Saturday, 26 January 2013

Scarborough in winter sunshine.

Chris kindly picked me at noon and off we went to Scarborough. Chris had checked out the roads, and the main roads should be ok. No many  birds to be seen as we drove along the A64. A kestrel was on the top of a bush, the winter sunshine highlighting its colours. We passed a couple of fields that could have been a good birding spot, but the field had lots of pigs in it and we decided not to risk any smells!
We had three target birds in mind, a peregrine, fulmar and glaucous gull. So our first stop was the marine drive. Peregrine falcons have been breeding on the cliffs below the castle for some time and people had reported seeing them. We saw a lady looking at something through binoculars, and she was kind enough to show us where the peregrine was. Whilst Chris went back to his car for his camera (chrisdownesbirds) I was busy watching harbour porpoise in the sea.
Chris took a few photographs and then we headed for the area where the glaucous gull was last seen. This meant driving along the marine drive, heading in land for a while and then driving back to a car park near the sea.

There were lots of wigeon on the sea and some large gulls which Chris and I started to look at with our binoculars..Chris went back to the car for his telescope and I spoke to a lady who was also looking at the gulls. She had not seen the glaucous gull, but told me where to look to see a slovenian grebe. Chris and I decided not to spend any more time looking for the gull here and to try the harbour later.Our next destination was the other side of town looking for med gulls. Another car park overlooking the sea and here Chris put out some food and a small flock of gulls soon descended on it.

And in the flock was a med.gull. Next stop was the harbour, where we hoped to see our glaucous gull.
Another car park but this time it was pay and display, so we opted for just one hour, which would give us time to walk around the harbour. While Chris was paying for our ticket I took a few pictures of the turnstones in the car park.

A stroll around the harbour did not reveal our target gull but we did see redshanks and 70+ purple sandpipers.Several herring gulls were watching us in the hope that we would give them some food.

The light was now fading due to grey cloud cover, so it was time to set off for our final destination. On the way Chris decided to have a drive on the race track on Olivers Mount!!
The mere was our last port of call and we saw lots of birds to add to our day list, plus new  birds for our year list. mandarin duck, red-crested pochard and swan goose.
Thanks for another great winter birding trip Chris. Total birds so far this year 101.

Snowy pictures of YORK.

A few domestic chores to do today which meant going into town. Before I went I had a quick walk on Hob Moor to take a few pictures. Next stop was York centre. I popped into the Museum Gardens to take some pictures. There were lots of other people taking photos, it was difficult trying to stay out of each others way, especially by the ruins of the abbey.

Then it was off to the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of St.Peter. As usual this magnificent building was the focus of other photographers. Just a few more shots of other buildings and then time to go home.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Ticked off at school!

We have been making simple bird feeders this week and putting them up around school. This not only helps the birds when food is hard to find, but it also helps to attract birds ready for the coming big school bird watch run by the RSPB.
We had a trial run tonight and saw lots of birds including redwings, which is a year tick for me.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Askham Bog

Time for an outing with my 11 year old grand daughter, Hannah.We went to Tesco and bought a few things for Hannah's cooking lesson at school on Monday, and also a bag of bird food.Our next stop was Askham Bog a well known Yorkshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve,
As you enter the reserve you are walking on a boardwalk, and their is a fence on both sides. We put some bird seed on the top of the fence posts and then walked away a short distance. Coal tits, marsh tits, great tits, blackbirds and a robin flew down to eat some seed.

The robin was the only bird to stay long enough for me to take a photograph.
Further along a chap had set up a stall with information about the Trust and he was trying to recruit people. For once I did not have my membership card on me.As Hannah and I walked around the rest of the reserve we saw a few wrens and some gulls flying over. It then started to snow so we decided it was time to leave Askham bog.

Lower Derwent Valley.

Chris and I decided to take an afternoon trip down the Lower Derwent Valley. This area to the south of York has some good birding spots and we hoped to be able to see a couple of Bewick's swans. These swans are winter visitors from Siberia and are sometimes to be seen with the Whooper Swans, which have come from Iceland.
Our first port of call was Wheldrake Wood.
As you might work out from the photo, I had not changed the time on my camera!
There were a few cars in the car park and we met most of their owners, who were out walking their dogs. Chris had to be introduced to one dog.! We could hear goldcrests and it did not take us long to find them, as they flitted around in the conifers looking for food.

