Sunday, 30 December 2012

Last birding of 2012 & A Happy New Year.

Chris and I had our last birding outing for 2012 by having a trip to the Hartlepool area.On our journey north we did not encounter much traffic, nor sadly many birds for our list.Our first port of call was Hartlepool Marina. Chris had been here before to see a black-throated diver and we hoped to see the bird again. Our first stop rewarded us with a mixture of gulls having a bath in the puddles in the car par. Our next stop was in a proper car park and we walked around looking for the bird.

At the other end of the marina to where we were is an old ship HMS Trincomalee, which was built in Bombay in 1817 and brought back here and restored. Next to her is an old paddle steamer Wingfield Castle. However we were birding and as we walked around this part of the marina we saw lots of red breasted mergansers. Afetr a walk around with no signs of the diver we went to another part and within minutes we had seen the bird.

Chris has much better pictures of the bird on his website Chris Downes Birds. Having seen our target bird we then moved on to Newburn Bridge, a place Chris likes to visit  at high tide to photograph birds. Today the tide was out so there were not many birds about. We walked back towards Hartlepool to get a closer look at some gulls. When we got closer we could see redshanks and turnstones feeding amongst the seaweed.
The houses on the headland stood out in the afternoon sunshine. Time to move on to Cowpen Bewley Country Park, where we were able to add a lot of birds to our list for the day. Coal tit, blue tit, chaffinch, greenfinch, blackbird, dunnock, robin were all busy feeding on the feeders and bird table.Next stop was RSPB Saltholme. It was raining by now so we walked to the nearest hide from which we were able to add a gadwall to our list. A walk to Paddys Pool hide gave us good views of culews and wigeon. Our final stop was at the last hide from where we were able to add pintail and goldeneye to our list. Our last port of call at Saltholme was to the Phil Stead hide. Not many birds to be seen here, but I had a go at digiscoping again. I need to eliminate the shake!

Our day list total was now 48, where could we get another 2 birds from? We left Saltholme and turned right and Chris parked just off the road so that we could have a look at the birds at the far end of the reserve. The sun was shining when we were in the hide and we could not look at the birds where we were now. After a couple of minutes Chris found some Shelduck and then I found some Barnacle Geese to complete our list at the 50 birds Chris had predicted at the start of the day.
Another great days birding and a good way to end 2012, a record year for me thanks to Chris.
As I am writing this blog I am watching Antiques Roadshow from Fountains Abbey, and every now and again I can hear swallows, only another 90 days or so before they are back!!
A Happy New Year to you all.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Late afternoon birding.

Domestic duties completed, time for some birding. Now that summer is on the way and the hours of daylight are increasing I was able to pop down to North Duffield Carrs. The water level had dropped a little so  a few strips of land were showing. Lapwings, redshanks and wigeon were occupying these strips, while cananda geese and a solitary greylag geese were content with the water around the edges. Two males and a female pintail were slowly swimming down the river.
In the distance swans could be seen, these were presumably the swans we had looked at from Ellerton church a few days earlier. Meanwhile in front of the hide birds were coming close. A party of long tailed tits were busy searching for food on the umbelifers in front of the hide. There was another birder in the hide and we were listening to the birdsong from the bushes and trees on our right, when the chap saw a small bird. I could not see the bird in the tree and only saw a very small bird fly across the hide. The other chap thought it might have been a firecrest.

We were busy looking in the direction that the bird had flown when we noticed that a barn owl had flown within 10 feet of the hide.So now we did not know which way to look! The barn owl came back and I just managed a quick shot as I still was not looking in the right direction!
The time flew by and it was soon ten past four and time to go home.

The flood that wasn't and canoe parking.

Had to go into York today, via daughters in Leeman Road, so decided to walk along riverbank into York. I got a s far as the riverside footpath and came across this sign
So I walked into town along the road. When I got close to the sorting office I walked down the path to the river to discover no flood!!
I went to the market for a few things and saw a stall where I could buy a birthday present for Chris!!

On the way back home I walked though the Museum Gardens and not a squirrel in sight

When I got to the bottom of Marygate I saw how some people are coping with the high water levels and full car parks.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

North Lincs birding

Chris and his wife Sheila had spent some time looking at the weather before deciding where the best place to go birding today. Far Ings and Alkborough looked the best bet and so off we set at 9am. We did not see many birds on the journey to the Humber Bridge to delay us and we were soon at Far Ings. A walk to the nearest hide from the car park only produced to fully grown men in full camouflage outfits!
Our next walk took us along a path towards the Humber and past an information board telling of the past history of the area, this board told the story of a cement works on the site.

