Friday, 30 January 2015

Sad Day

Attended Pete's funeral on Thursday morning. Bit of a rush as I had to be back at With' for work at 2. I wasn't going to miss paying my respects to a great bloke though. It was well attended and my pal Tony Dixon also made it. As well as knowing him as a birder they also worked together when Pete lived in Brid' before he returned to the Valley in 2002. I won't forget him.

I'd left early to enable me an hour at Duff to look for the GW Teal. No joy but the cc Marsh Harrier was nice. I also added Snipe and Long-tailed Tit (NDC 50).

An hour down the cliff this morning produced my first Red-throated Diver (H.23) of the year. Bud managed to flush a Moorhen (H.24) from the drinking pool!

Still planning the year but it's difficult with uncertainty regarding my hip...haven't mentioned it for a while to be fair!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Chink of light

Driving back home after work when a Tawny Owl flew across Seaside lane in the car headlights. They've been very vocal this past week. Another sign of Spring.

Having said that the "real feel" temp for Saturday is forecast at -10!!

Monday, 26 January 2015

Spring in the air?

Collared Doves and Wood Pigeons displaying...Herring Gulls squabbling noisily on chimney stacks...

Things looking up...

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Green-winged Teal

Had a brief run down to Spurn with Louise and Bud. Couldn't find the Black Redstart but the Whooper was close to the road on Easington straight...

Interesting (at least to me!) that this lone bird seems quite content with the Mute's at this location. Usually found in groups...maybe it got dis-orientated. Hope it re-locates in the Spring.

Just read Andy Walker's blog revealing he had the Green-winged Teal at NDC this afternoon. Bit of a sickener as I was tied up today otherwise I planned to go myself. I'm still trying to convince myself it wasn't there on Thursday! Maybe I should have scanned more closely. Hope it hangs around a while?

Just discovered a chap's doing a BIG YEAR. Lower 48 (states) so no Alaska. He's already over 300! I'll be following his travels, maybe you'd like to too?

Friday, 23 January 2015

A day out and about

Thursday started with a walk along the cliff at Easington looking for the Black Redstart (P.60, S.44). I made my way north and found it on the rocks below the cliff. It was joined by a Stonechat (P.61, S.45). Both disappeared within a minute and I couldn't relocate them in the next 30 minutes?

Next to Sproatley to see if the Buzzard I'd seen from the Bus on the last couple of days was still in the area. It was...

Next it was west to Swinefleet to look for the Bewick's Swans that had been in the area for a while. Rare birds in Yorkshire these days. It took me a good 20 minutes to locate them in the vast flatness but eventually I spotted them...large white things! A minor road allowed me decent views...

Great birds...

Final destination...the old stomping (or should it be sitting) ground. I arrived at NDC at 2pm and after giving Bud a stretch I made my way to the hide. My luck was in as above the hide door were 5 Bullfinches. Always a grand sight...

A pleasant couple of hours was had amassing a modest 36 species. Highlights were 9 Ruff, c50 Whooper Swans, c40 Pintail, Peregrine and Buzzard. No sign of the reported Stonechats.

I will return...

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Pete Piringer

A decent day Birding became meaningless this evening as I received a phone call from Pete's wife informing me that he had sadly passed away.

I first met Pete at Wheldrake Ings in 1986 shortly after I moved to the York area. The LDV (Lower Derwent Valley) was his first love even when he moved to Bridlington in the 90's. I used to regularly see him at Wheldrake Ings when I lived at Wilberfoss. We spent many happy hours in the tower hide. He bought a house in Thorganby some years ago, returning to the area he loved the most.

I still used to see him when I moved to North Duffield in 2003, but not as often. I knew he'd been ill for quite a while but he never dwelt on it. I used to pass him cycling to work in all weathers as I to made my way to earn a crust.

Pete was a superb birder with a quick eye. He was the first person to pick up the CLIFF SWALLOW as we stood by the caravan park at Spurn on 23rd October 1995. I also met him on Scilly a couple of times. He was keen to try and photograph some of the rare birds he'd seen previously.

