Thursday, 27 March 2014

Final Spring Far Ings Visit

On Wednesday we made our final visit to Far Ings this term.  The birds were very similar to previous visits.  The Snipe were fewer and harder to see.  We may have had a Jack Snipe in the afternoon.  In the morning we had good views of a nest-building Treecreeper, which Aileen went back to see during the lunch hour.  Both groups saw a male Marsh Harrier, and the afternoon session had a very lucky encounter with a Water Rail. 
Water Rail
 Reed Bunting (c) 2014 Aileen Urquhart
Goldfinch (c) 2014 Aileen Urquhart
 Pied Wagtail
 Treecreeper - nest-building
 Treecreeper - on way to nest
 Treecreeper - nearly there
 Treecreeper - still working (c) 2014 Aileen Urquhart
 Treecreeper - nesting material (c) 2014 Aileen Urquhart
 Great Crested Grebe (c) 2014 Aileen Urquhart
 Great Crested Grebe (c) 2014 Aileen Urquhart
 Record shot of Marsh Harrier
 Water Rail
 Water Rail

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Wooed by a Woodlark

On Tuesday we travelled all the way to the outskirts of York for the final time in 2014.  There was a Woodlark heard singing from the car park again, but the bird couldn't be located.

Treecreeper (c) 2014 Maggie Bruce
There was no sign of any wildlife in in the new glade, so we trudged on.  The Chiffchaff was heard singing in flight, before landing in last week's Silver Birch, and began singing properly.  It wasn't easy to see many details in the bad light.  As we neared the recently-ploughed field we heard and then saw a singing Willow Tit.  This was the first definite sighting of this species we've had at this venue this spring.
Record Shot of Singing Willow Tit
Record Shot of Yellowhammer
The Chiffchaff was in the same Silver Birch as last week, and when we reached the corner we had a Treecreeper and our first definite sighting of a male Willow Tit at this location this year.  Where we saw the Woodlark pair 10 days ago we struggled, but did find a few Yellowhammers and more Linnets.  Eventually we did see a pair fluttering above the main path & then they came nearer.  The female disappeared into thick vegetation, but the male twittered at us from the telegraph wire for several minutes.  The students watched in awe, and gasped in pleasure when they could hear the delightful notes emanating from the Woodlark's throat.  It was a little private concert, seemingly for our own pleasure. The supercilium could be seen, and the flecks on the bird's breast, but not much else.  After several minutes he flew down into a recently-ploughed field, and all the wonderful markings on his upperparts could be enjoyed.  The supercilium meeting at the back of his neck could be seen, as could the enormous hind claws and his relatively short tail. 
Woodlark - note protruding supercilium & enormous rear claws
Woodlark - note supercilium meeting at back of neck
Singing Woodlark
Ditto (c) 2014 Maggie Bruce
Woodlark 9c) 2014 Tony Robinson
Yaffle Torpedo - just after we left the Woodlark
There wasn't much to see on the reserve, and the journey back to the car park was quite uneventful.  The afternoon session started well with a very confiding Marsh Tit, but there was a sharp decline after that delightful sighting with not much seen of note.  We were right on the edge of a weather system with rain in York and bright sunshine to the east, and the activity was all shutdown after 11am.  The sun peeped out for 10 minutes at 2.30, but it wasn't enough to bring the birds out.
Crossbills (c) 2014 Tony Robinson
Tree Full of Crossbills (c) 2014 Tony Robinson
Scruffy Marsh Tit - been nest-building?
Last week some Wednesday morning stalwarts came to this location, and as well as the Woodlarks they found a large flock of Crossbills, sadly there was absolutely no sign of them today.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Friday at Far Ings

On Friday we went to Far Ings again.  The route was almost exactly the same as last Tuesday, so there is no new text to add.  Both groups had fleeting views of Kingfisher though.  Today's text can be read here
Great Crested Grebes
Great Crested Grebe
 Kestrel flies in - Tawny Owl's head goes up
 Record shot - eyes & bill of Tawny Owl can be made out, just

Friday, 21 March 2014

Synchronised Fishing

On Thursday we travelled the enormous distance into West Yorkshire for our second crack at RSPB Fairburn Ings.  There was a Bullfinch at the feeders really close to the visitor centre.  We tried the area round Pickup hide first where at least 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers were going at it each other "hammer and tongs".  I couldn't determine if the 3rd bird was a male or female, but they chased each other round and about for the best part of half and hour while we were watching.  Meanwhile a Green Woodpecker was laughing nearby and even did a fly past while we were trying to disentangle what the Great Spotteds were upto.  A Treecreeper was nearby, and a Willow Tit was singing, but we were too mesmerised by the woodpeckers for a while to take notice of the other species.  There was an amazingly confiding Robin in both visits to Pickup, which gave us our own concert.  At the feeders themselves were some Reed Buntings.
Pair of Kingfishers - Female [with lipstick on right]
Record shot of  Bullfinch
 Male Great Spotted Woodpecker
 Female Great Spotted Woodpecker
 Reed Bunting
 Confiding Robin
 Our Own Private Concert
At the Kingfisher screen we did see a pair, but they were quite distant.  We walked through a relatively barren wasteland to Bob Dickens hide, which was a lot quieter than last week, but we did see Oystercatchers, Gadwall, Teal, Goldeneye, and some rampant drake Shoveler, which chased a poor female round and round the lake.  Phil G spotted a Great Crested Grebe against the far bank, and eventually everyone managed to spot it.  
Distant Original View of Kingfishers
 Male Kingfisher with catch
We returned to the Kingfisher screen where we were rewarded with amazing close views of the pair, which even did some synchronized fishing as they both returned to their perch with a small fish in their bills.  Chris noted the identification difference that the female has some lipstick on her lower mandible, so he quickly picked her out. 
 Female Checking on the Male
 Both Kingfishers with Fish
On the return journey the Woodpeckers seemed to have banished the usurper, and were even drumming side by side.  The male on a vertical tree, and the female on a small branch at the top of a stump. 
Lesser Redpoll
 Canada Goose
In the afternoon the differences were a Lesser Redpoll near the feeders, and a Nuthatch, which I didn't know were present at the reserve.  There was also a Willow Tit singing near Bob Dickens hide.