Tag Archives: iceland gulls

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.

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 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.

Trip to Tophill – A Day With No Egrets

On Tuesday I ventured out to Tophill Low Nature Reserve. Tophill is one of my favourite reserves. Always something interesting and rarely do I go and not get a new bird for the year. For those reading this blog who are not familiar with Toppers it is nature reserve built around an active Yorkshire Water treatment works. It consists of two large reservoirs which have SSSI status. The river Hull runs along side of the site and there is a variety habitats from woodland, to grass and marshes.

My main targets for the day was to try to see Pintail, Smew, Coal Tit and Goldcrest. I was also secretly hoping to see the Cattle Egret that had been seen on and around the site for the past few weeks. Sadly (or egrettably) I didn’t see the Cattle Egret nor the Pintail. The Egret was spooked by shooting activity on the surrounding land and wasn’t seen all day. I don’t know how I missed the pintail…

I did get great views of Goldcrest though, some coming so close I could have flicked them. Although I wouldn’t do that, I would like to stroke one under its chin however… TREECREEPERS were also very active in the D Res woods. I always love watching these mouse like birds scurry up trees, this was the first time however that I’d seen a treecreeper scuttle along the bottom of a branch up side down and was great behaviour to watch.

Also seen in the woods were plenty of Bullfinches. Which is funny as last year I only saw one bullfinch and this year I’ve already seen eight times as many by the end of January. I got my first lifer of the day with a willow tit by the feeders.  I was mainly looking out for a Coal Tit to add to my year list and happened to spot one.

At my favourite part of the site the hide overlooking Watton Nature Reserve I was able to pick up my second lifer of the day and Egyptian Goose. I also saw my second sparrowhawk of the year. Yet another bird a struggled to see last year. I couldn’t pick out the smew on the water from my vantage point due to a crowded hide. It’s a shame the hide is so small when it’s probably the best part of the site. I decided to move on and managed to pick up my a buzzard soaring, as I walked back towards the reservoir I met Erich who excitedly informed me about an Iceland gull on the reservoir. I went into the hide overlooking O reservoir and a somebody kindly showed me the gull in his scope before I set up my scope and managed to pick it out myself among the mass of other gulls on the water.

After picking up the gull I decided to head back to the Watton hide to see if I could find the Smew before heading off home and I was rewarded with my efforts by two fantastic looking female Smew. Sadly not the gorgeous new romantic drake Smew but still a Smew. I was glad to finally catch up with another smew, I’d got one at Tophill last January but only a quick glimpse and was never fully satisfied with the sighting so was good to get another view.  A pair of Curlew had also appeared.

I also saw around a six kestrels or just one very busy kestrel flying around the site. Managed to get three lifers and knock the year list up to 79. I seem to be doing well compared to last year. I hope it continues.