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