Friday, 31 August 2012


It is back to school on Monday so this weekemd is the last chance for some serious birding before the half term holiday in October.
My friend Chris picked me up at 0700 and off we set in some pleasant early morning sunshine.We had only managed to see eight different birds on the way to Spurn and the best of those was a sparrowhawk.
The tide was goingout at we got to Spurn and our first birdwatching near the Crown and Anchor pub gave us nice views of shelduck,dunlin,redhank and golden plover.
When we entered the seawatching hide at Spurn, we soon gathered from the birders already in the hide, that it was a quiet morning. On the horizon some six miles away we could see some gannets circling, but luckily for us there were birds a bit closer to shore. A sinle sanderling was running up the beach, and a few sandwich terns were flying north. A couple of arctic skuas flew south, after a couple of hours we had only seen eight different species of birds.
We decided to visit the can scrape hide and look for some birds there. A pair of mute swans were there, with as Chris remarked a very small cygnet. Coot, little grebe, greylag geese and mallard were also visible. Meadow pipits were flying about and a pair landed in front of us, giving Chris a chance to get some photos. A male wheatear had stopped off on his long journey back home to Africa, and again gave Chris a chance to get a photo. We also saw reed and sedge warbler, and then the other birder in the hide saw a redstart. We had to move down to his end of the hide to see the bird, and we also saw a whitethroat.
Time to move on to Kilness Wetlands or Beacon Lagoons. Only a pair of mute swans were to be seen at the wetlands and the walk to the laggons was only rewarded with a few sandwich ternsand grey herons.
We walked along a path that had just been cut, as it is a no go area during the breeding season and I walked on to Sammys Point whilst Chris drove. A nice male wheatear greeted me as I started down the path and reminded me of the good time we had spent on Unst. A buzzard was circling over a field near the car park.
Nothing much to be seen as we walked back to where Chris had parked the car, until Chris spotted a bird in a hawthorn bush, another, or perhaps the same female redstart. We also saw a chiifchaff in the nearby bushes.
Time to go home after another goods days birding with a total of 53 species seen.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Hartlepool !

It started on Saturday when my good friend Chris sent me a text saying that he was going to go to Hartlepool on Sunday. I replied that I would like to go and so he picked me up at 07.20.
Our first stop was Hartlepool Headland where we planned to spend time looking out to sea in the hope of seeing some rare birds such as skuas and shearwaters.It was very quiet with only a few gannets and gulls flying by, so we decided to walk towards the harbour and fish dock. The tide was coming in and a few cormorants, great black backed gulls oysterctachers and a ruff were standing on the little bits of rock that the tide had not reached.
We then decided to go to the Spion Kop cemetry, another place Chris had been before. There were a few birders about and we were soon looking for wheatears and whinchat. After a while we found the birds close together, so Chris decided to go for his camera. Whilst he was away a sparrowhawk flew over, chased by magpies. By the time that Chris returned with hsi camera the whinchat had gone. We managed to relocate it.
As we made our way out of Hartlepool,Chris pulled into a little car park over looking the shore and Hartlepool Headland. A small flock of birds were stood on the bit of beach the tide had not reached, we soon saw sanderling, knot, ringed plover, purple sandpiper and a little stint.
We called in at saltholme RSPB reserve on our way home and spent some time in the Phil Stead hide. here we saw water rail, geenshank, snipe, reed warbler, garganey, little egret and lots of sand martins flying low over the water. Our daily total of birds had now reached 62, not bad from a slow start.
Next stop was South Gare, where lots of boat spotters were watching a couple of boats going out to sea.We saw three birders and walked over to talk to them.They said that a barred warbler was in the bushes in front of us. After a few minutes the bird appeared briefly before flying away. I got slightly better views than at Spurn.The bird had only flown a few yards, so we were able to go and look for it again. This time I was able to get very good views of it and was happy with having barred warbler on my list.Our list had now grown to 70 birds for the day and our last stop was to be Scaling Dam. Here we added common sandpiper and meadow pipit to the list which when we added a pheasant on the way home gave us a good total of 73 birds. Thanks fo another great day out Chris.

Beacon Ponds

The story starts the night before when my friend Chris sends a text suggesting a day out.The question is where, Frampton Marsh for red-necked phalarope or Spurn for barred warbler? Chris had devised a plan for the day. Set out for the Humber Bridge and make a decision about where to go just before we reached it. He checked his pager and no reports of phalarope from Frampton Marsh and no reports of anything from Spurn! Heads you win tails you loose, lets go to Spurn I said. Our first port of call was Kilnsea Wetlands or Bracon Lagoons according to the sign. Chris had been here before but this was my first visit. From the car park we could see a long line of curlew in the field opposite, and three little egrets on the ponds.From the hide we could see, common and sandwich terns, ringed plover and a wheatear.

