Great Grey Shrike – another from the archives to stop this blog becoming too text-heavy! Last April I was lucky enough to get to see this little beauty, who was posing nicely by the A57 near Strines. Hopefully another comes along this winter, as they’re always brilliant birds to catch up with.


Redmires again

I had a quick yomp round Redmires last night, enjoying the light evenings while I can. Not too much about, the highlights being c350 lesser black-backed gulls, which had at least two yellow-legged gulls lurking among them, 23 lapwing, a couple of red grouse chuckling in the moorland, two grey wagtails on the Conduit, and three willow warblers in Fairthorn Clough.

Old Moor and Wombwell Ings

A good day out today that started well before it really began, with a kingfisher and two grey wagtails by Lady’s Bridge on the way to the station. From then on it was the train and bus combo to Old Moor, taking a quick detour to Wombwell Ings on the way for a change. I’m glad I did as I got some good birds there, including spotted redshank, ruff, dunlin, golden plover and grey partridge.

Grey Partridge (honest)

There is a partridge in this picture, honest…



Onwards to Old Moor, where I feared I wasn’t going to see much due to maintenance work going on, but despite the diggers and tractors trundling away there were still a good few waders around if you looked hard. Good numbers of green sandpiper were still around, a greenshank lollopped around, and I caught up with my target species for the day… curlew sandpiper.

Curlew Sandpipers (honest)

Yep, those blobs are juvenile curlew sands, take my word for it!

I always like catching up with curlew sandpipers, they’re quite endearing waders, superficially and fairly confusingly like dunlin but a good shade more elegant and fairly easy to pinpoint when you know what you’re looking for. I spent a bit of time watching them and buffing up on their salient features for next time, as they’re not a species I see very often around here – distinct supercilium and face pattern, longer bill, plain underparts, peach-washed breast, and taller with longer wings and tail than dunlin.

Unfortunately the juvenile garganey that’s been at Old Moor recently seems to have gone (I think I’ll give up on that species for this year…), and was unable to get a water rail at the new (and rather good) Bittern Hide, although apparently there was one skulking around in the vegetation. Hopefully that will become a place to rival Potteric for views of water rail and bittern come the winter.

Elsewhere I have word from their discoverer, Dave Simmonite, that the Langsett black redstarts are still in residence. Well worth a look if anyone’s around, as they’re cracking birds and not easy to find in these parts.

The academic yearlist

I’d fallen into a bit of a trap, whinging about lack of birding opportunities during the week. Well that’s rubbish, there are birds everywhere, and I’m lucky enough to work on the doorstep of some of Sheffield’s best urban greenspaces.

I’ve toyed with the idea before of turning Weston Park, Crookes Valley Park and Ponderosa a regular lunchtime patch, but never gave it much commitment. But I really should as it takes well under an hour to have a look round, they have a surprising amount of regular birds between them, and sometimes the unexpected can turn up. Mandarin, teal, lapwing, tawny owl, grey wagtail and fieldfare are among some of the more unusual birds I’ve found during lunchtime walks in the past, and I’m sure many more will turn up if I look regularly enough.

So instead of spending my lunch hours sat at my desk, usually looking at BirdGuides at the birds I’m missing, or pontificating on BirdForum while I should be out finding my own stuff, I’m going to get out and have a look what’s out there. And it’s a good time to start a list here – it’s the start of an academic yearlist!

Having a look today turned up a small posse of long-tailed tit, greeting me near the entrance to CVP, and a wren getting agitated over nothing in the bushes. In Ponderosa a coal tit was a fairly unusual bird near the entrance, and a chiffchaff sang from the bushes, the sunny weather tempting it into another quick burst of song before making the journey home. Other birds picked up on the quick trip today were mallard, woodpigeon, feral pigeon, blue tit, robin, magpie, carrion crow and blackbird.

Okay, nothing exciting there, and a pretty quiet day, but hopefully I can pick up some good stuff as the autumn continues and winter bites.

Keep rollin’, rollin’, rollin’

Some great pics are on the Spurn Observatory website of a roller that turned up on private land in Easington over the weekend. As it arrived at a sensitive site it wasn’t put out to the public at the time – and probably quite rightly, as human safety comes before allowing people to twitch birds and anyone who says otherwise needs a reality check.

I still would have loved to see it, but even if it would have been out in a public area, without a car a bird at Spurn may as well be on the Moon… Ah well, it helps keep my dirty twitching tendencies at bay, so it can only be a good thing!