Tag Archives: Ruddy Duck

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.

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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!