Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Last Knockings

Christmas /New Year is for family, so Birding has taken a back seat...sacrilege! Plenty of "visiting"...Leeds, York, Bury...

Back home now. Youngest lad coming tomorrow for the New Year celebration. To be honest I've never been a big fan. Still, have a great night...

Added a late Mistle Thrush to the Village list yesterday (H.108). I also had a bizarre sighting in the form of my second Village Water Rail running across Taylor lane at dawn as I left for work!

Last chance tomorrow to add to my Year lists...

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Christmas Post

Last post before Christmas. What can I entertain you with?

Review of the year? Nah, to predictable, besides I've picked up a wonderful virus and I was on first bus at 5.30am, so stamina levels (very) low.

So I'm going left field and bringing this out for a very rare airing...

My Sister has been spraying Facebook recently with some old pics of me in my Footy Days. So here's a one off of me scoring for my home town Bury against local rivals Burnley in the Fourth round of the F.A.Cup at Gigg Lane in 1980...

We drew Liverpool in round 5 but I got injured and missed the game at Anfield. Strange but true!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Trumpeter Swan - provenance

The nature of our interest leads to some grey areas. One of which is provenance, especially with regard to Wildfowl. Private collections abound, complicating matters somewhat! I'm sure you get the drift.

Could North America's heaviest bird reach Britain? The odds say no. It's a short distance migrant along the west coast and is spreading further East recently due to a re-introduction scheme.

"The TRUMPETER SWAN is a rare vagrant to California, but a very few may occur almost annually in flocks of Tundra Swan in the Klamath Basin or the Central Valley in winter. We presume most are not discovered due to identification problems. Most records are concentrated in the northeast but there are coastal records south to Los Angeles County" - Don Roberson.

That's still a long way from Suffolk! We have had records of Pacific species recently...Tufted Puffin, Long-billed Murrelet?

Odds are they're escapes...BUT...there's always that uncertainty...isn't there?


Back to yesterday.

I passed a few admirers leaving the scene who sent me in the right direction. A sign for the reserve might have helped! I made my way along the floodbank and soon found the group of Swans feeding in the flooded field. It was windy, very windy.

I positioned myself below the bank, which made things (slightly) better. I then scanned through the various groups that were closest. Of course, no sign. The largest group was furthest away and contained the Trumpeters...

Pick 'em out?

...and together in the fading light...

Really glad I went. It's not ALL about ticks...far from it. I won't be holding my breathe for one here...but I have my private records...and thoughts.

Saturday, 20 December 2014


I decided to make the trip to Suffolk today. Why?

Well, I like wildfowl!

Already (understandably) condemned as escapes, I was curious to see these 2 magnificent birds for myself...no matter from whence they had originated.

Over the hill...or over the pond?

I wasn't disappointed. I really enjoyed the experience...when I eventually arrived at 2pm due to the dodgy directions from the Sat Nav.


More tomorrow...when I've recovered!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Busy times

Not much time for Birding at the moment with the pre-Christmas madness kicking in!

I did manage an hour down Sunk Island the other day and was very pleased to see good numbers of wintering Lapwings and Golden Plover.

One of my favourite species...

I'm hoping to pick up a few late year ticks, but time will be limited till the year end.

Saturday, 13 December 2014


Yorkshire Birding has just announced the bird is to be added to the County list. So...add it I will!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014


Question mark only because of my "old school" thinking!

I finished work at 1 yesterday and made it to Wakefield for 2.45ish. Most of the chaps had seen the bird in flight and some had heard the all important call. I had a brief chat with Richard Willison who'd obtained some record shots.

The grass was long however and views on the deck would be very difficult/impossible.

A token attempt to flush didn't produce the desired result and birders started to drift away as the sun, and my hopes, started to sink. The area was quite large, a derelict area in the middle of some modern office units. I noticed a birder start to make his way across the area at the opposite end to where most were stood.

Flush possibility?

I made my way down and stood on the bank with another lad. Sure enough he flushed it! Obviously larger (but not as large as Richard's) than the accompanying Meadow Pipits it was associating with. He followed it and it rose again then flew off towards the motorway presumably to roost. It was 3.05pm.


Fortunately, I had a shift change today that gave me a 6 hour window from 9 till 3 between school runs. This gave me the chance for a second visit.

When I arrived I estimated around 80 birders present, Andy Roadhouse and John Harriman being among them. Johnny Holliday (the finder) was in the field with Lee Evans (no surprise there) and another chap. They'd just done an organised flush so I'd just have to wait for the next one.

Around 11.45 I noticed Martin Garner with some sort of sound dish in his hand! He joined the others and they proceeded to walk the area again. I was at the north end of the group but as they walked south I decided to change my position in order to have a better chance of hearing it call if/when they flushed it again. The group...

