Sunday, 25 November 2012

Last minute birding

Football duty was cancelled today, so I had a couple of hours free time. So of I shot to North Duffield Carrs. Chris and Anne Lloyd, Helen and Ken Searstone from York RSPB group were in the Geoff Smith hide. A local walk had been planned for the group at Healaugh, but due to the weather no one else turned up, so they decided to try for the bittern that had been seen a few days earlier.Some other people came into the hide, so I said goodbye and walked down to garganey hide.
More birds were visible from this hide, mute swans were sheltering from the wind by feeding close the edge of the water, where reeds kept the wind off them. Mallard, teal, wigeon, gadwall and shoveler were also sheltering behind small clumps of reeds and tall grass. A pair of goldeneye were diving for food in the deeper water a few hundred yards away from the hide.My time was soon up and as I was closing the hide window, a small flock of golden plover flew by. A very pleasant couple of hours.

Birding in the fog!!

I was not required for football duty today, so I was able to go out birding with my good friend Chris.
There was a lot of fog about and the weather forecast promised us rain spreading from the south, so we decided to head north.
Chris had been birding in this area the day before and was keen to show me a Caspian gull that he had seen. His pager reported that the bird had been seen this morning so off we went. The journey north took us through fog, into pleasant hazy sunshine and into fog. After about an hour we arrived at our destination and joined a small group of birders looking for the gull. As you can see from the picture, visibility was far from good and we were looking into a hazy sun.After a few minutes we decided to move on to try other local birding spots.Our next stop was Newburn Bridge, where the weather was much better.

From the car park we could see red throated divers ( see chrisdownes birds for pictures), oystercatchers, redshank, knot, sanderling, ringed plover and turnstones. The turnstones were everywhere, not just on the beach turning over bits of seaweed looking for food, but on the path beside us.We then decided to move on to Hartlepool Headland, which is not only a good birding spot, but is also a pleasant place to walk and has some interesting history.

On the headland is Heugh Gun Battery Museum and there is a plaque marking the spot where the first casualty of WW1 happened. There are also little monkeys on top of local information posts. Chris and I enjoyed a leisurely stroll along the headland and had good views of lots female scoters, We could not see any males and wondered where they were spending their winter. Most of the scoters that winter off our coasts, breed in other countries, and again we wondered where the birds may have come from. females and juveniles look alike at this time of year, but as winter progresses the males will develop their different black plumage.
There were also several rafts of eiders and the males looked superb in full breeding plumage, and we could hear their strange call.

Time was slowly rolling on and we decided to return homewards, perhaps having one more look for the caspian gull. As we approached the area we could see that visibility had not improved, however we had a bous in seeing a short eared owl. Our last port of call was Saltholme RSPB reserve, where we saw lots of goldfinches on a feeder outside the Phil Stead hide, and a walk to Paddys Pool allowed us to add shoveler to our list, giving us a total of 44 birds for the day.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Little old blue eyes

Took the eldest grand daughter home from school today and managed to catch Saskia awake!
The first time that I have seen her with her eyes open.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Cross Country Birds !!

First lesson today was cross country, which involved me "standing" at a certain point on the Little Knavesmire. The kids then had to run round the outside of me, round two separate sets of goal posts and back to the teacher. They had to do this twice.
Whilst I was stood there waiting I was able to watch lots of birds. A pair of carrion crows were slowly walking towards me as they looked around for food. Several pied wagtails were flitting about. One minute they were on the ground looking for insects, the next they were flying about. When they landed they were often close to each other which caused a few arguments. A single starling flew from the nearby allotments over to the gardens of the houses that backed onto the racecourse. It cannot have been there long when a female sparrowhawk suddenly appeared from the allotments and flew into the first garden, did she get the starling?
A charm of goldfinches flew into one of the mature trees a few yards away from me and disturbed a wood pigeon which flew towards the race course. A steady stream of gulls were flying westwards, presumably going to the landfill near Rufforth. Lots of gulls feed here during the day and then each dusk they make their way eastwards. Some stop at Wheldrake Ings and other places down the Lower Derwent Valley for a quick drink and wash before going onto roost near Reeds Island on the Humber. Lots of black-headed gulls were searching for worms etc. further down on the Knavesmire, where the land was very wet.
The last kid then ran past me and it was time to return to school after a pleasant hour on the Little Knavesmire

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Waxwings-215- Thanks Chris

Had just got home from football when I received a message from Chris Downes. Waxwings at the White Swan pub, Bishopthorpe Road. So I quickly grabbed my binoculars and set off. Luckily not much traffic, so I was soon in the area, but no sign of them. Plan B go to St.Georges Field Car Park, as the birds had been reported there earlier.
Quickly drove over the River Ouse and as I went over the River  Foss I noticed some birds in a couple of hawthorn bushes on my left. So I got to the car park as quickly as I could, and parked up. Grabbed my bins and walked towards the hawthorn bushes. I could see a small flock of about 20 birds in the trees and a quick look through my binoculars confirmed that they were waxwings. Bird number 215 for 2012.

Friday, 9 November 2012

its a girl

Saskia Lillian came into the world at 4.40pm yesterday, weighing 8lb and half an ounce!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Different kind of flying bird!

Football took me to Rufforth today, a small village just to the west of York. Just outside the village there is an airfield and whilst the football match was going on, gliders were taking off and landing.The weather conditions were good, so I took a few photographs.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Harriers in the sun

My friend Chris picked me up at 12:30 and we set off for Blacktoft Sands. The journey there was uneventful with no bird sightings of note. Chris chose a less muddy spot to park today, compared to Tuesday and we prepared to go bird watching.We encountered a slight delay as I tried to put my new hide clamp together. With help from Chris we got it working and off we went.
As you walk over the flood bank to get into the reserve, on your left  there is a feeding station, and there are usually tree sparrows and other small birds eating the seed. However the feeders were empty, so no small birds, just a couple of moorhens searching for food.
We went into the reception hide to find out which birds were where and to show our membership cards. The volunteer warden was busy helping a couple of other people, but was able to give us some information about some recent bird sightings, so we went off in the direction he suggested.
Five shelduck were all we could see from the first hide, so we walked on to the furthest hide. We stopped briefly to watch 2 mute swans and three little grebes, on a scrape to our left. As we entered the hide, several people were already in there and were watching the antics of some marsh harriers. We quickly settled down and started to watch the birds. My hide clamp worked well and I could see the birds well through my scope.
Three marsh harriers kept returning to a spot in the reeds, where two carrion crows were busy feeding. We were not able to see what they were eating, but every few minutes the harriers would literally drop in and take over from the crows. As they floated in, the afternoon sun showed up their markings very  well ad Chris was able to get some pictures of the birds.(chrisdownesbirds).
A skein of 80 plus pink footed geese noisely  flew over, providing Chris with another photo opportunity.
The comings and goings of the harriers disturbed some lapwings, who came into land in the water in front of us. A large flock of several hundred glover plover took to the air but sadly did not land near us. Five shelduck came in to join the lapwings, and some starlings had a fly around.
The light was slowly getting worse and we could see some very dark storm clouds in the distance and a small rainbow appeared some distance away in front of us.
The harriers slowly drifted over the main reed bed on the reserve, as they made their way towards the main roosting area, so we decided to call it a day and head for home. Not many species of birds seen today, but some brilliant views of marsh harriers, I look foward to seeing the photos Chris took.