Sunday, 27 October 2013

Leopard at Skipwith???

Had a few local walks this weekend around the Lower Derwent Valley visiting Skipwith Common, North Duffield Carrs, Wheldrake Ings, Pocklington Canal, Allerthorpe Common, North Duffield Village.

The highlights were:

Peregrine Falcons - a big one sat on the deck at Wheldrake Ings, huge bird! Then had two males fighting with each other today - very vocal, very aggressive and into a headwind of 30mph! They were properly trying to kill each other! Very impressive to watch.

Pink-footed Goose - a flock of 105 flew south near my house this morning, struggling into the very strong headwind. 55 of them (the sensible ones) gave up and went back north.

Kingfisher - one heard only flying south along the River Derwent behind Tower Hide, with another later seen flying north over the Bailey Bridge heading towards Bank Island - a nice view.

Crossbill sp. - one seen and heard flying west over Skipwith Common - strange call... don't think it was Common...

A few Buzzard, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Jays, Fieldfare, Redwing, Great Spotted Woodpecker. Lots of small passerines blowing around in the wind, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Siskin, Redpoll, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, Marsh Tit, Willow Tit, Treecreeper, Yellowhammers. Just lots of nice farmland/woodland birds and a few waders (Green Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Golden Plover, Lapwing and Redshank) and ducks.

Unfortunately no sign of the Firecrest that was present at Skipwith last weekend.

There was also a lot of mammals around this weekend: Fox, Hare, Hebridean Sheep, Longhorn Cattle, Exmoor Ponies, Squirrel though looks like we just missed the Leopard that had the sheep below.

Leopards Lunch

Male Bullfinch - almost in focus!

Fox after just waking up in the reedbed

Long-tailed Tit interested in the pishing

Long-tailed Tit interested in the pishing

Close Sparrowhawk

Late last week had  an impressive day including 2 Goshawk and Hen Harrier amongst a host on interesting birds. Also had 10 Whooper Swans flying southeast over the Designer Outlet on the edge of York in the dark, picked out by Tim as they called and seen in the car park lights! Also a few Siskin and Redpoll flying over.
Distant Goshawk

Distant Goshawk

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Swift Trip to Hartlepool Headland

Took a drive up to Hartlepool Headland this afternoon. The main target was the Pallid Swift but I knew there was a couple of other decent birds about if I had time.

The Swift was seen pretty much as soon as I got out the car. I spent an hour or so watching it as it hawked low down over the roofs of the houses around the headland. Just as I was leaving a Sparrowhawk made an attempt at it, missing by only an inch or so, was incredibly close to GAME OVER for it! All of that went on about 12ft over my head! Incredible views! I managed a couple of record shots on my camera (below).

Whilst there I spent some time chatting to Richard Taylor who gave me some directions to the Jewish Cemetery so I could go and look for the elusive Dusky Warbler later in the day. However first up was the Western Bonelli's Warbler and a very nice chip butty. As I enjoyed my chips the warbler was seen, but not by me. Another half an hour or so and it again re-appeared in the same tree (which also held several Blackcap and Chiffchaff), I only managed one quick record shot, but at least you can just about tell what it is! It was rather hard to keep with it due to the Sycamore and Poplar leaves blowing around all the time. I think Richard mentioned this was a first for Cleveland - so a very good record, and a great one for my Cleveland list!

Using Richards directions I found myself outside the Jewish Cemetery; a graveyard and a long line of cars but no birders in sight! I got my boots on and straight away herd a repeated loud 'teck-ing' coming from the bush right next to where I'd randomly parked! It was the Dusky Warbler! I walked over to the bush and immediately saw it, right in front of me! A brief but brilliant view as it came right out into the open before getting spooked by a person on a bike with a dog, it then flew into the next bit of cover where it stopped calling and wasn't seen subsequently to my knowledge! It was then that I noticed a birder so I relayed my info and put the news out. It appears I was incredibly lucky with seeing this bird at all, let alone so quickly after getting to the site! A great end to the day!

Speaking of great ends to days, yesterday I had a bit of a nightmare getting a puncture that ended up ruining my days work, though finding 10 Jack Snipe on a single pool made me feel a bit better!

