Monday, 16 January 2017

Rest of the First Week

The rest of the week didn't quite live up to the delights of the urban park.  The problem on Wednesday was the horrendous wind, but despite this both groups saw the redhead Smew at Tophill Low.  The morning group got round the southern part of the reserve at a  terrific pace, and even had time to visit North Marsh.  They missed 2 Otters by 20 minutes, apparently!  Where have I heard that before!  The afternoon group even managed 40 species, just 3 fewer than the morning session, which is an excellent start to the term.
Long-tailed Tits (c) 2017 Aileen Urquhart
 Pheasant (c) 2017 Aileen Urquhart
 Buck Roe Deer (c) 2017 Tony Robinson
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 Candlesnuff/Stagshorn Fungus (c) 2017 Aileen Urquhart
 Fungi (c) 2017 Aileen Urquhart
Fungi (c) 2017 Aileen Urquhart
 On Thursday sleet showers were forecast, so we had to abandon our unprotected venue for North Cave Wetlands.  The morning group had an exceptional 53 species, including a gorgeous male Stonechat, Ruff, Marsh Harriers, Brambling, Mandarin, Fieldfare, Redwing, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Buzzard, Wigeon, Pochard (good numbers), Shelduck, Teal, Lapwing, Redshank, Dunlin, etc.  Another birder reported a Hobby, which couldn't be right!  The afternoon added 4 more species including Bullfinch, Oystercatcher, Green Woodpecker and Long-tailed Tit making 57 on the whole day.  I don't appear to have received an official tally for the Thursday afternoon group, but I guess they saw more than 40 species, but possibly less than 50.
Stonechat spotted and correctly identified by Jenny
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 Another Chat family member
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On Friday the weather was even worse, and as I set off the snow suddenly reached almost blizzard-like conditions.  However, before I reached the Humber Bridge it had eased off.  Unfortunately, several members took fright and stayed at home.  We had a strong wind to contend with so the birding wasn't quite as good as the previous day.  Nevertheless, the stand-in bird counter managed a tally of 39.  This didn't include a Magpie, so I'll have to make a special effort to point those out next time, as we've failed to include those in the past!  Meanwhile the official Friday am bird counter came to the afternoon and counted 40 species including a Magpie!

At lunchtime I spent time driving slowly and carefully down Dryham Lane, which gave me the chance to photograph the sometimes elusive female Green Woodpecker.  The Wildbird didn't turn out in the light covering of snow, so the coffee brought at lunch time by an afternoon member was most welcome.
Female Green Woodpecker
 Record shot in the large ash tree
 Yaffle
 The Red Crown
 Turning the Other Cheek
Although the weather was a bit disappointing - what do you expect in January - we did manage a respectable tally of birds every day of the week.  It's going to be a lot greyer in the week ahead, but at least it should be dry!

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

City of Culture Birding

Tuesday was the first class of 2017, and it took place in the City of Culture.  Amazingly despite the urban traffic  everyone was ready 10 minutes before the start time.  The park was fairly quiet at first, but a Mistle Thrush sang and a Great Spotted Woodpecker called not too far from the entrance.  A few minutes later as we differentiated the 3 species of Gull present (Black-headed, Common & Herring) a Sparrowhawk landed in a tree quite close to where we were standing.  It was a male but despite the fact that there were no leaves on the Sycamore, it was tricky to point out to those who didn't see it land. It moved a couple of time before it flew off for good, and that was when everyone saw it.  Later, it was seen above the splash-boat.
Drake Goosander
Male Sparrowhawk
We walked along the long straight, and were assaulted by the raucous calls of a pair of Jays.  They were hard to see in a thicket of twigs, but they remained still long enough for everyone to view them.  When we reached the first water there were more gulls to see, and then someone spotted movement on a bit of mud right in front of us.  It was a brilliantly coloured, but scruffily-tailed Grey Wagtail. 
Grey Wagtail
Drake Goosander
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Then we reached the the first lake.  There were only unmentionables, some farmyard mongrels, and some more attractive Tufted Ducks.  We carried on for a while, and then Steve glimpsed a distant female Goosander.  When we reached the third island we found around 8 Goosanders, and again Steve spotted a single partially-concealed drake  Pochard.  There were a pair of Gadwall displaying in this area, before the drake seemed to attempt to drown the female!
 Female Goosander - mad eye
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 Normal Female
 Mad Eye
 Bad Hair Day
 Normal Female
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 Tufted Duck (females)
 Drake Tufted Duck
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A Mistle Thrush rattled in this area near a camera, before eventually starting to sing.  A few minutes later there was a tremendous racket from some over excited Great Spotted Woodpeckers before one flew over our shoulders.  We were passing the aviary when Peter spotted the Kingfisher on some distant vegetation on the other side of the lake. We were walking past the next island when there was an amazing clatter and suddenly a long tailed green bird flew low over the water before landing in a tree on the island - it was a Ring-necked Parakeet.  On the other side of the island some Goosanders had hauled themselves out of the water, but there was no sign of the Great Crested Grebes. 




Drake Gadwall
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 Pink Footed-Goose
Gadwall
The next island was missing its Heron, but the Kingfisher was relocated and even flew across and landed on the boardwalk fence.  This was probably the highlight of the morning.  The photos show clearly it was a male.  When we turned the corner the wind was blowing into our faces, so the return journey was less pleasant.  There was a Pied Wagtail near the bridge, but that was the only new species for a while.









 We reached a sunken garden and found a pair of Goldcrests.  The male was even singing and opened his crest, and was briefly mistaken for a Firecrest by one excited observer.  As we neared the car parking area we had our longest view of a Great Spotted Woodpecker perched at the very apex of a Lombardy Poplar - a nice ending to the first session of 2017.  We probably recorded 35 species today.
Goldcrest
The Whitby couple planned to sample the City of Culture drawings at the University. I hope they found it OK.
Herring Gull