Tuesday, 28 February 2017


 I found this down Snakey this morning. All on it's own, just passing through. A definite sign of Spring...an elegant Gull...
(P.85, H.59)
I also disturbed a couple of these as I pulled up to give Bud a stretch...

Grey Partridge

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Cyprus Spring

OK. I admit it...my thoughts are turning almost entirely now to my Cyprus trip. A combination of work, family activities and horrendous weather leave me little alternative...that's my excuse anyway and I'm sticking to it!

Just for the record I've listed below (I like a list!) "typical" arrival dates and "special" species I hope to see.

March arrival dates

2nd – Cuckoo, Swallow, Woodlark
3rd – Sanderling, Scops Owl
6th - Crane, Armenian Gull, Great Spotted Cuckoo,

10th – Avocet, Citrine Wagtail,
11TH – Montagu’s Harrier, Arctic Skua, Heuglin’s Gull, Hoopoe,
12th - Crag Martin, ISABELLINE WHEATEAR,
13th – Cream-coloured Courser, Alpine Swift, Wheatear, Cyprus Wheatear,
15th – PALLID HARRIER, Garganey, Lesser Kestrel, Temminck’s Stint, Marsh Sandpiper, Caspian Gull, Baltic Gull, Wagtails, Bluethroat,
16th – Quail, Swift, Red-rumped Swallow, Tawny Pipit, Sand Martin, Tawny and Red-throated Pipit,
18th – BLUE-CHEECKED BEE-EATER, Purple Heron, Steppe Buzzard, Pallid Swift,
20th – Tree Pipit
21st – Dotterel, Roller,
25th – Bee-eater, Nightingale,
26th – Turnstone
27th – Spoonbill
28th – Great Snipe
29th – Caspian Tern
30th – Collared Pratincole
31st – Squacco Heron, Common Tern, Honey Buzzard

Specials already seen
Squacco Heron
Purple Heron
Red-Crested Pochard
Ferruginous Duck
White-headed Duck
Griffon Vulture
Pallid Harrier
Steppe Buzzard
Bonelli’s Eagle
Black Francolin
Little Crake
Baillon’s Crake
Stone Curlew
Collared Pratincole
Kentish Plover
Greater Sand Plover
Spur-winged Plover
Marsh Sandpiper
Slender-billed Gull
Auduoin’s Gull
Armenian Gull
Gull-billed Tern
Great-spotted Cuckoo
Alpine Swift
Calandra Lark
Crag Martin
Red-Rumped Swallow
Tawny Pipit
Red-throated Pipit
Black-headed Wagtail
Cyprus Wheatear
Eastern Black-eared Wheatear
Finsch’s Wheatear
Rock Thrush
Blue Rock Thrush
Moustached Warbler
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler
Spectacled Warbler
Cyprus Warbler
Ruppell’s Warbler
Collared Flycatcher
Golden Oriole
Masked Shrike
Spanish Sparrow
Ortolan Buntng
Cretzschmar’s Bunting


No doubt there'll be the odd error (including the usual cut and paste issues!) but you get the gist. Plenty to go at...and plenty of time to see them. I have a couple of excellent contacts and I hope to acquire a local SIM card which will enable me to contact (and be contacted).


Thursday, 23 February 2017


Work, planning and horrendous weather = NO BIRDING!

At least they got the forecast right with Storm Dozza. Just dotting the I's and crossing the T's regarding Cyprus prep'.

I tried to expand on my holiday plan tonight but messed up...so I'll try again this weekend when things have calmed down...

