Crepuscular Spectacular

OK, maybe spectacular’s the wrong word, but I had a good trip up to Wharncliffe Heath with my mate Andy the other night on my annual hunt for nightjars. It was a lovely evening weather-wise, but foolishly we picked the Longest Day, meaning the timescale between nightjars showing and the last bus from Deepcar to Hillsborough was worryingly narrow!

The usual support act of roding woodcocks and hooting tawny owls was present and correct, but we didn’t get as much as a chur from the nightjars until around 10.45. After a few flight calls one finally piped up with its churring somewhere deep in the heathland, and just before we had to peg it for the bus a half-arsed handclap from me lured one briefly into view, silhouetted as it alighted on a tree branch before zooming off back into the gloom.

Not the best sighting I’ve ever had, but it always feels a privilege to be in the presence of these eerie birds as they lurk in the shadows. One the way back we had views of probable Daubenton’s bat and noctules, and the usual newts as we poked our torches into the pools.


Baby boom…

Last Wednesday I took the morning off work to finish my BBS survey at Damflask. Not a lot to report, except loads of juv coal, blue and great tits around, and a family party of nuthatches. On the way back I stopped off in the Loxley Valley and came across a couple of grey partridges at Old Wheel Farm… not a very common bird in this part of Sheffield, and a very unexpected “patch tick”!

On Saturday I had a walk round the Agden area, the highlights of which being good views of a redstart, a green woodpecker, several whitethroat, and smatterings of juvenile chaffinches and willow warblers.

Chaffinch and fledgling

Willow Warbler (juv)


Today I had a scan of Tyzack’s Dam (at Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet) for mandarin ducks. They didn’t take much finding, with a female with no fewer than nine ducklings lurking on the bank, and at least seven other adults milling about, the males looking quite scruffy in their eclipse plumage.

Mandarin Mum



The weekend

I’m being vague with location due to some sensitive species, but not a bad tally on a daytrip this weekend with grey partridge, yellow wagtail, corn bunting and common crane(!) added to the year list. I was hoping for woodlark and turtle dove in the area I was in, but the crane more than made up for it.

A couple of pics, including a nice yellowhammer that was showing well while asserting the fact it would quite like a small amount of bread, but would prefer it be be delivered without any accompanying cheese.

A crane shot...


Northumberland 2010

At the weekend Laura and I had our now annual trip to Northumberland. We started on Friday with pleasant, if a bit windy, weather, and pootled about Bamburgh for a bit, where we watched sandwich terns and eiders, as well as distant guillemots. After checking in at our B&B at Beadnell, we had a quick walk on the bay there and saw the usual little terns and arctic terns in the tern colony there.

Saturday was a scorcher! We started out with a trip to Amble, where there were some very obliging eiders in the harbour…


…while we waited for the boat to Coquet Island. On the way out there we encountered large groups of puffins flying overhead, as well as the occasional guillemot and cormorant.


When we got to Coquet we saw more sandwich and arctic terns, plus many common terns, and the species I’d gone there specifically to see – roseate tern. A cracking species, which was surprisingly easy to spot among the throng.

Roseate Tern

Roseate Tern

Puffin and Roseate Tern

We decided to go on for boat trip number two, to the Farnes, but disaster struck and the car shuddered to an almost halt on the way, with a big scary warning light blinking on the dashboard and a peculiar smell drifting from the engine. Laura managed to limp it to Seahouses, and we were lucky enough to find a garage which was willing to fix it, but it was by this time too late for a Farnes trip. Ah well, there’s always Sunday, we thought. While stranded we loaded up with chips, and I spent some time scoping the Farnes from the shore, picking out a few puffins and razorbills in the sea.

Sunday arrived, and despite the gorgeous day beforehand a thick mist hung over the coast. We started the day with a walk to Low Newton, which was fairly uneventful, and to be honest a bit cold! We did find a gannet drifting around on the sea close to the shore, though…


We decided we would give the Farnes a go after all, despite the weather, and we had a rather bleak trip out in the fog, although it’s always good to be surrounded by seals, auks, terns and the rest as you go out. As we got to Inner Farne, the rain started, and we ended up getting quite drenched. Running the gauntlet of the pecky arctic terns, we made it to the cliffs to see some rather damp, depressed-looking seabirds, before spending much of the rest of the time on the island sheltering in the National Trust shelter!

There were plenty of nice baby birds on show, though, in fact more chicks than I remember seeing on any of my previous visits there.

Kittiwakes (With chick)

Shag (with chicks)

Razorbill (with chick)

Damp, depressed, puffins…

So very much a weekend of two halves, with the great British summer proving itself to be the strange and frustrating beast it always does! It has to be said though that despite the car trouble and the grim weather on Sunday, it was still a great weekend, and a trip to the Farnes is always fantastic whatever the weather.

Rainy Rutland and others…

On Saturday I had a trip to Rutland Water to see the star attraction of the site’s breeding ospreys, and see what else was around. The reports from the week before had been quite tantalising, with red-necked phalarope, black tern, white-winged black tern and Temminck’s stint all seen in the days preceding my visit…

But none of this was to be! It was a bloody awful day weather-wise, with the visit to the northern end an almost continual washout, sheltering in the hides away from the deluge. All the rarities had upped sticks, but despite the downpour we still managed common tern, hobby, dunlin, little egret, little ringed plover (with chicks), Egyptian goose, cracking views of reed and sedge warbler, and a few other bits and bobs.

After a pub lunch the weather subsided for a while, and we managed to see the ospreys at the southern side of the site in moderate weather, with a pair of birds showing well at the nest site, with one incubating, while the other kept lunging in the water to wash its feet. What magnificent birds! And to continue this blog’s tradition of crap pictures of good species…


Elsewhere on this side of the reservoir was a nice red-legged partridge, an elusive singing lesser whitethroat that only showed very briefly despite being mere feet away from us, and a very unseasonal male goldeneye. A good day out despite the rain, and the no-show from any rarities!

Red-legged Partridge

On Sunday I had a walk round Agden, picking up easy yearticks in the shape of common sandpiper and spotted flycatcher, both of which are hard to miss there at this time of year, although sadly the pied flycatcher that have been at Agden Bog recently were nowhere to be seen after a good hour or so of searching.

Last night I had a trip to Wyming Brook to look for wood warblers, finally pinning down a singing male deep in cover and getting a good view. Later on I went to a undisclosed (sorry) site to see some young long-eared owls, which were squeaking away, with one sitting in plain view. Nearby I also got an amazing view of water vole, which stood looking at me with beady eyes a mere few feet away on the other side of a stream. Isn’t it always the case you get the best views when you leave your camera at home?!

The annual pilgrimage to Northumberland this weekend – expect lots of puffin shots!