Category Archives: Summer Migrants

Spring at Swinemoor


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.

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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.

 

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Spring at last?


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)

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B-Res

 

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.

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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.

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Bransholme Lagoon

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Easter at North Cave


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!

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.

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.

Visits to Swinemoor


Since last update I’ve not done any big birding trips but a few visits to several places.

The first was to Top Hill Low where actually seeing a Cuckoo was the highlight, along with getting a Pintail as a ‘lifer’. Trips around the Hull/Willerby/Cottingham boundary produced a gorgeous Wheatear and Red-Legged Partridge for year firsts.

I also took part in my first ever BTO WeBS count, my site didn’t have much wildfowl, with the best bird being a pair of Tufted Ducks! However there was swifts a plenty with some coming so close you can hear their wings cutting through the air. Which is absolutely fantastic and one of my favourite things about summer birding, how swifts and swallows seem to act as if you don’t exist!

Swinemoor Common had a number of Wood Sandpipers reported on the site, by the time I managed to get onto there on the Tuesday night they had gone and all I took away with me was Grey Partridge for the year (also some muddy clothes and a scratched stomach from someone how obviously had little control of their dog…).

The following Saturday and Sunday another four Wood Sandpipers had been reported. Despite feeling dreadful due to the beginning of a cold (on the hottest days of the year) I decided to take a trip up after work. I had only taken binoculars and the sun was in the wrong position to bird at the pools where the Sandpipers had been seen. As I struggled to decipher if it were a Sandpiper or Redshank Steve Webb turned up with his scope and managed to find the sandpiper and kindly pointed it out. Once I had identified both birds the low sun silhouetting the birds allowed for a lesson in behaviour difference between the birds. Also on site were 6 Ringed Plovers and 2 Little Ringed Plovers for the year.

I woke the next day to find out that a Temminck’s Stint had been reported on Swinemoor with the Woodsandpiper and the Plovers. Unfortunately I had to run some errands so it wasn’t going to be until late afternoon that I could get onto the site. Before heading off I got a twitter mention on my phone, it was from The Wold Ranger saying he’d tried for the Temminck’s with no luck. I still thought I’d give it a go, learning from yesterdays mistake I took my scope with me this time. I waited around the site for quite a while watching the Wood Sandpiper and trying to spot the Temminck’s. With no luck on the main pools I thought I’d try some further up, however at this point my tripod some how broke whilst panning so now the tilt is knackered and constantly goes forward or backwards making searching for an elusive wader very tricky. I was just about to give up and head home when I saw Steve had arrived on site and was looking at the main pools. Once again he was able to pick out a bird I was struggling to see in no time at all. Although as you can imagine for “Britain’s Top Twitcher” his ID skills and experience are incredibly superior to mine. Also managed to find first Yellow Wagtail of the year and shamefully on my way out I got my first Reed Warbler of the year! I took no photographs this time however some good photos on Wold Ranger’s Blog 

Six new birds for the year, one a lifer made for a good two days. Now to figure out if my tripod head can be fixed or if I can find a suitable and cheap replacement head!

Beach Cleaning and Head Walking


Friday May 11th marked the start of Marine Conservation Society’s (in partnership with Marks and Spencer)  Big Beach Clean-Up. I’ve been a member of MCS for little over six months and just missed out on the last beach clean they did, so when I saw the chance to take part in Big Beach Clean-Up weekend I soon signed up.

With the mixed weather we’ve had of late, I packed my waterproofs in my bag and made my way to the closest beach clean to me at Bridlington. Upon finding the MCS marquee I registered my name and received my £5 off a £25 shop M&S voucher  and hung around waiting for the event to start. Whilst waiting I was kept entertained by swallows hunting over the sand dunes.

The event began shortly before 10am, we were given a health and safety talk by a member of MCS which also included the reasons why we were there. Such as the harmful effects litter like plastic bags, balloon releases and flushed bathroom rubbish. Following that we had a brief talk from a representative from Marks & Spencer who explained a little about their partnership with MCS and their plan A initiative.

I ended up getting paired up with a nice man from Bridlington and we went off looking for litter, which was harder than you’d think as the beach was seemingly quite clean. Trudging slowly over wet sand we managed to find string from balloons, cotton buds, plastic bottle caps and cigarette butts. Then we found what looked like a small bit of plastic only to discover it was actually a very large piece of roofing felt buried in the sand. That quickly filled our rubbish sack and took some work dragging it back to the meeting point. After a bit more cleaning it was soon 11 and the beach clean was over. For a seemingly clean beach in total we managed to collect 25 bags of rubbish equaling 150 kilos of rubbish!

Some of the rubbish collected from Bridlington

After the beach clean was over, I got some snacks from the M&S guys (toffee chocolate pecan popcorn or something was great!) and decided to go out birding somewhere. After sampling some of Bridlington’s chips, I hopped on a bus to Flamborough North Landing.

Someone wanted my chips

Starting off on North Landing I could instantly hear the kittiwakes, kittiwaking and soon managed to pick them out with my binoculars. I then decided to walk along the cliffs. It was hard going in some parts due to the rain making the mud path very slippery.

North Landing

Walking along the cliffs I soon managed to see the usual suspects of the seabird world. Kittiwakes, Razorbills (year tick) and Guillemots (including a ‘bridal’) all over the chalk walls. With a couple of Puffins and a shag thrown in too. There were also a few seals in the water, getting mobbed by gulls every time they tried to eat their catch.

Seabird City!

Whilst walking I kept on seeing groups of Gannets (usually 5 or 6) flying in formation towards Bempton Cliffs, like a squadron flying home after a successful mission. Gannets are one of my favourite birds so it was a great sight to see. A Kestrel flew above the cliffs and I also saw this little toad.

Toad

Approaching the Lighthouse I managed to see a Lesser Whitethroat on a bush. Which was a lifer for me, although possibly because I’ve shamefully never bothered to tell the difference between a lesser and common before. I also saw this birds egg on the ground. Guillemot? Any suggestions?

Any ideas on the egg?

Approaching Flamborough lighthouse

Once at Flamborough lighthouse I clocked a common whitethroat and a Short Eared Owl hunting over the rough grass.  I then decided to walk to South Landing, however birding sightings eased off at this point due to the rain becoming more consistent so I but my binoculars away. However I did get a great view of a Sparrowhawk flying out of some trees and across a field of Oil Seed Rape and a fair few linnets about.

Close up of light house. I’m a bit annoyed that those bits of blue sky ruin the moody atmosphere

View of lighthouse across OSR on way to South Landing

Rainbow going into sea, no pot of gold I checked.

When I got to South Landing I started walking around and could hear some Chiffchaffs. I had forgotten that a rare bird was supposed to be here (Atlas Flycatcher, now I believe it’s been DNA identified as a Pied) so I was getting asked for a few birders if I knew anything about it (I didn’t). I didn’t see it, however I did see my first ever Flycatcher in the form of a spotted. I didn’t see much else except a female Bullfinch, Goldfinch, Chiffchaff and a hare in some private land.

I then made it back to the main road and headed to Bridlington Train Station where I saw the last bird of the day as a Herring Gull flew around the inside of the station much to the annoyance of a station worker.

And there ended a rather long and tiring but excellent day.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Page on Flamborough
Marine Conservation Society