Monday, 20 February 2017

Felt a bit under (or is it over) par the last couple of days. To try and liven up a bit I decided to take Bud down to Welwick for a good walk in the unbelievably mild weather (16c).
Things were very quiet to start with as we made our way out towards Patrington Haven pumping station. I decided to sit for a while and enjoy the weather, hoping I'd get lucky? It was very mild but still overcast. Around 11 a pair of Marsh Harriers appeared and disappeared into the Marsh...
Always a pleasure to see.
Then 10 minutes later the PALLID appeared, distantly of course!
At least it's a view from above!
After lunch I spent some time at Skeffling before heading down to Kilnsea Wetlands to see if I could find an early Avocet. I didn't in the increasing wind, which was now very strong. The Brent flock was close to the road but I must admit my heart wasn't in another search for the Black Brant. It was now 4pm and I decided to head home to score some points with a quick house clean. I was rewarded for my conscientiousness when I noticed a pale lump in the middle of a field along Easington straight. By the time I'd pulled over and sorted my camera out it was unsurprisingly airborne. I did however manage a record shot...
Peregrine (P.84, S.28)
You just never know...

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Spring in the air...

Friday and Saturday was spent spending time with my lads. Friday I helped Robert move house from Huddersfield to Sale and Saturday I visited my grandson Daniel before travelling down to Molineux with Graeme to watch the FA Cup tie against Chelsea. Great to see them all.

I still managed a couple of year ticks down Snakey to follow on from my ring-tail Hen Harrier (H.56) sighting on Thursday. A superb male Marsh Harrier (H.57) was followed by a singing Corn Bunting ( P.83, H.58). Song Thrush and Skylarks are singing loudly now around the Village and the temperature reached 13c today.

Things are looking up...

Thursday, 16 February 2017


Just to keep things in perspective after my holiday "crowing" I finally added some distant and typically fast disappearing Red-legged Partridge to my Holmpton list (55) today...

Wednesday, 15 February 2017


Two long shifts yesterday and today...more pennies for the holiday fund. During a break yesterday I decided to add the Expedia App to my new "smartphone"... a dangerous move!

Just to try it out you understand I keyed in Manchester to Houston for the coming November...

£350 per person

After sharing the news with Louise and checking the deal on the laptop...it was just too tempting to turn down. An amazing price for a trans Atlantic flight!

While I'm on the topic of holidays our trip to Cyprus is looming large...we leave on March 8th for three weeks. More detail to come. Why bird one migration when you can have two!

I hope you have fun wherever you choose to go...go on, treat yourself!

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Working the Patch

I did the local circuit yesterday...Withernsea - Patrington - Easington. The weather was foul, so I figured I might as well stay dry...and get paid! You could say my Patch was covered well from 7.30am until 6.30pm. You get a lot of time to think while driving the local roads. We've had strong winds with an easterly element lately, combined with plenty of rain...pity it's not migration time!

We obviously notice rare/scarce birds when they turn up...if we can find 'em. What about common stuff though?

A few examples from yesterday...

1. As I was approaching Withernsea from Holmpton I noticed a flock of c35 Greylag Geese in a field by the road. No big deal but I've never seen them at this location before?

2. I saw 4 Herons during the day? A mate at the depot also commented that he'd seen "a few" around Burstwick?

3. Around 100 Fieldfare down Snakey lane...I haven't recorded any down there for weeks?

Local movements or new in with the easterlies? Who knows, I don't but the thought helped pass the day on...


This morning was equally grim but dogs need exercising, so off into the gloom we went. I stopped at our usual "bad weather" location down Snakey and braved the elements...well actually, I sat in the car and threw it when he decided to bring his ball back. Then there through the gloom...a Harrier! Of course, I didn't have my camera as surely I wouldn't see anything decent in this weather?!

I will never learn.

I tried to turn it into a/the PALLID but my brief view was good enough to confirm a Hen (H.55). A great local record though.

You just never know...

