I’m your only friend I’m not your only friend But I’m a little glowing friend But really I’m not actually your friend But I am
This is what woke me up at five past six this morning. Five past six on a Monday morning? Why you must be thinking I was going to work, nope I was off on a twitch! I got up earlier and easier than I would have done for work and headed down to the train station.
The magical metal box, transported me to the seaside town of Filey. Which I have decided is currently number one in the region for inbreds day outing closing beating Scarborough and Bridlington. My aim for the for the day was a lifer in the form of a Surf Scoter. If you’re not sure what a surf scoter is, well neither am I. It’s either the second more freakish duck after a Muscovy (which even a vegan would kick to death they’re so ugly) or one of the finest looking ducks in the land (possibly top 5). It’s either a thing of magnificent or an ugly bastard, I just can’t decided! Anyway it’s a bit lost as it’s normally found in Canada and America. He (as with all ducks the handsomer bastard is always male except goosander which are equally as delightful) has tagged on to a group of common scoters hoping they won’t reject their American cousin for looking so peculiar.
I made my way up to the Brigg, during my journey I stopped off at Tesco. Outside was a dog crying for it’s owner. I stroked and comforted it until the old lady came out. I’m a modern day saint really! Despite spending most of the weekend really close to the Brigg fishing activity in the bay made sure the raft of scoters were out in the distance. A fellow birder informed me of the rough location of the scoters and I managed to pick up the white of the back of it’s neck through my scope. Well a tiny black dot with a bit of white on it. Very disappointing lifer! I hung around the Brigg a bit longer and managed to get some much needed year ticks; Sand Martin, Gannet, Meadow Pipit, Puffin, Razorbill, Guillemot and kittiwake.
I tried various points of the Brigg and cliff tops, helping out other birders to locate the scoters. I eventually made it down to the seafront and at the end of the promenade I set up my scope, was joined by two others and we eventually located the scoters and I hung on until I managed to get a goodish view of that ridiculous bill that makes a shoveler look normal. A couple of sandwich terns past over head which was my third lifer of the day. Happy with that I decided to head home. Sadly it was still too distant to photograph but James Spencer managed to grab one on his blog.
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!
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.
9 – Black Necked-grebe
I’m a big fan of grebes however had only seen little and great crested so when three black-necked grebes turned up at North Cave Wetlands I decided that instead of heading to the library to do important college work that I would travel down to one of my favourite nature reserves. Well worth it.
8 – Cuckoo
Often heard but never seen. After a disappointing trip to a high water levelled Filey Dams we headed off to Bempton Cliffs. A cuckoo had been seen on the concrete posts that fence off the MoD land. It didn’t take long to locate and stayed still most of the time with the only movement flying from one post to another. Great to get such brilliant views of a bird I can rarely locate.
7 – Garganey
My first garganey and my first self-found rare bird too! Cracking little duck.
6 – Hobby
In august I went on an awkward lunch date. Afterwards in a bid to rid myself of the shame I went birding and saw my first ever hobby! You know you’ve seen a good bird when you mutter “f**king hobby!” to yourself when you see it!
5 – Waxwings
Hold the revolving door! Waxwings only at number five? What is this madness?! It’s been a good year for top birds so much so that the avian Jedwards have been knocked back into fifth place. They crop up in your dreams , oh but dreams have a knack of just not coming true. However this year was different and I managed to catch up with them as my last post shows. They also turned up in Hull behind St Stephens shopping centre, but unfortunately I was in a class when the alert came through on RBA android app and I spent an agonising hour and a half waiting for my lunch break to see if I could see them (sadly I didn’t). I didn’t renew my trail RBA subscription to save me from the hell of not been able to shoot off for a bird, for now anyway.
Joint third – Short-eared Owl and Hen Harrier
New Year’s Day 2012 I saw two short-eared owls hunting then a ringtailed Hen Harrier appeared trying to steal food from the hunting owls. It was hard to follow where all three birds were at times and who was stealing from who, but it was a “spectacular” as some would say. After seeing these three birds there was a total down pour and I had to walk an hour home soaking wet. Was still worth it!
2 – Desert Wheatear
My first proper twitch to go see the long staying and most photographed bird. Hung around on the cold cliff tops at Bempton waiting for this little cute thing to pop up. Was well worth the wait. Didn’t get a photograph as there’s already a million of it on the web! That same day I also made friends with a one footed turnstone, saw my first gannets of the year some four months earlier than I usually do and saw some harbour porpoises.
