Tuesday 26 April 2011

Mindless Idiots

What did you do on your Easter Sunday?
This little party will cost Yorkshire Wildlife Trust several hundred pounds in wood and time to fix. Money and time that could have been spent on something much more positive. And a lovely thumbs up for John and the others who fixed last year's damage earlier this year. They smashed virtually the entire side of the hide, removed benches, hand rails etc and burnt the lot on a pile outside the hide. I guess the only positive is that they didn't torch the entire stucture. They also smashed fencing near the bridge. Great. And on Look North there were the local police trying to stop kids jumping into a river. Got your priorities right, eh lads?


Reg came up, so took him on a bit of a tour of the area.
Started at Hes East, where the pair of Wood Sands were showing along with a Green Sand and a Redshank. On to Castle Howard, no sign of any Lesser peckers, but a couple of Nuthatches were some compensation. Nothing of note on the lake. On to a wood in the north of the area, where we had a single male Redstart and four Tree Pipits singing. On to Farndale, where we saw about a dozen more Redstarts, a pair of Pied Flys and a Dipper, before climbing out over Blakey Ridge for Golden Plovers and Red Grouse. Reg was desperate for seabirds and Tree Spugs, so we headed seawards to revel in the guano-stench and cacophony of bird sounds emanating from Bempton Cliffs. Reg immersed himself in Tree Sparrows before strolling down with the hordes to check out the cliffs. Stonking Razorbills were again the stars for me, though a big gathering of Gannets ripping turf off the top of the cliffs for nesting material was good to watch, showering the auks below with soil and stones.

Saturday 23 April 2011

New Yahoo Newsgroup for York Birders

Calling all birders who are actively birding the York area, please join!


Keep trying

Arose to news of 2 Wood Sands at Heslington. This place is really pulling in the birds!

I had promised to hit the aisles with Solomon, but thought he would be quite keen to see his first Wood Sands, so headed over there. Unfortunately, as Russ had told me, they weren't viewable from Low Lane, so I had to carry Sol for what seemed like miles to where I could see a couple of birders (Mark and Paz) scoping an out-of-sight pool. I arrived breathless. I plonked Sol down, he was happy grubbing about while I received the news that the Wood Sands had just flown off. Shortly a Green Sand flew in and gave corking close views and I noticed a female Wheatear on the rocks. Sadly, it's more elegant cousins failed to put in an appearance before Sol reminded me that we needed to get bbq'd up for this arvo.

Later on, mid bbq, received news that they were back, so once our friends had departed and the kids safely in bed, I shot over to Hes again. The dark clouds had blown in at 4pm and even given us a shower - the first rain in what seems like ages. I was hoping for some Arctic Terns over the lake, but none were around. Back at the pool, one Wood Sand was wading around - a little cracker. Nearby the Green Sand from earlier allowed a fine side-by-side comparison of these two smart tringas and a male Wheatear had replaced this morning's female. Also checked the far end, but not much present apart from a first summer Common Gull.

Wood sand

Green sand

Friday 22 April 2011

Good Friday

The start of 11 days off work - woohoo!
Thick fog this morning prevented early morning action, though through the murk I glimpsed a Golden Plover and Wheatear at Heslington. On to Wheldrake where the Blue-winged Teal had been seen again yesterday. Sadly, it had gone into hiding again and I didn't find it before I gave up at 10am. I did add a fine reeling Grasshopper Warbler to the year list, along with my first Cuckoo and Garden Warbler. Close views of a male Marsh Harrier along with three Dunlins on Swantail were the only other birds of note.
Spent a nice afternoon in Farndale with the family, where I picked up a pair of Pied Flys and several singing Redstarts.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Super Spring

Thanks to a timely text from Russ, just before the battery on my phone died, I got great views of a splendid Black Tern on Heslington Lake whilst I munched my sandwiches.
Smart! Sadly I only had my bins with me so I didn't check the site for waders.
This brings the York yearlist to 131...

