Tag Archives: waxwings

Top 5 of 2013


Due to a poor birding year (my year list total is only 102!) I’ve decided to narrow my top birds of the year to the top 5. They are as followed…

5. Waxwing
I was going in to college and missed the bus I wanted to originally catch. However this was turned into a plus point when I saw a single waxwing in a tree down Beverley Road. Jedwards Hypocolius striking the fear into bus rides!

4. Red Kite
This has been some what of a bogey bird for me, having always missed them at North Cave, however this year was different and I finally managed to tick it. At the time I was showing my daughter some owl pellets on the ground when I turned around to see a Red Kite sail over our heads.

3. Common Scoter
I’ve been doing my WeBS count at Bransholme Reservoir for little over a year, whilst the site has potential to host something a bit rare little has been recorded there. The best birds I’ve found through RBA, WeBS and other sources of being recorded there stand at; Garganey, Goldeneye and Goosander. So you can imagine my delight of discovering a single common scoter there.

2. Tawny Owl
Finally managed to see a tawny owl this year! Whilst I’ve heard them many a time I’ve never seen one. I’d just finished a twelve hour shift at work and was walking home when I heard one calling. I spent around 10 minutes walking and listening around the Beverley minster until I managed to see two glowing eyes on top of a roof. Well worth the wait and the twelve hour shift.

1. Smew
Of course, what else could it be? But my favourite duck in full drake Billy Idol cracked iced plumage finest. I even let out a rebel yell once I’d managed to twitch it. Well worth standing on the edge of the most locked up angling complex in the country, in slush and cold winds for. A fantastic bird, finally getting to see a male in its upmost glory was brilliant.

Of course there were some close contenders such as: Peregrine Falcon – it’s wonderfully living a fifteen minute walk away from these birds, the tophill low marsh harriers, surf scoter, red-throated diver, wood sandpiper and garganey.

Hope you all had a fantastic year of birding and that 2014 is just as good.

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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.

Waxwings


They’re here and once again in style! With their wonderful quiffs and high trill calls waxwings are the Jedwards of the bird world. Getting their name from the red wax like drips on the end of their wings there aren’t many people who don’t love these winter invaders. It’s a bird I always hope to catch up with and often dream about during the winter months!

News started coming in about a large flock of waxwings in the car park at ASDA Hessle Road on thursday night. Unfortunately I was working Friday and Saturday so the earliest I would get out there would be Sunday morning. I made a few enquiries on twitter and the large flocks were making work of the berries. It didn’t look good, most likely to move on before Sunday. I decided now was the time to download Rare Bird Alert app on my phone and use the free trial. With alerts set up for waxwings my hopes were raised on Saturday when I got an alert saying there was still a flock of 300 late evening.

We woke early on Sunday morning and got the first bus into Hull and then after a cold short wait watching very cute sniffer dogs making sure Ferensway would be safe for the service of remembrance we got the first bus to Hessle Road. Whilst we waited for our bus I got an alert saying that 200 had been seen at 8:26 am, things were looking good! Arriving at ASDA we soon found people in the car park with big lenses so decided to go and wait with them. After standing around for about ten minutes getting excited at every flock of starlings that flew over two birds flew over with pale underneath. These were soon located on a tree at the other end of the car park, bins went up and these were waxwings! Tried pointing out to my daughter, however trying to direct a five-year old to a single bird in a far away tree is hard work! A kind photographer showed her a picture he had taken however. After looking at the two waxwings for a few minutes we decided to go warm up in the now open ADSA and get some breakfast inside us.

After our breakfast we went to see if anymore waxwings had turned up, sadly not. We decided to walk around the local area seeing if we could local the large flock from earlier. Soon the child did as children do and needed the toilet. Whilst her mother took her I stood outside ADSA waiting when a large flock of waxwings came in and landed on a tree next to the bus stop on the opposite side of the road. They then moved to the proximity of the snappers and we caught up with them and took some photographs using our compact camera.

This time even my daughter managed to see them and successfully completed her first twitch! Soon it was time to go wait for our bus and as we waited the flock came back to the tree next to the stop to once again give us some cracking views!

Better close up pictures can be seen on The Wold Ranger’s and Erich’s Hull Valley blogs

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.

Top Ten Birds of 2010


Let me start by saying that I’m not a twitcher (I should write a piece on my opinion of twitching really) so my list of top ten birds I’ve seen this year might be a bit plain for some! I’m pretty much limited to my local patch but here are my favourite spots of 2010

 

10. Gannet

At number ten on my list is the magnificent sea-bird the gannet. I made my first ever trip to Bempton Cliffs this year and got to see the spectacular sights of thousands of gannets at their only mainland breeding site in the UK.

 

9. Starlings

A lot people would be disgusted at the sight of a starling on a top ten bird list, but I simply love them! From an early age they’ve always been one of my favourite town and garden birds however this year saw my love for them increase when I bought a window feeder and was then able to see their beautiful glossy petrol sheen coat close up. Fantastic colours! I’m yet to see a murmuration of them coming to roost but hopefully 2011 will allow me to see that magnificent sight of nature.

 

8. Green Woodpecker

Whilst always a beautiful bird to see, this pops up on my top ten list for the fact that it was on my local patch which is a great spot for the area.

