Thursday, 28 February 2013

This week I lost a great friend...

...Russell Slack.  I'm not able to write anything at the moment as I don't have the words but please read this post from the Lower Derwent Valley NNR blog...

Birdrace Team 2012 

Details of Russ' funeral arrangements below:

Russell's funeral will take place on Friday 15th March at 1pm, at St. Helen's Church, Wheldrake and afterwards a celebration of his life at the Jefferson Arms, Thorganby.

At Russell's request no black/tie or suits.  Please come casually dressed.

Donations will be taken for Macmillans and local Wheldrake Trust (details to follow).

Sunday, 24 February 2013

LDV & Castle Howard

Had a very quick check from Bubwith Bridge this lunchtime, still good numbers of birds, more or less the same as yesterday species and numbers wise so see yesterdays report if interested (too some record shots of the waders on my phone (below)! The main difference was that there was a good 50+ Whooper Swans on Bubwith Ings, a dog walker then kindly flushed 2 previously unseen Bewick's Swans out onto the water for me!

I then headed over to Castle Howard to see if there was anything on the lake. Fairly quiet there to be honest, lots of Coots today, 3 Goosander and the female Scaup still present too. The gull roost was quite impressive, mainly Common and Black-headed Gulls with five Herring Gulls noted and one 1st winter Mediterranean Gull with a very smart 'zorro-mask'. There was also at least 52 Cormorant present.

'Normal' Ruff (phone-scoped)

'Funky' Ruff (phone-scoped through vegetation)

Lapwing (phone-scoped)

Redshank (phone-scoped)

Bewick's Swans (phone-scoped)

Sunset at Castle Howard

Nice Barn Owl on the drive home too.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Lower Derwent Valley Birding

Spent the afternoon birding at North Duffield Carrs and Ings, and Bubwith Ings with James, though I had an hour or so down there before he arrived.

North Duffield Ings and Bubwith Ings were both stacked out with waders and wildfowl.  Highlights included: 4 Black-tailed Godwit, 50 Ruff, 400 Dunlin, 800 Golden Plover, 1500 Lapwing, 20 Redshank, 1 Oystercatcher, 10 Curlew, 2 Snipe. There was a good 30+ Whooper Swan, Mute Swan and Black Swan on the water with Greylag, Canada and 2 Egyptian Geese also present. 162 Pochard were on Bubwith Ings (though probably under-estimate as many were under trees), plenty of the usual suspects: Pintail, Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Gadwall.

Unsurprisingly the abundance of birds was attractive to raptors. I had 4 Buzzard, 2 Kestrel (one below), Sparrowhawk and a 1st winter/female Merlin.

Derwent Cottage Farm had hardly any swans today: about 8, hardly worth stopping... glad we checked them though as two of them were the Bewick's Swans!! The field was rammed with Golden Plover (1000+) and Lapwing (800) along with 100 Dunlin and a few Ruff. Also a small flock (c25 Linnet).

North Duffield Carrs was fairly quiet though drake Greater Scaup, Great-crested Grebe, 3 Little Grebe, 3 Goldeneye, 10 Curlew,were nice, along with the regulars: Mute Swan, Teal, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Black-headed and Common Gulls, Coot and Moorhen etc.

The morning dog walk was fairly quiet today, no Barn Owls today, though 2 and 1 in the last couple of days were nice. Today it was mainly Bullfinch, Tree Sparrow and Yellowhammer.

On Thursday I had a nice garden visitor, Song Thrush (photo below).

Friday, 22 February 2013

Herring Gull Movements

Hot on the heels of yesterdays colour-ringed Waxwing observations Tim Jones sent me some details through of five darvic-ringed Herring Gulls all found within the York Area, four of which he'd found, the other one seen by another York Birder, Mark Killeen.

I've knocked up some maps for three of the birds with more interesting movements.  Two of them have moved over from Scarborough (not mapped), two of them have come from Aberdeen, and one of them, the most interesting, has come from Norway (via Denmark)!

