Sunday 27 February 2011

Quiet before the storm

Not Speyside, but Skipwith Common, near York.

I decided that as Allerthorpe is literally bulging with Northern Redpolls, Skipwith would be worth a look. So, under the guise of 'Sunday afternoon stroll for all the family' off we went. Vicky did ask me whether I really needed my scope for a walk with the kids... Anyway, very quiet birdwise, though I managed corking views of a distant overflying Redpoll sp. And a Great Tit. It seems since I have been away that Skippy has been designated as a National Nature Reserve, and as such, all the birds have been rounded up by the Government and sold to help with the National Debt. With it's new credentials, I hope the visitors throwing litter and letting their dogs run amok at this stunning site were ashamed of themselves.

Number 2, The Birch. My favourite tree incidentally.

Later, I nipped down to the Ings to distract Russ in his attempt to find a Franklin's. The big scary female Peregrine was causing chaos by flying around over the flood but didn't seem to be particularly serious about nailing anything. She perched hereself on a twig poking out of the water, looking massive. Russ tried to persuade me that she was in fact a Gyr, but I wasn't having it.

Too many gulls gave me gull-blindness - a bit like snowblindness, but it manifests itself in the inability to pick out anything at all. I pretended to Russ that I was grilling the gulls, but I was secretly enjoying the cute Roe Deer frollicking on Storwood Ings...

Slippery walk back to the car, with a bulging Derwent looking good to burst and the bubbling of Curlews over the meadows signalling the coming of Spring.

Saturday 26 February 2011

February showers

Managed to forget my bins this afternoon! Fortunately, I was with my Dad and he had a pair, plus our two scopes. We also managed to get a complete soaking courtesy of a rather early April shower. Well worth the dousing though, with the Ings all to ourselves for a couple of hours.

Birds very flighty today, possibly due to the imm Peregrine which spent all afternoon sitting on the grass on the Storwood side. 5 Roe Deer were nice, plus 15 Black-tailed Godwits, 7 Dunlin, a first winter Med Gull, which looked slighter than the bird the other day and with a different mask pattern, 14 Goosander, an impressive 82 Pintail and some Oystercatchers. A bulky palish-mantled Common Gull had me interested for a moment, but the bill structure, broad white tertial tips and covert pattern just wasn't good enough for delawarensis.

First winter Common Gull with a palish mantle.

Golden Plover and Lapwing. Some of the former are coming into breeding plumage, sporting black bellies.

First winter Med Gull

Peregrine - presumed second calendar year female.

You've gotta roll with it...

Lovely morning spent out at Allerthorpe Common YWT with old friend Jo Thomas. Spent two hours pottering round the site, with highlight being a Woodlark in stubble to the north of the YWT reserve. Later, we finally found the redpoll flock, on feeding on the deck, possibly on heather seeds. Sadly the flock was only 30 or so strong (there are over 100 present on site) and despite containing some cracking frosty Mealies, did not contain the Coue's Arctic, our target. Quite a gathering occurred with Russ, Andy and Alan all arriving, plus a number of unknown birders. 19 Goosander flew southwest late morning and a couple of Buzzards soared over the northern section. Lots of common stuff singing now including Skylark, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer, Chaffinch, plus a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming.

Mealy Redpoll with a smart white rump.

Monday 21 February 2011

Great Grey Dawn

On 14 February 1986 I saw my first and only York-area Great Grey Shrike in a snowstorm next to the River Derwent at Wheldrake Ings. I have dipped a few more around York subsequently, including a bird that wintered near Fulford Ings that eluded me several times.

So, getting a text from Russell late afternoon yesterday about a GGS at North Duffield Carrs prompted an early start today. I was down at the NDC car park for 6.45am, though it was still very murky, the low cloud and pending drizzle not helping. As the light improved, there was sadly no sign of the shrike along the hedge between the two hides or in the bushes round the scrape. Alan and Russell turned up to join the search but to no avail. At 8am I decided it was time to head for work, having enjoyed c70 Whooper Swans, a Barn Owl and some banter.
I checked the hedges towards Bubwith then headed home.

