Spurn

I hadn’t been to the coast since May, and now I’ve been two weekends in a row… Today I’ve been on a daytrip to Spurn with the Sheffield Bird Study Group, and a great day it was too. The day started with a flyover V of pink-footed geese, the first of literally thousands to arrive over the course of the day, and just got better from then on.

Great Grey Shrike (digiscoped)

Walking towards the Point, we were greeted fantastic views of a very obliging great grey shrike, and continuing round “The Triangle” we soon caught up with a more distant but no less watchable red-backed shrike perched on a bush! I had my first ever UK shrikes before quarter past ten…

The day continued well with a mix of summer migrants going out and winter migrants coming in, with Spurn acting like a kind of avian airport terminal. Spotted flycatchers, redstarts, wheatears and blackcaps jostled for place with redwings and an influx of goldcrests. There were also a good number of waders, including redshank, knot, turnstone, dunlin, oystercatcher, golden plover, ringed plover and bar-tailed godwit, and a few little egrets. As well as the huge flocks of passing geese, there were equally impressive flocks of hundreds of knot, wisping into the air like smoke.

As well as the birds there were a good number of roe deer around.

Roe Deer

After lunch things continued to go well. An assembled crowd of birders around the churchyard alerted us to an appearance in of a bird I was very much hoping to see – yellow-browed warbler. I got very brief but very clear views of the inobtrusive bird as it flitted around the treetops.

(Much amusement came from the fact that little after an hour after we squinted into the churchyard trees, news came across someone’s pager that one was currently present outside a pub in Upperthorpe…)

And going round the Triangle for a second time, I finally found a bird that has given me the slip all summer – whinchats. In fact a good number of them, often sat right next to stonechats just to highlight their differences from their close cousins. We also got a second look of both shrikes in the same area.

When I got home a skein of around 100 pink-feet flew overhead, visible from the living room window. It’s strange to think these may be some of the very same birds I saw earlier in the day!

All in all I got 62 species today (including on the way back), and five year ticks – three of which are lifers, one which is a UK lifer, and one which I haven seen since I started listing properly.

Today’s full list (in rough order of sighting!)… Continue reading Spurn

Patch update 25/09/08

I went for a short walk last night on my patch. I thought the house martins had gone, but a flock of around 25 above Black Lane were a welcome sight, and at one point they were mobbing a passing sparrowhawk. There were also at least two swallows around.

The female teal is still present on Old Wheel Dam, and the rapidly creeping in nights are at least good for one thing – I found my first little owl for ages, perched on a wall just off Loxley Road, almost succeeding in disguising itself as a piece of dry stone wall in the gloom. I should really enjoy post-work walks while I can, as the nights are coming in fast and it won’t be too long until we change the clocks.

While I was away at the weekend, Laura spotted the first badger that either of have seen for a while, by the side of the road not far from the house. Sadly, she also saw a dead one in almost exactly the same spot the following day, presumably the same individual. It seems crossing the road here is particularly hazardous for them – it’s unfortunately the second casualty we’ve seen on the road this year.

Skuas, falcons and mysterious whales…

Well, I’m back from my weekend exploring the Bridlington area, and a great weekend I had too. Although the falls of rarities of recent weeks weren’t there, I still got some cracking birds that more than made up for it.

My challenge to myself was also to get a weekend list of at least 75 species, from the moment I got off the train on Saturday to the moment I got on it again on Sunday. The birds I saw will now be listed in full anorak-stylee…

Saturday
I arrived at Bridlington about 11am. Walking to the harbour I picked up a few easy ticks in the form of feral pigeon, robin, jackdaw, starling and (of course) herring gull. The harbour provided the usual species you’d expect there, including lesser black-backed gull, great black-backed gull, black-headed gull, cormorant, mallard, redshank, turnstone and oystercatcher. Best of all were a small flock of knot mixed in with the turnstones – the first year tick of the weekend.

Turnstones

Knots

Cormorants

Elsewhere on the seafront a few house sparrows were flitting around, and a couple of wheatears were resting on top of some buildings.

I checked in to my B&B (which was cheap and cheerful, but perfectly fine), and hopped on a bus to Flamborough, picking up a few more species from the bus window – collared dove, woodpigeon, swallow, magpie and carrion crow.

