Saturday, 25 February 2017

Nelson at Saltholme

Helping at an induction course at Saltholme today. Arrived early to get a bit of birding in. before the course. It was very windy and lots of grey clouds in the sky as I drove into the car park at Greatham Creek. There were lots of curlew, wigeon, gadwall, mallard and shoveler in the field near the car park. I started to  walk down the path towards the seal viewing point and wondered why the hedge had been removed. Later on I was talking to David Braithwaite and he explained how the site would eventually become a saltmarsh as the nearby flood bank would be removed.
As I walked over the bridge a kingfisher flew off across the water. From the seal viewing point I could see ringed plover, curlew, black tailed godwit and black headed gulls. On the way back across he path I saw a grey wagtail.
  I decided to have a quick look down the road that leads to the North Gare car park. Lots of curlews beside the road and I noticed that this bird had rings on its legs.

Not the best of photos due to the strong wind, I drove down to the car park and as I was turning the car round I noticed some female reed buntings feeding at the edge of the area and they were joined by some skylarks.

I then drove to Saltholme and went into the Phil Stead hide from where I could se two coots!!
I found a leaflet in the visitor centre at Saltholme about the Transporter Bridge and discovered that you can buy a ticket to have  a ride in a glass viewing lift!
Time to start the induction course when ran until 1630 so no time to pop and see the green winged teal, however on the way home I stopped and looked at some geese in a field. I tried to get closer to take a photo but came to a ditch! This is a very poor photo due to the strong wind and the distance but you might with a lot of imagination make out the white fronts!!

5 new birds to add to my year list today to take me to 111.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Catch up

My apologies for the lack of posts recently but I have been a bit busy.
During my travels I have had time to pop into Leighton Moss and add great white egret to my year list.

Last Sunday I was on duty at Blacktoft. The weather in the morning was nice and sunny but by one o'clock it had clouded over. It was however a busy day as lots of people had come out to see the birds.
The builders that were supposed to come last year but had to postpone for very tragic reasons have started work this week. I had to go to the skip today so took the opportunity to pop down to North Duffield Carrs while the sun was shining.

Spring is in the air. Mr Teal was staying close to Mrs. Teal and two male shovelers were showing off in front of a single female.
Another sign of spring was to see oystercatchers in the valley. The first spring birds turned up at Blacktoft Sands last weekend and we had a peacock butterfly fluttering around. However my main occupation today was scanning through the large gulls that were busy preening and washing.

Recently there had been reports of white winged gulls at the land fill site to the west of York, and as these gulls roost in the NDC area could I find one. Yes I did after much careful scanning, in fact I found two glaucous gulls, both 1st winters and as one was larger than the other I presumed that the smaller one was a female. They were too far away to get a photo. Also on the reserve were about 200 lapwing, a couple of dunlin, two buzzards and about 50 curlew. Saltholme tomorrow to help with an induction course. Hopefully I can sneak some birding in.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Valentines Day birding.

Yesterday was Monday the13th, not Friday the 13th but things did not go to plan. The men who were supposed to install some insulation rang at noon to say that they were not coming, then a letter arrived changing a hospital appointment and then the eldest grand daughter turned up from school an hour earlier than I expected!!
So I had kept today clear so that I could put the stuff back in the loft. I found some more junk to go to the skip so decided to take a couple of hours off and do some local birding.
I parked in the car park at Bank Island and walked down towards Wheldrake Ings.
 The next problem was to wade through the water on the road.
The question was how deep was it, would it go over my wellies? No  I just managed to get through the water without filling my wellingtons.
It was nice to be out in the sunshine but it was tricky walking along the muddy path. At one point the water was still pouring onto the reserve from the River Derwent.
I had to walk n the vegetation at the side of the path on several occasions in order to get to the Tower Hide. From the hide I could see lots of wigeon, teal and several smart looking male pintails. On my left several hundred lapwing were standing at the waters edge when they suddenly took to the air.

Flying above then were lots of golden plover.

They had all been disturbed by a pair of buzzards. The buzzards were flying close to each other and not paying much attention to the birds. These shots are not brilliant as the birds were a along way away.

I decided not to attempt to get to the other hides as the water level was still rising, so I returned to my car and drove to North Duffield Carrs.
The view from the Geoff Smith Hide. I could not see many birds so walked down to the Garganey hide.
The two white dots in the picture are mute swans, the only swans I saw on the reserve. There were quite a lot of teal along the edge of the water, hiding in the vegetation. The rest of the birds on the water were gulls, mostly black headed with a few great black backs. A pair of buzzards were circling overhead which made the teal fly around.

The buzzards then flew over another part of the reserve and disturbed some waders that I could not see due to the height of the vegetation. Lapwings, golden plover, dunlin, a single redshank and a single ruff were visible as they landed a bit closer to the hide. It was then time to go home, but I enjoyed the couple of hours in the sunshine. Two meetings to attend tomorrow and then I am in Lancashire all day Thursday. Friday is my last big school bird watch event, Saturday a wedding and then on duty in reception at Blacktoft.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

All weather flyers

I don't know if the RAF Harriers flew in all weathers but the harriers at Blacktoft certainly do. It was grim weather today, rain, wind and low cloud.  As I approached the reserve today I noticed a large flock of geese in the field opposite the entrance to the car park. The vast majority of them were greylags with a few Canada geese. Sara the assistant warden had seen the flock earlier and had noticed two pink feet amongst them, but visibility was too poor for me to identify them.
As I sat in my car struggling to put my waterproof trousers on I heard a tap on my car window, I looked up and saw that it was Robin.