Our walk took us through the near hotel grounds and back along the exit road. On a pond on the left we could see a man fishing and no sign of birds. On the lake on our right were some goldeneye, 3 males and 3 females.The males were showing off to the females in an attempt to find a mate. They were throwing their heads back and kicking up their feet. The females did not appear to be impressed but perhaps as spring approaches, they may become more interested , as these birds pair up beofre leaving for their northern breeding ground.
I saw a bird flying towards us and shouted goldeneye to Chris, in case he had time to take one of his fine flying shots, The bird flew over our heads and landed near the goldeneye, it was a male smew. He looked very smart in his black and white plumage, and appeared to be interested in the female goldeneye.
Time to move on to Alkborough.On the way we stopped to have a look at the birds on Reeds Island. This island is often home to breeding avocets, but today it was a base for 2 marsh harriers, a group of cormorants, one of whom was stood with his wings out drying them. We could see lines of lapwings, golden plovers and dunlin along the shoreline.
After watching these birds for a while we drove off in the direction of Alkborough. Chris often has some problem finding the road to the car park, and on one of his recent visits he discovered a different car, and that was our next stop.
The other car park is at the bottom of the hill, whereas this one is at the top of the hilland you get a view over the River Trent and across Blacktoft Sands. The light was not very good, but on a good sunny day it would make an ideal place to take a picture of Blacktoft, I would imagine that it would look a bit like an photo taken from the air,
We walked to the first hide to discover that there were no birds to be seen from it. The old floodbank had been breached and when it is high tide, the water will presumably bring birds into view from the hide. We set off to walk to the other hide, which is much closer to the other car park! In the distance we could hear and sometimes see ducks and waders flying above the reed bed.Every now and again we would see a large flock of golden plover flying around, not only over the reed bed but also high in the sky. From the footpath we could see that there were no birds to be seen from the next hide, so we decided to walk onto to the last hide, not realising how far away it was. The path did not go directly to the hide, as you can see from the map.

On the way to the hide we passed an information board which told the tale of how the people of the area defended themselves during the civil war. We continued on our way to the last hide, passing some sheep on the way who were grazing the grass on the river bank.
When we reached the far hide, we realised a couple of things. One was that this hide overlooked the River Trent, and at that moment all we could see from the hide were sheep, the second thing we realised was that this is the hide that can be seen from Blacktoft Sands. We then walked on a few yards and read a couple of information boards .

We then turned around and returned to the second hide. It had started to rain and so even though the wind was blowing into the hide it provided some relief from the rain. The birds were a bit more mobile now, perhaps the tide was coming in and the area of mud was slowly being covered by water. Another factor was probably the harriers that were hunting over the reedbed. This distubed some of the birds and flocks of lapwings and golden plovers took to the sky. We could see some dunlin in with the lapwings, and some curlews camei nto land in front of the hide and join the three shelduck that were sheltering at the bottom of the reeds.A male hen harrier was the first bird to disturb the waders then a short time later a marsh harrier flew over the reeds. it was time for us to go after a satisfactory trip around this part of Lincolnshire.

Old haunt revisited

While I was out yesterday, someone told me that there were some Bewick swans near Ellerton.
Chris picked me up about 10.30 and off we went. The River Derwent was at a very high level and was starting to cover the road either side of Bubwith Bridge. Chris pulled off the road at one point to look at some swans grazing in a field, there were three adults and three young whooper swans. We arrived at Ellerton and slowly drove through the village, until we came to the church. The church is in the process of being restored and in the informationboard in the churchyard there is a potted history. Some kind of building has been on the site since 1203. It must be about 40 years since I was last there, and the church was then used on a regular basis.

We walked around the end of the church and joined another birder watching the swans on the flood water. The River Derwent had overflowed its banks and the water was only a few feet away from the wall that formed the churchyard boundary. Wigeon and teal were close to the waters edge, and some male pintails were showing off their spectacular plumage.
Sadly the swans that we had come to see were against the far bank and some of them were asleep.We used our scopes to start scanning the long line of swans to identify them. We were able to identify mute and whooper swans but no bewicks. We could also see shovelers, shelduck, canada and greylag geese. The birder we joined had to leave, and we were joined by another gentleman, who lived nearby. He announced his arrival with the statement "Is there a finer place in England to see birds than this?"
After a few minutes he too had to go to a family lunch. Chris and I stayed a little longer looking at the swans and then we too left. Our next destination was North Cave Wetlands, a journey of about 30 minutes.
We parked near the entrance next to a Ford Anglia. The proud owner was stood nearby and told Chris how he had found it in a barn and had restored it in its original colour etc.