Pallid Swift

Pallid Swift

Pallid Swift

Pallid Swift

Sparrowhawk - eye on the prize

Western Bonelli's Warbler

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Time flies when you're talking Izzy Shrikes

9th November 2000, Old Fall Flamborough saw my first UK Isabelline Shrike - I remember the day like it was yesterday. The bird had turned up the previous day, we were on a University field trip to the Sea Life centre in Scarborough so Ade and I went in his car rather than on the coach with our fellow students so we could nip off pronto to get to Flamborough to see the shrike. After a hike down to Old Fall we sat and waited and got some fairly nice views of what I considered to be a pretty grotty looking 1st winter bird. I'm pretty sure from my notes it was a fairly good fit for a Daurian Shrike with the caveat that it was a 1st winter bird... This bird did give quite close views but I don't have any photos myself - would be keen to see if anyone else has any - will check my back catalogue of reports? (It may have just looked grotty due to the weather!)

Skip forward almost 13 (!!!) years to today, I was working within reach of the coast so after my survey I headed across to Flamborough to see the current Isabelline (Daurian) Shrike. Totally different weather than the my last Flamborough bird and whether the bird was a bit smarter or the sun and bright sun made it look smarter I'm not sure. It showed distantly, but well in the scope as it fed on various insects in various gardens. I got a couple of phone-scoped record shots (below), it does seem to fit Daurian more than Turkestan Shrike I think.

I did see the 'Buckton Shrike' in 2007, which was also an interesting bird... possibly of a race of Turkestan Shrike I believe?

There's an interesting article by Dutch Birding on the Occurrence and Identification of "Isabelline Shrikes".

Daurian Shrike (phone-scoped)

Daurian Shrike (phone-scoped)

Daurian Shrike (phone-scoped)

Monday, 14 October 2013

The East Coast is Awesome!

So after a few days slumming it around the York Area I went to the East Coast to get my fix of birds. It was pretty good to be honest. As soon as I neared Easington it was apparent there was thrushes everywhere...

I spent the day at Sammy's Point and between there and Easington village. Just took it nice and slow and tried to avoid the crowds. The area was totally stacked out with thrushes and robins - a spectacular sight.

Highlights were:

Richard's Pipit - found in a long grassy field after I flushed a Short-eared Owl, which in turn put up a load of unseen Meadow Pipits and a single Richard's Pipit that called twice before dropping back into some long grass (record shot below).

Richard's Pipit in flight (record shot)

Little Bunting - I was glad this was still about, saw it at lunch time but didn't enjoy the crowd so soon left if. I returned very late afternoon when practically everyone had gone and had it to myself for a while which was better. Such smart little birds (record shots below - too distant for camera really).

Little Bunting (quite late in the afternoon)

Little Bunting (quite late in the afternoon)

Little Bunting (phone-scoped)

Little Bunting (phone-scoped)

Hawfinch - Had one fly over the Stables at Easington towards the car park at Sammy's, got nice scope views.

Great Grey Shrike - Difficult to say how many birds, at least 3 possibly 4. Hard to see the movements as I was often in the bushes!

Ring Ouzel - 20+ birds a range of ages/sexes in with the thousands of Redwing and hundreds of Fieldfare and Blackbirds. Also loads of Song Thrush and several Mistle Thrush.

Yellow-browed Warbler - One late on sallying above the Hawthorns for insects.

Reed Warbler - One showing well this evening (pics below). Acro's are always worth a good grilling at this time of year.

Reed Warbler

Reed Warbler

Reed Warbler

Short-eared Owl - Two birds flushed out of a field of grass.

Woodcock - Three birds, one flushed from bottom of a bush, two others presumably flushed by other people.

Jack Snipe - One flushed flew inland.

Lapland Bunting - One possible distant and briefly in flight only.

Woodlark - One flew east mid-morning.

Best of the rest: Robins (100s), Common Redstart (1), Wheatear (3), Chiffchaff (75+), Goldcrest (75+), Blackcap (4m, 3f), Garden Warbler (1), Pied Flycatcher (1 - Easington Church), Mealy Redpoll (3), Lesser Redpoll (10), Siskin (20), Linnet (80), Great Spotted Woodpecker (1 nominate), Swallow (5), Skylark (15), Meadow Pipit (20) and Brambling (10+).

Finally, although Little Egrets are fairly common down on the Humber I noticed two that had Darvics on them - picture of A4 below, the other bird was A7. Any info appreciated!

Little Egret A4.

It's days like this when I wish the York Area was on the coast, but am grateful that I can get there in a hour or so from my house. I'd take one or two of six of those species for my local year list please...

Sunday, 13 October 2013

In hindsight...

In hindsight after the amazing Gannet of Friday night I should have thought, "well that's that I'm not going to get another local year list species for a while", and then gone to the coast for the weekend as I was originally planning to do.