Friday, 10 February 2017

York (2)

Having lived and worked in the York area for 26 years I guess you could say I've got an affinity with the area! So it's no hardship to return...and there's Duff of course. A second visit in a week is pushing it a bit I admit but a return trip to the Dentist was required...unfortunately.
I set off later from home after a much needed lie in brought on by a long shift yesterday. After some male target shopping (the only type) at Timberland I arrived at the Dentist at noon. Out by 1 and then some lunch at Rufforth to see if anything interesting was showing. There was a very impressive congregation of large gulls in the first field off the by-pass so I gave them my full attention. Nothing stood out in 30 minutes. I was going to try the lay-by further down but changed my mind as Bud needed a walk. So I did a U-turn and headed for Dunnington.
I walked him down the footpath to the stubble field were I saw the bird earlier in the week. Today it was completely devoid of birds! Still we got some exercise. As I returned to the car I could see around half-a-dozen birders stood in the paddock. They didn't seem focused and it was starting to snow again so I wimped out and headed for the car. It was 2.30 now (no dental pun intended) and I fancied another crack at the Gulls. I checked the first group again from the car with my bins. There were still a few snow flurries and visibility was poor.
Scan, scan, scan...nothing. There must have been over a thousand Gulls in the field. A quick break then more scanning. Now where did that come from...
Not the smallest bird and pretty distinctive. Fortunately it was right at the front of the flock although still a good distance away. A fine bird. I feel this is a different individual than the my previous sighting. Definitely a "whiter" bird although still a first winter I believe. Collins states that birds become faded as spring approaches. Maybe it was born earlier! lol.
Over the next hour the bird commuted between the two fields and was fairly easy to pick out among the multitude. Good fun...
The light was poor but it was great to see...
The flock left at 3.35 and headed SW...

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS)

Just another gentle reminder to support this noble cause. You can donate to help them on their page...I have. They are doing magnificent work.
Spread the word...

Out and about

I started to write yesterday's account last night but it didn't happen. I knew I'd be marooned in Hull today while the old V70 is at the doctors. So I'm writing this from the Starbucks wind tunnel in St Stephen's shopping mall.
The day started early at 6am as I was keen to get through Hull before the gridlock developed. I managed it and was at NDC by 8...
Always nice to return to the old stomping ground, although it has mixed memories for me.
I couldn't see any Whoopers or Pintail. The most noteworthy count was 56 Dunlin, mixed in with the Lapwings (c400). I left at 9.30 for the Dental check up (my reason for visiting the area). After the good news of no work being required I gave Bud a stretch and contemplated where to go.
I'd run out of excuses not to try for the PINE BUNTING so I drove the 8 miles from Strensall to Dunnington. I know the area very well having lived just down the road in Wilberfoss for 14 years in another life. However, I still managed to make it difficult to find the site! Eventually I found a couple of chaps stood in a field looking interested...
They said a few more birders had headed down the lane to check out some more stubble fields. As I turned to look I could see someone waving at us. We joined him and headed back down the lane. He waited with us for a while then drifted off. It had all gone quiet. We then noticed 2 more chaps in the distance...
They joined us and we waited. A small flock landed in the far hedge. It was still very dull and I didn't have my scope but I used my camera to view the birds. There it was!!! Amazing really and VERY fortunate. I'll take it though...
Photographs are just a bonus for me. SEEING the bird is obviously the key criteria! My good fortune was emphasised when c250 birds rose up high into the air a moment later. I know from reading various accounts on-line that this bird can be a sod to see, so I hope I appreciated my luck on this occasion. I was only there 40 minutes. 5 minutes after my sighting the sun came out...ah well.
What next then?
I was going to spend the rest of the day at NDC. Then a message...
N.Yorks Smew drake Ripon on Canal Pool
I DO like a "White Nun". As you're probably aware I saw one on Hornsea Mere but you can't have too much of this bird so off I went. I wasn't sure where the sight was but I was willing to give it a go. It took me 50 minutes to reach Ripon and with the help of my new "device" I found a car park by the canal. Another Birder and his wife were just heading down the towpath...a good sign. I could see from my phone that there were some pools a short distance south so off we strolled.
Lovely spot
We reached the first pool and I started to scan. It was an impressive site with plenty of sawbills present and an impressive reedbed at the rear. It was a long, relatively narrow stretch of water and there were a number of blinds located along it's length.
As I looked down to the south I thought I had it but wasn't sure so I move further down the path. There it was...asleep...
I had plenty of time so I sat on the bench and waited. The other couple joined me. The chap had a scope and he started scanning the pool and reeds..."BITTERN"!
A tough spot...
To be fair he had seen it walk along the reeds to this position. It then flew abut 20 yds further down...too quick for me unfortunately. Still, a great surprise and sighting indeed. I moved down the path to try and get a better view figuring the Smew wasn't going anywhere (foolish assumption!).
It's been quite a while since I've seen this species. A BIG bonus!
Back to the Smew...hopefully? It was still there and still asleep, so I waited some more. It was now 3pm but the sun was still shining on the pool...fortunately. I spent a very relaxing hour watching this superb bird until the sun disappeared...
A fine pair...
...and a great day...

