Monday, 29 February 2016

A Yorkshire day out

I was tempted away from my Patch again today in the quest for some quality County birds.

First stop was Silkstone near Barnsley. My second attempt for that jewel of a bird...Firecrest. After managing to get a push from another birder after getting my car stuck in mud (not the first time) I made my way to the rear of the sewage works to join the small group of hopefuls. The next couple of hours had a familiar ring. Lots of woodland birds but no Firecrest. Most Birders had left, there was just yours truly and a nice chap from Leeds.

He then found a bird I haven't seen for a good while. Nuthatch...

Love the spotted undercarriage...

As we made our way back to his car I had another scan. Another Goldcrest? No, this time...FIRECREST! Perseverance pays off.

There it was, hopping around in some dense undergrowth. The light was very poor and the bird was very active but I managed a record shot...

My fellow birder couldn't get on it so I helped him and after a couple of minutes he "had" it. Then it was gone. He kindly gave me a lift to my car which was parked well away from the mud! We shared a good few stories about the Pyrenees. It was only when he asked to look at my photo that amongst all the rubbish I noticed this...

He was amazed to see a Firecrest flight was I! No award winner but worth showing you I feel.

Nice chap.

Next stop...Fairburn Ings. Another second attempt. This time for Drake Smew. Another jewel. I had an initial scan from the cut but it's a BIG lake. The trusty trinnies picked out plenty of Goosanders and Goldeneye but no "White Nun". I came across a Birder from Donny at one of the viewpoints. He'd been there 2 hours with no sightings. It had been reported on the pager around 11? After having a chat with him I made my way down to the bridge and sat on a bench. More scanning.

It's amazing what you can pick out sometimes just with binoculars. As I scanned beyond the central island I could see a tiny white speck moving around just clear of the line of bushes. The camera comes in handy on these occasions as once the image is zoomed you can see what it is...usually? My telescope would have been even handier!!

So, conclusive evidence. There it was.

I walked back to inform the other birder and he had a scope. Within 5 minutes we'd both had decent if very distant views of the star bird.

This was the best I could manage at c400 yards...

Then it was gone.

Final stop Blacktoft Sands. A report of a LEO (Long-eared Owl) had come on the pager. Also, 2 chaps who'd had a look at the Smew had just come from there and said it was close to the path. There we go then.

I arrived around 3 and immediately saw the cordoned off area on the way to Ousefleet hide. There was one chap stood there...the Birder from Donny!

Alas he couldn't find it...neither could I. I have to admit at this point the word "flushed" crossed my mind. Fifteen minutes passed, we checked the adjacent bushes but no sign. Then another birder approached from the Ousefleet hide and said it was there when he passed earlier?

Well, after a good 5 minutes he got both of us "on it"...

It just wouldn't turn it's head.

An excellent day.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Pecker on my Nuts!

I only have a small yard at the back of the Cottage but I get a decent assortment of species paying a visit. Recently I had a decent group of Long-tailed tits on the fat balls. Tree Sparrows are regular. This morning I had a surprise visitor. I'd just put my stuff in the car.

Luckily he was still present when I got back. It came out decent to say it was through the double-glazing...

Friday, 26 February 2016

A hint of Spring?

Had a constitutional between Kilnsea Wetlands and Beacon Ponds this morning. It was cold (4c) but very still...which made it feel warmer? Anyway, I enjoyed the mosey to the hide were I was greeted with an uplifting sight...

Avocet P.94, S.59
There were 2 birds present. They had been reported previously but this was my first sighting of the year of this graceful if aggressive species. A good start. An amusing incident followed when a group of Brents circled in and landed right by the Avocets. They seemed overwhelmed for a few moments before slowly striding away.

Beacon Ponds next.

VERY quiet I'm afraid. Bud always heads for the water down the ramp but I point out his mistake to him...not before he flushes a Greenshank however from the near bank. Would I have seen it?

It landed on the far side...

Dare I say there was a hint of Spring in the air? The singing Skylarks help...

Thursday, 25 February 2016

FLYING SCOTSMAN - the inaugural run

Could I get it right?

Where to go?

I narrowed it down to 3 sites. Google Earth is a brilliant resource and helped me decide on these three possible vantage points. Which one though?