Today was another case of hard labour, or "Character Building" as a friend used to say... I don't like ducks yet seemed to spend most of the day looking at them. "Highlight" was the Common Scoter that remains at Castle Howard. I had only a handful of Redwing and one Fieldfare today.

The real highlight happened early morning as a Peregrine tried to grab a bite of Wood Pigeon for breakfast near the house, very nice view.

Tomorrow I may go to the coast, I don't "need" anything that's been reported so far, but would just to see some birds please!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Jack Sh1t

A long day in the local area today. Should have gone to the coast but the potential for Bonxie, Grey Phalarope and Stormies for my local list was too much to ignore! Needless to say I got none of the above!

The highlight today was a Jack Snipe, my first in the local area this autumn. Other highlights included 2 Mediterranean Gulls (1 adult and 1 1st winter), 1 Greenshank and 2 Green Sandpiper.

Not so many thrushes today, just Redwing (c300) and 1 obvious migrant Blackbird.

Had 1 House Martin heading west, first hirundine I've seen for a week.

See what tomorrow brings...

Friday, 11 October 2013

If Carlsberg Did Garden Birds...

Sat in the office working away, news flying about all over of Gannets and Bonxies and the odd Arctic Skua inland, including all along the corridor to the south of the York Recording Area... there had to be something, most likely a Gannet in the York Area. A quick chat with Tim and I decided to leave the office a bit earlier and try my luck down at Hemmingbrough, pelagic-central in the York Area... first I needed to call in at home to pick my optics and dogs up as they were coming with me.

A quick turn around and I was on my way, about half a mile down the road and I pick up a huge bird powering low down into the NE wind, 6ft off the ground. Instantaneously I thought GANNET. Slammed the car into a ditch, grabbed my bins, yep definitely a Gannet! Amazing, brilliant. I needed to get a photo to document it. Spun the car round raced back towards the village, the bird was flying parallel to the road so I could track it. It flew right over my dog walk circuit (tick), then I worked out how I could get ahead of it and get a picture. Pull into a gateway jumped out with my camera and as luck would have it the bird (a juvenile) turned and chose this point to alter its easterly direction and fly north, firstly right over my head (amazing view) and then secondly, right over my garden (mega tick!!!).

Unfortunately I then lost the bird as it was so low I couldn't see it past the houses. It looked like it flew out the back side of the village and carried on North.

What a bird - I was totally buzzing! I rang a few local birders but unfortunately I don't think anyone managed to pick it up. Last year Tim et al got mega jammy and got Gannet following the A64, I now know how they must have been feeling!

This bird (assuming it is accepted by the records committee!) will be the 14th or 15th record for the York Recording Area. There is one record pending from earlier this year, there was 2 records last year, but before that it was 2009. I think is my 91st garden bird, need to check... I managed the following shots of the bird. I didn't get time to fiddle with the settings so this is as good as it gets, but at least you can tell what it is!!!

Russ, this one's for you mate. The big mans bogey bird!

Gannet - Incoming

Gannet - Heading towards me

Gannet - Heading towards my garden

Gannet - Over my garden...

What feels like a long time ago, this morning, back in my garden I had my first Fieldfare of the autumn - a flock of 55 flew NW with 185 Redwing and another (1) Brambling too.

I did end up at Hemmingborough, the dogs had a nice walk eating cow poo. I didn't see much else, but I didn't care!

Bonxie tomorrow...

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Winter Has Arrived - Swans/Thrushes Back

This morning I got my first decent Redwing arrival with 88 in several small flocks flying west. In the York Area several thousand birds flew west. Several hundred Fieldfare and 17 Brambling went through but I didn't get those as had to go off to work. I did get 3 adult Whooper Swans flying SE mid-morning before heading out, my first of the autumn, and I think the first in the local area. Their height suggested they didn't drop onto the Carrs.

Went to work. Got wet, got cold, got wind-blown. Finished work.

Called in to Castle Howard where I was greeted by the sound of 3 adult Whooper Swans swimming about on the Great Lake. Also saw the female-type Common Scoter that's presumably injured in some way and has now been present for almost a month. Picture of the Whooper below.

Whooper Swan (phone-scoped, only photoI got before my battery died)

As I drove home noticed some distant geese, Greylags, but did get the bonus of a Green Sandpiper.

Yesterday morning I got more nice views of the Yellow-browed Warbler at Bank Island, got some beautiful pictures of the bush it was sat in... hopefully when the wind drops down, assuming it's not been blown to Spain, I'll try and get some photos of it. Not sure anyone has managed any yet?

