Thursday, 31 March 2011

Guardian of the Marsh

The mist had been well and truly removed by the "brisk" wind! As I entered the Geoff Smith hide I was greeted with the information that a Peregrine was performing well. I joined my mate and we both enjoyed stunning views of a large adult female toying with the wildfowl. This has to be the same bird I saw on the fencepost earlier in the month. We both watched her swooping over the water and on the ground...magic bird! Andy who was in Garganey hide also enjoyed the spectacle.
Here is my watercolour type image!

April Fools day tomorrow. Remember this!!!

I was in Texas looking at one when I got the MEGA alert on my phone! No, I didn't see it although I set off on the Saturday morning and reached Penrith...

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Reality bites

Quiet tonight. Still, I've had an amazing run lately...with a little help from my friends! It's not all about rare birds though. Had my first singing Blackbird of my favourite birds...and songs.

It appears that the majority of the Whooper herd has migrated. There may be the odd strangler or two (plus the injured bird) still in the area. They gave great value this winter and are the Flagship species of the reserve. No easy feeding at the WWT for "my" birds! See you again in the Autumn chaps...

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

10,000 HITS! Thank you...

Broke the barrier today. Many thanks to all who have bothered to read my ramblings. I hope you have enjoyed (some of) it? Off to watch the lad at Taddy tonight so just had a quick peep (in vain) for a Garganey, LRP etc


Text from Andy as we're about to leave...GLAUCOUS GULL NDC from Garganey Hide!!!
Change of plan. Down rather quickly and into the Geoff Smith hide as I reckoned I could 'scope it from here. Andy gave me some initial info i.e. was it still there! There was a decent group of large gulls (unusual for Duff especially with the low water level) and he gave me an idea of where to look as I was aware they wouldn't hang around for long. Anyway, within a couple of minutes it appeared out of the crowd...TREMENDOUS (85).

Record shot - but not bad considering the distance and light!

My third record following a 3w on 26/2/04 and a juv on 16/2/08. Iceland next?

Monday, 28 March 2011

Adjustment needed!

Clock change great...light evenings. Yours truly needs time to adjust however, as I really felt it this morning when the alarm went at 6(5).30! Had a quick look tonight although my heart wasn't really in it. Little grebes have increased to 4 (my best is 6 on 2/5/04). A pair of smart Stock Doves flew right across the reserve which isn't a common sight. There was also a smattering of Whoopers but I have no idea how many remain?
No activity was noted around the potential Buzzard breeding site.
I noticed that Jono Leadley had a Grey Partridge near Skipwith on Sunday...not a common bird at all in these parts nowadays.

Euronews  A Yellow-crowned Night Heron has been found at Funchal Marina, Madeira. This is the 2nd record for the Western Palearctic as the 1st one was in the Azores, in December 2010. Details here.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Hibernation over!

Bears have it sussed! Anyway the clocks have changed and we have evening light. It was overcast this morning but the air was clear and the viewing sharp. As I hinted yesterday I was hoping for a Garganey and I certainly gave it a good go. Highlight of the morning was 2 pairs of Buzzards, one of which was prospecting a nest to watch! We partook in some spring cleaning in the middle of the day plus a touch of gardening. I then spent a very pleasant couple of hours down the Duff in Garganey hide (I thought it might swing it!) with Barry Bishop and laterly Elaine. We enjoyed the evening light in which the Wildfowl looked immaculate in all it's finery.

Finishing touches!

Vivid colours!

Family soon to head North

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Loose ends

Connected with Treecreeper (84) in the car park at Duff on Friday morning. Also finally managed to see "Andy's" House Martin in the earliest by a street. Previous earliest was 7/4. I then received texts of Russell Slack and Craig Ralston informing me that 2 Cranes had ben sighted by Julian Small from the bus on the Wheldrake to Crockey Hill road! A detour on the way to work was in order. No joy however as high hedges were an issue. Later in the morning they were seen at both Wheldrake Ings and NDC.
A small passage of Sand Martins occured in the evening at NDC numbering c25 birds. 18 Golden Plovers also shot through and 34 Whoopers were noted. Most headed north before dark.

Down for 8 this morning. Reward came in the shape of a large female Peregrine on a fence post by the river.

It is there!

