An unexpected lifer!

Today Laura and I had a brief trip to Old Moor, and asking my usual “anything about?” on the front desk I was happy to learn that two black terns had recently arrived near the Wader Scrape hide. On arriving at the hide it didn’t take too long to find them, feeding over the opposite shore and performing some nice aerial manouvres. A very good bird indeed that I’ve never seen before!

Elsewhere there were the usual such as ringed plover (one with chicks), redshank, cormorant, whitethroat, bullfinch etc.

A couple of pics…

Tufted Ducks
Tufties

Ssssh, don't tell DEFRA...
Don’t tell DEFRA…

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Wharncliffe

What a scorcher! I’ve spent the day so far sweltering under the blazing sun in the Wharncliffe area, in the hope of mopping up a couple of birds that have escaped me so far this Spring… spotted flycatcher and wood warbler.

Not long after I entered the woods, the cuckoos could be heard in fine song, and it wasn’t long until I managed to find the source of the noise and get fantastic views of a bird as it moved between perches in a clearing, staying around long enough and at close enough range for a semi-decent photo.

Cuckoo

Sadly my targets remained elusive, but there were plenty of garden warblers, blackcaps and a couple of tree pipits to keep me amused, as well as a smattering of butterflies including a good few painted ladies.

I walked up to Wharncliffe Chase, in the hopes of a spotted fly along the edges, again with no joy,  but did get good views of a handsome redstart near Wharncliffe Lodge, which you can just about make out in the photo below (if you squint a bit…).

Redstart

Other birds around included more tree pipits, and a singing yellowhammer. A walk through the Heath wasn’t very productive (bar the usual green tiger beetles), but walking back to the woods on the path beneath the crags finally yielded a singing wood warbler, which was tracked down and gave some brief views as it moved through the branches. Nearby I also saw a great spotted woodpecker feeding some noisy chicks in a nest hole.

Sadly the spotted flycatcher remained elusive – hopefully I’ll get one soon!

Chough me!

Before I get on with today’s excitement, a quick update about what I got up to yesterday – a walk from Meadowhall to Blackburn Meadows brought up a year tick in the shape of several garden warblers, and other warblers around included whitethroats, blackcaps and sedge warblers. A walk on patch later in the day didn’t yield too much of interest, except for another garden warbler singing in a clearing near Little Matlock Wood, and a grey wagtail near the Fisheries.

Right now that’s out of the way… today Laura and I had a crazy day trip all the way to Anglesey, a beautiful part of the British coastline I’m ashamed to say I’ve never been to until today. The first stop was South Stack RSPB, an absolutely picturesque place which very quickly yielded a much-wanted lifer in the form of choughs. After a few close fly-pasts, we eventually saw eight performing in the air at once, and one was obliging enough to pose for a photo.

Chough

Elsewhere ravens swooped over the cliffs sending panic among the assembled gulls, fulmars glided over the sea, and squinting among the guillemots and razorbills finally revealed a couple of puffins (sadly providing a photo too terrible even for this blog – hopefully a trip to the Farnes in a couple of weeks will get some better shots!). Other year ticks were rock pipit, kittiwake and shag. Some more pics…

 South Stack
South Stack

Guillemots
Just one ot two guillemots…

Spot the choughs...
Spot the choughs…

Raven
Raven (dodgy shot, sorry…)

During a quick detour to Holyhead I had a scan round the harbour for black guillemots, with no joy, but leaving the Holy Island area an overhead sandwich tern was another year tick. On a whim we took a road to Cemlyn Bay, which turned out to be a fantastic National Trust reserve, with a colony of terns that included both sandwich and arctic terns, and other birds around included oystercatcher, ringed plover, dunlin, red-breasted merganser, shelduck and, um, some particularly manky Muscovy ducks!

Terns, etc
Terns and stuff

Red-breasted Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser

Oystercatcher
Oystercatcher

Manky Muscovy
Uuuuurggghhh!

A long drive (thanks Laura!) but a great day in the best weather of the year… I’m stupidly sunburt now though!

Some bits and bobs

Ooops, sorry not updated for a while. I’ve been finishing off some uni work, which is now handed in and I can forget about Phase 1 habitat surveys, freshwater invertebrates, floral keys and other such topics for a few months!

Last Sunday I had a trip out for my final unversity field trip to Anston Stones Wood, which is a really nice patch of ancient woodland out beyond Rotherham. We didn’t venture too far, but it’s a site that deserves another visit, with good views of three soaring buzzards and singing skylark and yellowhammer in the adjacent meadows.

The weekend also seemed to herald the mass arrival of the swifts. I needn’t have worried about their number as there’s now loads. Flocks of between 20 and 30 are screaming through the skies near the house, and circling over the tramstop at Malin Bridge brightening my morning commute. Every patch of sky in Sheffield Centre seems to have a few attendent swifts, and it’s great to feel like summer’s finally arrived, despite the weather!

