As bird watchers, we love to get out and about as much as possible. However, during the past few months, all we could do was garden birdwatching. That’s why we decided not to miss the monthly bird walk by RSPB Liverpool. The field trips – Dates with Nature and Nature on Your Doorstep are eagerly awaited by local birdwatching enthusiasts. We have taken part in a few bird walks and have returned with loads of new information, memorable moments, and feeling refreshed.
The walks are often led by Group Leader Chris, who is excellent at spotting birds and helping you spot them. He is an expert in birds, and his enthusiasm is contagious. The other veteran members are stalwarts in their own rights, and we are always in awe of the group’s wealth of knowledge. The camaraderie within the group is a massive motivation for us to put on our boots and head out for a bird walk, even on a cold morning.
Today, however, wasn’t cold – although a slight chill of late a September morning hung in the air as we left our home. Our destination for the day was the Yarrow Valley Country Park in Chorley for this month’s Dates with Nature walk. A 700-acre facility run by the council, it is a great spot for birding. The sun was up, and as the forecast said it will turn cloudy as the day went on, we were happy to get some warmth.
A Warm Welcome and a Great Sighting
We arrived at the car park just in time at half past nine and saw that the group was already gathered there. Most were eagerly scanning the tree tops and skies for the winged beauties. We joined the group, and exchanged pleasantries. Chris then led the group along a walking path. We briefly stopped for a few friends who were just arriving.
That gave us a chance to glimpse the first bird of prey for the day, a Kestrel. It was perched on a tree top, and the bird flew away by the time the camera focussed on it. However, it was a decent sighting in the brief moment between spotting the bird and trying to snap its pic. Buoyed by the sighting, we followed Chris in great anticipation.
A Mix of Habitat
We arrived by a lakeside in a minute or two. There wasn’t much activity in the water. However, the chirps and tweets from the trees caught our attention as we watched the little beauties fly around. There seemed to be an active flock of blue tits, great tits, coal tits, and nuthatches. We all watched with fascination as they flitted in and out of the foliage. Someone had put some feed on the bin top – turning it into a makeshift birdfeeder that allowed us to watch these beauties to our heart’s content.
The coal tit proved to be too quick for the cameras. But it was a great joy to watch them as they came in, grabbed the feed, and flew off – all in a flash!
Bird Walk to Explore and Discover
After a while, we moved on to another part of the park. As we reached a small water channel, Chris pointed us to a Grey Wagtail. It was showing well as it foraged along the banks of the water body. Chris explained the features of the bird to us and how its long tail is an excellent pointer towards correct identification. It is such a beautiful bird – we had ample time to observe it and to click some good pics.
We wandered off a bit from the lakeside, and Chris pointed to the top of a tree and said the birds perched there were Redpolls. There were some Goldfinches too. We also saw some Long-tailed Tits flying from one tree to another. A few woodpigeons were flying around every now and then.
Then we moved on and reached a bigger lake with some wildlife in it. We saw a few Mallards, a Coot, and other common waterfowl. We saw a juvenile Greater Crested Grebe and one adult, too. There was a Mute Swan Family, and among the Mallards were a couple of Indian runner ducks. It is a hybrid duck, and although they look like a Mallard, they have certain distinct features such as a slender neck and darker feet (Mallard has orange feet) that distinguish them from the Mallards.
As we stood watching them partaking in the feed one of the team members kindly threw them, Chris spotted a Buzzard and then another flying above the treeline at the far end. They soon disappeared from our views.
A Drizzle, a Pause and More Splendour
The bright day had turned cloudy by then, and by the time we reached a spot where the road forked, it started drizzling. Thankfully, the area we were at provided us with some shelter under the trees and great entertainment, as there was a feeding tray nearby. As we watched the birds fly in and out, waiting for the rain to pass, the group members started to converse more freely. Most knew one another by name/face, and it was an excellent opportunity for us to catch up with each other.
Soon, the drizzling stopped and we continued our walk along the trail. There was a reedbed, and we searched for warblers, kingfishers, and so on, but with no luck. Later, we crossed over a wooden bridge and walked a bit uphill. We saw a few Robins, a grey squirrel scampering across the field, and, of course, the tits were always flying here and there.
It felt therapeutic to walk along the stretch of woodlands – the trees with their overhanging branches and roots that run crisscross across the forest floor, the sound of birds chirping and the sweet song of a bird setting the mood along with the relaxing music of flowing water – everything felt heavenly.