A few more Sand Martins were noted, the 3 Oystercatchers remain faithful and a kettle of 3 Buzzards performed well over the reserve. Shelduck numbers have risen to an impressive 48...a record count! Many species are now singing/displaying, pity today's weather didn't compliment their mood. Curlews are always good value, this bird was just coming round!

My pals Haydn and Joel made the trip (independently) for the STT in Suffolk today. I didn't need it having seen the Bradwell bird in April 05. Haydn sent me a text which made me reflect on recent local events. The key point being that the Great Grey Shrike had graced both our local he said...a birding miracle!
The Cranes floating down the Valley were pretty cool too!!!

Clocks Spring forward tonight...Garganey tomorrow?

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Work tick!

Every so often we have a fire practice at school and this morning was such a day. The weather was glorious and everyone assembled on the Tennis courts. The sequence of events took place, then just as my form was about to be dismissed I noticed a Year 11 lad pointing to the sky? I knew this pupil (Dean Brookes) and also knew he had an interest in birds. I turned and looked up into the blue yonder...Buzzard!

It appears things are cooling down again for the weekend whilst remaining mainly sunny...I'll settle for that. 3 Garganey at Potteric Carr today following 9 Black-necked Grebes in South Yorkshire yesterday. Looking forward to more migrants but last weekend will take some beating!!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011


Not much to report at the moment as the Football fixtures are in full flow at school. I got a text from Andy in the village to say he had a House Martin flying around his house. I managed to get back around 6.10 and gave it 10 minutes but I couldn't see it...never mind. Compensation was had in the form of a group of Whoopers flying in low over the car park at Duff.
Oh, also had great close views of a successfully hunting Barn Owl this am down to 10 yards in front of the GS Hide. Another fixture tomorrow then down for 4.15 on Friday.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Worth getting up early for!

I confess I'm not a morning person but when motivated I can spring to life with the best of them. This morning was such a day as I had a strong incentive to get down the road early. I decided to head for Bubwith bridge first to see if the Cranes were still present...they were! It was a glorious sunny (if slightly misty) dawn and the Cranes looked perfect in the meadow. I've had them here in my mind for years! I still find it hard to believe.

After enjoying them for 15 minutes and also allowing Rocky to have a mooch around I made for the Geoff Smith hide to check on the GGS. A young couple were already in the hide and the chap informed me he had just seen it but it was out of view at the moment. I decided to quickly see if I could see the Cranes from this location...I couldn't. As I returned to the hide he informed me it was showing again. It was back in it's favourite willow on the left side of the scrape...

You could say I'm still on a high from this double whammy! I consider myself very fortunate to have such quality species on my patch list. 4 ticks this year already!

Footnote: Popped down tonight at dusk but there was no sign of the GGS.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Quite a day!!!

Where to begin? 

Started early, leaving Louise in bed to have a well deserved lie-in. I decided to have a walk down to Garganey hide to stretch the legs, connecting with a very late year tick in the form of a Goldfinch! (79). 2 Red-legged Partridge were on the approach ramp...very omen? On opening the hide I was greeted by the superb sight of a group of Black-tailed Godwits (80). It was difficult to see exactly how many there were as some were partly obscured behind the bank, resting. I decided on 18 birds? Anyway, they were a very welcome sight and an excellent addition to the patch year list.

I phoned Craig Ralston the English Nature warden, who I had seen at the far end of the reserve, to let him know. He informed me he'd earlier seen 22 Pink-footed Geese near the farm. I continued scanning and bingo, there they were, far right but close to the hide!

Also in view were 3 Oystercatchers and 5 Ruff. I was joined by another chap who almost immediately spotted a Sand Martin (81), my earliest record!
I then returned to the Geoff Smith hide were I was soon joined by Elaine who I had contacted regarding the Godwits and Pinks. While we were scanning she suddenly spotted a Phyllosc clinging to a dead weed stem...Chiffchaff (82)...another personal earliest for the site! I then returned home for a bit of breakfast with Louise. She wasn't feeling great having developed a sore throat and she decided to stay in as it was still a bit fresh (the weather that is). I had another bash at Duff with no further luck and returned for lunch at 1.

