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.

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