Friday, 27 February 2009

Not so Duff Field

Pintail (c) 2009 Jackie Dawson
Treecreeper (c) 2009 Vince Cowell
Tufted Duck (c) 2009 Vince Cowell
Tufted Ducks (c) 2009 Vince Cowell
Long-tailed Tit (c) Vince Cowell
King Alfred's Cakes (c) 2009 Vince Cowell
Marsh Harrier (c) 2009 Michael Flowers
Tree Sparrow (c) 2009 Michael Flowers
North Duffield looking towards Aughton
Actually, most of the fields in the area were under water. The bird of the morning was probably the bird of prey I’m not supposed to mention (Peregrine!) which patrolled every area of water, spooking all the Pintail (6 drakes), Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon, c.30 Curlew, Golden Plover & Lapwing. We had a good view of a Treecreeper in the morning - rather a surprise as trees are sparse at this location, plus Long-tailed Tits and Reed Buntings, but the usual Bullfinches & Yellowhammers were absent. We went to Bubwith Bridge to look for Whooper Swans, but it was only on the way back after the rest of the morning crew had gone, that 2 of us spotted c30 in some fields with c20 Mute Swans. The afternoon was quieter although a Marsh Harrier flew low over the site – it only had a moderate effect on the wildfowl in comparison with the first raptor. This is usually a very bleak location at this time of year, so it was nice to find it almost balmy!

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Blown Away!

Tired Pink-footed Goose (c) 2009 Jackie Dawson
Pink-footed Goose with attitude (c) 2009 Jackie Dawson
Oystercatcher finding a snack (c) 2009 Michael Flowers
Going for it! (c) 2009 Michael Flowers
Really Going for it! (c) 2009 Michael Flowers
Record shot of Goldeneye (c) 2009 Jackie Dawson
Record shot of Goldeneye displaying [plus Tufted Ducks] (c) 2009 Jackie Dawson

I wish I could say I was blown away by the wildlife today, but sadly it was the wind! We didn't stay round the mere too long, but that gave us the best photo opportunities. The class had already started by the time I'd got there, as they'd been looking through their bird books perplexed by two tired geese sat on the shore. They did very well really, as we've never seen this species at such close quarters before. They went for Bean Goose, but I was able to show why these are Pink-footed. Perhaps they were exhausted, and stopped off on migration, because when we returned about noon they'd gone. We had displaying Goldeneye, Ruddy Duck, Wigeon, Heron, Cormorant; and then were able to add several Great-Spotted Woodpeckers around the Wassand Estate. There was a fine display of Snowdrops & Aconites, but no Jays or rarities!

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Potty about Potteric

Bittern in classic pose (c) 2009 Marcus Conway Record shot of today's Bittern (c) 2009 Tony Robinson
Lesser Redpoll (c) 2009 Michael Flowers
Reed Bunting - just liked the framing of the twigs on this one!
Reed Bunting (c) 2009 Michael Flowers
Gadwall (c) 2009 Michael Flowers
Silver Birches in Childers Wood (c) 2009 Michael Flowers

Unusually, when we entered the Piper Marsh hide at Potteric this morning the Bittern was waiting for us, and gave excellent views. Unfortunately, Tony was too polite to push to the front & Aileen was scrambling around for her battery, so they weren’t clicking away when the Bittern was showing at its best, so the blog is headed by an excellent pic taken from the same hide in December. The drake Pintail was another morning highlight, but it was snoozing in the afternoon, and was difficult to point out its plumage. We found time to visit the hide overlooking the main line to London from which I spotted Casper being given a hard time by the Black-headed Gulls which hope to nest there. Casper is the 3rd winter Caspian Gull, which has been at Potteric since 12th November. This was a “lifer” for everyone present, including the tutor – shock, horror! Although the pm session lacked Casper and the Bittern, we were blessed with a really confiding group of Redpolls – the best views we’ve ever had of this species in 6 years of the course! We could have watched these for ages but 2 trains decided to blast their sirens & the Redpolls (& Siskins) were frightened off. Also of interest were seven Herons showing from Piper Marsh Hide in the morning until one flew off with nesting material; a singing Goldcrest, and some on the morning session managed to track down a treecreeper without Eileen’s help! One slight disappointment was the failure to locate the Kingfisher, but I did hear it call from Mother Drain. Another good thing – Miles spotted a Peacock butterfly – it almost felt like spring has arrived, yipee!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Yorkshire Wolds Site

Red Kite [archives] (c) 2008 Maurice Gordon
King Alfred's Cakes (c) 2009 Chris Cox
Marsh Tit (c) 2009 John Batham

We couldn’t enter the site in our usual way, so had to go in by a back entrance. This proved to be a bit too steep for some on the course, so I may have to come up with an alternative next time. We did see a pair of distant Red Kites in the morning, but some had better views in the afternoon. There was very little wind so we watched in amusement in the afternoon as a Buzzard in a high field tried to get itself airbourne by catching a little breeze on an escarpment. Other birds we saw included several Bullfinches, and Marsh Tits, plenty of Song Thrushes doing what it says on the tin & we heard a few distant Mistle Thrush cadences. However, the dull, calm weather ensured we didn’t see the rich and varied bird life I would normally expect at this location.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Welwick Saltings

Short-eared Owl
Barn Owl
Barn Owl
Record Shot of 2 Short-eared Owls

Went back to Welwick with Chris Cox for another look at the Hen Harriers. It was a dull afternoon with drizzle at times, so didn't really expect many birds. The harriers didn't show, but came across a Short-eared Owl sat in a hawthorn bush. It flew over the saltmarsh, where it was joined by another 3. They had a couple of dog-fights, or should that be owl-fights before spreading out. One landed in the distant washed-up tree, but the others disappeared into the reeds. The Barn Owl gave better views. Had a good look further afield, and came across some very promising habitat to explore during the summer months. Oh, dear, I've just realised it's more raptors tomorrow! Can you have too much of a good thing?

