Thursday, 28 January 2010

On a Roll!

Woodcock - through glass
Doing the Bored Walk!
Heron (c) 2010 Phil Hargreaves
Another good day! The day started well with 6 Bullfinches (5 males) opposite the works entrance gate. The highlight was probably at the Visitor Centre where the Woodcock showed well in the morning. However, just after lunch time it did everything but perform handstands. The afternoon group had amazing views as it crossed the grassy area, paced the boardwalk, and then started trying to feed near the pond. There were also Bramblings & Redwings in this location, and some Siskins came down for a bathe. 25 Fieldfare flew over the car park and works area in the morning with 3 Redwings going south near there in the afternoon. Other star birds included a drake Pintail (am only), a Barn Owl (pm only), a redhead Smew, 2 female Ruddy Ducks, which had survived the cull, and a confiding immature Heron. More standard fare included: Goldeneye (much displaying), Teal, Wigeon (thousands), 44 Curlew, 6 Redshank, Stock Dove, Treecreeper, Coal, Long-tailed, Blue & Great Tits, Skylark plus attacking Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Buzzard, Shelduck (3) & Shoveler (6). I’m sure there was more, but that’s all I can remember at the moment.

Second Best

Jay (c) 2010 Aileen Urquhart
Record shot of Lesser Redpoll (c) 2010 Maurice Gordon
Record shot of male Lesser Redpoll (c) 2010 Michael Flowers
Blue Tit (c) 2010 Aileen Urquhart
Willow Tit
Hen Pheasant
Reed Bunting (c) 2010 Maurice Gordon
Chaffinch (c) 2010 Maurice Gordon
The weather wasn’t quite as balmy as yesterday, and the birds weren’t quite as spectacular, but it was a very worthwhile day nevertheless. The first interesting sighting was a flock of Lesser Redpolls, including one remarkably pink male. The feeding station was busy in the morning with 12 Moorhens, Jays, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Willow Tit, Reed Buntings. It was a waste of time trying to see Bitterns in the normal banker hide, as cutting & burning of reeds was taking place – there were hardly any birds there at all. There was a flock of at least 9 Bullfinches near the Post Office depot with another flock of 6 near the oil filter across Mother Drain. We popped into hides we don’t normally visit & managed to add: Siskin, Goldcrest, Treecreeper, Redwing, Kestrel, Cormorant, Pochard, Teal, Gadwall. There were 35 species in the morning with several more added in the afternoon. Overall, probably the second best day so far. The wet start to the afternoon session, being the only downer!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Best Day of the Year (so far)

Hen Harrier
(c) 2010 Marcus Conway
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
What a great day with fantastic weather! Didn't think I would say that in 2010, which has been pretty miserable so far. The morning started well with 34 Fieldfare near the original meeting place. We travelled to the venue, and were rewarded with 2 Hares chasing each other over the length of 3 fields. We walked to the viewpoint to find a female Merlin posing for us - a lifer for all course participants. While the 'students' were studying it thro' the telescope a male Hen Harrier arose from the vegetation. This would have been a second lifer, but none of them could get on to the bird, before it disappeared back into the undergrowth! The 11.30 Barn Owl was another highlight. In the afternoon Les spotted a female Hen Harrier only seconds after leaving the car park, so the afternoon participants did get a lifer! Les also saw the Short-eared Owl, which put on a great display. There were also plenty of others birds around including: Bar-tailed Godwit (almost in summer plumage), Black-tailed Godwit, Golden & Grey Plovers, Curlew, Redshank, Reed Bunting, Cormorant, Skylark, Starling, Meadow Pipit, Lapwing, Shelduck and Dunlin. One of the last birds we saw were some very close views of some confiding Knot. At last this year is starting to improve!

