Thursday, 31 January 2013

Nice Raptor Watching: NDC

Popped over to North Duffield this lunch time, had a couple of Peregrine and a Merlin which was nice. The river was pouring over the flood defences (again) and the Carrs were rapidly filling up with water. I bet by tomorrow we'll be back to where we were in November when if first came over properly this winter. Fairly disappointing in a way as it had finally dropped to a level where it was looking good! Nevermind, I guess it gives us a shot for divers/smew etc!

Bad news today was that a birders car was broken into at North Duffield this afternoon whilst they were in the hide so please be vigilant(e). It was highly likely that the person/people breaking into the car were in a small white/cream car so please be on the lookout.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Mealy Redpoll: Pocklington Canal

Just a quick one as about to go out on a nocturnal survey...

Went for a walk along the Pocklington Canal this morning, found a huge mixed flock of Lesser Redpoll and Siskin (200+ birds - very impressive). There was at least one Mealy Redpoll in amongst them. I may well go back at the weekend to try and get some pictures and see if there's anything else good in with the flock as although flighty, they would show well at times and there may well have been more than the one Mealy too!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Tundra Bean Geese - North Duffield

Today was a pretty decent day! Most of the snow from Saturday had gone due to some very heavy rain and an increase in temperature. Started off at North Duffield Carrs (Geoff Smith Hide) during a very heavy shower - the theme of the day.

Lots of the usual, Whoopers c80, Mutes c60, Black Swan, Pochard 97, Tufted Duck c80 - no sign of the 1st winter drake Greater Scaup or the Aythya hybrid - lots of Pintail, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard and a noticeable increase in Gadwall, c15 birds. A flock of 75 Dunlin and 1 Ruff flew SE - presumably to Bubwith.  There was a handful of Greylag and Canadas on the water but nothing special. Buzzard, Kestrel and 2 male Sparrowhawks (displaying) were the only raptors I remember seeing. A very very distant speck delayed me from leaving the hide - I'm glad it did for what happened next. Two geese flew in from Bubwith, right in front of the hide and at eye level - two Tundra Bean Geese!! Great birds! They were really low and for a moment I thought and hoped that they were going to drop down but they carried on. Then the dreaded moment - the thought that these birds have just flown straight past my house! What a garden tick that would have been!

A short sharp shower!

Next stop was Bubwith Bridge: 12 Redshank, 15 Ruff, 85 Dunlin, 4 Golden Plover, 60+ Lapwing, little else of note. Then Aughton: 1 Curlew (flew north) and a good range of duck.

The afternoon then got interesting as I headed across to Wheldrake Ings, the water was just starting to flood the Ings but I thought I'd have a quick look from Tower Hide. Glad I did as there was two stunning drake Scaup on the floods (record shot from phone below taken through the vegetation), along with more of the same as North Duffield - with the addition of Little Grebe (on river), Shoveler and Water Rail.

Just as I was leaving Wheldrake I got a message that there was a Knot at Heslington, so I took a quick detour on the way home and manage to find the bird, along with Tim. I was very pleased to connect up with the Knot as I missed the last one last year. I got a record shot on my phone, by this point it was about 5pm and dark!

2x Greater Scaup (phone-scoped)

2x Greater Scaup (phone-scoped)

2x Greater Scaup (phone-scoped)

2x Greater Scaup (phone-scoped)

Knot! (phone-scoped in the dark!)

Knot! (phone-scoped in the dark!)

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Kumlien's Gull in York???

Hot on the heels of yesterdays 2nd winter Caspian Gull, and 3rd winter Iceland Gull Tim found an interesting looking 2nd winter Iceland Gull at Heslington East this afternoon. The bird showed well for a couple of hours before heading into the Lower Derwent Valley. I got a couple of pictures below on my mobile but check out Tims Blog here for a load of photos that will probably help with the ID a bit more than mine. Certainly an interesting bird...

2nd Winter Iceland/Kumlien's Gull (phone-scoped)

2nd Winter Iceland/Kumlien's Gull (phone-scoped)

Earlier in the day I had a few nice walks in the snow.  4 inches all over, with some areas between 6-12 inches. Hard walking at times! The dog walk gave me good views of a Barn Owl and several Bullfinch.  An early morning walk within a local patch of woodland provided a couple of Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Marsh Tit and a load of Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Long-tailed Tit. Quite a few Fieldfare, Redwing about too.

I spent a while at a local high-point in the hope of a Red Kite drifting through but no joy, just a few Buzzard and some Skylark trying to find somewhere to land.