Finally, last night I went to Redmires for a quick walk with my friends Chris and Gill. We tried for the whimbrel that’s been on Roper Hill recently, but sadly there were no signs, although there were good numbers of lapwings, a singing skylark and four curlews to keep us entertained. After that quick detour we went to the reservoir to watch the crepuscular displays of woodcocks as they roded overhead, giving excellent views as they flew overhead in the dimming light. Well worth a look if anyone’s in the area around 9.30pm!

This coming Bank Holiday weekend the weather actually looks like it’s going to be a goodun, and I’ve got a couple of days out planned… expect some reports and (hopefully) some decent photos coming soon!

Joining the dotts

After work today the showers stopped briefly, and after a bit of umming and aahing I decided to have a walk on Stanage Edge to see if I could find the dotterels that have been sighted there for the last few days.

Starting at Redmires, I walked up to the Edge from there, picking up a flushed woodcock and a cracking ring ouzel (both year ticks). Compensation if I dipped the dotterels… however I needn’t have worried, as suddenly three ran out across the path in front of me and posing for a couple of photos before disappearing into the undergrowth.

By this time a small group of birders had arrived, and we walked round to where they’d vanished for a better look. They proved to be ridiculously tame, unalarmed by our presence, even as we inched closer and talked at a normal level. In fact at one point two actually trotted towards me, posing brilliantly on rock a mere few feet away.

As a kind of karma for being a dirty twitcher, the portentous skies that surrounded the Edge finally gave way to a proper thunder and lightning storm and I got a good drenching, but not before I got the following photos. What stunners!

Dotterel

Dotterel

Dotterel

Dotterel

More swifts

I haven’t got too much to report, as I’ve been busy with coursework over the last week or so, but it’s good to see the swifts are finally coming through in good numbers. There were at least 8 wheeling round Malin Bridge this morning when I caught the tram, and 12 over Little Matlock Wood on Saturday morning. Numbers still seem to be down on last year… does everyone else agree?

Sunk Island and Spurn

Yesterday I had a trip to Spurn. Going on a few tips that Michael Flowers was kind enough to give me, we first had a detour to the Sunk Island/Stone Creek area to find the targets of yellow wagtail and corn bunting. Both were found in exactly the locations given, and were both UK lifers for me, so big thanks for that! Some rubbish record shots, even by my standard…

 Yellow Wagtail (honest!)Corn Bunting (honest!...)

Elsewhere in the area a year tick was found in the form of a red-legged partridge that dashed across the road in front of us, and at Stone Creek I piecked up a third and unexpected lifer in the form of a ringtail hen harrier that drifted across the estuary! A really beautiful bird indeed.

After the excitement of the harrier, I noticed a barn owl hunting over the fields nearby, which moved closer and closer towards us, until it crossed the path a mere few metres away, landing in the garden of a nearby house. Probably the best views I’m ever likely to get of a wild barn owl.

Barn Owl

Barn Owl
Barn Owl

Also in the area were singing whitethroats, and a few redshank, curlew, dunlin, oystercatcher and shelduck, and grey plover resplendent in their summer plumage.

Then onwards to Spurn, where the heavens opened briefly making me fear a washout, but they stopped and the sun actually dared to poke through the clouds every now and then. We had a walk up to Beacon Lagoons, which was pretty much devoid of birds, but I did get a couple of flyover common terns (another year tick) and some roe deer in the fields, plus good numbers of singing skylarks.

Roe Deer
Roe Deer

Skylark
Skylark

A walk round the triangle brought up good wader numbers, including the fourth and final lifer of the day in a flock of whimbrel. There were also more of the same from Stone Creek, plus additions of black-tailed godwit and at least 40 brent geese. Passerines around included sedge warblers and wheatears.

Wheatear
Wheatear

Sedge Warbler
Sedge Warbler

Brent Geese
Brent Geese

We also got another mammal tick for the day, with good views of a hunting red fox.

Fox
Fox

We then stopped at the Crown and Anchor, and sat in the window looking over the estuary, which is really the only way to birdwatch! From there I saw the assembled waders and brents take flight in panic, and looked up to see a passing dark-coloured harrier, which I’m tentatively IDing as a marsh harrier. Not a bad thing to see while eating a pub lunch!

From there we had a drive to the Point, where new birds added to the daylist included sanderling, ringed plover and turnstone. The area was full of singing whitethroats, but the most obvious creatures were the hordes of brown-tailed moth caterpillars, which were covering every surface. Glad I wasn’t wearing shorts…

Spurn Point
The Point

Turnstone
Turnstone

The caterpillars of doom...
Caterpillars of doom

Then it was back to see the roosting waders at the Triangle, getting more views of the whimbrel and adding bar-tailed godwit to the list.

Whimbrel
Whimbrel

On the way home we passed through Hedon, and I caught a glimpse of what I thought was a swift through the car window, but noticed it was many times too big and actually a slender, long-winged falcon – a brief glimpse but I’m certain it was a hobby! (One was also sighted in Sunk Island earlier in the day, which isn’t far at all as the hobby flies…).

So a great day in total with some great birds seen. Here’s the full list…

Continue reading Sunk Island and Spurn