1 – Roller
My second proper twitch to another bird that stayed around for a while. Parked up, waiting in the cold drizzle for an hour (luckily some friendly birders were present for company) eventually it turned up in on some over head wires and I got to see its vivid blue colouring and lovely cinnamon pink back. Watched it for half an hour and then had to go to work, but I went to work very happy!
Close calls – Iceland Gull (I like gulls but not enough to make them to the top 10), Smew – female only a male would have found its way into there. That’s the type of sexist pig I am. Peregrine – same day as the cuckoo. I had fantastic views of a juvenile female calmly sat on the cliffs at Bempton. Greenish Warbler, cute little bird but too didn’t want to feel too much of a twitcher by counting it ;), Golden Plover – incredibly cute, Wood Sandpiper, Temmincks Stint, Little Stint, Bar-Tailed Godwit – The Swinemoor highlights, Brent Goose – probably my favourite goose!
I finished the year with 144 birds, bit disappointing seen as I had 90 in February however I’ve done very little birding since the summer. Missed out on going to see the Jack Snipe that was present for a long while at North Cave Wetlands, no green woodpecker sadly. Dipped on Barred Warbler, Yellow-Browed Warbler and Red Breasted Flycatcher whilst at Spurn. Also missed out on a Pectoral Sandpiper on Swinemoor and when at South Landing found a Spotted Flycatcher but didn’t see the Pied fly, at least I didn’t see it and get disappointed when it turned out not to be an Atlas though! Hope 2013 is more successful and full of even more fantastic lifers.
They’re here and once again in style! With their wonderful quiffs and high trill calls waxwings are the Jedwards of the bird world. Getting their name from the red wax like drips on the end of their wings there aren’t many people who don’t love these winter invaders. It’s a bird I always hope to catch up with and often dream about during the winter months!
News started coming in about a large flock of waxwings in the car park at ASDA Hessle Road on thursday night. Unfortunately I was working Friday and Saturday so the earliest I would get out there would be Sunday morning. I made a few enquiries on twitter and the large flocks were making work of the berries. It didn’t look good, most likely to move on before Sunday. I decided now was the time to download Rare Bird Alert app on my phone and use the free trial. With alerts set up for waxwings my hopes were raised on Saturday when I got an alert saying there was still a flock of 300 late evening.
We woke early on Sunday morning and got the first bus into Hull and then after a cold short wait watching very cute sniffer dogs making sure Ferensway would be safe for the service of remembrance we got the first bus to Hessle Road. Whilst we waited for our bus I got an alert saying that 200 had been seen at 8:26 am, things were looking good! Arriving at ASDA we soon found people in the car park with big lenses so decided to go and wait with them. After standing around for about ten minutes getting excited at every flock of starlings that flew over two birds flew over with pale underneath. These were soon located on a tree at the other end of the car park, bins went up and these were waxwings! Tried pointing out to my daughter, however trying to direct a five-year old to a single bird in a far away tree is hard work! A kind photographer showed her a picture he had taken however. After looking at the two waxwings for a few minutes we decided to go warm up in the now open ADSA and get some breakfast inside us.
After our breakfast we went to see if anymore waxwings had turned up, sadly not. We decided to walk around the local area seeing if we could local the large flock from earlier. Soon the child did as children do and needed the toilet. Whilst her mother took her I stood outside ADSA waiting when a large flock of waxwings came in and landed on a tree next to the bus stop on the opposite side of the road. They then moved to the proximity of the snappers and we caught up with them and took some photographs using our compact camera.
This time even my daughter managed to see them and successfully completed her first twitch! Soon it was time to go wait for our bus and as we waited the flock came back to the tree next to the stop to once again give us some cracking views!
Thought I would round-up the small few outings I had in October:
10th I went with a friend to Spurn Point. A rather quiet visit with no great amount of birds out, unlike my trip to Kilnsea a week earlier. Grey Plover, Sanderling, Brent Goose and Bar-Tailed Godwit the highlights of a bird lacking day. Did manage to see the Larkin Plaque there though which was good. I think I’ve seen 4/25 of them. Need to hunt down the others.
Larkin at Spurn
14th October it was time to go do my WeBS count. I started doing my count in the summer when there was not much variety in birds using my site, however now winter is approaching the number of swans and gulls there is rising. Also new birds like cormorant, Shoveler, gadwall appearing and numbers increasing.
