Sunday 23 December 2012

Wet, bright late December morning

Had a little look round the LDV this morning, somewhat hampered by very strong winds and a collosal amount of water. The road between Sutton and Melbourne was impassable so I had to detour round to Allerthorpe, then Thornton and back to Melbourne. Likewise Aughton Church was unreachable due to a floooded road that I wasn't willing to risk. The floods on Wheldrake were impressive looking across from East Cottingwith, the winds whipping up white horses akin to the North Sea. Not much here apart from several Tufties and a few groups of Teal and Wigeon. On to Bubwith, where the road seemed like a causeway across a lake. A large group of Whoopers were too distant to discern any smaller cousins, and highlights in the area were a single female Marsh Harrier, a Peregrine, 25+ Pochards and a handful of Pintail. Several Dunlin were with the twitchy Lapwing flock and a couple of Buzzards circled on the high winds.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Wednesday 3 October 2012

What no birding?

Not much birding even less blogging! Anyway, been very busy with family - more 'dad' than 'birdingdad' in recent months so not seen much. Nevertheless, a fine Stilt Sandpiper in Northumberland in August was welcome being only my second in the UK. A Yorkshire tick came in the form of an Arctic Warbler at Flamborough in September in Old Fall Hedge.

Good news yesterday was that our Pallid Swift at Flamborough on 2nd October last year was accepted by BBRC! 

Otherwise, not much happening. So apologies to my readers - both of them!

Thursday 21 June 2012

Life is short...bird it!

If you liked that then you will love this

Birding is cool

Remember this post well now I have further proof - check this out

Bits and Bogs

Great views of the Spotted Flycatchers in the last week which are breeding at Askham Bog (see Tim's photo here). Besides this, and just as exciting, was the sound of a calling Lesser Spotted Woodpecker the other day. Typical, you spend ages looking for them and then when you least expect it, up one pops. I failed to see the bird sadly, which was calling in Near Wood near the edge of the main clearing, just east of the boardwalk.

The fen meadows are looking stunning at the moment and a fantastic tribute to the hard work of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust staff and volunteer group 'The Boardwalkers' over many years and supported by grazing animals in recently. The Northern Marsh Orchids, Common Spotted Orchids, Ragged Robin and Yellow Flag look phenomenal. Also 'showing well' are the magnificient Royal Ferns which tonight (Mid Summer's Day) will be producing their invisible flowers, so legend has it, and in the ditches the pale pink blooms of Water Violets, an incrediby rare flower, which is also flourishing at the Bog (photo below).

In the brief spell of hot weather yesterday, dragonflies appeared in droves and the air over the pond resounded to the titanic rattling clashes between territorial Four-spotted Chasers, one of which even saw off a young male Emperor furiously. On the edge of the battle ground, Common Blue and Large Red Damselflies fought their own more delicate battles, many successful males cavorting around with their mates in tandem.

Exciting news from the Bog is that despite appearances of the vegetation (no neatly grazed lawns on the pond edge) Water Voles have been seen. A big ol' Mink was photographed earlier in the year and we are fearful that this remnant vole population would have been clobbered.

We had a quick look at the Bee Orchid colony in the car park -  looking strange in immense circles of flattened grass, deliberately caused by photographers looking for that perfect shot - let's hope they don't do this in the Bog - and then headed west to Fairburn Ings.

A short drive later and we were watching a splendid adult White-winged Black Tern, my seventh in the UK, but a Yorkshire tick no less and the first adult I have seen for a few years. What a cracker this bird was. Sadly it spent much time perched very distantly, but at 8.30pm it got up to hawk for insects with the throng of Common Terns and Black-headed Gulls. A very distinctive bird as usual, wih noticeably long red legs even at long range. Structurally quite different looking to Black Tern, with much shorter bill and more rounded, broad wings, resulting in a less graceful aspect to its flight. Obviously features not really needed for such a striking bird, but very useful for picking out a juvenile in bad light. A very beautiful bird to watch. I managed a bit of pretty shoddy video and took a couple of grabs from it:

Sunday 17 June 2012

Friday 8 June 2012

Cricket Teal

The cricket was rained off today, which reminds me, here is a bit of video of a Garganey I saw at North Duffield Carrs a few days ago. What a smart bird.