I got just passed North Duffield village and the phone rang. It was Alan saying the shrike was back. Cue a quick manoeuvre on a farm track and I was heading back east towards Bubwith. I scampered down to the hide with Andy who had seen the bird yesterday and to our collective delight, there was the smart bird atop a bush on the edge of the scrape. Totally cool bird as always, sitting like a sentinel atop the bushes, scanning for victims. After a few minutes it headed into the depths of a hawthorne at the back of the scrape and disappeared from view, possibly to lurk in ambush for some hapless Reed Bunting. A few shaky shots were gleaned in poor light and with a barely-working camera. My first York pre-work twitch a fine success!

Saturday 19 February 2011

Birding in the rain part 2

A wet walk down to the Tower Hide at Wheldrake was worth the effort, with 15 Pink-footed Geese feeding on the grass with a huge Lapwing flock and c50 Golden Plover.
In the early part of the gull roost, a first-winter Mediterranean Gull dropped in and proceeded to show well sitting on submerged fence posts. Nothing much else in the roost apart from three Lesser Black-backs and one adult Yellow-legged Gull. Just before leaving I turned my attention to the 20 or so large gulls that had dropped in unseen on to the grass, and to my surprise a first-winter Iceland Gull was sitting with them.

Med Gull

Iceland Gull

Monday 14 February 2011

Sunday 13 February 2011

Another rainy Yorkshire Sunday...

Fearing cabin fever, we went to Castle Howard for a walk in a bracing southeasterly and delightful rain. For the first time ever, we were the only people visiting, the masses sensibly tucked up indoors. Quickly found the Scaup, presumably a first winter female, with a fairly subdued white face patch and quite brownish plumage. Also, five Goosander noted, plus a Grey Heron on a nest by the side of the lake. Adelaide's attempts to feed the ducks were to no avail, with all the Mallards flying away from us on sight. Strange. Posh ducks round here.
Saw two Bullfinches on my parents' feeders earlier, something I have never seen before (Bullfinches on feeders that is).

Scaup with Wigeon, Castle Howard.

Saturday 12 February 2011

Day off

Spent the afternoon in the LDV. Thorganby was busy, but an unseen raptor flushed everything shortly after I arrived. Still a lot of ducks and waders around, including 25 Curlew. An unusual female Wigeon seen, with large white head patches - see photo. Three Pink-feet were in a field near the village with Greylags. On to Wheldrake, where the sun came out for a bit. The Iceland Gull from the other day came in at c4pm, but not many other big gulls had come in before I had to head off. A Barn Owl was by the bridge.

Tuesday 8 February 2011


So the River Ouse is in massive flood. Went south down the river on the east side on Sunday afternoon. It is well flooded at least to Cawood. 5 Goosanders on the flood at Cawood were the only birds of note. Some signs of Spring include singing Song Thrush and Dunnock, with lot of Snowdrops around and some Winter Aconites (presumably planted) along the cycle track.

Saturday 5 February 2011

Whitewing #2

The heavy rain seemed not to have arrived as predicted, so I headed down to Wheldrake to do the gull roost. It has been difficult getting my eye back in with gulls having missed the last two winters in gull-sparse east Norfolk. Plus, there are few Lesser Black-backs round here and all the Herrings seem to be Argentatus. The views were good tonight, though the light was dreary. Two Egyptian Geese were among the hordes of Teal, Wigeon and Pintail, plus two Shelduck, a Black Swan and several Goldeneye. Four Dunlin were among c50 Golden Plover and c15 Ruff. Highlights of the roost were a close third calendar year Iceland Gull and an adult Yellow-legged Gull.

Kwikfit Waxwings

40 Waxwings sitting in a tree above Kwik Fit on Blossom Street, York, this afternoon as I made my way to the station. (31st Jan).