After doing my WeBS count I was going to go home and work on an assignment for the Monday. However I decided to check the East Yorks birding forum whilst waiting for the bus home and saw that Steve Webb had posted information about a Little Stint being present on Swinemoor. Decided my work could be put off for a few hours and after dropping a few things off at home headed on out there. When I got to Swinemoor I checked the southernly pools and had no luck. Walking a bit further I met a guy who had come from the northern end and had no luck on the far pools. With the size of the Little Stint being what it is and the roughness of Swinemoor we decided to stick it out and hope it was still present. Eventually we found it on the most northernly pool (surprisingly as most scarce stuff seems to turn up in the middle pool) feeding among a lapwing flock.
27th October – After two weeks of big assignments and lots of stressful shifts at work I couldn’t wait to get out and bird. Even if it was nearly blowing a gale and hailstones! Decided to head up to High Eske after Erich had seen a red-head smew on the lake a week earlier. I wasn’t going to be hopeful but I could only go locally and to see my favourite duck on a new patch is always a bit incentive. I walked around the lake through the trees and past Pulfin. Checking out the greylags I picked up a Barnacle Goose which was good for the patch. Although I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a hybrid. A quick walk onto Pulfin Bog gave great views of a kestrel and at the HVWG screen I was able to catch up with the returning Goldeneye, plus a curlew flying past. Lots of noise from trees however the strong winds kept most things hidden. Walking towards the gate at the north end of the lake I saw a heron coming into land and assumed it had gone into the fields, wrong! As I got to the gate with a huge clattering and making me jump something terrible the heron flew out of the right next to me. No more than a couple of foot. Never been that close to a heron before and not sure I want to again!
Walked up the scrape at Leven Carrs, which is now a full pond. Lots of Black-headed gulls and teal present but nothing else. Got great views of a large fox casually sat amongst the grass of the carrs. Also three roe deer on the opposite side of the river, remarkably calm and still seen as there was men at work not too far away. Walked back to the lake along the flood defense and tried looking for the smew and any jay (also always hoping for a waxwing) with no luck. Decided to walk about the south of the lake again to see if I could get a better view of the barnacle goose, however it was nowhere to be seen. Was rewarded with my first little egret of the year tucked up on the island though. Also a small sulky warbler in the trees, if I were to call it I would have to say a chiffchaff. Large flock of fieldfare circling around the southern area of Eske. At least 50 – 100 I’d guess.
Fieldfare, Goldeneye, Wigeon and Little Egret all about looks like winter is nearly here bring on the waxwings, redwings, bramblings and winter geese!
I apologise if this blog is any worse than normal with spelling and grammar however writing it on the wordpress app on my phone!
Not done a great amount of birding recently. I ventured out onto Swinemoor last week after a Pectoral Sandpiper had been seen on there however it had gone by the time I could get on site. Did manage to get a Bar-tailed Godwit though so still worth making the journey.
Yesterday was my first proper outing for a while. Decided to go to Kilnsea seen as that was the only place with decent birds not on flood alert! We just went for the afternoon and when we pulled up there was a group of birders looking in a garden. I made enquiries and it they were looking for the greenish Warbler. Waited a while looking but with a few exceptions this isn’t my ideal way of birding. One guy had been there for two hours after missing its last appearance by ten minutes.
Had great views of a kestrel hovering next to the hotel and a pied wag on the roof. Walked down the road and the tide was far out but managed to see redshank, ringed plover and Dunlin. Lots of large gulls out far kept on getting checkout out in a hope for a repeat of the day before’s ospreys.
We walked towards the bluebell not having much look so decided to walk back and get the car and head onto Spurn. When we got to the car a birder told us the Greenish Warbler was now showing well and gave us directions. Saw the man from earlier who was now in a much happier mood for seeing the Warbler. Waited around 10 minutes before the Greenish showed again. Very smart little bird but not sure I could be bothered waiting 3 hours to see it! Also saw 4 pale bellied Brent geese swimming by as we waited. A goose I’ve never seen before but now probably my favourite goose!
We drove down to the canal scrape hide for a quick look. Managed to see a Redstart (3rd lifer of the day) and got talking to a couple who told us were the Yellow Browed Warblers had been seen. With time getting on we decided not to bother with Spurn and went to the pub car park to hopefully get Barbed Warbler, Yellow Browed or Red Breasted Flycatcher. Fair amount of birders watching so gardens so waited with them for a while before walking along the canal I managed to not see any of these but got great views of a very obliging deer that seemed completely unbothered by human presence.
A little further a long we were alerted to a YB Warbler in a bush. Sadly I missed out on it by seconds. My step father had more luck and saw it disappear into thick vegetation. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to see if it reappeared and headed for the car.