-ing and fro-ing. As I was getting peckish I decided to leave the Worcestershire Beacon and beyond until after lunch! Before I headed for food however I spotted a flower to try and ID:

I think it's Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia).
Then it was down another valley to St Ann's Well cafe where I dined on hearty soup outside and drank delicious spring water from the well!

St Ann's Well Cafe.

 Outdoor seating in a lovely setting.

The spring.
Awesome erosion of the marble base of the well!

After that it was back up the hills and over the Worcestershire Beacon, the highest peak of the Malverns, and onwards for a bit along the hills.

The Worcestershire Beacon.
View south along the Malvern Hills.
Although I didn't see so much in the afternoon bird-wise, the changing weather conditions meant the views of the surrounding countryside were constantly transforming in spectacular fashion! I found this fungus but am rubbish at fungi identification, something else to work on!

Unknown fungi!

I also had a look at another of the sites where Ring Ouzel had been reported, Dingle Quarry, but again with no luck, although I did enjoy great views of a hunting Kestrel overhead.

Upper Dingle Quarry.
My route back down into Great Malvern took me once again down Happy Valley - a Sparrowhawk and juvenile Stonechat on the way were nice sightings, and although there was no Ring Ouzel in sight, a Fieldfare was still at the top of the same Rowan tree that I'd seen one in earlier with the Bramblings - wonder if it was the same one? There were plenty of berries there to eat so I suppose it'd have no reason necessarily to move on!

Stonechat record shot.

I got the 17:10 train back to Birmingham University (conveniently 25 minutes' walk from my house) and was feeling pretty sleepy by the time I got home, so we chilled out in the evening and watched Poirot, enjoyably daft stuff. What a great day!

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