Sunday, 16 February 2020

Doldrums - bird wise

Definitely a time of year for trip planning IMHO. Constant strong wind and rain here. Scoring points with family and at work (not too many here!).

National excitement over an AMERICAN HERRING GULL briefly in Devon...doesn't do much for me I'm afraid...sacrilege I know? I did travel to see one in Cambeltown, Scotland some time get it out of the way! Still not recognised by Clements (eBird)?

I'm still enjoying daily views of "my" Barn Owl hunting in the field opposite the Cottage. Forecast (for what it's worth) is favourable tomorrrow, so hopefully something to report after our family walk...not sure where yet. Dependant on the WIND!!!

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

A couple of hours at NDC

No rushing today. I trundled through Hull (you have too) and arrived at NDC around an unusually busy car park? A group visit. I didn't fancy a crowded hide so I amused myself on the phone for a while until they left.

It was bright...but still very breezy. The plus side to this was a large group of Whooper Swans tucked in out of the wind in the south-east corner close to Garganey Hide. This would have afforded a great opportunity for some decent pics...if I hadn't forgotten my cameara!!
THE bird of the session was a beautiful drake Goosander. I only saw it for a few seconds but a great addition to the Year list (scarce here). A modest 27 species seen withother highlights being 2 Marsh Harriers and c100 well as the Whooper Swans of course. As I left i bumped into Elaine from the Village. It was nice to see her again. She told me she'd seen 2 Red Kites earlier! Maybe I should have braved the hide.

I arrived home around 3 and took Bud to the field opposite the Cottage. A Barn Owl has been present for a few days now,in fact I saw it a sI left this morning. It was present again...

I enjoyed great views as I exercised ma boy...

Just a was 4.55pm.

Just one more pic from earlier in the week taken during my Snakey Lane yomp. A group of Wood Pigeons took flight but one was a Stock Dove totally unconcerned by my presence...

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

It's wild out there!

Not much to report as I haven't braved the gales recently...I'm keen but...

Cover is limited in these here I stay in the trees...seeing very little! Richard's Firecrest is still present. Not a bad bird to enjoy in these grim times. Finally sorted the car, so it's over to Duff tomorrow to hunker down in the Geoff Smith Hide. I know...WIMP!


STELLER'S EIDER 2 is starting to formulate. It's a fluid plan which could take many paths BUT at least there's hope. A/The TENGMALM'S OWL has turned up again on mainland Shetland.


Excitement for Texas chasers in the form of the FIRST WHITE WAGTAIL for the State! Wonder if it will wait for me? I thought that last year with the YELLOW GROSBEAK. Of didn't!


Sunday, 9 February 2020

Texas 2020 - An ever changing scene

As I sit here watching the hail beat down on my lounge window and the Acacia bending double, I wanted to post a few thoughts about my upcoming trip to my favourite Birding destination. Feel free to leave now!?

We arrive in Houston on April 12th. We're heading out West again to Kerrville, NW of San Antonio for three nights. The idea is to start with some "Hill Country" species before returning to Galveston for the rest of our holiday. No visit to Port Aransas this year.

Main targets in the HC...

Black-capped Vireo
Golden-cheeked Warbler
Zone-tailed Hawk
Rock Wren
Cactus Wren
Ringed Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher
Scott's Oriole
Bullock's Oriole

So to Galveston and Birding heaven. A few new ideas for this year, just for bit of fun...yes I can still have it! I'll be doing a self found list just for the Island and for a specific reserve which is local to  our accommodation...more later. The island is the perfect base to explore further afield with the free Ferry to the Bolivar Peninsular...and High Island being a particular bonus. The popularity of the area means that it can get quite busy on occasions (individuals and groups visit from all parts of the States and beyond) but as a seasoned visitor I know how to avoid the crowds...if need be. The atmosphere I have to say is always cordial.

My chosen hotspot is one of the less popular sites but has massive potential for "finding your own".
Dos Vacas Muertas (Two dead Cows!)...and it's just across the road.
Should! Our friend Lorna (of Calliope Hummingbird fame) will be visiting us again from "the Valley".

