Friday, 31 May 2013

Excursion into Wet & Dark N Yorkshire

This week, being half term, normal classes were in abeyance, so an exploration of Fylingdales Moor was planned.  However, on the heights a thick hill fog was present, so we retreated to lower heights around Forge Valley.   We visited the Birdwatcher's car park first, but then enjoyed a trek along the boardwalk.  The highlight here was a family of 3 Grey Wagtails collecting insects, presumably for some chicks in a nearby nest.  There were a few birds heard including Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blackcap, Goldcrest and a Willow Warbler was seen collecting insects.

The following photographs were taken in very challenging light conditions, so please bear this in mind.
Jay (c) 2013 Aileen Urquhart

Jay (c) 2013 Richard Whateley
Nuthatch (c) 2013 Aileen Urquhart
Nuthatch (c) 2013 Richard Whateley

Nuthatch (c) 2013 Aileen Urquhart
Marsh Tit (c) 2013 Aileen Urquhart
Ringed Marsh Tit (c) 2013 Richard Whateley
Closer Look at the Ring (c) 2013 Richard Whateley
Coal Tit (c) 2013 Aileen Urquhart

Great Tit (c) 2013 Richard Whateley

Erm, one of them (c) 2013 Richard Whateley
Female Chaffinch (c) 2013 Harriet Todd
Male Grey Wagtail (c) 2013 Richard Whateley

Record Shot of Grey Wagtail (c) 2013 Richard Whateley
Goldcrest (c) 2013 Richard Whateley
Willow Warbler (c) 2013 Richard Whateley
 (c) 2013 Richard Whateley
Toothwort (c) 2013 Harriet Todd
 Toothwort? (c) 2013 Richard Whateley
Unknown (c) 2013 Richard Whateley
There were some interesting flora including Pendulous Sedge, Ramsons, and a parasitic plant, which may be Toothwort (thanks Nancy for ID) and an unidentified white flowering plant.  Despite the appalling weather, we saw a nice selection of birds & flora.  In fact despite three weather all participants thought it would be well worth a visit as part of the normal classes in early may next year, when the migrants are just arriving.  

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Looking For Cuckoos

I don't often conduct trips on Sundays, but this Sunday was one of those. We started off at car park on the top of a 'hill' where it was actually warm for the 1st visit this year. There was a very noisy Whitethroat next to the car park, which we were able to see clearly as we waited for everyone to arrive. There were also a pair of Pied Wagtails in the car park, and a Meadow Pipit nearby in the long grass.
Cuckoo (c) 2013 Pauline Berriman

 Whitethroat (c) 2013 Pauline Berriman
 Whitethroat (c) 2013 Andy Leonard
We walked up to the next 'hill', and at the summit there was very little to see apart from a Robin feeding its partner, and a female Chaffinch pretending she was a flycatcher. 
The Path of Brian was very quiet, with just Reed Warblers grumbling from deep within the reedbed, and a silent Meadow Pipit perched on a teasel. A journey up into the old tip area resulted in a single Red-legged Partridge, and a Reed Bunting.
Meadow Pipit (c) 2013 Andy Leonard
 Willow Warbler (c) 2013 Pauline Berriman
 Willow Warbler (c) 2013 Paulien Berriman
The climb up the next 'hill' resulted in another Whitethroat and a Willow Warbler. A Great crested Grebe and a pair of Tufted Ducks were at the back of the lake and the female Heron was still hunkered down on her nest. A Bullfinch called mournfully nearby, but we couldn't see it. A Reed Warbler countered from a nearby reedbed, but it couldn't be seen.
Orange-Tip (c) 2013 Andy Leonard
 Orange-Tip (c) 2013 Andy Leonard
 Speckled Wood (c) 2013 Andy Leonard
 Coot (c) 2013 Pauline Berriman
 Rudd (c) 2013 Andy Leonard
 Mute Swans (c) 2013 Pauline Berriman