Herring Gull Black darvic, orange code JO220
Initially ringed as pullus at Storøytåa, Mandal, Vest-Agder, Norway on 29.06.2008. Next seen at Hirtshals, Øststranden, Nordjylland, Denmark on 18.11.2008, 02.12.2008, 06.07.2010 and 31.10.2010.  It was then seen again in Denmark on 11.06.2011 nearby at Hanstholm havn, Nordjylland. It then moved back to Norway and was seen on 30.12.2011 at Brennevinsmyra, Mandal, Vest-Agder before Tim saw it at Upper Poppleton on 24.01.2013, cool recovery of an argentatus. Approximate map of the movement below:

View Herring Gull 3 in a larger map

Herring Gull Yellow darvic, black code, T:141
Initially ringed as a third year male at West Tullos industrial estate, Aberdeen on 24.07.2012.  It was next seen at Lincoln Landfill Site, North Hykeham, Lincolnshire on 03.01.2013.  Then seen by Mark Killeen at Rufforth Airfield on 07.02.2013. Approximate map of the movement below:

View Herring Gull in a larger map

Herring Gull Yellow darvic, black code, T:427
Initially ringed as an adult in a Peterculter Garden, Aberdeen on 18.07.2012.  Tim saw it at Upper Poppleton on 25.01.2013.  Approximate map of the movement below:

View Herring Gull 2 in a larger map

The following two movements have not been mapped, but details below for completeness:

Herring Gull Orange darvic, black code 2154
Initially ringed on 30.01.2009 on Seamer Carr landfill, near Scarborough, North Yorkshire, as an adult. Then seen at- Scalby Mills 04.12.2010 and Filey on 06 and 09.04.2011, 07.05.2011, 24.07.2011 and 24.07.2012.  Tim saw it at Upper Poppleton on 24.01.2013

Herring Gull Orange darvic, black code 2923
Initially ringed on Seamer Carr, on the 13.05.2011, as an adult.  The next sighting was Tims at Upper Poppleton on 24.01.2013.

Further reasoning why colour-ringing, darvic-ringing birds is such a useful/interesting tool!

Thanks to Tim and everyone involved.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

More Waxwing Movements into York

A couple of weeks back I found a colour-ringed Waxwing at Strensall, York. Got the details through - it was a Welsh-ringed bird - details/maps etc here.

When a decent flock of about 100 Waxwing was found in Acomb, York last week there was yet more excitement when TWO colour-ringed birds (both different to mine) were found in the flock!

Firstly Chris Gomersall photographed another colour-ringed bird in the flock (present on the 14th and 15th February 2013). Yet again this turned out to be a Welsh-ringed bird from Newton, Powys Wales.  Ringed on 16th December 2012. Chris' photo is below and I've knocked up a quick map to show the movement.

Waxwing Photo: Chris Gomersall - reproduced with permission

Waxwing Photo: Chris Gomersall - reproduced with permission

View Waxwing Movement 2 in a larger map

Secondly Nick Moran on the 16th and Tim Jones, Jack Ashton-Booth and Dave-Waudby on the 18th February 2013 recorded a second colour-ringed Waxwing in the same Acomb flock. However this was not a third Welsh-ringed bird, but a Scottish-ringed bird!!  This bird was ringed near Aberdeen on 18th November 2012 before making a short movement up there and subsequently resighted down in the Acomb flock! I don't have any pictures of this bird unfortunately but I've produced a map of the movement below:

View Waxwing Movement 3 in a larger map

Thanks to Chris for allowing me to use his photos and letting me know about the bird, and also to Tim, Jack, Dave and Nick (BTO) for keeping me in the loop with their bird, and also to Raymond of the Grampian Ringing Group and Tony from the Mid-Wales Ringing Group for their quick responses.

I've said it before but this kind of project really shows the value of colour-ringed birds! Check yours out!!!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Fantastic Day in LDV

Had a great day birding round the Lower Derwent Valley with Lewis (off the RSPB Scotland) today.  Highlights included:

North Duffield/Bubwith/Aughton Area:

