Monday, 30 September 2013

Thin as a Rail

On Friday morning the group met in a tiny village next to a ancient site and plunged down a steep hill to the car park.  As someone else had just arrived we turned right and made a long walk to a brand new hide up some steps.  We flushed a pair of Green Sandpipers on the way, but didn't see an awful lot of birds here.  We were able to watch for several minutes a very smart Fox, and even saw it pounce on some prey.  Only a few minutes later, Alison pointed out another predator on the opposite side to us.  Hidden in the trees was a female Barn Owl.  unfortunately, as we were watching her she moved higher up the tree and was soon lost to sight before everyone managed to lock on to her.  When we arrived at the hide we found the only birds were visible from the far right window.  There were plenty of dabbling Teal, and about 5 Ruff, all of different sizes and plumages.
Water Rail
 Barn Owl
 Otter Prints
We retraced our steps and headed for the site's main hide.  On the way we saw some clear Otter prints, where the animal had hauled itself out of the water, and climbed a steep bank.  As we reached the hide at least 1 or possibly 2 Kingfishers flew away.  Later, in the hide one was visible for a few seconds as it flew west.  Then about 20 minutes later 2 flew past over the water and headed towards the NW corner of the reserve.  It seemed as though one was chasing another out of its territory.   
Reed Bunting
 Immature Ruff
 Small Tortoishell
From the hide at least 70 Avocets were busy feeding, while slightly fewer Black-tailed Godwits were roosting on the edge of the water.  A couple of Ruffs flew in later.  A distant Marsh Harrier drifted over the reeds ahead of us, but was lost to sight fairly quickly.  Some Curlews flew from behind the hide, but only 1 dropped in front so us, the others disappeared over the reeds.  A flock of ducks arrived, which included a pair of Shovelers.  A Little Egret stalked a channel very close to the hide, but ultimately kept its distance. However, the highlight here was a Water Rail, which crossed from one patch of reeds to another right in front of the hide.  Nearly everyone got very decent views.  On the way back we saw a brief glimpse of a flying Greenshank as it flew towards the area we had just left. 
Water Rail
 Water Rail Scuttling for cover

Friday, 27 September 2013

Two For the Price of One

On Thursday we went to Paull Holme Strays.  We walked east from the Fishermen's Car Park, and on both sessions the tide was fairly high.  There were a few Curlews, and Redshank flying swiftly east just above the very still water.  When we reached ares of exposed mud we were able to locate small flocks of Ringed Plovers, the odd Knot and very busy Dunlin.  An occasional Godwit was seen, and on one occasion one Black-tailed Godwit flew past accompanied by 3 Bar-tailed Godwits.  There were plenty of Friday unmentionables in the river just away from the rocks, and these were accompanied by 3 eclipse Wigeon, and a slightly larger flock of Teal.

As we approached the end of the flood bank we flushed a small charm of Goldfinches which were feeding on the seed heads of various teasles and members of the thistle family.  At the tip of the bank we could hear a constant chatter, which came from a group of 1000+ Golden Plovers resting on the mud.  In the morning a Hobby powered through the plovers sending them up into a Mexican wave, while a Peregrine in the afternoon sent them scything the air just above our heads.  They left their roosting area never to return during the time of our stay.  

The Hobby was the star of the morning, and the immature peregrine the highlight of the afternoon.  This latter was circling around when we first spotted it, and seemed to be attacking a bird on the water.  It later transpired that it must have caught a feral pigeon, and then dropped it.  The pigeon was badly injured, but still alive.  it managed to swim ashore by flapping its weeks, and hauled itself out on the water, where it sat drying itself on the mudflats.  It is not known if it was well enough to survive from that point.  It was inaccessible to be rescued by any of our party.

The coo-ee of a Grey Plover punctuated the air at times, but apart from an individual flying north on one occasion and another distant bird on the mudflat these remained out of sight.  

On the area created to take excessive floodwater were a few Curlew, Redshank, Lapwings and at least 3 Little Egrets.  On the afternoon return journey we also flushed a Greenshank - the first I've ever seen in that particular venue.  There was very little to see round the church, but a male Tawny Owl called twice after we had passed that way in the morning.  The ivy was crawling with wasps, but also featured Red Admirals, Small Tortoiseshells, and in the afternoon a pair of Commas. 

Golden Plover
 Curlew (c) 2013 Richard Whateley
  Curlew (c) 2013 Richard Whateley
  Curlew (c) 2013 Richard Whateley
  Ringed Plover (c) 2013 Richard Whateley
 Knot, Ringed Plover & Dunlin  (c) 2013 Richard Whateley
 Wigeon  (c) 2013 Richard Whateley
 Goldfinch  (c) 2013 Richard Whateley
 Bar-tailed Godwit  (c) 2013 Richard Whateley
 Golden Plovers (c) 2013 Richard Whateley
 Golden Plovers
 Golden Plovers
 Golden Plovers
 Golden Plovers
 Red Admiral (c) 2013 Richard Whateley
 Small Tortoiseshell (c) 2013 Richard Whateley

I gave myself an extra 15 minutes to get to Tuesday's location, but there was a terrible snarl up round the centre of Hull, so I wished I'd given myself even longer to get to Blacktoft Sands.  It was a very grey day, so there were no photo opportunities.

