Sunday, 5 December 2010

Loving the local area already!

I spent the majority of the day doing DIY in my new house but a dog walk just after sunrise resulted in several Common Snipe, a Redshank and a single Green Sandpiper all making the most of a thawed-out ditch.

'Little stuff' was made up of Fieldfare, Bullfinch and Linnet. Although still under almost a foot of snow it looked as though it is going to provide me with some interesting species over the coming years.

Chores inside the house were dull but a glance out the front window at the perfect time resulted in a flock of at least 15 Waxwings being clocked! They did a little circuit before dropping into a garden.

A break in the DIY (to go and get some more DIY stuff) resulted in 3 more showy Waxwings on the A63 near Cliffe.

Friday, 3 December 2010

New garden list off with a BANG!

The first week in our new house in North Duffield has been eventful to say the least with all the snow!

I got my new bird table up ASAP and have benefited due to the constant snow and ice.

So far 34 species, the highlight being 6 WAXWING this morning!

Other excitment in the form of Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer. Pied Wagtail and Tree Sparrow.

Friday, 26 November 2010

End of an Era...

This may be my last post for a week or so. Jenny and I are in the processes of our more-or-less annual house move - this time it will be for the long term as we've brought a house down in North Duffield so my local patch will be changing from the Clifton Backies to the Lower Derwent Valley (LDV) and Skipwith Common. Can't wait - awesome patch birding here I come!! I'm looking forward to meeting up with all of the locals. Come and say hello if you see me!

It's with mixed feelings that I say goodbye to the Clifton Backies - it has huge potential for an urban site and has provided some good birding highlights - most notably Black-winged Stilt earlier this year, the first record of this rare species in the York recording area since 1992! Other highlights have included Waxwing, Merlin, Peregrine, Marsh Harrier, Raven, Tree Pipit, Snipe, Woodcock, Whooper Swan and top-secret Species X. Other birds have included an interesting mix of farmland, garden and woodland type birds of both resident, summer migrant and winter migrant origins. The last 16 months has resulted in around 70 odd bird species with a good number of moths and butterflies also recorded.

With the good has been the bad. As Cher once sang: Gypsy's, Tramps and Thieves.... this has been the downside, the abuse from people who don't have the ability to read or write, or think has generally made birding the local patch less fun than it could/should have been. But nevermind, onwards and upwards - Bring on the LDV...

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Osprey Shooting

This is a reproduction of an article on Birdguides this week - I've reproduced it because it, along with another couple of articles this week are causing a great deal of concern about the continued persecution of British birds of prey.

The RSPB yesterday [16th November 2010] offered a £1,000 reward for information leading to conviction in connection with the shooting of an Osprey. The juvenile bird, which had been ringed in Sweden in June, was found near Caister in North Lincolnshire on 2nd October.
Veterinary analysis showed that it had been shot twice with a shotgun. This is the third confirmed shooting of an Osprey in the UK this autumn: the first was discovered in Sussex in September when a similar reward was offered, which was followed by a bird seen over Spurn Point (East Yorkshire) in October which had half of its wing missing.

The seriousness of this most recent shooting has prompted the RSPB to offer the £1,000 reward, asking members of the public with information to come forward. Mark Thomas, RSPB investigations officer, said: "The shooting and subsequent death of this bird is sickening. Not only is it an amazing species but the fact it was hatched in Sweden and was passing through the UK on migration makes the killing a national disgrace."

The bird was one of three chicks hatched from a nest in Spjutholmen, Sweden, in June 2010 and during its short life had crossed the North Sea and was well on course to undertake its first migration to Africa. Wildlife Crime Officer for Lincolnshire Police, Nigel Lound, said: "We know this bird was ringed in Sweden and was only 86 days old. These birds are extremely rare and it is terrible that one has been shot in Lincolnshire. We need anyone who has any information to get in touch with us as soon as possible."

Anyone with information should contact Lincolnshire Police on 01522 558684 or RSPB Investigations on 01767 680551.

RSPB Wednesday 17th November 2010

Osprey picture uncredited from Raptor Politics

Friday, 19 November 2010

Another Rough-leg

An eventful trip down to Lincolnshire this week provided me with views of my 5th Rough-legged Buzzard of the autumn/winter yesterday. The bird was fairly distant but was seen well enough to get all of the necessary ID features. Other birds seen yesterday included Marsh Harrier, 2 Peregrine, 1 Merlin and several Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. Highlights of the nocturnal survey were two Woodcock roaming about along a field margin that showed very well.

The above Rough-legged Buzzard photo was of one of the Commondale birds seen a couple of weeks back. Please note that this image is © Renton Charman 2010 and is not for reproduction without the permission of Renton Charman.