  • Barnacle Goose (3 flocks: 11, 53 and 15)
  • Bewick's Swan (2)
  • Whooper Swan (80+)
  • Greater Scaup (1 drake) - pics below
  • Egyptian Goose (2)
  • Black-tailed Godwit (2)
  • Great Spotted Woodpecker (3 males drumming)
  • Skylark - lots singing
  • Sparrowhawk (3)
  • Curlew (11+)
  • Dunlin (200+)
  • Lapwing (c2000)
  • Golden Plover (600+)
  • Great Crested Grebe (1)
  • Little Grebe (2)
  • Marsh Tit (2)
Thorganby/Wheldrake Area:
  • Glaucous Gulls (2 1st winters)
  • Greater Scaup (1 drake)
  • Barn Owl (2) - pics below
  • Peregrine (1 adult male)
  • Black-tailed Godwit (2) - same 2 as at North Duffield Ings???
  • Curlew (26)
  • Lawing (c1500)
Plenty of other 'nice' birds around: Bullfinch, Yellowhammer, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Tree Sparrow, Grey Partridge etc etc...

Barn Owl © Andy Walker 2013

Barn Owl © Andy Walker 2013

Barn Owl © Andy Walker 2013

Barnacle Goose (flock of 53)

Barnacle Goose (part of the flock)

Scaup (Phone-scoped)

Lewis enjoying the Bewick's Swan

Me at Castle Howard at dusk (photo Lewis Davies)

Saturday, 16 February 2013

LDV + Castle Howard Birding

Went birding locally today, after the fog finally lifted! Nice to go birding with Lewis, Ade and Rich.

First off was North Duffield/Bubwith area though didn't quite go as planned due to a female Sparrowhawk and some loud gunshots flushing everything to the back of the area (straight into the sun).

Did get a lot of Whooper and Mute Swans and the Black Swan and two Bewick's Swans (these were very very distant this am).  Had a nice flock of 40 Ruff, 150 Dunlin and several hundred Lapwing/Golden Plover. There was also 3 Curlew and 20+ Redshank about. Lots of the usual Pintail, Wigeon, Teal etc.

On the Bubwith Ings side there was a flock of 251 Pochard (though probably and under-estimate). The couple of Egyptian Geese showed nicely today.

Gypo Geese (Phone-scoped)

Gypo Geese (Phone-scoped)

A drive through the LDV resulted in Barn Owl, Pink-footed Goose, my first local pair of Oystercatcher of the year and more Curlew and Redshank. Also lots of farmland birds like Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer, Tree Sparrow.

Spent the afternoon near Castle Howard and stayed fairly late in the afternoon. Impressive gull roost - mainly Common and Black-headed Gulls. Another 40 Pochard (only one end counted so presumably an under-estimation. 9 Goosander, 2 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Little Grebe and the female Scaup too.

Just as we were leaving a Barn Owl gave some really nice views.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Glonk in York

Had a really enjoyable dawn survey this morning which resulted in pretty much no birds, though a strong wind and general cold air gave for a windchill of about -12! Such fun!

On the way home I thought I'd at least get some reward for my early start with a trip to the York Area Gull Mecca - AKA Rufforth Tip. Only once reaching there the wind, and cold air also included snow which resulted in poor visibility.  I sat it out in the car for a bit to see if it would improve but no joy.  

Several observers had seen three 1st winter Glaucous Gulls and two Iceland Gulls (2nd winter and near-adult) this morning but it wasn't looking good - until a single 1st winter Glaucous Gull flew low over the car on its way back to the tip. A stroke of good luck! With that I called it a day and went home to sit by the radiator!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

More Geese and Swans

I managed to get the dogs walked before the rain came but didn't see many birds (that I can remember) - Bullfinch, Chaffinch and quite a few Redwing. Big flock of Greenfinch and Goldfinch in/around the garden (c45+) but no sign of yesterdays Waxwing.

Then the weather came, increase in wind and rain. Not the day for birding! So I decided to go do my weekly shop. On the way I thought I'd take a quick look for yesterdays Tundra Bean Geese. Lots of swans were in the usual field about 600 m back from the road (Whoopers, Bewick's, Mute and Black) then I noticed 2 large 'grey geese' and 5 small 'grey geese' even further back, about 1 km back from the road. I was very happy when the 5 smaller ones lifted their heads - European White-fronts. The two larger ones were Greylags. I was happy with the White-fronts as they were year ticks!

