Tag Archives: barn owl

Third outing of the year


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

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

Year list now up to 32 without the owl.

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

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First Trip on Common


Today was my first trip on  my local patch Figham Common, the site I’m planning on using for Bird Track. Today was quite drizzly so had a bit of low visibility problems although on the plus side the time seemed to have put off dog walkers out which meant I had the place to myself. Was quite a poor day species wise, although two patch firsts for myself of a grey heron and Pochard! The rain obviously ruled out any chance on seeing if the Barn Owl is still about, will have to go back on a nicer day. My mum took the dog for a walk in the morning and saw a Tree Creeper near the Beck! Nothing about when I went out later! The Beck is still frozen in parts which could explain the high amount of Mallards on the River Hull. Year list now up to 27.

 

First Outing of the New Year


So it’s the New Year and in an attempt to get some birding done and to go out somewhere other than a trip to town and Tesco with my family we all decided to go to Hornsea for the day.  When we finally got there (using public transport is a pain!) we first headed straight for the mere. The mere was still pretty frozen over in places, meaning that most of the wildfowl seemed to in three places.  With my daughter complaining she was hungry we decided to press on. A walk to the coast for fish and chips meant spotting a few urban birds to add to my year list. After eating our dinner I spotted two ringed plovers digging through a patch of grass next to the road on the sea front. As time was getting on we decided to walk along the sea front and head back to get our bus home. A short trip but enjoyable nonetheless. Spotted 19 species for the year list in Hornsea and a pheasant in a field at Long Riston brought it up to 20. Was hoping for a Barn Owl hunting in the fields as we headed back home but no luck. Barn Owls seem in real trouble in the region due to the severe weather, someone was saying that he’s heard of at least 50 dead in the region.

For 2011 I’m going to plan on going to a birding site I haven’t visited before at least once a month due to the fact that my log book entries for last year are pretty much all from the same place so a bit of diversity won’t help.

Here is my year list so far:

  1. Mute Swan
  2. Mallard
  3. Coot
  4. Jackdaw
  5. Tufted Duck
  6. Black Headed Gull
  7. Less Black Backed Gull
  8. Feral Pigeon
  9. Wood Pigeon
  10. Starling
  11. Blackbird
  12. Crow
  13. House Sparrow
  14. Gold Finch
  15. Long Tailed Tit
  16. Chaffinch
  17. Collared Dove
  18. Ringed Plover
  19. Great Black Backed Gull
  20. Pheasant – (Long Riston)

Top Ten Birds of 2010


Let me start by saying that I’m not a twitcher (I should write a piece on my opinion of twitching really) so my list of top ten birds I’ve seen this year might be a bit plain for some! I’m pretty much limited to my local patch but here are my favourite spots of 2010

 

10. Gannet

At number ten on my list is the magnificent sea-bird the gannet. I made my first ever trip to Bempton Cliffs this year and got to see the spectacular sights of thousands of gannets at their only mainland breeding site in the UK.

 

9. Starlings

A lot people would be disgusted at the sight of a starling on a top ten bird list, but I simply love them! From an early age they’ve always been one of my favourite town and garden birds however this year saw my love for them increase when I bought a window feeder and was then able to see their beautiful glossy petrol sheen coat close up. Fantastic colours! I’m yet to see a murmuration of them coming to roost but hopefully 2011 will allow me to see that magnificent sight of nature.

 

8. Green Woodpecker

Whilst always a beautiful bird to see, this pops up on my top ten list for the fact that it was on my local patch which is a great spot for the area.

 

7. Swallow

Not really a great spot but their aerial displays are just beautiful, on a hot summers evening is there anything more peaceful and relaxing than sitting by a river and watching them feeding? I don’t think there is. When watching swallows I’m always amazed at how they don’t crash.

 

6. Swifts

Along with number 7, the essence of summer is watching these masters of flight cut through the skies on their scythe shaped wings at high speeds screeching away. Just an amazing bird, I can’t wait for the start of spring just to see their return.

 

5. Marsh Harrier

I think most birders have a fondness for birds of prey there is just something about them. I went on holiday in October and paid a visit to RSPB Leighton Moss, whilst in one of the hides looking over the reed beds I caught the slightest glimpse of a marsh harrier swoop down for a few seconds before disappearing, a real blink and you’ll miss it moment. If my eyes hadn’t had been on that area for those few seconds I’d have missed out of a great view and a life tick.

