Tag Archives: birding

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)

B-Res

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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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

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.

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!

And so it starts for another year


After waking up slightly later than I intended to, then checking twitter and text messages to see how much of an idiot I had been last night it was time to dig out my binoculars and head off to kick start the 2013 birding year.

The first birds seen were a Mallard and then a Moorhen on the Beck. Followed by woodpigeon, blackbird, robin and great tit on the walk to Swinemoor. When I arrived at Swinemoor I was taken back by how water logged it was. Lots more pools than usual and hard going in places. Really need to get some wellies! I managed to pick up a flock of long-tailed tits in the trees along the Beverley-Barmston drain. Scanning the common I picked up an interesting white shape, a better inspection with the scope revealed a little egret which quickly flew further down the common. I also got the three common gulls for this site – Common, Black-headed and Herring gull. I didn’t see any black-backs.  Three redwings flew between the trees.

Shadow Birding

Shadow Birding

Also managed fieldfare, cormorant, magpie and starling. Relocated the little egret which had now joined two others.  I then headed for the bridge over the river and was taken back by how high the water level of the river was at this point.

My normal route onto the river bank was blocked.

My normal route onto the river bank was blocked.

A mute swan flew over head as I made my way down the river to high eske. The walk from Crown and Anchor to high eske is never normally one full of birds, the odd corvid, an overhead cormorant or if you’re lucky a kestrel or barn owl is the most I normally can get. Today it was just some distant mute swans and gulls.

River Hull reaching embankment.

River Hull reaching embankment.

Once at the lake I decided to go straight after Erich saying that the circuit was out of bounds due to water levels. On the lake were a lot of greylags, couldn’t pick out anything of interest. Also on the lake were Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Goldeneye.

I decided to keep going to Leven Carrs to try see the Whooper Swans that had been reported earlier  on the opposite side of the river at Arram. Whilst walking along the river bank a Sparrowhawk flew across my path and across the bulging river. I have a hard time connecting with sparrowhawks, which makes every time I see one all that better. Managed to see the whoopers on Arram carrs but couldn’t make out any other wildfowl so started heading back. Back at the lake a large flock of teal came down to land as I had another look for the pintail reported by Erich last week but no luck.

River meets lake and the path to Pulfin is flooded.

River meets lake and the path to Pulfin is flooded.

With the state of Swinemoor I decided to say myself the effort and walk the Tickton to Wheel road home, was rewarded with a kestrel hovering near the swing bridge. Not too bad of a start to the year.

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.

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.