 The railway line really turned up trumps. First we had one male Cuckoo, but this soon went missing for a while. Later, it returned, but there was a second male around and they had a few spats as they dive-bombed each other. They kept us entertained for over half an hour. They were the first proper views of Cuckoos most of the participants had actually seen. We had a few flybys, but they were quite swift and neither photographer was able to get a photo when they were really close. It is possible that 2 brown doves seen briefly near the drain bank were Turtle Doves, but the view was so fleeting I couldn't be 100% certain. There was certainly no purring in the excellent weather conditions. The lack of Turtle Dove song is a worrying trend also noted on our last visit, and I just hope that they haven't abandoned the site.
 Cuckoo (c) 2013 Andy Leonard
 Cuckoo (c) 2013 Pauline Berriman
Cuckoo Being Mobbed (c) 2013 Pauline Berriman
Cuckoo Heading For Cover (c) 2013 Pauline Berriman

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Blacktoft's Bittern

Last Sunday, relative newcomers Dave & Joan Hill went to Blacktoft, where they enjoyed the evening sunshine.  They had reached Townend hide when Joan spotted a Bittern perched on top of the reeds.  It remained there for over 5 minutes, and then set off flying east.  Looking at the photos carefully, you may be able to make out a bluish colour at the base of the bill, so it should be a male bird.  This was the first time either Dave or Joan had seen a Bittern, so for them it was a special event - it isn't a bird you see every day, even along the Humber estuary in May.
All Bittern photos (c) 2013 Dave Hill

 The Blue at the Base of the Bill Shows Best in the Photo Below

 Doing an Impression of a Shearwater

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Spitting Feathers! (Nearly)

Gales and heavy showers were forecast for Friday, so we had to reluctantly drop our visit to our planned visit to a new Friday location and revert to Tophill Low instead. The wind may not have been actual gale force, but it was extremely strong, but luckily although we drove through rain to Tophill, it ceased before the session started, so we were able to remain dry throughout the day.
All photos (c) 2013 Andy Leonard
Great Crested Grebe
On the recommendation of the warden we headed south and were awestruck by the sight which greeted us by more than a thousand hirundines and Swifts feeding low in the lee of the trees surrounding the northern edge of 'O' reservoir. All 3 species of hirundine were represented with higher numbers of Sand Martin and Swallows in the morning, and very few House Martins. However, this changed through the day as numbers of House Martins were much higher after lunch. As we walked round the north edge of the reservoir in the afternoon I warned everyone to keep their mouths closed as House Martins whizzed so close to our faces. The unspoken comment being that if these aerial experts just strayed a few inches, then we'd be literally spitting feathers. The only birds actually on the reservoir were a pair of Great Crested Grebes.
The drainage on South Marsh East meant that we didn't locate a single bird here, but South Marsh West was much more rewarding. Here, the area in front of the hide was quite sheltered, so the group were able to enjoy good, if fairly brief views of both Sedge and Reed Warblers. A drake Pochard, and a pair of Tufted Ducks appeared to be the only birds on the water apart from some distant Mute Swans, which actually came to visit the pm crowd. Both groups also saw fly through Common Terns, with 3 in the morning and a single in the afternoon.
Wigeon (front) & Gadwall (above)

We carried on to Watton Borrow Pits were the jewels in the crown were on display. The rarest bird present was a Temminck's Stint. These waders are tiny, so most people could hardly discern this bird at all, but it was present the whole time, so everyone got to see its darkly dappled back through the telescope. There was also a pair of Common Sandpipers here. A few more birds had dropped in during the afternoon, including 2 first-summer Little Gulls, and several Cormorants, as well as a scattering of ducks: Gadwall, Pochard, and Tufted Ducks. Low down on the wooded island some white feathers could be glimpsed, and the extent of the feathers led to the suggestion that this partly hidden bird was probably a Little Egret. 

Record shot of Common Sandpiper
 Record Shot of Temminck's Stint
 Record Shot of Temminck's Stint
Despite the windy conditions a couple of Willow Warblers were in full song throughout the reserve, as was a Blackcap and the Reed and Sedge Warblers, but the numbers of passerines seen was quite low, although a pair of Yellow Wagtail flushed as I left on the approach road was a nice ending. However, a large regret was being unable to find the first-summer Pied Flycatcher found in South Scrub by the gents of Yorkshire Coast Nature. That is a site rarity, and hardly ever seen in its black-and-white finery in East Yorkshire. They informed me exactly where to look, but by the time we reached the bush after 3pm, it seemed to have moved on. 
Although it wasn't an absolutely classic spring visit to Tophill Low, it was a lot better than may have been expected in such adverse conditions, and a big improvement than we would have encountered at an unsheltered site. 
Tufted Ducks