Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Magical Malvern Hills!

Having free time after completing my degree is marvellous :o) I went birding TWICE at the weekend, good times! After visiting my local patch on Saturday, on Sunday Chris and I went down to the Malvern Hills; I was hoping to maybe see the Ring Ouzels and Snow Buntings that had recently been reported there. 

The weather was very foggy throughout most of the journey there but luckily cleared as we approached Great Malvern. We headed straight up Happy Valley; although this is not the most interesting route up the hills and is also rather steep in places, it's where Ring Ouzels are frequently spotted around this time of year. It's thickly wooded at the bottom but starts to open out as you ascend, and it's around this zone where there are quite a few Rowan trees - hence the attraction for migrating thrushes.

Near the bottom of Happy Valley (HDR).
Heading up Happy Valley (HDR).

Delicious Rowan berries.....if you are a bird! (HDR)
We stopped to inspect a likely-looking Rowan tree not far from the path, which was the same one I found a flock of Brambling in two autumns ago. It's clearly a favoured spot as it was immediately obvious that it was jammed with Redwings stuffing their faces, along with a couple of Fieldfare. A few minutes of further scrutinity revealed a male Ring Ouzel, hurrah! We watched for a while and saw him fly around, being joined by another individual and landing in a few different spots before returning to the Rowan. NICE. We continued to the top of the valley where we stopped for lunch, and saw three Ring Ouzels fly past. It was so warm at our lunch spot that I heard a few grasshoppers rasping in the grass behind us.

It wasn't until we reached the ridge of the Hills and the view to the west opened up that we realised the entire surrounding landscape in all directions was covered in fog. The Malverns were like an island in the middle of a sea of cloud; it was impossible to tell how far away the ground actually was! Hopefully these photos will give some idea of how it looked although they don't really do it justice:

Chris, bemused by the abundance of fog.

Foothills on the western side rising through the fog.

Foothills on the western side rising through the fog.

Foothills on the western side rising through the fog.

Great Malvern being engulfed around its outskirts by the fog.
In search of Snow Buntings, we walked over the top of North Hill and circumnavigated it, but by that point I think there was too much disturbance and we saw no buntings. We did however see a Red Admiral flying over the summit - further evidence of how warm it was - and a pair of Stonechats on the eastern slope. 

On North Hill (HDR).
What with the Ring Ouzels (my first seen in the Malverns) and the mad weather we had had an excellent trip! I attempted a final two HDRs while we were waiting for the train back - Great Malvern station is one of my favourites :o)
Great Malvern railway station.

Great Malvern railway station.

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