Thursday, 30 April 2009

Holderness Humdingers

Short-eared Owl (c) 2009 Michael Flowers
Yellow Wagtail (c) 2009 Michael Flowers
Couldn't get a decent picture of one today, so here's last year's again!
Cuckoo (c) 2009 Vince Cowell
Heron (c) 2009 Michael Flowers
Swallow (c) 2009 Michael Flowers
Swallow (c) Jackie Dawson
Wheatear (c) 2009 Michael Flowers
Sedge Warbler (c) 2009 Michael Flowers
Shelduck (c) 2009 Jackie Dawson
Mallard Ducklings (c) 2009 Jackie Dawson
We saw a great variety of species today. There was no doubt in the morning that the birds of the day were the 2 Short-eared Owls hunting over the saltmarsh - I didn't expect them this late into the spring. They also saw Yellow Wagtails (brief views) and Corn Buntings (in bad light) and a Marsh Harrier. George spotted a Kingfisher, which quickly disappeared and there were plenty of Linnets, Meadow Pipits, Swallows and Skylarks. The day was a game of 2 halves as there were no owls in the pm, but Peter spotted a Cuckoo at the same time as a Whimbrel was flying over us; whilst the Yellow Wagtails gave much better views including several fights. This was the 1st time the Thurs pm crowd had actually seen Yellow Wagtails; whilst we had the best views of this owl species in 5 years of the classes. Also saw a Black-tailed Godwit, Brent Geese, Shelduck, Sedge Warblers and a Whitethroat. Everyone went home happy - has to happen some time, I suppose!

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Relegation Deferred

Marsh Tit
Blackcap (female)
Underside of Orange-Tip
Stonefly [thanks to Nick Patel] (c) 2009 Aileen Urquhart
Speckled Wood (c) 2009 Aileen Urquhart
Green-Veined White
Cuckoo Pint
Water Avens
This venue's wildlife was an improvement on last week's, but the warblers were still down in number from previous years. A Whitethroat had arrived since last week, but we didn't see the large raptors (Red Kite & Buzzard) we had last time. The Lesser Whitethroat was further away this week, but the Bullfinches gave better views. The Blackcaps were definitely down in number from their peak five years ago, but a female showed well for the pm crowd. The Yellowhammer proved pretty confiding, but the Linnets maintained their distance. A pair of Kestrel were noisy & entertaining for the pm session. The jury is still out on this venue. It's a bit off when the best wildlife is now found outside the nature reserve!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Ignoring the Weather Forecast

All pictures today taken in poor light (c) 2009 Maurice Gordon
Willow Warbler Display
Normal Behaviour
Record shot of Treecreeper
The weather forecast was for heavy rain today, so the sessions were almost cancelled. As it turned out we had a little drizzle at the beginning of the morning class, and a little at the very end of the afternoon, so I’m pleased I ignored the forecast, and carried on anyway. As it was so overcast, the birdsong wasn’t quite what it might have been, but we did have a very confiding Willow Tit in the morning, and a Treecreeper in the afternoon. Both sessions enjoyed performances by: Willow Warbler, [including a display to deter an intruding male in its territory], Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Tawny Owl and Skylark. We had an exceptional songster in the morning, and a Cuckoo as we were just about to leave. Although we didn’t catch sight of it, we could work out where it was concealed, so I’ll see if it’s still there during future sessions. On the return journey to the meeting place we saw a very dark green/purple Pheasant & a Red-legged Partridge. We heard Great Spotted Woodpeckers during both classes, but the birdsong was quieter in the afternoon. The bluebells were much further out than last Wednesday, but still haven’t quite reached their best yet.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Spurn Spring High Tide