We started off at Singleton, which despite the murk we could just about make out a Spotted Crake skulking in the reeds, and a more obliging Pectoral Sandpiper.  There was also a Water Rail, some Black-tailed Godwits, a couple of Spotted Redshanks and a juvenile Ruff.  Aileen & Tony arrived early and they saw a Marsh Harrier, but in the wind-free conditions, this species remained out of sight for the rest of the group.

There wasn't as much variety at Townend, just a large sprinkling of Redshank, and a single Spotted Redshank at the rear.  However, a nice mixed flock of Ruff flew in later, so it was possible to discern some of the characteristics of the varied states of non-breeding plumages.  

We went on to Marshland, and new birds here included a Greenshank and a pair of Green Sandpipers.  There was the distant sound of some Bearded Tits, but we couldn't get decent views.  There were a few more Ruff here, some Snipe and quite a few Lapwings.  There were also a couple of Black-tailed Godwits.  A few Shoveler looked as they were almost about to come out of eclipse.

Xerox had some more Snipe, plenty of eclipse Teal and Shoveler, while another Ruff dropped in.  First hide was very poor with just a few scattered Teal, but some Tree Sparrows flew in on occasions to drink some "fresh water."

Ruff taken at an earlier date

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Start of Autumn Course

We met at the Blue Bell car park at Kilnsea, and shared cars to Kilnsea Wetlands. From the car park everyone was looking south-west at a bare patch in a large green field.  It was full of perhaps as many as 100 Curlews.  Large flocks of Golden Plovers were flying overhead, seemingly disorientated in the slightly misty conditions.  It was high tide on the Humber, so there was a massive gathering of roosting waders at the edges of the ever-decreasing water-levels on Kilnsea Wetlands.  These included: Redshank, Dunlin, Little Egrets, Cormorants and some lucky participants were able to spot a Little Stint through a telescope.  The mass of waders also contained a few Bar-tailed Godwits, one of which was particularly tawny in colour.  Many of the Dunlin were still in full breeding plumage, and there were at least 2 Greenshanks at the back of the area.  The tiny hide was already full, so we had to spot what we were able to see through the slats of the approach to the hide.  A couple of times a Ruff flew past us, but never gave good views on the ground.  

After half an hour we made a hike to the east, so were able to look down on some waders on Beacon Ponds.  Here, the highlights were some Grey Plovers in full stonking breeding plumage.  We had also seen a large flock of Golden Plovers landing in a tilled field.  Chris went to examine these while the rest of us made our way to our appointment at the new ringing laboratory.

Here the group were able to watch as Paul and Tim were ringing a female Great Tit, a male Blue Tit, some Meadow Pipits, a couple of immature Goldfinches and a few Greenfinches.  They learned about the use of mist nets and the different sized rings needed for different species.  They heard about the 1 million Meadow Pipits which breed on Iceland - some of which pass rough Spurn on their way further south.

After the ringing we went on to Canal Scrape, where we just missed seeing a Kingfisher, although Chris was luckier as he arrived a couple of minutes ahead of us.  There was a Snipe feeding away here, plus a Mute Swan and plenty of immature Moorhens.

As we left must of the class caught a glimpse of a young, dark brown Lizard attempting to bask on a wooden spar.  Maggie attempted to take some pictures, but it soon disappeared into the long grass.

Unusually for Spurn it was wind-free, which made is a very uncharacteristic Autumn day at Spurn, but a gentle start to the Autumn term.  

The afternoon was a lot trickier, but we did see a distant Spotted Flycatcher perched on telegraph wires as we waited for the ringing to start. 

The 2 visits to the ringing lab resulted in £85 being raised to the Spurn Bird Observatory Trust.

All pics (c) 2013 Chris Cox

 Immature Ringed Plover
 Roosting Waders (mainly Redshank)
Golden Plovers

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Autumn Returns

Lesser Whitethroat

Only one week before the 10-week Autumn (Migration) term  begins on 23rd of September.  There are still spaces available on Tuesday pm, and Friday pm. If you are interested in another session, please ask.  For at least 2 hours a week encounter the natural world as a completely new sensual experience.  You'll be amazed what you'll find just by listening, and not only be looking!  In the Autumn we'll be paying special attention to trying to see birds on migration. We should be having 2 trips to observe bird ringing at 2 different coastal locations.  Specific birds we'll be hoping to see include: Shrikes, Chats, Short-eared Owls, Knot, Godwits, Red Kite, Kingfisher and nearly 100 other bird species!  So, if you are interested in learning more about your local wildlife in beautiful and secluded venues for less than £10 a week, then this is the course for you! We visit a different local hotspot each week and identify all the birds and as much other wildlife as we can. Each session lasts at least 2 hours. The course runs twice daily Tuesday to Friday. If you are interested in more details of the course, or wish to be placed on a waiting list, please leave a comment next to one of my posts or email me on the address in the box on the right.