Moscar to Lodge Moor

A break in the rain at Stanage

This morning I had a break from packing for a bit and decided to go for a walk. Laura was visiting a friend in Manchester, so I got a lift to Moscar on her way, and walked from there to Lodge Moor via Stanage and Redmires. Sadly the weather was pretty lousy, punctuated by one nice sunny spell, when I managed the photo above!

Stanage was its usual bleak self, and the rain meant nothing interesting was overhead. There were many, many red grouse around as usual, and the highlight was a late wheatear at the north end of the Edge, which I’m fairly sure is the latest one I’ve ever seen, definitely in the Sheffield area. Although fairly close, the rain was coming down too fast to get the camera out for a photo!

Down at Redmires the whooper swans that had been reported had scarpered, but I did find a goldeneye on the Top Res, and a cormorant flew north over the Middle Res. On Soughley Lane a noisy, chuckling flock of around 150 fieldfare took off from the trees and wires and headed towards Redmires – my first of the winter.

Goldeneye (record shot)

A goldeneye in the rain…

Dips and Dippers…

Oh dear, I’ve been quiet of late, haven’t I? The house move is tumbling on, and that and a few other bits and bobs I’ve been doing has meant I’ve not had a lot of time to go out and see anything interesting, and no time to write about it when I do…

The weekend before last I decided to have a big birding blowout before I started getting stuck in to packing, thinking I’d fairly easily pick up three juicy year-ticks. You should never set out with such a cocky attitude, as you’ll anger the birding gods, as I soon found out!

I started off catching the bus to Leash Fen for the great grey shrike that had been hanging around for the few days before that. Aiming to get there for around 8.30 on the bus, I idly checked Twitter on the way and saw one of my contacts had just been stood watching it. Excellent! I got there and found two happy birders who had just seen it perched on a dead tree for twenty whole minutes before slinking off into the mist at about 8.25. I waited two hours and… nothing! Bah! I did get a few nice signs of winter, though, with around 80 redwing over, and a skein of around 120 pink-footed geese, the latter being my first of the winter.

Slightly dejected I made my way back into town (thanks to Chris for the lift!) for my second journey of the day, catching a train to Wombwell and on to Old Moor. Two birds to mop up for the year there, I thought, were the little stint and garganey, and (can you see the theme of the day?) neither were playing. There were a few good waders, including spotted redshank, green sandpiper, greenshank and golden plover, but not my targets!

Green Sandpiper

Last weekend I didn’t get chance to get out much, bar a walk on the Loxley Valley, possibly one of the last times I’ll get to call it my “local patch”. Nothing too out of the ordinary, bar a small party of siskin, a few redwing feeding on Hawthorn, a classic tit flock that included all the expected species, including goldcrest, nuthatch and treecreeper, a mute swan and a good count of eight tufted duck at Old Wheel Dam, and a grey wagtail and dipper. The latter was the first I’d seen in ages, showing just how much I’ve been neglecting my patch recently as they’re easy to spot in the Valley. Maybe I deserved my twitches the week before to fail so dismally!

Dipper

I’m not sure how far I’ll get in the next couple of weeks, but I’ll try to keep the blog ticking over with something, even if it’s just lunchtime birds, links or photos of fungi… After that I’m hoping my patch-watching flame will be rekindled after I move, so expect a lot of posts about that.

A twitchin’ and a dippin’

Yesterday I had a trip to Spurn, which turned into a bit of a day of twitching and dipping…

On the way we decided to have a slight detour, and have a look at the American golden plover at Great Heck. There’s a flood in a field there that has attracted a large grouping of birds, including black-headed and common gulls, lapwing and a couple of hundred (European) golden plovers – among them was one of their vagrant cousins.

Typically for this species they seemed scared of their own shadows, and despite us staying back to the opposite side of the road, annoyingly kept taking off at anything that moved, including a few carrion crows that seemed to delight in chasing them into the skies for a while where they circled for an age before settling back down again. After a couple of these sessions, we finally got on to the American goldie – slightly smaller, greyer, and with darkish streaks on its breasts (showing a different moulting stage to any of the other goldies there) and a darker, “splodgier” cheek-pattern. After a quick scrutinise they spooked again and drifted off. There was one report on BirdGuides after we saw it, about half an hour later, but it wasn’t seen after that, so we were lucky to see it when we did.