Bar-tailed Godwit
Non-breeding plumaged bird
Chalk Bank Hide-Tide Line-up
Meadow Pipit
Record shot of Linnet
On the way to Spurn
Wheatear at Patrington Haven
Grey Partridge
Corn Bunting
Roe Deer Buck
Arrived at Spurn at High Tide to be met with breeding-plumaged Bar-tailed Godwits right by the road - beautiful colours. Of course, there were other waders, but these were the most strikingly marked. The Grey Plovers, which were also coming into their breeding colours were at Chalk Bank, but didn't permit such close views. There was only a trickle of migrants about: a couple of Chiffchaff, Blackcap (reported) and a possible Ring Ouzel - saw the silvery edge to the wings, but couldn't discern the crescent on the breast. There were plenty of Lesser Whitethroat holding territory and a couple of Common Whitethroats, plus one Sedge Warbler singing near Canal Scrape, and a Wheatear and Song Thrush on the Parade Ground. I managed to avoid the Brown-tail moth caterpillars. I picked up the latest Spurn Wildlife Report for last year - Number 18. It just keeps gets better and better. Plenty of good information, a round-up of all the wildlife seen last year, and a good sprinkling of photographs. Please purchase a copy, as any profits will go towards the new observatory building planned for the site. Details on the Spurn website: Spurn is rightly one of the most famous migration hotspots in the country, so it's only fitting it should also have an appropiate more upto-date observatory building where the migrants may be ringed, assessed and observed - well worth your full support! A ringtail Hen Harrier came quite close to the car near Sammy's Point, but the photos aren't worth including on this post!

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Sunk Island

Record shot of Barn Owl
Yellow Wagtail
Record shot of Yellowhammer
Record shot of Swallow
Bringing back Memories of a better day...
On Friday the Cuckoo was in the same bush on 3 separate occasions, and as it was in the same bush for at least 3 weeks last year, I thought I'd creep up on it with th sun behind me - of course it wasn't there! However, at 11am in bright sunshine a male Barn Owl was sitting on the Sunk Island sign. Needless to say, I overshot & by the time I'd turned round it was up in the air. On the way back home a few Yellow Wagtails were back in the area, but as there were no roadside puddles these were all fairly distant views. Looks as though Spurn has hotted up, so may venture there tomorrow before I sort out my mobile phone.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Orgasmic! Volume turned up to 11!

Trying to Photograph Nightingales can be a frustrating experience -
Nice one of the legs
C'mon, show us your wings!
75% of the bird visible! But the light's wrong
Tail Obscured
That's a little bit better
Almost completely unobscured
But I'm just a Little Brown Job
Best of a bad bunch?
Oh yes, there were some other birds worth looking at - Jay
Went with John Sadler to see if we could hear any Nightingales - knew there was no chance of seeing this elusive, shy brown bird, with an apparently out-of-the-ordinary voice. Well, we heard one just after we started, but it was on the dog walking path! This was a lifer for John, but we then got a glimpse of it in some thick vegetation. It was very difficult to see the whole bird without some greenery getting in the way, as the first images show. However, we persevered and occasionally the bird perched in an exposed spot, but usually before our cameras could be readied it had moved off. We gave up on the dog walking area bird & tried a spot near the railway line which bisects the reserve. Here, a bird was belting out its varied, amazing, extraordinary voice - there are hardly enough superlatives to describe its vocal range & variety of song - though dozens of poets have tried! However, it was the volume of this particular bird, which was the most striking feature. Unlike the earlier bird, it had no Black-headed Gulls or Willow Warblers to compete with and its song just poured from its perch in dense cover, but that was only the start. Suddenly the bird changed gear & pumped out its operatic aria at a jaw-dropping volume. What a star, and it wasn't even at night - when its song usually tends to have more of an impact. In total we think we heard five different Nightingales, and had good views of four of them. When we'd got our hearing back we had a walk round the Willow Walk. John spotted all the birds worth seeing - including Chiffchaff, Willow Tit & Jay - while I tried to identify the various voices coming from the thick cover. We both saw our first Common Whitethroat of the year, and a Lesser Whitethroat was skulking about, but of course the day belonged to the Night-ingale. An experience which will remain in the memory for a long time.