Today was far more unsuccessful when my work land rover broke down and I ended up having to be brought back north on the back of a recovery lorry! The only positive was that at least it broke down on the side of a road rather than on the farm tracks we had been driving along the previous night!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Pied-billed Grebe - More excellent photos

Adrian Dancy has very allowed me to put up some more of his excellent Pied-billed Grebe photos from Holligworth Lake CP, Lancashire. These photos are © 2010 Adrian Dancy.

Waxwing - Finally in on the act....

I've been watching and waiting for Waxwing for the last 3 weeks after my friend Rich reported thousands flying from Norway west towards the UK. Literally the next day hundreds, then thousands were reported in Scotland and Northern England, surely only a matter of time before I got a big flock on my local patch..... Days turned to weeks... then last night after driving back from Wales a bird caught my attention at the top of a tree - Waxwing. I quickly dropped my wife and dogs home and went straight back out with my scope and camera but it had gone. A quick drive round the estate looking for it/them resulted in nothing and light was fading fast so I called time on it.

This morning a quick look produced nothing at first light, it/they must have gone somewhere else I thought, however as I started my walk into work a familiar shape caught my eye 100m from my front door - the single Waxwing was back - sat atop a silver birch tree with a Blackbird and Greenfinch for company. I raced back home for my bins, got back and it was still sat there. I got some good views of it before I realised I was going to be late for work (again) and left it. It was dark by the time I got home from the office today so I didn't get any further views of it. Will it be there again tomorrow? I hope so!

This is a Waxwing but it is not the one I found yesterday - this was from a few years back in Beverley, East Yorkshire, however this is my photo for a change!

North Wales

Just back from a relaxing trip to North Wales - Morfa Nefyn I think. A beautiful spot lots of Shags, Red-throated Divers, Guillimot, Kittiwake, Rock Pipit etc. Highlight being 2 Chough at Caernarfon on way home, a Merlin and a juvenile male Peregrine -with prey flying along the cliff tops. A very enjoyable weekend.
The cottage

View from cottage - lowish tide

Friday, 12 November 2010

Birthday treat

Check out my extra special birthday treat from Oh! Cupcake and yes it did taste as good as it looked!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Pied-billed Grebe photos

Adrian Dancy has very kindly allowed me to publish his excellent Pied-billed Grebe pictures on my blog. These pictures are © 2010 Adrian Dancy.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Pied-billed Grebe

I spent a frustrated afternoon in the office on Tuesday after news of the first mainland UK twitchable Pied-billed Grebe since about 1999 broke. The bird was reported and photographed several times during the afternoon at Hollingworth Lake Country Park, near Rochdale in Lancashire, about an hour and a bit from my house. There was no way I could get there on Tuesday so I had to make do with looking at Adrian Dancy's excellent set of photos of the bird taken during the afternoon and hope it would stay put (Adrian's photos coming here soon)...

I had an anxious nights broken sleep, got up at 4.30, and spent 45minutes in the dark on site waiting for it to get light. It was cold with a bit of frost and I was the second person on site. Made my way round to the area where the bird hide was and then found the small enclosed section of the lake and waited for it to get light.

At about 7am (by which time Dave had dragged his way to site from Harrogate) movement was noted along the edge of some emergent vegetation. By this time there was 4 of us including John Price watching the bird. Gradually it came out and showed really well, and as the light improved good views were obtained. John managed to get the following pictures of the bird in the early light. These pictures are © 2010 John Price and are reproduced below with permission.

This bird was always going to be popular due to it's central, easy-to-get-to location and the fact there hasn't been a twitchable bird for ages and as I was leaving to try and get back to work before anyone noticed I was absent plenty of twitchers were starting to arrive on the site. It must have been a quiet news day as the BBC turned up evidently.

Hopefully it will hang around for a bit as I would be keen to make a return visit to try and get some photos for myself, furthermore it would be nice to see it in breeding plumage...

Sunday, 7 November 2010

American Bittern twitch with Green Heron bonus

I left York on Friday night at around 2330hrs with Tony, then picked Dave and Steve up from Wetherby for the long drive to Cornwall for the joint targets of American Bittern and Green Heron. The journey was fairly enjoyable for an overnight job with little traffic. We arrived at Walmsley Sanctuary around 5am to be greeted by plenty of cars already parked up on the verge. We got ready and headed down to the field to be led across to Tower Hide. Whilst waiting, the sound of a couple of Tawny Owl rang out, a bit later a Spotted Redshank flew over calling in the dark.

Around 0630ish we headed over to the hide, several other waders could be heard calling as approached, Greenshank, Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit amongst them. On arrival at the hide it was clear that several people had already ventured over to the hide and were insitu. We took up our positions in a queue for the hide. I was half way up the steps. After about 30 minutes noise in the hide suggested the bird was on show, news filtered out that it was on show but not from where I was stood... at least it was still there I thought...a single Whooper Swan was a nice distraction.

