Monday, 30 April 2012

Let's have a Chat or 2, or even 150+

After yesterday's torrential rain from an easterly direction I thought Spurn might be worth a visit this morning.  Sure enough after passing the Bluebell there were Wheatears everywhere, including 7 on a single woodpile & another 2 on the one next to it.  There was a Whinchat opposite the turning to the car park from the Canal Scrape.  I took quite a few pictures from the road here, but thought it may be worth going as far as the point.  

There were 3 Wheatears in the point car park, others on the journey down & more at the point itself.   2 Fieldfare flew out of the vegetation near the car park & landed on the wires.  2 male Yellow Wagtails were in the play area opposite the Lifeboat houses, and a female Brambling calling from a danger sign.  There were 3 male Whinchats in the Parade Ground area & plenty of singing Linnets in the area too.  A singing male Lesser Whitethroat was here too - a very late 1st of the year for me.

After Spurn I went over to Sammy's Point.  Along the road down there 50+ Fieldfare flew up accompanied by at least 1 Redwing.  At Sammy's Point itself there was a single male Ring Ouzel & it was surrounded by Wheatears.  Later, a Hull RSPB chap counted 32 Wheatears in a single field.  There were 2 fighting male Yellow Wagtails in the area, singing Blackcaps & Sedge Warblers, but the bare fields seemed more productive then the areas containing bushes.

I drove back via Stone Creek, but apart from a pair of Grey Partridges near Sunk Island, and a few Yellow wagtails & scattered Wheatears there wasn't too much of interest.  The Spurn radio didn't broadcast any sightings at all when I was there, but they have just announced via twitter @Spurnbirdobs the following totals: 150 Wheatear, 5 Ring Ouzel, 5 Whinchat, a Redstart & a Hobby. The coast was the place to be today!  

Whinchat [male]
 7 Wheatear on one Woodpile
 9 Wheatear on 2 woodpiles
 Wheatear [male]
 Yellow Wagtail [male]
 Fieldfare [& 1 Redwing]
 Brambling [female]
Record shot of Ring Ouzel [male]

Sunday, 29 April 2012

2012 Dawn Chorus

The Dawn Chorus coincided with one of the few mornings without any rain.  A Barn Owl flew alongside as we approached the wood.  It was very dark when we arrived at the woodland to the songs of Robins & Blackbirds.  The most noticeable sound at first was a male Tawny Owl which called several times & seemed to be leading us along the path.  Eventually, a female also called, and there was also what sounded like the call of a chick.
Only resident birds sang at first followed by a Willow Warbler then a Blackcap, and then the Chiffchaffs started up.  It wasn’t a really bright morning, so the actual sightings of the singing birds was on the low side.  It reached a very muddy spot where both of my boots let in the water & Liz ‘s wellies were swallowed by the mud & one of them had to be pulled out!  The water up to my ankles felt icy cold at first, but constant walking seemed to raise the temperature a little.  A Treecreeper was heard, but stubbornly remained hidden in the gloom.
The heath seemed pretty sterile with just another Willow Warbler heard.  A couple of Red-legged Partridges and a Hare ran across a bare field, but they didn’t contribute to the aural atmosphere.  At this point Lisa slipped into pole position and a few minutes later flushed a bird which she thought may have been a Sparrowhawk.  However, Brian spotted it had very pointed wings, and that added to its flight from the ground leads me to believe it was a Woodcock.  A Marsh Tit was the only other bird of interest along this path.  
Laughing Green Woodpeckers punctuated the morning a few times, but on the return journey I was stopped in my tracks by a nasal twang – sure enough a single Brambling seemed to be pecking at Silver Birch buds or catkins at the top of a tree.  This remained in place long enough for everyone to see it & was a ‘lifer’ for Pam.  A Swallow, some Shelduck & Greylag Geese flew over us when we reached the heath again.  A pair of yellowhammers stopped off briefly, and some Skylarks serenaded us.  A Roe Deer leaped through a crop & travelled away from us.  In this strange late Spring the obvious holes in the chorus were a lack of Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Cuckoo & Turtle Dove – let’s hope they will soon be with us.
When I got back home a Brambling turned up there too & on taking my nephew round the Sunk Island area we saw our first Cuckoo of the year.

Brambling - waiting for me at home
 Brambling - as it was during the Dawn Chorus
 Woodcock - seen by 2 people on the Dawn Chorus
(an old pic from Tophill Low)
 Brambling at Home
 Song Thrush - another unusual visitor at home
 Cuckoo - as photographed after the Dawn Chorus near Patrington

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Eyes Burning with Fire

Yesterday we travelled over the county border to try & find somewhere with hides & which holds 40-50 species.  The star bird was an elusive Black-necked Grebe.  Caroline was the first to spot it in the morning, and it also played hard to get in the afternoon, before eventually swimming right in front of the hide.  There were masses of House Martins & Swallows at first as the shower clouds lifted, then a few Swifts were sighted, as were a few Sand Martins.  
Other highlights included a stunning male Ruff, which was predominantly black spiced up with some burgundy & white.  We did see over 40 species.  Jim was the first to spot a Reed Warbler in a fairly scanty reedbed.  This was very hard to see at times, but everyone persevered until it has been seen well by all.  Both groups saw various phases of the Great Crested Grebe courtship dance, and Little Grebes made their presence felt with their whinnying/chittering calls.
Although we saw over 40 species, one disappointment was still the complete lack of passerine spring passage migrants apart from Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers & Blackcaps.  Let's hope they make it back soon!

