Saturday, 31 May 2014

Woodlarks at Strensall Common

A nice evening for a change, so I decided to go for a walk on Strensall Common. I hoped to see woodlarks and possibly a cuckoo.
It was fairly quiet on the common some sheep but no people and very few birds to start with.

As I walked across the open part of the common I could hear curlews calling. They flew around sometimes coming quit close before they turned away.

I reached the part of the common where Chris and I had seen the woodlarks before and I sat on the seat and waited. I could hear a cuckoo in the distance calling, but it soon stopped. A green woodpecker flew by quite close. After a few minutes wait I could here some birdsong and two small birds landed in a tree behind me. They then flew around and landed on the ground, they were woodlarks.
As I walked back the sun started to shine and the temperature rose. The track was very muddy due to the recent rain and there were lots of small pools of water. On one small pool I saw a dragonfly and tried to take a photo. However this was not quite so easy. The dragonfly was between me and the sun and I wanted to get to the other side of it. However getting around it was not easy due to the wet ground. I had meant to wear wellingtons, but left them at home! Eventually I did manage to get to the other side of the dragonfly and took a few pictures.
As I got closer to the car park I came a cross a blue tit, chaffinch and a treecreeper. They all had insects in their beaks.

Friday, 30 May 2014

A good day out at Crimdon Dene for two naturalists.

Slight change to today, I set the target for the day at 65 birds, more of that later. Our fist destination was north of Hartlepool at Crimdon Dene. We were hoping to see little terns, but were aware that in the past the nests at this site suffered at from attacks from kestrels and sparrowhawks.  As we walked down the path towards the beach we could hear the call of the terns, Trevor, a volunteer who keeps an eye on the terns came out of the wardens hut to talk to us. He gave us lots of advice and also a place to go to, where we might see burnt tip orchids. As we walked further down the path, skylarks were on the ground near us.

We had strayed off the path to the beach and tern area and so decided to follow the directions that Trevor had given us and look for the orchids. We found the path and were soon on the golf course. Chris identified an area that the orchids might be growing in. However before we could access the area some golfers asked us to move so their golf balls did not hit us as the teed off from the nearby green. We waited for them to play and for another pair to tee off, and then Chris used my scope to look for the orchids, and sure enough what he had seen through his binoculars was burnt tipped orchids. As there were no more golfers in the vicinity we looked at the orchids and took some pictures.

We made our way back to the beach and sat on the sand and watched the little terns fly back and forth. The little terns are about 9 inches long and spend our winter off the coast of Africa. They fish in the sea for sprats and sand eels to feed their young.

Not brilliant pictures, but we did not want to disturb the birds. We walked back to the car, where Chris discovered a message on the pager telling us that a female red backed shrike was nearby. We spent some time trying to find it without any luck. We found out later on that we wee in the wrong place!!  Whilst roaming about we came across lots of flowers, butterflies and birds.


Time to move on, but we will visit the area again. Chris needed to put some fuel in his car, and we saw these gulls in the car park at Tesco.

Hartlepool Headland next stop where we saw an icterine warbler. This bird is about 5inches long, and winters in Africa.
North Gare was our next destination in the hope of seeing a bee-eater. We did not have to travel all the way along the road before we saw a group of birders, and in next to no time we were looking at this striking bird. About a foot long with pointed wings and central tail feathers the birds shape make it easy to see. Add to this its yellow throat, and chestnut colours it is a striking bird. It was too far away to take a photo of but this is one I took using my telescope.

We had only got 44 birds on our list, a lot short of the target I set for us, but what birds we had seen. 60 plus little terns, icterine warbler and now bee-eater, can we add to this. Well hows about a woodchat shrike! Off we set for Hummersea where a woodchat shrike had been seen  earlier. We had tried earlier in the week  without luck, but this time we struck lucky. Distant views but another bird for the day.


Thursday, 29 May 2014

Black headed gulls in charge!

Managed a couple of hours at North Cave this evening. The sound of black headed gulls fills the air, and they are in charge of things at the two hides I managed to visit.
They have taken over the raft in front of South hide and chase away anything they don't like. A cormorant landed on the lake, but spent all its time diving to avoid attacking gulls, so it flew away. Common terns flew over intending to fish, but they too were chased away by the gulls.
The only birds not affected are the swifts, swallows and sand martins and the med. gull seems to be holding its own on one of the islands.
The situation at Crosslands hide seemed to be about the same. Black headed gulls everywhere, with the avocets, common terns and little ringed plovers confined to one area.

A pair of tufted duck were diving in front of the hide.
A pair of coots were in the process of building a nest, with one bird fetching the material.

This black headed gull was getting the measure of things!
Whilst this rabbit was helping to keep the verges tidy.
More attempts at getting shots of swifts, not sure that I will get a good one this summer!
Hope to be going to the North East with Chris tomorrow, so could be a bit more varied blog.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Wood sanpiper at Fairburn Ings.

Chris and I both got our jobs done early today so were able to go out birding about noon. Plan A was to go to a local reserve such as Blacktoft or North Cave, where we could dodge the showers by going from hide to hide.
However Chris read on his pager that a wood sandpiper had been seen at Fairburn Ings, possibly the same bird that we missed yesterday, so we set off for Fairburn. Luckily the rain stopped and we were able to spend a few minutes looking at the birds on the flash. Chris soon found the wood sandpiper and we spent a few minutes watching it feed. We were able to add other birds to our day list, including a teal that  Chris found.

As we were putting our equipment back into Chris's car we debated where to go to next and decided on Old Moor. However on the way the pager told us that a little stint was at a place that I had never been to, so off we set. We reached our destination in a short time and were soon walking in "light rain". We came to a map of where we were and to me the map was upside down, however it gave us the information we needed that there was a small lake. We strolled there in the rain, but it was very wet underfoot and my shoes were soon full of water. We saw lots of skylarks and meadow pipits and I managed to get this shot of a bird with a caterpillar in its beak.
We eventually found the small lake and started to look along the banks for our little stint. Chris found several ringed plovers, and we both saw coots, great crested grebes, tufted ducks, mallards and gadwall. Flying low over the water were swallows, sand martins, house martins and swifts. I managed to get some reasonable pictures for the weather conditions.

We walked back to the car via the large lake but did not see the little stint, but that is birding for you, some you see some you don't. Hopefully we will be out again for the day on Friday, we have at least 6 different places we could go to, so it should be another good day.