Monday, 30 April 2012

North Duffield & Arctic Skuas in LDV

Dog walk this morning resulted in my first Cuckoo, first female Blackcap, and 2 Sedge Warblers back on the circuit.

Popped into North Duffield Carrs on my way to work this morning where there was 23 Whimbrel, 1 Greenshank, 1 Black-tailed Godwit (complete with a set of colour rings - see below) and 3 Sedge Warblers. On the way to work I had another couple of Cuckoo and a good number of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff.

Work was fun, at least it wasn't raining! Highlights were the Red Kites that showed really well for an hour or so. This Meadow Pipit also showed nicely! I had about 46+ Swallow heading north during the survey.

Meadow Pipit (Phone-scoped) 

Meadow Pipit (Phone-scoped) 

Back to North Duffield this evening and I got brief views of a 1st summer Little Gull, I got a couple of record shots below, but it was quite distant. There was at least 28 Whimbrel present, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Greenshank and a summer plumaged Dunlin flew east.

Distant Little Gull (phone-scoped) 

Distant Little Gull (phone-scoped)  

Distant Little Gull (phone-scoped) with Black-headed for size comparison

Interestingly the Black-tailed Godwit (below) was colour ringed with a code appearing to be:  right leg - yellow over white over yellow and left leg - white over yellow (all above the knee). Will see what I can find out about it...

Colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit (phone-scoped)

One of the Whimbrel (below) was also colour ringed, I'll provide an update when/if I can get to the bottom of it!

Colour-ringed Whimbrel - where's this one come from and been to? (phone-scoped)

Biggest local news was the 2 Arctic Skuas that Tim found flying north through the valley in the afternoon - a great, if not a bit gripping find!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Water water everywhere (and some good birds)

Stayed local over the weekend as my parents were visiting. Was hoping to explore several quieter areas within the valley but due to the poor weather this wasn't able to happen so we made several trips to North Duffield to sit in the hide and also visited Castle Howard.

Saturday morning I was in the hide at North Duffield at 5am hoping for something interesting. I wasn't disappointed, it was amazing! In the space of 2 hours I'd had 60 species all from my seat in the hide! There was many highlights including 2 (possibly 4) Avocet that flew north through the valley (a site/area tick for me), drake Garganey, 13 Whimbrel, 20 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Greenshank and 6 Dunlin flew through, plus my first singing Cuckoo of the year and a pair of Grey Partridge. Pretty impressive dawn chorus activity too.

The calm before the storm 

The calm before the storm

The local dog walked was interesting as I had a new site tick in the form of a single Whimbrel in a sheep field and then 2 singing male Lesser Whitethroats (along with male Blackcap, Common Whitethroat and Willow Warbler) that showed really well.

Castle Howard was freezing cold, blowing a gale with heavy showers, therefore many of the birds were keeping sheltered and hidden.  A couple of Blackcap showed well, as did a number of House Martin, Sand Martin and a couple of Swift.

This morning it was fairly difficult as it was raining with the wind blowing it straight into the hide.  The water was pouring off the river and it's surely only a matter of time before the river bursts its bank properly. Highlights this morning were fewer, however a Mediterranean Gull (site tick for me) made it worth dragging myself out of bed! There was fewer Whimbrel, about 6 or so with 4 Greenshank now present, up from 2 on Friday night, and 3 on Saturday.

3 Greenshank (phone-scoped)

This evening I popped down briefly and had approximately 20 Whimbrel, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Short-eared Owl, 2 Greenshank, 5 Redshank, 3 Oystercatcher and all the usual suspects. A brief flight of a potential Little Gull was a little frustrating as it dropped down below the river bank and wasn't seen again!

Friday, 27 April 2012

More good local birding

Had a couple of forays into the local area this afternoon/evening. Seemed to be more migrants in today too.

Highlights included:

Wheatear: 1 male
Sedge Warbler: 1 singing North Duffield
Yellow Wagtail: 3 males
Swift: 2 flying north
Great Crested Grebe: 3 on Bubwith Ings
Greenshank: 2 North Duffield
Whimbrel: 7 North Duffield
Swallow, Sand Martin and House Martin all in higher numbers.

Highlight this evening however was the owls with great views of Barn, Short-eared and Tawny Owls. The Tawny flew right across in front of the hide perching briefly before moving off, but while walking back to the car I spotted it sat in a tree and got the following photos.

Tawny Owl (Phone-scoped) 

Tawny Owl (Phone-scoped)

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Little Gull & Black Tern: York

Had  a few decent local birds again today and a few nice year ticks too.

