Whilst most birders were at Spurn today for the Rock Thrush and a fly by from a Caspian Tern (lucky lucky people!) I took a break from assignments to have a wander onto Swinemoor common. My main reason for visiting was to catch up with a couple of migrants that had recently turned up. Strong winds made looking for Sedge and Reed warblers nearly impossible so I focussed on the flooded pasture instead.
Pools at Swinemoor
My first year tick there was a single common Sandpiper (Y70). The flooded fields offered plenty of water for wildfowl with mute swan, shoveler, gadwall,teal, wigeon, shelduck and mallard all making use of the ponds. Sadly nothing interesting to pick up. Wader wise – Redshank, Little Ringed Plover, snipe and lapwing. Managed two more year ticks when a hobby (Y71) caused a bit of disturbance before flying north and out of sight and half of the reason I went down there – yellow wagtails (Y72). Also saw a white wagtail. Had no luck with any wheatears though.
On probably the nicest and warmest day we’ve had so far this year I made my way up to Bransholme Reservoir to conduct my BTO Wetlands Bird Survey (WeBS). When I arrived at the lagoon which aims to protect north Hull from flooding I soon noticed a distinct lack of birds, however something caught my eye and I was given that wonderful sight of spring and summer the swallow (Y68) along with a House Martin (Y69)
I’ve been counting at this site for nearly a year now, and enjoy doing the monthly count, good to see how things change from month to month. This month the summer arrivals as previously mentioned were also greeted with some lesser black backed gulls, which I haven’t recorded over winter, other gulls present include herring, common and black headed.
Gulls! Gulls! Gulls!
The numbers of winter wildfowl were on the decline with small numbers of gadwall, pochard and shoveler compared to previous months. Teal, coot, mallard, mute swan were also present. No sign of the terrapin I saw twice last year yet, wonder if it’ll surface on a hot day again this year. Also no Chiffchaff that was singing every summer visit last year. Hopefully that’ll be an addition for my next visit.
I recently decided to buy a new camera, after reading a few reviews on Amazon I settled for a Fuji Finepix. I finally managed to get out today for a test run. I decided to head up to Figham and try my luck photographing the Barn Owls. The common was very quiet, a few mallards and moorhens on the river, Reed Buntings and Pied Wagtails on the edges. I didn’t take me scope to check out the flooded field but I managed to make out some Lapwing, Teal and greylags using it. Spotted a yellowhammer (Y65) in the poor light. Back in 2010 this bird was very numerous on the common with every visit being able to see at least five or six birds plus hearing a lot of their “a little bit of bread but no cheese” calls sadly since the harsh winter of 2010 their numbers have been low and I rarely see or hear them when I go on there.
It took a while to find the barn owl tonight as it was mainly hunting in the long grass that is fenced off from the rest of the common. I managed a few shots, which I don’t think are too bad for a first attempt. Hopefully next time it’ll come closer.
Posted in 2013 List, Birds, Local Patch, Photographs
Tagged barn owl, birding, birds, birds of prey, camera, figham, lapwing, snapper, taking pictures
After spending all day cooped up inside working on an assignment I decided I would take a break and celebrate the start of “British birding time” by heading to my abandoned local patch for my first evening birding session of the year. My ultimate goal was to year tick Barn Owl. This beautiful bird can be seen with a bit of luck most evenings on Figham Common.
I walked along the river bank and wasn’t hopeful of much, with the exception of a single common gull, some pied wagtails and reed buntings the place was deserted. The fields after the Wheel fishing pond is now quite flooded. I struggled to make out anything on the far pools but will return later this week or next with my scope for a better view (also my hat and gloves!) I did managed four oyster catchers (rarity), around six teal (patch first!), greylags and some lapwings. The lapwings were starting to tumble and call. The lapwing’s call is one of my favourite sounds in early spring. I decided to check out the fishing pond at the top of the common, only a domestic mallard and black swan were using it though. Across the river in the fields was a flock of golden plover (Y61). Patch gold! Only recorded them here once before! A bird flew over my head and with its bobbing flight and red rump it was easy to identify as great spotted woodpecker (Y62), which are often hard to see although resident.
Walking back along the river bank a ghostly shape in the rough field just before the houses gave me my quarry. A beautiful pale barn owl (Y63) quartered the field. An unusual sound grabbed my attention and I turned round to see a snipe(Y64) taking to the air and calling, although I know they’ve been seen on Figham I’ve never seen one on there myself, so a second patch first of the evening! As I turned back round I clocked a barn owl actually on the common, the markings and colour were similar so hard to tell if it were two separate birds or the same one had crossed the river when I’d been watching the snipe. I watched it quartering the grass for a while, with it coming close at times giving brilliant views. I then lost it as it made an attempted kill so looked to the other field where there was the first barn owl! Happy with two owls, my fingers couldn’t take the cold much longer and I headed for home watching the second bird hunt over the rough grass with a kestrel hovering above.
Posted in 2013 List, birding, Birds, Local Patch
Tagged barn owl, bird watching, birding, birds, birds of prey, figham, gulls, kestrel, lapwing, nature, waders
Due to a few factors mainly work and college I haven’t been able to get out much this year so decided I’d treat myself to a day at what is probably my favourite nature reserve – North Cave Wetlands over the Easter break. I’d managed to get a long weekend off work (nearly impossible!) so thought that after a weekend of seeing family, we’d go to North Cave on the Monday. Also a nice walk to burn off some of the chocolate and pub lunches I’d had over the weekend!
Using EYMS’ excellent X57 service we arrived in North Cave and proceeded through the village to the reserve. We opted for the anti-clockwise route and settled down into the East Hide to get my year first Avocet (Y53), Oyster Catcher (Y54) and Shelduck (Y55). I mentioned I’ve hardly been out this year and at this point last year I was on 99 birds, including a chiffchaff which not many people seem to have seen yet this year! Between here and Turret hide we picked up the usual ducks and gulls. Some people managed to see a snipe but I had no luck with the cryptic beauties. We decided to back on ourselves and go clockwise at the East Hide we were treated to some Great Crested Grebes teasing us with their head shaking, but the ziggy stardusts did not follow through into full courtship display. From the ridge I could see some raptors soaring, however impossible to ID with binoculars and couldn’t get them in my scope. Due to there being three I would put these as Red Kites, which seem to be quite common over the reserve however have always eluded me! In my bid to get an ID of them I managed to find the resident kestrel though. Walking towards Far Lake to try for the Red-Head Smew I saw a white dot diving on Carp Lake, there she was! Walked along Carp Lake and at one point had brilliant views of her as we came level, was so close that if it had been a drake I could have offered him my hand in marriage. However it was only a red head, so you wouldn’t go as far as marriage, maybe just a nice weekend away in the Cotswolds…
We walked a bit further and I tried for Little Owl in the trees, but had no such luck, I found some pellets however on the ground (most probably from the Barn Owl), as I looked up from poking them with my foot (I wasn’t allowed to pick them up!) and was explaining to my daughter what they were a large raptor flew close over head. No need for binoculars or any doubt of the identification RED KITE! Year tick 57 and a long over due lifer! Been a bogey bird of mine for ages! It flew off as quick as it appeared. A trip to the new crosslands hide (door still as stiff as ever) we were entertained by Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers scurrying about, fighting with pied wagtails. This new hide with its excellent views gave us chance to warm up slightly! A downside of birding by bus is that we had to stay a while longer than we wanted to at North Cave, so decided to go to the East Hide for a bit before heading off home.
A good day out which gave my year list a needed bump of 8. Still 40 behind this time last year however! Although this has only been my fourth outing besides BTO WeBS counts so the low number is expected. Bring on June when hopefully we’ll have summer weather and summer migrants!
Posted in 2013 List, birding, Birding Outings, Birds, Summer Migrants, Winter Migrants
Tagged billy idol looks like a smew, bird watching, birding, birds of prey, have you ever thought david bowie looks like a great crested grebe?, kestrel, North Cave Wetlands, raptors, sexy ducks, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Any dedicated followers of this blog, my twitter feed or those I know personally who have the misfortune of enduring my excited ramblings about birds you will know there’s one bird that I tend to hold in more high regard than others, one bird that I want to see the most. The male smew! I’ve seen female smews on a couple of occasions so this is goes beyond just being able to “tick a bird off”. The smew in my opinion (and it should be yours too) is the most fantastic looking ducks there is. With its Billy Idol quiff and cracked ice plumage it’s the sexiest duck you will ever see. Some people say that the Harlequin duck is better looking than a drake smew, however these people are wrong and should see a mental health professional.
Whilst checking facebook last night I saw that Erich had updated his blog with news of there being two drake smews present at Welton Waters / Brough Angling Complex. With two present there stood a good chance of one hanging around. I was undecided whether to try for it but decided that I’d pack my binoculars and see how I felt after college.
I dreamt about smew last night and I nearly fell out of bed twice. Upon arrived at college and on the news of my class being cancelled, I went to the library constantly checking RBA for updates on my phone. After doing a bit of work I decided I had earned the chance to go see if I could find the handsome devil and got on the train to Brough.
Walking along the flood defence at Brough Haven, there was a great number of fieldfare around but little else around. A pheasant made the first year tick of the day. At the angling complex I checked the main pound and all I could manage was goldeneye, wigeon, gadwall and coots. After waiting a while I moved on to Welton waters. As I walked past the sports lake, I saw something with a white front dive into the water. Erich had reported a Red-Throated Diver with the smews however I couldn’t relocate and two cormorant swimming around it looked like I had been over hopeful! A kingfisher flew across the lake. As I made the walk back along the lake I heard a lot of rustling and noise coming from the reeds around the lake. I waited for a while and was rewarded with my first ever glimpse of an otter. Mustelid heaven!
Walking back I noticed that there were three birds diving and as I got closer I was glad to see that I hadn’t been seeing things and the Red-Throated Diver was still present. Lifer! I watched this loon for a while before moving back to the angling ponds. Despite knowing roughly the size of smew it’s surprising at how many birds with bits of white on them get your hopes up even if they’re about twice the size! I waited and scanned across the pond and it wasn’t long until I finally found the holy grail of my birding! Trying to contain my rebel yell of excitement I watched the smew until the couldn’t handle the cold anymore and decided to head back. Fifteen minutes with smew, well I wouldn’t say no.
The walk back gave me another year tick of a pair of linnet.
Posted in 2013 List, Biographic, birding, Birding Outings, twitching, Winter Migrants
Tagged billy idol looks like a smew, bird watching, ducks that look like billy idol, gulls, red throated diver, sexy ducks, smew, smews are far better than harliquin ducks, twitching
I’m not keen on snow; however what I do like is birding in the snow. The harsh conditions mean that birds you don’t usually see on your local patch or walk to work can turn up, so there’s bound to be something new and exciting. After finishing college at midday I decided the best thing would be to go home rather than risk a hectic trip home if the forecast heavy snow turned up. Arriving at home and still no snow in sight I decided to head out and do a bit of snow birding.
My choice today was Figham Common, I used to visit here all the time however recently have favoured High Eske and Swinemoor. The last snow birding I did on here turned up goosander and golden plover so I was hoping for some patch gold when I carefully negotiated my way along the icy beckside path. On my way to the common I picked up two easy year ticks of dunnock and song thrush.
The entrance to the common was rather treacherous with large sheets of ice cracking beneath my feet. The cracking of this ice caused a cormorant to take flight from the river. The first sign of the difference snow and ice make was the large number of coots using the river. Coot can be a surprisingly rare bird for Figham; they can be seen in the angling ponds in the surrounding area but very rarely on the river. The ground next to the river but before the embankment is the only area clear from snow (probably river has raised and washed snow away at some point) meaning that this area was a hive of activity. A number of reed buntings were constantly seen feeding here; again this is unusual activity with reed buntings favouring the grass and reeds in the middle of the common rather than bankside. A large flock of lapwings which normally feed in the field on the opposite side of the river also took advantage of this unfrozen ground. Fieldfare and redwing were also present.
I counted three little grebe on the river, which is my highest count. However the biggest rise in numbers was cormorants, on a good day you’ll see three or four following the river. Today I counted 9 stood on the opposite river bank at the southern end of the common and with a few more flying around.
As I walked the river four yellow beaked swans came down. Although they were a bit too far out for my ID skills (didn’t take scope), I managed to pick up a large amount of yellow on one of the beaks and their necks were very straight and long when they had them up (soon tucked them away) so going with whooper. PATCH GOLD!
I walked a bit further to the far end of the common to check the angling pond. There was a small area free from ice in the middle which contained two drake mandarin ducks and a possible female along with a coot and two domestic mallard. Mandarin would not only be a patch first but a lifer. Now need to decide if my conscience will allow me to tick it, seen as it was joined by two black swans that carefully waddled across the ice to the water. I’m not sure about the population of black swans in East Yorkshire but I’ve seen a pair at other sites (North Cave, High Eske) and heard of a pair reported elsewhere. Is it the same nomadic pair?
My walk back added little extra apart from redshank year tick. Was hoping to pick up a barn owl or short eared owl, both have been seen on the site recently but no luck today.