Sunday, 28 April 2013

Somewhere old, somewhere new, nothing borrowed, something blue

Had a couple of hours free time this morning so went to North Cave Wetlands. on the way there I decided to drop in and have a quick look at a "new" nature reserve Calley Heath. I did not have time to walk around the whole site, but it could be worth exploring at a later date.

North Cave Wetlands is now a huge reserve and deserves more time than I could devote to my visit today. My bird list was soon at 39 species, including 2 new birds for my year list, whitethroat and sedge warbler. Flowers and blossoms are starting to show and adding to the attractiveness of the site.

My eldest grandaughter needed some shopping this afternoon, so no more birding. However just as I got home I heard a steam train in the sidings near the house. Just time to get the camera and walk to the footbridge over the railway line. Photos show the locomotive Bittern in its blue livery, hence the last bit of the title for todays blog.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

This could be the last time...

For those of you who know this song by the Rolling Stones, will recognise the chorus line, which is followed by maybe the last time I dont know..
So what on earth has that got to do with me..

The above pictures were taken this afternoon, when I visited North Duffield Carrs. As you can see, the brown vegetation is slowly giving way to the green vegetation, and the water level has dropped, to the point where it is difficult to see any birds.
The vast lake that has been the reserve for many months is at last slowly returning to its normal late spring/early summer state. The large numbers of wildfowl have dispersed to their breeding grounds and the reserve is now home to a few ducks, geese, mute swans and waders. The water that remains is a long way from the hide, and strangely enough on a cold day to day, there was a haze as you looked through your scope at the distant birds.
Lapwings were chasing carrion crows away, curlews were filling the air with their call, as they glided across the reserve. Swallows, sand martins and house martins were flying around, catching insects, a nice reminder that summer is here at last.
I don't think that I will go down to the reserve again this summer as it is getting more difficult to see any birds, so this could be the last time.. till autumn. Planning to go to North Cave Wetlands tomorrow.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Sunday afternoon stroll

Changed over from Sky to Virgin Media over the weekend, so had lots of jobs to do disposing of wires etc. 100mbps broadband is great.
Just time for a stroll  round Askham Bog. Great tits and blue tits were singing away as they hunted for food and nesting material. I could hear chiffchaffs but could not see them. A wren was busy getting material for her nest from underneath the boardwalk. In one of the mature trees near the boardwalk I could hear a willow warbler singing away, and after a few moments I was able to find it, perched high in the tree.Another summer visitor ticked off my list.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

"Sweet Caroline"

Had to go to the dentist today, for a check up. Everything ok, back again in October.
Deciced to amble to and from the dentist and take a few pictures as I wandered.
First place was Cliffords Tower, not many daffodils this year.

Next stop was the Museum Gardens. lots of flowers out, but not much birdsong, perhaps it was a bit late in the day.
Trees starting to show off their buds etc, how many springs has the old Abbey seen?

The way home took me down by the River Ouse and the big wheel.

The last leg was through York Railway Station. As I made my way out towards Holgate Road, I passed these two magnificent vehicles. Pardon to Neil Diamond for the title of the blog.

Last shot of some blokes playing with their Meccano set!!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

sand everywhere!!

I got the chance to go birding after school today. The wind was not cold and biting as it was a couple of weeks ago, but it was quite strong. As I drove down the A19 towards Selby, fine topsoil, like sand was blowing across the road, and in places visibility was down to a few yards.

I stopped to take a picture near one field but all I got was a mouth full of sand!!
Thanks to the people who have repaired the entrance to the  car park at North Duffield Carrs. The holes as you came into the car park were quite deep and I was concerned that I might "bottom" my car.

On my way to the Garganey Hide at North Duffield Carrs, I noticed two eggs on the footpath. I stopped and had a closer look. Just the other side of a fence, was another egg. I was not sure if the eggs had been blown from the nest by the strong wing or if a stoat or something had dragged them from the nest and had been disturbed.

From Garganey Hide I could see lots of swans, some of which were in the distance.
As I was checking them out, to see if any of the swans were whoopers, not swans, a couple of black and white birds caught my attention. Once I had got my telescope on them I could see that they were avocets, which is the first time that I have seen these birds at North Duffield Carrs in the forty odd years I have been birdwatching there.Also in the distance were pintail, wigeon, teal, scaup, tufted duck, mallard, gadwall, shoveler and shelduck.
A pair of mute swans are attempting to nest on an island in front of the Geoff Smith hide, and the male was keen on establishing himself as "king of the ings". He swam up a ditch to where a group of other mute swans were, and chased them all away.

In the right hand corner of the reserve curlew were feeding in a fenced of field, and a buzzard was making its way along the edge of the field. It was gliding from one post to another. When it had landed on the top of the post, it would have to move quiet a lot to balance itself, which for a moment or two, made me question if it was a buzzard. House martins were also flying about and then I saw a small flock of sand martins. Hence today's title of sand everywhere.!

Monday, 15 April 2013

An evening walk in Askham Bog

First day back at school, so the weather just had to improve.
A pleasant stroll home and a new locomotive in the siding.
 After tea, I had to pop to Tesco at Tadcaster Road, so took the chance to go for a walk in Askham Bog.
It was a pleasant evening, and the sun was still shining, but for parts of the walk it was hidden by trees.

a male blackbird was singing from the top of a tree and a robin came near to say hello.