An anxious 10 minutes passed. Luckily those inside the hide had achieved good views of the bird and started to filter out, in I got, right at the back at the far end. I was going to have to wait a bit longer. Some very poor directions was a little frustrating but eventually I got some movement in my bins, that was it I knew. Got it, American Bittern. I managed to get on it with my scope as it walked out into the open before quickly running off to the left and out of my very small window of view. At this point a small bit of argy-bargy was heard from outside the hide. FIGHT!!! This record pertains to about the 60th UK/Irish record of this species (most of these a long-long time ago) but the first alive/twitchable one since 1991. One was actually present on the same site in 1999 but was suppressed!

Those at the front of the hide moved out again, well some of them did... I managed to get a little closer to the front end of the hide, but still right at the back and was unable to actually see out of a window. For me this was the most frustrating bit of the day, several guys sat in the prime positions at the front left of the hide, one checking his phone/chatting to his mate, the other looking with his naked eyes. Luckily Steve picked it up from the middle of the hide looking through 6 people in front of him. They were so surprised/excited they jumped up, knocking Steves scope. Luckily he managed to relocate it, Dave, Tony and I all managed a decent look of the bird, back on then it turned its head just as I looked through - excellent view. I don't think the guys at the front of the hide could find it! When eventually they did see it, and see it well they still didn't move out of view. It was clear they weren't going to budge so we made a move,

Satisfied with our brief but good views, and aware that there was a crowd of people all wanting to get in the hide we left for the (relatively) short drive for the Green Heron down at Heligan.

On arrival at the gardens we went for a walk through 'the jungle', checking on all the pools and waterside vegetation. Eventually we came across a group of people stood along a bridge, we joined them and in no time at all were having the most spectacular of views of this little heron as it fed around the pond fringe catching little fishes. A very photogenic bird. I managed to get a couple of images on my mobile phone - see below. This was my second sighting of this species in the UK and about the 10th UK record.

Totally exhausted, but still up for a bit more, we headed back for seconds of the American Bittern. The reserve was a little quieter so we managed to get into the hide, and get a decent location, after 20 minutes I found the bird hidden amongst some sedge-type vegetation. Eventually it came out in the open and showed well, albeit gradually walking away from us. I managed to get a single 'record shot' (the one up top) on my phone before I gave my place up to those behind me. On leaving the hide I bumped into a chap called Dave Land who very kindly has let me put a couple of his pictures up here (below). Thank you Dave. Please note the the two American Bittern images below are © 2010 Dave Land.

I'd like to extend my thanks to the people of the Cornwall Birdwatching and Preservation Society for actually releasing the news this time and managing the car-parking/tower hide yesterday. And thanks to Dave, Steve and Tony for making the trip possible.

Some more of the Green Heron....

Glad we went yesterday as the bird was not seen at all on Sunday!

Black Redstart/Waxwing... a tricky one...

Just saw this on Birdguides and it made me laugh a little...

20:51 07/11/10 Waxwing Somerset Porlock Weir
Black Redstart on fence posts at Gore Point today not Waxwing


just writing up my American Bittern twitch report with photos coming soon.....

Friday, 5 November 2010

A week in the office

I've not had any survey work this week due to having lots of reports to write however I've managed to get a bit of birding in from my desk.

Due to the evening's getting darker earlier and autumn turning into winter the number of gulls about the local area has dramatically increased with an obvious passage occurring an hour or so before sunset until it's almost dark. These birds are presumably coming off fields to the north of town, flying south over York then heading down to the Wheldrake gull roost. Numbers have been between 500-800 birds each afternoon - however this is considered to represent a small proportion of the overall numbers of birds involved due to a) my small field of view from my window and b) I do actually look at my computer scree/desk occasionally!

Another noticeable species has been Pied Wagtail with numbers really building up nicely, peaking at 250 birds flying past my window on Thursday.

I'm just about to head down to Cornwall for a bit of 'a twitch' so keep your fingers crossed! 800 mile round-trip here I come!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010


I just wanted to let everyone know that there are two places left on Glenn Bartley's Costa Rica photography workshop for March-April next year. Glenn is certainly one of the best bird/nature photographers in the world and I had the pleasure of meeting up with him in Costa Rica, one of the best destinations in the world for bird/wildlife watching.

As my previous post alluded to, Costa Rica has a range of highly sought after and spectacular species, with the likes of Scarlet Macaw, Resplendent Quetzal, Snowcap, Montezuma Oropendola, Sunbittern and a range of colourful species from the Toucan, Hummingbird, Trogon, Flycatcher and Tanager families high on many peoples hit list. Furthermore the country boasts a myriad of attractive plants, mammals, butterflies and moths.