On my Youtube channel

High Roller


After enjoying a rainy day at The Deep in Hull- where I was pleased to find some YWT volunteers asking people to support the campaign for Marine Conservation Zones - we headed over to Aldbrough where the Roller from Spurn had taken up temporary residence. After a short drive, I was soon enjoying prolonged views of this visual feast as it flapped about after ground beetles and earthworms in a tilled field near Bewick Hall. Madly, another Roller has been reported recently near Hornsea. Now wouldn't it be good if these guys hooked up. First breeding record anyone? What a cracker. If you've not been to see this bird, do so, it is awesome. Video on my Youtube channel
Even bumped into Paz from York- Happy Belated Birthday mate!

Sometimes you can be lucky

29th May.

Had a couple of meetings today at Spurn, one of which, a walk round the new YWT site of Kilnsea Wetlands was something I had been looking forward to. I packed my scope and bins as I planned to do some birding before heading home. A text from Andy Gibson said "bring your bins..."- yes, already on it, mate, I thought, but then when I downloaded the second half, I was stunned to read "...Roller on the Point!" Yikes! Not a British tick but a much wanted Yorkie tick and one of those birds that I just can't see enough of.

A painstaking drive ensued with a few messages from birding mates, with updates on what was going on. Sadly, as I approached Easington I got a message saying it hadn't been seen for over half an hour after it flew north over the Warren. Doh! Anyway, I pressed on. Arriving at Long Bank I pulled up thinking it would be as good a place as any to look for the Roller if it was moving north.

I immediately noticed a bird poking out of the top of a hawthorne along Long Bank, my pulse quickened. Getting my scope on it I was surprised to find I was looking at a Golden Oriole! Mad. Only at Spurn! A Yorkshire tick, a stunner to boot but I couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed, hoping that I had relocated the Big R. I watched this cracker for a few minutes then thought I would head over to Sammy's Point, after Steve Exley told me he doubted anybody had looked there. No sooner had I arrived than Steve rang to say it was now back at the Blue Bell. Panic! Back along the road - slow past the horse riders - on to the Blue Bell. Gone. Bugger. Time was ticking by. Fortunately, my first meeting was with Adam Stoyle who had already seen the bird and didn't mind me delaying for a few minutes.

I headed over to the Warren a bit disappointed but hoping the bird would turn up. We got into our meeting and then suddenly the radio crackled to life to say the bird was by the Borrow Pits. Excuse me a moment! I shot out of the centre and into the field with a sprightly Barry Spence and Sue who had a radio. As we made our way along the path the radio informed us the bird had now flown over towards Canal Scrape. Blimey, this bird was flighty! We headed over there. Barry and Sue headed down the road towards the Blue Bell, I decided to walk along the bank towards the Crown. I carefully made my way, checking all bushes, fences etc and keeping one eye on Barry and Sue. After they got passed the car park I could see them looking seriously into the field. I assumed the bird must be on the back of he hedge alongside the Canal Scrape where I knew there was a fence line and a pile of concrete. It must be on there. I crept along so that I could view round the back. But still I couldn't see the bird - where was it? This was crazy. How could I not see a turquoise bird the size of a Jackdaw?!

I edged further and rechecked where the other guys were looking. Could they be looking on the fenceline along the foot of the bank? Most of this was obscured by the hawthorns. Perhaps more to the left. Oh sh*t - there it was - a stunning bright blue and orange bird sitting on a fencepost against vivid green vegetation no more than 15 metres away! I got my scope on it -an optical orgasm - then my phone rang - Steve Exley - telling me not to go any further as I was going to flush it! I explained that I had not been able to see it and without a radio didn't know where it was sitting. As I watched the bird scanned around apparently quite settled. Suddenly it took flight and headed straight across the field and away over the Blue Bell.

