Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Chee Dale

Another weekend and another Derbyshire Dale. The girlfriend and I don't have so many more to go now. This time it was destination Chee Dale, weather fine and sunny, and me sort of ill*.

Truth be told, if you were to draw comparisons with more the renown dales like the Dove, Lathkill, Chee Dale struggles to compete for scenery and drama. The most exciting stretch is where the limestone gorge pushes walkers into the river (there are stepping stones, in case you're wondering). Still, it is of course pleasant and, psst, a little private, much quieter indeed than the aforementioned dales, being there is like being under a massive living green duvet. You may even have the dale to yourself during the week.

My bird list for the walk wasn't huge, it was however promising. This is a real Derbyshire Dale so yes, there is a resident pair of Dipper, but also Green Woodpecker, Chiffchaff, Buzzard and Grey Wagtail, show what promise lies within, and the day following a Barn Owl was reported in the area. You go there, you see something!

Speaking of something, here's a very unexpected something from our day at Chee Dale...

...there were bats!
(If you have any idea how difficult they are to photograph, you'll understand my glee in having anything to show you!)

Small size, rich brown fur, black face and ears, I'm saying they are Britain's most common species, Pipistrelle. Now I'm no expert but this isn't the first time I have seen bats out in daylight during the first half of spring. My own hypothesis is that they are coming out of hibernation near to starvation and desperate to feed. This early in the year it is still very cold at night with few flying insects yet emerged, so it makes sense for these bats to hunt during the day.
Equally, they might merely have been disturbed from their roost, though for me everything about their whirring behaviour suggested classic feeding technique around the woodland clearings. We saw just two individuals, one showing well enough we could follow its course right into the rockface, the minutest fissure, which rather makes sense as the cave systems around Derbyshire are particularly notable for their populations of hibernating bats.

At the head of Chee Dale is a Derbyshire Wildlife Trust reserve, 'internationally important' as the volunteer team working there told us. They also advised a return visit in late May when the wildflowers are apparently magnificent. I think we'll do just that!

* Preyed upon during the week by the norovirus/winter stomach bug, I was so happy to have the birdsong outside my bedroom window as I tossed and turned myself into a half comfortable knot. Even the Dunnock's slightly flat twittering was sweet enough to ease my suffering. So hail to the birds, they rock again!

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