I set off around 9 and after battling through Hull I was heading for the A19 along the M62. On the journey I'd already scrapped one of the potential sites! I decided to turn North up the A19. I made a right at Chapel Haddlesey and headed for the railway. I fancied the bridge over the River Aire but it had very high sides so it was rejected. I was also conscious of walking distances. I was heading back under the bridge when I noticed a farm track parallel to the line, so I took it. I reckon it stretched for around half-a-mile. Even better, there was a small tunnel under the line that put me on the "right" side.

The down side was I was looking directly South into the sun. Still it was only 10.30.

Was this the spot then? Looked good with a panoramic view and a raised aspect. Plus, Buddy loved the exercise! I kept thinking of my third site however? The FS was due around 12 so I still had time to choose site 3. The sun was bothering me (not often I say that). I had a decision to make...soon.

I decided to set off for site 3 which was near Asham Bryan. As I left I had a panoramic view of site 2. It was that good I changed my mind, turned around and headed back!!

So that's it. Decision made...eventually.

It was clear but cold. I practiced on the modern versions...

12 came and went. 12.30 still no sign?

Somethings up me thinks?

Helicopters (3) started to circle. Hey up...

TV companies in the know.

Then...there he was...

The site had an extensive view and I reckon it was a good half-a-mile away on this pic. It was probably going in the region of 70mph so I needed to be on my toes...after a good wait. The next image I like as it gives a flavour of the atmosphere...

I reckon I could see at least a hundred people scattered about the area. Times that from London to York!!! This isn't every ones cup of tea (obviously) BUT at least it's a NICE occasion, which makes a refreshing change.

Closer it came...

The classic making the modern wait...too right!

Getting close now and moving...

Hope I don't cock it up?

Here he comes...

I'm liking the dark sky after all! was gone.

It works for me. I don't mind admitting it brought a tear to my eye. A steam train rattling along the railways of Britain is a fine sight indeed...

Monday, 22 February 2016

Texas Targets

16 days to go!

Planning now is at an advanced stage but it's a movable feast due to ever changing targets. I'm hoping to catch some late wintering species as well as the rarities that are present at the moment. I should also connect with some early Warbler gems. I'll definitely be re-acquainting with the exquisite Yellow-throated, which is thankfully an early migrant...

The internet has blown the Birding wide open with TexbirdsTexas RBATexas Chase Birds and Lower Rio Grande Valley hotline amongst others!!

It's almost like being there already.

Then there's that wonderful resource eBird. You can search for sightings of a particular species to see how recently it's been seen or look at historic records to give you an idea of previous occurrences. You can also search a specific site to see what might be expected there. Great fun!

Below is a list of my things stand as of today...

ABA Lifers

Texas ticks
Common Merganser 
Golden Eagle
Broad-billed Hummingbird
Anna's Hummingbird
Sage Thrasher
Rough-legged Hawk
American Woodcock
Greater Pewee
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Short-eared Owl 
Anna's Hummingbird
Hammonds Flycatcher
Pacific-slope Flycatcher
Lapland Longspur
Chestnut-collared Longspur
McCown's Longspur
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Fox Sparrow
Purple Finch
Cassin’s Finch

Red Crossbill

There are also a couple of excellent rarities present that I have already seen on previous trips...

White-throated Thrush (3 birds present!)
Crimson-collared Grosbeak (3 birds present!)

Plenty to go at. I'm also hoping something else is going to show up. There's an excellent chance of that. I'll be exploring many parts of this vast State. Well as many as Louise will allow me to...I'll have to keep her well supplied with these...

I hope to post on a regular basis and I also hope I can provide some entertainment for you...

Friday, 19 February 2016

Slooow Birding

Quiet time of year but...must keep looking!

Yesterday I made the trip to Fairburn Ings to look for one of my favourites. A male Smew. I tried the west end first along Lindyke were it had been seen previously. I bumped into another birder who informed me he hadn't seen it/them (there are 2 redheads present also). I continued under the bridge by the river to check out another couple of ponds but no joy. The Little Egret was nice though... on the pager. They'd been seen in Village Bay! On arrival there were a few looking out over the large expanse of water....but no Smew. I decided to set my stall out at the lookout at the southern end of the bay. It was a great view if distant. There were plenty of Goosanders present, great birds, which are always nice to see.

There was an element of Spring in the air...a poor digiscoped effort, but worth sharing I feel...

An hour had passed and still no sign. It was obvious that there were plenty of birds hidden in the bushes on the central island, at least 50 Goosanders amongst them. Then my luck changed albeit briefly as a redhead Smew emerged from the vegetation...