 

4. Reed Bunting

For me the male Reed Bunting is quite possibly the cutest bird around, either that or a goldcrest. Whilst I’ve seen a fair few Reed Buntings on my local patch and other birding areas the reason this makes my list is that during the harsh winter at the beginning of the year my garden in West Hull was visited by a male reed bunting which had joined a flock of sparrows. For the area I lived it was a very good garden bird indeed. As my bird knowledge was very slim back then I did not have a clue what it was, so on a trip to my parents I dug out my dads old bird books until I discovered what it was. This then in turn lead me to buy bird books and then start to take birding more serious. So there you have it, the reed bunting, the bird which turned me.

 

3. Kestrel

As previously mentioned I only really began birding properly this year. However I’ve always had a great interest in nature and birds and for a long time in my childhood my favourite bird was a kestrel. Although they were fairly easy to spot as a child, seeing them hovering above motorways on car journeys I’d never really got a good view of them. This was one of my main aims when I took up birding. It happened to me twice this year. The first was when walking along the river; the day itself was a pretty poor day for birding. It was in mid august so a quiet time for birding not only this but there was a very strong wind that even the swallows seemed to struggle with. My list for the day was shockingly bad, under 5 spots if I remember correctly. However as I kept on walking I see a Kestrel struggling in the wind to keep hovering before diving down on prey. A great find on a very poor day. The second kestrel encounter was whilst on holiday at a Haven holiday resort in Cumbria. I’d taken my daughter for a walk on the site, we had reached an area of the site where the caravans are slightly better than those elsewhere. There is a small pond in front the group of caravans which contains a little island and there hovering above the island what do we see but a kestrel and for the extra points it’s a male too! Its beautiful blue head focuses still on the ground waiting for its prey. Or looking for his family as my daughter suggested!

 

2. Barn Owl

The common theme of this list seems to be the average / nice bird in a great situation and none beats that for me then when I saw a barn owl in late October. I’d had the pleasure of watching a Barn Owl hunt on my patch all summer, however summer had become autumn and the dark nights were drawing in, I had given up on going out on an evening birding and swapped it for taking my parents dog for a walk. It was getting close to 7pm and getting dark when my dog and I reached the middle of my patch, as we cut down into the middle to start heading back I saw the unmistakeable ghostly flight of a Barn Owl at dusk, (there were now two Barn Owls out hunting instead of the one from summer, hopefully this means chicks were reared!) I stopped still to watch it hunt for a few minutes, as it flew across the common hunting for voles it was seemingly oblivious to my presence and this was confirmed when it flew within ten feet of me at around my head height before swooping down on prey. Simply breath taking.

 

1. Waxwing

Almost didn’t make it to the list at all! However whilst walking to work on the 29th December, through the thick mist I make out the shape of a flock of birds sat in a tree. Hang on a minute they look like Waxwings, I think so I take a better look, notice their size and the crest on their heads, most definitely Waxwings! I cross over the road to try and get a better view and can make out the patterning on their wings! A brilliant find! I’d become fed up of people saying how we we’re having a great year for Waxwings one of the best for years yet not seen a single one! I don’t know what it is about Waxwings that people seem to love, yes they’re magnificent beautiful birds with gorgeous wing colouring and patterns. Is it just that? As that alone is a great reason to love the Waxwing, is it their semi rarity value? How one year only a small few reach our shores whilst other years like this year thousands make it across? One reason for me is that they’re one of my earliest birding memories, when my family had them in our garden when I was nine years old, I remember my dad getting really excited about them but at the time I didn’t really get why. Whatever people’s reason is for loving them they’re a brilliant bird and one I’ve been aching to see for a while, even dreaming about them on a few occasions! They will probably be my last year tick for 2010, but what a great tick to finish on!

 

Other 2010 stuff

Whilst at RSPB Leighton Moss I also got to see Red Deer and a black tern both great to see.  Missed out on seeing Little Egrets at Leighton Moss a few days before I went they’d had bumper numbers! I was also hoping on seeing Raven and Bearded Tits whilst at Leighton Moss / Cumbria but wasn’t so lucky.  Maybe an excuse to go on holiday to Cumbria again? Other top bird sightings would have to be Cormorants flying above local patch, seeing a Roe Deer staring at me through the bushes only a couple of feet away, Common seal swimming down the river, Kingfisher fluttering by at great speed so all I can make out is its wonderful blue colouring.