I also saw two swallows, one chiffchaff, one wren, several great and blue tits.
As I reached the end of the walk, the sun had started to drop down below the horizon and the moon was visible.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

"As time goes bye"

Last weekend of the Easter holiday, weather is improving slightly and it is RSPB Members Weekend.
On Friday lots of members from all over the country arrived in York for yet another RSPB weekend. I have been helping at these events since 1978, and it is always nice to meet people, some for the first time some for the umpteenth time.
Friday afternoon was spent on car parking duty, helping people with their cases and showing where things are. After an excellent evening meal in the Roger Kirk Centre, it was time to man the information desk in Central Hall with my friend Colin. We sold lots of raffle tickets, as people were keen to win an African Safari, worth about £5000.
The evening presentation was by Nigel Pope from Mara Media Ltd. The title of his presentation was Hebrides-islands on the edge. He showed some clips from the new series to be shown on BBC Scotland, and I hope everywhere. The programmes will show some of the wildlife on these beautiful but wild islands. Those of you who know me, know that I have a thing about the Hebrides, especially Mull. The wildlife footage was brilliant, and it was good to see some shots of the islands themselves.I cannot wait to get back to visit them all again.
Saturday mornings job was back on the information desk, and then to accompany 52 members on a coach trip to RSPB Blacktoft Sands. Talking to people on the coach as we travelled to the reserve, I realised how lucky I am to be able to go birding almost at will, and I get to a variety of places. As we got closed to the reserve, we saw a marsh harrier hunting near the river bank. Everyone on the coach could see it, and for some people this was the first time that they had seen a marsh harrier, and it was nice to share in their pleasure and excitement.
Once at the reserve we all gathered in the reception hide for a chat about the reserve from the warden before we set off in small groups to visit the six hides.

From the first hide I visited you can see the ponies. These Konik ponies, are good for
grazing vegetation on wetland reserves, which helps to produce the kind of habitat that breeding waders like.
Wigeon were grazing the grass near another hide I visited.
It was soon time to leave the reserve and head back for the university. On the coach journey back we worked out that between the coach party we had seen over 40 different birds, and I had seen my first swallow of the summer.After the evening meal and a spell of selling raffle tickets it was time to listen to Mike Dilger from the One Show.
Time goes bye so quickly it was time to go home, and it was soon 8am and time to be back behind the information desk. The last job of the weekend was to help with the raffle, which took a bit longer than usual, so I had to leave before the end.
It was sad to say goodbye to the people I had not seen since last year, but lets hope that they return again next year.
Football duties again this weekend, this time at Wistow, where I saw and heard my first chiff chaff of the summer.
So another holiday is over, another members weekend has finished, but lets hope that spring and summer are now here and time does not go bye so quickly!!

Monday, 8 April 2013

Back to winter!

Spent a couple of hours at North Duffiled Carrs this afternoon. Bird wise pretty much the same as yesterday, weather wise a lot colder.
Two whooper swans  were busy preening, perhaps they are getting ready to fly to their breeding ground?
No marsh harrier or buzzard today, but another spectacular flypast by the female peregrine.

Plenty of shoveler, wigeon and teal, but birds were a long way away, so had to use telescope for some shots.Prospect of some rain to come later in the week. Let's hope the weather picks up for the RSPB members weekend.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

A cold spring evening at North Duffield Carrs.

Hard to believe that the two days of a weekend in spring could be so different in terms of temperature.
Football duties took me to the Knavesmire this afternoon for a semi cup final. Three minutes before the end of normal time, I was on my way back to the car, when a late goal meant that the scores were level and it was down to penalty kicks. during the match i was able to wander into Knavesmire Wood. The only "strange" bird song was the sound of redwings. Lots of them were on the floor of the wood, along with blackbirds looking for food. No sound of willow warblers or chiffchaffs.
At 5pm I was sat in the Geoff Smith hide at North Duffield Carrs, The wind was starting to blow into the hide, and it was a cold wind. From the hide I could see about 40 swans, all but two of them were mute swans. The other two were whooper swans, all that is left I presume off the large group of swans that has spent our winter in the valley. I could also see 6 pairs of pintails, perhaps their presence is another sign of how unseasonal the weather is.
A pair of shoveler on the scrape in front of the hide were mating, so at least spring is happening somewhere. Wigeon,teal and tufted ducks were present in large numbers. Everything was nice and quiet until a marsh harrier flew over the far end of the reserve. It was quartering over one area, when it saw something in the reeds and was trying to hover to stay over the spot. The wind kept blowing it off course, so it "banked" away to the left and came back slowly to the same area. It then suddenly dipped down, but it was not prey it was after, it had lost height when a female peregrine flew over. The peregrine flew on, then dropped and flew low over the reeds, scattering the teal and wigeon. As the peregrine wheeled around for another run over the reedbed, she dropped down and just missed a lapwing. She flew over the River Derwent and landed in a tree, but was chased out by a crow.  She moved on to rest in a poplar tree, and I did not see her flying again.
A pleasant end to a cold evening. 32 different birds seen in just over 2.5 hours.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

A spring day at last.

Football duties this afternoon,out at Rufforth.
Super weather at last and things to see in the sky

Other birds in the sky included 3 buzzards at the same time. Wheeling round and "mewing" the birds spent a lot of time up in the air, but did not get close enough for me to get anything like a photo. Skylark song would fill the air, and I saw the bird high in the sky. No sign of any migrants, but at least you can believe that it wont be long now.