Another poor effort but proof of existence!  I never did see the Drake...

This morning I had some exercise at Kilnsea Wetlands/Beacon Ponds. Nothing of note was seen but it was a wonderful morning with clear blue skies. I also had a look along the canal. Workmen are still doing flood defence improvements. I was hoping to add Coot to my patch year list (exciting stuff) but none had turned up yet.

On my way home for lunch I checked out the Tundra Bean Goose on Easington straight. It was still associating with the 3 Pinkfeet.

A rather nice bonus was the 2 adjacent Whoopers...

Monday, 15 February 2016

Texas 10

Nothing to report locally of late.

Thoughts are now inevitably starting to turn to my beloved Texas. This will be my tenth trip! I make this statement not to brag but to remind myself how fortunate I've been to visit this Birding Mecca so many times. I made 6 trips from 2000 before I got together with Louise in 2006. We've been 3 times, last in 2013. This years trip will be 9th - 30th March. Have to be back for the Op earl April. Thing is I could be laid up for quite a while so I intend to make the most of it!!

Again apologies for repetition in advance.

Birders travel the World with ease these days in search of specific species or mega numbers. I'm happy to have specific areas to enjoy and list build...oh...and to have a great time of course. Texas is my number one venue for Birding in the States.

I've managed to accrue a list of 444 species for Texas. The State list stands at an incredible plenty still to go at! All my visits have been in Springtime (March/April) but I've been to all parts and believe me it's a BIG State. I think I'll give the Hurricane season a miss! The lack of daylight in winter isn't attractive either BUT I would consider a visit if I could persuade would be better than here. Fortunately there's always something new to see as well as enjoying the resident species. I also hope to catch the start of the migration.

Below is the eBird Rare Bird Alert for the States 14th Feb...

Barnacle Goose (19 Pennsylvania)
Tufted Duck (1 British Columbia, 3 New York, 2 Newfoundland and Labrador, 2 Vermont, 1 Washington)
American Flamingo (3 Florida)
Brown Booby (3 California, 1 Louisiana)
Northern Jacana (4 Texas)
Ruff (2 California)
Slaty-backed Gull (1 Alaska, 1 Washington)
Ruddy Ground-Dove (1 Arizona)
Aplomado Falcon (2 Texas)
White-throated Thrush (6 Texas)
Rufous-backed Robin (1 Arizona)
Tropical Parula (2 Texas)
White-collared Seedeater (1 Texas)
Crimson-collared Grosbeak (4 Texas)
Blue Bunting (3 Texas)
Streak-backed Oriole (2 Arizona)
Brambling (1 Ohio)

Texas doing well!

That will do for now. I'll post some more detail in the coming weeks...

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Out of Bounds

I left the Patch today...traitor!

I had my reasons. A visit to Castle Hill hospital this afternoon was the crux of it. So, it was up to Barmston for a look for the 4w Kumlien's Gull. I thought it had moved on but a report yesterday suggested otherwise. Besides it was an excellent opportunity for "dog on beach".

After scanning from the caravan park we moved North up the beach. I picked up a decent skein of Pinkfeet out over the sea...

There were 3 groups of gulls along the beach about 50yds apart. There were plenty of gulls moving over the sea but I couldn't find my quarry. I DID however find an adult Med' Gull.

It was noon by now so I started to head for Hull. News then came over the pager of 2 good ducks at North Cave G.P. I had 3 hours. Lets give it a go!

I arrived at 12.50 and made my way to the main lake and parked. I entered the (surprisingly) empty hide? Have to admit, it was nice and peaceful. I started to search. Most of the wildfowl was very distant ( a typical scenario) so I went back to the car for the 'scope. After around 15 minutes I found the redhead Smew at the far left by the reeds...

There were LOTS of Teal! I was looking for one with a white vertical line across side of breast. There were a few in the water but most were on the far bank...even further away! Eventually I found it...

Bottom right
I still had around 15 minutes so I tried a few pics through the 'scope. I rarely digiscope but I tried a few settings and managed a half-decent shot considering the distance (c80yds)

As I was leaving Paul Herrivien was arriving with his young lad who soon got bored of the adult chat, so we didn't get chance to talk for long. Maybe next time Paul...

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Late show

Exciting day waiting for the septic tank man which included trying to find the correct grid beneath the gravel. Great fun. I'll leave it there!