An early afternoon walk at Wheldrake resulted in great views of a Water Rail on the riverbank, unfortunately it was flushed by a strange guy.  Got a picture of it through the undergrowth. A Willow Tit showed well feeding on some weeds as did some Bullfinch in the trees.  A few Redpoll flew over, but unfortunately they never landed in sight so I couldn't get a proper look through them.

Water Rail (phone-scoped)

Water Rail (phone-scoped)

Alife enjoying his Birthday walk in the snow

Daisy enjoying Alfies Birthday walk

Friday, 25 January 2013

Another Caspo!

A great day today. Spent the morning surveying - it was rubbish! Then I went birding, and it was great!!

First off was a quick look at North Duffield Carrs where I had a couple of Marsh Harrier, Greater Scaup (drake) and Aythya hybrid along with plenty of Whooper and two Bewick's Swans.  I then went to Bubwith Bridge, which was fairly quiet at first, though a scream got me to turn around, where I found a giant female Peregrine sat on a still-alive male Wigeon! I got one quick shot before a Buzzard appeared out of nowhere and while the two birds of prey fought for 5 minutes the Wigeon limped off and hid!!

Female Peregrine sat on a male Wigeon! (phone-scoped)

Late afternoon I got a call from Tim to say he'd located another Caspian Gull, a 2nd winter bird this time. Unfortunately it didn't hang around.

I found a flock of gulls about 2 miles from where Tims gull was earlier and Tim joined me.  Shortly later we got great views of a 3rd winter Iceland Gull and then stood next to it, Tims 2nd winter Caspian Gull! Talk about a long shot, there must be 10,000 gulls about the tip at the moment!!

I got the following photos on my phone, but check out Tims blog for some great pictures of the birds which allow all of the key features to be checked.

3rd winter Iceland Gull (phone-scoped)

3rd winter Iceland Gull (phone-scoped) with wings up

3rd winter Iceland Gull (phone-scoped)

2nd winter Caspian Gull (phone-scoped)

2nd winter Caspian Gull (phone-scoped) wing stretch

2nd winter Caspian Gull (phone-scoped)

This second winter Caspian Gull is the fourth Caspian Gull to have been found in the Rufforth Tip area this year which is phenomenal, two 1st winters and one adult!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Egyptians on the Patch

The day started off well, I found a smart Little Owl whilst out walking the dogs at dawn, though there wasn't much else about. As I was walking back into the garden a familiar, yet unfamiliar sight appeared in front of me, a Barn Owl! A garden first! I've heard them calling during the breeding season but this is the first time I've managed to get views of one! Also in the garden today were a couple of Fieldfare and Tree Sparrow.

At lunchtime I popped across to the Geoff Smith Hide at North Duffield Carrs for my sandwich. Natural England were busy working away on cleaning up some of the flood damage and installing a new bird-feeder set up which will be great once complete.

The reserve was stacked out with birds again, a large flock of geese feeding on the bank adjacent to Garganey Hide contained two cracking Egyptian Geese - presumably the pair of birds that were present on the pool at Wheldrake Ings earlier in the week (phone photo below).

The Aythya hybrid was still present amongst the thousands of duck though I didn't locate the Greater Scaup in my brief visit.  A few large gulls flew into the reserve to bathe, one of which looked fairly good for adult Yellow-legged Gull but time beat me!

Egyptian Goose record shot (phone-scoped)

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

A drive-by Shrike

An initially intriguing report of a possible Great Grey Shrike came over the York Birding email group this morning from a village on the edge of York. As I was driving home at lunchtime I decided I'd drive through the village and keep an eye open for the Shrike but unfortunately there was no sign, though I did see a small covey of five Grey Partridge a Corn Bunting and a Little Owl.

It later transpired that the person who'd thought they'd had a the Shrike said there was 6 of them! So presumably they were Magpies...? Never mind, you win some, you lose some! Better to hear about these things and get them checked out. It would have been a bit gutting if a nice photo arrived at the end of the year long after the bird had gone!


Sunday, 20 January 2013

Skylark Surprise: Major Movement in LDV

Did some more local birding today though had a later start than planned. Didn't travel far but still had some decent birds and decent counts of these too.

First stop was the Geoff Smith Hide in the hope that a nice drake Smew had dropped in. It hadn't.  The drake Greater Scaup was still present, but was fast asleep. There was tonnes of wildfowl present but most of it was spread all over the water so not really possible to count. I did notice Great Crested Grebe was still present, along with plenty of Whooper Swan, Pintail, Pochard, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Gadwall and Mallard. There was a couple of Ruff, Redshank, Lapwing and Golden Plover along the riverbank, along with 2 Reed Bunting and several Fieldfare.