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Bad Lads of Holderness

Hen Harrier (c) 2009 Marcus Conway
Reed Bunting (c) 2009 Michael Flowers
Stonechat (c) 2009 Chris Cox
An early alarm call of 4.25am for an enjoyable, if at times, frustrating day (in respect of our main objective - the Barn Owl) in the badlands of Holderness - deer rustling and hare coursing are so rife, a farmer stopped us to make sure we weren't up to anything nefarious! I was joined by ebirder, Marcus Conway & Ornithological Idiot (his description, certainly not mine!) James Spencer. One of the 1st birds we saw as dawn broke around us was a close view of a probable female Barn Owl on the outskirts of Paull. We drove round Thorngumbald, Cherry Cobb Sands, Keyingham Marsh, Stone Creek and Sunk Island in the hopes of encountering some of the 10 pairs frequenting the area; but apart from a distant one spotted at Fisherman’s Channel by eagle-eyed Marcus, and a closer one on Outstray Road we were to be disappointed. Never mind we thought, we’ll see plenty this afternoon...
Other species we saw in the area included: Golden Plover, Grey & Red-legged Partridge, Curlew, Shelduck, Knot, Heron, Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush, Stock Dove; at least 3 Common Seals, and more than 20 Roe Deer. We cut across country to a damp area along the old Hull to Withernsea railway line where we added Water Rail (heard only), a skein of c100 Pink-footed Geese, Reed Bunting, Tufted Duck, Great Crested Grebe and an absolute abundance of Bullfinches. We then returned to Paull for a look round the Strays in a strengthening wind. Here we managed to add both Black and Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Teal; and several hundred more Golden Plovers. After our visit here we had to say goodbye to errant speeder James, who had an appointment with a lecture he couldn’t afford to miss!
We decided to pop across to Patrington Haven to see the Short-eared Owls. Although we dipped on those, we did bump into Chris Cox & saw a distant Peregrine, but the latter was easily eclipsed by 2 Ringtail Hen Harriers. The 1st approached quite close & when it suddenly swerved near a small passerine we gasped in admiration of its aerial skill even though the bird escaped! The 2nd ringtail was noticeably smaller than the first, and seemed to have darker wing tips. On the walk back to the car park we enjoyed views of a female Stonechat. We gave the Barn Owls another try on the long loops back to Paull, but only managed to add good views of a Kingfisher (female) to our haul. Although the Barn Owls refused to perform (was it the wind, or the springlike conditions, or were they just avioding us?), as the light died we enjoyed the mass swirlings of thousands of Golden Plover over Paull Holme Strays against an impressive reddish-purplish-yellowish sunset. Overall, it was an excellent day in the company of a pair of great birders.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Normanby - What We Should Have Seen!

All photos for this post (c) 2009 Richard Hampshire
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
Tawny Owl
I'm always writing posts about the birds we saw and heard, but today's post is about the birds we missed out on! When we were there on Tuesday someone elsewhere on the estate saw & heard a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, one of the really special birds of this site, but we decided to ignore it! After nearly 40 years of birdwatching my first two were both last year, so why would I want to see another one so soon? We knew where the Little Owls tend to be seen, but could we find them after hours of searching? - nay! No wonder the little tyke above looks so cross! There were plenty of finches around - Chaff, Gold, Green, and even a singing Siskin, but could we find one of the dull, dowdy miserable-looking Bullfinches, we could not!
Despite all these failures we had excellent views of 4 different treecreepers today; and the Nuthatches which gave us the run around yesterday, were back on form for Thursday. The Green Woodpeckers, Redwing & Stock Doves were full of the joys of spring, and the Hare sprinting across the deer enclosure was another highlight. The Jays put on a great performance today, and even gave us a couple of really close fly-bys. The site was new to most people who visited this week, and they are keen to revisit when the woodland birdsong is at its height, and the squealing sprogs are back at school!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Normanby Estate & Alkborough Flats

All photos for this post (c) 2009 Vince Cowell
Nuthatch ditto
Red Deer
Fallow Deer
An elusive Jay
Alkborough Flats
Golden Plover
Reed Bunting [female]
Distant Marsh Harrier below Golden Plover

We do occasionally venure outside East Yorkshire and yesterday was one of those times. I'm very grateful to Richard Hampshire (Tophill Low Reserve Manager) who gave up his free time to show the group round his old stamping ground. We had a good morning with the Nuthatch, Jays, Green Woodpecker and the Red & Fallow Deer feeding time being some of the main highlights. 5 of us went on to Alkborough Flats to enjoy really good views of Golden Plover, which were beautifully illuminated by the sun. The 10+ sunbathing Reed Buntings (or hot-cross buns, as someone calls the females!) were a surprise. A distant female Marsh Harrier caused a little extra drama. What looked like a Snow Goose flew over us with some Greylag Geese - also seen by Chris Cox at Blacktoft. Thanks to Vince Cowell for today's excellent pics!