Outside the first hide we read the list of recent sightings and noted that redpolls had been seen. We did not go into the turret hide and walked on along the far side. In some alders Chris spotted a redpoll and as we stood and watched we also saw some siskins which brought our days total to 40.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Merry Christmas

It is raining here in York today. I hope that the people who live in the areas affected by the floods manage to have some sort of a Christmas, and hope that they do not suffer from any more flooding.
I managed a couple of hours bird watching today, and met 4 others!
I just popped down to North Duffield Carrs. The sun managed to break through the clouds for a short while.

There were lots of teal, wigeon, cananda geese, and lots of black headed gulls. The gulls flew in from different directions and settled in a long thin line on the water. lapwings and a few dunlin were flying around looking for somewhere to land.

Merry Christmas to you all.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Kites to Harriers.

Second day of the Xmas holidays and time for a day out with Chris. We had been in touch yesterday and he had decided on a route for today. 08.15 start and off we set for Fairburn Ings. Just after we had left the A1M and were heading to Fairburn Village we saw a red kite fly across the road, a good start for the day.
We decided to park in Fairburn Village and walk down the "cut". It was very windy and although we could hear small birds, they were sheltering in the thickest part of the hedge and we could not see them. A few yards further on Chirs saw a greater spotted woodpecker fly across the track and land in a tree in a garden. We were able to watch the bird for a few minutes before it flew away.
One of the reasons for choosing the cut for a walk was the hope of seeing a lesser spotted woodpecker.
A couple of years ago this was a good place to see the bird, but some important work had to be done at the river end of the cut which required the hedges to be cut, and since then we have not seen a lesser spotted woodpecker. Perhaps today, if not then perhaps 2013?
We saw lots of coot, tufted ducks and goosanders on the main bay, but no sign of any great crested grebes. We came to the path to the cut hide and discovered that parts of it had a couple of inches of water on it. As I had opted to wear wellingtons, I was able to get to the hide and look out at the birds there, however there was no sign of a red headed smew that had been reported the day before.
We reached the end of the path and could see how high the level of the river was. We decided to walk along the newly improved path and visit the hide that over looks village bay. From here we could see lots of pochard, cormorants and a little egret. Time to retrace our steps, and visit the information centre.
At the information centre we were able to see lots of birds at the various feeding stations, the birds seen were, goldfinch, greenfich, chaffinch, bullfinch, tree sparrow, dunnock, blur tit and great tit.
Time to move on to destination number two, Old Moor RSPB reserve.
From the car park all we could hear was the noise made by the "plane" which was turning rapidly in the strong wind and presumably generating lots of power for the reserve.Chris spotted a small flock of waxwings fly over the roof , but we did not see them again.
On the reserve we saw common and black headed gulls, goosander, gadwall, cananda geese, greylag goose and a snipe.
Last trip time. About an hours journey from Old Moor to Blacktoft Sands RSPB reserve. Chris had chosen this as our last port of call so that we would be there for the harrier roost.  As we drove fron Goole towards Blacktoft we saw a rough legged buzzard flying along the river bank.
Checked into reception at Blacktoft and got a very friendly welcome and useful information from the warden on duty, and then we walked to the far hide. There were several birders in the hide already, presumably they were waiting for the harriers to come in to roost.
Not much activity on the water in front of the hide, a couple of mute swans, and female goldeneye. We saw lots of ships going up and down the river and one marsh harrier was easy to see as it flew in front of one of the boats. I saw 5 marsh harriers in tha air at one time, and then I saw one ringtailed hen harrier, then a male harrier appeared and came very close to the hide.(photos on chrisdownesbirds). As it hunted just over the yops of the reeds it disturbed some blue tits and came very close to catching one!
We saw two male hen harriers in the air at the same time, which was a pleasant ending to a goods days birding. We saw 58 different birds, which we thought was good and could be a good omen if we visit the same reserves on New Years Day.

Monday, 17 December 2012

A day out at Anglers Country Park.