Rather unhelpfully a couple of people walked along the riverbank (beyond where the public access stops) and flushed (high) hundreds of birds off the river which all flew onto the reserve, making counting anything totally impossible.

Next stop was Bubwith Bridge. North Duffield Ings was frozen over, as was the majority of Bubwith Ings. The small pool that wasn't frozen contained Pintail, Shelduck, Wigeon and Teal. However it was the river here that held the main attraction; Common Snipe. 62 of them, some feeding, some roosting. There was also about 50 Lapwing and 6 Redshank here (and another 100 Teal).  Scanning through the Snipe I picked up about 12 Skylark, 3 Meadow Pipit, 10 Tree Sparrow, 6 Reed Bunting and 30+ Fieldfare.

Next stop was Intake Lane (just behind Bubwith Village).  Ollie and Chris had tipped me off that there was a large flock of passerines here but they hadn't got time to check them out properly. so I went to explore. It was pretty remarkable! The field was stacked out with Skylark. I counted 420 feeding in the stubble, then just as I was leaving another flock of at least 250 flew in and joined them! A flock of 670 Skylark is a pretty remarkable sight! Also here was at least 30 Corn Bunting, 38 Reed Bunting, 14 Yellowhammer, 15 Tree Sparrow and 5 Meadow Pipit.

Driving towards Ellerton I found a flock of 177 Linnet feeding in a cover-crop (really shows the benefit of these schemes) in with this flock was at least 2 Brambling, 17 Reed Bunting, 30 Chaffinch, 3 Yellowhammer, 2 Corn Bunting, 18 Tree Sparrow and 30 Chaffinch. Another 25 Skylark flew over.

A short drive later and I located another flock of Skylark, this time 144 that showed to really close range. Unfortunately I couldn't pick out anything more unusual amongst them! Something flushed this flock and as I looked up a cracking juvenile male Peregrine flew low overhead. It wasn't wanting Skylark for tea, I expect it had its mind set on Woodpigeon supper! A Barn Owl was the last treat of the day.

So a good selection of farmland birds with the following totals:

  • Skylark: 851
  • Linnet: 177
  • Reed Bunting: 63
  • Corn Bunting: 32
  • Yellowhammer: 17
  • Tree Sparrow: 43
I know Ollie and Chris recorded quite a few flocks of Skylarks at other locations today (not sure of final numbers yet), but it is pretty obvious that there has been a large hard-weather movement over the weekend, as these birds were certainly not present yesterday and given more time today I'm confident we could have found a lot more!

Smart Brambling!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

More Aythya Action North Duffield

Spent the majority of the day at North Duffield Carrs today. Woke to find an inch or so of snow on the deck and had an enjoyable walk with the dogs noting fox, badger, roe deer, rabbit, pheasant and a host of small bird prints in the fresh snow. The hedges were busy with Fieldfare and a flock of 5 or 6 Bullfinch and a couple of Reed Bunting were noted.

Down at the hide I met up with Jono, Chris and Ollie to tales of Cetti's Warblers and Sea-Eagles that I'd missed! The Aythya hybrid/Lesser Scaup thing came close at one time but I only saw it from behind and didn't see the bill clearly enough, the bird did do one wing flap as it was facing away from us, this did look pretty good for Lesser Scaup! (see part 1 of the story so far here, part 2 here).

Chris and Ollie left and Jono picked out another Aythya asleep with a group of distant Pochard, this immediately looked like a much larger bird than the other Aythya and (after making sure we could see the both of them at the same time!) were happy there was definitely two Aythyas present - once this bird put its head up it was clear it was a Greater Scaup (looked like the bird I had last Friday).

Over the course of the day I could only manage a couple of record shots on my phone of the two birds above, though neither are very good as the birds were still distant but you can kind-of make out the differences.

Greater Scaup (phone-scoped)

Aythya Hybrid/Lesser Scaup bird (phone-scoped)

Not long after Ollie and Chris had left the hide we got some phone calls from them informing us that they'd got some Waxwing in the car park. We went straight round (a good job we did too as they were flushed by a truck, flew off and weren't seen again!!). Again, just the following record shots.

Waxwing record shot

Three of the Waxwing

Other wildfowl recorded down there today included Great Crested Grebe (my first here this winter), Little Grebe, 300+ Tufted Duck, 100 Pochard, 100 Pintail, 5000+ Teal/Wigeon, 68 Whooper Swans, 200 Mallard, 5 Shoveler, 25 Goldeneye, 5 Gadwall, 5 Shelduck, 40 Mute Swan, 30 Coot, 6 Moorhen and as dusk approached 'the' pair of Bewick's Swans flew in.