Highlights (more decent local year birds for my non-year-list-year-list):

Black Tern - Cracking adult bird found by Russ this morning hung around for most of the day, showing really well on the floods at Thorganby, again I managed a couple of record shots on my phone.

Black Tern (Phone-scoped)

 Black Tern (Phone-scoped)

Little Gull - 1st summer bird I found at Bubwith Ings this morning. The bird dropped in briefly before clearing off with a group of Black-headed Gulls. I managed to get a couple of record shots on my phone below.
Little Gull (Phone-scoped) 

Little Gull (Phone-scoped) 

Little Gull (Phone-scoped)
Garganey - drake seen again.

Garganey (Phone-scoped)

Other Migrants included:

Cuckoo: 1 Thorganby
Swift (4): 1 over Bubwith Bridge and 3 over Thorganby
Greenshank: 1 (of 2 present) at Thorganby
Whimbrel: 15+ at Thorganby
Black-tailed Godwit: 11 at North Duffield and 94 at Thorganby
Lesser Whitethroat: 1 singing male North Duffield
Common Whitethroat: 2 singing males North Duffield
House Martin: 5/6 at Bubwith Bridge (+ my 2 birds in North Duffield that have been present for ages!)
Swallow: 50+ at Bubwith Bridge
Sand Martin: 2/3 Bubwith Bridge
Yellow Wagtail: 1 Bubwith Bridge
Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap: low numbers throughout valley
(Arctic Tern 3 seen by others in the north of the valley)

(Bar-tailed Godwit: I had a distant bird at North Duffield with the 11 Black-tailed Godwits that I thought could have been Bar-tailed Godwit however in the time it took me to get to a better location to view the bird it had been flushed by a Sparrowhawk and had disappeared. A Bar-tailed Godwit was seen flying through the north of the valley in the early evening...)

Best of the rest: Tawny Owl seen, Little Owl seen, Tufted Duck at Bubwith up to 70 birds with others at North Duffield and Thorganby, Shoveler, Gadwall, several Ruff, Lapwing, Curlew, Redshank, Snipe and the usual farmland passerines e.g. Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer, Corn Bunting etc.

It was a stormy day today with thunder etc. This was the view from Bubwith.

Storm passing Bubwith

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Prothonotary Warbler: 1st for Western Pal?

Wow! Belated news from June/July 2010 of a bird photographed on board a ship off Iceland - apparently just within the WP boundary. Check out the photos/details etc here. Prothonotary Warblers are one of my favourites, I'm used to seeing them in mangrove swamps in Costa Rica, but think I'd go take a look at one over here if I had the chance!!!

Arctic Tern: Year List Gold

If I was doing a local (York area) year list - which I'm not - I'd have seen a good bird this evening. Following on with the national fallout of Arctic Terns I got lucky and connected too.  I spoke to a wise old man this afternoon who suggested I should stand at Bubwith Bridge and dodge the traffic and look out for terns following on the river. So I duly listened and found a good excuse to get out there in the rain this evening (car needs fuel). I gave it a good hour and just as I was about to give up I picked up a distant tern heading south along the flood. Got my scope on it and it was clear it was a smart Arctic Tern. I watched it as it flew closer and then as I zoomed out realised it was one of 3 birds. They headed south towards me before turning northeast and then back east as they flew out of view.

I'd been scanning through the gulls heading towards the Humber to roost in the hope of Little Gulls or something better but no joy today - hopeful for tomorrow though...

Also on the flood was at least 65 Tufted Duck, 8 Shelduck and 1 Great Crested Grebe. A flock of 65 Swallows appeared as the evening approached and a single male Yellow Wagtail was feeding along the edge of the flood, other than that there was a few Mallard, Shoveler and Gadwall.

Earlier in the afternoon on my way home from the office I checked out a few local spots briefly getting my first Sedge Warbler of the year, announcing itself in spectacularly explosive style. Other bits included female Goldeneye and at least 15 Whimbrel (for some interesting info on Whimbrel and other aspects of the LDV check out the excellent LDV Blog.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

More Local Quality Birding: Is spring around the corner (finally)?

Managed to get a bit of local birding in today and it appeared as though there was a few new migrants in. 

Morning dog walk around the village resulted in the first Sand Martin (flying north), Common Whitethroat and Yellow Wagtail of the year on the dog walk patch. Had the most amazing Barn Owl encounter, where one flew right up to me (within 6ft), then circled me before moving off.

