Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Next Term's Wildlife 1: Redstart

Over the next 10 days or so before the new term starts, and there are no new pictures to upload, I'm going to focus on a single species, which most classes will catch up with in the following weeks. Today's bird is a Redstart. This belongs to the chat family, so is closely related to the Robin, Stonechat, Whinchat, Wheatear & Nightingale. It is a summer visitor, and hopefully we'll be observing these stunning birds during a trip to the Yorkshire wolds, where it breeds in fairly small, yet stable numbers. This exquisitely beautiful bird has declined in recent years, and is mainly found in the West & North of the UK, and a few years ago wasn't thought to breed in the East Riding. Class members will be introduced to this bird in an undisturbed and beautiful part of our county, where we should also see other locally scarce species. Hopefully, 'students' will be introduced to its pleasant, if rather weak warbling song, as well as its stunning plumage. I'm hoping we'll be able to compare & contrast the gorgeous male with the much drabber and usually shyer female.
If you are interested in joining the classes there are some vacancies on a Thurs am, or a Tues pm with single places available on Weds pm, Fri am & Fri pm. Please contact me if you would like to book a place & have the chance of enjoying a close encounter with a Redstart & other exciting summer migrants.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Tony's Treats

All pics for today's post (c) 2010 Tony Robinson
Red Kite
Red Kite
Red Kite
Red Kite
Goldeneye [female]
Goldeneye [drake]
Blue Tit
Tony went to Spurn on Friday to photograph the Firecrest, Black Redstart, Wheatears, Glaucous Gulls, Whooper Swans or Willow Warbler. Unfortunately, he didn't manage to obtain pics of any of these, so he popped into Friday's Yorkshire Wold site on his way back, and that's where the Red Kite photos were taken. Also included are a couple of pics taken in West Yorkshire a couple of weeks ago. Now most of the classes have finished until 9th of April, I'm relying on everyone's holiday snaps!

Sunday, 28 March 2010

One Space Available on Photo Course

Maurice Gordon has one vacancy on his wildlife photography for beginners course starting on Tuesday evenings after Easter. 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 blog: If you already have the basic knowledge, but would like to learn more advanced techniques, then Maurice may be running other courses on other evenings throughout the week. It's worth contacting him to find out...

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Love is in the Water

All pics for this post (c) 2010 Pat Crofton
Great Crested Grebes
Great Crested Grebes
Pat Crofton visited Pugneys Country Park in West Yorkshire earlier in the week to catch up with some interesting birds. However, these were fairly distant, whilst these Great Crested Grebes were much more accommodating. It's always great to see a part of the Great Crested Grebe courtship dance, and this is a good time of the year to catch up with it. You have to be really lucky to see the complete routine, but even a few seconds worth provides a great spectacle.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Colours Turned Up to Max

Kestrel - one of the finest coloured males I've seen
Chiffchaff - a particularly yellow example Chiffchaff
Treecreeper - on a particularly knobbly tree
closer view of the bird
Treecreeper again
Long-tailed Tit
Long-tailed Tit
Marsh Tit
Marsh Tit
Female Marsh Harrier - miles from a marsh
Marsh Harrier
Marsh Harrier
Marsh Harrier
The penultimate Friday session of the winter term was the 2nd & final visit to a raptor location on the Yorkshire wolds. We saw the usual suspects with 3 Red Kites, and 2 Buzzards, whilst one experienced birder saw what she thought were a pair of large hawks. Despite detrimental changes to a pond and weir we caught up with a Grey Wagtail for the first time this year. Also present were at least 3 territory holding Marsh Tits, a Treecreeper, a single singing Chiffchaff, and a pair of Kestrels - the male being particularly colourful. Jim in the morning spotted a Green Woodpecker, which flew ahead of us a couple of times allowing nearly everyone to get a view of its vivid yellow rump. Only 2 people turned up for the afternoon session, which was one of the smallest and most disappointing turnouts for some time, but at least they got quality sightings of some great birds & extra tuition of course. The biggest surprise in the afternoon was rather a surreal moment when a female Marsh Harrier which made its way down a valley full of larches - it flew playfully over us for several minutes before flying off in a SW direction. We saw a lot more birds than on previous visits, so this venue may benefit from later visits. One morning member learned that she could not walk up a steep incline and maintain her normal level of chatter, whilst simultaneously being able to breath normally. Hopefully, she will remember this next term when fieldcraft will be even more important!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Trying out Tophill