Fiery Eyes
 Black-necked Grebe (c) 2012 Richard Whateley
 Reed Warbler
 Ruff - coming in to land
Great Crested Grebe - Courtship Dance 
 Great Crested Grebe - Synchronised
 Blue Tit - with a broken leg/foot
 Mute Swan
 Moorhen feeding young
The best Coot in the world (above) 
Pale Goose leading 2 Greylags

Thursday, 26 April 2012

2 Meds do not a Summer Make

We had a very wet start to the morning, and first settled down in Marshland Hide.  There were plenty of Avocets & Black-headed Gulls.  All last weeks’ nests & eggs on the right-hand island appeared to have disappeared, and many on the island on the left seemed to have gravitated to the centre of the island. So something has gone wrong since last week.  We saw the odd duck such as Pochard, Gadwall, Shoveler, and a Snipe was flushed from the far side of the reeds & came across for most people to catch a view. 
We waited for the rain to ease off a little before trying out Xerox Hide. This was full of gulls, but with the odd Avocet, but the best sighting here was a brief view of a Green Sandpiper – incorrectly reported as a Common Sandpiper at the visitor centre.  The rain meant that plenty of Swallows & a few Swifts were brought low over the water in front of the hides
A more prolonged dry spell saw us striking out to Singleton.  There were plenty of Marsh Harriers on view here: some perched in the open and as it got drier more took to the air.  However, the marsh harriers were eclipsed for some by a reeling Grasshopper Warbler just outside the hide.  Some participants got a brief glimpse of the bird outside, as it slipped away through the thick vegetation.  Unfortunately, neither camera was able to obtain an image, so the accompanying picture is one of last year’s birds taken elsewhere.
A massive group of birdwatchers from the Age of Aquarius arrived so the rest of the morning was taken up with evasive action.  We did see one Sedge Warbler indulging in bouts of its song flights, but there were fewer heard than normal for the time of year & Reed Warblers were noticeable for their absence.  
In the afternoon we started off at Singleton to try & avoid the massive group and we were very successful at evading them.  Although all the main suspects were present again the afternoon had a distinctive flavour all of its own.  For a start it was dry for almost the whole period!  We failed to hear & see the Grasshopper Warbler or Green Sandpiper again, but Eric’s sighting of a raptor being mobbed by a crow revealed itself to be a Short-eared Owl.  Later, a Harrier turned into a very late female Hen Harrier, which was seen well by all participants.  Finally at Xerox, we managed to find a beautiful summer-plumaged Little Gull among all the Black-headed Gulls, and a handsomely-plumed Little Egret quietly fishing.  I was checking the Gulls when I saw one with a more thickset bill, and a hood, which stretched much further down the back of its neck – a Mediterranean Gull. I’m not sure I would have been able to recognise this species if my memory hadn’t been refreshed only yesterday by Richard Hampshire at Tophill Low.
Grasshopper Warbler [Spurn - last year]

 Little Gull [left]
 Mediterranean Gull [left]
 Marsh Harrier
 Little Egret
Record shot of Hen Harrier 
All remaining pictures (c) 2012 Richard Whateley 
Marsh Harrier

Topsy-Turvy Seasons

We have been rained on quite a lot this week, so we fled to Tophill Low Tuesday & Wednesday where there are plenty of hides.  There was evidence of virtually all of the seasons, and the temperature was certainly cool during the rain showers.  However, in any prolonged sunshine it became quite warm.  The wildlife mirrored these topsy-turvy conditions.  The biggest surprise was a Swift at Watton Borrow Pits, and later seen all over the reserve. I can't remember when I last saw a Swift in April, usually they are first spotted in the first few days of May.  This year I've seen a Swift before a Sand Martin, which usually arrive in good numbers in March!  Just before lunch time Richard Hampshire, reserve warden, identified and photographed a Meditteranean Gull, but when the classes went to see it in pouring rain it had left South Marsh East, but no doubt it will return.

Other highlights included a Tawny Owl seen from the car park, a pair of Pintail [winter], a Yellow Wagtail Tues (pm) [spring], and many of the usual suspects.  The Leech located by Tony and Miles was less usual.  Overall we totalled over 50 species on each daily visit, which is an excellent tally considering the (at times) miserable weather conditions.

Swift (c) 2012 Richard Hampshire - a new earliest arrival site record?

Mediterranean Gull [right] (c) 2012 Richard Hampshire

Mediterranean Gull [right] (c) 2012 Richard Hampshire
 Pintail [drake] (c) 2012 Aileen Urquhart
 Pintail [female] (c) 2012 Aileen Urquhart
 Tawny Owl (c) 2012 Chris Cox
 Common Tern
 Willow Warbler
Reed Bunting
Kestrel with Prey
Shelduck (c) 2012 Aileen Urquhart
Marsh harrier (c) 2012 Tony Robinson
Record shot of Yellow Wagtail
Leech (c) (c) 2012 Tony Robinson
Bee Species