Tag Archives: bempton cliffs

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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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.

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

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.

2011: A Review


I was going to write my top 10 birds of the year, however I thought I’d lump it in all together with a post reviewing my birding year.

Well my aim for the year was to try to visit a new site every month (seen as my 2010 records were mainly on one site). Although I didn’t visit a new site every month I did get myself out to a few new sites. This was mainly due to me starting to go out birding with an old friend of my father. As I cannot drive (I’m trying to convince myself this is my attempt at helping the planet when really it’s due to me never been bothered to learn and now not having time or money to learn) I’m stuck to visiting sites on foot or public transport, although not to bad as I can visit great sites such as RSPB Bempton, High Eske/Pulfin Bog, Hornsea Mere, YWT North Cave Wetlands and Filey Dams with no real struggle except financial! Then there’s always seaside towns like Bridlington and Scarborough which throw up excellent birding opportunities.

However you miss out some real gem sites such as Yorkshire Water’s Tophill Low, RSPB Blacktoft Sands and Spurn Point. The last two can be visited on public transport however it seems so painful I don’t think I’ll bother.

My year list resulted in a wimpy limping 117. However I didn’t include the heard Cuckoo, Tawny Owl, unsure sightings of a Bearded Tit, Merlin and Hobby. Plus a feral looking Barnacle Goose in Bridlington Harbour in the middle of summer. So I could easily bump it up to 123 if I so wished.  Also my birding suffered in the summer when my hay fever was probably the worse I’ve ever suffered. Tablets which usually work for me were having no effect at all.  I also suffered with my anxiety in the summer which meant I didn’t leave the house unless I really had to for work or to go somewhere. Hopefully neither of these problems will get in the way of birding in 2012 and it’ll be a good year.

Birds aside I started to pay more attention to other natural things in 2011 such as Mushrooms, butterflies and dragonflies and need to get some good guide books so I can become a better naturalists and not just a bird spotter.

I managed to get my patch record up to 57, still a way off the around 80 birds that have been recorded there but saw a curlew flying overhead which was a good tick for the site. I also managed to get my bogey bird of 2011 – Sparrowhawk on there. Not a year tick as I got that at High Eske, however it really was a good tick for me.

My top birds of 2011

Not the big top ten I had planned but here as follows are my top birds of 2011. Of course there are my favourite birds and great birds to see such as Swifts, Gannets, Swallows, Bullfinches, Black Terns in there but  my top birds for 2011 have to be:

5. – Green Woodpecker
The last bird of the year for me and one that I’d been after all year but never managed to see or hear despite visiting good sites for it. This one was spotted on Figham Common, after a rather dull, boring and cold afternoon spent on there not seeing anything of note except Fieldfare. I was trudging slowly over damp grass, trying to pick up a Reed Bunting in the reedmace when something starts flying across the common in front of me. Obviously I recognised the flight and put my bins up, followed this fine bird as it flew into trees, perched gave a loud yaffle and then disappeared out of sight.

4. – Sparrowhawk
As I mentioned earlier this has been a right bogey bird for me. When I visited Top Hill Low at the start of the year on the way back to the car I decided to pop into a hide to get another look at the Smew (sadly only a redhead female so didn’t make the list) my parents decided to go back to the car and wait for me. Whilst walking back to the car they saw a Sparrowhawk. I didn’t. Another time Robert Jaques  paid a quick visit to my patch and reported seeing a Sprawk on there! (the swine!). I saw a quick-moving raptor at Filey Dams however it shot out of sight before I could ID it (judging by photos of a sparrowhawk taken at Filey I’m now convineced I saw a sparrowhawk). I was at High Eske one day already an excellent birding day, with a Bullfinch year tick. I tweeted at the time (yes I tweet whilst birding) “I don’t think this afternoon can get better” about five minutes later I turn the corner and a sparrowhawk flies out in front of me. Just like heaven!

3. – Woodsandpiper
To any fathers reading this, what did you do on father’s day? I bullied my daughter and her mother into accomponying me to North Cave Wetlands. Well not on the Sunday as there’s no longer a bus there on a Sunday. Anyway we went, I’d read on http://www.eyorks-birding.co.uk that a Woodsandpiper had been seen. Always full of pessimism that I won’t see a bird, I sat down in the turret hide and scanned the islands for it. I looked for a while before spotting the wader right in front of the hide. I luckily managed to ID it successfully before a bullying Oystercatcher sent it to the other side of the lake and out of sight. I could have also had a Mediterranean Gull if I’d been bothered to check out all the black heads. Still better father’s day presents than a mug and some chocolates. If I had gone on the Sunday I think I’d have missed it, but could have had a Ruddy Duck. I love Ruddy Ducks too bad they’ll probably soon be extinct in this country.

