Tag Archives: barn owl

Camera Test Run


I recently decided to buy a new camera, after reading a few reviews on Amazon I settled for a Fuji Finepix. I finally managed to get out today for a test run. I decided to head up to Figham and try my luck photographing the Barn Owls. The common was very quiet, a few mallards and moorhens on the river, Reed Buntings and Pied Wagtails on the edges. I didn’t take me scope to check out the flooded field but I managed to make out some Lapwing, Teal and greylags using it. Spotted a yellowhammer (Y65) in the poor light. Back in 2010 this bird was very numerous on the common with every visit being able to see at least five or six birds plus hearing a lot of their “a little bit of bread but no cheese” calls sadly since the harsh winter of 2010 their numbers have been low and I rarely see or hear them when I go on there.

It took a while to find the barn owl tonight as it was mainly hunting in the long grass that is fenced off from the rest of the common. I managed a few shots, which I don’t think are too bad for a first attempt. Hopefully next time it’ll come closer.

Cropped Owl

Cropped Owl

 

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

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Patch Gold!


After spending all day cooped up inside working on an assignment I decided I would take a break and celebrate the start of “British birding time” by heading to my abandoned local patch for my first evening birding session of the year. My ultimate goal was to year tick Barn Owl. This beautiful bird can be seen with a bit of luck most evenings on Figham Common.

I walked along the river bank and wasn’t hopeful of much, with the exception of a single common gull, some pied wagtails and reed buntings the place was deserted. The fields after the Wheel fishing pond is now quite flooded. I struggled to make out anything on the far pools but will return later this week or next with my scope for a better view (also my hat and gloves!) I did managed four oyster catchers (rarity), around six teal (patch first!), greylags and some lapwings. The lapwings were starting to tumble and call. The lapwing’s call is one of my favourite sounds in early spring. I decided to check out the fishing pond at the top of the common, only a domestic mallard and black swan were using it though. Across the river in the fields was a flock of golden plover (Y61). Patch gold! Only recorded them here once before! A bird flew over my head and with its bobbing flight and red rump it was easy to identify as great spotted woodpecker (Y62), which are often hard to see although resident.

Walking back along the river bank a ghostly shape in the rough field just before the houses gave me my quarry. A beautiful pale barn owl (Y63) quartered the field. An unusual sound grabbed my attention and I turned round to see a snipe(Y64) taking to the air and calling, although I know they’ve been seen on Figham I’ve never seen one on there myself, so a second patch first of the evening! As I turned back round I clocked a barn owl actually on the common, the markings and colour were similar so hard to tell if it were two separate birds or the same one had crossed the river when I’d been watching the snipe. I watched it quartering the grass for a while, with it coming close at times giving brilliant views. I then lost it as it made an attempted kill so looked to the other field where there was the first barn owl! Happy with two owls, my fingers couldn’t take the cold much longer and I headed for home watching the second bird hunt over the rough grass with a kestrel hovering above.

Top Ten Birds!


With the exception of my WeBS Count and a quick trip out I’ve not done much birding recently, however I wanted to keep my blog rolling so thought I’d do a entry I’ve been meaning to do for a while.

I recently got asked “What’s your favourite bird?” I spluttered nonsense about not being able to answer that question and recoiled into my shell. I imagine it’s a harder question to answer than “What is your favourite child/parent?” I often tweet about birds with the hash tag #toptenbird. So I thought I’d attempt to list my top ten “common” birds. I’m also going to try to limit it to birds I’ve seen. It’s in no particular order.

SwiftApus Apus
I thought I’d start with the number one contender for my favourite bird. Truly the master of the skies. This bird makes summer, when you see their wonderful aerial acrobatics and they’re blissful screeching you know summer has arrived. I love standing close to a body of water and seeing how close they come to you. It’s as almost as if you don’t exist as you hear their wings cut through the air. They’re completely oblivious to your presence. This summer there must have been a new nesting site close to my house as I’ve seen/heard them flying over the garden and I’m pretty sure I haven’t in previous years. It has been a great treat to hear them for my room. Swifts are also a bird (along with Swallows and House Martins) to capture the interest of children. With their feeding high above towns and cities it’s a bird you don’t have to travel far to see that is something out of the ordinary for many children. I recently showed a map of the swifts journey to my daughter and she looked amazed at how far they travel and how they do everything on the wing. As I write this blog reports are already flooding in that swifts have been spotted flying south in vast numbers which makes me a bit sad that this fantastic bird will soon be gone from our skies until next May.