We then decided to go to Beacon Ponds. Before the wetlands opened I had always got to the ponds by walking along the beach, but Chris knew how to get to the ponds from the new reserve. On the way we saw several butterflies, a wall and a common blue.

we soon reached Beacon Ponds and saw lots of birds. There was a large flock of grey plover still in summer plumage and they looked magnificent in the sunshine. Three greenshank were feeding at the left hand end and we also saw whimbrel, oystercatchers,wigeon, ruff and little terns. We then decided to go back to the car and continue onto Spurn. As we reached the hide at the welands a lady came out and asked if we could identify a bird for her and her family. They were new to birdwatching and thought that the bird they could see was a golden plover, but they were not sure.We looked from the hide and were able to confirm that it was a golden plover, we were also able to see some curlew sandpipers.We decided to go back to beacon Ponds with the family and show them some of the birds there and they were able to look through Chris's telescope.
After saying goodbye to them we drove to Spurn and went to the Canal Scrape hide where we saw a reed warbler.The person in the information centre told us that the barred warbler was showing well near the Blue Bell cafe se we went back and joined the small crowd looking for the bird. We soon saw goldfinches and a whitethroat and then a fleeting glance of the barred warbler.We the made our way home via sammys point and North Cave where we were able to increase our totla of birds seen for the day to 59.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Around Unst

During our stay on Unst we visited several areas which are well worth a visit, if you are ever on the island.Hermaness in the north has wonderfull views of Muckle Flugga, and can be quite exciting as you walk across the moors to the coast when the "bonxies" are nesting. The sight of the seabirds nesting on the cliffs is not to be missed.

Another site to visit is the Keen of Hamar, a must for flower lovers. This stoney desert has some very rare flowers, including frog orchid.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Dining at Uyeasound!

The youth hostel at Uyeasound has a conservatory facing Uyeasound. Every morning I would sit here eating my breakfast and watching other diners!

Along the shoreline, turnstones and ringed plovers were busily feeding. Arctic terns were flying up and down in the Sound, their tireek cries clearly audible. Fulmars would glide by looking for their breakfasts whist the gannets were diving into the sound on a regular basis. They would often stay sat on the water after a dive, which I presumed to mean that they had caught a fish and were swallowing it. However their peace was often shattered by the "bonxies". The birds would chase a gannet and force it to land in the sea. They would continue to chase the gannets until the gannet was so tired that it would regurgitate its latest catch.The chasing bonnxie would then eat this, but quite often another bonxie would fly in to steal what the gannet had just "coughed" up.
After my evening meal i would sit in the conservatory and watch the birds flying up and down the sound, and gulls used to fly past and one evening a glaucous gull joined the flock, but was soon seen off by the the herring gulls.

Unst part two etc.

To get to Unst I had to catch 3 buses and two more ferries. The first bus is a service bus, which picks you up outside the ferry terminal. It goes via Sullam Voe oil terminal, which is a bit of a detour, and more expensive! After about an hour the bus arrived at Toft and time to catch the ferry to Yell. The crossing to Yell takes about half an hour and gave me chance to go on deck and watch gannets diving into the sea close to the ferry. Arctic terns were also flying about close to the ferry.
The ferry from Toft takes you to Ulsta which is the place to catch the bus to Guthcer to catch the ferry to Unst. The journey across Yell is about half an hour and you dont pass through any viaage of any size. I noticed that the crofters piled their hay in "stooks" not bales as here at home. I guess that this is due to the fact that crofts are smaller than our farms and their is no need for machinery. I also noticed several sites where the islanders have been cutting peat.
Gutcher is a small ferry terminal and the ferry is not very large. A triangular route operates here, and you have to be alert or you could end up on a ferry going to Fetlar instead of Unst! After a ten minute crossing I set foot on Unst some 27 hours after I left York!
The "last" bus was waiting and it was only a short journey to the youth hostel at Uyeasound.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Unst we go!

Tuesday August 7th and I am off to Unst,Shetland for a few days. My journey starts at York railway station at 7.30am to catch the train to Aberdeen. The train journey was pleasant, not too many people on the train, so I had a window seat and was able to enjoy the views of the coast once we had left Newcastle. In Aberdeen it was a short walk from the rail station to the ferry terminal, and shortly after I arrived it started to rain very heavily.
The ferry sails from Aberdeen to Shetland via Kirkwall and I spent a lot of time on deck, it was windy, but the sea was fairly calm and a pleasant sunset. When the boat docked it was time to catch a bus for the next leg of the journey to Unst.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Bolton Percy Station Yard

Today is the last day to take part in the big butterfly count, so my granddaughter and I set off for Bolton Percy. When we got there at 11am it was hot and sunny, when we left an hour later it was thundering, lighting and large hailstones were falling!
We saw large white, small white, green-veined white,common blue,ringlet,meadow brown,gatekeeper and comma.

Overhead a couple of common buzzards were calling, a sparrowhawk was mobbed by swallows and house martins. In the bushes we saw blackbirds, robin, chaffinch, bullfinch and great tit.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

201 not out

As fellow birdwatchers will know we keep a list of the birds we see each year. Before todays outing with Chris I had seen 198 different birds this year, Chris has seen 251. The weather forecast was for showers so we decided against a seawatch and Chris planned a circular route that did not take us too far.
First port of call was North Cave Wetlands, where according to reports we could see some redstarts. Sadly we did not see any redstarts but we did see a yellow legged gull, which was my 199th bird of the year. We left the wetlands for a neary "manor", which is supposed to be good for red kite, no kites but a common buzzard. South now over the Humber Bridge and into Lincolnshire and to Alkborough. Here we had a short walk and saw lots yellow wagtails, and my 200th bird for the year a spoonbill (3 actually). Our next and last stop was at Blacktoft Sands where we topped up our list for the day to 66 birds and I saw my 201st bird, a green sandpiper.

Friday, 3 August 2012

North Cave Wetlands

The weather on Wednesday night was better than predicted so I decided to visit North Cave Wetlands. No special birds to see but nice views of common terns, who were feeding their young. Several dragonflies about but none landed long enough to allow me to get a decent photo.