The following opportunities will be presented during this tour:

Multi-flash Hummingbird Photography: Learn techniques to use 4-6 flashes to achieve otherwise impossible flight photographs of these flying jewels. What makes this workshop special is that Glenn will be sharing his techniques for taking multi-flash images that actually look natural (unlike most others out there).

Using flash effectively as a source of fill light: Because tropical regions are often cloudy - it is extremely important to learn how to use flash - either as fill or as a main source of light. Participants will also learn how to do set-ups for birds using more than one flash. These skills can easily be taken home and applied in your very own garden!

Attracting birds to a perch setup: Participants will learn strategies to attract birds to a given perch and how to achieve images that have attractive light, an outstanding perch and a smooth background.

Strategies for successful tropical photography: Glenn has spent over a year and a half photographing wildlife in the tropics. Throughout the workshop he will share tips and tricks that he has learned along the way.

Macro photography of tropical insects and frogs: At each of our locations there will also be opportunities to find and photograph an amazing diversity of colourful frogs, butterflies and insects.

Spectacular landscape photography: The rainforests of Costa Rica are spectacular places and the opportunities for landscape photography are superb.

Digital Workshops: There will be image review sessions. In these post processing workshops participants will have ample opportunities to improve skills in Adobe Photoshop. Guided by Glenn, participants can learn how to take their images from straight out-of-the-camera RAW images to stunning final works of art (ready for printing or websites).

Full details of this tour can be found here on Glenn's website.

All images above are © Glenn Bartley

Sunday, 31 October 2010

A few Costa Rica images from a friend

A good friend of mine Mark W Larson went over to Costa Rica earlier this year and recently sent me a couple of photos that I thought I'd share with everyone (with his permission!), these images brought back some fond memories for me.

Firstly my favourite of Marks photos, the Sunbittern who's range stretches from south Mexico to NW Peru and Amazonian Brazil. Within Costa Rica the Sunbittern is a resident on the Caribbean and south Pacific slopes, mostly in the foothills and adjacent lowlands up to around 5000ft. In display the Sunbittern spreads it's wings, with it's richly coloured upper surface tilted forward, and fans out its raised tail to fill the gap between them, thereby forming a semicircle of plumage, in the middle of which its head stands. The Sunbittern prefers fast-flowing rocky rivers in addition to slow-flowing creeks, or swamp pools generally in forested country. Usually sedentary or in pairs they jump from rock to rock and wade in the water catching small amphibians, crayfish, crabs and insects. Always a popular bird high up on most peoples 'most-wanted' list.

Equally as impressive and just as popular as the Sunbittern, Boat-billed Heron. This nocturnal foraging Heron frequents wooded riverbanks, swamp and pond margins, estuaries and mangroves and by day roosts in groups of up to 50 birds in trees overhanging water.

A fairly common resident (locally) throughout the dryer Guanacaste lowlands south to around the Rio Tarcoles area of Costa Rica the Double-striped Thick-knee is an interesting bird - like many members of the Burhinidae family. Active principally at night on savanna's, pastures and arable farmland this large bird rests quietly and loafs in small loose flocks during the generally warm days. Double-striped Thick-knees are generally shy and wary, often crouching and freezing when alarmed, preferring to run away rather than fly off. In typical fashion Double-striped Thick-knees, like their global cousins make a nest scrape on bare open ground, within which they lay 1 or 2 eggs.

Other pictures sent through included a White-necked Jacobin and the beautiful Dione moneta poeyii butterfly

Saturday, 30 October 2010

4x Rough-legged Buzzard and another Great Grey Shrike

I've seen several Rough-legged Buzzards in the UK and Europe over the last few years but was a little disappointed to have missed out on the Buckton bird a couple of weekends ago, a bird making up part of an obvious influx of this beautiful Buteo into the U.K with at least 31 and 36 birds reported in the country in the last two weeks. My friend in Norway has recently broken the Lista Bird Observatory day record of Rough-legged Buzzard with 121 birds through in a day (beating previous day record of 110 birds that has stood since the 1970s).

Last week I saw an incredible set of Rough-legged Buzzard photos posted on the Yorkshire pages on Birdforum, taken by Renton Charman taken up at Sleddale/Commondale area of Yorkshire/Cleveland. Apparently there was at least 4 birds in the area so when my wife indicated she'd like to go on a trip to Whitby I didn't hesitate - If I'd have known it was the goth weekend I may have changed my mind! Whitby was rammed! A pheasant flying through the centre of town was a little bit of a surprise! After a very nice fish and chip lunch we headed onto the moors for a pleasant drive.

Renton Charman has very kindly allowed me to use his excellent Rough-legged Buzzard pictures (below). Please note that these images are © Renton Charman 2010 and are not for reproduction without the permission of Renton Charman.