Great Crested Grebe – Podiceps Cristatus
“Ziggy played guitar” with its ginger hair spiked out the shaking displaying ritual of a Great Crested Grebe could easily trick you into thinking that you’ve been transported to the 1970s and David Bowie has fallen into a lake. Or something… Great Crested Grebes are a beautiful and elegant waterbird. Its wonderful plumage once meant it was hunted for its feathers, which in turn lead to the creation of the RSPB. A good enough reason for this to be on any top ten bird list. They also carry their young on their backs which is adorably cute!

There’s a grebeman waiting in the lake
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds

 

Gannet – Morus Bassanus
Large, noisy and fierce. These daggered billed, blue eyed beauties are a sight to behold as they effortlessly glide above the cliff tops or as their big powerful wing beats take them off to their fishing areas where they form a dart and spear down towards the water with far more effecitiancy than any hopeful Olympic diver. Never mind the puffins, these divers are the real reason to visit RSPB Bempton Cliffs.

Sparrowhawk  – Accipiter Nisus
Many X-Box users will know all about the red ring of death, however if you’re a small bird the thing you’re most worried about is the golden ring of death. The bright yellow eye of a male sparrowhawk, its pink cheeks and quarter length trousers this is a bird that oozes style as it quickly shoots through hedgerows in pursuit of prey, just like heaven. If I were a chaffinch I’d gladly let a sparrowhawk hunt me down and eat my entrails.

Slap me on the patio
I’ll take it now

Peregrine Falcon – Falco Peregrinus
As a child I used to have a picture of a Peregrine on my bedroom wall, I still would if society didn’t consider this strange and that I should have pictures drawn by my daughter (such as Moshi Monsters or Spanish Horses) up instead – damn you society!. The fastest animal (not counting dogs in planes and stuff like that) in the world, the peregrine swoops down on its prey with its powerful talons at high speeds. You know a bird means business when it appears to wear an executor’s mask. I imagine being peregrine food is a pigeon’s only reason for living.

Lapwing – Vanellus Vanellus
The bird your mother would want you to settle down with. So far I’ve discussed sexy heart racing machines of birds. Now we get onto the lapwing the gentle wader. With their beautiful upsweeping black crest on the back of their head and glossy dark green back what is not to love about this super cute wader? Their ‘pee-wit’ call and tumbling display is enough to lighten up any birding trip. If lapwings aren’t in one of your many top ten lists of birds then you probably need to take a good look at yourself.

Avocet – Recurvirostra Avosetta
The second wader to feature in my list. The beautiful and elegant yet fierce Avocet. A real treat to watch them feed with its side to side sweeping, and although many might not agree always fun to watch them chase off larger birds.  Once extinct in Britain flooding of East Anglian marshes during the second World War brought back the curved-bill cutie to Britain. So Edwin Starr, to answer your question; “War, what is it good for?” Avocets apparently! Literally an icon of conservation this bird features on the RSPB logo. However this maybe less to do with its conservation status and more to do with black and white designs being easier to print in the past (see also WWF – Panda and Wildlife Trusts – Badger).

Smew Mergus Albellus
“With a rebel yell, she cried more, more, more!” The Billy Idol of the bird world. With its cracked ice quiffed appearance male smew are one sexy duck. I feel a bit sorry for the female smew as it is still very charming in appearance yet is waylaid in favour of the male. They’d probably win a best looking duck couple award, with goosander coming a close second. I’m tempted to have a picture of a Smew as my phone’s background picture, unfortunately as I’m a parent society dictates my daughter should be my background picture. Again damn you society! Some people argue that the Smew isn’t the best looking duck and that instead Harlequin ducks are. These people are wrong and most probably need sectioning. Please pay no attention to them. We could send letters, but they’d just ignore our sane words.

