Wednesday, 30 March 2011

A few migrants

A singing Blackcap by the river in Bish this morning was my first of the year. On to Spurn for work where I met Andy Gibson and Adam. A few migrants about including my first Swallow of the year which flicked over the Warren mid-afternoon. A fine Black Redstart was flycatching from the cottages on the Point and an equally smart male Wheatear was on the fence by the Warren. Other migrants noted included a couple of Redwings, several Goldcrests and a female Brambling. 30 Fieldfares were seen near Patrington on the way home. Lots of Tawny Owl activity by the river tonight with at least two families making a right racket. The wind has gone southerly again so eyes on the skies for the prize, Apus melba perhaps.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Flaming bog horror

Day off #2 so we went off to Flamboro'. First stop at South Landing to admire the soon to be Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Living Seas Centre, which is currently a burnt-out cafe.
Amazed how much the gulley down to the beach has become wooded - seriously needs some clearance. Very murky conditions down at the beach. The only migrants were a couple of singing Chiffchaffs and a Buzzard which went east mobbed by two crows. Following a spot of beachcombing we went to Bempton. Lots of Tree Spugs around the centre and then on to the cliffs. One of the best spring wildlife spectacles in the UK, the 400 foot high cliffs teeming with seabirds. We were greeted by the sounds and smells first, before getting cracking close views of auks, Gannets, Kittiwakes and Fulmars. Lots of smart Razorbills around, exhibiting their yellow gapes when calling. Probably my favourite auk. Only one Puffin seen - it is definitely better at YWT North Landing for this species. Adelaide was happy with the one though!

Misty morning

Another early start at Wheldrake Ings failed to reveal anything much, though a Little Ringed Plover on the pool was a pleasant surprise. Four Great Black-backs loafing, 41 Blackwits, 15 Ruff and 3 Dunlin on the refuge. Several Willow Tits seen along the river and near Swantail Hide today. Nice to see these guys which have gone virtually extinct in East Anglia and the southeast.

Monday, 28 March 2011


Finally relented and went for the Green-winged Teal at Newburgh Priory lake. A smart drake, feeding constantly with c30 Teal and allowing good comparisons. Darker grey body noted and yellow border to green head patch only along the bottom edge. When actively upending and hence low in the water with a high tail, it was interesting to note that the top end of the white breast stripe could still be seen.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Too early

Got up too early, was as Wheldrake Ings by 6.45am (5.45am in old money). What was I thinking?! Greeted by a Barn Owl and a collosal flock of Teal which just had to contain a Baikal, or possibly a Garganey. But instead, the flock contained a bunch of Wigeon. Great. Wandered round the back, where Andy's (AW Birder) wader flock was still present, containing c40 Icewits roosting in a tight huddle along with some more active Ruff and Dunlin, one of the former sporting a fine white head. Mind you, from what I have heard, the blonde lads don't get as lucky with the Reeves...Corking close views of a Roebuck and doe just near Swantail was all I could manage apart from a pair of Goosander and two Goldeneye. Narrowly missed an Otter on the way back that another birder had just seen in a ditch. Doh! Several Chiffchaffs about, but no other migrants of note.
Down to North Duff where the best bird was a Grey Partridge by the side of the road near Skipwith. Not much doing really, so after a chat with Alan (Duffbirder), I went home sleepily. Curlew over the house in Bish made cutting the grass for the first time (ever) worthwhile, though it took a lot less time than in Strumpshaw which used to take me 2-3 hours. At the new place, 2-3 minutes.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

The best night of the year

This is the best night of the year as tomorrow, getting up early for birding will be an hour earlier as far as the birds are concerned, and even better than that, those of us stuck in the office til 5 next week can start birding after work - fantastic! And combined with the ratcheting up of Spring mig, could it be any better?
The clock's go forward. Ace.
See you at 7am. Or is that 6?
Night night...


Friday: 3 Chiffs now in, in trees round Bishopthorpe Ings. Buzzard over the house.
Then on the way home on the bike after work, 14 silhouettes, high up, lumbered out of the southwest in a hazy sky. Could these be Cranes? Panic! Shot back home, grabbed the bins and dashed back out, causing worried glances from the visiting in laws. Found the giants. Whooper Swans! Not quite what I was hoping for, but pretty cool for a house tick in the middle of an estate.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011


Waxwings still on Knavesmire Road today.

A couple of photos of the GGS from Skipwith Common taken by my Dad today. Nice one Dad!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Go home!

25 Waxwings in elms by the burger van on Knavesmire Road today on my way into work. Not sure what they were eating - buds maybe, or insects - but it is about time they cleared off. With their stupid spiky crests and twee trills...

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Solomon's first twitch

Checking my phone whilst waiting for the veg to steam revealed that momentary sight that all birders dream of and also fear - three texts from three local birders all within the space of two minutes. The reason - three Cranes had been picked up by Russ over Wheldrake and then again by Alan and Andy over North Duffield before dropping on to Bubwith Ings. This was a species I had missed several times in the LDV in my yoof, so the chance to catch up with this majestic species which had been a regular sight in my previous locale, Norfolk, was too much to miss. So, a very quick dinner was had, before packing up the bairns and Vicky into the car and pegging it down to Bubwith.