We made out way up through the moorland seeing a couple of Red Grouse and lots of Chaffinch, Redwing and Fieldfare. Rounding the corner west of Commondale we saw a group of cars and pulled up amongst them. Within seconds I was onto a Rough-legged Buzzard as it came over the nearby ridge - excellent I thought, got it, and without having to wait for an age. Whilst on this bird a sudden flash indicated a Peregine was present and for a few seconds the pair of birds hustled with each other, before both dropping over the ridge.

A few moments later a Common Buzzard got up in front of us, with another 2 Common Buzzards behind us, then a Rough-legged Buzzard joined the Common Buzzard in front of us, followed by another, then another, then another, these birds were then joined by two Peregrine Falcons! It was difficult to know where to look!

The Rough-legs were gliding, soaring, hovering and hunting over the moors, occasionally coming fairly close too. In direct comparison to the Common Buzzards the Rough-legs looked larger and longer winged with pale (buffy) heads and white inner tail. They are truly spectacular birds. 3 of the birds were clearly juvenile/1st year birds with the fourth bird being an adult. Talking to a few local birders it is considered likely that there may be as many as 6-8 birds in the various valleys in the area. If these birds stick throughout the winter I'll definitely be going back for further looks. Great birds and great landscape.

In keeping with recent trends I also had more distant views of another Great Grey Shrike, this time sat atop a distant tree! This is my third Great Grey Shrike of the Autumn (I could have had a lot more if I'd gone for all of those around Flamborough at the end of September/beginning of October instead of trying to find something rare!).

Friday, 29 October 2010

Millions of Geese!

I've spent the last two days over in a generally windy and occasionally wet Lancashire, the main feature being the thousands upon thousands of Pink-footed Geese - a truly spectacular sight watching these birds fly to and from their roost sites. One minute the sky was empty, the next the sky was black as about 20,000 came up out of the fields they had spent the day feeding in. I really couldn't get any pictures to do them any justice so I've borrowed one from an old newspaper article - there is no credit for it, however if you took it let me know and I'll add the correct credit, it's a brilliant photo!

The noise generated from this many geese was incredible, even though they were distant.

Other highlights included a single Jack Snipe, at least 80 Common Snipe, thousands of Starling, hundreds of Fieldfare, Redwing and Skylark with a handful of Corn Bunting, Reed Bunting and a variety of finches thrown in for good measure.

Raptors and Owls were generally recorded in lower numbers than previous visits, however an entertaining half-hour was spent today watching a juvenile Peregrine harassing a group of corvids, I wasn't sure if it was actually trying to catch them or if it was just practicing it's flying - good stuff all round!

Great Grey Shrike

I've spent a couple of days in Lancashire - see next post, however on the way over I decided to call in to see some more of the more cock Great Grey Shrike. It wasn't looking too promising at first, a birder present at the site told us it had been seen first thing but that there had been no sign of it for an hour after a Common Buzzard flew over. The area was full of Kestrels, a couple of Buzzard and a high-up Sparrowhawk. Shrike food in the form of Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit and Goldcrest was noted moving amongst the sparse bushes with several Meadow Pipit also calling. After a short while in the cold wind I needed to visit the bushes, on re-appearing from the undergrowth the bird had materialised on the top of the dry stone wall, over the next 20 minutes the bird showed splendidly!

I didn't have my scope/phone handy so here's another image from last time.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

10x Short-eared Owl et al.

I was working down in south Lincolnshire today watching a few Golden Plover and Lapwing which was enjoyable - especially after yesterdays total washout. Whilst conducting my survey, in a random field in the countryside I had flyover Merlin twice and a flyover Peregrine. It amazes me how many Merlin and Peregrine Falcons I see at my sites which are all pretty much random pieces of countryside, it makes me wonder how under-recorded these species may be during the autumn/winter months.

On the way home I popped into Worlaby Carrs to check out the raptor roost. Unfortunately by the time I got there I'd missed the 3 Hen Harriers coming into roost however I caught up with a flock of 11 Waxwing flying through the south of the carrs, whilst following these I noticed a Short-eared Owl, then another, then another so started to concentrate on these.

I made a maximum count of 8 birds at first, then started watching the 4 Barn Owls as they hunted the rough grassland. Another count of the Short-eared Owls a bit later resulted in 10 birds been observed, they were actively hunting, chasing each other about and being harassed big style by Kestrels and assorted corvids - a spectacular sight. I counted at least 9 Kestrels in the air at once - most of these harassing either the Barn or the Short-eared Owls, and there was probably more perched up/out of sight, likewise with the Buzzards of which I had 3 at once.

Farmland birds included Fieldfare, Redwing, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Skylark and Corn Bunting.