Friday, 22 January 2010

Wet, Wet, Wet [Lands]

Green Woodpecker (c) 2010 Tony Robinson
Well actually, some of the lakes of North Cave Wetlands were still completely covered with ice, but it has started to de-frost a little after the big freeze. In South Hide we saw one Snipe, several Redshank and the usual wildfowl species. There were quite a few Lapwing, estimates began at 30+, but Phil counted them, and assures me there were 96! Carp Lake and the one next to it were ice-bound, but we did see Redpoll & Bullfinches in the alders at the back, plus plenty of Goldfinches & Chaffinches. Near Reedbed Lake a Stoat was seen in the morning, whilst in the afternoon good views of a Green Woodpecker were seen here. On the lake itself was a female Goldeneye, which is slightly-out-of-the ordinary for this site. One Yellowhammer flew out of the Maize Field with a charm of Goldfinches, and at least 3 Reed Buntings were in this area. Another Snipe was seen from Turret Hide, and there were a few of the usual suspects, but quantities of all species were still lower than normal. It was noted that there didn’t appear to be any Grebes on the site at all! A Grey Wagtail was on the new workings adjacent to Angela’s CafĂ© at lunch time. This was the last session this week, as Friday was a complete washout in these parts!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Bittern Off More Than We Can Chew

The same Bittern we saw, but this one was at Watton Borrow Pits on Sunday
(c) 2010 David Ware
Goldeneye (c) 2010 Tony Robinson
Record shot of Redhead Smew (c) 2010 Tony Robinson
The birds of the day were the Bittern and the Redhead Smew, neither of which were seen by me! Today nearly everyone turned up, and there were too many to fit comfortably into the left-hand of the back-to-back hides, so the last 3 went into the hide overlooking South Marsh West. As Michael opened the flap a large brown bird flew up from directly under the hide and landed in the reedbed opposite, yes, they had seen the Bittern. The Redhead Smew was seen by Tony & Miles who stayed on for the afternoon. The morning started well with 4 Mistle Thrushes (the most I've seen at this location) at the north end of the works area almost adjacent to the Visitor Centre. We walked all the way to Watton Borrow Pits, but this was mainly frozen over, and apart from one adult Heron and 2 Greylags flying over, there were no birds visible! There were quite a few birds on SME until a white Environment Agency Van drove along the bank & flushed: Shoveler, Shelduck, Teal, Gadwall, Redshank & Lapwing - the waders have been absent for weeks because of the ice, so we were the first to report any for some time. Most of the marsh areas were still ice-bound, but D reservoir was clear and was covered with Coots with a sprinkling of Goldeneye, plus other wildfowl. A large local RSPB group were also present at the reserve, but they went north in the morning, so we went that way in the afternoon, while they went south. There were plenty of birds around the new feeders including, Willow Tit, Brambling, and Great Spotted Woodpecker, plus a large flock of Long-Tailed Tits. North Marsh was virtually birdless, but a Sparrowhawk did fly into D Woods, after coming in over the River Hull. In all we saw 44 species in the morning, so the true number was nearer 5o if the Willow Tit, Brambling & Smew are added to the tally. Not a bad total when you consider that some top reserves are still bereft of birds after the big freeze!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

More Urban Birds

Goosanders (c) 2010 Vince Cowell All remaining pictures taken from the vantage point of a free East Park mobility Scooter!
(c) 2010 Mike Williamson
Tufted Duck [female] Tufted Duck [drake]
Pochard [drake]
Shoveler [drake]
Rhea - bit easier to get closer shots!
There didn’t seem any point going to Blacktoft Sands, as their own website admits there are very few birds there at the moment. Birds were guaranteed at East Park, so we went there instead! The bird of the day was probably a flying Lesser Redpoll, but I don’t think anyone else managed to get on to the bird before it disappeared. Again, we had excellent close views of the Goosanders, which now numbered 17. There were also super views of the usual suspects: Shoveler, Pochard &Tufted Duck . There was no sign of last week’s Wigeon, but new birds included: Heron, Pied Wagtail, and Mistle Thrush. c.20 Redwings were trying to feed on the grass near the Khyber Pass, but they were continually disturbed by free-running dogs & small brats, sorry that should read "little darlings"!