Last year I managed 263 species at a reasonably leisurely pace (can there be any other these days). Finally adding Cape May Warbler and Bobolink to my Texas List was VERY satisfying...indeed!!! I still have hopes of adding one or two to my list, although it's obviously getting harder as the law of diminishing returns starts to bite harder. Mourning Warbler would be nice. It's not just about ticks though...never has been. Experiences are THE main thing. One aim is to "jam in" on passing Magnificent Frigatebirds (they can be seen following the Ferry!). Swallow-tailed Kites are another iconic and truly beautiful migrant that passes through regularly. Then there's the Warblers...

These are peaks for the “windows of passage” for most of the eastern
warblers in Texas.
NOTE: These are general rules; however, in the biological world there are always
exceptions to the rules. Migration and the timing of migrants are not black or
white — there are lots of variations. A trickle of individuals of a given species can
occur at any time, but listed below are the peaks of passage.
Early-season Arrivals/Migrants - March/early April
Northern Parula
Black-throated Green
Louisiana Waterthrush

Mid-season Arrivals/Migrants - mid-April
Northern Waterthrush
American Redstart
Yellow-breasted Chat

Late-season Arrivals/Migrants - late April/early May

Should be  Will

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Signs of Spring?

Snowdrops peeping through and Daffodils trying hard to emerge now. Song Thrushes and Great Tits singing. How am I doin'?

Nice last hour yesterday after a needless trip back to Birmingham to sort the car out. 30 Fieldfares on Snakey Lane plus 22 RTD's of Seaside in a tight raft. Then a large white moth (Barn Owl) in the paddock behind the Cottage (first here for quite some time). Hope Springs eternal (see what I did there?).

More Gull controversy in Gloucestershire. A possible BLACK-TAILED GULL videoed at Newnham on the Severn Estuary. Some now suggesting LBB Gull? Who knows...I don't!

Very windy today but better forecast tomorrow and Thursday. Hoping to add a few Year ticks on foot...

Saturday, 1 February 2020


I've always thought of November as the "worst" month but I'm leaning more towards January these days. At least the former has the remnants of migration although the decreasing daylight will never be a plus. January has the new list advantage.... but that's about it really. It just feels er...dead.

Anyway... my totals...

Holmpton 45
Patch 77
Duff 36

So, February. We should get some signs of Spring, although the Thrushes have already made a tune or two. The first singing Skylark can't be too far away. Always a joy.

It has been VERY encouraging to see the number of Barn Owls present on the Patch. Well into double figures at different locations. Buzzards are common now but shouldn't be taken for granted.

A Black-throated Thrush has been found over the Humber in Grimsby. As I'm still deep in my car transition I won't be paying a visit any time soon.

More rain forecast tomorrow after a windy spell that had dried things up somewhat! Hoping to get out for a walk at sometime...

Thursday, 30 January 2020


Took Bud on the beach this afternoon and I were rewarded with a fine group of 8 Red-throated Divers relatively close in off Seaside Lane. I took a few snaps but none worthy of posting in the grim this grim time of year!

I received another helpful message of David Roche on Papa Westray concerning the STELLER'S EIDER. Really appreciate the advice pal.

The perfect time for holiday planning I feel. Just over TEN weeks to Texas. Always good to have a target. Head down for a couple of days to help pay for it then out again on Sunday...

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Near and Far

Still re-adjusting after the car blow (in more ways than one!) VERY quiet here at the moment but Richard has seen "his" Firecrest again and the STELLER'S EIDER has left its puddle. David Roche the local birder on Papa Westray was kind enough to reply to my message, giving me some more detail on the area. I still have hope...

Papa Westray, male, 30th April to 1st July 1982; same as 1974, 1978-82 individual

Saturday, 25 January 2020

That was the week...then STELLER'S EIDER!

Plenty happening on a personal level this week, most of which I won't bore you'll be pleased to hear!

Have to mention that my faithful old Volvo has finally gone to that great scrapyard in the sky...well, it will on Monday. Limited funds these days meant a quick look on the internet for another V70 (of course) in my price range. Took a gamble (isn't it always) on a 57 plate south of Birmingham. Hopefully she'll keep me going for a year or two...or more?