2. – Avocet
No story here, just an excellent elegant wader. Beautiful bird, can’t wait to catch up with them again in 2012. Could watch them feeding for hours. I had almost forgot the cutest bird seen this year Goldcrest and seen as I’m meant to be doing a top five will have to slot it in joint 2nd. I’ve wanted to see a goldcrest for years even before I took up birding, mainly because they’re cute and small. I finally saw some at Top Hill Low in October and was excellent to finally see them.

1. – Osprey
No contest this year really. I twitched the Osprey at Arram early in April I watched it for a while before it took flight. Sadly didn’t see it catch a fish.

Here’s to 2012 and hoping it’s full of plenty of great birding opportunities!

April and May


Hello again, I’ve sort of abandoned this blog haven’t I. I’m sorry. Well anyway here’s what I’ve been up to birding wise since the last time I blogged!

At the start of April there was news of an Osprey lingering around a few fishing ponds at Arram just outside of my town. I decided to get a lift down and see if I could find it. I acted on information I’d heard and went out to see a specific bird, does this mean I’m on my way to becoming a twitcher? I spoke to a fellow birder in the area and he said it was most likely to have flown off after not being seen all morning. However with at least an hour before the next train I decided to hang around the area and see if there was anything else about. I’d already picked up my first swallow of the year when I arrived in Arram. I walked along the barmston drain part of the Minster to Minster trail (Beverley to York) in the field on the other side of the railway tracks I noticed a large brown blob. I was going to dismiss it as a Pheasant but decided to get the binoculars out on it anyway. YES! It is the Osprey! I decided to sit down on the bank and watch it for a while, 40 minutes and a couple of train passes later (I wonder how many commuters  saw the bird and how many thought I were a train spotter) the Osprey decides to take flight. Magnificent! I soon lost it, but seeing it in flight was amazing. Bird of the year so far!

I headed back to the train station and saw that there wasn’t a train back to Beverley for a good few hours but there was one to Bridlington, so I decided I’d head that way then get a train to Bempton and visit RSPB reserve Bempton Cliffs. Bempton was very quiet on the auk front, although for list ticking this wasn’t too bad as I’d managed to get them at Filey a couple of weeks earlier. Managed to see a single Puffin which seems to be the only bird a lot of people who go to at Bempton are interested in seeing despite it being home to the only mainland breeding colony of Gannets in England. Although I’m slightly biased as gannets are probably my favourite sea-bird. There was also four Shags at the base of the cliff, one of those birds that you hate because non birders have to mention it whilst trying to be hilarious.  Fulmar tucked up neatly on a cliff and a siskin at the feeding station brought my year total up to 81. It was also a warm day with strong winds which resulted in myself getting sunburnt. Sunburnt in the first week of April! Can you believe it?!

Visits to my local patch produced my first treecreeper. A very cute bird. Also I managed to see a kestrel every time I went out on there yet last year I never managed to see one all year on there. Local patch was also where I picked up my first whitethroat of the year. I stated in this blog at the start of the year that I was planning to get out and go to more sites after last years entries into my log book were mainly all made up of my local patch. This year however I’m in danger of not going there enough! This is some sort of birding faux pas surely?

17th April I went to High Eske walking through Swinemoor Common (where I managed to get a Snipe) and then to Leven Canal. Very hot day which resulted in sunburn again. You’d have thought I’d have learnt my lesson! Well I did it was only the tops of my ears I burnt this time! This was a good day for picking up spring migrants with Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Wheatear, Sedge Warbler and Chiff Chaff all seen and a cuckoo heard. Manage to hear a few grass snakes slithering away out of sight. Maybe I’m too heavy footed?

1st May I went to Top Hill Low, for those of you that don’t know about Top Hill Low it is a nature reserve built on the site of a Yorkshire Water treatment works and has two large reservoirs that attract a lot of wildfowl and for this reason have SSSI status. Around the reservoirs are marshes and ponds created from the digging of mud to build flood barriers along the River Hull. There’s also woodlands and grasslands. I don’t get to go here often so it’s always a real treat. First swifts of the year were picked up here along with Yellow Wagtail, Green Sandpiper, Common Tern and Canada goose. I originally missed the Canada goose off when totting up my year list as I’d assumed I’d seen one earlier but a double-check proved me wrong.

Further trips out to High Eske I managed a Greenshank among others including a pair of Great Crested Grebes that looked very David Bowie like with their crests and head shaking. Also bird 100 on the my year list – Kingfisher! What a bird to make it 100! Although 101 was just as good – Marsh Harriers at RSPB Blacktoft Sands. As mentioned before in my blog I’m aiming to visit several new sites this year and Blacktoft was the new site for May. I’ve seen people say about Blacktoft being good for the harriers but that didn’t stop me for being surprised and amazed at the great views you can get of them even without optics from the visitor centre. The day also produced lovely close up views of Avocets feeding and Swifts hawking for insects. Both wonderful birds, definitely top 10 stuff! My year list reached 103 with thanks to Blacktailed Godwits and a single stock-dove.

Right now that’s updated, shall I see you all in three months time? Splendid!

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