Afterwards we took a trip down to Bubwith Bridge where a very smart (year tick) Common Sandpiper was walking along the debris in the river. There was also 56 Tufted Duck and a dozen or so Shelduck. Several more Sand Martin were noted passing through heading north.

Common Sandpiper Record Shot (Phone-scoped)

Common Sandpiper Record Shot (Phone-scoped)

The dogs enjoying their birding trip!

Spent most of the day in a meeting over Beverley way which was fairly dull, however a very smart Wheatear on the site was nice.

Heading back through the valley this afternoon/evening a few more decent birds were picked up including 8 Whimbrel, 2 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Little Grebe, 8 Great Crested Grebes, a pair of Egyptain Geese, Corn Bunting and a sprinkling of Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap however the highlight was a second drake Garganey in consecutive days. This bird showed a lot better than yesterdays (and I had my better Blackberry with me) so I got the following couple of photos:

Drake Garganey (Phone-scoped)

Drake Garganey (Phone-scoped)

Monday, 23 April 2012

A nice local Garganey

Had a busy day in the office today but on the way home I managed to connect with a cracking male Garganey a very nice year tick and one of my favourite ducks out there! Got a very poor record shot on my blackberry - unfortunately I'd left the better camera Blackberry in the car so didn't get a great pic, but you can sort of see what it is.

Drake Garganey (phone-scoped)

It was yet another day of sun and rain, got a couple of pics of the clouds below.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Are Crows are good for Starlings?

Did a fair bit of local birding today in one form or another and I managed to get a couple of decent local area year ticks.

First off was a couple of male Common Whitethroat that were singing away, with back up in the form of a single Twite, Shelduck and female Wheatear. A nearby field held 6 male and 1 female Yellow Wagtails, several Pied and a single White Wagtail, however pride of place here went to the stonking male Wheatear. Also quite a few Skylark present too.

Wheatear (Phone-scoped)

A bit later a 'flock' of 3 Whimbrel was nice - one was colour ringed but I could only get that it had a yellow ring above the left leg as unfortunately the grass was too long.

Late in the afternoon while driving around a familiar song caught my attention and I was surprised to hear a very early Quail singing away. I listened to it for 5 minutes before I had to get on my way.

Ah, almost forgot. The blog title... Well this morning while watching the Twite I was aware of a flock of Starling feeding on some grass 10ft in front of me, when suddenly there was an awful loud squealing cry. A Sparrowhawk had dropped onto a Starling but not killed it. The birds wrestled on the ground for a minute or so as all the other birds in the area went crazy. Suddenly a Crow appeared and dive bombed the raptor a couple of times, at which point the Sparrowhawk let go of the prey and made a hasty retreat, getting smashed all the way by the Crow! Whether the Crow was defending the Starling, defending its own territory, or trying to steal the Sparrowhawks prey is debatable... but interesting to watch. The Starling took the opportunity to make a dash for it!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

New Garden Bird

Had a new garden tick today, of sorts... A few months back I had my first Shelduck over the garden, ticked on call at about 11pm in total darkness. This morning I had a pair flying over in the torrential rain in daylight - so although not really a garden tick, it sort of was!

Checked on North Duffield this morning, the River rapidly rising with all the torrential rain, plenty of Swallow and a few Sand Martin but little else of note.

Was surveying today in the hills which was fun in the rain, although it didn't stop the birds from putting on a show with Merlin, Short-eared Owl and plenty of displaying waders showing well.

Once back in the York area we checked out a couple of bare fields, with the bonus of 7/8 Yellow Wagtails, 1 White Wagtail and 8/9 Pied Wagtails and several Meadow Pipit. Interestingly there was also 75 Skylark feeding in the field too.

Working my way home I called at a few local sites, the water levels were shooting up but there was little in the line of new interesting birds, however this may change over the coming days I guess... Fingers crossed

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Osprey on the patch

I checked out Bubwith this morning to see if the water had attracted anything in, there was over 20 Tufted Duck and several Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal and Shelduck as well as an arrival of Swallow and Sand Martin. It was freezing though so I didn't hang around too long!

Mid-afternoon I got a [much appreciated] phone call from Mr Zing informing me there was an Osprey sat on a fence post at North Duffield! I was checking on the horse at the time at Escrick so knew I was at least 20 minutes away... would it stick?