After lunch I joined Haydn on Skippy to look for the Shrike. He had already seen it on Sands Lane and managed a great digi-scoped photo. We had a mooch around till 3.30ish, then we parted and I returned to Duff while he went to look for some grub at the Drovers (negative news). The Godwits were still present although I could only count 15 (perhaps that's all there were?). I texted Haydn to let him know they were still present and this tempted him to join me in the hide.

THEN...the phone went. It was Russell Slack (a MASSIVE thank you pal). 3 CRANES HEADING YOUR WAY FROM WHELDRAKE!!! (Believe it or not we'd been mulling over the chances of this very species turning up here earlier!). We both scanned and scanned...there they were! We both watched in amazement as these magnificent birds got closer and closer. It really was a magic moment.
As they flew over the far end of the reserve (83/Life145) they veered west and appeared to be heading over the village. I quickly contacted a few of the locals including Andy Walker, Darren Starkey and Elaine who all live in the village and Jono Leadley...amongst others. We then lost them as they went behind the hide. We sprinted out and scanned but we couldn't see them. Haydn then decided to go to his beloved Skipwith and scan from there (the thoughts of a true patch worker! I'd have done the same). I kept looking but there was no further sign. I did see the Pinks though, leaving to the west...

I made a few more calls and then decided I was going to check the local fields. As I was making my way back to the car I met Andy Walker who I had contacted earlier. I told him the story and said I was going to check around the village. He carried on towards the hide were he caught sight of a Peregrine...and 3 CRANES on Bubwith Ings!!! I still can't work out how we didn't see them behind the hide? Anyway, there they were...happy days.

More phone calls and texts. I then went back to the house to get Louise's camera and asked her if she'd like to see them? She said yes, so we went down to the bridge to have a look. We enjoyed fantastic views of the three birds including their balletic display ritual...brilliant!

We even had 50+ Whooper Swans fly over the "twitch"

As if this wasn't enough...and it truly was, I then received another call of Andy telling me the GGS had returned to NDC!!! Unbelievable. Has to be one of my best days...ever. Probably because it all took place within a couple of miles of my house!

So did this sighting...


Saturday, 19 March 2011

Four Tops - I can't help myself

Four Tops - Ask the Lonely

 This version also worth a listen (I couldn't download it for some reason?)

Four Tops...Class!

Time for some more Music. If I had to choose my strongest early influence regarding soul music it would have to be this groupLevi Stubbs had one of the greatest voices ever. Great memories, I hope you like them...

Four Tops - Baby I need your loving

Shrike 2?

Following up on yesterdays report of a/the Great Grey Shrike on Skipwith Common I arrived on Sands Lane around 7.45. Looking down the lane I noticed a birder in the distance...Pete Piringer! I joined him and we spent the next couple of hours looking for the bird and having a good chat...really enjoyed it. I also saw Johno who told me he'd seen an Otter at Wheldrake! He also showed me a picture of  a Woodlark that he'd seen further up the road. Around 10.30 I said goodbye to Pete and returned home for a brew and some toast.
No sooner had I finished when the phone went. It was Pete informing me the Shrike had been seen again on Sands Lane. I quickly returned and bumped into the lad who had re-found it. He showed me the tree he'd seen it in and informed me he'd seen it catch a lizard then fly west. I continued along the lane and saw another birder waving at me. It was John from school! I told him it had been seen again and we looked for a while before he had to go.
I'd sent a few texts to the locals and Elaine from the village turned up, followed shortly afterwards by Haydn (who was obviously quite keen to see it!). After a further 30 mins we decided to try further west towards the centre of the reserve. I spotted another birder scoping the ploughed field across the road from the west end of Sands Lane. We were making our way towards him when the pager went off confirming that he was indeed looking at the GGS! Haydn then left me for some strange reason!? I eventually caught him up and we enjoyed great views of the bird feeding in the ploughed field.

It must be odds-on that all the recent sightings involve the same wandering individual? I never thought I'd see a GGS at NDC and Skipwith Common. You just never know...

Friday, 18 March 2011

Surprise Patch Lifer!

The Great Grey Shrike was reported again this morning so I was interested to see if it was still around. I was pleased to see my mate Vince's been quite a while pal. No sign of the Shrike and Vince had been there since 11. It was nice to have a chat and catch up on things. We were joined by Elaine from the village and we informed her of the negative news. It was then that Vince mentioned that he had seen an EGYPTIAN GOOSE (78/Life 144) in the field by Garganey Hide! That was my cue to exit and shoot down there. The first goose I saw was the bird...