In the afternoon, just out of the York area (unfortunately) Tim and I had at least 5, possibly six Mediterranean Gulls following a plough: 3 adults and at least 2, possibly 3 1st winter birds. Impressive.

Med Gull (ad winter) (distant phone-scoped)

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

York is on FIRE!

What a period the York Area is having... Todays highlights:

Richards Pipit - 1 flew south over Milford Common - there have been two previous records in the York area though I'm not sure if both have been accepted by YNU. If so, and this one gets accepted it will be the third record for the recording area. Both previous records were from my patch (not by me) in 1990 and 1999. I best get out looking!

Yellow-browed Warbler - 1 still present today at Bank Island - see my previous post below regarding this.

Great White Egret - 1 back at Wheldrake Ings this morning, this is also a pretty rare species in the York area, I'm not entirely sure of the numbers accepted to date, but not many.

What did I have today: 1 Brambling (my first of the autumn locally), 2 Kingfisher, 4 Water Rail, Marsh Harrier and a few other bits too... good birding today! See what tomorrow brings...

Sunday, 6 October 2013


A great day in the Lower Derwent Valley, York today. Lets start with the major highlight:

Yellow-browed Warbler. A great find by Duncan Bye at Bank Island, Wheldrake Ings at lunchtime today (6th October). I managed to get there 10 minutes or so after he found it and after about half an hour or so of searching managed to connect with it. Craig and Chris also managed to get across in time to see it but was not seen by anyone else as far as I know. It was seen at c.1230, c.1330 and c.1405. I stayed around till about 1700 as I wanted to get a picture of it but there was no sign of it after 1405.

The status of YBW in York is tricky/muddy...

There has been 1 accepted record in the YOC area: one on 4th October 2009 at Central Science Laboratory (Sand Hutton Laboratory) - a bird seen by two people.

Prior to 2009 there are three records not accepted by the York Ornithological Society: one at Askham Bog on 1st November 1996, one at Copmanthorpe (date unknown) and one at Askham Richard 5th-9th October 2004. As far as can be determined none of the above 3 records were ever submitted, though it is likely that the two dated records (at least) would be acceptable if descriptions were submitted...

Therefore, today's record equates to the second YOC area record (officially), but most likely the 4th or 5th record, and more importantly, the first record for the LDV - awesome!

Yellow-browed Warbler (from Malaysia in the spring, not todays bird!)

On to the other highlights of today:

Hobby - 1 over Bank Island
Red Kite - 1 over Wheldrake Ings
Marsh Harrier - 1 over Bank Island, 1 over Wheldrake Ings
Pink-footed Goose - 3 flocks: 155 NW and 95 SE (at the same time), then another 120 SE
Blackcap - 2 females at Bank Island
Chiffchaff - 1 North Duffield village, 4 Bank Island
Golden Plover - 1 west over North Duffield village
Grey Wagtail - 2 at Bank Island

There was a steady light passage of Meadow Pipit and Skylark south over North Duffield this morning.

Today certainly goes down as one of the most memorable days birding in the York Area!

Saturday, 5 October 2013

PGTips Anyone?

Made an early (ish) morning trip across to Spurn Point to see if the possible/probable Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler that was found late on Friday afternoon was still present at Chalk Bank. The bird had been seen briefly when Dave and I got there and it wasn't long before an attempt was made to trap it. After ripping my legs to pieces on the Buckthorn the bird was driven into the net, however it very quickly became clear the bird was 'just' a Common Grasshopper Warbler - I thought Tim was winding me up at first! Not the ideal result, but a nice view of the bird nevertheless.

Dave and I had a walk around to see what we could find. More birds than my visit last week but still nothing too exciting, though finding a couple of Firecrest was nice, they gave nice views but I wasn't able to get any photos due to too many branches getting in the way!

Other bits we had grounded were: Common Redstart, Blackcap, Wheatear (on the roof of the hide at Chalk Bank), Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Song Thrush and lots of Meadow Pipit etc. There was an impressive passage of Tree Sparrow (c100) and finches with a good number of Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Swallow.

Note this is the PGTips caught at Whitburn last Autumn, not todays bird (which was a Common Grasshopper Warbler) - unfortunately. Incidentally Ade caught another cracker of a bird this morning at Whitburn - Olive-backed Pipit! Details Here (pictures coming soon). Wish I had of gone up to his again, as I almost did!  
(Pallas's Gasshopper Warbler © Ian Mills 2012)