Of course, as my car transition is in progress the good old STELLER'S EIDER re-appears! Obviously wintering around the Island, a combination of inclement weather and (very) limited observer coverage. Encouragingly, history suggest it may be there for quite some time, as previous records on Scottish Islands reflect...especially Papa Westray. Also moult may play a part...can you hear straws being clutched?!

What to do?

I won't be dashing back! I'd like to but circumstances don't permit. Still maintaining my ASAP's just not possible at the moment. My latest edition needs a FULL service before I consider putting 1100 miles on her and that can't happen until a week on Monday. I can't afford another blow up. I will then have the time?

An interesting forced experiment then. It might mean a tick but it won't have the excitement of my dip!!! Hopefully though...a positive outcome?

Time will tell...

Monday, 20 January 2020

High and Dry

Superb weather here at the moment. Slightly overdue!!!

Trying to make the most of it, we went for a walk North along the cliff this morning from the runnel. The fishermen had cut steps down to the beach but it was still pretty slippy, so we passed. Bud flushed a couple of Skylarks (P.74, H39) and 6 Reed Buntings (H.40) for the year list...

...followed shortly afterwards by my first Village Cormorant (P.75, H.41) of the year. On the return leg I noticed some interesting "lumps" in the plough, a quick scan revealed 9 Golden Plovers (P.76, H.43) having a nap...

Understated and under-rated
I went down to Welwick for the last hour to enjoy the sunset and see if the SEO's were still around. Nothing for 30 minutes, then a single bird flew west...

I then noticed a distant wader that looked "different". It was. A bonus Greenshank (P.77) and a site first...

A "proper" if distant pic of the local star from yesterday...

Sunday, 19 January 2020

The Humber

Two visits today after the early success.

Family walk this morning at Skeffling. Scored with another Merlin sighting and a male Marsh Harrier.

Last hour on my own, firstly at Welwick which produced three Short-eared Owls. Onto Skeffling again for 3 more!

Lucky to have such quality close by. A top day in the sunshine...


Made it to Duff after the Dentist yesterday after failing to find the Iceland Gull at Ricall. The water level is still high with mainly diving ducks present. The bonus being the presence of 6 Goldeneye including a fine drake. I scanned the Whooper Swans on Bubwith Ings regularly but couldn't find the Bewick's.

Firecrest - YES!

I'd arranged to go round to Richard's for 8.45am. As I was wrapping up I received a message informing me it was showing! I made my way round the corner but of course, it had dis-appeared.

He made me a brew and we waited. Around 10 minutes later, I was looking at my Village Firecrest... 169...

Always special!
I also added Coal Tit and Goldcrest (H.39) for the Year...

Friday, 17 January 2020

Village tick?

Fellow Birder and neighbour Richard Boon has had a Firecrest visiting his garden for a few days now. I had a brief attempt to no avail on Thursday afternoon and hope to try again this weekend, with Richard's approval of course!

Dental appointment in York tomorrow morning so a visit to NDC is definitely on the cards.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

The "other" Swan?

Spent the morning looking for the elusive Bewick's Swans (at least for me) around the Bubwith area. I gave it till the rain arrived at Noon, checking out the Whoopers on Bubwith Ings (28) and Derwent Cottage Farm (89). I also tried Ellerton but no Swans present there. I'll try again.

I also tried for the Iceland Gull at Riccall but no joy there either.

Over to Lancs to see my Mother via Birstall to see my Son and Grandchildren. Couple of workdays then out again Saturday.

Monday, 13 January 2020

Bird Cruise opposed to bird race. It's an age thing!

The forecast was promising, well at least until early afternoon when the wind was going to "pick up". No pre-planning, no specific route, just an ad-hoc day on the Patch relying on experience. I did check the tide times which weren't favourable to a wader fest. Also, I had obviously noted what had been seen recently that was "unusual". Unfortunately there had been a clear out of "rare Geese" but no matter...let's see what I can see. I felt 70 was a reasonable target.