Friday, 15 January 2010

Urban Birding

Goosanders (c) 2010 Vince Cowell
Redwing (c) 2010 Vince Cowell
The planned location was still ice-bound yesterday, so we visited a thawed-out urban location instead. The extensive lake only had 2 isolated areas free of ice, so the wildfowl were crammed into those - rather conveniently for us. There were 14 Goosanders, which we managed to get closer views of than normal, and a drake Shoveler was there morning and afternoon. After lunch these were joined by a very vocal drake Wigeon, but its efforts to rouse another of its kind went unfulfilled. 19 Pochard were present and a few Tufted Ducks - the famine of these two species was apparent when they lunged for the bread like all the other domestic species! A Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming until a female came in and chased him off. 3 Redwings were around in the morning and a singing Coal Tit, but there was no sign of either of these in the afternoon. There were too many Canada Geese and Coots, as is usual with these locations. Although in the centre of the city, this venue was more productive than the frozen over North Cave Wetlands the previous day. That only managed the relatively low tally of 32 species, and most of these were very distant birds. The highlights at North Cave were a spanking male Lesser Redpoll and a couple of females, plus a flock of at least 6 Bullfinches.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

2010 Classes Begin

Barn Owl
Today's class involved tackling the long winding road to Tophill Low, which was still a bit dodgy in places. Luckily, no one came a cropper! The highlight in the morning was the Bullfinch at North Marsh, with the Grey Wagtail, Brambling and Redwings at D reservoir the also rans. 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers were in D Woods. There were virtually no birds at all at North Marsh in the afternoon, which was still completely frozen over. However, rather surprisingly D reservoir was absolutely free of ice, and contained 2 female Ruddy Ducks, 5+ drake Goldeneye, 8+ female Goldeneye, 5+ GBB Gulls, and over 1,000 Coot! Also present Wigeon, Pochard, Tufted Duck etc. In the afternoon a Willow Tit visited the new feeders, and a Barn Owl landed near the new Tawny Owl box. A Sparrowhawk flew through D Woods and a Kestrel hovered near D Reservoir. In the car park on the way back there was another Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Brambling, and then a male Peregrine flew over - a fitting ending for a day spent struggling through thick slush and ice. And the story behind the Barn Owl... Last night as Richard Hampshire, the Tophill Low warden, was on his way home he found the Barn Owl in the middle of the road between Beverley & Malton. The bird was still warm, and may even have shuddered as he picked it up. Richard is going to send this bird to a lab, as they should be able to ascertain how it was faring during this appalling recent weather.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Snowing Thrushes

Fieldfare (c) 2010 Claude Hargreaves
Mistle Thrush (c) 2010 Claude Hargreaves
Song Thrush
Long-tailed Tit
The snowy weather appears to have brought a large influx of winter thrushes from the continent. Redwings & Fieldfares are turning up in some gardens for the first time in 20 years. If you do have any, please put out any apples or pears to feed them. If you are lucky enough to get a Blackcap, please grate some cheese, or put out some jacket potatoes. We have had a Redwing in the garden a couple of times for short periods, but the Blackbirds didn't permit them to stay. Earlier this moring a flock of 38 Fieldfare flew over heading north, whilst some more remained in the cemetery, but these normally wary birds didn't venture into the garden.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Wildlife Photography Course

Waxwing - not many about this winter
Long-tailed Tit
Blue Tit
Sparrowhawk - award-winning picture
You'll probably be flabbergasted to hear that yesterday's first class was cancelled because of some flaky white stuff! Today's has gone the same way, and I wouldn't be surprised if tomorrow and Friday follow. In the meantime Maurice Gordon is commencing a series of Wildlife photography classes, which should start next Tuesday morning if the weather improves. The course lasts 6 weeks and features a mixture of alternate classroom sessions and field trips, and each session lasts at least 2 hours. There is just room for one more participant if you are interested, and the course costs £70. So, if you have a digital SLR and a telephoto lens, and would like help on how to make the most of it, please contact Maurice via his website: