Category Archives: 2011 List

2011: A Review


I was going to write my top 10 birds of the year, however I thought I’d lump it in all together with a post reviewing my birding year.

Well my aim for the year was to try to visit a new site every month (seen as my 2010 records were mainly on one site). Although I didn’t visit a new site every month I did get myself out to a few new sites. This was mainly due to me starting to go out birding with an old friend of my father. As I cannot drive (I’m trying to convince myself this is my attempt at helping the planet when really it’s due to me never been bothered to learn and now not having time or money to learn) I’m stuck to visiting sites on foot or public transport, although not to bad as I can visit great sites such as RSPB Bempton, High Eske/Pulfin Bog, Hornsea Mere, YWT North Cave Wetlands and Filey Dams with no real struggle except financial! Then there’s always seaside towns like Bridlington and Scarborough which throw up excellent birding opportunities.

However you miss out some real gem sites such as Yorkshire Water’s Tophill Low, RSPB Blacktoft Sands and Spurn Point. The last two can be visited on public transport however it seems so painful I don’t think I’ll bother.

My year list resulted in a wimpy limping 117. However I didn’t include the heard Cuckoo, Tawny Owl, unsure sightings of a Bearded Tit, Merlin and Hobby. Plus a feral looking Barnacle Goose in Bridlington Harbour in the middle of summer. So I could easily bump it up to 123 if I so wished.  Also my birding suffered in the summer when my hay fever was probably the worse I’ve ever suffered. Tablets which usually work for me were having no effect at all.  I also suffered with my anxiety in the summer which meant I didn’t leave the house unless I really had to for work or to go somewhere. Hopefully neither of these problems will get in the way of birding in 2012 and it’ll be a good year.

Birds aside I started to pay more attention to other natural things in 2011 such as Mushrooms, butterflies and dragonflies and need to get some good guide books so I can become a better naturalists and not just a bird spotter.

I managed to get my patch record up to 57, still a way off the around 80 birds that have been recorded there but saw a curlew flying overhead which was a good tick for the site. I also managed to get my bogey bird of 2011 – Sparrowhawk on there. Not a year tick as I got that at High Eske, however it really was a good tick for me.

My top birds of 2011

Not the big top ten I had planned but here as follows are my top birds of 2011. Of course there are my favourite birds and great birds to see such as Swifts, Gannets, Swallows, Bullfinches, Black Terns in there but  my top birds for 2011 have to be:

5. – Green Woodpecker
The last bird of the year for me and one that I’d been after all year but never managed to see or hear despite visiting good sites for it. This one was spotted on Figham Common, after a rather dull, boring and cold afternoon spent on there not seeing anything of note except Fieldfare. I was trudging slowly over damp grass, trying to pick up a Reed Bunting in the reedmace when something starts flying across the common in front of me. Obviously I recognised the flight and put my bins up, followed this fine bird as it flew into trees, perched gave a loud yaffle and then disappeared out of sight.

4. – Sparrowhawk
As I mentioned earlier this has been a right bogey bird for me. When I visited Top Hill Low at the start of the year on the way back to the car I decided to pop into a hide to get another look at the Smew (sadly only a redhead female so didn’t make the list) my parents decided to go back to the car and wait for me. Whilst walking back to the car they saw a Sparrowhawk. I didn’t. Another time Robert Jaques  paid a quick visit to my patch and reported seeing a Sprawk on there! (the swine!). I saw a quick-moving raptor at Filey Dams however it shot out of sight before I could ID it (judging by photos of a sparrowhawk taken at Filey I’m now convineced I saw a sparrowhawk). I was at High Eske one day already an excellent birding day, with a Bullfinch year tick. I tweeted at the time (yes I tweet whilst birding) “I don’t think this afternoon can get better” about five minutes later I turn the corner and a sparrowhawk flies out in front of me. Just like heaven!

3. – Woodsandpiper
To any fathers reading this, what did you do on father’s day? I bullied my daughter and her mother into accomponying me to North Cave Wetlands. Well not on the Sunday as there’s no longer a bus there on a Sunday. Anyway we went, I’d read on http://www.eyorks-birding.co.uk that a Woodsandpiper had been seen. Always full of pessimism that I won’t see a bird, I sat down in the turret hide and scanned the islands for it. I looked for a while before spotting the wader right in front of the hide. I luckily managed to ID it successfully before a bullying Oystercatcher sent it to the other side of the lake and out of sight. I could have also had a Mediterranean Gull if I’d been bothered to check out all the black heads. Still better father’s day presents than a mug and some chocolates. If I had gone on the Sunday I think I’d have missed it, but could have had a Ruddy Duck. I love Ruddy Ducks too bad they’ll probably soon be extinct in this country.

2. – Avocet
No story here, just an excellent elegant wader. Beautiful bird, can’t wait to catch up with them again in 2012. Could watch them feeding for hours. I had almost forgot the cutest bird seen this year Goldcrest and seen as I’m meant to be doing a top five will have to slot it in joint 2nd. I’ve wanted to see a goldcrest for years even before I took up birding, mainly because they’re cute and small. I finally saw some at Top Hill Low in October and was excellent to finally see them.

1. – Osprey
No contest this year really. I twitched the Osprey at Arram early in April I watched it for a while before it took flight. Sadly didn’t see it catch a fish.

Here’s to 2012 and hoping it’s full of plenty of great birding opportunities!

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Not got you a Christmas Card, will this post do?


Disclaimer: This post contains terrible grammar and is awfully written.

I’ve been bullied into blogging by a birder who will remain anonymous. I might make it my New Year Resolution to blog more. Even if it’s just a weekly recap of the birds I’ve seen on the way to work.  I think my last post was just before June. I could bore you with a tedious bird by bird update, however I’ll flash you the highlights.

In mid June I headed out to Spurn and saw a Little Tern

Also in June was Fathers Day so instead of a present I bullied my daughter on an outing to North Cave Wetlands. I managed to see a Wood Sandpiper and a very sexy fellow birder.

I didn’t bird much in August but I did draw this picture of seals:

Seals of the UK

In September I bought a spotting scope (woo! I might be able to see more birds now!) and managed to tick a ruff (hur hur a bit of ruff you might say hur hur). I also took my new sexy spotting scope out to North Cave and was reward with Black and Arctic Terns. Another family holiday to Filey called, I managed to wangle an hour at Filey Dams which produced more Ruff, Dunlin and Ringed Plover. There was a mystery raptor I wanted to tick off Sparrowhawk but was unsure as only got a quick glimpse. One day we ventured to Scarborough, no Peregrine seen. Also tried very hard to point out Cormorant to my daughter. It took her ages to see it. She’s inherited my poor birding skills then!

October gave me a Jack Snipe and Goldcrest both at Top Hill Low but different days. Trip to Figham on 27th October gave me the first Fieldfare and Redwing of this winter. 28th October I went to High Eske which gave me one of my best birding trips; Kestrel, Barn Owl, Great Crested Grebe (I was disappointed to discover that if you type “David Bowie Great Crested Grebe” into google images that there isn’t a side by side picture comparing the two), King Fisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Bullfinch, Sparrowhawk and Little Grebe were the highlights.

I only went out once in Novemeber back to High Eske / Leven Carrs to try to tick a Short Eared Owl. Sadly didn’t manage it but did manage; Buzzard, Kestrel, Barn Owl and two Little Egrets. My latest outing of note was to Figham which gave me a year tick for Green Woodpecker and patch first with Curlew flying over!

I need to update my year list on the site but I’m currently at 117 desperate to make 120 for the year. I’ve managed to avoid at least two twitchable birds Glossy Ibis (no money) and Desert Wheatear (Twitching is a bit dirty). I also got a new phone with a half decent camera so here are some pictures I’ve taken. Enjoy and get ready for my top 10 birds of 2011 post!

Large flock of geese coming into roost at High Eske

Geese and sunset at High Eske

High Eske

Some form of Ink Cap?

Jew's Ear

More Jew's Ear

Scarborough gets a battering

April and May


Hello again, I’ve sort of abandoned this blog haven’t I. I’m sorry. Well anyway here’s what I’ve been up to birding wise since the last time I blogged!

At the start of April there was news of an Osprey lingering around a few fishing ponds at Arram just outside of my town. I decided to get a lift down and see if I could find it. I acted on information I’d heard and went out to see a specific bird, does this mean I’m on my way to becoming a twitcher? I spoke to a fellow birder in the area and he said it was most likely to have flown off after not being seen all morning. However with at least an hour before the next train I decided to hang around the area and see if there was anything else about. I’d already picked up my first swallow of the year when I arrived in Arram. I walked along the barmston drain part of the Minster to Minster trail (Beverley to York) in the field on the other side of the railway tracks I noticed a large brown blob. I was going to dismiss it as a Pheasant but decided to get the binoculars out on it anyway. YES! It is the Osprey! I decided to sit down on the bank and watch it for a while, 40 minutes and a couple of train passes later (I wonder how many commuters  saw the bird and how many thought I were a train spotter) the Osprey decides to take flight. Magnificent! I soon lost it, but seeing it in flight was amazing. Bird of the year so far!

I headed back to the train station and saw that there wasn’t a train back to Beverley for a good few hours but there was one to Bridlington, so I decided I’d head that way then get a train to Bempton and visit RSPB reserve Bempton Cliffs. Bempton was very quiet on the auk front, although for list ticking this wasn’t too bad as I’d managed to get them at Filey a couple of weeks earlier. Managed to see a single Puffin which seems to be the only bird a lot of people who go to at Bempton are interested in seeing despite it being home to the only mainland breeding colony of Gannets in England. Although I’m slightly biased as gannets are probably my favourite sea-bird. There was also four Shags at the base of the cliff, one of those birds that you hate because non birders have to mention it whilst trying to be hilarious.  Fulmar tucked up neatly on a cliff and a siskin at the feeding station brought my year total up to 81. It was also a warm day with strong winds which resulted in myself getting sunburnt. Sunburnt in the first week of April! Can you believe it?!

Visits to my local patch produced my first treecreeper. A very cute bird. Also I managed to see a kestrel every time I went out on there yet last year I never managed to see one all year on there. Local patch was also where I picked up my first whitethroat of the year. I stated in this blog at the start of the year that I was planning to get out and go to more sites after last years entries into my log book were mainly all made up of my local patch. This year however I’m in danger of not going there enough! This is some sort of birding faux pas surely?

17th April I went to High Eske walking through Swinemoor Common (where I managed to get a Snipe) and then to Leven Canal. Very hot day which resulted in sunburn again. You’d have thought I’d have learnt my lesson! Well I did it was only the tops of my ears I burnt this time! This was a good day for picking up spring migrants with Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Wheatear, Sedge Warbler and Chiff Chaff all seen and a cuckoo heard. Manage to hear a few grass snakes slithering away out of sight. Maybe I’m too heavy footed?

1st May I went to Top Hill Low, for those of you that don’t know about Top Hill Low it is a nature reserve built on the site of a Yorkshire Water treatment works and has two large reservoirs that attract a lot of wildfowl and for this reason have SSSI status. Around the reservoirs are marshes and ponds created from the digging of mud to build flood barriers along the River Hull. There’s also woodlands and grasslands. I don’t get to go here often so it’s always a real treat. First swifts of the year were picked up here along with Yellow Wagtail, Green Sandpiper, Common Tern and Canada goose. I originally missed the Canada goose off when totting up my year list as I’d assumed I’d seen one earlier but a double-check proved me wrong.

Further trips out to High Eske I managed a Greenshank among others including a pair of Great Crested Grebes that looked very David Bowie like with their crests and head shaking. Also bird 100 on the my year list – Kingfisher! What a bird to make it 100! Although 101 was just as good – Marsh Harriers at RSPB Blacktoft Sands. As mentioned before in my blog I’m aiming to visit several new sites this year and Blacktoft was the new site for May. I’ve seen people say about Blacktoft being good for the harriers but that didn’t stop me for being surprised and amazed at the great views you can get of them even without optics from the visitor centre. The day also produced lovely close up views of Avocets feeding and Swifts hawking for insects. Both wonderful birds, definitely top 10 stuff! My year list reached 103 with thanks to Blacktailed Godwits and a single stock-dove.

Right now that’s updated, shall I see you all in three months time? Splendid!

First Summer migrant, March Hares and coastal birds


Another sightings update.

14th March I headed back to High Eske and Pulfin managing to see:

Red Shank, Wigeon, Coot, Great Creasted Grebe – now with crests!, Reed Bunting around 7 or 8 mostly males, Tufted Ducks
GoldenEye around 6 or 7
Pair of Oyster Catchers
Gadwall in the ponds next to Pulfin Bog
Great, Blue and Long Tailed Tits
Teal

I then decided to venture a bit further and headed onto Leven Canal. I saw one buzzard soaring then managed to see another 3 soaring together. Then possibly a 5th buzzard flew out of trees and across farm land swooping down before perching in a tree next to the river barely still in sight. I then saw a pair of Kestrels hovering and heard a tawny owl calling. When I got back to the lake at High Eske I decided one more time to check the greylags to see if I could pick out the white fronted and pink footed geese that have been mixed in with the flock. Only managed to pick out a single pink footed goose though. Decided on one final look at the lake before heading back, wise choice as a cormorant flew across, landed on the water and proceeded to dive. I then saw 3 sand martins skimming across the water hunting for food.

20th March – After noticing that my pledge to add more variety to where I went birding meant that I hardly visited my local patch I decided a trip to Figham was in order. After a night with no sleep I finally gave up at 6am and thought that some early morning birding would be a good idea. In the fields next to the river I saw 2 displaying lapwings tumbling in the air. There was also a lone kestrel flying to and from trees but not doing much hunting.

Whilst scanning the trees at the top end of the common I encountered a patch first, a great spotted woodpecker! In the same location that I saw my first and only sighting of a Green Woodpecker on my patch. Shortly after I saw another patch first, although it’s probably not tickable: I’d crossed over the bridge and was on the other side of the common, trying to see if I could spot the drumming woodpecker when a strange bird flew past, which I’m pretty certain was a ring neck parakeet. I know there’s some feral ones not far away in Cottingham but never heard of them in this location. Maybe the lack of sleep was making me see things! I then walked into the far corner of the common an area I’d previously not explored. In this area is permanently wet rushes, there was a male reed bunting flying around and a few mallards. A grey heron also flew out of this area. Also spotted a hare sprint away and around the wet areas into hiding.

I also spent a few days at Filey which gave me chance to do a bit of sea / cliff watching. Plenty of auks about. Excellent views of Puffins a lot better than at RSPB Bempton. Both Razorbills and Guillemots flying from cliffs to the sea, although it took me a while to positive ID them both by their beaks due to been just slightly too far away. I don’t know how else you can ID them from a fair distance! Plenty of Kittiwakes around giving off their splendid kittiwaaaaaaaaaaaaaak call. Also lots of Jackdaws (lovely corvid, those dazzling blue eyes!) a few skylarks in the fields next to the cliffs. A lone kestrel flying close to the cliffs mid way down, 15 or so Curlew feeding on the rocks and a few seals sprawled out on the rocks at low tide. Great few hours birding spread over several days.

Finally on 28th March I made my first trip to  North Cave Wetlands (might count it as my new site for April) where I saw around 14 avocet, these birds quickly jumped into my top ten list. The handsome devils. Also at the reserve was Shelduck, a lovely pair of Great Crested Grebe, more Sand Martins, Shoveler, Teal, Red-legged Partridge and my next summer migrant  – Little Ringed Plover.

Year list up to 74

Better keep things updated


Right I’ve not updated this blog in a while due to various reasons, need to get back to writing pieces to put up on here. However in the meanwhile to make sure it doesn’t look like I’ve forgotten about this site I thought I’d post my recent sightings.

16th Feb I went back to High Eske and Swinemoor. Pretty much same sightings as the week before, however I unfortunately dipped on seeing a Kingfisher! However I did manage to tick my first Reed Bunting of the year, if you’ve read my earlier blog posts you’ll know that I have a soft spot for Reed Buntings. On the way back from Swinemoor I decided to take a detour and visit Figham. Only a quick visit but managed to see a Barn Owl out hunting, which after the winter was an excellent sighting.

25th Feb I made a proper outing on Figham. Walked along Barmston Drain to begin with a male kestrel flying around, plenty of gulls on field but too far out to ID. 3 Roe Deer (one male with good antler growth) hoping and running around. Plenty of Long Tailed Tits flitting about with the odd Great and Blue tits popping up. Usually odd sightings of Dunnock, Robin, Chaffinch and Blackbirds along with the common Corvids. Flock of what I guess due to the chattering were Fieldfare flying around a fair bit around 20 I’d guess. Grey Heron flew from the fishing pond at the top of Figham into the fields opposite, at some point it were joined by another. Odd sighting of a single Oyster Catcher on the flood bank on the opposite side of the river at same point. Little Grebe on river. Saw Barn Owl hunting over the grasses whilst a Kestrel hovered high above, rarely hovering lowly except when closing in for a single attempt at making a kill. Whilst watching the Barn Owl rest in a tree the flickering wing beats of another Barn Owl caught the corner of my eye. So looks like both the Owls I saw there in October survived the winter. Also pretty certain I saw another Kestrel however only clearly saw one male so not sure if it’s a pair.

Then on 2nd March I made a trip out to the coastal town they forgot to close down – Bridlington. Didn’t spend long birding as my child wanted me to dig up shells and bury shells with her before needing the toilet and food! However managed to seen a few Purple Sandpiper and plenty of Turnstone and of course gulls! Also walked up to Sewerby Halls and Gardens, local squirrels taking advantage of feeding time at the zoo.

Mentioning gulls in the past two weeks I’ve started to notice that a lot of Black-headed Gulls are starting to get their black heads back. Not long now until the first of the summer migrants start appearing all over. I can’t wait for the return of Swifts and their screeching!

I recently bought the Helm guide-book to Tracks and Signs of the Birds of Britain and Europe, so hopefully this will improve my fieldcraft.

Year list now up to a mere 60, I think some people had that amount in the first week of January!

Egrets, I’ve seen a few…


Thought I hadn’t blogged my sightings for a while I’d update with Thursdays outing. Mainly because it gave me the chance to use a song reference / pun, which regular readers will know I love to do. Continuing with my pledge to try to visit at least one new birding site that I haven’t birded at before a month and following a discussion on East Yorkshire Birding Forums about Little Egrets I decided it was time I finally paid a visit to High Eske.

To get to High Eske you have to walk along the River Hull from Tickton, the best way to do this from my house is a quick trip through Swinemoor Common. Whilst on Swinemoor I didn’t really see much of interest apart from a large flock of Lapwings getting chased off the flooded fields by a small group of crows. When I got to the River Hull I didn’t really see anything until I reached High Eske. When I arrived I had a quick look on the lake, and could make out mute swans and mallards at this point, so decided to follow the path around the side of the lake towards Pulfin Bog.

As I walked towards the bend where Pulfin starts I could see three Little Egrets resting at the side of the river. Now I’m not a ‘twitcher’ however it’s debatable whether my trip out was ‘to twitch’ as the main reason I headed down to High Eske was for the life tick of a Little Egret, especially as I’d missed out on a large number of Little Egrets by a day or so when I went to Leighton Moss last October. I guess I’d had made the trip to High Eske at some point anyway, however this outing was spurred on by knowing that Little Egrets where roosting in the area. In front of where the Egrets were I also saw a Little Grebe dive into the water, waited a while for both better views of the Egrets and for the Grebe to pop back up but neither happened so I headed back to walking around the lake.

Half way around the lake I came to a screen to look out at the lake, at this point I managed to pick out two Oyster Catchers, a Golden Eye, couple of Pochard, three or four Great Crested Grebe  and Coots all on the lake. Continuing my walk there were several Great and Blue tits among the trees, I also caught the slightest glimpse of a Redwing. When I got to the north point of the lake a flock of Curlew flew quiet low over head. Never before seen that many Curlew, together especially in flight. Must have been around 8 to 10.  I finished the walk of the lake and decided to head back to where I saw the Little Egrets to see if I could get better views, unfortunately they’d moved on but I decided I’d have another walk around the lake. Back at the north point, after passing Pulfin you emerge next to the River Hull again, here I could see a boat sailing down the river in the distance, I watched it for a few moments and this luckily brought my attention to a Little Egret feeding, hidden in a dip on the opposite side of the river.

I walked around to the lake back onto the flood defence and walked past the lake, the flock of Curlew fly by again. I also saw a Redshank fly past. Started walking down the river heading back towards Tickton, whilst walking along the river I saw a little Egret in flight up river towards High Eske. This was the last bird I really saw. Good trip that brought Year list up to 54.

 

Third outing of the year


Today I decided I’d go out to Swinemoor Common. Even though it’s only a ten minute walk from me I rarely ever visit this site. In the winter the fields of the common flood so it makes a great place to see waders, apparently. I only saw Redshank and lots of Lapwing out this afternoon! Although both made the year list, so not too bad. I always forget about Lapwings when I list or think about my favourite birds. I don’t know why as it really is a beautiful little bird. Its purple and green sheen, its black collar, its orange vent, its spiky crest and its distinctive call, magnificent! There was plenty of Rooks, Crows and Gulls out feeding on the common too. I decided to pay another visit to Figham on my way back as it was getting dark to see if the Barn Owl was about or even still alive. On my way down I managed to catch sight of  a wagtail in the distance, as I got close I realised it wasn’t a pied as I had lazily assumed but a grey wagtail.

When I reached Figham the light was already rapidly fading, so I walked a couple of minutes up the river until I had a good vantage point of the owl’s hunting territory. I scanned across several times with no luck, so with little light left I decided to give up and try again another time. I walked back a little then decided to have another scan, I saw something moving along the grass it was white and quickly went down into the grass. Could it be the Barn Owl? The light was really poor at this point so trying to focus was hard, I studied the area for a bit longer and watched as it reappeared again. I’m pretty sure due to the colouring, flight and pouncing it was a Barn Owl, however due to the poor light and the bird seeming to not go much higher than the tops of the rushy grasses  I couldn’t be 100% sure. I know that Short-eared owls have been seen before on Figham, however the wingspan was probably too short and I’ve read a lot about them being more diurnal. So hopefully it looks like the Barn Owl has survived the bad weather, although last time I saw them hunting there was a pair, tonight I could only make out one. Will have to check out again.

Year list now up to 32 without the owl.

I’m wanting to write more pieces like the ones on Starlings and Jeremy Kyle, however not had much inspiration. Hopefully I’ll think of something soon.