Tag Archives: lapwing

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

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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.

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.

Missing out on new birds can send you off the (water) rails


On Wednesday I took a break from working hard on my college assignments  to do a spot of birding (I say working hard I mean staring blankly at my work not knowing what to do for a few days straight). I was due to meet up with Jess of pinkcuckoos fame and one half of the birding tag team I’ve Never Killed a Pipit and my gripper nemesis Rob before heading off to North Cave Wetlands. I caught the bus in Beverley which already contained Jess. I didn’t see Jess on the bus due to sprinting upstairs like a big kid. In front of me sat two people working on a chemistry project for Hull university. I really should be doing my chemistry work and not birding I thought at this point. I did see a pheasant on Figham Common as the bus went past. So if nothing else of note happened all day I had a new year bird.

On arriving in Hull I found Jess, easily recognisable because she was carrying a telescope. We then had to wait for Rob to show up, then when he did we did a bit more waiting for our bus whilst Robert entertained us wonderfully with tales about the time he watched a male dunnock remove a rivals sperm from his mate.

One the bus we talked birds, mammals, pets and stuff, an old woman kept on pulling a funny face every time Rob spoke. She had a carry bag full of Heinz Sausages in Beans though so who is she to judge?

Arriving in North Cave we walked through the village to the reserve. We walked across a bridge over a little stream, this stream contained two mallards two feet away, Jess at this point for some strange reason decided to get out her binoculars to get a better look at them. Feeling sorry for her we all got our bins out and the days birding was about to begin.

Upon arriving at North Cave I was set upon by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust membership collector person. I really should join them seen as North Cave is an excellent free reserve. I foolishly told the man I was planning on joining and had to listen to what membership options are available before trying to get him to just let me take a form home rather than compleing one there. 

We went into a refurbished looking Village lake hide (I think that’s what it’s called) and scanned around for birds. I got a few nice easy birds for the year list such as Teal, Lapwing and Pochard. On the way to the turret hide we saw a mixed flock of Goldfinch and Siskin in the bushes. In the turret hide I was setting up my hide clamp when Jess shouts out “Is that a Water Rail?!” it was as well! Except I didn’t see it. Rob stuck to his habit of seeing birds I don’t see and confirmed it was a water rail. After a while Rob’s friend and co-writer of their blog popped along and we became a birding gang. We soon left the hide, I don’t know what other birds were on the lake as I just stared longingly at the spot where the water rail had popped out hoping for a reappearance. No luck. I also missed out on a sparrowhawk flying across the lake which obviously Robert saw.

Walking around the reserve we added a few ducks and little grebe to our list and I finally managed to see; Robin, Mute Swan, Blue Tit and Great Tit which have been shockingly missing from my year list. We all decided that James was going to drive us to RSPB Blacktoft Sands. On the way to his car a sparrowhawk shot out in front of us. Was good to get last years bogey bird early in the year.

During the journey to Blacktoft we all chatted about birds and stuff. I managed to get revenge on Robert over the Water Rail gripping by telling him about the time a MERLIN got trapped in my garden and I got to see one up close before it was released. We also saw a dead badger roadside. We got out to look at it closer. Like school boys we prodded it with our feet. Sadly that’s the first time I’ve ever seen a badger.

At Blacktoft we checked out a few hides but there wasn’t much about. We settled in a hide that I can’t remember the name of and started to watch the raptor roost come in. It was quite epic! I got year first Marsh Harrier and a lifer with Peregrine Falcon!!! We counted 9 marsh harriers at one point. There was also a male Hen Harrier. I’d already seen a female hen harrier on 1st January. Which was a life tick and one of the best birding moments I’ve ever had as it fought with two Short-earred Owls that were also hunting at the time. You would have read all about this if I had the ability to update blogs… This male Hen Harrier was very sexy, it was such a good bird to see it felt like I was getting another lifer. Which I soon did! A flock of small birds shot over the hide and we all decided to go out side and see if we could see them. They had landed on the tree right outside the hide. We managed to ID them as Twite.

Back inside the hide however James and Robert took to arguing about if it was a Linnet or a Twite. James wasn’t sure of it. I think it’s now been decided it was Twite. I was on Robs side mainly because of the fact Robert has a beard and James doesn’t. You can’t really trust a naturalist that doesn’t have a beard.

We hung around for a bit longer, talked about the controversial Ruddy Duck cull which ended up with me sounding a bit xenophobic to Spanish waterfowl. When the raptors started to thin out we decided to head off home. On the way back to the car park Robert reckoned to see another water rail. All I could see was a Moorhen. Gripped again or Robert can’t see that well in the fading light…

I went home with two new lifers and a year list increased to 54, not bad. I didn’t manage to get my assignment done, however I did see a peregrine and male hen harrier. I’d call that a worthy sacrifice.

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!

Egrets, I’ve seen a few…


Thought I hadn’t blogged my sightings for a while I’d update with Thursdays outing. Mainly because it gave me the chance to use a song reference / pun, which regular readers will know I love to do. Continuing with my pledge to try to visit at least one new birding site that I haven’t birded at before a month and following a discussion on East Yorkshire Birding Forums about Little Egrets I decided it was time I finally paid a visit to High Eske.

To get to High Eske you have to walk along the River Hull from Tickton, the best way to do this from my house is a quick trip through Swinemoor Common. Whilst on Swinemoor I didn’t really see much of interest apart from a large flock of Lapwings getting chased off the flooded fields by a small group of crows. When I got to the River Hull I didn’t really see anything until I reached High Eske. When I arrived I had a quick look on the lake, and could make out mute swans and mallards at this point, so decided to follow the path around the side of the lake towards Pulfin Bog.

As I walked towards the bend where Pulfin starts I could see three Little Egrets resting at the side of the river. Now I’m not a ‘twitcher’ however it’s debatable whether my trip out was ‘to twitch’ as the main reason I headed down to High Eske was for the life tick of a Little Egret, especially as I’d missed out on a large number of Little Egrets by a day or so when I went to Leighton Moss last October. I guess I’d had made the trip to High Eske at some point anyway, however this outing was spurred on by knowing that Little Egrets where roosting in the area. In front of where the Egrets were I also saw a Little Grebe dive into the water, waited a while for both better views of the Egrets and for the Grebe to pop back up but neither happened so I headed back to walking around the lake.

Half way around the lake I came to a screen to look out at the lake, at this point I managed to pick out two Oyster Catchers, a Golden Eye, couple of Pochard, three or four Great Crested Grebe  and Coots all on the lake. Continuing my walk there were several Great and Blue tits among the trees, I also caught the slightest glimpse of a Redwing. When I got to the north point of the lake a flock of Curlew flew quiet low over head. Never before seen that many Curlew, together especially in flight. Must have been around 8 to 10.  I finished the walk of the lake and decided to head back to where I saw the Little Egrets to see if I could get better views, unfortunately they’d moved on but I decided I’d have another walk around the lake. Back at the north point, after passing Pulfin you emerge next to the River Hull again, here I could see a boat sailing down the river in the distance, I watched it for a few moments and this luckily brought my attention to a Little Egret feeding, hidden in a dip on the opposite side of the river.

I walked around to the lake back onto the flood defence and walked past the lake, the flock of Curlew fly by again. I also saw a Redshank fly past. Started walking down the river heading back towards Tickton, whilst walking along the river I saw a little Egret in flight up river towards High Eske. This was the last bird I really saw. Good trip that brought Year list up to 54.