...made there way through the field again. Eventually they reached the south end of the area and I was ready. Then there it was, not 30 yds away, it actually hovered for a while (interestingly?). It was in the air for over a minute, which considering the previous circumstances was amazing. It then flew back down the north end BUT before it did it gave a distinct Yellow Wagtail like CALL!

It was very clear and a massive relief!

Should it be flushed?

Can you tick it?

These are the questions...Opinions going into melt-down online!

For me, a few organised flushes to allow everyone a chance to see it doesn't do any harm...as long as it's not too intensive and the bird can rest and feed. Lets face it, if it really didn't like it it would surely re-locate...wouldn't it?

Chances of seeing this bird on the ground are virtually nil. So you will only SEE it in flight. My flight ID skills of BLYTH'S PIPIT are somewhat fragile!! A flight view of an obviously large pipit coupled with a diagnostic CALL is a different matter...isn't it?

Time will tell. I think they call it "Pending".

Footnote: My comments are in no way meant to cast aspersions on Johnny or anyone else (you've got to be careful what you say apparently). It's just in this instance I'll await the decision of the relevant committees. I cast my mind back to the first accepted records of this species in Britain. They were deliberated on long and hard...

Monday, 8 December 2014

A long but eventually rewarding day...

Many congratulations to Johnny Holiday for his MEGA find today in the form of Yorkshire's first BLYTH'S PIPIT!!!

More tomorrow...it's been a very long day.

Nice sunset over the Humber on my return...

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Wild Geese!!!

Love 'em. I know many birders who ain't into Wildfowl. I've heard the comment "it's only a duck" many times.

My time in the Lower Derwent Valley has made me a great admirer of our webbed feet friends. Tough birds indeed, capable of some truly amazing feats.

This particular fact conveys this better than I ever could...

Perhaps the most impressive altitude record is that of a flock of Whooper Swans which was seen on radar arriving over Northern Ireland on migration and was visually identified by an airline pilot at 29,000 feet.

Impressive...no AMAZING stuff!

Over the years I've been privileged to see some pretty impressive congregations of Ducks, Geese and Swans in the Valley. I've mentioned on more than one occasion my respect and relief in the fact that the Whoopers return each year.

The Pintails are always a joy amongst other smart ducks. 

The true spirit of winter though comes in the form of the Wild Geese for me. Now I'm "over here" I'm lucky to have the Brents (never taken for granted) just down the road, sometimes, like this year containing the smart Black Brant...

Call of the Wild
This Autumn I've managed to catch a few skeins of Pinkfeet heading south...always a fine sight...and sound.

So. where's this all leading I hear you cry?

Yesterday morning I sprung into action when the Pager informed me of a Great White Egret at Skeffling. A fine local sighting it would be. It could also be combined with the obligatory dog walk. I arrived and headed south-east towards Sammy's Point. I've previously mentioned the flooded farm fields and they contained distant geese. I picked out 3 Little Egrets but no sign of the Big 1...yet.

There was a Great White Swan however...

As I approached the Geese I could see a small group of Greylags close to the Bank...

A scan further back revealed the surprising sight of 3 Barnacles...

...and 10 Pinkfeet...

Still no sign of the GWE. I decided to try west of the car park but still no sign. I then heard the sound of Geese...it was the birds I'd just been looking at...and they were heading towards me...

Barnacles with Pinkfeet...mmmm
They then turned over the Humber and headed back to the flooded field...

I gave it till 12 then headed for Spurn and lunch. My radio had died so I didn't get any info on "what's about". After giving Bud a swim in the sea I decided to return for another go. It could be hiding in a ditch...maybe?

I could see the a large Brent flock towards Sammy's so I headed down...maybe the Black Brant was with them? As I approached I noticed a lady dog walker approaching from Sammy's with a red coat on! The Geese are usually pretty tolerant as they are used to people walking the bank but I wanted to try and get there before her to have a look through just in case they spooked. It was also getting late in the day.

I positioned myself behind some bushes and started to scan through the flock. The first bird I saw stuck out like a sore thumb...


Can't think of many that I've seen in Yorkshire over the years. It just looked WILD!

The lady had arrived and the Geese started to make the agitated noises that Geese make. The group took off and glided low towards a nearby pool in the same field. The star of the show however climbed high, impressively quickly and headed south over Kilnsea.

A fine sight...

Paddle shaped wings?

Wild Geese...magnificent!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Bonus Goose

A couple of hours down at Spurn yesterday afternoon in bright SUNSHINE! The Brent flock was present in the North Bank fields. I had a scan through and eventually picked out the Black Brant I also noticed something else...