I headed back to the Warren, elated but feeling a bit bad that I had probably flushed the bird. Fortunately, everybody present had had great views- mine were possibly some of the closest, but also maybe the briefest! I just prayed it would be refound and that I hadn't inadvertently prevented anybody else seeing it.
I got a bit of stick back at the Warren, but I think it was all in good humour as people realised my predicament and they had all seen the bird earlier anyway. A great bird and a brilliant find by Martin Garner.

Later on, I had a walk around Kilnsea Wetlands - a fantastic new site built by the Environment Agency as compensatory habitat for Beacon Lagoons which are threatened by sea level rise. They will shortly be handed to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to manage as a nature reserve. Not many birds here though a smart Cuckoo showed well and a Hobby glided overhead. After this, I headed over to Sammy's with Andy to have a look around. Right at the end, a bird flew out of the bushes and landed along the hedge- another Golden Oriole, this one a first summer male. Smart. A quick look at the Point revealed very few birds, just plenty of woolly bear caterpillars. Spurn. What a place!

Departing Roller (taken at Aldbrough a two weeks later, but you get the idea)

Sunday 27 May 2012

Up with the lark

The Lower Derwent Valley
Early start in the LDV was worth the effort, with a smart drake Garganey on the pool at Wheldrake and the whole place alive with singing warbler and displaying waders. The water has dropped now, though is still high for the time of year. A little later a Wood Sandpiper got up out of the refuge and flew around for a while calling. It appeared to head over towards Swantail. The east wind got up as I headed back to my car at about 7am, though the hoped-for Black Terns hadn't made an appearance. Intriguingly, a duck flew past with a couple of Tufted Ducks which looked very much like a Scaup. Sadly they landed out of site on the refuge...At least two, possibly three Cuckoos were a welcome sound.

On to Thorganby which had dried up completely. Another Cuckoo calling.

North Duffield Carrs still had plenty of water and a scan revealed a pair of very active Garganey which spent the next hour or so flying all over the place. At one point one bird landed in the pool in front of the hide.

Three terns heading east should have been Arctic but were Common. A Ringed Plover called overhead and a single Dunlin flew off high east.

Heslington East

In the afternoon got out again for an hour so went down to Hes East. Had a look at the western scrape first where last week's Temmick's had been. Three Greenshank - nice! On to the main lake to sit for a while to wait for a White-winged Black Tern to arrive. Sadly it didn't. However, after sitting for 20 minutes, I stood up for a scan only to flush a Turnstone from the shore about a metre away! It must have been creeping along the north shore out of sight of each other until it reached me. Mad. It flew across the water and landed on a pile of stones. How apt. A decent wader this far inland- standard fayre at my old haunt of Grafham Water, but my first in the York area.

Sunday 20 May 2012

Temminck's Stints at Hes East - MEGA!

Following the report of a Temminck's Stint at Hes East yesterday, which sadly eluded everybody, I was relieved to get a message this morning to say there was now two! Shot down there, to find a happy Nige Stewart and friend leaving. They gave me good directions - thanks guys! Soon found the two birds among the grass on the edge of the scrape where last autumn I had seen a Little Stint. Typical furtive individuals sporting summer plumage, one being more heavily marked than the other, with dark spotted scapulars contrasting with the plain grey back when seen from the rear.

Last night I had look down the LDV (should have gone to Hes East!), and saw little in the way of migrants apart from two Dunlins at North Duffield. A very fine Tawny Owl was sitting on a roadside bough near Skipwith at 7.45pm and gave me a fine view as I stopped alongside. A Barn Owl at Crockey Hill was the only other bird of note.