Eye ache, year ticks and the big dipper

The moment I dread, checking Birdguides just before bed to find a mega on the local patch - in this case Blue-winged Teal at Wheldrake. Doh! Stupidly, I had left my phone in my work bag and hence missed the calls from my birding mates.
So, a dawn star on Tuesday (19th) was warranted. I rolled out of bed at 5.30 and was heading down the track at Wheldrake before 6, having met Russell in the car park, who was heading off surveying. Pete Piringer was already on site, and we were joined by one other birder. I was surprised how few birders had bothered to have a crack at this bird. The first hour or so was hampered by mist. As it lifted I noticed two Avocets on the pool. They departed as the mist lifted. I spent until 8 really grilling the refuge and swantail, but sadly I could not even locate a Garganey in the tall vegetation, let alone the teal. Not much else doing, apart from a single Dunlin, several Reed Warblers and a couple of Yellow Wags.
After work and putting the kids to bed I thought I would try again. Pretty shattered. Russ was just leaving having failed to get another look at the bird. Again gave the site a good grilling until dark. Rewarded with another fine year tick in the form of 9 Whimbrel which came in from the north and roosted on the refuge. No sign of any good ducks. The BWT must be still here, but is just very good at hiding. Went home, exhausted and with eye ache. Pesky bird.

Sunday 17 April 2011

Sunday 17th April

Early look at Low Lane revealed 3 Wheatears, a Common Sand, four Yellow Wags (see below) a couple of Whitethroats and the usual waders.

On to Wheldrake where little of note except for my first Reed Warbler of 2011, several Sedge Warblers and a couple of Whitethroats.

Sedge in the reeds

Friday 15 April 2011

Into the valley

Avoiding Adelaide's second party, I legged it down the valley. Not much on Bank Island, though a fair bit of water present. Wheldrake looked glorious with drifts of Cuckoo Flowers across the meadow and a patch of Snake's Head Fritillaries, which I suspect has been planted...Not much water left, but some in front of Swantail and on the Sanctuary. On reaching the pool hide a buteo went low across the Sanctuary away from me. To my surprise it seemed to have a pale uppertail with a dark end and what I could see of it's belly looked solid and dark. As it went out of sight, I ran down the path towards Swantail and saw it intercepted by two other buzzards which hassled it until it disappeared to the east. Almost a Rough-leg, but just not enough to clinch it. Bugger! The two Buzzards circled round for a bit before dropping back into the trees. The other bird never reappeared.
Little else of note apart from stacks of Willow Warblers and two Sedge Warblers.
Down to Duffield where water was non-existent and hence no birds at all.
Tried a new place, Heslington Low Lane, to view over the big lake that has been created in front of the new university buildings. Looks awesome, with lots of scraped earth, muddy puddles and a big linear lake to attract migrants. A large flock of hirundines, mostly Sandies were over the water. Shortly I picked up a largish pipit next to a muddy puddle, nice, a Water Pipit. Not the brightest I have seen, but nice nevertheless. Later, a pipit and wagtail flock revealed 2 White Wags and my first Yellow Wagtail of the year. Another largish pipit appeared briefly, looking suspiciously like a littoralis Rock, but sadly it disappeared behind a ridge and didn't reappear before I had to go. Definitely a site to keep an eye on. Other birds of note inc a flock of c50 Linnets, a dead Shelduck, with two Great Crested Grebes and two Tufties on the lake.

Wednesday 6 April 2011

Up with the chat

Despite a desperate urge to stay in bed, fell out of it at 6am in order to get up to the north of the area. Following some really helpful directions from a mate, I walked into a beautiful birdsong-filled woodland not long after 7am. After a short distance, I heard the distinctive refrain of a Redstart, which I located singing from near the top of a pine. A smart bird and my first in the York area.