It seems like the whole of the UK is covered with Waxwing, Dave has found 20ish in Harrogate, Ade's been having them all over his in the north of Scotland, actually managing to catch one too. My friend Rich is over in Norway and has been reporting many Waxwing (and Fieldfare and Redpoll) moving through, heading straight for the UK, however he did manage to catch this adult male the other day - Check out his blog - Rich Birder, for an interesting daily account of the comings-and-goings at Lista Bird Observatory.

Image © Rich Cope 2010

Friday, 22 October 2010

Cattle Egret and more in Lincolnshire

I've been working down in Lincolnshire for the last couple of days which enabled me to catch up with the Donna Nook Cattle Egret, a very confiding bird feeding amongst the cattle on the access road. A couple of phone-scoped photos below:

The area was generally quite but I managed a few Brambling, Fieldfare, Redwing, Song Thrush, Linnet, Skylark and Meadow Pipit with lots of Starling moving along the bushes. Out on the marshes were several Little Egret, Marsh Harrier, Brent Geese, Shelduck and various waders (Snipe, Redshank, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Curlew, Dunlin etc).

I was doing various Barn Owl dawn/dusk surveys as well as diurnal and nocturnal surveys for Golden Plover - it has certainly got a lot colder this week, meaning it was time for the thermals! Its always interesting watching the Golden Plovers, they can get disturbed by the slightest of things, e.g. a Hare, and then fly round for 20 minutes before landing back in the same place!

Activity overnight was fairly low - but the full moon (phone-scope picture below) certainly lit the countryside up a fair bit.

Vantage points this morning resulted in an impressive 4,375 Wood Pigeon flying through, with several hundred Fieldfare, almost 400 Golden Plover and a mixed finch flock of almost 200 birds (Goldfinch and Linnet). All of this prey inevitably attracted a Peregrine Falcon, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. A decent number of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were around and Lesser Redpoll, Brambling and Siskin also flew overhead. A Green Sandpiper was a surprise as it flushed off a slurry pit.

Back home this evening 5x Swans (Whooper?) flew fairly high south.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

A Brief Seawatch

I got in an early survey in today down in bright but cold Nottinghamshire which was not particularly interesting however it did allow me to get out to the coast for a brief spell this afternoon.

Fieldfare arrived big-style this morning when I recorded a minimum of 850 flying southwest, with at least 250 Redwing and a sprinkling of Skylark and assorted finches in with them. (this was in a 15 minute period).

On arrival at Flamborough this afternoon I was greeted by a sleet shower. I'd just about unpacked my scope as a Short-eared Owl was called out as it made it's final few wing beats over the north sea, before heading onto the head. It is always an incredible sight to witness these beautiful owls making landfall.

The sea was fairly quite, various auks heading north and south - as well as landing on the sea to feed/rest. Several Red-throated Diver - all flying south, lots of Shag, Great black-backed Gulls and Gannets. A couple of Great Skuas flew south close by, with 3 distant Pomarine Skuas - also moving south. Several Sooty Shearwaters had been recorded before I got there.

Several flocks of Common Scoter and Mallard headed south, with the odd Teal in amongst them. A small flock of Common Scoter was noted on the sea right in front of the cliffs, on inspection of these it was evident that they included 2 Velvet Scoters which gave excellent views as they fed at close range.

Passerines were fairly thin on the ground - though not specifically looked for, but did include Blackcap (male and female), Meadow and Rock Pipits and Brambling around the car park area.

Lincolnshire calls tomorrow...

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

More Cock Shrike

Today I couldn't resist the urge to twitch a Great Grey Shrike in Lancashire - why you might ask, well it's simples the bird was at a place called Moorcock Inn! My good friend Lewis's favourite place to stay in the whole wide world!

I have a site in Lancashire where I've been for a few days this week, generally watching lots of Pink-footed Geese with the first Barnacle Goose and Whooper Swans of the season arriving. Plenty of typical farmland birds again, however due to the weather my surveys got re-arranged slightly so I didn't get to kick through all of the stubble that looks so inviting! Though I'll be back next week.

On my way home this afternoon I decided to drop in to the Moorcock, after a brief wait, during which time I had a handful of Red Grouse, Lesser Redpoll and Goldfinch, a Chiffchaff, a Stonechat and a couple of Kestrel the Great Grey Shrike appeared over the top of the hill, gradually flew down the valley before heading back up and out of sight over the hill again. A very smart bird. Pictures below (phone-scoped).

Before heading over to Lancashire I had a Brambling fly over the garden which was a nice addition to my garden list.

Rough-legged Buzzard - Buckton

Unfortunately I didn't see this bird, though Dave and a couple of other guys did... the story goes like this...

Dave wanted to try for the Buckton Richard's Pipit on Sunday so we set off early morning for Buckton and Hoddy Cows lane, plenty of thrushes were passing through, mainly Blackbirds with Song Thrush and Redwings and the odd Fieldfare thrown in. Amongst these were several finches, Brambling, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Siskin and Redpoll sps. Several Blackcap were feeding amongst the Elders with dozens of Goldcrest and the odd Chiffchaff working along the scrub. Ring Ouzel and Snipe were noted near the end of the lane.

