Saturday afternoon and football duties took me to Bishopthorpe. A walk along the riverside was a little disappointing bird wise. A couple of mallards, a small flock of black headed gulls and two blue tits was all I managed to see.
On Sunday Chris and I set for an afternoons birding. Pugneys was our first stop where we hoped to see a smew. The car park was nearly full due to some kind of athletic event taking place. We walked around the main lake and along the river and onto the nature reserve but we had no luck. From the hide we could see lots of pochard, tufted ducks, cormorants and gulls.
North Duffield Carrs was our next destination where we hoped to see a green winged teal and a short eared owl. There were several cars in the car park and we met A.W. birder who gave us the location of the teal. We walked down to the garganey hide where we started the job of looking through all of the teal. After a while Chris found the bird. We also saw 2 buzzards, a sparrowhawk, kestrel, barn owl, whooper swans, lots of golden plover, dunlin, stonechat and some ruff. We left at 4.45 with no sign of a short eared owl. A pleasant afternoon with 45 birds on our list, 4 of which were year ticks for me, taking my total so far to 92.
Last night at the January indoor meeting of the York RSPB Local group I was
presented with an award to celebrate 35 years of volunteering with the RSPB. I received this piece of paper and a gold red kite pin badge. The presentation was made by Professor Sir John Lawton, vive president of the RSPB.
Another member of the local group John Strangeway who received his bronze medal for 5 years volunteering.
After the presentations Steve Race a brilliant photographer from Scarborough gave a fascinating talk about Yorkshire Coast Nature. His website is well worth a visit.
Sorry about the pictures, the piece of paper and pin badge are not easy to photograph!
Spent sometime this morning sorting out the bird feeders for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch next weekend. Arrived at North Duffield Carrs just after one pm, to find 4 cars in the car park. Have they come in hope of seeing something special? The answer was yes, they were all hoping to see a short eared owl.
I walked down to the garganey hide, from where I could not see many birds. No dogs to blame today, too much frozen water. The water level is slowly going down and the shallow water is freezing quickly but due to the lack of sun today has not melted, so all the ducks were "squashed" together on one bit of open water. The light was not good so it was difficult to pick out the different birds. Wigeon, teal, mallard and pintail were all I could see. No swans and then a few minutes later in they flew.
21 mute swans and 72 whoopers. The whooper swan that I saw yesterday and thought was dead, is an injured swan and was calling to the others as they flew over. It tried to join them but is unable to walk very far and appears to have an injured wing as well. It has a white ring on its left leg and a red wing on its right leg, but spends most of its time sat down, so I could not see the numbers.
Dunlin, ruff , lapwing and redshank were also present but were constantly on the move. Sometimes they were disturbed by the buzzards, but the fly over by the large peregrine really got them moving.I also saw 11 snipe, but no sign of a jack snipe. Three stonechats were also visible in the reeds from time to time as was a wren and a meadow pipit, whilst pied wagtails seemed to be enjoying walking on the ice.
It was then barn owl time. First the paler coloured bird could be seen hunting but it was chased by a kestrel who was keen to relieve it of it catch. Then a larger more darker owl appeared, I female I presume and she hunted over the same area as the paler owl until she too was chased off by the kestrel.
I made my way home as darkness fell, no sign of a short eared owl, raven, jack snipe or black tailed godwit, but a very enjoyable four hours bird watching.
Shopping, including a last minute dash meant that I only had a couple of hours for birding. It was nearly three o'clock when I arrived at the empty car park. I went into the Geoff Smith hide and could see that the water level on the reserve had fallen since my last visit. The River Ouse in York was nearly at the top of the bank , and I was surprised to see how low the level of the River Derwent was. Also I could not see many birds.
A quick walk down to the Garganey hide and I could see the reason for the lack of birds.
Two dogs from the farm at the edge of the reserve were running along the top of a bank between 2 stretches of water. One of them had caught a bird and was running off with it. They were on their own and it took a while for them to return to the farm. Eventually birds started to return to their chosen areas and wigeon started to walk on to grass and graze. The light was not very good for photographs and it started to rain.
After the rain the sun came out, which brought some "life" to the area and the colours of the shovelers and pintails stood out.
I then noticed that a barn owl was out hunting.
At the edge of the water in the reeds I could see a swan, which I thought was asleep, or sheltering from the wind. Then I noticed carrion crows landing near the swan and hopping on to it and pecking it.
They did not stay long but kept returning to the area. I was watching a buzzard that was perched in a nearby bush and there was a movement near the swan. A carrion crow was stood on the bird and its wing moved and I briefly saw that its beak and could identify it as a whooper swan. The crow flew away and the swan returned to the same position, which made me wonder if the bird was alive. There are a lot of crows on the reserve so if the poor swan was dead then it would help keep them going during this current spell of cold weather.
The light started to fade and then a lady in a red coat walked three dogs onto the reserve and all the ducks flew off, so I decided it was time to go home.