I did manage half an hour down Snakey late afternoon were I was rewarded with 2 Barn Owls hunting together A fine sight. The show included both birds hunting right by the ditch in the road. On one occasion one of them pounced right by the stationary car, I could hear the crunch!

A few images in poor light (that's a given).

Owls are the best!

I saw 84 species on my latest Cyprus trip and increased my Life list to 166. I've booked for 3 weeks next March for some migration action.

Early start tomorrow as I travel down to London for my pre-Op medical...

Monday, 8 February 2016


Returned to North Duffield Carrs today...thought the Great Skua might pop didn't! When I left Holmpton it was lovely, when I reached the Carrs it was awful and stayed that way.

As I opened the flap on the Geoff Smith hide I was amazed to see so many Mute Swans...

..I counted 62. The reason became clear shortly afterwards as they were observed eating Bulrushes. They would nibble the heads, dip them in the water, then swallow the seeds. I've never seen this behaviour before.

Eventually I managed to find a couple of Whoopers amongst them...

A rare digi-scoped shot lol
The chap next to me then picked out a redhead Smew on Bubwith Ings...nice 1. Frustrating for yours truly as it wasn't on no tick! It would have been my 150th!! I've had this situation before with a Green-winged Teal. Guess it depends on your parameters. Is your recording area fixed by a boundary or is it as far as you can see from it? Mine is the former.

Never mind.

I did record my second Treecreeper for the Carrs ( first 10/12/05) a while later. A familiar face then arrived Karl Dutton. Always nice to see him. We shared "war wound" stories briefly. He also told me about his fantastic trip to Spitzbergen.

I left around 3 as the weather got even worse...if that were possible.

35 species recorded.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Local additions

Haven't had time to compile my numbers from Cyprus yet. Hope you're not too disappointed!

Cold wind here today, so my exploits were pretty feeble to be honest. The morning exercise for Bud found us down at Spurn. On the way down I noticed the goose flock was present (no sign yesterday afternoon). Would have been rude not to stop.

Glad I did. After a few minutes I picked out a couple of geese that were separate from the main flock of Greylags that looked "different". I only had my bins and camera and the birds were a good 100 yards away. The 2 birds were also lay down not feeding like the GG. I decided to give them some time. After a while they both started to feed and luckily they were the nearest two birds.

It was an excellent opportunity to compare similar species...

Tundra Bean Goose (right) with Pink-footed Goose
Mid-afternoon I spent an hour sea-watching from Easington Gas Terminal. Again, only had the bins (lazy). Encouragingly there was some movement. There was a steady stream of Auks moving North, some (handily) pretty close. Most were Guillemots (P.91, S.56) BUT I managed to spot a couple of Razorbills (P92, S.57) close in. My main target was Gannet (P.93, S.58) and eventually I found one way out near the rigs.

It's amazing what you can see through the Trinnies!

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Cyprus - summary


Well, I've tried both ends of the island. Thing is, it's not just about birds. We've reached a stage in our lives were Winter sun is definitely high on the agenda. We tried Mallorca last March and really enjoyed it. It's a beautiful island. On Cyprus this time we were blessed with great weather and an average of 15c. In December we were also blessed with great weather during our Paphos break, averaging 18c. This trip started fresh (12c) but each subsequent day got warmer and we ended up with 20c. All better than here!

On reflection I'd say that the east of the island has better water sites and migrant potential. The west of the island is better for keeping your partner happy and the Birding's still good! Don't get me wrong Louise never complained but did comment on the lack of scenery around Larnaca and Limossol ...and I agree. It's very industrial.

Cyprus has an excellent (and quiet) motorway. It's possible to drive from Paphos to Larnaca in an hour and a half with an extra 30 mins to Cape Greco. Paphos to Akrotiri being a mere 45 minutes.

We've decided to make this island our base for winter trips in the future. There are excellent connections at reasonable prices through Ryanair and Easyjet as well as some superb deals on "out-of-season" hotels. It's also approx' 4c warmer than Mallorca on average at any comparable date. I also like the idea of connecting with a few eastern birds that Mallorca doesn't get


Really enjoyed it to say it was winter with no movement. As already stated the idea of these 2 mini-breaks was weather inspired rather than bird. It would obviously be more rewarding to visit in late March/April with all the migrants streaming through. These days I prefer to be in Britain at this time of year to be ready for our "MEGAS". I've missed too many in the past!