As we got onto the cliffs and the areas of stubble a party of 150 Meadow Pipit got a working through, though nothing rare stood out, likewise a field of Skylark got a good look over. Plenty of Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting were seen, with a couple of Corn Bunting and more Brambling thrown in to the mix. A large numbers of Linnet and Goldfinch . A brief flyover Lapland Bunting was frustrating.

Several fields were walked however the Richard's Pipit either had gone, or was hiding too well and we didn't see it, just a single Lapland Bunting being of note. We did however see several Common Buzzards appear to come 'in-off', knowing what was going on at Spurn we checked them carefully!

On getting back to the car I realised my lens cap had fallen off - you pay a shed load of money for some bins, the least they could do is design some lens caps that don't fall off every couple of hours! Take note Mr Swarovski!!! Needless to say, as I was running along Hoddy Cows Lane looking on the ground for my lens cap Dave, who'd stayed at the car in the village (his old legs couldn't cope with another walk) and a couple of other guys had a smart Rough-legged Buzzard fly over them (it was photographed as it flew nicely overhead). I found my lens cap, but somehow didn't really make up for not seeing the Rough-leg! At least Dave was happy on the way home!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Another few days in Lancashire

Heading west is always worrying, especially after the weather of the last few days, oh well, at least there's a chance of a yank passerine/wader in Lancashire I thought. Unfortunately there wasn't any American birds on my site (no real surprise) but there was a couple on the east coast! A Red-eyed Vireo at Seaton Carew near Hartlepool and then (from late news that came out this evening) a Common Nighthawk at Horden (also near Hartlepool!). In fact these locations are about 12Km apart - as the vagrant flies. Not bad going for the east coast, I must get out more!

My site was rather dull VP wise this time (I was doing the boring side that I usually give to other people to do!). No Peregrines, Marsh Harrier or even many waders. The nocturnal survey was incredibly dull - save 1 Barn Owl and an incredibly impressive night sky. A drive around my site and it's environs produced fewer geese than usual, however highlights included 2 Whinchat and a Jack Snipe. As we were driving round the Snipe burst out of the roadside verge before landing not too far away - a nice surprise! However there was really not much else of note.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Barred Warbler Flamborough

I reported yesterday that I'd had a brief glimpse of a large Sylvia warbler at Holmes Gut North Landing Flamborough and that I thought it was likely to have been a Barred Warbler. The bird flushed with some Robins as we walked back to our cars in order to chase the Filey Radde's Warbler for Dave and since we'd found Barred Warbler a couple of weeks back we didn't bother trying to find it (I let a couple of guys know about it as we were driving off). My view, though brief did leave me feeling happy it was one - they are pretty straightforward after all.

News came out fairly early this morning of a Barred Warber in Holmes Gut, which was quite pleasing, knowing how skulky they can be at times (plus the amount of available thick cover present in the area) I wasn't really surprised/concerned that it wasn't seen immediately after we'd seen it but pleased that it was relocated today.

I didn't do any birding today as such though as I was driving around York I called in to look for Ospreys at some fishing pools, unfortunately the bird had just left and I wasn't able to hang around. A flock of Chaffinch and Brambling flew over whilst we were waiting.

Though I've not seen much of interest today some people have with a list of great birds recorded today within the UK including: Green Heron, Solitary Sandpiper, 2 more Red-flanked Bluetail, Isabelline Wheatear, Pied Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, 2 Hermit Thrush, presumed Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Isabelline Shrike, Red-eyed Vireo and 2 Yellow-rumped Warbler with a supporting cast of: Blue-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup, 4 American Golden Plovers, 2 Baird's Sandpipers, Long-billed Dowitcher, Lesser Yellowlegs, Wilson's Phalarope, 2/3 Siberian Stonechat, 2 Olive-backed Pipits, 2 Black-throated Thrush, Paddyfield Warbler, 4 Radde's Warbler, 3 Dusky Warbler, Siberian Chiffchaff and Booted Warbler.

American Black Tern, American Buff-bellied Pipit, Black-throated Accentor, Pied Bushchat, Swainson's Thrush, Red-eyed Vireo and Chestnut-sided Warbler were recorded around the Western Palearctic too!

Saturday, 9 October 2010

More Flamborough - and a bit of Filey

Dave and I went back to Flamborough pretty much first thing this morning, full of optimism for what the day might bring, however we left pretty disappointed. There was high quantity of birds but the quality anticipated/expected failed to materialise and seemed to be all along the coast to the north of us- though it wasn't for lack of searching!

