Category Archives: Mammals

2012 – Top Ten


Here are my top ten birds of 2012….

10 – Goosander
It’s a good duck

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.

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Badger Cull – Hidden Agenda?


With the recent media and social networking buzz around the badger cull a lot has been said from both sides. I am strongly opposed to the cull because it lacks the credible science. I can however sympathise with the farmers in hot spot areas wanting  a cull in the belief it will stop the devastating loss they face when bTB is found in one of their herds.  However what drives those MPs who are for the cull to have their stance? Are they worried about the livelihoods of farmers in their constituency? When checking on which MPs voted for a cull I was disappointed to see my MP Mr Graham Stuart vote for the cull. In knowing that he would also vote for a repeal in the hunting act I decided to investigate how the other MPs for the cull would vote on a repeal of the hunting act.

MP Party Hunting Act Repeal
Baldry, Sir Tony Conservative For
Bingham, Andrew Conservative For
Bruce, Fiona Conservative No Reply
Carmichael, Neil Conservative For
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Conservative For
Cox, Geoffrey Conservative For
Eustice, George Conservative For
Freeman, George Conservative For
Garnier, Sir Edward Conservative For
George, Andrew Liberal Democrat Against
Hart, Simon Conservative For
Herbert, rh Nick Conservative For
Hollobone, Mr Philip Conservative For
Howarth, Sir Gerald Conservative For
Jones, Andrew Conservative For
Lefroy, Jeremy Conservative For
McIntosh, Miss Anne Conservative For
Mills, Nigel Conservative Against
Paice, rh Sir James Conservative For
Paisley, Ian Democratic Unionist Unknown
Rees-Mogg, Jacob Conservative For
Robertson, Mr Laurence Liberal Democrat For
Rogerson, Dan Liberal Democrat Against
Spencer, Mr Mark Conservative No Reply
Stuart, Graham Conservative For
Wallace, Ben Conservative For
Williams, Roger Liberal Democrat For
Wollaston, Dr Sarah Conservative Against
Wiggin, Bill Conservative For
Parish, Neil Conservative For

Twenty three out of the thirty MPs who are for a badger cull are also for a repeal in the hunting ban. That’s 76%! It’s also interesting to know that Owen Paterson Secretary of State for Defra who is really determined for a cull to happen (and reportedly seems to get quite angry about it in interviews) is for a repeal in the hunting law. Additionally Richard Benyon under-secretary for State at defra, a man who was quite keen to let people go out and kill buzzards is also for a repeal of the hunting ban.

76% of MPs who voted for a cull in the badger debate and Defra ministers who want the cull (or to cull other animals) also want to repeal the hunting act. Is their science denying opinion on the badger cull on that is built because it’s what’s best for the farmers, country, economy or whatever reason they gave or is their opinion one that they believe the countryside is just a playground for those with guns and hounds to go around killing things?

Data for MPs vote on badger cull can be found at: http://www.rspca.org.uk/getinvolved/campaigns/wildlife/badgers/takeaction
Data for MPs stance on a repeal of the hunting act can be found at: http://save-me.org.uk/FOX_MP_vote.html

October Round-Up


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.

Spurn Lighthouse

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!

Year list now at 142. Hoping for 150.
Website for The Larkin Trail across Hull and East Yorkshire – http://www.thelarkintrail.co.uk/

Small trip to Kilnsea


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.

Roller and an Outing


There’s been a bit of excitement recently, excitement in the form of a bright blue bird known as a roller. I’m not quite sure of the full story but a roller turned up at Spurn before travelling along the coast to Aldbrough just outside of Hornsea. I had seen various tweets about the bird however didn’t really pay notice.