Waders included Lapwing, Ruff, Golden Plover, Redshank, Dunlin and Snipe.  Raptors included Barn Owl, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel and 2 Buzzard. There was quite a few Meadow Pipit, Fieldfare, Redwing, Pied Wagtail and Robin about and several Long-tailed Tit visited the feeders.

The Robin was nice and obliging, allowing me to sort out next years Christmas card!




Long-tailed Tit

Friday, 18 January 2013

Aythya Hybrid at North Duffield

So it turns out that the drake 1st winter Lesser Scaup or possible Aythya hybrid at North Duffield that was found by Tim and Chris yesterday, that I saw at lunchtime yesterday (details here) is in fact a hybrid, as was pretty much considered yesterday. Unfortunately.

Ollie, Tim, Jack, Chris and a few others were down early doors and I gather the bird was showing a bit better (closer maybe) and in better light etc.  It was seen to have too much black on the bill, which was a shame! I think Tim has some pictures of the duck so keep an eye on his blog for these, certainly an educational bird...

I think the two Bewick Swans were still about but nothing too different from what I reported yesterday, though I hear a few Goosanders flew through and there were two Marsh Harriers and a Peregrine around too.

Pretty heavy snow here at the moment so will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow... dreaming of a Smew...

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Lesser Scaup North Duffield???

An interesting lunch-hour in the Geoff Smith Hide at North Duffield Carrs today. Not a particularly straightforward one.... enjoyable, frustrating, awesome, nightmare... all of the above...

Got a call from Tim saying he and Chris had got an interesting duck (either a Lesser Scaup or Hybrid Aythya sp), it was perfect timing as it was lunchtime so I shot across to be greeted by a distant Aythya species on a bit of water that was not totally frozen over (unlike the rest of the area which was frozen solid). It was an interesting bird, but due to a combination of poor visibility and distance the ID couldn't be 100% certain. Tim's written a brief description of the bird here and will go looking for it again tomorrow.

There was a huge number of birds present in the centre of the Ings, all concentrated around the small open area of water. I didn't have time to count anything but estimates of numbers follow: 300+ Tufted Ducks, 100 Pochard, 15+ Goldeneye, 100 Pintail, hundreds of Mallard, Wigeon and Teal. Lots of geese (Canada and Grey-lag), none of the recently reported White-fronted Geese that were mentioned in the log book!

A Green-winged Teal briefly appeared on the river in front of the hide before flying to the near side riverbank and out of sight, joined quickly by hundreds of Common Teal and Wigeon.  A pair of Bewick's Swans flew in and landed on the water. Again, one of these birds was the darvic-ringed bird - see here for some details on this bird (more will come soon too). At least 60 Whooper Swan flew onto the river too.

Tim and Chris mentioned that they'd had a Marsh Harrier and Peregrine Falcon prior to my arrival and just before I left Tim picked up a distant harrier coming in from the northwest - a sub-adult male Hen Harrier!!! It gently glided towards Aughton. Amazingly my second Hen Harrier in the recording area in less than 2 weeks! I wonder if this was the bird Arnie found back in late November/early December!

I'm now looking forward to being able to spend the weekend birding locally to see if I can re-locate the Green-winged Teal, if we can suss out the Aythya duck (will leave that to Tim!). However, news this morning of a Hawfinch in the north of the recording area, along with the Iceland Gull at Rufforth tip are going to make for a busy time!

This morning was incredibly cold (as it was for most of the day) so I took a couple of scenic shots of the local dog-walking patch on my phone (below). A few thrushes (Blackbird, Redwing, Fieldfare, Song Thrush) were noted, but not much else. Did have a couple of Tree Sparrow in the garden today which was nice!

Sunrise down my lane!

The dogs enjoying the ice and snow

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

From a snowy LDV

Well, it wasn't that bad really but a light covering of snow in the area.

As I drove home from York this afternoon I grabbed 5 minutes at each of Bank Island and Thorganby viewing platform.  Both were fairly quiet though a flock of c.45 Snipe were doing circuits of the reserve and there was a good 200+ Fieldfare around. Didn't see anything unusual-looking on the water.

Thorganby was fairly quiet, though the Barn Owl was showing well again in front of the platform. Lots of Wigeon and at least 8 Shelduck visible, but again nothing really interesting. In fairness if there was, I may have missed it given the brevity of my check! I was hoping for a drake Smew sat right in front of the platform! But then I don't seem to have Tims luck!