At Flamborough I immediately picked up wren, meadow pipit, blue tit, linnet and rook, and a skein of around 200 pink-footed geese overhead were another year-tick, which were closely followed by another in the form of the many fulmars which were skimming over the sea. Three juveline eiders on the sea were the only time I spotted that species over the weekend, gannets could be seen occasionally at a distance and shags congregated below the cliffs. A good number of kestrels were hovering over the cliffs.

Shags

Lesser Black-backed Gull and friend...

That was about it apart from more passerines. I was hoping for stonechat, whinchat, yellow wagtail and redstart but missed all four, but did get a great pied flycatcher at Old Fall, along with a few goldcrests, willow warblers, goldfinches and a dunnock. Elsewhere I found another wheatear, pied wagtail, blackbird, yellowhammer, tree sparrow and whitethroat.

Not the rarity-packed day I’d imagined, but a great walk in fantastic weather, and good few species clocked up.

Sunday
Sunday started with the RSPB’s skua and shearwater cruise from Bridlington harbour. Here I met up with some of the other Yorkshire members of BirdForum, and it was great to meet them all. Although apparently quite a disappointing cruise compared to some (there were only two shearwaters seen all trip, and neither of them by me), some decent stuff was around.

Several red-throated divers (a year tick) flew past, and the usual gulls (including common gull and kittiwake) followed the chum that was thrown from the back of the boat. Little gulls were seen, but I didn’t manage to see one. Where the shearwaters disappointed, the skuas at least showed up, including a fantastic arctic skua at close range by the boat, and a few great skuas. I missed the first greats that went past, and in my panic I nearly missed the second sighting, an individual sat on the sea, even though it was right in front of me! After many cries of “WHERE?!” and cries back of “THERE!!!” I finally got it, and I got good views of another in flight later on too.

Other birds seen on the trip were guillemots, razorbills, a single puffin, rafts of common scoter, sandwich tern, common tern, a couple of lost redshank, and a great crested grebe. Gannets were of course very evident, with several passing very close to the boat and some plunge-diving into the chum line.

There were also a good number of harbour porpoises around, and I saw a tantalising glimpse of a larger cetacean which the trip leader couldn’t identify on the quick view we had. Bigger, more powerful, longer-finned and rising out of the surface more than a porpoise – minke whale, perhaps?

After the trip there was an additional year tick for me with a small number of purple sandpiper in the harbour.

I then joined the BirdForum group for a trip to Tophill Low, a site I’ve never been to before. This is a Yorkshire Water owned nature reserve near Driffield, and I’d thoroughly recommend it for a visit. The first thing we saw, before we’d even entered the reserve properly, was a hobby, which darted past and it (or, probably a different bird) soon settled on an aerial, giving good views. It proved to be its regular perch, and we got good views of it all day as it surveyed the ground for dragonflies.

Hobby

The hides at the reserve brought a good number of waterfowl (including teal, wigeon, shoveler, greylag, ruddy duck, tufted duck and mute swan) and waders (including spotted redshank, ruff, lapwing, dunlin and curlew). Other birds seen or heard included long-tailed tit, great tit, pheasant, coot, moorhen, little grebe, buzzard and sparrowhawk.

It seemed very hard to beat the hobby, but we managed it – a falcon flew past one of the hides, provoking some debate as to its species, before coming back and perching openly in a tree and proving itself to be the gorgeous male red-footed falcon which has been frequenting the area! An absolutely brilliant bird, and one I still keep smiling about. I managed one shot of it, which is even worse than that kingfisher one I posted the other week…

Red-footed Falcon... honest!

[EDIT – of course it wasn’t a red-footed falcon after all. See this post!]

Sadly the pintail and red-crested pochard that had been seen recently had gone, but one final addition to the day (and another lifer) was a distant but scopable black-necked grebe. Another non-bird highlight was a red fox hunting along the nearby fields.

So the total turned out to be 78 species, 10 year ticks, and 4 lifers. Not bad at all really. A shame the shearwaters didn’t show, but the falcons at Tophill made up for any disappointment with the seabirds. A great weekend all round!