It’s a nice day, for a white ducky

Barn Owl – Tyto Alba
Do I need to explain this one? Do I really? Barn Owls are probably the nations favourite bird. This incredibly cute killer silently flying over fields is always a majestic sight on a cold winter’s morning or a warm summer’s evening. Until the recent harsh winters Barn Owls were doing well in East Yorkshire, however the past two have had a devastating effect on their population. Hopefully the warm early springs we’ve had for the past two years can help populations bounce back. Whilst debating over the last two places in my top ten I took my dog for a walk mainly because it needed one, not because I was contort thinking about this post I had to escape. As I walked on the common two of these graceful ghosts flew low above the tall grasses listening out for prey and I instantly realised they had to be in the top ten.

Pied Wagtail – Motacilla Alba
Mainly because it’s cute with all it’s bobbing along and a childhood favourite so it has a place somewhere in my heart to remind me of youthful bliss. An urban winner you’ll often see it’s tail wagging in supermarket car parks, school yards and town centers. Quite a common bird that is always a pleasure to see.

You just haven’t earnt it  yet baby
Some birds came close to being in the top ten but just missed out. For various reasons, mainly just because I forgot. They are as follows:

Kestrel – Another childhood favourite of mine, however was worried about the list being too bird of prey heavy.

Oh Jud 😦

Various Gulls – I like gulls, especially big powerful ones that terrorise sea fronts.  Hunting for chips, but could easily kill and eat a small toddler to create the crying scene. Those ones.

Chippy Chips make up 80% of a Herring Gull’s diet, the other 20% is a mix of fish, doughnuts, crustaceans and small children

Waxwings – Nothing signals a walk out to winter more than the arrival of waxwings, sadly missing from my list due to the theme being common.

Goosander, Goldeneye – More awesome ducks, but just beaten by the smew.

Cormorant – I love these fish eaters, it’s great seeing them from every pillar to post that appear in bodies of water doing their best crucifix as they dry off in the sun.

Goldfinch – A lovely little bird that visits my garden. I can often hear them first thing in a morning. In fact how many better ways to say “Good morning, Britain” than hearing their pleasant tinkling song.

Long Tailed-Tit – Mainly because they’re incredibly cute.

The list could go on and on, my “Top Ten Birds” list could easily top thirty birds I reckon. I’m sure most other birders are similar.

Snowy Outings


What’s been happening since I last updated? Well for a start winter arrived at last, and a mad frenzy occurred when the snow fell. Or something like that… I was working or doing college work for most of the week when the snow first came so could not do some snow birding. There is something about the snow that makes birding more enjoyable. Perhaps because the harsh conditions means that birds have to travel to new areas for food and water or that they’re more obliging because they’re starving to death so don’t mind your presence.

On my walk to work on the Tuesday after snow, there was a lot of Long-tailed Tits in the shrubs that run along the Beverley Beck. This is the first time I can remember seeing them here so they’ve probably travelled from Figham in search of food. It was my first encounter with this bird for the year. Probably a top ten bird!

On Friday 10th I had slept so going to college was out of the question, instead I decided to go birding after dinner. I’ve shamelessly not been out on my local patch yet this year (maybe I shouldn’t call it my patch any more) so Figham Common was decided as my place of choice. Especially after my step-dad had just come in from walking the dog and told me he’d seen a pair of Goosander on the river. I’d only ever seen Goosander once before at East Park earlier this year and they are now probably in my top three ducks, so the idea of seeing them on my patch was exciting.

Poor photograph of cormorant

 As I walked onto the common I could see some activity in front of me. I saw a wader inflight, quick as a flash I looked through my binoculars and followed it. It landed next to some other waders. It didn’t take me long to identify them. Golden Plover! A lifer for me and therefore of course a patch first for me as well. I’ve often gazed longingly at Golden Plover in books, so it was great to finally see one for real. There was about eight of them in total feeding on the river bank, some getting hassled by some black-headed gulls. I felt like telling them I had their backs, but they wouldn’t understand. They’re just Golden Plovers.