He was a great story teller with an amazing memory for dates. I shall miss him.

A very sad day...

Monday, 19 January 2015

Slow to settle

Weekend away and poor weather meant little quality Birding. Listing software issues as well. All boring stuff so I won't dwell.

Determined to record on Birdtrack this year. I'm also hoping to make it to Duff on Thursday. I might even get lucky with the Hen Harrier that's been lingering in the Valley?

It would be my 150th species for the site.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

ABA updates

I'll make this brief!

Over the past few years the AOU like the BOU have split certain species. Bubo haven't updated their ABA list so I can't add these additions to my list BUT I can mention them here...for those of you that are interested of course.

The first is HAWAIIAN PETREL. I saw this bird on the August 8th 2008 whilst on a pelagic out of Fort Bragg ran by Debbie may have heard of her? Steve Howell another well known author of several bird books was the main guide. Nice bloke, born in Wales! I've dug out a record shot from my archives...quite chuffed with that after 6 years! This was fortunately taken during a lull in my sea-sickness...

A distant view of a true MEGA!
ABA 668

...and now the splits...

Sage Sparrow has become Sagebrush and Bell's...the dark coastal form belli was fortunately seen well by yours truly on the same trip. Sagebrush is breeds throughout the Great Basin.

ABA 669

Clapper Rail has become Ridgeway Rail in the West (California, Nevada, Arizona).

ABA 670

As far as I'm aware that's it regarding listing ...for now. I'd love to reach 700. There are obviously lots of variables here...including visits, money, longevity amongst others. I hope to visit again soon...

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Deep South (9)...and Finally!

Two days then.

ANTILLEAN NIGHTHAWK was my first target. I had a number of sites lined up, ...Key West and Marathon Airports being the main ones. I tried on 5 occasions, obviously at dawn and dusk. I bumped into the tour groups on more than one occasion. First two joy.

I then tried Key West Airport at dawn. I was on my tod this time. The sun was threatening to break the horizon...then, there it was shooting across the tarmac...pity-pit-pit...the diagnostic call! Again a massive relief. I tried on a further two occasions but this was my only sighting.

ABA 665

Key West is a fascinating place, full of character...and characters!

Key West Rooster...can't tick this one!

We spent quite a bit of time at Fort Zachary Taylor S.P.  This park has a superb track record for turning up rarities. I was still hopeful! Pretty  dry as you can see by this trail. Also )and most important) Louise was happy reading her novel under the palm trees by the ocean!

I check the internet daily for the latest news and on our penultimate evening things got interesting. A BAHAMA MOCKINGBIRD had been reported...guess where...yep...Fort Zachary. Next morning after another failed attempt for further views of the NIGHTHAWK we made our way to FZ and set our stall up under the trees. No sign of the bird or any birders (which was surprising considering the number of tour groups in the area). Some on there way surely. It's not a MEGA Stateside, being more or less annual in Florida BUT it was obviously a BIG deal for me.

By lunchtime it was HOT and it was time for a drink. As I crossed the car park I saw 2 birders sat in the back of their truck. I walked over and asked if they knew about the BM. "Yes", one of them said, "we've just seen it!!!" I think they guessed I'd like to see it and they kindly offered to walk back with me to where they'd "had it", which was pretty impressive (and kind) considering the temperature.

5 minutes later I was looking at my ABA 666...

I was elated to see this bird, another rarity and therefore a bonus for the trip. I thanked them both for there help. It was later to transpire that they were tour group leaders from North-East Florida, namely David Hartgrove and Gallus Quigley. Thanks chaps.

There were also some commoner species around the park. To think I travelled to Rum to see this one, slightly different circumstance granted...

A tad closer...

