Sunday, 29 November 2015

Blustery afternoon at Blacktoft.

Very rarely does my weekend go to plan and this one is not exception. For a change it was not a family member  who caused the problem, it was a power cut in York on Saturday morning. We were in the car on the way to town when the mobile rang to say don't come we have no power. So we changed to plan B, shop first then hair. We had just arrived at the shops when the hair dresser rang to say we have power! Too late we could not get back into town in time, so we had to make an afternoon appointment. Things worked out in the end and we went to our evening wedding party at Hazelwood Castle.
Today was ok till we came to put up the xmas tree and could not find two vital parts!!! Looks like it will have to be a new tree. So when in doubt go birding, and off I went to Blacktoft Sands. Hit a lot of traffic trying to get past the designer centre and then in Goole they have closed a road, but only put up signs to say road closed about 50 yards from the road works. By the time I had gone back through a very busy Goole, I arrived at Blacktoft some 90 minutes after leaving home.
I had driven through lots of rain showers but the sun was shining as I walked towards the reception hide. In the hide was Charlie, Masha and Emanuela. Masha and Emanuela had just arrived having been at North Cave.
Shortly after I arrived a strong wind started to blow and then a very heavy rain shower. There was so much rain beating on the roof of the hide that we could not hear each other talking. Eventually the rain stopped and Masha and Emanuela left for the first hide. Charlie and I had a chat, as it was her last day at the reserve today. I am on duty next Saturday, so Charlie was able to update me on a few changes, and then off I set for Townend Hide.
I had the hide to myself for quite a while and saw several marsh harriers, mute swans, mallard, magpies and moorhens. I was wondering what other bird I might see beginning with the letter m, when I saw some snipe.
They were sheltering from the wind on the nearest island and were not easy to see.
Karl Dutton and a couple of other birders came into the hide and we all tried to count as many snipe as we could.
We all kept getting different numbers as birds kept appearing over the top of the island.  A redshank dropped on to the middle island, but soon flew off.
 Marsh harriers kept flying by and as one of the birders said, "they're able to fly backwards and side wards" The wind was so strong that they had to battle to get anywhere. The light was not good for photographs and the harriers did not come very close.

A magpie walked past the hide.
Karl and his friends left to go to Singleton hide. Just after they left a grey heron flew by, but the light was so bad I could not get a photograph. I then went to Singleton hide where I joined Karl and Masha and Emanuela. A pair of shelduck were busy feeding and 4 goldeneye were diving looking for food.
As the light faded we were all concentrating on the reed bed watching the marsh harriers. We managed to see 11 in the air at one time, but sadly no hen harriers. A large flock of starlings flew around, too close to get a picture of them all.

It was now nearly half past four, so time to go as the gates are locked at 4:30pm.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Little auk and black necked grebe.

RSPB York Local Group outing today. Since I agreed to lead the trip at our committee meeting at the start of the month, I have been keeping an eye on the weather. I was not impressed when I saw the weather forecast on Thursday, indicating that we could have snow along the East Coast. However the weather forecast improved a little as the weekend got closer, so when we met at 9am today, we felt comfortable in setting of for the coast.
Filey Brigg was our first stop. High tide was at 1pm so we hoped to see waders etc. as the tide pushed them in. Just as we arrived a hailstorm welcomed us.

The storm passed and we set off for a walk along the top of the brigg. Luckily the wind was not very strong and we were able to walk along the path without having to worry about being blown over the edge. Not a lot of birds about, a few goldfinches flying about, but no sign of the woodcock that had been seen recently. We reached the end of the footpath and looked down to the end of the brigg. through telescopes we managed to see 6 dunlin, several cormorants, oystercatchers and a redshank. A red throated diver flew across the end of the brigg. The tide eventually covered most of the rocks and there were fewer birds to be seen.

A few fishermen were stood on rocks facing the stiff wind.
We then went into Filey in search of a black redstart, but did not stay long as the area was full of dog walkers. Filey Dams was our next stop, where another hail storm forced us to sit in the hide  with the flaps closed. We decided to use the time to eat our lunch. There were not many birds about a few teal mallard , wigeon and a gadwall.

As we were leaving the hide we spotted a barn owl hunting and as we were on our way back to the car park we saw a fox hunting.
The next stop was overlooking South Bay in Scarborough, where the Holbeck Hotel once stood. This area is well known for its Mediterranean gulls.  A trick I had learned from Chris was to take some bread along to attract the gulls. The gulls duly arrived to get the bread and a bit of a feeding frenzy took place for a few minutes.

We parked on Marine Drive as it is free to park, plus it is close to the harbour. As we walked along we saw a red throated diver on the sea.
We walked along the harbour wall as we hoped to see purple sandpipers near the harbour entrance. Along the way we saw a little auk, bobbing up and down on the sea.
A man had caught this cod and it was laid on the harbour wall.
 As we approached the end of the rocks we saw this guillemot having a preen, it looked as if it had some oil on its feathers.

32 purple sandpipers were roosting on the rocks nearby.

 Down to harbour now where we were entertained by a black necked grebe.
One second it was just below us, then it dived and surfaced several yards away, then dived again and got even closer.

A little auk then decided to get in on the act and came very close, a bit too close at times!

As we walked back towards the car we noticed this little auk in a boat. Perhaps it was hoping for a lift back to the arctic!

Time to return to the cars.

 We called  in at Scarborough Mere. Here we saw what we think is a young whooper swan.
We also added tufted duck goldcrest and treecreeper to our list.
Just over 40 species of birds on our day list, with some happy memories of the little auk and black necked grebe, it was time to go home.