I continued to walk down the riverbank and saw the two Goosander looking very fine indeed. I’d previously spend £2.90 on bus fares on going to see Goosander at East Park and now I was viewing some on my patch for free. I felt like demanding a refund for my bus fare from them. I would show them my ticket and explain that I spent good money going to see them at East Park and now they’re teasing me by showing up on my patch. They would reply that they’re giving me a new patch record so I shouldn’t be so ungrateful. Or they’d just stare at me and fly off, because they’re only ducks.

Poor image of Goosander, they laugh at my inferior pictures and don't give refunds

 As I walked along the river I saw a pair of Little Grebe, a sole Pochard and some tufted ducks. I also saw fifteen Coot in a gang. Coot for some reason is a rare sight on this patch of the River Hull and is usually seen on the fishing ponds near the river and not actually on it. A bit further up a pair of Goldeneye swam, giving me my third patch first for the day. I walked away from the river to try the trees and shrubs, the number of small birds was low. Although a good number of blue and great tit about.

barmston
Barmston Drain Frozen Over

I decided to go back towards the river for more views of the Plovers and Goosanders. In the field on the opposite side of the river apart from an annoying man talking loudly on his phone there was a Barn Owl and Kestrel hunting in the same field. It’s always great to see Barn Owls. Shame it didn’t come to my side of the river so I could get better views. However there was a lot less snow covering on that side.

Another Goosander pic

A very good outing on my patch, a lifer seconds from the entrance and two further patch firsts. Don’t think I’ll get a day like that again! I hope I do though!

And a third, my finger is in this picture slightly. Need to learn how to hold my phone!

 On the Saturday I ventured out with Rob and James to Hornsea. We started birding in the Beverley Tesco car park as James had found a Lesser Redpoll hanging out with some Goldfinches. We then sped out towards Hornsea, stopping off to check the pond at Bewholme on the way. We arrived at the Mere after passing through a Hornsea that now has every single shop boarded up because of Tesco arriving in the town… The ice had meant that there was little to see except some far distant ducks, swans and geese that were still hard to make out with binos. We managed to see the Iceland gull that everyone was mainly looking for however didn’t see the Glaucous gull. There’s some great pictures of the gull here. A flock of Barnacle geese where present and another flock of geese flew other. Bean we were told. A single whooper sawn was seen mingling with the mutes. There was a domestic duck at the mere so cute that I wanted to scoop it up, take it home and hand feed it bread on Valentine’s Day. I wasn’t allowed. We decided to try our luck on the path the runs along the other side of the mere so headed out that way. Whilst trudging slowly through deep snow, I managed to see a Yellowhammer, my first for a few months.

We got to the side of the mere and set up the scope and a flock of grey geese landed on the ice. They were Bean geese, a flock of  Tundra with a single Taiga along with them. This was either one or two lifers for me, depending on who rules you play by. I play by my own rules and say it’s two. However on Bubo I use BOU for my life list so it’s only one. Whilst watching the birdies, an incredibly stupid woman, her idiot daughter and their dog decided that it would be a good idea to walk on the frozen mere. Either Rob or James said we might have to rescue them at some point. I decided that we shouldn’t as it’s evolution if they fall in and die. Fortunately they didn’t die and we headed off in the search of some dirty hybrid geese to please James.

The location of these hybrids was at Skirlington they were Emperor x Barnacle and Ross x Barnacle. The first one we saw was actually quite cute, I didn’t get as good views of the second. There were also some weird-looking Greylag mutant things, with necks wider than a small child I was slightly scared of getting swallowed whole by them. At the pond a flock of white-fronted geese departed as we got out of the car to view them. James then drove around the area trying to find some ponds where the geese might have flown. Sadly all the ponds on the map were at locked off lodges. They didn’t want our kind there. We ended up at the Beverley Westwood and didn’t see much except some interesting fungi that I didn’t take a picture of and a Redwing feeding that Rob got some great pictures of.

A good couple of days pushing the year list up to 90.  I also got 4/5 lifers in two days, which is nice.

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

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!