Last Monday I received a text from my aunt saying she had been to see it and it was a fantastic bird and would I like to go and see it. Unfortunately I had to decline as I was just about to head out to go see my daughter for the day (putting family before birds I won’t make a good twitcher!). It was a hard decision however I thought that when she becomes an unruly teenager and is shouting about how her parents don’t love her I’d be able to remind her the time I gave up seeing a roller to see her! As I sulkily shopped with the child a got a text from my aunt saying it was still around and looked amazing. I’d also seen a few pictures on twitter and was getting quite jealous. Gripping continued with the return of my parents from a holiday to Spain, who informed me that they’d seen a Hoopoe on their travels!

On Thursday night I made a few enquiries and Michael Flowers told me it was still around and where to see it. A midday start at work on Friday meant that “twitching” it was a possibility. We headed out to Aldbrough and found the site, mainly due to a car ignoring the advice to not park on the grass verge and getting stuck in a drainage ditch! A couple of other birders turned up and we managed to get the car back on the road. After all was sorted a quick look and the roller was nowhere to be seen. We hung around for a while time getting on before I would have to head back for work. As we stood talking to a couple of birders suddenly the roller appeared on the wires above our heads.

Rising my binoculars up to get a better look I was greeted with a brilliant sight of electric blue and “cinnamon pink” after a while on the wire the bird flew down onto the tilled soil. We watched it for around half an hour hunting for insects and getting mobbed by a meadow pipit. An utterly fantastic bird! A cuckoo was also heard whilst we watched the roller. I didn’t take any pictures of the roller however lots of gorgeous pictures on Michael Flowers’ blog.

Yesterday we headed for the RSPB reserve of Blacktoft Sands, we’d done this a few months back but had to call the trip short. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t as nice as our previous visit but was pleasant enough. A quick chat in the visitor centre gave us our first views of the wonderful marsh harriers. We did the left hand side of the reserve first. A sad sight was what looked like an already sorry-looking Great Creasted Grebe chick being attacked by some black-headed gulls. It disappeared into an inlet and wasn’t seen again. I doubt it survived.

Highlights were a few remaining avocets (sadly not a successful breeding season), Ringed Plover and my first blackcap of the year. After lunch we did the right side of the reserve. After arriving in the “First Hide” three marsh harriers appeared from nowhere as usual. I’ve never seen the harrier food pass before and a male and female harrier started behaving as if it were about to take place. At this point my stepdad re-joined me after putting his new RSPB membership pack in the car and I rather excitedly shouted out “Watch them two there!” a few seconds later the food pass took place. A first for me and even though I’ve seen it many times on programmes and clips it was brilliant to see happen a few meters away. The tide was high at this point river traffic was busy, whilst watching the birds we also saw two large ships bringing in wind turbine parts along the River Ouse, first ship brought in the blades and the next one passing brought the shafts. After a while we decided to head off to close by Yorkshire Trust’s North Cave Wetlands site.

North Cave is probably one of my favourite reserves to visit. Whilst it doesn’t always turn up as good stuff as other sites it’s always a pleasant walk around and the information is always up to date. As we were getting the gear out of the car I spotted a stoat running across the road. It then stood up right giving excellent views of this wonderful and beautiful mustelid. It’s not surprising you see stoats at North Cave considering the huge amount of rabbits on site.

A walk round produced lots of black headed gulls, avocets, a Dunlin in summer plumage, either a few kestrels or one very busy kestrel, red-legged partridges and some common terns getting vicious with some of the gulls on the main lake. Sadly the hobby that had been seen the previous evening was nowhere to be seen however that wouldn’t dampen a great days birding.

Whilst visiting North Cave we also ventured into the new hide. A sign on the door stated it was open however the door was very stiff. You could be fooled into thinking the door was locked which is probably what I have been before! Inside the hide is very smart-looking with lots of information and colourful pictures about the local wildlife and habitats. It is well worth a visit.

Migrants are here


Since I haven’t posted a blog since the snow, some of you may have been concerned that I had perished in the snow, stuck birding at some remote location and suffered some terrible fate. However I’ve just been lazy. If you think this blog looks bad you should check out my log book!