I started pre-dawn down Snakey (after picking up GS Woodpecker outside the Cottage) hoping for Barn Owl. 3 runs and no luck. On my final run back towards Holmpton I saw a pale shape disappearing over a hedge. I took the side road and there was "my" Barn Owl quartering the meadow. Nice start! I also added Kestrel and Buzzard....I reckon I saw at least EIGHT birds at various locations, how times have changed...

Yet more luck with a pair of Mistle Thrushes high over the Village.

Next it was up to Out Newton to check the sea. As I got out of the car I could hear Pinkfeet! Two decent skeins were heading north out to sea...

More good luck. I counted 10 Red-throated Divers on the sea. Otherwise it was dead apart from the usual Gulls.

Next it was Withernsea. No sign of any Sanderlings or Turnstones but I did score with a lone Lesser Black-backed Gull. The Sewage produced Pied Wagtail (no Grey) and Meadow Pipit (no Skylark - which was a surprise). A big bonus here was a flock of 10 Ringed Plover flying North.

I then decided to head for Skeffling. Still decent numbers of waders around but I couldn't find any Godwits. A pair of Pintail sneaked onto the daylist. Here I was to connect with the bird of the day...MERLIN!

I also had a distant cc Marsh Harrier. I pushed my luck hoping for a Hen but it didn't materialize.

Back home for a quick bite and another check of the roadside hedges. This paid off with a lucky strike...Long-tailed Tits! While I was watching them I noticed a movement in the hedge by the car...

Can you see it?
Song Thrush
Time for a trip down the road. I checked out Kilnsea Wetlands (after picking up the Whooper Swans on Easington straight) for some "Duck ticks" but I couldn't find the Scaup. I did see Goldeneye. I made the walk west from Sammy's for "last weeks" Yellowhammers...of course, there was no sign today!

The wind was strong by now which didn't bode well for further sightings and so it turned out with no sign of Hen Harrier or Short-eared Owl at Welwick. However, I did fluke a late group of Red-legged Partridge to finish off. Well nearly, as the hoped for calling Tawny Owl performed on cue on returning home...despite the wind!

That was that. Some nice surprises and some glaring omissions (winter thrushes). Fun though.

Species seen 63

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Whatever the Weather?

Weather conditions affect birds...and Birders!

Unusual conditions raise hopes of new arrivals BUT are they conducive to "Good Birding"?

Time of year also relevant. Winter movements less regular but still occur. When will that Starling turn into a NUTCRACKER?!

So, conditions for bird movements...but what about conditions to bird IN?

VERY windy here today. Personally THE most frustrating conditions. Granted, can be excellent for seawatching but generally grim as it can be dry and bright yet getting good views is difficult. There are strategies you can use i.e. finding a shelter belt, woodland or hide. It is limiting though. Heavy rain ...I just put the kettle on!

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

January Birding

What to do?

Having been around a while now, I've started the year in different styles over the year. So, what to do this year...albeit belatedly. Up to now I've peedled (an old Lancashire term) around the Patch and LDV just ENJOYING the birds I've come across. What a novel idea! I've always got the "don't gobble 'em up to soon" adage in the back of my mind. Spring is a long way off! Yes, numbers and targets give incentive and motivation but aesthetic appreciation is ALWAYS high on my is CHALLENGE. I do like the odd rarity BUT endless photos of the same bird?

Birding can be hard going after the initial burst of New Year optimism. However, there's ALWAYS something out there, if you're prepared to look hard enough for it. I'll just have to try and find 'em.

Hope you've got your plan sorted...that's if you need one...

Ings Birding

Back to the LDV yesterday. A great and VERY unexpected start at Duff' when Bud flushed a Jack Snipe from the edge of the car park! He has his uses.

NDC was still to deep for the dabblers with only Pochard (52) and Tufted Duck (30) present. I was hoping to see the Bewick's Swans that had been present in the Valley for a while now. I scanned Bubwith Ings from the Geoff Smith Hide but I could only see a small proportion of the flock from here. After around an hour I decided to try Ellerton Ings. No Swans BUT a VERY impressive count of Pintail (152)...