Monday, 6 February 2017

The Humber...Raptors and Owls!

Spent some time walking the floodbank the last couple of days with Louise and Bud. All helps when trying to lose some of the post Christmas stodge!
I've had more views of the PALLID HARRIER but alas all fairly distant. Still, always nice to see  and never taken for granted. The russet shows really well in the winter sun...hints of the face pattern...
I'm determined to get a closer view...just need some luck. I had that with the SEO's. Always great value.
I stumbled on one down at Stone Creek late afternoon on Sunday...
Love the posture in this shot.
This morning we had another long walk along the Humber. The PH was seen yet again but drifted off over the fields...
My usual view!
A Barn Owl was hunting in the bright light...
Then the SEO took centre stage. I see them on almost every visit but again the views are distant. I saw one perched on a bush...
We walked further along the bank enjoying the superb weather. The bird was seen on a few occasions quartering the arable fields but then it drifted off. As we returned to the car I noticed it coming towards us along the foreshore. I decided to try something. We all got into the car and I turned it around so my door was facing the bird. It paid off this time...
As we left the car park things got even better as it landed in a bush right by the road...

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Biscuit Bird

Took Mother back towards Lancs on Saturday morning. Sister picked her up at Hartshead services at 11am. After having a coffee with them I started to head back to towards Hull. I had my gear in the car and thoughts inevitably turned to Birding! I decided on Rufforth to try for a White-winged Gull or two? The PINE BUNTING didn't do it for me I'm afraid. The thought of standing for hours for a brief glimpse of a distant bird wasn't appealing.
I parked up and started to walk down the public footpath towards the tip. There were thousands of Gulls present...
I spent a couple of hours scanning the vast numbers of birds flying by but couldn't find a "White-winged". I did see 4 Red Kites and a pair of Buzzards.
Earlier I'd noticed a few Birders 'scoping a flooded field from a lay-by. I walked the 400 yds to the spot but they'd all departed. I started to scan the birds with my bins, they were around 100 yds away...
It was a superb sunny, still afternoon and a much nicer view than the now distant landfill...
Birds were coming and going constantly. I'm not a Gull aficionado (Larofile) but there are specific examples that do appeal...and the "Biscuit bird" is definitely one of them.
My first encounter was in the late 80's at Covenham Reservoir in Lincs. I'd only been Birding a short while and I met up with some Lincs lads who were kind enough to help me ID new birds. As we made our way up the embankment to the reservoir wall one of them shouted out..."Glaucous Gull"!
I looked up and there not 30 yds away on the wall was a juvenile GG. I've always remembered that moment...sad I know!
Could I find one today?
It was quite a spectacle. Thousands of Gulls circling and drifting off as the afternoon drew on, many heading south east to roost at Wheldrake. Still no luck by 3pm. Many were coming off the tip to the pools to bathe. Eventually at 3.37pm...
It spent around 5 minutes in the water, preening and stretching it's wings...
It then moved off into the group...
A distant yawn...
It was VERY satisfying to finally find one among the throng with my Trinnies. Luckily it was initially at the front of the group AND gave excellent views. There were quite a few light aircraft flying over the birds at intervals. Not a great idea I would have thought?! None of them disturbed the Gulls however. Then a small helicopter approached. I wonder?
Sure enough this did the trick and the flock took off. Now then, a nice challenge, could I pick it out in flight...
Mission accomplished...