Monday, 29 August 2016

Little stints and spoonbills

Chris and I decided to head for Lincolnshire today to see if we could see some of the birds that RSPB Frampton Marsh has had on offer this past week. Large numbers of curlew sandpipers and little stints had been reported and so we hoped to have some spectacular views. We left York at 0645 and encountered mist for a few miles, but it soon disappeared. We arrived at Frampton Marsh just before 9am and Chris spotted yellow wagtails in the field next to the car park.
On the journey down I remembered that I had charged the battery in my best camera last night and had not replaced it. So these pictures are a mixture of phone and my old camera, apologies for the poor quality.
The first thing we saw as we walked onto the reserve were sunflowers.

We met a chap who told us not to bother with the hides but to keep on walking and turn right and we would see lots of birds, Well we followed his directions and could not see any of the birds he mentioned!

As we walked along the bank we could see ships on the Wash in the distance and we lots of tortoiseshell butterflies.

I tried to get both butterflies in focus but had to make do with one!
A little egret was close to the path.

As we re-entered the reserve we met a chap who told us that the birds we had hoped to see where in front of the 360 degree hide, the opposite of what the first chap told us! So we had walked a couple of miles for nothing. Once inside the hide we could see little stints, three at one time, but they did not come close enough to the hide to get a decent picture.
As the next high tide was as 5pm and it was only 11am we decided to leave the reserve and try our luck elsewhere. Freiston shore was our next stop.

Lots of sunshine and redshanks but only house martins to add to our day list, which was no where near our target of 56 birds. So we decided to head homewards and call in at Alkborough Flats.
On the way we stopped to look at Reeds Island where we saw hundreds of shelduck and avocets and some deer on the island.

We arrived here about 3pm and when we entered the hide we at last had a spectacular view of birds, six hours and eighty miles later!
However the reeds and grass in front of the hide need cutting and my camera insisted on focussing on the tops of the reeds as they blew in the wind. Using manual focus did not improve the situation, so once again apologies.

We could see nine spoonbills, ruff, dunlin, redshank, at least 300 avocets and dunlin, a good way to end our day.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

York Minster Peregrines

On Saturday August 27th we had our last event in Dean's Park next to the Minster.
Richard from recruitment was there with his gazebo and members of the York group turned up to help at various times of the day.
The female peregrine was sat on the top of one of the carvings when we arrived and apart from a short flight to the central tower did not move much. The male turned up about lunchtime and he sat a bit lower down which made it easier to see him in the telescopes.

Shortly after he arrived it started to rain and the birds were still sitting in the same place when I left at 4pm.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Spotted crake at North Cave Wetlands

Chris and I had an afternoon at North Cave. I drove for a change and I parked outside Crosslands hide, From there we walked down the western side of the reserve and round to the reed bed lake. We joined four other birders who were also looking for the bird. After about 10 minutes the bird made a brief appearance and slowly walked along he bottom of the reed bed, sometimes behind the reeds and at other times it was out in the open.

We then went to Crosslands hide where we had lunch. From the hide we could see little grebes, mallard, lapwings, pied wagtails, mute swans, common sandpipers and a greenshank.

After chatting to a couple of ex-colleagues we had a walk down a path that often has butterflies and dragonflies.
We ended our visit with a few minutes in the South hide where we were able to add great crested grebe to our list.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Young marsh harriers having fun!

I was on duty at Blacktoft yesterday and what a beautiful day it was, wall to wall sunshine and some cracking birds. The number of marsh harriers has reduced as usual when the young birds have fledged and move away from the area. Some may migrate south as far as West Africa. The two young birds are exploring the area and keep flying over the lagoons, and one keeps landing on one of the islands.

This may be fun for the harrier but puts all the birds on the lagoon to flight.
This can be very useful for the birdwatchers. The waders often feed or rest behind the islands and can be out of view for a long time. The spotted redshanks seem to like hiding behind the island so when the harrier makes a visit it gives the birders a chance to see all the birds. Redshanks, snipe, green sandpiper, black tailed godwits, ruff, avocets, common sandpiper would all take to air and often land back in an spot. On some days we have had some rarer visitors such as curlew sandpipers and knot.
Small birds are still about and apart from a small charm of goldfinches I also saw a willow warbler and a sedge warbler. A chiffchaff was singing outside the reception hide and the "office" robin was about as usual,
Dragonflies were also on the wing but did not settle and bees were feeding on the teasel which is now turning purple.
It is raining in York today and I hope that it has rained at Blocktoft and put some much needed water into the lagoons.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Waders at Blacktoft Sands

Back home from Shetland and lots of jobs to do. I only had two days between my trip to Mull and Shetland so the grass and hedges needed a bit of attention.
Spent a couple of hours at Blacktoft yesterday morning when I saw my first curlew sandpiper of the year. It was just gone 1pm when I arrived in the car park today and as I was walking towards reception Mike pulled up in his car and we had a chat. Alex was on duty and after a chat with him I went to Ousefleet to have lunch. Not much to see from the hide. No water, a few pied wagtails and the ponies.
From the screen at Ousefleet I could see lots of waders, mostly black tailed godwits, but there was a single greenshank and several redshank, spotted redshank and ruff.
I returned to the reception hide to let Alex go and have some lunch and see if he could locate the little stint and a knot that other visitors had reported. Sadly like me he was unable to find them. At this point Pete turned up with the tractor to cut the vegetation in front of some of the hides.

This is a difficult time for the site staff as they have to be careful about cutting down vegetation to improve the view from the hides, just in case there might be birds still nesting. Getting the water level right for waders is also difficult. There are times when trying to get water off the reserve is difficult and if they get the water level too low it is almost impossible to correct it quickly as they have to wait for a high tide. At the moment the tides are not high enough to restock the water level in front of Marshland hide.
With Marshland hide out of action Xerox is the place where most of the birds are gathering including the elusive little stint! However the birds had a bit of excitement today as one of the young marsh harriers decided to land on one of the islands for a rest.
He just calmly sat there unaware of the effect his presence was having on the other birds. They eventually settled down but then he had another fly round and they all flew up again and some lapwings tried to move him on.
He just flew around again and landed on the island, but he then spotted mum in the distance and flew over the reed bed for another food drop. The birds then returned to feeding and preening.

One of the visitors to the reserve today was Mike Andrews who used to work at Blacktoft. It was nice to see him again.
With at least 8 different waders on site at the moment it could be a good week to get down to the reserve and see if any different waders arrive.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Last day on Shetland and our journey home.

After packing our bags and checking out of our hostel we set off for Scalloway. The castle was our first stop.

We then headed for Trondra and as the weather was now in summer mode we enjoyed views of the spectacular landscape.
Meal beach seemed a good place to have lunch .
 We then travelled on to West Burra and travelled as far as we could, ending up at Minn beach.

Lots of jellyfish on the beach
From the beach I could see Foula in the distance. Foula was the first Shetland island I visited back in the 1970 and 1980's.
Time to go back to Lerwick and catch the ferry home.
This is a good way to replace your worn out garage roof.

The ferry left Lerwick at 5:30pm and on our way to Aberdeen we passed Fair Isle.

As well as the thousands of gannets on the island there were large numbers on the sea and in the air.

It was 7:45pm when I took these pictures of the gannets and the good weather continued until we reached the Orkneys.

These pictures were taken at 9:30pm and tonight it is dark at the same time. We called in at Kirkwall at 11pm and this is a picture taken from the ferry terminal.
So another Shetland trip is over, but next years is already on the planning board!