Walking on Water
Linnet - male - singing, but v.drab
Little Grebe
I thought I'd try out Tophill today, in the hope a migrant or two may have been forced down by the overnight rain. No such luck! 3 Chiffchaffs were singing around the reserve, but that was virtually the only sign of spring. Another were the copulating Pochard on North Marsh, but I couldn't see the Bittern, and the Kingfishers were absent. On the bright side, the Willow Tit was on the feeders in D Woods. The Visitor Centre was closed, so it wasn't possible to watch any birds at the feeding station, but I expect the 3 Woodcock & 4 Bramblings were still present! There were more Pochard, and some Tufted Duck on South Lagoon, plus a very obliging Wren, and a pair of Little Grebe. There were plenty of species on SME, but nothing really out-of-the-ordinary. However, there was a singing Linnet and his mate between the back-to-back hides, which was slightly unexpected. Unfortunately, it was nearly as dull as those which frequent Allerthorpe Common. Hunger pangs meant I had to forgo the trip to Watton Borrow pits & return to the car park. The friday sessions should be taking place tomorrow, so I'd better try & catch up with the forecast!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

First Spurn Visit of the Year

Wheatear - stunning male - very welcome sight
Wheatear - beauty on an ugly object
Reed Bunting - putting its all into its feeble song
Reed Bunting - its reverend gentleman pose
Brent Goose
Brent Geese
Gadwall - pale individual drake & a bog standard female
Gadwall - pale individual & 'normal' pair
Record shot of a Whooper Swan
Ringed Plover
Redshank - with plenty of bling on its shanks
Roe Deer Buck
Roe Deer Buck - back view
Dunnock - the most numerous bird singing today
Common Toad - small individual
I fancied trying to catch up with some summer migrants today, so thought I’d try out Spurn for the first time this year. My arrival coincided with high tide, but it wasn’t especially high, but there were good views of Curlew, Brent Geese and Redshank. One of the latter had multi-coloured rings on its shanks, so it would be interesting to discover where it originated. The bushes looked barren of birds, apart from Dunnocks around the Chalk Bank area, where there were a horrendous number of moth cocoons. However, there were much fewer at the point itself. Eventually, at the point I could hear a few desultory ‘Chiffchaffs’, and plenty of contact calls enabling me to hook up with a summer visitor at last. I would have much preferred a Wheatear, but I couldn’t see one. One of these was reported from Borrow Pits, and a Firecrest was seen at the Warren, but I popped in to Canal Scrape. Here was a very confiding Reed Bunting intent on spilling out its pathetic excuse for a song. Unfortunately, the Common Lizards weren’t showing but there was a small toad in the lizard’s place. From the Canal Scrape hide there were a pair of Mute Swans, and Little Grebes and the awful Coots, which were giving 3 Gadwall a hard time. One of the Gadwall was extraordinarily pale, but I’m not sure if it was pale enough to be classified as leucistic. On to Sammy’s Point where everything seemed bare at first, although there were plenty of Redshank and a few Dunlin huddled on the shore. At the far end of the fenced off area another Chiffchaff was calling. Coming back I saw a movement among the boulders on the shore – at last a stunning male Wheatear. It flew over the barbed & joined the horsefield & then I spotted another 3. I’m sure they weren’t there half an hour before! Satisfied I came back the long way via Stone Creek, but didn’t add any birds of significance to the tally. Thank God the worst of the winter is behind us, and it should improve even more over the next few weeks...