No sign of any Wood Warblers, though it is a little early, with just one or wo migrants reported in the south of the country so far. Plenty of other stuff noted, including Willow and Marsh Tits, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Siskin and Blackcap. Later, stopped in at Castle Howard lake, where there was c40 Tufties, 4 Pochard and a Barnacle Goose.

Wood Anemones

Great Spotted Woodpecker, blinking apparently

Redstart, fresh in from Africa.

Tuesday 5 April 2011


p.s. from yesterday; 5 Goosander on Bank Island at dusk.

So after much deliberation, I decided not to twitch the Alp Swift as I decided that due to the bad weather it would probably stay in it's roost late and therefore would be a bit dull and I would have to leave for South Cave before it decided to have a fly.
Sadly for me, the weathermen got it wrong a bit and the rain passed through overnight and the swift left it's roost at 7.30am and gave good views over the railway station. Nevermind.
Went to North Duffield Carrs on the way to work, where I got cracking views of a couple of Wheatears and a Brown Hare. Not much else of note despite grilling the hoards of Teal and Wigeon.

Tonight, went up to Wheldrake. Virtually the first bird was a Sedge Warbler chattering away by the riverside. On reaching the tower hide I noticed a large dark bird circling the flood, flushing all the ducks in the process. I lifted my bins to find an Osprey! Nice, only my second in the LDV. A good start. Unfortunately, I had peaked too early and apart from a solitary Blackwit on the refuge, there was little else of note. A good gull roost assembled, mostly Herring and Great Black-backs, with several Lessers, but I couldn't squeeze anything better out of them.

A few pics from NDC this morning:

Monday 4 April 2011

Hang in there

Wheldrake after work. Checked loads of likely fields on the Crockey Hill road looking for grounded migrants, but none visible. Lots of Red-legged Partridges and several Lapwing noted. On to the Ings; the light was stunning, with big black clouds over the Wold edge and the vivid greens of the fresh hawthorne and willow leaves. Really stunning in the golden light.

Gave the place a good grilling and found my first House Martins of the year. At least two Willow Warblers now singing. Only three Blackwits on the refuge. Alan texted to say there was a bunch down at North Duff, which explains their absence. A timely flypast by the local Sprawk pushed all the Teal on to the open water - now is my chance to find a Garganey or better I thought, but sadly not. Decided to follow-up Russ's news of Wheatears on Bank Island having failed to find any of my own. Headed down there worrying that the light was going, but fortunately two male and one female Wheatears were showing well around the scrape. Smart birds as always - thanks Russ. A couple of others have been found down at NDC by Andy, so obviously a few grounded by the bad weather.

Found a four-part article in Yorkshire Birding about yearlisting in the York Recording Area. The author, Darren Starkey, amassed 170 during the year. He had 120 by the end of March. So, my paltry 116 is way off the pace. Nevermind, there are plenty of months to go.

Following one at Flamboro' yesterday, I received news of an Alpine Swift in Harrogate, which has roosted on the Copthall Tower. Now, I have seen several in the UK and even one in Yorkshire before, but this has got to be one of my favourite birds and I am beginning to feel a little twitchy...

My last Alpine Swift in the UK. At Seaton, Dorset in 2006. One of three. The other two were much more active!

Sunday 3 April 2011


Not much doing, despite a good look round the LDV this afternoon.
NDC: Peregrine, 2, Swallow, Sand Martin, several.
Wheldrake Ings: Swallow, Sand Martin, Willow Warbler, Black-tailed Godwit, 40, Blackcap. A Little Owl on the way home was the only year tick.


Saturday 2 April 2011

Spring morning

Had a quick walk at Castle Howard with Solomon in a rucsac. A large flock of c100 Sand Martins over the water plus 3 Swallows. When the sun came out, a Willow Warbler started singing close to me in a hedge, my first of the year. Not much on the water of note, apart from two Goldeneye. Several Buzzards noted around the area. A beautiful warm Spring morning, with vibrant green exploding all around.