As we walked down the ride we could hear more goldcrests but only saw a blackbird and a coal tit. We saw several piles of tree trunks, with numbers on some of some of them, but we could not work out the meaning of the numbers. Our second stop was at Bank Island at Wheldrake. However here the car park was full and people were making snowmen etc. in the field below the viewing platform, so we quickly drove out and went to Thorganby. Here we stopped in the village hall car park and walked to the viewing platform in the hope of seeing a little owl. We could see and hear fieldfares and jackdaws but no sign of little owl. A s we left the village and drove on towards Skipwith, a pair of red-legged partridge ran across the road, another year tick.
We were soon in the car park at North Duffield and quickly walked to the Geoff Smith hide. A few birders were inside looking at the wildfowl that was on the water in front of the hide. There were large numbers of tufted duck, but we could not find the scaup that had been seen earlier. There were a large number of whooper swans, and some young whooper swans, which is always nice to see. Both Chris and I tried hard to "turn" some of the whoopers into bewicks, but we could not. As dusk was approaching we left the hide, and then we discovered later that a pair of bewicks flew onto the reserve at dusk!! Thats birding.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Winter weather

I had time to pop out of school and take a few photos today. The trees around school looked magnificent in the bright sunshine. The dark branches covered in snow/frost looked brilliant against the blue sky. York Minster stood out well in the morning sunshine.A small flock of canada and greylag geese were on part of the school field, grazing where the frost had given way to morning sun. A few goldfinches could be seen flitting around in the tree tops and some wood pigeons were busy preening.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Dip, tick hooray

In case you are unfamiliar with "birders" speak, to go looking for a bird and then not to be able to see it is called dipping, or to dip.
Chris picked me up at 7.45am and we set off for Market Weighton to look for a great grey shrike.We arrived at the site and walked along a public footpath, to look in a hedge. No joy, no sight of the bird, so we set off back to the car.(dip) We saw a lot of male and female chaffinches near some feeders.
Our next destination was sunny Scunthorpe! The sat. nav. system directed us down a small country lane, and as we traveled slowly down the lane we passed a field with a lot of gulls and jackdaws. Chris stopped the car and we used our binoculars to scan the gulls, they were all common gulls. Despite their name, they are not that common and to see a large group of them together is a rare sight. The only other time I have seen so many common gulls together was at Calgary Bay on Mull.
Our journey took us over the Humber Bridge and on towards Scunthorpe. Once we left the motorway and drove in to Scunthorpe we found the Morrisons supermarket we were looking for and behind it a lake and after a bit of driving in and out of a nearby housing estate, Chris managed to locate a track, which took us to the lake. After a few minutes we located out target bird (tick), great northern diver.
Our next destination was Far Ings, where we hoped to see a smew and a red crested pochard.Sadly again we did not see our target bird, ut we had a very good view of a flock of waxwings. Another tick.
Alkborough flats was our next destination, where a long billed dowitcher had been seen. Regular readers of this blog will probably remember that Chris often has difficulty in locating the way from the village to the car park. Today he got the route correct the first time, only to find that the road was closed, grrr,grr.
We parked in the new car park, which is a longer walk to the hide. Once in the hide we could see quite a  lot of birds, shelduck, lapwing, teal, mallard, redshank, dunlin, black-tailed godwit and a surprise when an avocet flew past the hide.This was the earliest Chris and I had ever seen an avocet, or as one lady once named one exocet!!
I was using the telescope my family bought me for my birthday and it was much better than my old one. I was watching some golden plover flying over the reedbeds when I saw a merlin quickly fly across.I tried to describe where it was so that Chris and others in the hide could see it, but it flew so quickly it was difficult to see. A great black backed gull flew over and brought out list of birds today to 47, 2 more than Chris had predicted at the start of the day.Whilst in the car park we could hear the sound of pink footed geese, so Chris drove a different way to our normal route and we soon saw about 6 pink feet in a field. We just had enough daylight to go to Worlaby. This is a brilliant place for owls in winter and Chris has taken some brilliant pictures of short eared owls in the past, but this week he has taken some pictures of a barn owl, which I think are superb. (chrisdownesbirds). As the light was fading we just had time to see a short eared owl and a quick glimpse of a barn owl, despite the racket that nearby bush beaters were making.
Our total for the day was now 50, and quite a lot of new ticks for this years list.