I noticed a lot of headlights coming towards me in the gathering gloom and was convinced it might get dark before we got there. Fortunately, Cranes go to roost late and I pulled into Bubwith bridge car park at about 6.15, to find a sizeable crowd had gathered. I nearly ran over some guy who decided he wanted to walk in front of me just as I was skidding in - not wise! And there were the Cranes - cracking!

Three adults, clearly a pair and an interloper. One bird frequently chased the singleton away and a bit of dancing was seen; three is clearly a crowd. I called Andy to thank him for updates - he was in the Geoff Smith hide and told me the shrike was showing. I mentioned this to the crowd who all, and I mean all, promptly ran to their cars and drove off. How to clear a car park!

After Adelaide had had a look at the subject of the panic (she wasn't so impressed- "they're very small"), we all jumped back in the car. Solomon hadn't really been bothered with the Cranes - trying to play it cool no doubt and was too busy dismantling my scope, rather than looking through it. Down to NDC we went to find a packed hide. Andy kindly let me have a quick squizz at the Great Grey Shrike which kindly had stayed up late and put on a fine show on top of a small Hawthorn at the back of the scrape. Just beyond, three tall, grey shapes strutted about on the other side of the river, a fine finale for a special weekend in the LDV.

Big thanks to Russ, Alan and Andy for the news!

Getting otter

Sol woke at 5.30am, as is sort of usual for him. I dozed for a bit then fell out of bed and had a mental conflict about whether to head over to Newburgh to twitch the Green-winged Teal, or to make the most of the early start and hit the LDV. Shortly, the shock of having to buy petrol at £1.30 a drop, made the decision for me, and I sacked off the 50 mile round trip for the teal, and decided the 8 mile trip to Wheldrake would be more sensible. I could after all find my own down there.

Thorganby first, which was disappointingly dry, with one rather miffed looking Oystercatcher wondering where it was going to get breakfast from. Some Tree Spugs in the hedge reminded me that I am not in Norfolk any more. Phew!

On to Wheldrake Ings, with Curlews bubbling in the dawn sun. After quick looks in the tower and pool hides, I went round to Swantail where I knew the early morning sun would be behind me. The only migrant I noted was a singing Chiffchaff, though my thoughts of a Garganey did not bear fruit. 37 Whooper Swans came in from the north, a spectacular sight as they glided on to the water in front of me. Simply stunning! An Eyptian Goose sitting in a tree was slightly bizarre.

I wondered back enjoying the spring sunshine and thinking where I would go next. As I neared the bridge I noticed a brown thing on the track ahead suddenly move - an Otter! It trotted through the grass on the verge down the bank towards the river. Not believing my eyes (it was only 10 metres away, I ran towards the bank and sadly it had gone into the water and away. I found these prints on the mud at the edge of the water. Having seen quite a few Otters recently, I think this was a female as it didn't have the bulk or large head of a male. I carefully checked all along the river and watched from the bridge for a bit, but to no avail.

On to North Duffield stopping off nearby to admire Woodlarks, which were singing beautifully.

Not much at North Duff, apart from 7 Ruff, 60+ Dunlin and a lot of ducks. A lovely morning, LDV style. Later, an Osprey flew over Wheldrake and the Great Grey Shrike was back at Skipwith, but you can't win 'em all.

Friday, 18 March 2011

The Ides of March

Mad, mad busy week at work, but totally inspiring with the Wildlife Trusts' Living Seas Conference in Birmingham being the highlight. Spring is most definitely here, with Blackbirds singing at dusk, migrants all over the place and vivid greens bursting out in hedge and undergrowth. Lovely! Last Sunday, popped down to Wheldrake and clocked Marsh Harrier, 11 Pink-footed Geese and 12 Goosander. The gulls were a long way off and head-on, not conducive to picking anything out. Thorganby was drying out, but still held 100+ Dunlin.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Family birding

With a weekend of family stuff it looked unlikely that I'd get any birding in. However, with a bit of planning, I managed a quick look on Bank Island and Thorganby Ings (25 Ruff, 23 Whooper Swans, 21 Oystercatchers) on Saturday afternoon, plus a birdless walk around the loop at Skipwith Common.

Whoopers. Not sure if these are migrants or part of the LDV flock having a wander.

Oyks: Could these guys be any noisier?

Redwing looking listfully northeast towards home. That Dusky Thrush is out there somewhere, I keep checking...

Today with brighter skies (I have forgotten what the sun looks like) took the family for a surprise picnic - to Thorganby Ings viewing platform! They all had a fun time eating lunch, whilst I scanned the huge flocks of ducks and waders (200+ Dunlin, 15 Ruff, 3000+ Golden Plover).

Hogging the platform

Later, following the departure of visitors (hopefully my regular watch-checking wasn't too obvious - nothing to do with them, just me hoping to get out before dark) I shot across to Wheldrake for the roost. Andy was present in the hide but hadn't had much sadly, though did tell me I'd missed a Grey Plover at Thorganby. Doh. The light was great, but no good gulls pitched in. The big gulls hadn't really made an appearance by the time I left. 37 Goosander and 50 Fieldfare were the highlights.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

The March of Spring

Well, the month came in like a lion, a dreary, damp sort of lion, with quite cold breath. Not a lot going on, though 3 Oystercatchers on Bishy Ings certainly had the smell of spring in their lungs and were making a right old racket. 4 Pochard on the river were slightly less expected. A small number of migrants have been appearing on the south coast, and they are probably appreciating the milder climate down there right now.