There's plenty to keep you busy as well as the chance of a few rarities. Present on the island during my visits were:-

Ruddy Shelduck
Ferruginous Duck
Pied Kingfisher
Griffon Vulture
Spur-winged Plover
Finsch's Wheatear
Greater Sand Plover
Slender-billed Gull
Moustached Warbler
Spectacled Warbler
Spanish Sparrow

Also present but not seen:-

White-breasted Kingfisher
Trumpeter Finch
Rock Sparrow

That's it for this year but an extended visit in March next year could well be on the cards. I'll crunch a few numbers tomorrow...

Friday, 5 February 2016

Great Skua at Wheldrake Ings

I'd seen the report on the pager at 1pm yesterday. It didn't give much detail however...had it stuck or was it just a fly through?

Last night I read on a fellow bloggers site that the bird had been present until dusk. Some great photos on there on a clear blue afternoon.

I have to admit I didn't think there would be any chance of it being present today. Another admission is that I've been feeling the pace since returning from Cyprus. As usual I gave it all I've got. Trouble is I haven't got as much these days! Louise was brilliant as usual, putting up with my exploits with no complaints at all. I'm a lucky boy!

The combination of travelling to the birding sites, posting a blog each night (and having the time to check through it) and giving her the attention she deserves was a tricky balancing act. Still, that's my choice and I ain't complaining about it.

This morning consisted of a tidy up after the trip and some exercise with my 4 legged friend. The exercise was weighted heavily in fido's favour. 10.50...a message "N.Yorks Bonxie still Wheldrake YWT on floods" Well there you go. I'd arranged to take the car in to the garage in Hull at 3. What to do?


Problem was I was still in Holmpton and I had to get through the joys of the Hull traffic. Fortunately it wasn't too bad and I arrived at the Wheldrake Ings car park (which I know very well) around 12.20. There were 4 cars in the car park and one chap (apologies for not remembering your name) was just getting out of his car. I thought I recognised him and after a short chat we made our way down the familiar swamp like path towards the hide.

As we approached the hide we picked up "the skua" high over the flood. Great stuff! Well pleased I'd made the effort. A MEGA York Area (5th record) and LDV tick. It was obviously causing havoc amongst the usual fayre. There were large numbers of Lapwing present. It then started to head south down the river so I tried to capture a record shot...

It drifted effortlessly amongst the lapwings and had a sinister presence, but it had now disappeared. Onto the hide. As I sorted my position out a birder in the corner turned to make himself known. It was my mate Vince. Great to see you pal. He told me he'd been there 30 minutes or so and it had disappeared previously before returning.

Sure enough after around 20 did...

Distant in very dull conditions but a great record.

On the way back to the car I met Paul Herrieven. We've sort of known each other for a while through social media but it was great to actually meet face to face. Pity we didn't have more time to chat. I had to be back in Hull and he had to back home to do the school run!

Pity it wasn't on NDC! Just kiddin'.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

CYPRUS 2016 - Day 6

I don't like failing to find a site. On Sunday we'd toured some sites at the East of the island and (as already stated) I'd failed to find Cape Greco. On reflection I'd got confused (happens with increasing regularity these days) with signs for the caves in the area.

A quick look on Google maps cleared things up nicely. So when news broke of 3 TRUMPETER FINCHES and a ROCK SPARROW having been found on...yes Sunday!...I decided to have a go on my last morning (Tuesday).

It took me an hour to get there, fortunately finding my way in the dark to the correct spot. I tried the cliff top first. There were quite a few Song Thrushes flitting about in the half light...

I continued to the cliff top...

but there wasn't much doing. The best sightings were of Chukars...

I'd been given directions by Colin Richardson to another spot along the foot of the south facing cliffs
and I managed to find it easily in the now, bright sunshine. As I pulled up at the base of the cliff I could see a bird perched near the top. From it's jizz I was sure it was a Blue Rock Thrush. It allowed me a closer inspection...

It was now around 9 and I made my way around the headland, it was a beautiful day...

I could see a few Black Redstarts including a cracking adult male. Unfortunately he wouldn't play ball and I couldn't get a good pic but I managed a couple of record shots... more bird...

There was no sign of any rares...unfortunately. It was nearly time to leave. As I approached the car I saw another/the same Blue Rock Thrush fly down to the waters edge. I then noticed another bird pop up onto a rock then quickly disappear. This happens a lot!

Fortunately I re-found it briefly and fired off a few shots. Then it was gone.

Female Finsch's Wheatear...

So, that's it!

I'll do a summary tomorrow...