On Friday we met at East Park for our final visit of 2014. Before the morning session started there was a Common Gull in pristine breeding plumage, but of course it had gone before everyone was ready to proceed. I can't remember seeing such a smart Common Gull in the park before. This week there was no Great Spotted Woodpecker in the poplar in the entrance, and not much else after a spaniel ran amok through the feeding gulls. So, we started off to slim pickings at first. The afternoon group had a brief view of a Sparrowhawk in a sycamore which then took off with its typical flap-flap-glide action before plunging down and making an attack on the Sparrows chattering in the bushes. Plenty of Blackbirds flew out of the area, and Jeff last spotted the hawk heading north along the line of gardens. Just a little further on we saw a male Great Spotted Woodpecker. Lynda hadn't seen one before her first session at Hornsea the other week, and now at East Park she enjoyed her best view so far.
Pair of Sparrowhawks
In the morning we enjoyed fairly good views of a singing Mistle Thrush just a little north from this area. Normally Mistle Thrushes give a fairly relaxed delivery, but this one seemed be singing with particular urgency. The is the first time we've heard one singing this year, so perhaps he is desperate to find a mate.
We were keeping an eye on the small alder trees and bushes when I was gobsmacked to spot a Jay. It was low down among the bare canes of the vegetation, and was quite tricky to see at first, but it was eventually flushed by a dog walker, so everyone managed to get decent views of it before it later flew to a more central area of the park. Although I heard a Jay in East Park last year, and had been told by the rangers that at least one was still there, I hadn't really believed it until we stumbled across it. This is a special bird you don't see in the Hull area every day of the week.
Lynda's Great Spotted Woodpecker
On to the model boating lake, but this was almost empty on both Friday visits, with just a few Friday Unmentionables and a couple of Black-headed Gulls and a single Common Gull in residence during the morning visit. We reached the first part of the 'serpentine' lake where we saw a pair of Tufted Ducks some mongrel unmentionables, and both adult and first winter Black-headed Gulls. From here in the morning we had our first glimpse of Goosanders, but they were swimming away from us.
We kept going until we reached the grassy mound. From here we could see some sleepy Pochard under the sweeping bare twigs on the island, and a large group of Goosanders sailing away from the far bank. We heard the squawking of the Ring-necked Parakeet from here and Jenny spotted it in a tree in front of a two-tone building, and although it was difficult among all the tangled twigs she was able to point it out to some of her classmates. As we reached the eastern edge of the grassy mound, some geese were hauling themselves into the water, and one of these was the lone Pink-footed Goose. It was here that there was a high-pitched song, and sure enough we enjoyed good views of a male Treecreeper. In the afternoon it had shifted to one of the trees along the main road nearer the Khyber Pass.
As the morning group reached the splashboat car park some tiny finches were spotted in a silver birch tree at just above head level. There were at least 6 Lesser Redpolls, but not the full 13 seen last week. In the afternoon the redpolls had moved on, just leaving 3 Goldfinches behind. Such excellent views of Redpolls hadn't been enjoyed before by some members of the class. On the lake next to the splashboat people were feeding the birds on both occasions. There was a single Mute Swan, plenty of mongrel unmentionables and quite a few Tufted Ducks of both genders. There was one confiding drake Pochard here in the morning, and 2 in the afternoon, and tucked away in a corner near the toilets block an unassuming female Pochard. The only one we saw in the whole visit. Why are there so many drake Pochard, and very few females? In the afternoon the rogue Pink-footed Goose flew in, and it was obviously a lot smaller, darker-headed and less big billed than the Greylags.
When we reached the main lake again the sightings of the Goosanders increased again with another large grouping, and a single Great Crested a Grebe was seen by both groups. That was the first sighting we'd had of this species in the park this year.
Great Crested Grebe
In the morning I spotted a male Sparrowhawk sunbathing on one of the islands. We moved around a little attempting to get an uninterrupted view from the many twigs of the tree it was sitting in. 10 minutes later a larger bird flew towards it, fluffed itself up, before settling down next to the male - it was the female. Unpaired males are said to have a lot of trouble finding suitable females. The size difference means that several males when approaching potential mates are killed and then eaten by the larger females. However, there was no antagonism between these 2 birds, so they were obviously a well-established pair. I've never seen a pair of Sparrowhawks sit side-by-side before, and I suspect few other birdwatchers have, but East Park is obviously the place to see it.
Sunbathing Male Sparrowhawk
Pair of Sparrowhawks
Larger Female Sparrowhawk [left] & smaller more colourful Male [right]
We circumnavigated the lake without a great deal of extra sightings, and the wind was rather fierce in our faces on the opposite bank, so we hurried through this part of the walk. As the morning group approached the cafe again the Pink-footed Goose was grazing on a mound behind the Greylags. Finally, we walked through a little conifer section south of the cafe, and here both groups had excellent views of a confiding Goldcrest, and a large group of foraging Long-tailed Tits. Such a view of a Goldcrest was new for John in the morning and only the second for at least one afternoon participant. It was an intimate experience, and a fitting conclusion to this visit of such a public venue.