Monday 14 May 2012

Cyprus #4 Spur-winged Plovers

One of the birds I had hoped to see in Cyprus was Spur-winged Plover/Lapwing. I found them easily at Paralimni Lake, near the shooting club (note the slightly alarming gunfire on the video clip below).

Also, c20 were around the lakes at Larnaca, including several from the hide overlooking the fresh water reservoirs. I will always think of these birds as 'plovers' though they look clearly like their Lapwing cousins in the field.

Adult Spur-winged Plover, Paralimni

Cyprus #3

Ashy-headed wagtail (probably), Larnaca

Black francolin, Protaras

Greater flamingoes, Larnaca

Lesser grey shrike, Cape Greko

Greater sandplover, Larnaca

Spur-winged plover, Larnaca

Wood sandpiper, Paralimni


Monday 7 May 2012

Family Holiday Birding #2

28th April, Cape Greko
Up early to hit the Cape, my mind full of Bateleurs and Hypocoliuses. The weather conditions were not too inspiring, but this would be my first taste of Cyprus birding proper. Having checked out some suitable areas yesterday afternoon, I headed straight to the seaward end of the big fields and decided to work a circuit inland to the ridge and back.

Leaping out of the car full of anticipation I was greeted by a cacophony of calling Chukars and Crested Larks. Three small birds flew off the track into a bush - Ortolans - nice! A churring warbler crept on to the top of the same bush - a male Spectacled Warbler and first of many.

I walked towards the ridge, pausing to scope a covey of Chukars on the path. Attractive birds.
As I watched,z a pale pipit walked into view - a Tawny. Spectacled Warblers sang all around and I suddenly noticed another bird on top of a bush - a Red-backed Shrike. This was heaven!

I became aware of a persistent 'zit' high over the barley fields - a Zitting Cisticola, emitting a noise that would accompany me during my Cyprus birding trips.

I headed for the ridge. Bird on a bush - smart male Whinchat. Another bird on a bush - Red-backed Shrike. Another bird on a bush - spanking male Eastern Black-eared Wheatear. Onwards, more Chukars and Spectacled Warblers. A Nightingale sang briefly from thick cover. I was hoping this might be a Thrush Nightingale, but sadly not this time. The day began to warm up. Red-rumped Swallows and Swifts sailed across the ridge at close range. A falcon appeared and obligingly landed on the telegraph wires. Just a Kestrel!

Nevermind. A few moments later and a bigger raptor came in off the sea - a big streaky immature Goshawk looking really unfamiliar in the Mediterranean sun and really puzzling me for a few moments.More Spectacled Warblers and Crested Larks.

Two Willow Warblers moved through the bushes adding a touch of the familiar, while a rasping female Black-headed Wagtail dropped in out of nowhere and landed on a bush, next to another Red-backed Shrike.
Then I spotted a pale bird on a bush across the ridge - surely not - a female Masked Shrike! A bird I was really hoping for in Cyprus but not convinced I would see. I was doubtful I would get near to where they breed and wasn't expecting a migrant! The bird seemed to be taking a bath by flopping about with it's wings spread on the dew-soaked bushes. At first I thought something was wrong with it, but shortly it had a bit of a shake and then started to hunt. A lovely bird.

I wandered back to the car a little delerious, adding a trio of Spotted Flycatchers, another Whinchat and more Ortolans to my tally. And it was only 7.30am! I munched a bit of pitta and a banana and headed up the headland to have a look in some different habitat. Near where the track down to the head proper leaves the road, there is some stone pine woodland. I thought this would be worth an hour.

It was starting to get warm. Most frustratingly, I immediately could hear an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler singing like a clunky Reed Warbler, from the depths of a thicket. It was just impossible to see! I begrudgingly continued, adding several Turtle Doves and more Spotted Flycatchers to the notebook. I headed onto a grassy slope, where a bird that flicked up on to a wire proved to be my first Cyprus Wheatear. Nice, though I wanted to see a male really. I became aware of a pickup heading across the grassland straight towards me. Here we go, I thought. In the minute or so it took the vehicle to reach me, I thought at best I am going to get an earful for trespassing, at worst they may relieve me of my bins and scope. The two burly looking Cypriots barreled up to me in a cloud of dust. The driver opened his window and said "You must be very careful, there are lots of snakes here." He rolled his window up and drove on, leaving me somewhat perplexed. It is true that the Cypriots are the nicest people! I didn't see any snakes.

