Tag Archives: figham

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

Advertisements

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.

Migrants are here


Since I haven’t posted a blog since the snow, some of you may have been concerned that I had perished in the snow, stuck birding at some remote location and suffered some terrible fate. However I’ve just been lazy. If you think this blog looks bad you should check out my log book!

However I have been birding! At the beginning of March it was reported that three avocets were at North Cave Wetlands. I went down there hoping to see my favourite wading bird. However those sleek smoothies had already moved on. I wasn’t disappointed as I knew I would soon catch up with them later in the year. On that trip I did manage to add a further three to the year list with skylark, reed bunting, snipe and a pair of goosander was a good consolation prize.  I also found half a rabbit’s skull which I showed my daughter when I got home. “No daddy, I only like real rabbits with fur!” she cried in horror. Looks like I won’t be getting a Dad of the year mug this Father’s Day…

A trip out to Oak Road Playing fields in Hull let me see my first ever weasel. Eventually after hopping around for a bit it decided to go and kill some rabbits. It went down the rabbit warren and a loud squealing was heard. Surprisingly the rabbit managed to escape from its clutches and scurried free away from the weasel. However when it saw us it dived back into the warren where the weasel was! After that there was no more noise or commotion from the warren, one can only assume that the rabbit informed the weasel of our presence and the pair have become new BFFs. The rabbit convincing the weasel that there is no reason to eat meat and that vegetarianism is the way forward. The weasel is reluctant to agree but the prospect of a new friend makes him agree he’ll only eat meat from abandoned take away containers from now on. I also saw first woodpecker of the year. It was a great spot! (Do you see what I did there?!)

Wood Lane

At the end of March we had very warm weather. I even got a bit sunburnt! Sun burn! In March! The Shame! Whilst getting sunburnt I was out birding in the Willerby and Cottingham area, mainly seeing lots of Linnets. I also ventured into the cemetery on Priory Road. Had two roe deer shoot out past me no more than 12 feet away which was great. I also saw a stock-dove in an owl box.

At college I sometimes get out of my morning class early, instead of using this spare time to do useful things like work on assignments I instead bird (or write blogs like I am doing now) most of my urban birding takes place walking the River Hull towards the Humber looking for waders. I usually only ever encounter Redshanks, however Curlew I have seen on the Humber as well as a Kestrel hovering over the tiniest bit of waste land by the side of one of the busiest roads in Hull.

Kestrel over Castle Street. Taken on mobile and could not see the screen so please excuse the awfulness of picture

With migrants starting to appear I decided a trip to High Eske was on the books. I walked through Swinemoor Common and saw eight Ruff which have been there a while and are now starting to get into breeding plumage which means I should try to check them out again. (The Wold Ranger recently visited them have a look and wrote about it here) I was hoping to see some hirundines. I didn’t see any, however I did see and hear lots of Chiffchaffs. A further trip to North Cave Wetlands abled me to finally see the avocets, making them bird number 99. We went from this Yorkshire Wildlife Trust site to the RSPB Blacktoft Sands. Neither site had any hirdundines. Although we did see more avocets and around eight Marsh Harriers!

Curlew on Humber

A garganey had been seen at Top Hill Low for a few days but by the time I managed to get to the site it was long gone. Although I did see two avocets, which I think is a rare occurrence for this site, especially now that the pair appears to be breeding. We also saw a possible ring tailed Hen Harrier. Also finally saw bird one hundred and my first hirundines of the year two swallows at the hide overlooking Watton Nature Reserve. Also saw another pair later in the evening whilst walking my dog on Figham Common.

News of three Black Necked Grebes at North Cave Wetlands and the possibility of a new lifer for the year saw me visit the reserve for the third in in two months last Friday. Whilst initially hard to see them at first due to them spending a lot of time diving and staying underwater I eventually managed to see the lone grebe quickly dive underwater before finding the pair swimming around. They really are a fantastic bird. They’re only the third grebe species I’ve seen and I always love seeing Great Crested and Little Grebes. Whilst looking for the grebes I saw my first Sandmartins of the year and walking around the reserve saw first Willow Warbler of the year. Sadly an evening at work meant I had to call the trip short and missed out on seeing Little Ringed Plover, having a good look for some Pink Footed geese and having another gander at the grebes.

Zoomed in phone camera curlew

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.

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!

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!