Mourning Dove
...and another special bird...the spectacular White-crowned Pigeon...

who says pigeons are boring?
David and Gallus gave me a good lead for my final target BLACK-WHISKERED VIREO. My previous trip to Florida in 2009 was slightly earlier in April and this species hadn't arrived in force. I was hoping/praying that May 2nd would pay dividends. As we arrived at the site I noticed several other birders and cars. Guess who was there...yep David and Gallus with their group (15). They told me they'd been looking for MANGROVE CUCKOO since dawn. I'd been lucky.

I could hear BWV almost immediately. At least 4 birds singing. Things looked good. Difficult to see and photograph as they stayed deep in the mangroves and were constantly on the move in the increasing heat and humidity. Eventually I managed a photo...

Black-Whiskered Vireo
ABA 667

So, success. All my 6 targets achieved PLUS 3 bonus Rarities.

We'd had a fantastic holiday. Never had a bad one yet in the States. Great weather, sights, food, drink and of course birds. All possible thanks to my wonderful partner...she enjoyed it as well!

On the way back to the airport in Miami we stopped off to try and get a glimpse of the localised Key West Deer. We got lucky to say it was the 11am...

Now that IS Cute!
That's it then. Only took me 9 months! Hope you enjoyed at least some of it? I'm going to stay on the ABA front this week as I have day shifts. Next I'm going to do a (brief) summary of my list, I have a few armchair ticks to add plus a look at future possible additions. Be nice to reach 700 before I peg out. Not bad for spring and summer holidays. I must do a winter trip one time...if I can convince Louise to go.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Deep South (8)

I'm going to try and tie things up with this post as it's ran on far to long.

Now where was I?

Nashville, Tennessee. Bit touristy this may wish to move on?

Some pretty cool trucks on the freeway...

Nashville is world famous for it's Country music and there are plenty of bands still playing for tourists in the historic district...

The King had reached here too...Elvis that is!

Then onto Memphis and his home...

Fantastic Blues guitarists...

and then onto New Orleans...

If you ever get the chance to visit the States...DO won't regret it. It was simply a breathtaking and unforgettable 10 days in the middle of our tour. Would've been rude not to!

We worked our way back to Florida along the Gulf Coast arriving back at Fort Myers on April 28th. I'd already looked for "the Cuckoo" for at least 20 hours (Louise brought plenty of novels!)...

Does she look bored?
I tried again. Back to Ding Darling, my number one site. I took the Wildlife drive one more time. I was first there, so it was obviously quiet...ideal. It's a fantastic spot with plenty to look at/for. I scanned the Mangroves yet again. It can be a daunting task, there are lots of them and not many Cuckoos!!

Then a movement, surely not, after all this time? There it was!!!

Pleased with this backlit image in the early morning light

You may already know that this is a VERY difficult bird to find, more so to actually SEE. I was euphoric. This was the numero uno target and my time was running! No apologies for another as it moved slightly closer...

What a cracker!
I bumped into three tour groups in the next few days and NONE of them had seen this bird. It was in view and calling for about a minute, then it was gone.


Time to move on. Next stop Key West.

We were booked on the Yankee Freedom bound for the Dry Tortugas on the 30th. I'd chosen this date as some Birding tour companies would also be on the boat, hopefully increasing my chances of seeing my target bird...AUDUBON'S SHEARWATER. I'd also been in touch with a couple of boatmen but nothing had come of it, so this was my only chance. It was a slim one as one of the tour leaders informed me that he'd never seen it from the YF in ten years of visits. He reckoned the boat moved too fast...22 knots.

Anyway, we boarded in the already almost unbearable heat and humidity and I found a suitable spot up top. Louise sensibly stayed inside with the A/C, food and drink!

Not a cloud in sight as we left the harbour. The boat did shift but it's a big vessel and it was possible to scan comfortably. I reckon there were at least 50 birders scanning from the front of the boat. Being honest there wasn't much to keep us interested. I reckon we'd been going an hour or so when I noticed a movement starboard (technical stuff) or to the right! I couldn't believe my luck. There hurtling along the side of the boat was an AUDUBON'S SHEARWATER! Tremendous!

I shouted to the others allowing most if not all to get on the bird. I can't tell you the relief I felt at adding this bird to my ABA list during my one and only shot at it. This was my 664.

