Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Perils of Venturing into Lincolnshire!

On Wednesday I'd arranged permission to visit one of the jewels in Lincolnshire wildlife's crown, giving a month's notice to look round, so hopes were high, especially as we were there on the brightest day for some time. We went to the Main hide to find a group of massive lenses sprinkled liberally around the hide, just leaving the top right hand corner completely free. We were OK going up this side of the hide, but there wasn't room for everyone, so 4 participants needed to go to the other side. 

Willow Tit
From the hide itself the rest of us saw a Great Crested Grebe, plus Pochard, Shoveler, and in the afternoon a Water Rail fluttered across from under the hide, concealing itself immediately in the right hand reedbed fragment. A strange grey bird seemed to be sitting statically near Reedy Hide during our afternoon visit. It was right on the edge of our sight. So it was very hard to make anything of it without a telescope. Was it the back of a male Sparrowhawk, but someone else suggested an owl? Eventually it moved, when it was possible to discern it was a Grey Squirrel gorging itself on Hawthorn berries.  
After this we walked along the LOTR tunnel, and in the morning we crossed the road & then went round the new lake area where we saw Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal and Friday unmentionables & a couple of us saw a male Bullfinch. After lunch we went the traditional way. I checked out the brand new hide, but could only see 6 Teal, so it wasn't worth the group's while visiting that hide. 
The Back of local wild life
On the river bank we saw 3 Bar-tailed Godwits and a few Redshanks dotted widely on the estuary mud. In the afternoon though the river was almost as far out as it ever gets, and all the birds had vanished with just a few scattered gulls travelling up the Humber. 
Bar-tailed Godwits
 Bar-tailed Godwit
From Reedy Hide we could see looking into the glare of the sun: Great Crested Grebes, Cormorants, Shoveler. Unfortunately, when we arrived there after lunch a work party had come out into the open and were burning reeds, so all the wildfowl had fled, only Coots had taken up residence in the water furthest from the smoke. Maureen cracked open her gorgeous mince pies for the morning group, which helped calm things down after the rancid encounter in the first hide. 
Work Party
 We made our way along the northern edge of the reserve, but everything was very quiet here with just an occasional Redwing seen in the morning, and Magpies and Grey Squirrel in the afternoon. In the deeper water near the hotel there were a good number of Tufted Ducks with one very handsome drake Goldeneye. The plan was then to sit in the hide opposite the hotel and wait to see if the Kingfisher was around. Unfortunately, a photographing cyclist had set up this public hide with camouflage netting over the window slits. When I peeped through a crack in the door I was met with the staring glare of the occupant, and felt I couldn't introduce my students into this intimidating environment. My participants were requested to pay a nominal fee for the pleasure of visiting this site,  and now they were being denied access to the public hide with a possible Kingfisher.
 In the afternoon at the visitor centre I queried this use of a public hide by a photographer. The person manning the desk, said that such behaviour was not authorised by the trust, and we should have confronted the photographer, and entered the hide anyway. We've never seen this anti-social behaviour happen before, but now we know what to do if this should ever happen again. 

The afternoon group had a very pleasant encounter with a Willow Tit, which was almost an adequate compensation for being unable to get into the Kingfisher hide, which was still being commandeered by the photographer. We then shared cars to the visitor centre, which is open every Wednesday afternoon. The morning group encountered a very handsome Heron, and saw another distant example. Our visit raised £17 for the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust with just 2 people refusing to contribute. It was unfortunate that what should have been a pleasant day in glorious weather should have been spoiled by the selfish actions of couple of Yellowbellies.  And I thought Yorkshire people had a rather unfriendly reputation....

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

What Can Stratford Have to Offer?

One of the Thursday Stalwarts has recently moved to the relatively wildlife-free (compared with East Yorkshire) West Midlands.  He will have to travel a lot further to connect with waders and many of our other specialities.  However, there are compensations.  He has this colourful female visitor in his garden most mornings between 8 and 8.30 am.  
All pictures (c) 2013 Richard Whateley
Professor Yaffle
 Tongue Visible
 Here she is again
I'm just waiting now for his pictures of Hawfinches in the Wyre   Forest.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Looney Tunes

How to end the Tuesday groups with a bang? The Snow Buntings have departed from Paull, but there were 2 Great White Egrets at Hornsea or a Black-throated Diver at North Cave Wetlands. As the weather looked cold and miserable, I didn't think it was right to inflict the very cold east coast on everyone, so we went to North Cave Wetlands instead. 
We walked to South hide first, and on the way we had quite good views of an immature male Marsh Harrier. We sat down quietly in the hide, and there was the Black-throated Diver at the back behind the pontoon. It swam all round the lake and at times rose up in the water and flapped its wings, and even flew off & left the lake altogether. However after a few minutes it did return, and during our time there it eventually came right in front of the hide, and everyone got decent views. It was another dismal grey day, but it was possible to discern the faint white semi-circles on the back of what is a juvenile bird. In ten years of these classes, this was the first ever sighting of this particular species. It was a 'lifer' for the vast majority of participants, and was certainly the best Black-throated Diver I've ever seen.