Friday, 4 January 2013

North Cave Wetlands & North Duffield Carrs

Jobs done by 2pm today so a chance to pop out for a short spell of birding.
First stop was North Cave Wetlands. When I got of of the car I could hear a lot of noise coming from the lake that had a lot of black headed gulls on it. I decided to walk "ant-clockwise" today, so that I would not have to walk far looking into the sun. There was little to see from the south hide. A few redshanks on the raft in the middle of the lake, pochard and tufted ducks near the left hand bank.
A walk around the western edge of the reserve did not give me views of any birds, let alone the siskins and redpolls I had seen on my last visit.The sun started to shine again as I made my way towards the turret hide.

From there I had good views over a couple of islands with resting birds on them. The shelduck stood out well in the light, and I could see lots of redshank around the edge of the island. Time to go to the last hide and as I walked along the path towards it a large flock of birds took to the air. They had been feeding on a nearby field and had taken off before. This time they must have decided like me it was time to be heading for home so some of them settled in a nearby tree. From the last hide I could see teal and coots and a lot of greylag geese, but the light was fading and time to leave.
I decided to drive home via Holme on Spalding Moor and Bubwith. I would then be able to drop in at North Duffiled Carrs. The light had improved slightly and the water level had dropped a little since my last visit, not only could I see a bit more grass, but more of the other hide roof was visible!
I was able to see some swans in the distance. lapwings were making a lot of noise as they tried to find a dry place to roost. Lots of them were standing in a line, where some grass was poking out of the water. Canada geese, wigeon and teal were occupying a rather more substantial strip of land on the other bank of the river.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Askham Bog

Today the christmas tree and decorations were taken down and put away again for another 11 months.By the time we had done this it was nearly 2pm, so I only had time to pop along to my nearest nature reserve Askham Bog.The cloud cover was starting to break up and I got the odd glimpse of the sun.
There is a board walk around part of the reserve, but today lots of it was under water, and as I had not brought my wellingtons I was not able to walk all the way round. Just as I got onto the first part of the board walk there was a lot of bird song in the trees on my right. Great tits, marsh tits , blue tits and robins were flying in and around the trees, and sometimes landing on the top rail of the fence. I wondered if someone puts seed there for them, as they seemed to be going to the same spot everytime?

The robin was on my left with its back to the light, and the great tit was on my right facing the setting sun. Not brilliant pictures but I am getting better I think with my old camera. The willow tits I saw take my bird total up to 81 now for 2013. I wonder how many Chris has seen in Wales?

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Blacktoft birding in the dark!