The moss covered tree branches and the undergrowth all offered the perfect setting to feel relaxed and at peace. Although we were in the group, at that moment, it felt as if the forest was giving an exclusive display of its splendour. Even now, with closed eyes, we can return to those moments of tranquillity and peace.
We had to take a detour as we missed one of the turns. But there is never a dull moment in the company of nature. So, no one had any complaints.
The River and Its Gift
Soon, we were walking alongside River Yarrow. On one side, the river was flowing at its full might – the current looked pretty strong, and the flowing water felt like soothing background music. We peeled our eyes for Dipper but couldn’t spot one. On the other side of the trail was a body of still water; hence, it was a unique experience as we walked on. Soon, we reached a waterfall – the water gushed down forcefully, and it was a beautiful sight to behold.
There were some steps at the far end, and later, Chris told us that it was for the Salmon and Brown Trout to travel upstream. He mentioned that if we came in October, we could see Salmon travelling upstream through those steps – fish steps added to the stone weir over which the water cascades down. As we stood taking it all in, Chris said someone had spotted a Dipper downstream. We rushed to catch a glimpse of this fantastic aquatic songbird.
Dipper – Always a Delightful Spotting on a Bird Walk
Although it took us some years to see our first Dipper, we’ve been lucky to spot them a few times since then. However, we were left yearning for more every time as we only managed to catch glimpses of the bird. We hoped we could get a decent look at it. But, when we arrived at the spot where it was spotted, it was no longer there. One of the ladies managed to get a picture. As we looked at it, we were both happy and sad. Glad that the bird was there, sorry that we couldn’t see it.
A few minutes might’ve passed before the word came to us that the bird was sighted a few metres downstream, and we rushed there. And this time, we watched it to our heart’s content. The bird was busy foraging in the water and never stayed still for a moment. But we managed to get some decent pics – that’s a massive tick on the wish list.
The bird started moving upstream, and we followed it. Most people in the group got a good sighting of the bird. And all of us were thrilled beyond words. Watching it go inside the water and come up dry was wonderful. The water just rolled off its body – the best waterproofing feature!
Here’s a short video of the bird.
The Walk Back
We watched the bird leisurely and then walked to the weir again to see if we could catch the brown trout swimming upstream via the fish steps. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see that, and soon, we returned to the spot where the road forked off. Again, there was an explosion of tits, robins, and nuthatches. We spotted at least a couple of tree creepers, and someone saw a goldcrest, too. Most of the group members missed it, though.
Uprooting an Invasive Species while on Bird Walk
All through our bird walk, we saw a plant with lovely pink flowers throughout the country park. But it turned out to be the highly invasive species – Himalayan Balsam. Although most wildlife areas forbid people from plucking plants, visitors to Yarrow Valley Country Park can uproot the Balsam. It is pretty easy to uproot it – a gentle pull will do the trick. However, one has to be careful to destroy it by breaking it below the first set of leaves and not to leave it on the ground. It is also not a good idea to uproot a flowering plant as it will spread the seeds. We carefully uprooted some of the Balsam plants and destroyed them.
Time to Refuel and Bid Byes
Soon, we were back in the car park, and everyone gathered near the café for an informal chat. Some bought hot drinks and snacks from the café while others enjoyed their packed lunch. We love the informal gathering after a bird walk because we can hear exciting stories and exchange information. Listening to other people’s birding/wildlife experiences is always a pleasure, especially when it includes some adventure.
Moments like this that reminds us that bird walks are not just about birds and nature. It is also about us, human beings – our need to feel a part of the community, a common reason that brings different people together and spends some wonderful hours in the company of nature and each other. It also offers a chance to build and strengthen new friendships, spread cheer, and also motivate and support one another.
The Liverpool RSPB bird group makes us feel welcome, wanted, and happy. Every time we go on a bird walk, we return with a wealth of knowledge, memorable moments, and a heart filled with warmth and joy. As life is a mad rush on most days, we are thankful that we get this opportunity to enjoy the best of nature with some of the most wonderful people we’ve come to know. We would recommend it to one and all!
Click here if you would like to join the Liverpool Local Birding Group.
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How to reach – the post code is PR7 3QL. Free parking is available by the café/information centre.
Accessibility – The trails are accessible for prams and wheelchairs, although it might be dependent on the weather condition in certain parts of the trail.
Toilets – There are toilets by the side of the café.