The field was stacked out with birds, loads of Golden Plover and Lapwing, c150+ Dunlin, 5 Ruff and a handful of Snipe. A decent flock of Linnet were mobile, mainly due to two Barn Owls that were flying around. All the waders and passerines got up as a female Sparrowhawk flew through and buzzed everything, though that was nothing compared to the total pandemonium caused by two fighting Peregrines that shot through! 

After my shopping trip I called in again. Still no Tundra Bean Geese but the above geese/swans were still present, along with 2 Egyptian Geese.

I took a drive up the LDV, connecting with a few more Whooper Swans and called in at the gull roost at Wheldrake but I didn't hang about as the rain was pelting down into my face!

Whooper Swan

Whooper Swans

European White-fronted Geese etc. (phone-scoped at 1 km range!)

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Waxwings at Home

Spent the day visiting new areas around the north of the York Recording Area, but first up was a small flock of five Waxwing that were at the end of my street.  They flew over and landed above me as I was walking the dogs and luckily they were still there a couple of hours later when I got back! I got a couple of quick photos (below).

Waxwing - Andy Walker

Waxwing - Andy Walker

Waxwing (all five) - Andy Walker

I then took a drive north visiting Ampleforth, Gilling, Nunnington, West Ness, Castle Howard. A good selection of birds but nothing ground-breaking!

The farmland and woodland in the Howardian Hills held Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, 8 Bullfinch, 3 Little Owl, drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jays, lots of Buzzard, a couple of Sparrowhawk and Kestrel and plenty of much commoner birds.

Male Bullfinch (phone-scoped)

Castle Howard was packed with birds, most noteworthy was the female Scaup that's still present and 4/5 Goosander.

The Scaup (photo taken a few weeks back)

On the way home I came across a field with 120+ Greylags and in with them five Pink-footed Geese (record shot below).  I called in at North Duffield in the hope that the two Tundra Bean Geese would still be present from earlier in the day - no joy! Did have a drake Greater Scaup again on the floods.

Pink-footed Geese (phone-scoped with no tripod!)

Pink-footed Geese (phone-scoped with no tripod!) 

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Four Swans and a Blackberry...

I popped across to North Duffield at lunchtime to see if there was much doing. It was fairly quiet generally on the floods with one Great Crested Grebe all of note. However there was a (presumably new) drake Greater Scaup alone on the river. Still a good number of Pochard and Tufted Duck about on Bubwith Ings, but either too far away or under trees so I didn't try counting them.

I had a look at the fields next to the car park and came across 151 Greylag Geese, 2 Egyptian Geese (record shot below), several hundred Lapwing, 50+ Golden Plover, 3 Ruff but the highlight was getting the 2 Bewick's Swans in the same scope view as a herd of Whooper Swans, Mute Swans and a single Black Swan and managing to grab a record shot on my phone of them all together (below)! I wonder how many other times all these four have been photographed together?

The two (always distant) Egyptian Geese (phone-scoped)

Whooper, Bewick's, Black and Mute Swans all in the same view! (phone-scoped) 

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Bonkers Barn Owl & Cool Coot

Interesting couple of non-birding days.  Firstly involving a Coot, and secondly a Barn Owl.

Over the weekend I found a colour-ringed Coot on the Great Lake at Castle Howard, it was standing on the far bank which allowed me the opportunity to see its legs properly, and hence get the colour-ring combination read. This was hot on the heals of finding a colour-ringed Waxwing from Wales (details here).

I knew Natural England had colour-ringed a few Coot so that was my first try. A quick reply from Craig and it turns out that it was ringed as an adult at Bank Island, Wheldrake Ings on 28th August 2012 and this was the first re-sighting of the bird (2nd February 2013 at Castle Howard Great Lake).

Looked a bit like this...

This equates to a movement of approximately 16 miles in approximately 157 days. See map below:

View Coot Movement in a larger map

Interestingly, this movement is similar as that of 3 Tufted Duck ducklings also ringed in August 2012 that made the movement from Wheldrake Ings to Castle Howard in the late Autumn. It will be interesting to see where these colour-ringed birds pop up - keep your eyes peeled at Tophill Low...

