Sunday 30 March 2014


Really wanted to show the kids an Adder, so headed off to a likely spot. The sun was just breaking through mid-morning, which created optimism that the scaly ones would be out with their towels on the sun loungers. Chiffchaffs aplenty chiffed and chaffed in the woods and Adelaide's first Green Woodpecker yaffled unseen from a nearby pine.

A likely spot revealed the diamond pattern of an Adder, basking with flattened body under the protective spines of a small Gorse bush. It was incredibly camouflaged and would have been easy to overlook but a fellow snake spotter showed us the spot. The kids all got a close look and behaved really well keeping still and quiet. Their first wild snake - great!

Nearby a Common Lizard gave itself away by scuttling across some dead leaves.

Sunday 16 March 2014

Grafham Revisited

Having spent a fab weekend reuniting The Reserves in Bury St Edmunds, popped in to Grafham Water my old patch for a little look round. My old mate Mark Hawkes had tipped me off about a couple of good birds so I was full of optimism. I headed first for Mander CP, past my old house in Perry. I walked down to Valley Creek Hide and was soon watching a smart, but sleeping 2cy female Long-tailed Duck. A couple of Goldeneye were nearby but otherwise not much else. Down to the lagoons where five Avocet were rather nice, plus Shoveler, Gadwall and Teal. At Plummer CP I thought I saw a diver briefly over near the north shore, so I headed round to Marlow CP and walked south on to the dam. After scouring the water I picked up a fine Red-throated Diver which showed well in the sunshine, diving regularly, but spending enough time on the surface to allow a couple of phone scoped pics. I carried on along the dam and picked up another diver near the Tower- cool, a Great Northern! I walked round and got great views of this big bird. With the sun on the water you could actually see the bird's massive feet trailing behind. On the way back to the car I saw and heard my first Chiffchaffs on the spring in the willows by the edge of the res. A great hour's birding and a good reminder of what a great patch this used to be!

Saturday 8 March 2014

Acaster and Gos

The water is dropping rapidly and right now the Ings look brilliant. If only they would stay like this for a couple more months, though with a warm week predicted I think they will be dry by next weekend. In the meantime a new high of 38 Gadwall were present this morning, plus five Teal and two drake Shovelers. Let's hope a Garganey shows up before the water disappears!

Headed northeast to meet Tony Martin and Steve Norton and we spent some time searching for Goshawks. The conditions weren't brilliant so we were quite happy with five sightings of three or four birds. The first sighting was of a distant soaring bird that then did a couple of great switchbacks and some good stiff winged flapping. I noticed it also put it's head up, above the level of the wings a couple of times, which is mentioned in BWP. Also saw Dippers, Grey Wags and several Crossbills, one of which flew past calling a piping 'djup' with two more conventionally sounding mates. Sadly, it didn't stop....

By 2pm I decided to head south, having a quick look at a dozen or so Bramblings by the road side, and then on to Castle Howard where a solitary Whooper Swan, two Goosanders and c20 Goldeneye were the only birds of note.

Dad went to Iceland

Following news of 48 Whooper Swans over Hes East first thing I headed to Acaster Ings to check out the rapidly disappearing floods, full of expectation. As I got out of the car, I was greeted with the bugling call of a Whooper Swan! Scanning the water I picked up a couple of these majestic birds behind the hedge. Wow! This followed on from four I had a couple of weeks ago, but to get them on the deck was just cracking. After I had got my scope up and grabbed a few shots as swans swam past gaps in the hedge, the calling volume and frequency increased and it seemed they were thinking about departing. Sure enough, they then ran down the flood and to my amazement not four or five, but 18 birds were in the herd! They headed south, round the back of the church, across the road and then north across the fields and off over Bishopthorpe, their route probably taking them over my house! Next stop the west coast of Scotland, or perhaps even Iceland! A brilliant start to the day and a great reminder of how exciting it is birding a local patch.

Monday 3 March 2014

Gadwall High

A new high of 19 Gadwall this morning at Acaster floods, plus 9 Goosanders, 2 Teal and c20 Coot. Just hoping for a Garganey any day now...

This evening, 25 Goosander were getting frisky, with the males doing their mad sky pointing display. 4 Shelduck were noisily chasing each other about and three Wigeon loafed in the shallows. Great that the days are drawing out sufficiently to get down here after work now. 

Saturday 1 March 2014

All's well...

A bit of a disasterous start when my birding was hampered by thick fog. The murk seemed to be held to the east of the Ouse and so I headed over to Rufforth just in time to see the t**t falconer turn up. There weren't many gulls showing from the road anyway, so I decided I'd take the browny points and head home early. In the afternoon, took Adelaide who has been busy learning 35 species of birds in her first bird book out to Askham Bog and then Acaster Ings. She tried out her new serious bins (despite being pink) and managed to get some good bins views of Great Tits and a Robin (see below). It is funny remembering actually how quick you need to be to get your bins on a fast moving small bird and then focus in. This is so natural now I don't even think about it, but it was a real struggle for Addie and only when a bird sat still for a while could she a. find it and b. focus on it. But she seemed to enjoy the challenge so we made a bit of headway. Not much of note in the Bog apart from my first singing Marsh Tit of the year and several Siskins. Afterwards, headed down to the floods at Acaster so Addie could tick off a few ducks. Quite a bit going on with c10 Wigeon, c10 Gadwall, 8 Goosanders, 2 Oyks and best of all, a sleeping Egyptian Goose by the church. This is the first I have had in the York area outside of the LDV. Back home and Addie made her first birdlist. Brilliant.

Spending time with the Grey Ghost

Whilst other birders were enjoying great non-stop Goshawk action elsewhere - see Northern Rustic here - I staked out the pair from the day before. I saw the male immediately on arrival cruising over the treetops just below the ridge. He dropped in to the area where I think there must be a nest and the female started calling loudly. I watched and froze for the next 2.5 hours without a further sighting, though there was plenty of calling, mainly fierce-sounding kek- kek- kek and a couple of times some wailing, which may have been the female soliciting the male. It was nice to see the area wake up with the rising sun. Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were much in evidence, a Grey Wag was blogging about and plenty of stuff was singing. At about 10.30 a pair of Buzzards carved the ridge prompting an immediate response by the female Gos who got airborne and soared around for a few minutes allowing good scope views. The Buzzards didn't hang around and sloped off west. The Gos quickly dropped back into cover. 20 minutes later and the Buzzards were back. This time the Gos pair were a little bit more annoyed and intercepted the buteos quite closely. Needless to say they again cleared off quickly. The female Gos soared up over the ridge and the male headed straight towards me and did three switchbacks for good measure - nice. I managed to grab a couple of photos before he looped back round and dropped in to the trees.

The first day of Spring

Acaster Ings this morning: 4 Shelduck, 4 Teal,  8 Gadwall,  c30 Tufties, 4 Pochards and 2 oyks. During the week there was 15 Gadwall in Thursday,  3 Wigeon yesterday.