Okay, it wasn’t such a bad thing…

A few posts ago I lamented the fact I’d be leaving a job with panoramic views of Sheffield City Centre, meaning I’d miss seeing the occasional brief but tantalising glimpse of birds of prey.

But, to be honest, being able to wander round Weston Park and Crookes Valley Park on my dinner hour much outweighs this. It’s great to be able to sit and eat dinner watching the ducks at play. All are Mallards at Crookes Valley, though a few are obviously a bit dubious genetically and it’s always fun to try and guess their parentage (most are with farmyard types, of course, but I saw one today with a yellow eye, bluish beak and blue sheen to its head which suggested a bit of Tufted in there somewhere). There’s also Moorhens, Coots and Black-headed Gulls, the latter of which really prove themselves to be proper pirates when there’s bread being thrown and they swoop in and steal it straight out of a Mallard’s beak.

There’s also plenty of songbirds, including as Long-tailed Tits (one of which I’ve seen collecting lichen for nest material already), and a stupid amount of Magpies, as there seems to be everywhere in Sheffield at the moment. Just down the road in the Ponderosa, I saw 14 in one tree. Now there’s not a rhyme for superstitious people for that one, is there? I thought it was pretty good going seeing that many in one place, but I read up and apparently you can occasionally get roosts of up to 100 magpies, which is a sight I’d like to see.

And going back to raptor spotting, the first lunch hour I spent in Weston Park was just after it had snowed. Magpies, Carrion Crows, Woodpigeons, Feral Pigeons and Squirrels were hopping about after what bits of food people had left for them, and suddenly a female Sparrowhawk swooped out of the sky and sent them scattering, before settling in a tree not far away, keeping her beady eyes on proceedings.

Now that’s better than a fleeting glimpse out of the office window…

Second digiscoping attempts…

Here’s my second digiscoping attempts from Old Moor yesterday. I was trying out my new digital camera, but made a schoolboy error and had it on anti-shake mode, which seems sensible but I not realise just sets the ISO to the highest possible to ensure the quickest shutter speed, meaning the noise on these is terrible. Still encouraging though. Practice, practice, practice… (note – these have been through Photoshop for a bit of colour balance and contrast alteration).






Good birding too… saw a Goldeneye which I’ve been trying to spot there for a while. For the first time there I didn’t see a single Golden Plover, after seeing thousands there ever time, and for some reason there’s now loads of Shovelers. I’d do a full list but can’t be bothered today!

A quick trip to Old Moor

I had a quick trip to Old Moor today. Plenty of small birds on the feeders, and a good variety of ducks. No waders bar an Oystercatcher, which was a first for me there.

Yearlisters seen were:

Tree Sparrow, Golden Plover, Ruddy Duck, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Reed Bunting, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Goosander, Cormorant, Pochard, Stock Dove, Wigeon, Teal, Oystercatcher, Mute Swan, Canada Goose

Others:

Black-headed Gull, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Common Gull, Coot, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Lapwing, Magpie, Mallard, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Pheasant, Robin

My first digiscoping attempts

I’ve just been a trip to the Botanical Gardens to try my first attempts as digiscoping. It’s quite a tricky way to take photos, especially finding your subject and focusing correctly, but with practice (and possibly a new camera!) I think some half decent shots could be taken. My first attempt was of a magpie, and is drastically out of focus:


But some attempts on some inanimate objects proved a bit more successful, especially with the camera on timer mode, to help cut down on wobble.

And I did manage to get a few decent ones of squirrels. The first one, as you can see, is more focused on the wall than the squirrel, but I’m still inspired enough to try for some more at a later date.

I’ll post any future attempts on here…

Breeding Bird Survey

I got confirmation today that I’ll be taking part in the BTO’s Breeding Bird Survey. That means that from April to July I’ll have to visit my allocated 1km grid reference and count all the birds I see and hear on a series of walks there. Yes, I’m a little daunted as my counting and birdsong skills are lacking a certain something, but hopefully I can buff up on both before April arrives.

My grid reference is around the centre of here, which is Underbank Reservoir in Stocksbridge, not far from where I lived when I was living with my parents. A good range of habitats to search through!

In other news I got a widget for my scope this week that means I can comfortably attach a digital camera to it, and start having a go digiscoping. I’m under no illusions that the camera I’ve got and the scope I’ve got are a match made in photographical heaven, but I’ll post the results of my first experiments on here this weekend…

Operation Crossbill – part 1

I thought about calling this blog post Mission Incrossibill, but realised that would have made me look stupid.