I could relax now and enjoy the day on the could Louise!

As we approached we were taken close to the Masked Booby colony on Hospital Key...the only one in the ABA area.

Fortunately one flew past the boat giving me a closer look...

Magnificent Frigatebirds breed here on Fort Jefferson...

Awesome birds...

Other special birds here include breeding Sooty Tern...

and Brown Noddy...

There's sometimes a rare Black Noddy with them. Despite extensive scanning by yours truly and the others, none were found.

That's enough. Failed with the tie up. Never mind. Tomorrow I'll conclude the trip report. I still had 2 ABA lifers to try for and maybe a rarity if I hadn't used up all my luck? Both are exclusive breeders to Florida. I didn't intend to re-visit this State (although you should never say never) so I was keen to try and notch them. I had 2 days.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Wildfowl additions

Braved the still blustery conditions this morning with a dog walk on the beach at Spurn. Even managed to get "The Boss" out!

Bud moving well...

Not much about in the adverse conditions BUT there's always the chance of something...

Greylags (P.52) in the triangle, hunkered down, out of the wind.

On our way home I decided to check out the Swans on Easington straight, more in hope than expectation. Glad I did...

...a single Whooper (P.53)

Saturday, 10 January 2015

A few more...

Bit breezy this morning. I'm not as slender as I once was but I was still struggling to keep on my feet at times. I was on the floodbank at Skeffling mind you. Strongest wind I'd experienced for a long time. After the initial dog relief session I must admit I returned to the shelter of the car. I was contemplating the next move and cursing the atrocious weather when my mood changed instantly...


Chuffed to get a record shot as I could hardly hold the camera still. The bird was around 100yds away and drifted off towards Sammy's Point. I didn't see it again.

Always interesting to see animal behaviour. I kept noticing clods of earth in the middle of fields...

Early I know, but are they claiming territory?

A combination of increasing wind strength (which took some doing) and still failing energy (very irritating) meant I ended up falling asleep in the car listening to the footy. I MUST still be a bit under the weather!

Total up to 51.

Friday, 9 January 2015

46 to start

A few hours out and about produced a modest 46 species without much effort. I prefer a slow good mopping all the Winter stuff up too soon! Still struggling to shake the flu off. Must be my age!

I managed to locate the female Scaup albeit distantly through the gloom at Beacon Ponds...

Around 10 Goldeneye present plus 8 Little Grebe's. After much exercise for the boy...

...I noticed a Little Egret as I was leaving. Then to my surprise it was joined by a Greenshank...

Not that unusual as it seems that one or two regularly winter here. Still, a bonus bird. The weather was gloomy which meant it was going dark by 3 so I headed home. As always I hoped for an Owl sighting...I got one...

The above photo is deceptive as it was very dark by now. It never ceases to amaze me how well these modern cameras can perform.

It then moved slightly closer...

Just a reminder that my lists can be seen by clicking the tabs at the top of the page. You might be THAT bored...sometime?

Wednesday, 7 January 2015


...time to get cracking...

Strategy simple. Select sites and visit regularly and record. Clever stuff!?

Hard part for me...sticking to it!!

Spurn...of course, with particular focus on Beacon Ponds/Kilnsea Wetlands.
Snakey lane
Welwick Marsh
Patrington Haven
Sunk Island
...and Duff

Starts tomorrow...

There might also (hopefully) be a few mad dashes nationwide. Last year's highlight might take some beating though...

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Year Review

Not too long-winded! Not my style.

I managed to add...


To my British list.

Yorkshire ticks came in the form of...

Black Scoter
Masked Shrike
Eastern-crowned Warbler
Blyth's Pipit
Little Bustard

Heartache...there had to be some...

CRAG MARTIN - The morning of our holiday departure for Florida! I thought about trying at dawn but reaching Manchester for 10.30am would have been pushing it a bit! I was working the previous day.

My holiday dip list is very impressive!!