All of todays jobs were done by lunchtime, so a chance to do some birding for a couple of hours. My best friend Chris was visiting family today, so an opportunity to see more birds than he has this year, and to be in front for once. It won't last long, his next few days birding will probably see him reach 100.
I decided to go to Blacktoft Sands as it is only an hour away, and a chance to see a spectacular harrier roost. It had been raining this morning and although the journey there was in the dry, the car park was in its usual muddy state.You don't need wellingtons to walk from hide to hide at Blacktoft, just to get you out of the car park!
I checked in at reception to get the latest information, and collect another RSPB sticker.The friendly chap in reception told me where people had heard/seen a cettis warbler, redpoll and linnets. All three would be good ticks, but when I got to the area they had been reported from not a dickey bird. So I decided to pop into the hides as I made my way back to furthest hide, which is the best place to watch the harrier roost from.In front of one hide were two sleeping shelducks, another hide had 6 sleeping snipe, another two hides had no birds in front of them at all!!
There were about 6 other birders in the far hide all waiting for the harriers to start to come and roost. 34 had been reported recently, and I was hoping for a repeat performace.The only birds on the water in front of the hide were a pair of mute swans.They were very close together at one point, then the female swan off to feed. About 20 minutes later she was feeding near the male who set off to investigate. His wings were raised like an old fighting ships sails, as he paddled towards her. She raised her wings in response to his, and they both sized each other up. When they got closer they did a spot of neck rubbing, both lowered their wings, and got on with feeding in the fading light.
It was getting on for 3.45pm and the light was fading fast.There were enough breaks in the cloud to see a bit of reflected sun onto some clouds, and then it rained, and a very faint rainbow appeared in the sky. All the time that the swans had been feeding and checking each other out, marsh harriers had been arriving. Some came from over the River Trent, and as they passed over Alkboro Flats, they disturbed large flocks of lapwing and golden plover. Other marsh harriers came in over the Humber. Some dropped straight into the reedbeds to roost, others had a bit of a fly round. A ringtail hen harrier aooeared from over the Hmber and it was escorted by a marsh harrier to the very edge of the reed bed. More marsh harriers came in, but they all dropped into the reeds fairly quickly, so I only saw about 8 birds in the sky at once. Then someone told us where to look to see a male hen harrier.
A small bird of prey had perched in a bush a couple of hundred yards in front of the hide. We thought that it might have been a merlin. If Chris had been there we would probably have been able to identify it using his telescope as it is very good in poor light. The bird just sat there, so we kept one eye on it, as we watched more harriers arrive to roost.I just looked at the bush through my bimoculars and the bird flew fast and low over the reedbed and out of sight. It probably was a merlin, but we could not be certain.
The departure of the bird from the bush meant it was time for us to go as well. It was now so dark it was difficult to find the catch to fasten the window.
4 more birds to add to my list for 2013. Total 79.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

2013, off to a flying start.

Chris and I enjoy birding whenever we get the chance, but January 1st is always a bit special.We had done a couple of dry runs before deciding on our route for today. We left York at 7.30am and headed for Hartlepool. Our first stop was to be Newburn Bridge in the hope that the tide had not gone out too far and we would see lots of birds on the shore/rocks.

This was scene at 8.30am as we got out of the car and walked to look over the sea wall.The tide was a bit further out than we had hoped, however we got good views of a male eider, red-breasted mergansers, tunnstones and a great crested grebe out at sea.
Hartlepool marina was our next stop, we had chosen todays route in the hope that the black-throated diver was still here, as we considered this to be a good tick.Luck was on our side within minutes we had seen the bird. I was using a camera I bought about 9 years ago, so apologies for duff pictures. Our next stop was the Headland area of Hartlepool, a place I would buy a house if I ever win more than a fiver on the lottery. The light was good and we could see common scoters and eiders on the sea, sanderlings running along the shoreline, and on some exposed rocks knot and oystercatchers.Further round the headland we saw more oystercatchers and some purple sandpipers below us on the rocks. Near the Andy Capp Statue we saw red throated divers and a guillemot in the bay and a juvenile kittiwake flew by.So here we are only just 10am and 30 birds on our list. Time to move on a local park.

Other birders were in the park and with a bit of help from them we had soon added 17 birds to our list within as many minutes.two more dodgy photos I'm afraid.

We also saw nuthatch, treecreeper and goldcrest, so not only were we adding numbers but quality birds as well. From the park we drove down the road to North Gare and added some waders, curlew, lapwing and golden plover. At Copen Bewley park we watched the bird feeders and added another 8 birds to the list, including yellowhammer and bullfinch. Our list stood at 60 birds and it was still only just after 1pm! Off to Saltholme where we added another 11 birds to the list including pintail, goldeneye, little egret and fieldfare. We decided to make South Gare our last stop and here we were able to add dunlin, common gull and bar tailed godwit to the list to give us a grand total of 75 birds for the day.
Many thanks for driving the 170 plus miles Chris and for helping me to get 2013 off to such a great start. We will be back in the Hartlepool area soon.