Thursday, 31 December 2015

Red Kite day.

Chris and I went to Swillington Ings in the hope of seeing the water pipits that had been seen yesterday. Just after leaving Tadcaster we saw a red kite just off the A64. When we arrived at the site Chris parked at the road side and we put our wellingtons on. As we walked on to the site we could see just how much water was there. Most of the paths were under water and there was evidence that the water level had been much higher.

A buzzard flew over our heads as we were walking along the waters edge.

We walked down to where the birds had been seen which under dryer conditions is a crossroads of the footpaths. We could see and hear some pipits, but they were on the ground hidden by the vegetation and took to the air and flew off into the sun. We tried to walk around them so that we were not looking into the sun but were still unable to see the birds clearly enough to say for certain that they were water pipits not meadow pipits. We came across some goldfinches, a pied wagtail and a male stonechat.

From the waters edge we could see a goldeneye, and the coots and the wigeon looked as if they were on the sea, the water was so choppy.

 We decided to move on to Fairburn Ings and as we were walking back towards the entrance a red kite gliding by.

Chris drove us to Fairburn Ings but we could not get near the reserve due to flooded roads. As we were driving back home we saw another red kite gliding by, the fourth one we had seen in the space of 3 hours.  A pleasant way to end 2015. My total for the year was 210 different birds, 23 down on last year.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Hen harriers at Blacktoft

Chris and I went to RSPB Blacktoft  Sands this afternoon  observe the harrier roost. We arrived to find that the first part of the car park was fairly full and people were parking in the next part which is a bit muddy.  A robin came close to the car to greet us. Chaffinch and great tit were with the tree sparrows and moorhens at the feeders.
Reception is only open at the weekends so I had a quick look at the recent sightings board but there were no surprises, so off we set for Ousefleet hide. On the way we saw a small flock of fieldfares and redwings perched in the top of the hedge. They were very flighty and soon moved when we got closer.
 On the way to the hide we could hear pink footed geese and could see a flock of about 200 in a field across the road. A birder was walking away from the hide at Ousefleet and warned us that the hide was full so we briefly discussed strategies for getting people to leave hides, such as saying that other
exciting birds are elsewhere on the reserve,
When we got to Ousefleet hide there were only 4 people in the hide so we did not have to invent rare birds elsewhere. Two of the Konic ponies were in front of the hide.

There were nearly 200 black tailed godwits, lots of teal, wigeon, shelduck, shoveler and a few mallard and gadwall. Marshland was our next stop where we added snipe to our day list. From Xerox hide we saw little grebes and 3 goldeneye. The goldeneye were constantly diving making photography challenging.
First hide had no birds to offer so we moved on to Townend hide where we stayed until dark. One or two marsh harriers were flying reasonably close, and four snipe were just visible on the nearest island to the hide.

As it got darker we managed to see 6 marsh harriers in the air at the same time and a ring tailed hen harrier flew in to be joined a bit later by a male.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

At Spurn Baht' At

A 7.30am start today as Chris and I were going to Spurn. It was just starting to get light at we left York and headed east. Lots of water in the fields as we made our way to Hull, but the other side of Hull seemed drier. A journey to Spurn always seems a long journey. We get to Hull fairly quickly but then it seems to be a "long and winding road". Chris re-set the trip on his car today and we covered about 23 miles when we stopped to look at some mute and whooper swans in a field near Kilnsea Wetlands.
When we stopped in the car park and I got my telescope and camera out of the boot, I realised that I had not got my coat or hat! Luckily it was a fairly warm day with little or no wind. From the hide we saw a little egret, little grebe, wigeon, teal, cormorant and redshank.
We left the hide and walked to Beacon Ponds where we added a greenshank to our list for the day.
On our way back to the car we saw more birds in front of the hide at Kilnsea Wetlands, so returned to the hide for a closer look. We were able to see 3 adult and a juvenile whooper swan and brent geese. We spent ages looking at the geese trying to identify a black brant, but just as we started to make progress more geese arrived, until there must have been at least 200 geese. Another birder arrived and he started looking at the left hand end of the line of geese and the seventh goose he looked at was it!!
We moved out of the hide to allow more birders to enter and just as we were about to set off the whoopers flew past us.

We moved on to the Blue Bell car park where we encountered a pair of stonechats on the fence in front of us.

Canal Scrape hide was our next stop where we were able watch a deer going back and forth.

While we were watching the deer a short eared owl flew by.

 We then popped down to the centre to find out if there had been any significant sightings, but the centre was unmanned. We walked to the sea watch hide where three birders were recording the birds moving north and south.

The tide was well out and with very few birds to see we decided to head for North Lincolnshire to  look for more short eared owls. We had just driven past the wetlands car park when Chris saw a large flock of brent geese in the field. We spent a while trying to find the black brant again without any luck.

Once over the Humber Bridge we stopped near Read's Island to look at the birds roosting on the sands. There were large numbers of waders; lapwing, golden plover, dunlin and curlew. A marsh harrier was hunting over the island itself.

Something disturbed the birds and we could see several thousand birds in the air, mostly golden plover. On we went to look for short eared owls and soon found our destination, where several other birders were already watching owls. The birds were quite a distance away and the light was slowly fading so I only managed a few record shots.

Another excellent day out with Chris, probably my last full days bird watching this year.