No football duties today due to illness so I was able to have a day out with Chris Downes.
Chris picked me up at 8am and we set off for Anglers Country Park. A long tailed duck had been reported the day before as well as an american wigeon. I needed both for my 2012 year list, so that is why Chris was driving us there.

When we arrived at the park, the light was very good and birds such as goldeneye and goosander were very easy to see and locate. Wewere using our telelscopes to scan the lake for birds when we heard the sound of canada geese from behind us. A few minutes later over a 100 birds flew over our heads and landed on the lake.
We then walked to the main hide where we sat for a while looking at the birds in front of. The cananda geese that had just landed on the lake were making a lot of noise as they splashed about, having their morning was I presume.Another bird watcher was in the hide and he very kindly told us where we could expect to see the long tailed duck and the american wigeon, so off we set. A couple of chaps were stood taking photographs of goosander etc. and they too told us where to look to see the long tailed duck. It did not take us long to spot the bird. A chap called carl from Derbyshire joined us and we were able to show him the bird, but it was not easy to see the bird for a long time as it kept diving under the water.
We then set off for the opposite end of the lake, and as we walked Chris was able to get some shots of birds flying past him.
The flock of wigeon that we were walking towards kept moving from the grass onto the water and back again as dog walkers kept disturbing them. Why on earth dog walkers cannot keep their dogs under control and clean up after them is beyond me.
The last dog walker to flush the birds had gone down to the waters edge and so for a change he flushed the birds towards yus not away from us, so we were able to scan the flock of wigeon with our telescopes and Chris soon found the bird. I think that he was able to get some good photos of the bird, so I will look forward to seeing his blog later today.(chrisdownesbirds).
My photo shows some of the birds, but I was only using my Lumix point and shoot camera, whilst Chris had taken his Canon.
Having seen the two target birds for the day and increased my year list to 217 we decided to walk to the lake next door to see if we could find two scaup.So we set off in the direction Wintersett reservoir. This took us back through the car park, where earlier
Chris and I had seen goldinch, tree sparrows, blue tits, great tits, greenfinches and robins on the feeders.
As we stood on the edge of the reservoir we were close to the flock of canada geese which had left the lake and had flown into a nearby field to feed, and they had been joined by three egyptian geese.We soon realised that we were not at the right place to see the scaup so we set off to reach another bank of the reservoir. I was in front and although the path was very muddy and wet I found it easy going as I had my wellingtons on. Chris and Carl had walking boots on and so I soon left them behind. I came to a very wet spot near the edge of the reservoir and stopped until they caught up with me.
At this point Chris told us that I was heading the wrong way and that we needed to walk on a track, that although it was muddy was not covered in water. As we walked along the track we noticed a signpost that informed us that we were heading towards Haw Park Wood. This area has hstorical links with the person who set up the first nature reserve in the world a Charles Waterton.
he built a nine foot high wall around the wood to keep out poachers, and built watchtowers into the wall, from which he watched the wildlife in the wood.As we walked through the wood we saw robins, long tailed tits and heard goldcrests.

we took a path off to our left which took us to a reservoir but not the one we wanted, so we had to make our way across country to get back to Wintersett. Once at this reservoir, a sailor was doing circles on the water and had driven a lot of the waterfowl away. We were able to locate the two scaup on the reservoir we had just left!
A positive end to a good day and my lear list is now 217, a record for me, mainly thanks to Chris for driving me to various places.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

On the way there and on the way back.

It has been a busy week, football practice one night and school production on three others.
As we quickly approach the day with the least hours of daylight, I thought that I would try to take a picture on my way to work each morning and on my way home each evening.I am also planning my trip back to Shetland this summer, so days of endless light are not so far away!!
last weekend ended with a couple of hours birding down the Lower Derwent Valley. North Duddield Carrs was well and truly under water. The birds had lots of water to choose from and few of them chose the water close to the bird hide.ABewicks swan had been reported by one birder, but no joy for me or the other birders in the hide. A small flock of redwings and fieldfares were flying about, looking for somewhere dry to land.

The lake on york Racecourse seems to be getting bigger.

The journey home was just too late to catch the sun going down over Poppy Road School, but the sky behind me was still bue!
The river level in York has dropped quite a bit. The top picture I took on Friday the 7th and the one below on Saturday the 1st.
Friday a different route to work and familiar scenes. The river level in York has dropped a lot over the past week