There was higher quantity of birds today than yesterday, with many birds passing over constantly at a greater height than previously. We concentrated on North Landing again and are gradually getting familiar with it - a really enjoyable 'patch' to work.

Species recorded in no particular order included Brambling (c.150), Chaffinch (c.80), Redwing (c.500+), Ring Ouzel (at least 4 including 1 smart male and at least 3 1st winters/female types), Redstart (1 1st winter type), Stonechat (c.10), Song Thrush (c.100+), Swallow (1), Wheatear (1), Siskin (c.200+), Robin (c.100+), Goldcrest (c.50+), Great Spotted Woodpecker (1), Chiffchaff (c.35+), Meadow Pipit (c.150), Skylark (c.25), Tree Sparrow (100), House Sparrow (100), Reed Bunting (55), Yellowhammer (15), Goldfinch, (150), Blue Tit (10), Great Tit (2), Blackcap (10), Garden Warbler (2), Wren (20), Dunnock (30), Greenfinch (20+), Linnet (20+), Kestrel (1), Peregrine (1).

A brief view of a large Sylvia warbler mid afternoon looked very much like a Barred Warbler, however it flushed out of the bush (probably across a road) and out of view never to be seen again!

Birds were moving about constantly, some only remaining briefly in our 'watch area'. We bumped in James who'd seen a few bits and pieces, similar fare to what we'd seen and we also bumped Russ who'd found a smart male Black Redstart, however by the time we got round to where it had been it was evident it had probably moved on - likely due to an increase in general public in the area. Birds we didn't see today included 3 Great Grey Shrike, 1 Common Rosefinch, 3 Yellow-browed Warbler, 1 Long-eared Owl, 1 Hawfinch, 20 Lapland Bunting that were all seen at various other locations around the head - mainly the south.

Mid afternoon news of a Radde's Warbler at Filey encouraged us a little further north up the coast however on arrival there had been no sign of the bird - hardly surprising given the fact that there was 2/3 people inside the patch of bushes that the bird had been favouring. In addition to this there was plenty of disturbance in the form of dog-walkers and other 'people' (chavs). I really don't like Filey!

Hopefully nothing good will arrive tomorrow as I don't think I'm likely to make it 3 days in a row!

Friday, 8 October 2010

More migrants at Flamborough

I spent the day birding at North Landing, Flamborough Head East Yorkshire again today. Dave got to mine for 8 and we set off in the mist. On arrival at North Landing an hour or so later we were greeted with easterly winds and zero visibility.

The sound of Redwing, Song Thrush and Brambling was resonating around us as we got out of the car. We set off on our walk kicking out Song Thrush after Redwing after Song Thrush, dozens of them with large numbers of Blackbirds thrown in too. A large thrush broke out of cover, its pale wings and large white crescent immediately evident - a smart Ring Ouzel - the only problem being that visibility was so poor we really couldn't fully appreciate it! (see my phone photo below taken at about 25m range!). Wandering around the bushes we found several Goldcrest, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff with plenty of Dunnock, Wren, Robin, Tree Sparrow, Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer about with yet more and more thrushes pouring over. We had a female Sparrowhawk sat up in a hedge (see phone photo) continually tilting its head, watching the migrants fly by. Interestingly two Fieldfare dropped in briefly before carrying on inland, these were the only Fieldfare seen today. A change in direction and a warbler caught our eye in the top of a Hawthorn bush, we got the briefest of views, enough to tell it was an Acrocephalus, it was fairly warm buff-coloured so was probably (hopefully) 'just' a Reed Warbler - we waited for another show but had no joy. Reluctantly we moved on.

Continuing around North Landing we came across a single Redstart and more and more Goldcrest and Chiffchaff and as the afternoon progressed in appeared that more and more were arriving. Yet more thrushes too. Continuing along the cliff top a few Skylark and Meadow Pipit, then I noticed a bird on a 5-bar gate - a Great Grey Shrike, awesome! It sat there for a while looking around before shooting off over our head down into a gully where it was promptly mobbed by almost a hundred House and Tree Sparrow, we followed the Shrike for about half an hour watching it hunt, it caught a bee and went for a Meadow Pipit, but the Pipit got away. The presence of a Shrike is really useful - it does the flushing so you don't have to! I managed to grab a couple of photos on my phone (see below).

There was a couple of Great Grey Shrikes at Flamborough last week, though I'm not sure when they were last reliably seen. There seems to have been a few Great Grey Shrikes arrive along the east coast today, so our bird may have been a 'new' bird. Evidently 3 birds were trapped on the Isle of May (Fife) and one was trapped at Whitburn (Durham).

The final act of the day was a Peregrine that shot through the Feral Pigeons, ignored them all took out a Kestrel instead! Awesome.

So nothing mega, but still an enjoyable day. We'll be heading back tomorrow morning for more!