I flushed a Tree Pipit next, which flew around calling, reminding me of October on the east coast of Yorkshire. Then my previous bird of the morning was eclipsed when I clapped eyes on a stunning male Masked Shrike. It was very confiding, hunting from the top of some dead twigs, and catching a couple of grasshoppers. What a belter and a fine end to one of the best couple of hours birding I have ever had.

Family holiday birding #1

A fantastic week of sun, sea, sand, haloumi and Spectacled Warblers in sunny Cyprus. Decided to stick in the east of the island so as to minimise travel. We stayed at Protaras, a few minutes drive from the legendary Cape Greko, kind of like the Cypriot Portland Bill and with some stonking rarities to it's name. It would be the end of passerine migration, but I was still hopeful, plus there should be a few Southeastern European species that would be new for me.

Some highlights:
26th April, Protaras area.
Our first stroll down to the beach and I found several Blackcaps feeding in flowering bottlebrush trees. The first of these had yellow pollen all over it's throat, which for a minute made my pulse quicken! A familiar call heralded Bee-eaters heading north up the coast. Several shot over at low altitude, closely followed by a Cuckoo moving over the sea. So a few migrants about then! After the kids had enjoyed their first paddle and ice cream, we wandered back to the gardens around the apartments. I decided to have a check of how easy it would be to get up the hill overlooking the village, which kind of reminded me of Beeston Bump at Sheringham. Sadly, it wasn't immediately obvious and would need a bit of a scramble - another day perhaps.

On the short walk back to the apartment, I flushed a grey and white bird. It landed on a low branch - big white primary patch reaching the wing-edge, pale grey rump, broad white tertial webs with fine white tips - a female Collared Flycatcher - smart! The bird showed well for a few minutes before melting away.

Lots of hirundines were overhead and back on the balcony I soon picked up some smart Red-rumped Swallows.  A little while later and alarm calls got me grabbing for my bins again, as a male Lesser Kestrel circled overhead. Later that afternoon as we enjoyed a dip in the pool, both a Peregrine and a Hobby moved north and the Lesser K put in another appearance.

Early in the evening we headed downtown. Movement in some fruiting apricot trees proved to be a whole gang of migrant warblers. Several Lesser Whitethroats and Blackcaps gorged on the rotting fruit or chased the flies. Suddenly, a beady yellow eye stared out from behind a leaf. Then, a large, adult Barred Warbler hopped into view - corking and an unexpected end to a great first day.

Danger: Deep Water

Flogged the LDV this morning with Reg. Failed to find a Red-rumped Swallow, or a Honey Buzzard leaving it's roost, despite really trying hard. Little of note, apart from two Greenshank at North Duffield, two Common Terns at Thorganby and two Grey Partridges near Skipwith Common. It will probably all happen tomorrow when I am back at work...

Sunday 6 May 2012

Floods in the valley

Quick look down the valley this evening on the off chance the Hes East Red-rumped Swallow had done a U-turn and gone to Wheldrake. The site is very wet but is accessible, with wellies, though to get to Pool Hide would require wading through deep water - we didn't bother. I'm not sure what effect the deep water will have on the grassland at this time of year, but it will certainly have been disasterous to many nesting birds.
Two drake Garganeys on the floods, plus 67 Tufted Ducks and a single drake Pochard. Stacks of hirundines over the water which I grilled but without success. On to Thorganby where another drake Garganey was present, plus an impressive 207 Tufted Ducks and equally impressive 79 Shelducks. A Barn Owl finished things off nicely.
Earlier, a first visit to YWT Garbutt Wood north of York, revealed 3 Garden Warblers, 2 Tree Pipits and a single singing Redstart.

