Sunday, 24 February 2013


Sat at home watching BB1 programme about penguins: it feels cold enough to see them here! Football duties took me to Bishopthorpe this afternoon. The ground was near the Ouse so I went for a walk hoping to see some birds. Long tailed tits, chaffinches, song thrush, blue tit and great tit were all busy singing and flying about with little bits of nesting material. Further along near the sewage works there were lots of black headed gulls.
I walked as far as the old railway bridge, which crosses the Ouse just outside the village.

The equipment you can see along the river bank belongs to fishermen. A lot of them were brave enough to be out today.As I  walked back towards the football ground I could see the home of the Archbishop of York, Bishopthorpe Palace, complete with its stone bird!

opposite the palace is an old church with an information board.

A church used to stand on this site for centuries, but another chuirch was built, on another site in 1899.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Fairburn Ings and Old Moor and a hat!

A very foggy, icy start to the day.Chris had thought of going to Notts to see some birds but the weather did not look good. A rare chance for me to drive him today for a change. As we left his road we passed some birders who were looking for waxwings.Our first destination was Fairburn Ings where I hoped we would  see siskins and bramblings. The feeding station at the visitor centre was popular, with people looking at the birds on the feeders, the only problem was, no birds! As it was half term there were lots of people about and presumably something had scared the birds away. So we walked on to another feeding station and lo and behold a brambling.

We made our way to another feeding station and here we could see tree sparrows, long tailed tits, greenfinches.
Our path took us back to the visitor centre and there were even more people at the feeding station and Chris said that he would eat his hat if we saw siskins. And of course we saw siskins. Chris is going to talk to his wife and ask her to bake some hats!!
 From the visitor centre we walked towards the swan feeding station which had been extended. Here we saw lots of mute swans, tufted ducks and lots of black headed gulls on the rails of the feeding station.
Our next stop was to walk along the "cut" in the village in the hope of seeing a smew that had  been reported earlier.
Some parts of the water were still covered with ice and there were still bits of ice along the shore.
We could see lots of tufted ducks, goldeney and goosanders but no smew. Chris spotted a buzzard circling overhead.
Time to move on to Old Moor. I used the sat nav to guide us there and as I have it set to avoid motorways it took us through every town and village between Castleford and Rotherham!

Old Moor was boasting a green sandpiper but we were unable to find it. Lots of nice birds to see, including a smew and a quick glimpse of a wren at the tree sparrow farm.
We then visited two nearby reserves. Broomhill Flash and Wombwell Ings.

The sun was starting to loose its warmth and the shadows were getting longer so it was time to head for home. Another good days birding with Chris.Three new birds today, willow tit siskin and brambling taking my year total to 113.

19 over par on a cold day!

Last day of the half term I could devote to birding today, so Chris drove us up to the north east. He had a plan to visit South Gare to see some twite. First stop was the car park overlooking Redcar beach. From here we saw common scoter, black throated divers, oystercatchers, turnstones and redshank. South Gare was our next stop in the hope of seeing our target birds, alas linnets and reed buntings but no twite. It was very cold stood outside bird watching, thank goodness there was no wind.Our next port of call was to Skinningrove. 

Here the plan was to see stonechat, redstart and fulmar. The only birds we could see were the fulmars as they flew around the cliffs, some were sat on the cliff ledges as if they were getting ready for laying eggs.

It was not the weather to hang around looking for elusive birds so we decided to move on in the hope of finding new birds. Hummersea gave us nothing so off we went to RSPB Saltholme. From the Phil Stead hide we were able to add goldfinch to the days list.

After a short while we decided to leave the hide and as we were leaving we looked at a map of the area and noticed that someone had written about seeing crossbills and lesser redpolls nearby.
The other birder in the hide kindly gave us directions of where to look for the birds so off we set.
Finding the car park was a bit tricky but Chris soon found it and off we set in the hope of a new bird for our year list.

We walked a short distance down the path until we came to the scout hut that the chap had mentioned. Within a few minutes we were able to see cross bills and siskins in a nearby conifer. If you try very hard you might just be able to make out the shape of a crossbill in the last two pictures above. We also saw goldcrests, coal tits, willow tits, blue tits and great tits, our day list was increasing.
Time was now getting on so we decided to head for one more place on our way home.
However the changes to the A1M made life difficult for Chris, as the old road layout had changed, and bridge repairs meant a detour to find the new road. At last we made it to Nosterfield where we were able to add golden plover and goldeneye to our day list.