 

7. Swallow

Not really a great spot but their aerial displays are just beautiful, on a hot summers evening is there anything more peaceful and relaxing than sitting by a river and watching them feeding? I don’t think there is. When watching swallows I’m always amazed at how they don’t crash.

 

6. Swifts

Along with number 7, the essence of summer is watching these masters of flight cut through the skies on their scythe shaped wings at high speeds screeching away. Just an amazing bird, I can’t wait for the start of spring just to see their return.

 

5. Marsh Harrier

I think most birders have a fondness for birds of prey there is just something about them. I went on holiday in October and paid a visit to RSPB Leighton Moss, whilst in one of the hides looking over the reed beds I caught the slightest glimpse of a marsh harrier swoop down for a few seconds before disappearing, a real blink and you’ll miss it moment. If my eyes hadn’t had been on that area for those few seconds I’d have missed out of a great view and a life tick.

 

4. Reed Bunting

For me the male Reed Bunting is quite possibly the cutest bird around, either that or a goldcrest. Whilst I’ve seen a fair few Reed Buntings on my local patch and other birding areas the reason this makes my list is that during the harsh winter at the beginning of the year my garden in West Hull was visited by a male reed bunting which had joined a flock of sparrows. For the area I lived it was a very good garden bird indeed. As my bird knowledge was very slim back then I did not have a clue what it was, so on a trip to my parents I dug out my dads old bird books until I discovered what it was. This then in turn lead me to buy bird books and then start to take birding more serious. So there you have it, the reed bunting, the bird which turned me.

 

3. Kestrel

As previously mentioned I only really began birding properly this year. However I’ve always had a great interest in nature and birds and for a long time in my childhood my favourite bird was a kestrel. Although they were fairly easy to spot as a child, seeing them hovering above motorways on car journeys I’d never really got a good view of them. This was one of my main aims when I took up birding. It happened to me twice this year. The first was when walking along the river; the day itself was a pretty poor day for birding. It was in mid august so a quiet time for birding not only this but there was a very strong wind that even the swallows seemed to struggle with. My list for the day was shockingly bad, under 5 spots if I remember correctly. However as I kept on walking I see a Kestrel struggling in the wind to keep hovering before diving down on prey. A great find on a very poor day. The second kestrel encounter was whilst on holiday at a Haven holiday resort in Cumbria. I’d taken my daughter for a walk on the site, we had reached an area of the site where the caravans are slightly better than those elsewhere. There is a small pond in front the group of caravans which contains a little island and there hovering above the island what do we see but a kestrel and for the extra points it’s a male too! Its beautiful blue head focuses still on the ground waiting for its prey. Or looking for his family as my daughter suggested!

 

2. Barn Owl

The common theme of this list seems to be the average / nice bird in a great situation and none beats that for me then when I saw a barn owl in late October. I’d had the pleasure of watching a Barn Owl hunt on my patch all summer, however summer had become autumn and the dark nights were drawing in, I had given up on going out on an evening birding and swapped it for taking my parents dog for a walk. It was getting close to 7pm and getting dark when my dog and I reached the middle of my patch, as we cut down into the middle to start heading back I saw the unmistakeable ghostly flight of a Barn Owl at dusk, (there were now two Barn Owls out hunting instead of the one from summer, hopefully this means chicks were reared!) I stopped still to watch it hunt for a few minutes, as it flew across the common hunting for voles it was seemingly oblivious to my presence and this was confirmed when it flew within ten feet of me at around my head height before swooping down on prey. Simply breath taking.

 

1. Waxwing

Almost didn’t make it to the list at all! However whilst walking to work on the 29th December, through the thick mist I make out the shape of a flock of birds sat in a tree. Hang on a minute they look like Waxwings, I think so I take a better look, notice their size and the crest on their heads, most definitely Waxwings! I cross over the road to try and get a better view and can make out the patterning on their wings! A brilliant find! I’d become fed up of people saying how we we’re having a great year for Waxwings one of the best for years yet not seen a single one! I don’t know what it is about Waxwings that people seem to love, yes they’re magnificent beautiful birds with gorgeous wing colouring and patterns. Is it just that? As that alone is a great reason to love the Waxwing, is it their semi rarity value? How one year only a small few reach our shores whilst other years like this year thousands make it across? One reason for me is that they’re one of my earliest birding memories, when my family had them in our garden when I was nine years old, I remember my dad getting really excited about them but at the time I didn’t really get why. Whatever people’s reason is for loving them they’re a brilliant bird and one I’ve been aching to see for a while, even dreaming about them on a few occasions! They will probably be my last year tick for 2010, but what a great tick to finish on!

 

Other 2010 stuff

Whilst at RSPB Leighton Moss I also got to see Red Deer and a black tern both great to see.  Missed out on seeing Little Egrets at Leighton Moss a few days before I went they’d had bumper numbers! I was also hoping on seeing Raven and Bearded Tits whilst at Leighton Moss / Cumbria but wasn’t so lucky.  Maybe an excuse to go on holiday to Cumbria again? Other top bird sightings would have to be Cormorants flying above local patch, seeing a Roe Deer staring at me through the bushes only a couple of feet away, Common seal swimming down the river, Kingfisher fluttering by at great speed so all I can make out is its wonderful blue colouring.