Water level are still dropping which has attracted more waders in the form of c15 Ruff, c50 Dunlin, c5 Golden Plover and 3 Oystercatchers. Forecast very good for tomorrow...

Thursday, 17 March 2011


Water levels have continued to drop revealing some nice wader habitat. Masses of wildfowl present as water receeds elsewhere. Nice sunset tonight, giving optimism for tomorrow and more importantly the weekend! Oystercatcher total now standing at 6.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011


Went down again in thick mist. Managed to increase my Oystercatcher count to 4 and added LBBG (77) to my year list. We need SUNSHINE!!!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Limited viewing

Faithfully had a peep for the last hour despite the thick mist. Not much to report...3 Oystercatchers remain, 15 Curlew and c20 Dunlin. The male Sparrowhawk is still hanging around the scrape, giving stunning close 'scope views, often on the ground!

Not mine!

An Otter was reported around Bubwith bridge on Friday. Must be due a Sand Martin?

Monday, 14 March 2011


Managed to make it down before dark tonight...just. I wanted to see if the BNG was still wasn't! Granted I only had around 20 mins of decent light but I did manage a pair of GCG and a LG. Water level has dropped another few inches...looking really good.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Spring Weekend

Computer fixed! Photos and Bird records recovered...phew!

Spent early Saturday morning on Skipwith Common with Haydn. We were (very optimistically) looking for joy. We did score however with excellent views of Woodlark on Sands Lane...

and an unexpected Barn Owl...

Sunday started with an aborted trip to Heslington. We'd intended to try for the LRP at the University. The weather was poor so we ended up having a "full english" at the A19 cafe at Crockey Hill...strongly recommended! I then took Louise home and had a couple of hours down Duff. I decided to have a walk down to Garganey hide to enjoy some close views of Pintail...and maybe an early Sand Martin? Within 5 minutes I was looking at the earliest ever BLACK-NECKED GREBE (76) for the reserve...and my first sighting for 5 years!
Long way off...c150yds

I let the locals know and was joined quite quickly by Elaine from the village. We quickly re-found the bird. I then returned to the Geoff Smith hide were I found John Heaton from Foggathorpe. I told him about the BNG and we both tried to re-locate it. I eventually found it again and John was elated as it was a Lifer for him.
Early afternoon we had a stroll up the east bank of the river from Bubwith. The sun came out and the views were stunning. Louise alerted me to a Buzzard drifting west over the river from Aughton. I raised the bins and decided I was looking at the darkest specimen I had ever seen...a very smart bird.
Returned to NDC for the last hour. I managed to find the BNG again plus 3 Oystercatchers. I sent Haydn a text and this tempted him to make the trip from York. He was rewarded with good views from Garganey hide.
We then watched the Whoopers coming into roost. I'd been thinking there might be some new birds present recently (I had 18 adults on Friday night). Peter Roworth confirmed this with a text informing me he'd had a new max' of 152 this morning...a great count. No Bewick's though!

Great Weekend...

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Back on line!

Computer crashed last week which accounts for the lack of posts. Still things lost in cyber space...notably my Bird Recorder programme and most of our photos! Hopefully another trip to the IT department will rectify the problem?

Bumped into the chap who saw the GGS at NDC last Thursday. Also saw his photo! Surely this bird is still around? Also a couple of good local birds seen at Thorganby...namely Grey Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit (neither of which yours truly has seen). Days stretching out now, clocks going forward soon...evening Birding round the corner!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Pete Piringer

I'd been passing this chap on his bike on my way to work for quite a while now, but with the dark mornings and the fact he was well wrapped up against the elements, I wasn't sure? Well this morning I finally found out that it was indeed Pete Piringer! Many Yorkshire Birders will know Pete and I have known him since the early 90's and it was great to see him again and chat if only briefly. Pete keeps himself to himself but is an excellent Birder with a great love of the LDV. I remember standing with him by the caravan park at Spurn when he picked up the CLIFF SWALLOW (23/10/95) flying down Beacon Lane. Oh happy day!!! Take care my friend..