FEA'S PETREL? - Question mark because some of the Young Guns twitched it in Northumberland after seeing the MASKED SHRIKE at Spurn !!! Never considered it...I will next time...if there is one! Can you tick it though? Only jealous!

The medicine has to be taken sometimes.

Oh and a LANCEOLATED WARBLER was reported from Bempton. I'll nail it one day.

The BLACKPOLL WARBLER found by Mick Turton was VERY notable. I might even find something decent at the back of my place?

Local totals...

Patch - 164...adding MASKED SHRIKE. Life total (over 27 years!) 268.
Holmpton - 109. I added Brent Goose, Osprey, Water Rail, Spotted Flycatcher, Brambling bringing my Life total to a (very) modest 138. I've only been here 2 years!
Spurn - concerted effort made. Just dipped in now and again.
Duff - 41...must do better. More visits might help!

This Year? More on that tomorrow...

Saturday, 3 January 2015

All change

Solid block of shifts till Wednesday...BUT...SIX days off after that! So, I guess my birding in 2015 starts in earnest next Thursday.

After the wonderful and surprising end to 2014 a period of reflection wouldn't go amiss. Glad I didn't follow up my fanciful and extravagant thoughts of a New Year break. A change of luck at last.

Some final totting up to do for the year totals...then some decisions to be made regarding strategy for 2015. Not quite sure what that might be yet but I've got a pretty good idea. I'm determined to try some new approaches to my Birding...and stick with it throughout the year.

I haven't forgotten about my Florida write up. I'll try and conclude it in the next few days. Most of the action took place towards the end of the trip.

Whatever plans you have for your Birding year...I hope it's an enjoyable and rewarding one...

I'll finish with a record shot of the LITTLE BUSTARD in flight, taken by Tony Dixon who relocated the bird after the initial find by Kevin Barnard. He took it through his bins as insurance, as he wasn't to know if it was disappearing for good...

Wish I'd have seen it in flight.

Thursday, 1 January 2015


The last day of the year started with a trip to Tesco...marvelous! It got better though...much better!

As I returned towards Holmpton with the provisions a Little Egret (H.109) flew over the road and appeared to land in a nearby ditch. After dropping the provisions off I gave Gavin a text and returned to look for it. Gavin's text informed me that he was just passing the Sewage!

After parking up we walked North towards the ditch. No sign.

Luckily, there's a public footpath that runs along the ditch so we gave it a go. 5 minutes later we were both enjoying this...

A few minutes later we were looking at TWO.

Over the past few months Phil had seen a single bird in and around the Sewage but I'd succeeded in missing it. Pleased to catch up with this species on the last day of the year.

We then checked out a few local spots and ended up on the clifftop.

A message..."probably LITTLE BUSTARD 2mls SSW of Bridlington at Wilsthorpe then flew South"

The usual cynical jokes were (unfortunately) shared. Too much to drink, early New Year celebrations, late Turkey?

My youngest was arriving at 3(ish)...and the thought of a trip to Brid' never crossed my mind...although I did have the slightly unsettling thought about the sighting in East Suffolk? We didn't see anything of note and we'd reached our cars when...another message at 11.43...This time the slow drip...surely not?

"MEGA E.Yorks LITTLE BUSTARD 2mls SSW of Bridlington again in flight 11.07am 1 mile South Wilsthorpe + just south of Wilsthorpe Farm"

My Word!!!

I asked Gavin if he was up for it but he had plans. I had 4 hours and I was OFF...

After an initial Sat Nav issue which took me up a dead end, I arrived on site around 12.15 thanks to a call to RBA. I estimated around 50 birders present. Quite a few familiar faces were about. It was obvious the bird was present and showing in the chosen field...cue relief!

I was soon enjoying cracking views of this tremendous bird through Tony Dixon's 'scope. What a fantastic occurrence. I'm old enough to have seen the Lizard bird of Oct '96 but this in no way dilutes the moment...besides, it's a Yorkshire tick!

A wonderful end to 2014.

Happy (Bird-filled) New Year!