However I have been birding! At the beginning of March it was reported that three avocets were at North Cave Wetlands. I went down there hoping to see my favourite wading bird. However those sleek smoothies had already moved on. I wasn’t disappointed as I knew I would soon catch up with them later in the year. On that trip I did manage to add a further three to the year list with skylark, reed bunting, snipe and a pair of goosander was a good consolation prize.  I also found half a rabbit’s skull which I showed my daughter when I got home. “No daddy, I only like real rabbits with fur!” she cried in horror. Looks like I won’t be getting a Dad of the year mug this Father’s Day…

A trip out to Oak Road Playing fields in Hull let me see my first ever weasel. Eventually after hopping around for a bit it decided to go and kill some rabbits. It went down the rabbit warren and a loud squealing was heard. Surprisingly the rabbit managed to escape from its clutches and scurried free away from the weasel. However when it saw us it dived back into the warren where the weasel was! After that there was no more noise or commotion from the warren, one can only assume that the rabbit informed the weasel of our presence and the pair have become new BFFs. The rabbit convincing the weasel that there is no reason to eat meat and that vegetarianism is the way forward. The weasel is reluctant to agree but the prospect of a new friend makes him agree he’ll only eat meat from abandoned take away containers from now on. I also saw first woodpecker of the year. It was a great spot! (Do you see what I did there?!)

Wood Lane

At the end of March we had very warm weather. I even got a bit sunburnt! Sun burn! In March! The Shame! Whilst getting sunburnt I was out birding in the Willerby and Cottingham area, mainly seeing lots of Linnets. I also ventured into the cemetery on Priory Road. Had two roe deer shoot out past me no more than 12 feet away which was great. I also saw a stock-dove in an owl box.

At college I sometimes get out of my morning class early, instead of using this spare time to do useful things like work on assignments I instead bird (or write blogs like I am doing now) most of my urban birding takes place walking the River Hull towards the Humber looking for waders. I usually only ever encounter Redshanks, however Curlew I have seen on the Humber as well as a Kestrel hovering over the tiniest bit of waste land by the side of one of the busiest roads in Hull.

Kestrel over Castle Street. Taken on mobile and could not see the screen so please excuse the awfulness of picture

With migrants starting to appear I decided a trip to High Eske was on the books. I walked through Swinemoor Common and saw eight Ruff which have been there a while and are now starting to get into breeding plumage which means I should try to check them out again. (The Wold Ranger recently visited them have a look and wrote about it here) I was hoping to see some hirundines. I didn’t see any, however I did see and hear lots of Chiffchaffs. A further trip to North Cave Wetlands abled me to finally see the avocets, making them bird number 99. We went from this Yorkshire Wildlife Trust site to the RSPB Blacktoft Sands. Neither site had any hirdundines. Although we did see more avocets and around eight Marsh Harriers!

Curlew on Humber

A garganey had been seen at Top Hill Low for a few days but by the time I managed to get to the site it was long gone. Although I did see two avocets, which I think is a rare occurrence for this site, especially now that the pair appears to be breeding. We also saw a possible ring tailed Hen Harrier. Also finally saw bird one hundred and my first hirundines of the year two swallows at the hide overlooking Watton Nature Reserve. Also saw another pair later in the evening whilst walking my dog on Figham Common.

News of three Black Necked Grebes at North Cave Wetlands and the possibility of a new lifer for the year saw me visit the reserve for the third in in two months last Friday. Whilst initially hard to see them at first due to them spending a lot of time diving and staying underwater I eventually managed to see the lone grebe quickly dive underwater before finding the pair swimming around. They really are a fantastic bird. They’re only the third grebe species I’ve seen and I always love seeing Great Crested and Little Grebes. Whilst looking for the grebes I saw my first Sandmartins of the year and walking around the reserve saw first Willow Warbler of the year. Sadly an evening at work meant I had to call the trip short and missed out on seeing Little Ringed Plover, having a good look for some Pink Footed geese and having another gander at the grebes.

Zoomed in phone camera curlew

My first proper twitch…


“I’m a birder, not a twitcher. They’re different things.”  I always tell people when they call me a twitcher.  However that has now changed, well slightly. On Monday I went on my first ever “twitch” to see the Desert Wheatear at RSPB Bempton Cliffs. Although I wonder if you can still call it a twitch seen as it’s been there for nearly two months now.

I arrived in Bempton around quarter to eleven, the walk up to the reserve normally takes around 25 to 30 minutes. When I got to the reserve I checked the board to see what else had been around. Four harbour porpoises bad been seen off the cliffs. I headed to the area where the Desert Wheatear was usually showing  and managed to see my first for the years of gannets, guillemots and shags. Another first for the year was fulmars, I really like fulmars yet have a hard time picking them out during the busy summer months at Bempton. However this time they nearly had the cliffs to themselves so was easy to pick them out and made me feel foolish for not finding it easier to see them in previous years. I saw something in the water popping up and down, at first I thought it was the shags however on closer inspection it was a cetacean, I didn’t know what a harbour porpoise looked like at the time but as they’d been seen I was willing to bet it was one of those. I’ve now got small Collins book on Whales and Dolphins and can confirm it was one, not a dog in a wetsuit as some suggested…

There were a few other people stood around in groups at various points among the cliffs waiting for the wheatear to appear. Eventually it came out and a group spotted him. They signaled that it had popped up and like dirty twitchers we all picked up our gear and hurried along to the spot. The Desert Wheatear popped off a fence to the ground and quite happily hopped along feeding on the ground, really showing itself off. It got so close you could have got some really good pictures if you had a camera. (I didn’t but pinkcuckoos did when she went) It must have come within two feet of one lucky couple. Excellent bird and well worth the train fare. Whilst we were all drooling over this tiny bird a kestrel hovered above the cliff edge in a desperate plea for attention. Sadly apart from me, nobody gave him any.

Checking the train times I could make the next train after a quick visit to the feeding station to finally get a greenfinch for the year. I got off at Bridlington and decided to see if I could see any Purple Sandpiper. Headed to the harbour area and walked on the beach. Trudging slowly over wet sand I checked to see if anything good had been washed up on the beach, apart from a shells of razor clams (some in great condition),  plenty of mussels [ED: a bit like this blog’s author ;-)]  and bits of crab there wasn’t much. Sadly there was lots of bits of plastic, which reminded me that I need to get on with going to a beach clean.  I did remove some broken fishing line from the beach though, like a hero! Running around the beach were various gulls, turnstones and oyster catchers. In fact there was so many turnstones I practically tripped over and squashed along as I headed to where the beach meets the harbour wall to see if there were any Pursanders (Purple Sandpipers) about. There was!!! Along with a knot! I took a picture but I don’t think you can see anything. (Sorry about the photo quality uploaded them off my phone  on to wordpress and it’s compressed them)

There are some birds there, honest!

After watching waders for a bit I decided to go and look what was about in the harbour. More pursanders on the mud along with two dunlin, a barnacle goose of dubious origin and this little beggar

Notice it only has one foot! I think it’s a bit of a celebrity in Bridlington and is quite tame. It obviously gets fed by visitors as when I put my hand into my pocket and made a rustling sound it looked at me all interested. I was worried I didn’t have any food to give it at first, then I remembered I’d bought some sausage rolls from Bempton’s village shop and still had the bag in my pocket. I emptied the crumbs onto the wall and he soon came to eat.

After feeding Terry the Turnstone I walked along the north beach past empty rides and amusements. I really do like beaches and sea fronts in the winter. With nothing about I decided to head off to catch the train home. I’ve boosted my year list to 68. It was 45 at this point last year so doing a bit better but got some early seabirds. Collected two lifers (Knot and Desert Wheatear), fed a turnstone and went on my first twitch. Not a bad day.