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During late September 2003, Phil (a friend from Nottinghamshire) and I spent several days looking at wildlife in the North of England.

We visited Leighton Moss, an RSPB reserve in the North-West. We had good views of quite a variety of birds but it was a dragonfly that provided the first photographic opportunity.

common sympetrum
A common sympetrum

Just as we were about to leave the reserve, a robin settled close by and provided an almost perfect composition.


Our second day started with a visit to the Durham Wildlife Trust's reserve, Low Barns. Whilst watching some female tufted ducks diving for food, a jay flew past the hide and settled in a distant tree. I was able to get some photographs although they needed severe cropping to bring the subject to a reasonable size.

jay jay

A comma butterfly landed close to us whitst we were looking at the River Wear. Reference books suggest that commas do not come further north than a line from the Wash to the Mersey. Our exceptional Summer has extended the range of several species and comma seems to be one of those.


After a pub lunch we visited DWT's reserve at Bishop Middleham. For a few weeks last year, this reserve was crowded every day when thousands came to see the nesting bee-eaters (see here). We strolled round for about half an hour without seeing another soul!

We then headed to Cowpen Marsh, Cleveland, looking for a rarity which had been around for some days. Following the guidance of another birder, we soon found the bird in question; a lesser yellowlegs. We were almost fooled by its call which it very similar to that of a redshank

lesser yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs

Our last day was spent visiting reserves on the way to Nottinghamshire. A spotted crake had been seen at Filey and we spent some time scanning the reeds without a positive sighting. Some obliging snipe made an easy target for my camera, as did a large blue dragonfly; a common aeshna.

snipe snipe

snipe common aeshna

Our last visit on the journey south was Tophill Low; a reserve run by Yorkshire Water. Here we saw the great northern diver which had been on site for a few days.

great northern diver great northern diver

The photograph below shows how low a great northern diver can rest in the water.

great northern diver

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