September Sunshine

Damflask Reservoir

A fantastic day weather-wise, and thankfully I had an afternoon off work to enjoy it. I had a walk all the way from the house, up the Loxley Valley, up the south side of Damflask, and to Bradfield. There weren’t a lot of highlights, so I’ll let some photos do most of the talking.

Red Admiral
A red admiral at Damflask – I’ve not seen enough of these this year, and it’s good to finally find one that’d stay still long enough for a photo!

Mallard

Mallard

I’d decided to stop taking too may photos of mallards because they were an easy target, but these (slightly genetically dubious) ducks were posing so well at the edge of Damflask I thought it would be rude not to.

A snail
This tiny snail was on a leaf in the Loxley Valley, near Rowell Lane.

Teal
The female teal is still present on Old Wheel Dam. No signs of the male today. (Sorry for awful picture!)

And finally a few mushroom shots – despite my confident id of fly agaric the other day (it’s an easy one!) I’m no fungi expert, so I’m not going to try and attempt to name these species. If anyone wants a stab then feel free to comment!

P1020480 P1020485 P1020484 P1020503 P1020504

Unless I stumble across anything interesting tomorrow, I probably won’t be updating again until Sunday night or Monday now, as I’m off to Bridlington for the weekend for a general explore of Flamborough and the RSPB skua and shearwater cruise. Although it’s forecast to be a lovely weekend, I can’t help fearing that the boat trip is going to be rather misty, and that the weather may be a bit too good and the number of interesting birds sheltering on Flamborough may be reduced.

Birdwatchers, eh? Never happy!

Agden again

I had a walk round Agden this morning. Not that much around – a good few house martins around above the reservoir, and a flock of around 40 swallows on Smallfield Lane. A green woodpecker could be heard from a tree at Agden Side, and a few siskins were on the edges of the plantation at Agden Res.

A few of these around – fly agaric mushrooms. If anything says “don’t eat me” it’s these things, although, despite their highly poisonous nature they have been regarded for centuries by some cultures for their hallucinogenic properties, and widely used in some shamanic rituals. In ancient Siberia shamans would eat the mushrooms, and their followers would drink the shaman’s urine for second-hand psychoactive chemicals.

I don’t think I really have to tell anyone not to try this all this at home (especially the urine bit)… other symptoms of eating these can include nausea, vertigo, low blood pressure, amnesia, siezures, coma and (in the right doses) death. It also closely resembles deadly species such as death cap during the early parts of its life cycle, and can be easily be mixed-up with something even more lethal.

Fly agaric

Fly agaric

Old Moor and patch update

A great day today, with some very ropey record shots to document it, so I aplogise for bad photography from the outset…

Old Moor yielded some good stuff this morning, the highlights being two little egrets, two ruffs, two black-tailed godwits, three snipe, three common sandpiper, three green sandpiper, one greenshank, several golden plover among the lapwings, waterfowl including wigeon, gadwall, shoveler and teal, two kingfishers, and two buzzard circling overhead.

The reserve was also full of mating dragonflies of various species, making the place resemble some kind of dragonfly orgy. Some pics (of varying quality!)…

Common Hawkers (?)
Migrant Hawkers

Grey heron
Grey heron

Greenshank
Greenshank

Tufted duck
Tufted Duck

Common sandpiper
Common Sandpiper

Little egret
Little Egret

Ruff
Ruff

Shoveler
Shoveler

Snipe
Snipe

Cormorant
Cormorant

This afternoon I had a walk round my patch. Highlights were two chiffchaffs (one singing near the house and a juvenile trying to sing but only managing a few hissy sounds at Old Wheel Dam); a kingfisher perched on a piece of driftwood on the Damflask overflow at Stacey Lane, with a grey wagtail walking around behind it; a sparrowhawk in the trees at Old Wheel Farm; a pair of teal at Old Wheel Dam (first time I’ve seen more than one there at the same time); a handful of swallows and house martins at the Admiral Rodney – a far cry from the flocks around earlier in the month.

You thought some of the Old Moor photos were ropey?!

Sparrowhawk
Sparrowhawk

Kingfisher (honest!)
Kingfisher!

Ahem…