I had a quick look off Bubwith Bridge again and this area was heaving, looking forward to the weekend when I can hopefully get some time to carefully work through all the Teal and Wigeon. There must have been 2.5/3x the number of each of these present today than my counts on Saturday, presumably a combination of some frozen areas and a reduction in water levels throughout the valley. Surely there's got to be a Green-winged Teal or American Wigeon here.... I have had both here in the past.... There was at least 6 male Pintail, several male Shoveler, more Shelduck, Pocahrd, Tufted Duck etc (again due to the quick scan these are likely to be under-estimations as I was just looking for the obvious i.e. not females!). There was a couple of Whooper and Mute Swans and a good number of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Ruff, Snipe and over 20 Redshank again (feeding, not roosting this time).

I hear that the 2nd winter Iceland Gull that Tim found last Saturday at Rufforth has been seen again today! That may take up some/all of my time at the weekend! I hope it's more co-operative this time round!

I didn't get any pictures today for obvious reasons, so here's one from the other day.

Barn Owl from before the time of continuous rain...

Sunday, 13 January 2013

More Ducks..

Morning dog walk produced an interesting mixed finch flock: 1 Brambling, 1 Lesser Redpoll, 3 Greenfinch, 2 Goldfinch and 12 Chaffinch. Not a lot else though.

I drove up to the Rufforth area to look for gulls, but they were more flighty than yesterday due to air-traffic and a nearby Buzzard that kept spooking them. Just the usual suspects today.

I then decided to head over to Castle Howard to see what was about, it was fairly busy with wildfowl, highlight here was a pair of Mandarin (a record shot of the distant pair below - male on the bank, female on the water). They were in more-or-less exactly the same spot that I had them here in the summer! There was also a Scaup present, showing about 500 m closer than the one I'd seen at North Duffield on Friday morning! Some pictures of this bird below.

Other wildfowl noted included: 14 Goosander, Pintail, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Greylag and Canada Geese, Mute Swan and Little Grebe (photo below). Don't remember any passerines of note!

Mandarin pair (phone-scoped looking into the sun)





Little Grebe

Saturday, 12 January 2013

More Local Waxwing

Went to North Duffield Ings this morning, and Bubwith Ings too.  North Duffield Ings was stacked out with waders and there was a load of ducks about too.

Highlights included:

Lapwing: 1520
Golden Plover: 131
Redshank: 36 (roosting on river)
Ruff: 34
Dunlin: 34
Curlew: 1
Snipe: 1

Wigeon: 911
Teal: 740
Pochard: 96
Tufted Duck: 4
Shoveler: 2
Shelduck: 3
Pintail: 2

There was also a flock of 20 Tree Sparrow, with a couple of Reed Bunting heard.

I decided to head north along the east side of the Lower Derwent Valley picking up Great Spotted Woodpecker, Fieldfare, Redwing, then a familiar silhouette in a roadside bush - Waxwing - at least 50 of them! Got a couple of pics (below) and watched them for 10+ minutes as they fed in some hedgerows, before I headed on to Rufforth Airfield where I hoped to connect with either the 1st winter Caspian Gull that Ollie and Chris had found in the morning, or the 2nd winter Iceland Gull that Tim had just found. Luck however was not on my side, as I approached the airfield a small gyrocopter thing flew low over the airfield and flushed pretty much everything! I waited around for over 2 hours but nothing! Nevermind, there's always tomorrow! Got some nice Goosander on the way home.

Waxwing © Andy Walker 2013

Waxwing © Andy Walker 2013

Waxwing © Andy Walker 2013

Waxwing © Andy Walker 2013

Waxwing © Andy Walker 2013

Friday, 11 January 2013

A great day & some good raptors

Early morning dog walk resulted in two very vocal Little Owl.  I was surveying this afternoon so this morning I popped into a couple of local spots finding a nice drake Scaup, Willow Tit, Marsh Tit and a range of common birds, including a very confiding Robin.

This afternoons highlights included a cracking Hen Harrier, several Red Kites and a nice flock (c50) Lesser Redpoll, though the real highlight (rarity wise) was probably the Red-breasted Merganser that flew through the site I was working at.

Hen Harrier

Hen Harrier

Hen Harrier

Red Kite

Red Kite

Red Kite

Red Kite

Possibly the worst shot of a Scaup... (phone-scoped)

Stonechat (phone-scoped)

Robin (phone only!)