Thursday 20 February 2014

Dangerous beasts

A walk around Acaster Ings this morning revealed little new on the duck front, though two Oystercatchers were still around, having turned up yesterday. The Curlew was also still here, busy singing his heart out; a most beautiful and evocative sound. Highlight was undoubtedly a Kingfisher that nipped in along the beck and landed on a fencepost a few feet from me - we were just as surprised as each other and after stopping long enough for me to get my bins on him, he turned tail and shot off the way he had come.

Dangerous Beast #1

Picked my old mate Dunc up from his folks' house and headed up to Harewood Whin tip to meet Chris and Jack. Sadly the gulls were very jumpy, mainly due to the regularly visiting falconer git who brings his birds to kill gulls. Today his Peregrine-type nailed a Herring Gull which fell in a pitiful spiral. Peregrines really are dangerous beasts, easily killing a bird like a Herring Gull which seems much bigger. No wonder all the gulls panic when this guy is around.

Luke the leucistic giant Great Black-backed Gull was getting in on the refuse action, holding centre stage on the freshly dumped rubbish. Nice to see the lad has almost made it through his first winter. His sibling was down in Essex; I wonder how he/she is getting on?

Here is Luke when I first saw him in early January in the slightly more attractive surroundings of a field near Heslington East. This bird was ringed on the nest with an identical sibling and a normal coloured sibling in Norway in Spring 2013.

Other than that, a skein of 44 Pink-footed Geese followed the Ouse north towards Lancashire; the first stage of their northward migration. and a few Skylarks and Meadow Pipits sang or called on the hill.

Dangerous Beast #2  

It is this time of year when I start getting drawn to certain special species that are best seen in late winter/early spring. One of these is the Goshawk, a bird that has always fascinated me. I have seen quite a few of these awesome raptors over the years, mainly in the vicinity of well known stake-outs in the East Anglian Brecks and Wykeham Forest, North Yorkshire. The best view I have ever had was one carrying a Woodpigeon in Poland that flew within 25 metres of me, but it was very brief. Other than that, I have had lots of sightings of displaying birds and circling birds, but I have still yet to see a perched bird and still yet to look one of these majestic birds in the eye! Well, at least until today!

Following some gen from Dunc, I tried a new spot in Wykeham Forest. Stopping and scanning every so often, I soon picked up a big white bird in a tree. This looked promising! Sure enough,  scope views revealed a great big adult Goshawk. Awesome. I considered it to be a female as it looked massive and quite intimidating even, though it's well defined cap could be indicative of a male. I will call her 'she' for the purposes of this tale. She sat there glowering around the valley, surveying her space. Front on, she looked virtually all white, with big yellow feet, a dark cap and dark ear coverts. Occasionally I got a glimpse of that fiery red eye. Brilliant. After a bit she took off, glided round showing her glorious white undertail coverts that hung out the side of her tail, and off into the woods. Wow!

Amazingly, a few minutes later, the Gos flew in and landed in a pine tree, where she sat for the next 30 minutes. During this time, I could hear another bird calling further along the valley, a call I got familiar with by tuning into the New Forest Goshawk Webcam last spring! A very distinctive, almost chilling call. I did not see him. A Buzzard was perched further up the slope on a pine tree and I wondered whether it's presence was causing all this showy behaviour.

After a little while she went for a little fly, landing in  another pine nearby. She turned round to reveal her broad brown back and showed how the big white super joined on the nape.When the sun shone, again that orange eye could be seen.

At about 4.45pm she launched forward off her branch and was enveloped in the gloom of the forest, leaving me exhilarated. I will be back soon to watch these special birds.

Sunday 16 February 2014

Snow and some distant Moorhens

Finally made the trip up north to Arkengarthdale, one of the few places in Yorkshire where Black Grouse can be found relatively easily. A gorgeous sunny day, with plenty of snow on the tops. Six male Black Grouse were happily feeding in the grassy fields next to Shaw Farm. They were quite distant but nice through the scope. Several Red Grouse were seen along the road from the A66 which put the icy in dicey! Had lunch in the Tan Hill Inn at 1,732 feet, England's highest pub. The kids and me Dad enjoyed a brisk walk in the snow and throwing iceballs at me. Drove back through Swaledale which was picturesque in the February sunshine.

Down at Acaster Ings, the floodwater has risen dramatically and is up to the road all the way to the church. No more birds though, except for a Little Grebe. 9 Coot, 9 Pochard, 3 Goosanders, 40+ Tufties.
There be snow on them there hills. Stang Lane, Arkengarthdale looking southwest.

Adelaide and Nemo checking out the view across to Shaw Farm and a Black Grouse/distant Moorhen.

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Tuesday bluesday

Little different down Acaster Ings though the Ouse has reflooded. 5 Coot was a new high, plus a pair of Gadwall, and the resident flock of Aythyas.

Sunday 9 February 2014


Following lovely views of an Otter at Staveley YWT this morning had a try with the gulls resulting in me doubting my field craft (flushed the lot) then in to Acaster which revealed 7 Goosander, 4 Gadwall,  the usual 60 or so Aythyas and a lonely female Wigeon.

Saturday 1 February 2014

Icelandic blast

Saturday morning with the York area my oyster. What to choose, floaters or loafers. Had a quick look at the floaters on Acaster Church Ings: 20 Pochard, 30 Tufted Ducks. On to Rufforth for the loafing gulls. A fine adult winter Lesser Black-backed Gull was on the airfield. The gulls were very flighty today and quite frustrating despite being present on the Tip in collossal numbers. Headed over to Poppleton where a few hundred gulls were gathering in a field by the gravel pit. After a bit, a beautiful cute-looking adult Iceland Gull dropped in. A lovely, demure bird. For a gull that is. Bumped into Chris and Olly back at Rufforth but we struggled to find anything before I had to leave, save the local Grey Wagtail. Several colour-ringed Herring Gulls seen today, though only one readable, yellow ring with black T80K. Will check this out later.