The light was now fading and our days total was 68, 18 more than Chris had predicted  at 8am when we set off. On the way home we also saw some red-legged partridges which made our list 69, a very good total for such a cold, bleak winters day.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Harlow Carr

Spent the day at Harlow Carr today. Every spring and autumn half term, York RSPB man various stalls with activities for children. Lots of grandparents are very grateful for finding something to keep their grandchildren occupied for part of a day.
There is a bird hide at Harlow Carr and we take it in turns to spend an hour there, identifying the birds that come to the feeders to visitors.During my hour today I saw a pair of bullfinches, lots of chaffinches, robins, great tits, blue tits and coal tits. One nuthatch, one pheasant, lots of blackbirds and dunnocks.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

1066 and all that

Football duties took me to Stamford Bridge this morning.
I used to live in the village over 20 years ago, and the football ground is at the back of my old house.
I went for a stroll down the lane, hoping to see a yellowhammer, but I was unlucky.I heard lots of chaffinches, great tits and robins. One robin flew down very close to me to pick up a worm from the side of the road.

The sunshine was very pleasant, but in the shade of the hedge it was still frosty.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

York University

Football duties took me to York university campus at Heslington today. A brief walk around before the match to see if anything had changed before the RSPB members weekend.

It was pleasant in the weak afternoon sunshine, but still cold when I walked in the shade. I could hear a song thrush singing from a tree near the central hall. Further round I cam across some snow geese,then some barnacle geese having a drink and then some greylags having a sleep in the car park.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

birds and boats and planes

Chris and I set off at 8am for another birding adventure in the north east. One of the  many reasons why  I enjoy a day out with Chris are his planned trips, and today we were going on one of his pre planned trips, with a target of 48 birds.
Although our target birds were not rare, it always good to see jays and green woodpeckers and according some the latest reports from this spot we should see both birds. Added to this was the challenge not to get lost, as Chris had done on a previous trip. After an hours drive we arrived at our location.
I had read a little about the site on Teessmouth Bird Club website, and the report was correct about it being popular with dog walkers. We put our wellingtons on and set off for the north east corner. There are several things missing from this site, a map and sign posts! I can see how you can get lost as the marker posts are too far apart and no sign of a map anywhere! However we trudged on in the mud but were unable to see the birds we came for, in fact there were very few birds about. At one point we were on the edge of the wood,near some farmland and could see and hear two skylarks, a sign of spring! On the way back to the car the only thing we saw in the air was a KLM jet.
Just before we got back to the car park we came across a small feeder station where we saw great tit, blue tit, coal tit, robin and chaffinch.
Our next destination was to be at Pinchinthorpe but a message on the pager that Chris has indicated that we might see some snow buntings if we went to South Gare. Chris has looked for these birds in severals areas and not been able to locate them, so we decided to go to in search of them.Snow buntings are not the only birds that Chris has not been able to see lately, so he was feeling that his birding was getting a " bit stale".
i assured him that things would change and we would probably even see stonechats at South Gare, to which Chris replied that he would eat his hat.
On our way to South Gare we called in at Redcar.Chris had set me a challenge of seeing common scoter within 20 seconds of arriving in the car park.The car park was covered in sand, they must have had a bad storm a few days earlier.I soon saw the small flock of common scoters sat on the sea, bobbing up and down with the waves. As you approach the car park you pass a site where they are doing some work to prevent flooding. The site is cordoned off and someone has painted a view you might see, if the site was not there!

Redcar is going in for wind turbines in a big way and men were busy in boats etc constructing them.
Off we went to South Gare in search of our snow buntings. We parked up near the end of the road and could see a flock of small birds flying around, however these were linnets.Near the linnets were two pairs of stonechats, time to eat a hat!! There were other birders around and one chap came to talk to us. We had seen him before and he and his friendly are the "friendly" birder type. Not like others you meet who walk past not saying a word. He came with some "bad news". Whilst we had been bust trying to see snow buntings in the linnets, and iceland gull had flown by.The pager told us that a tundra bean goose was close by so off we set for Holme Fleet to find a goose.The site is well known to Chris and we were soon parked up talking to two other birders who were also looking for the geese. There were greylag geese spread out over a large area, and we could not see some of their heads. The two other birders left, but Chris is brilliant at very carefully working his way through flocks of birds and before long he had located the goose. This was a tick for him, his first for quite a while. His birding was back on track, seeing the stonechats had been the
turning point. Close by at seal sands was a greenshank, another tick for me and trhen we set off for Saltholme in the hope of seeing long eared owls.
The owls proved elusive, however we saw some pink feet which brought our total bird list to 61. Whilst we were in the hide 2 little girls looked at a cormorant through my scope and it was a pleasure to see the smile on their faces when they were able to identify it. On our way back to the car park we saw a kestrel hunting close to us, possibly the one Chris took photos of a couple of weeks ago.
Another good day out, thanks Chris.