The North Wind

Headed over to Spurn early with Reg. Went to Sammy's Point first - a Yellow Wag dropped in, then two male Ring Ouzels were found nearby in the first paddock. A flash of white revealed the first of many Wheatears, grounded by the freezing north wind. These are a bit late for British birds, though did not look like leucorhoa, so presumably Icelandic or Scandinavian birds. Further on, we had a look at the Humber and found a smart adult Spotshank among the hordes of Redshank, Dunlin etc and a female Marsh Harrier moved across the fields towards Spurn.Warblers were plentiful in the bushes further down, with Lesser Whitethroats, Whitethroats, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps all noted. Sadly, we missed the best of the bunch - see later!

On to Spurn, we drove to Chalk Bank and did a circuit all the way to the Point and back. It was quiet initially, with the first notable bird a Short-eared Owl flushed at close range by the lighthouse. Shortly, a Merlin whipped along the dunes and then a calling Black Redstart was tracked down - a female, on the wall by the parade ground. We had a good thrash of the point bushes, and picked up a pair of Pied Flycatchers, with a third calling bird remaining unseen close by. Sadly, a Wryneck was found simultaneously by another birder, but eluded us. A male Siskin dropped in to the poplars and then we decided to head back for lunch. On the way back, I found a female Redstart and a Whimbrel flew over. Reg up ahead was scoping a bush - when I got there he announced another female Redstart sharing a bush with a Whinchat. So things were picking up.

We picked up a radio from Adam and decided to head back to Sammy's to have a look for the Wood Warbler that we had failed to find earlier. On the way, we stopped just near Rose Cottage to grill a corking Wryneck that Steve Exley had found which was feeding on the footpath right out in the open. A cracking view!

Down at Sammy's the Rouzels were still feeding in the same area. After a while without seeing the Superphyllosc, a message came through from Mick Turton, also at Sammy's that he had just flushed either a Monties or a Pallid Harrier which was now flying south towards Kilnsea Wetlands. Panic! We ran back up out of the bushes to the bank top so we could see over the fields. For the next few minutes there was radio panic as everyone tried to find out what was happening. The bird went away from Mick and out of view without us seeing it. Shortly however, I picked up the bird coming back north, low down over Long Bank dyke. It looked really interesting! Guttingly my scope was in the car - Reg got on it straight away and announced that it had a really clean cut white collar with a dark boa to the rear. Through my bins I could make out plain apricot- orange underparts and darkish secondaries, but we were looking down on the bird which prevented us getting clear views of the underwing. The bird's jizz was not at all rakish like a Monties and looked quite broadwinged, despite being small and falcon like. I got on the radio and relayed it's movements as it headed off towards Easington. Mick and another birder got on it though more distantly than before as it moved north to Skeffling. Surely a Pallid!

I went back to the car to get my scope just in case the bird returned, but sadly it didn't. Frustrating as without my scope and due to our angle I hadn't seen enough to clinch the bird, though it's apparent juvenile plumage and structure pointed firmly to Pallid. We staked out the Wood Warbler which eventually showed albeit briefly. Well worth the wait as these are such little crackers. It stood out like a white and yellow beacon in the tree it was in. A smart Cuckoo landed nearby too.

We next did the Triangle and saw a smart male Redstart. After a quick chat with Adam back at the Warren, we headed for the pub. Just along the road, a harrier suddenly banked up out of Clubley's - a Hen Harrier! So, a three harrier species day! We had a look near the Blue Bell after a tip off and found a smart White Wagtail along with 2 Whinchats and a load of Wheatears. The cold north wind was freezing us again, so we headed to the Crown for a well-earned pint.

Post-script. A juvenile Pallid Harrier was reported Sunday morning from Spurn. Presumably the same bird lingering - let's hope the ID has been nailed!