3 Barnacle Geese (P.161, S. 134)
Always a question mark as to origin BUT they'll do as a Year tick. I'm not proud! Amazingly they then left the flock and landed much closer...as if to say hello...

Within a minute they'd returned to the group...

It was gone 3 now and the light was fading. I'd seen Mick Turton on the floodbank and I then heard him call a Hen Harrier hunting over Beacon Ponds. I couldn't see from my position so I drove up onto Long Bank and parked. With the help of Mick's directions I picked it up coming towards me over Kilnsea Wetlands. It then veered North over the Brent flock (where I'd just been!)

A couple of distant images...

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Back to the old stomping ground

I decided to pay my first visit of the winter today. I'd been thinking about it for a while but as I had to go to Hull anyway I just carried on!

Arrived around 12.30 and parked by Bubwith bridge for lunch. A quick scan over the flood revealed a decent number of Swans in the distance...


I decided to walk north along the river below the floodbank and try to keep my friend out of sight as well! Many people walk there dogs here but I was hoping not to disturb the herd (not keen on the collective).

I love this spot. I first came here in the winter of 1986 when I lived south of the river in Scunthorpe. There were triple digit numbers of both yellow-billed swans here then. how times have changed...sadly. Bewick's Swan is now a rarity in Yorkshire and numbers have crashed alarmingly elsewhere...more here.

On a more positive note I find it inspiring and uplifting that some of these magnificent birds return here every winter to feed and graze in this natural habitat. Long may they do so...as they have always done.

When I reckoned I was level with the group I popped my head over the bank and rattled off a few pics...

A group of adults...

A family with SIX young...

Another mixed group...

A mixed scene...

Excellent numbers of Lapwings were also present. I estimated around 800.

Distant view before I left for North Duffield...

As I opened the door to the Geoff Smith hide I was greeted with carpeted seats no less! Nothing so refined when I used to sit there. I have been watching since 1986...not constantly! I had a wonderful hour enjoying my favourite view...

Whoopers commuting from Bubwith
They all ended up on Duff! I was very lucky to see them closer on Bubwith. I then picked up the unusual sight of a distant pair of raptors on the fenceposts. 
Sparrowhawk and Buzzard
Great to go back...and go back I will...many times.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

What a grey day...again!

Hate November...I might have mentioned that before!

Still, got to make the most of the fading light. Late start meant a trip up onto the floodbank at Skeffling. I'd fluked high tide and the bank was free from mud...hence relatively clean dog.

Plenty of activity, with large numbers of waders and wildfowl present. I managed to pick out a pair of Pintail among the Mallards...

The flooded field attracted a few Lapwings. I managed to pick one out with the camera as the sun shone...for around 30 seconds!

The Boss waited reasonably patiently...

Just before I left the car park a group of 8 Twite landed briefly in the nearby bushes. Too quick for me to capture!

After lunch I did the Sunk Island circuit as the gloom closed in once again. Main hope was a Raptor/Owl (as usual) but I certainly didn't expect to see this on a farm barn roof...

Grey Wagtail
Final sighting of note came in the form of this distant Buzzard just before dusk...

Not seeing many Barn Owls yet? Short-eared would be nice...maybe a Hen Harrier...

Friday, 28 November 2014

Deep South (7) - Way up North

Back to the Spring tour.

We left Florida and headed North into Georgia. If you've got a non-birding partner you'll know you have to take an all-round view to holidays! No problem for me as I love sightseeing in the States. Might be for you though so feel free to skip these bits.

We headed for Savannah (one of many fabulously named places). It's 453 miles from Ft Myers and took us around 7 hours with stops. We did the old centre tour...

Live Oak lined streets draped in Spanish Moss
The bus guide was superb with a wonderful slow southern drawl...loved it! She called the place Slooooovannah. As a kid I collected American Civil War cards which also had replica Confederate money...those were the days. This definitely fuelled my love of American history and particularly the Civil War.

I also love the architecture...

From here we headed further North West through South Carolina and on into North Carolina. We were aiming for Hendersonville, making another 289 miles.

Next day I was up early and heading up onto Skyline drive...

Skyline Drive is a 105-mile (169-km) road that runs the entire length of the National Park Service's Shenandoah National Parkin the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

The particular spot I was interested in was the Pisgah Inn. This was the number one site for my code 1 target bird...guessed what it might be yet? I tried the recommended areas and again at dusk...but not a sniff. The sunset was spectacular though...

5,000 ft
I'd scheduled a few days to hopefully connect with this bird...and I had some support! I rang my contacts Marcus Simpson and Marylin Westphal and they agreed to meet me the following evening. We met at a designated car park and we followed them to the alternative site. They told me that they hadn't had any sightings on their last two visits...which didn't raise hopes? At least the weather was good which was always going to be a concern.

