Public transport twitching…

Yesterday I decided to do a public transport hike to Pugneys CP to finally nail down the ring-necked duck that’s been coming and going over the last couple of months, and that gave me the slip earlier in the year when I visited the site in January.

On arrival it didn’t look good – despite it hanging round the nature reserve lake for the last few days it was nowhere to be seen. Typical, I thought! There was still plenty to see, including shoveler, pochard, goldeneye, great crested grebe, little grebe and the other usual wildfowl, plus a passing red fox causing a commotion as it trotted past.

Mallard
Slightly less interesting duck than a ring-neck…

I walked across the road to Calder Wetlands to see if the RND had relocated, again with no luck, but did get on to a nice redhead red-breasted merganser among the goosander flock, and the usual wigeon were good to see as always. Plus the great crested grebes here were posing nicely.

Red-breasted Merganser
Red-breasted merganser – note the punky hairdo.

Goosander
Goosander – note the more sensible bob.

Wigeon
Wigeon

Great Crested Grebe
Great crested grebe

In fact the almost-warm sunshine, coupled with the singing of reed buntings around the vegetation, made the whole walk seem very spring-like. Had the icy grip of winter finally left us, I thought?

Reed Bunting

I returned to Pugneys and finally got the ring-neck, lurking at the back of the nature reserve lake. Quite disappointing distant views, but its greyer flanks and strange peaked head were clear to see in comparison to the passing tufted ducks.

Around this time a great white egret at Yorkshire Sculpture Park popped up on Birdguides, and I realised I was only a short bus hop away from West Bretton, so I pegged it the nearby Asda bus stop to catch the bus. Before long I’d got my second lifer of the day on one of the park’s lakes. I’m seriously thinking of entering the photo below to next year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year…

Great White Egret (ahem...)

I also got a final mammal tick for the day in the shape of this giant rabbit with a human woman’s body.

Rabbit Woman

So there you have it – it is possible to be a dirty twitcher without a car. Well, as long as the birds rather handily appear along a frequent bus route, and you don’t mind spending about £16 on bus and train fares, and about 4 hours travelling…

And that lovely spring-like weather? Well, I’ve woken up this morning to another slice of Narnia. The winter’s obviously not over yet!

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The east coast…

Today I had a day off work and a trip to the East Coast with my long-suffering father, who occasionally doubles up as a birding buddy. It was quite a tight itinery, starting at the Holbeck car park at Scarborough, which is probably the most reliable site in Yorkshire for Mediterranean gulls. After a brief wait, luring the black-headed flock with a few slices of bread, up to four birds appeared, including the beauty below…

Mediterranean Gull

Then it was on to a site called Cayton Carrs for a small group of tundra bean geese that are hanging around with a group of pink-feet. After initial confusion with the wrong Carr Lane programmed into the satnav (how was I to know there two roads with the same name within 3 miles of one another!) we found them, lurking at the back of the flock. You can just about make some goose-like shapes in the photo below…

Tundra Bean Geese

We had a trip to Flamborough next, having a look for the black redstart and waxwings that have been there in recent days, but with no success. There were good views of the usual stuff, however, including fulmars and gannets.

Then the final stop of the day, Filey Brigg. We parked at the Country Park car park, the lawns of which were covered in waders, including bar-tailed godwit, knot, redshank and oystercatcher, giving great views.

Knots and Bar-tailed Godwit

On the Brigg there were many purple sandpipers among the aforementioned waders, and out to sea were many eiders, a few common scoter, and three long-tailed ducks. Shag kept flying past, and as the afternoon went on a red-throated diver showed up and, best of all, two Slavonian grebes made an appearance in the bay.

A great day, and three of my worst “bogey birds” – Med gull, Slav grebe and bean goose – were finally mopped up!

Blackcocks and Woodcocks

OK, snop sniggering at the back…

On Saturday I spent most of the day with Andy Hill, who knows the Brightholmlee/Broomhead area like the back of his hand, searching for little owls. Sadly the cold weather wasn’t luring any out into the open, but much good stuff was seen the highlights being 8+ crossbill and 30+ siskin at Wigtwizzle, a couple of ravens doing the rounds and cronking nicely overhead, up to 3 buzzard in the air at once, and a mixed flock of 13 fieldfare and 5 redwing at White Lee Farm, along wth 31 lapwing. Best of all of the day was a handsome male black grouse among the more usual red grouse at Cowell Flat. Technically these aren’t considered “tickable”, due to their origin as part of the Derwentdale reintroduction scheme, but for the purposes of my meagre list I’ve ticked it, until the day I see a “proper” wild one…

Yesterday I had a short walk on my (once again) much-neglected patch, but there wasn’t much to note except for 8 meadow pipits at Old Wheel Farm and the now resident mute swan on Old Wheel Dam.

Finally, on the way back from work tonight, I saw a large bird flying above in the gloom fairly low over Loxley Road. At first I presumed it was one of the tawny owls that have been calling every night, taunting my “no heard-only” policy for this year’s list, but as it got close I realised its fast flapping flight, pointed wings, small head and long bill clearly identified it as a woodcock, my first of the year and my first for the Valley. A very nice surprise indeed!

Tomorrow a day off work and a trip to the coast. I’ll tell you all about it, you know me…

A trip to Norfolk

Birders on the beach

Yesterday I had a trip to Norfolk on an SBSG field trip. As usual when I spend the day doing a bit of heavy-duty birding I tend to forget to take any photos, so you’ll have to put up with this photo above of the rest of the group squinting at scoters on Titchwell beach to illustrate this post…

The trip down was fairly uneventful, with me managing to completely miss any of the many groups of grey and red-legged partridges we passed along the way. Our first stop was Holkham, where many thousand pink-footed geese were an arresting sight, along with a flock of several hundred wigeon. A walk looking for a firecrest doing the rounds there was fruitless, with just one member of the group gripping off the rest of us by managing cracking views of it! There was much to see though, with snow bunting, little gull, black-tailed godwit, rock pipit, barn owl and marsh harrier among the birds seen. We stopped on the way out to get another vantage point of the marsh to look for the snow goose that’s spending time there, with no success, but did manage to add white-fronted goose (a lifer for me) and Egyptian goose to the day’s tally.

Next stop – Titchwell. Brent goose and curlew were added on the way in to the reserve, and before long a couple of us found the reserve’s mealy redpoll that was hanging round the picnic area – compensation for me missing them at Longshaw last week! This bird was particularly snowy white, with its red “poll” contrasting on its pale head, and completely unmistakable for a lesser.

A walk through the reserve to the sea turned up a load of year ticks on the way down, including little egret, dunlin, spotted redshank, knot, snipe and ruff. Off the beach a small group of velvet scoter were great to see, with a large raft of common scoter bobbing around a bit further out, and a couple of eiders around too. More waders on the beach included grey plover, ringed plover, turnstone and bar-tailed godwit.

Finally on the way out of the reserve, Titchwell’s stupidly tame robins were singing in bushes les than a foot away, reminding me I actually had a camera in my pocket…

Robin

A brilliant day all in all, with 80 species seen, including a couple of lifers and 31 year ticks. Full list below, year ticks in bold.

Continue reading A trip to Norfolk