High on the hills at Berryhill Fields there is an excellent view of the cityscape of Stoke-on-Trent. The area is inhabited by skylarks and their cries can be heard as they hover high above their nests and then sink quickly to the ground.
We saw some serious twitchers with high power telescopes on the crest of the hill. They had a full view of the skylarks, but seemed to be waiting for something else.
Having spent an hour or so on Berryhill, we moved to Park Hall Country Park. This is a large area of open heath, woodland, old quarry workings and remnants of wartime air defense guns installations. From the top of the south hill there is a view of Longton and the church stands out clearly in the distance.
A little to the right of the church can be seen the bottle ovens of the Gladstone Pottery, now a museum of potting. This was the last place to fire up a brick bottle kiln. Now all of the potteries are using electric kilns - much cleaner and more controllable.
On the way down the hill we were startled by a sparrow hawk flying directly up the path towards us, not more than 6 metres away when it turned on the wing and flew off. I think it was more startled by our presence than we were by its collision flightpath. It settled in a nearby tree and I was able to take a picture before it flew off.
When I examined the photograph, the bird appears to be a goshawk, with a pale breast and a distinct dark flash around the eye. This is a rare bird in this part of the world. I feel quite privileged to have seen it. Perhaps this is the bird that was eluding the despondent twitchers that we saw on Berryhill Fields?
Back home I have seen the first newt of the year in our pond. They are usually around for the hatching of the tadpoles. If the number of newts is about 2o as it was last year, there will be fare too many tadpoles for them to make a significant impact on this year.