Apologies for the condensation on the window but I did not want to frighten the bird away by cleaning the window.
Sara was on duty in the reception hide and she had a nice fire going to give people a doubly warm welcome. However like my car windows the windows in the hide had condensation on them and we had to keep cleaning the windows so that we could keep an eye on the birds.
I had a walk to Marshland hide where I could open a window without the rain blowing in. A single lapwing was standing on one of the islands while a few wigeon were closer to the hide.
There were a mix of ducks to be seen from Xerox  hide.
Back in the reception hide Sarah had received a text to say that a couple of waxwings were near the office. Pat had arrived to lead the afternoon harrier roost and as we were stood chatting we noticed harriers close to the hide. After a bit of quick window cleaning we were able to see 9 marsh harriers in the sky at the same time.
The poor weather was not stopping them from displaying. I walked down to Singleton hide from where I watched three harriers displaying and I had a brief view of a ringtail. A short list of birds but good for a poor February day.


Friday, 10 February 2017

Signs of spring in between the snow showers

I had a training session in the office at Blacktoft this afternoon so I  went down to the reserve for a couple of hours. Driving to the reserve was a bit strange. I was listening to Radio 4 and the Desert Island Discs was on and I had to turn the windscreen wipers on to clear the snow!!
It was still snowing as I drove into the car park but by the time that had put my hat an coat on it had stopped.
As I walked over the flood bank  I looked to my right and saw pheasants, moorhens, dunnocks and robins looking for bits of seed that had fallen from the seed feeders. Looking to the left of the path over the flood bank I could see a large flock of greylag geese.
The white bird in the picture was a "farmyard" goose before you start thinking snowgoose.
I visited Xerox hide first where a small flock of wigeon were grazing on the grass in front of the hide. Marshland hide was my next stop where shelduck, teal, wigeon, shoveler and lapwing were standing on the islands.

Ousefleet was my next destination and on the way I passed the field where the greylags were.
A few minutes later a light aeroplane flew over and the geese flew on to Ousefleet lagoon.
on the path in front of me I noticed some birds. I stopped and looked at them through my binoculars and saw 11 blackbirds, 1 wren, 1 robin, a song thrush and a redwing. Pete Short had seen them earlier and his photos are on his blog www.blacktoftsands latest sightings.
From Ousefleet hide I could see, teal, wigeon mallard, shelduck, 200+ lapwings and 200 greylags. On the island in front of the hide a couple of stock doves were looking for food.

I walked back onto the reserve and went to First hide from where I could see more wigeon grazing in front of the hide and a pair of mute swans.
 The mute swan was having a spring preen!
Townend hide had some teal on its lagoon but the snow had started again so I did not even open a window in the hide. I walked down to Singleton hide and as it was still snowing I decided to eat my lunch.

The snow eventually stopped and I opened a window and watched several shelduck upending. 8 carrion crows were perched in a bush and nearby 2 pairs of marsh harrier were displaying. Coots have returned to the reserve and they were very busy chasing each other across the lagoon. A ringtail hen harrier was busy flying about the edge of the reedbed.
Back in the car park a robin was waiting near my car.
A nice end to a couple of hours birding and a list of 34 birds.


Saturday, 4 February 2017

Ton up at the East Coast.

RSPB York Local Group outing today. Filey was our first stop and we all met near the sea front in Church Ravine. The tide had not gone out as far as I had hoped it would so we could not walk along the beach and on to the Brigg. We drove up to the country park and walked along the top of the Brigg.
As you can see from the picture we were well wrapped up as despite the sunshine the wind was cold. From the top of the Brigg we could see fulmars, some of whom were already on the cliff ledges. We saw and heard skylarks, a first for many of this year and a sign of spring! Guillemots were on the sea and gannets were flying by. There were several divers on the sea off the Brigg and we were able to identify black and red throated divers. As the tide receded lots of people were walking their dogs along the shoreline and therefore there were no birds to be seen.

Feeding on the grassy areas in the car park were redshank and oystercatchers.
Filey Damms was our next stop where we added pochard, wigeon, gadwall and common gull to our list.
As we walked to the second hide a song thrush sang to us from its perch in a tree.

As we walked along part of the walkway we saw a water vole.
Scarborough was our next stop where we added med. gull to our list.

Scarborough Harbour was our next stop where we joined other birders admiring a great northern diver.

A black necked grebe was also present but was difficult to see as it kept diving and it would surface further away.
The marine drive was our next stop and on the way we met Masha and Pete who were looking for the diver. We watched one of the peregrines eating something, and then we saw both birds flying before returning to the same area.
Lots of people were watching what they think were porpoises.
We think that they must be feeding as they did not move far.
We walked further along the marine drive looking for a black redstart that other birders had seen but all we could find was a rock pipit. A good days birding and I added 14 birds to my 2017 list bringing the total to 101.