I raced back, typically getting stuck behind 3 tractors en-route! A quick run down to the hide, one space left to sit down, and there it was sat at the back of the reserve eating a massive fish! I managed to get a good half hour watching as it ate its afternoon tea. This was my first on the local patch and also my first in the York Area too (and a year tick). I've had several in the neighbouring Harrogate area so guessed it was only a matter of time, and this was, funnily enough, the subject of conversation yesterday between me and a few other local birders!

Anyway, I managed a couple of record shots on my phone (below)

Osprey North Duffield Carrs (Phone-scoped)

Osprey North Duffield Carrs (Phone-scoped)

Osprey North Duffield Carrs (Phone-scoped)

This evening I had another quick half-hour back in the hide and the Osprey was still present, however while I was scanning Bubwith (enjoying a flock of over 100 hirundines - 95% Swallow and 5% Sand Martin) it vanished!

Friday, 13 April 2012

Some water at last!

Had some decent birds locally the last couple of days and also several more Swallow, Sand Martin, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap. Lots of evidence of breeding waders such as Snipe, Redshank, Curlew and Lapwing.

Hopefully the rain of the last couple of days will help attract some decent migrants over the next few weeks... fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

A few more local bits

Today I had a few more signs of Spring in the local area including the following:

Blackcap - 2 males heard singing at Wheldrake. My first of the year. I had a male in a local garden in December but nothing since!

Wheatear - 1 male at North Duffield Carrs.

Willow Warbler - Several heard at North Duffield and Wheldrake.

Sand Martin - 1 over Wheldrake.

Swallow - 2 over North Duffield Carrs and 1 over North Duffield Village.

Chiffchaff - lots now all over the place.

Work this morning was not as exciting as I'd hoped but I did get several Red Kite, with 3 Swallow and 5 Sand Martin in amongst a steady passerine passage north.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

House Martin

Had my first House Martin of the year this morning (potentially the first in the York Area this year I think). Same as last year, got back from walking the dogs to find one flying around the street, though this year a good 2 weeks later that last year.

I think one was seen this afternoon at Wheldrake today too, and reports of arrivals of Swallow and Sand Martin in more decent numbers too. Finally!

Looking forward to going birding tomorrow....

Sunday, 8 April 2012

More Local Birding: Some More Migrants

Did some local birding this morning, highlights included:

Yellow Wagtail - stunning male. I think this is the first in the York Recording Area this year - there doesn't seem to be that many reported in the country at all yet either!

'Scandinavian' Rock Pipit - single bird, possibly the same one found by Tim last week. Was keeping close company with the Yellow Wagtail however both were flushed by someone and flew west out of sight.

Wheatear - single female in same area as last week, possibly the same bird, sat in a hedge!

Sand Martin - single bird flew low west right overhead giving very nice views - first one at the site this year I believe. My fourth Sand Marin of the year, following on from a flock of three I had couple of weeks back.

Swallow - a single bird in Thorganby. Only my 3rd of the year so far.

Green Sandpiper - a single bird showing nicely on a pool. Its been here a while but now starting to look a bit nicer. I managed to get a couple of shots on my phone.

Green Sandpiper (phone-scoped)

Green Sandpiper (phone-scoped)

Green Sandpiper (phone-scoped)

There was plenty of Skylark about too, one posed for a few pics.

Skylark (phone-scoped)

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Local Birding

Took the dogs on a nice 2+ hour walk round the local area this afternoon and managed to get a few decent birds along the way. Highlights were a flock of 10 vocal Corn Bunting, Little Owl, Merlin, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, 3+ displaying Kestrel, c15+ Buzzard (including a kettle of 8!) and several moderate flocks of Linnet that'll be worth scanning for Twite if I get chance in the coming day.

Migrants were represented by a couple of singing Chiffchaff and a single Swallow that flew high north. Several Oystercatcher, Redshank and Lapwing were all observed near the river.

Yesterday evening I visited another local spot and found a really interesting flock of finches, that included 85+ Corn Bunting! A single Redshank was a new site bird for me.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Local Twite and a Wheatear (finally)

Did a spot of local birding this evening on my way home from the office, had a fairly decent result and was glad my thermals were in the back of my car as it was BALTIC!

It didn't take too long to locate a Twite in amongst a flock of 25/30 Linnet, I got a couple of record shots on my phone (below). Shame it was so windy, didn't make it very easy and the focus kind of went a bit wrong! Quite a decent local (York Area) bird I think. Congrats Tim on finding another cracker!

Twite (out of focus!)

Twite (almost in focus!)

Moving on I managed to connect with a smart Wheatear, my first in the YOC area this year. Grabbed a quick picture of it before the sun set.