Bonkers Barn Owl you're wondering.... well, on Monday as I was walking the dogs I saw a Barn Owl - nothing different there, however this one came over a Holly hedge and hovered 1ft above my head looking me in the eye! It then hovered over the dogs, who didn't notice it, before it flew away! I've had some close encounters with Barn Owls in the area (mainly when in a hide), and this one regularly comes within 6-10ft of me when hunting, but this was new!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Wonderful Welsh Waxwing

Got a response from both Raymond Duncan and Tony Cross today about the colour-ringed Waxwing I found yesterday. Turns out it wasn't a Scottish-ringed bird as I'd expected, but a Welsh-ringed bird! Thank you both for your swift responses.

The bird was initially trapped and ringed on 25th November 2012 in Newtown, Powys in mid-Wales before being re-trapped and fitted with colour-rings on 9th December 2012 at the same location. The sighting that Ollie and I made of the bird yesterday in Strensall, York was the first re-sighting of this bird.

Tony and his team have colour-ringed exactly 100 Waxwing this winter so it will be interesting seeing more results as the birds start moving about more (as they seem to be doing currently!). See Tony's (and teams) excellent Ruffled Feathers ringing blog here - with some specifics on Waxwing here.

I've put a rough map together (below) - it makes the movement approximately 142 miles in approximately 55 days on a bearing pretty much Northeast - heading home already?

View Waxwing Movement in a larger map

As I've said before this information really shows how important/useful colour-ringing birds is. How many of us would have just assumed that these birds arriving in York would be heading southwest after the recent poor weather further north/on the continent...

Local birding today was restricted to the LDV though I did get a nice year-tick in the form of a 1st winter Mediterranean Gull, found by Jono. Excellent photo and some details on Jono's blog. Thanks for the call!

Other bits and pieces included two Egyptian Geese and 148 Greylags at North Duffield Ings (lots of wildfowl here). 225 Pochard on Bubwith Ings (great count!). Also had 2 Barn Owl and a Peregrine. Unfortunately the red-head Smew that flew over Bank Island with two Goosander and probably dropped onto Wheldrake Ings couldn't be re-located - mainly probably because it is currently impossible to get onto the Ings!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Hawfinch, Waxwing & More!

Had a great days birding with Ollie today (I wouldn't bother checking his blog he never updates it!). It was a very colourful day...

Started at Ampleforth where we had the Hawfinch that was reported about 3 weeks ago. It showed briefly but at close range on the ground feeding on Yew seeds that had dropped to the ground (by the look of it).  It was nice to meet up with Jonathan Pomroy, a local wildlife and landscape artist (and birder who found the bird originally in mid-January).  Thank you to Jonathan for letting me use a couple of his pictures from today (reproduced with permission below).  Check out Jonathan's blog for more photos of the bird (here), and incredible painting of the bird (here). He'd also had a Waxwing there, but we didn't see that.

Hawfinch © Jonathan Pomroy 2013 - this was the view I got of it on the deck.

Hawfinch © Jonathan Pomroy 2013 - this was the view Jonathan got just before we got there!

A really hard bird to connect with in the York area nowadays after they were seemingly much easier in the 1980s/1990s so I was really pleased to get this 'York Area Tick'!

We spent the rest of the day driving round the hills and had at least 40 Common Buzzard, 5+ Sparrowhawk and the main target, Goshawk. Another good result! We also had two distant corvids flying away from us (that we both independently thought were Buzzards at first) that were probably Raven, though we weren't certain, so they will frustratingly remain unidentified.

We headed back to York where a brief stop at Strensall for some Waxwing that had been reported proved very interesting, with 50 birds present, occasionally dropping down to a Cotoneaster bush. One of the birds (at least the one that showed better than the rest) was colour-ringed. I'm looking forward to finding out some  information about this bird! Some images of this bird, and a couple of non-ringed birds below.

Waxwing © Andy Walker 2013

Waxwing © Andy Walker 2013

Waxwing © Andy Walker 2013

Waxwing © Andy Walker 2013

Waxwing © Andy Walker 2013

Waxwing © Andy Walker 2013

Waxwing © Andy Walker 2013

Friday, 1 February 2013

A Great Spotted Woodpecker

Just sorting my camera out for tomorrow's birding trip and realised I'd got some Great Spotted Woodpecker photos on my memory card that I'd not looked at since taking them last week!

They're not the best but I'm happy with them as I think its the first time I've managed to get a picture of one! It was also a nice year tick!