We arrived around 30 minutes before dusk and waited. Marcus and Marylin prowled up and down the road listening and looking while I scanned. Still nothing, not a single bird. 20 minutes had passed now and it wasn't looking good.

Then, a sound, then there it was... a low flight across the hillside! American Woodcock (ABA 664) There was a further display flight in the fading light. No photo...but who cares...I'd seen it!

A big relief!! As previously stated I'd struggled to find a strategy to connect with this bird previously, so the long detour had paid off. Now to make it up to Louise.

Next stop Nashville, Tennessee...

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Always a chink of light through the gloom

As the year draws to a close and the daylight is limited, especially on days like today, with thick cloud and heavy drizzle, you just hope that something occurs to lift the spirits somewhat.

Out on the clifftop at Easington for the daily dog walk. Difficult to find somewhere that's not plastered with mud! Not that Bud minds.  Anyway, I stayed by the car and did the fetch and retrieve scenario, lazy I know BUT practical in the conditions.

The field in question is by the Gas terminal. I'm always a tad wary with the regular passing of police vehicles but they obviously/hopefully know who I am by now and I don't get questioned anymore.
I often risk a quick scan of the tall tower on the sharp bend.

Again, always a bit reluctant to point the bins/camera in that direction. Anyway I'm here to tell the tale and here's what I was hoping to see...


It seems I've caused a bit of a stir with my comments regarding nasal markers on ducks. Never mind, I'm getting used to it!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Barn Owl Utopia

There are Barn Owl photos...and then...

Check these out.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Deep South (6)

It would soon be time to head north, way north, in search of a species that I'd  not really had a decent shot at in all my visits to the States. A common bird (code 1) but it just hadn't fitted in with my holidays which had been Spring and Summer and mainly southern based. Any ideas? More in the next post.

I would be returning to Florida in the latter part of our trip to target some highly desired species that hadn't arrived yet. I'd also be re-visiting...

...for my number one target.

Here are a few more pics from this superb reserve...

Green Heron

Brown Pelican
It's wasn't ALL about birds! There's some pretty smart animals about as well...

The middle third of our holiday was mainly sightseeing. I WILL give a brief summary. You may...or may not, be interested. If it's the latter you can always hit the little x at the top right of your screen!

Sunday, 23 November 2014

For the good of the bird/species...or science?

I've started to put together a few bits for my Arizona trip next summer. One such site is a facebook page called surprisingly Arizona birding!. There's a lively debate on there at the moment regarding the marking of ducks. You might care to take a look...and form an opinion...I have!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Find your own...

Tried to make the most of the daylight and was out of the house by 7.30. In the interests of "mop up" I decided to do a seawatch from Easington which meant I could exercise my 4 legged friend as well as hopefully cross off a few belated Spurn year ticks.

The first bird that past was a superb male Eider heading south (S.123). Then a long overdue Red-throated Diver (S.124) was found on the sea, several others passed south. Going well.

Next it was down to Spurn. My target was Snow Bunting. A few had been reported over the previous week but I didn't have a particular spot to focus on, so I just walked south along the beach from the car park. Just as I was setting off I noticed this Goldeneye on the Borrow Pit...

I left junior in the car as pooches are understandably not welcome on the reserve. I'd gone about three quarters of the way to the seawatching hut when I bumped into a couple of birders and I asked them if they'd seen any. They hadn't, so after a chat I carried on. I had all day, which was obviously nice...and relaxing, so I hung around for a while hoping I might catch a glimpse of one/some. Three more Eiders flew over the peninsular from the Humber and out to sea...

jizz test!
A Stonechat entertained on the nearby fence...

Still no luck with the SB. I turned and headed for the car park. Then I heard a familiar musical trill. Out of nowhere...a Snow Bunting (S.125) flew over the dunes and landed right in front of me! It had taken 90 minutes.

It was then joined by a second bird and they proceeded to feed actively amongst the grasses.

No apologies for a few pics...

OK, maybe just one more...

Shame about the twig BUT what a cracking bird!
Love these birds, full of character, bold and cute!

I then drove down to the Crown and Anchor. It was noticeable that large numbers of Blackbirds were present...with many resting in the bushes, obviously exhausted...

I then saw at least 30 drop out of the sky into the car park bushes! Great to witness this spectacle. The controversial Redstart was still present but I didn't return after seeing it well yesterday.

I spent what was left of the daylight looking for Raptors/ Owls down at Sunk Island. The best I could manage was this distant Buzzard...

On the way home I came across a large flock of Fieldfare, at least 300...

..and that, was that!