Thursday, 30 December 2010

Wintering Waders

All photos in this post (c) 2010 John Sparham
Bar-tailed Godwit
Bar-tailed Godwit in flight - note only a faint wing-bar
Purple Sandpiper
Redshank [above]
Turnstone [below]
Turnstones in flight
Rock Pipit - not a wader, but around at the same site!
Now the blog is up and working again, it is possible to include some of the backlog of pictures taken when the blog was disabled. Today includes a selection of the varied waders found in Northumberland in November. Most of these birds can still be found on the Yorkshire coast around Filey and Flamborough at this time of year. The Rock Pipit isn't a wader of course, but frequents the same habitat as the wading birds.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Wintery Wildlife

Woodcock [Hull]
Kestrel & Starling (c) 2010 Peter Stead [North Ferriby]
Kestrel (c) 2010 [North Ferriby]
Great Spotted Woodpecker [Hull]
[above] Fieldfare (c) 2010 David Ware [Wetwang]

Brambling (c) 2010 Chris Cox [Keyingham]
Brambling (c) 2010 Chris Cox [Keyingham]
[above] Bramblings (c) 2010 David Ware [Wetwang]
Redwings (c) 2010 David Ware [Wetwang]
Pied Wagtail (c) 2010 Chris Cox [Keyingham]
Roe Deer (c) 2010 Chris Cox [Burstwick]
Hedgehog (c) 2010 Janet Whitchurch [Hornsea]
Leucistic Blackbird [not Reversed Ring Ouzel] (c) 2010 Les Waby [Pocklington]
Mistletoe in flower [Hull]
Woodcock probing with head shape & tracks [Hull]
Woodcock tracks [Hull]
Because of the prolonged wintery weather unusual wildlife has been turning up in people's gardens. The Kestrel was seen with its wings spread out lying on a hedge with its talons plunging into the depths of the hedge. The reason this sight was spotted was the sound of screaming Starlings coming from inside the hedge! This behaviour, which is more expected from Sparrowhawks was forced on the Kestrel because of the difficulty of locating voles under the snow! The other birds seen in gardens are more expected at times of snowy weather, although none of them have turned up in my garden so far!
There were 3 Woodcock near home this morning, two of them under the same tree. The second one flew along the length of a long brick building, so I was able to snatch a couple of pics of this speeding bird through the gloom. There was plenty of evidence of disturbed leaf letter which the Woodcocks had turned over looking for food. There were many tracks, and then there seemed to be signs of where the Woodcock had probed into the snow looking for another hidden cache of leaves, covering some more worms. Thanks to everyone for sending in their wintery wildlife pics.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Last Few Weeks

All Short-eared Owl Photos (c) 2010 Maurice Gordon

Water Rail (above)
Stock Dove (above)
Curlew (above)
My sincere apologies for a series of technical problems, which has prevented this site being updated since October! I did buy extra photo space at that time, and was informed it would take 24 hours for that space to become available, but 2 weeks later it still hadn't appeared, and I didn't check it again until today!
In the hiatus one of my Goldcrest photos appeared on the Red Button after the Autumnwatch programmes, whilst another was featured in a very rowdy section during the Unsprung 'Pub Quiz'! Meanwhile, the Water Rail picture depicted above appeared in the December issue of Birdwatching Magazine.
The final classes of the Autumn term were heavily disrupted by bad weather, so I can no longer remember the highlights. However, the specials to see the Short-eared Owls were amazingly successful with 8 birds seen both days and a female Hen Harrier on one occasion. The snow moved in within minutes of the final Short-eared Owl session! I went back on my own and was lucky enough to see a Peregrine whizz a few feet over my head. Both visits also had good views of the Rough-legged Buzzard, which was still showing as recently as yesterday. This was a 'lifer' for the vast majority of those present. Unfortunately, the recent snow prevented me from revisiting the Short-eared Owl site, and since the snow, reports of the birds have not been so frequent. Of course it will have been more difficult for the owls to locate voles under the snow and they have probably had to range further afield - unfortunately, others may have starved to death!
The snow has also resulted in 3 Barn Owl casualties in their Holderness stronghold, with a 4th bird being struck by a car & taken to a rescue centre.
Hopefully, all of you have now encountered a flock of Waxwings, as the invasion continued throughout November & December, with small flocks around Marfleet Lane, Bilton Grove and Old Hedon Road. The most recent reliable flock is of 7 birds in Baynard Avenue, Cottingham. However, Sheffield seems to be the best area to catch up with birds of 300+.
There has also been an invasion of Woodcock with some birds appearing in people's gardens during the bad weather. Unfortunately, I haven't been lucky enough to photograph one of these elusive birds so far this winter.
If I take any worthwhile photographs over the festive season I will update this blog, but normal service should resume anyway from 11 of January.
May I take this opportunity to wish all my customers (& anyone else who has read the blog throughout the year) all the best for Christmas and the New Year!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The Future

I have started to take bookings for the Winter course starting week commencing 10th January. The Wednesday sessions are fully booked, but there are plenty of vacancies on Friday mornings. There are also a few vacancies on Tues am, Tues pm, and Thurs am. We will be looking for small winter visitors such as Redpolls, Siskins, Bramblings and Waxwings, but we will also be on the look-out for large birds of prey, as well as waders and wildfowl. As more birds start singing during the later winter we will also turn our attention to identifying birds by their songs and calls. If you would like more details of the course, please contact me by email at the address given under the Course Details section to the right of this post.

Thanks to everyone who has asked what has happened to the blog, & whether it will be continuing. The blog is currently overloaded with pictures, and some of these will need to be saved to an external drive before they can be deleted from the blog to free up memory space. I'm also going to use free time in December to see if I can locate a more time-efficient method of uploading pics - an average evening used to be taken up with over 2 hours of photoshopping, uploading & writing text - in a room without any heating! This is OK in the summer, but in the Autumn & Winter becomes increasingly uncomfortable. So, I hope a blog of some description will be in full operation again some time in December or the New Year!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Switched to Spurn

Lapland Bunting (c) 2010 John Sparham
Jack Snipe (c) 2010 Vince Cowell
Goldcrest - after a bath!
Proving he's a male!
Yesterday's session was switched to Spurn to take advantage of the fall of migrants. The day started well with an Egyptian Goose & a Lapland Bunting from the Blue Bell car park. We travelled down the peninsula dodging Robins, Meadow Pipits, a large flock of Linnets, Song Thrushes & a single Wheatear. The am group stopped at Chalk Bank for the high tide & saw Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Turnstone, Curlew, Redshank, Knot & Dunlin. At the point there were some flighty Bramblings, but everyone was able to watch one eventually. Some Siskins looked the worst for their travels, but they were busy feeding so they may have been OK. A few Swallows were still being seen, but they were heavily outnumbered by Redwings. On the return journey we stopped off at Canal Scrape for great views of Jack Snipe, a flock of 5 Lesser Redpolls and lots of Chiffchaffs. A male Goldcrest had a bath & then decided to swab its crest on some barbed wire - it could have all ended so differently. The afternoon was pretty similar to the morning, but was 'enlivened' by the donation of a Water Rail, which had been picked up by a non-birder halfway down the point & carried all the way to the point car park. He thought it had a broken leg, but it was only dislocated. I dropped it off at Kew Villa on the return journey, where it was going to be 'nursed', fed & released on the Canal Zone on Wednesday morning. I'll post any news I receive on this bird later. I can't post a picture of this bird at this stage, as I've used up my allotted free picure web space!!!