Black-throated Diver (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce
 Black-throated Diver (c) 2013 Chris Cox
 All Remaining Pics (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce
Black-throated Diver
 Black-throated Diver & Great Crested Grebes
 Black-throated Diver
A Snipe flew in and there were a few Pochard, Tufted Ducks, and a pair of Great Crested Grebes sharing the lake with the diver. Apparently, if we'd been half an hour earlier we'd have also seen a Kingfisher!
There were a few Lapwing from Crosslands hide, but not much else of note. 
Great Crested Grebes
 Black-headed Gull & Great Crested Grebe
 Cormorant & Lapwing
 Record Shot of a Fieldfare
On a circuit of the reserve there were Gadwall, but not much else on Carp Lake. We found a pair of Bullfinches in the hedgerow, but the severe diggings on the other side of the hedge seemed to have frightened off most other birds. As we neared the furthest edge many birds were flying out ahead of us. This were mainly Fieldfare and Redwing, but the light conditions prevented decent views. There was some gentle twittering in the alder trees next to us, and eventually we all enjoyed stunning views of a confiding Goldcrest. It was actually so close you didn't need binoculars to watch it.

Record Shot of Fieldfare
 Greylag Geese
Reedbed lake was almost bereft of birds, but we did notice a Common Gull and 2 drake Shovelers. We could see the Marsh Harrier again, which was flushing group after group of Teal.
From Turret hide there were dozens of Teal, but very little else. 
From First Hide we could see plenty of Wigeon, which seemed to be absent from all the other areas. We scoured the area for Snipe, but were unable to find a single example. A day without a Little Grebe at NCW is slightly unusual, but we failed to find one today. 

Monday, 2 December 2013

Hornsea Great White Egret

There have been a couple of Great White Egrets at Hornsea Mere for some time now.  Maggie Bruce went to see them yesterday afternoon and got some decent shots of this bird.  She was amazed that this was a species I'd not yet seen in the UK, so I sneaked off in the miserable dank of this afternoon to see if I could connect with them.  

Going to Kirkholme Point and looking out to 'Cormorant' Island there were several white shapes, but these all proved to be Mute Swans.  However, a birder for Rotherham was present, and he was kind enough to swing his telescope round to two white dots on the south east edge of a reedbed, and there they were.  Through binoculars there yellow bill couldn't really be made out, but it could easily be seen through his scope.  Less than a minute later they took off & at first seemed to be heading off west, but then they turned and eventually passed directly overhead, and then made to a tree on the northern edge of the Mere, in which they seemed to intend to roost - it was 3.15pm on a prematurely dark afternoon.  I'm sure this is a bird we are going to see more of in the years to come, and as they are larger than our bog standard Herons are a welcome addition to out avifauna.  

Also present were Goldeneye, Wigeon, Pochard, Teal, Pied Wagtails and a Black Swan.  Driving round the Mere a Great Spotted Woodpecker was added to the haul.
All photos (c) Maggie Bruce
Great White Egret

Sunday, 1 December 2013

All Quiet on the Tophill Front

 On Friday even though we'd had to visit Tophill Low earlier this term because of bad weather, we visited again on the appointed day. The weather wasn't very good first thing, so really Tophill was the best option anyway.
We struck off south, and stopped first at the O reservoir screen. There wasn't an awful lot to see, apart from a Swan a few Tufted Ducks, and a single drake Shoveler.
 Face on
We carried on to the back-to-back hides, but there wasn't a great deal to see there - just a couple of a Carrion Crows. We could hear some distant Curlews, but there was absolutely no sign of them.
We plunged through the South Scrub area to Watton Borrow Pits. We came across a flock of 15 or so Long-tailed Tits. There were more birds there then anywhere else, but not as much as usual at the time of year. There was a nice group of a Wigeon, and a lurking Heron by the side of the reeds. There were 2 drake Goldeneyes, which were the best birds here. When we first arrived there were a few Teals flying round and round at speed and almost looking like waders Surprisingly there were no waders, and 3 Cormorants weren't adequate compensation.  
Late November Colours
 Long-tailed Tit
 Taking Off
We went all the way round the O reservoir and eventually found a small flock of Goldcrests. And while we were watching them a Siskin was heard flying over.
Mute Swans
We hurried back to D Reservoir, and this was where hundreds of wildfowl could be seen. There was one Shelduck, loads of a Tufted Ducks and Coots, plus a few Pochard, and at least 3 drake Goldeneyes and perhaps the females went into double-figures.  
Common Gulls
In the afternoon we tracked down the same small flock of Goldcrests, close to one of 3 flocks of Long-tailed Tits we encountered scattered around the southern site. The wind had changed direction, and D Reservoir was a more pleasant experience, and there was evidence that the large gull roost was beginning to gather...