Today started off very badly just as forecast with heavy driving rain. The participants arrived in good time, and remained ensconced in their cars as the rain lashed down. From the look on everyone's faces they didn't expect it to clear up before the class was about to start. However, just as the class was due to begin the rain suddenly stopped and we were able to go ahead as planned. The weather continued to improve and after only 30 mins a large patch of blue appeared. Several 'students' had to pay the extortionate parking fees before we shared cars to a reserve hidden behind a housing estate.On arrival we repaired to the large 'L-shaped' hide. The best bird was a Black-tailed Godwit, but after half an hour an Avocet flew in. It's the latest I ever remember seeing one in Yorkshire. In the afternoon a Curlew was also seen from this hide. Other birds included several Teal, which had emerged from their eclipse plumage, but after checking thoroughly we couldn't find a single Snipe, which is normally common on this reserve at this time of the year.
Avocet (c) 2012 Aileen Urquhart
Black-tailed Godwit (c) 2012 Aileen Urquhart
A visit to the smaller hide resulted in a few Wigeon, and a pair of Gadwall, and a few Tree Sparrows at the feeding station. However, the finest performance was put on by a female Sparrowhawk being mobbed by several Crows and Magpies. In the morning we went on to the cliff tops where we added Guillemots, Gannets, Shags and Cormorants, and several exhausted Redwings arrived from the sea running the gauntlet of a hunting Peregrine. In the afternoon we walked on the beach where we enjoyed close views of Oystercatchers, Turnstones and Redshank. There were no other waders, which was rather surprising and the lack of Red-throated Divers, Eiders and Grey Seals was another disappointment.
Carrion Crow (too much white bread)(c) 2012 Aileen Urquhart
Sparrowhawk being mobbed (c) 2012 Aileen Urquhart
On Tuesday we were able to visit our planned location: Tophill Low, but we did so in the teeth of a ferocious wind. A hurricane hadn't been forecast for our visit, just as it hadn't 25 years before a previous non-existent hurricane, but the winds were certainly very strong. This can be seen in the water flying out of 'O' reservoir. Highlights included 2 female Sparrowhawks sparring over D reservoir for 5 minutes in the morning & 2 Chiffchaffs in the afternoon. The site exhibited strong apartheid tendencies with only Gadwall on North Lagoon, only Teal on South Marsh East, and only Tufted Ducks on 'O' Reservoir. However, there was plenty of racial integration at Watton Borrow Pits, which held several more species including Great Crested Grebe, Wigeon, Curlew, Cormorants and a few others. One morning participant remained behind and was able to photograph a Willow Tit on the feeders
Great Crested Grebe
Great Crested Grebe
Drinking Water Blowing Away
Record Shot of Grey Wagtail
2 Female Sparrowhawks Sparring (c) 2012 Maggie Bruce
Willow Tit (c) 2012 Maggie Bruce