A sample...distantly!
I then drove back to Bubwith Bridge, parked up and walked North again along the flood bank.

Duller conditions today with a moderate westerly wind. I spent 2 hours scanning the Swans but I couldn't find the Bewick's (reported again today!). Still a great experience being relatively close to the birds...

I hope to try again. Be nice if they dropped on Duff later in the month which is quite possible once Bubwith dries up...maybe?

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Wild Goose Chase

The old ones are the best!?

The family walk at Skeffling this morning produced distant but prolonged views of a juvenile Hen Harrier.

Early afternoon found me down at Sammy's Point walking west towards Skeffling. It's unusual to have decent flocks of various species of Geese in the area, so I wanted to make the most of it. I bumped into Lance Degnan who was on his way back to the car park and wished him a Happy New Year. He told me the flocks were still present so I continued below the flood bank. A flock of small birds flew from the stubble to the nearest bush. Yellowhammers...I counted 52! Very encouraging.

The first Geese I came across were White-fronted (44)...

Next came Pink-footed (50)...
...and then the Tundra Bean Geese (7)...
A wonderful afternoon in the winter sunshine. On y return walk I bumped into another Yorkshire stalwart Karl Dutton. More Happy New Years and then home for the Merseyside Derby...

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Slooow Birding

I made it down Snakey pre-dawn and the first significant sighting was...
One of 3 Fieldfares

Then the main reason for the choice of venue fortunately appeared... 

I watched the bird for around 15 minutes hunting the ditches at close quarters. Great bird....great start!

Barn Owl
Access to the coast was difficult due to a fishing match so I made my way down to Easington straight to try for some Geese. No luck for me but I did connect with 14 Whooper Swans...

They don't look quite as regal in the stubble!

I spent the last hour down at Welwick. No Hen Harriers but a single male Marsh and a couple of SEO's made the visit worth while...

Nice and steady...don't want to peak to soon!

Friday, 3 January 2020

2020 - Time to get Cracking!

Topped up the holiday fund, so now it's time to play! No real plan, just a mooch around the Village and Patch to see what I might see and get the numbers rolling. There's been an influx of Wildfowl, possibly/certainly lingering due to the amount of water present at the moment. Be nice to find something in the Village.

Having totted up my totals for 2019 I've been looking at potential additions to my Holmpton List which stands at a modest 168. Just for a bit of fun I'm going to list TEN possible additions for this year and see how many come to fruition...

Red-breasted Merganser
Green Sandpiper
Glaucous Gull
Turtle Dove
Black Redstart
Pallas's Warbler

We will see...or not!

Forecast looks great for tomorrow. Can't wait...

VERY encouraging news regarding Barn Owls. I've had  FIVE incidental sightings at various local sites already this year!!

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

End of a Decade

I decided to finish off with a trip to were it all started...well nearly!

I arrived at NDC around 9 yesterday and was greeted with bright sunshine and still conditions...if a little nippy. PLENTY of water...unsurprisingly. Actually too much! The depth not being conducive to Wildfowl...

An unexpected feature this Winter...hay islands1

Still, I had a pleasant hour watching the comings and goings. I dug out a few winter thrushes amongst the hawthorns...

The sound of distant Whooper Swans drifting across the river from Bubwith Ings was a constant feature. Just wonderful...

View over the river from the Geoff Smith Hide 
I was chuffed to pick out the reported 2 male Scaup on Bubwith Ings. The temperature had risen slightly (0 - 4C!) by 11 so I decided to have a walk up the river from Bubwith with Bud. I walked around 600 yds...then there they were...

For me ...there couldn't be a better setting for these noble birds. I am biased! Returning year after year since time immemorial to this natural landscape. Bliss...

Encouragingly there were many family parties present. I estimated around 30% of the c120 present...

I got lucky when 2 birds drifted over towards the river...

I couldn't find the reported Bewick's Swans (2) but somehow that seemed incidental. Just the perfect Birding scenario to end the Decade. Here's to the next one...