Today I took a trip to Wyming Brook to search for Crossbills, which I’d heard lived in the area. Sloshing my way through the sloppy remains of Friday’s snow I scanned the treetops of the conifers for anything that vaguely resembled one, but sadly the search was unsuccessful. Maybe it’ll be wise to try again when there’s less dogwalkers around, and on a day when I’m not keeping my eyes on my own feet to make sure I avoid deep pools of meltwater.

I did, however, see some good close-up views of Goldcrests, Nuthatches and Treecreepers, and it was a good, slushy Sunday afternoon out.

New yearlisters…

36. Meadow Pipit (Lodge Moor) – 37. Treecreeper (Wyming Brook (WB)) – 38. Nuthatch (WB)

My birding missions for 2007…

I’ve decided to set myself some missions for this year. As previous posts have probably clearly stated, I don’t consider myself a twitcher and would never travel from one end of Britain to the next to find a rarity. However, I don’t see the harm in setting myself some challenges for the coming year…

1. Bittern
I’ve never seen a Bittern. During a family holiday to Norfolk as a child I did hear one booming away in the distance, so I can have it as an unsatisfactory tick on the lifelist. A quick trip to Potteric Carr will hopefully sort this one out.

2. Avocet
I’ve never seen an Avocet in the wild either. The closest I’ve been is seeing some captive ones at Cotswolds Wildlife Park. They nearly became wild ones when I somehow knocked over one of the panels on their enclosure, and the delicate, curvy-billed birds started to make a bee-line for the new exit. Luckily I managed to prop up the panel and all was well. I suppose that would have been a lot more impressive story if it had involved lions or something. Anyway, a trip to Blacktoft Sands would solve this.

3. Raven
Again, I have an unsatisfactory tick of this one, as when I was a child my godfather pointed to something crow-shaped in the sky and said “that’s a Raven”. I think it’s about time I found one for myself, and I intend to scrabble about the moors a bit more to do so.

4. Kingfisher
I’ve seen a few Kingfishers over the years, but not since I was at university when one darted across Huddersfield Canal, and I graduated in 2002. Early mornings at the Deepcar end of The Don always seemed a good time to spot one when I was younger, so that’s where my search will take place.

5. Red Kite
My brother lives in Oxfordshire and regularly and casually spots Red Kites wheeling overhead when he’s out and about. Git. To be honest this isn’t a difficult one to solve, Yorkshire too has it’s reintroductions, and the RSPB run a Red Kite ‘Aren’t Birds Brilliant’ event at Harewood House, so that will be the best place to start.

6. Crossbill
I’ve heard it said many times that Crossbills inhabit the conifer plantations in parts of Sheffield, despite this area being bang in the middle of the white patch on the bird’s RSPB distribution map. Is this a mission impossible? Ah, we’ll see.

7. Goshawk
I have little clue where to find the Sparrowhawk’s larger cousin round here, but I’d love to see one and any suggestions would be well received.

8. Little Auk
The time’s more or less passed now, but after watching Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills in 2006, it’s be great to finish off the ‘set’ (although I’d need Black Guillemot as well of course). A trip to the East Coast in the late autumn/early winter would be a good idea for this. Hopefully I’ll be able to drive by then, because persuading someone to take me will be hard seeing as Little Auks get washed up in Britain in the wost weather…

9. Short-eared Owl
Apart from a glimpse that was too short to be sure, I’ve never seen a Short-eared Owl. Finding their hunting grounds is the key, and possibly one to combine with the Little Auk at Bempton Cliffs. However, if anyone has any more suggestions closer to home let me know.

10. Smew
Again, a bird I’ve never seen in the wild. One may show up at Old Moor before the end of this winter (which seems to have only just begun…), but if not a trip to the Wash at the end of the year may be in order.

So that’s my ten missions for the year. I will, of course, be keeping this blog up to date with how those are going, hopefully starting with Operation Bittern in the next week or two…

Most recent yearlisters…

30. Chaffinch (Botanical Gardens (BG)) – 31. Goldcrest (BG) – 32. Jay (BG) – 33. Mistle Thrush (BG) – 34. Grey Heron (Chester Zoo) – 35. Jackdaw (Chester Zoo)