From then on to Stone Creek, where despite checking every fence post, bush and hedge we could see, failed to find the great grey shrike. We did see the usual fine selection of waders on show, that included an incredible display of thousands upon thousands of knot taking to the air, plus bar-tailed and black-tailed godwit, grey plover, redshank, dunlin, curlew and turnstone. As well as the waders, a cream-crown marsh harrier loomed over the farmland, and a little egret huddled by a ditch.

Spurn next, and a rather uneventful walk round the Triangle for starters, that included nothing better than a couple of blackcaps, a redstart (not seen by me), a heard-only squealing water rail on the canal, and a few lesser redpoll and goldcrests by the churchyard. We saw a flock of brent geese fly in, and we went to the point via Chalk Bank, where we caught up with them, along with some nice views of grey plover and curlew, and a few more waders for the day which included oystercatcher, sanderling and ringed plover.

Brent Goose

Brent Geese

Grey Plover

Grey Plover

A spot of bush-bashing at The Point after that, and despite a few annoying fleeting glimpses of unidentified passerines the best we could muster were a few redwing, more blackcaps, and a rather fine male brambling actually inside the Heligoland trap (oh shut up, it’ll count for a day list, despite its captivity…!). A few whimbrel  also finished off the day’s respectable wader count.

By this time a yellow-browed warbler came up on BirdGuides at the churchyard, so we scurried back to have a look. No signs, unfortunately, but the gate was locked so viewing was hampered somewhat.

We decided on the way back to stop at Lakeside for the Slavonian grebe, which was a lifer for one of the party, and a bird I’ve only seen as small dots bobbing off the end of Filey Brigg. After a dash round the lake in the fading light, we eventually found it, looking rather dapper as it chilled out with its more mundane little and grest crested cousins.

Slavonian Grebe (record shot)

A Slav at sundown…

A good day all in all! Not bursting in all the rares I was hoping for, and a couple of dips along the way, but I got a not-too-shoddy 74 species throughout the day, which I will now list (in vague chronological order) like the sad man I am.

Mute Swan
Mallard
Buzzard
Woodpigeon
Feral Pigeon
Lapwing
Golden Plover
American Golden Plover
Pied Wagtail
Starling
Carrion Crow
Rook
Jackdaw
Magpie
Pheasant
Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Skylark
Marsh Harrier
Bar-tailed Godwit
Black-tailed Godwit
Dunlin
Redshank
Curlew
Turnstone
Tree Sparrow
Goldfinch
Greenfinch
Chaffinch
Swallow
Knot
Grey Heron
Little Egret
Blackbird
Mistle Thrush
Shelduck
Greylag Goose
Kestrel
House Sparrow
Dunnock
Blue Tit
Reed Bunting
Robin
Lesser Redpoll
Goldcrest
Meadow Pipit
Brent Goose
Song Thrush
Coot
Moorhen
Siskin
Willow Warbler
Stonechat
Blackcap
Common Gull
Oystercatcher
Grey Plover
Sanderling
Ringed Plover
Redwing
Great Tit
Brambling
Wren
Cormorant
Collared Dove
Whimbrel
Grey Partridge
Little Grebe
Great Crested Grebe
Slavonian Grebe
Tufted Duck
Canada Goose

Rain and Rustics

A very very wet day on the East Coast today with the SBSG (if it wasn’t a planned trip I wouldn’t have gone based on the weather forecast!), but a good time had despite the depressing downpour.

First stop Filey for the Wryneck. The weather at this point was the worst it was all day, and predictably we failed to find the bird, despite finding the bush where it was supposed to hang out. Some of us did see a brief glimpse of a browny-grey something inside, but that’s as far as we got – whether it was a wryneck, other bird, or figment of the imagination brought on by water damage to the brain is anyone’s guess! We did spot a well-known twitcher there, who helped us find the bush, and then seemed to get rather aggitated because one of our party didn’t fancy shimmying to the edge of the cliff and round the bush to flush it for him…

Then on to Filey Dams, where we lingered for a while to take shelter in the hides for a bit, despite the fact the best birds on offer were two Sparrowhawks, some Snipe and a Wigeon… One member of the group did catch glimpse of a probable otter though. Does anyone know if this sounds likely?

Then on to Flam – we joined on to the Rustic Bunting twitch, but the rain and fact some people had waited two hours without a sniff of it made most of us make the decision to head to the cafe, and start again with the wait when we were a bit drier and had a hot drink inside us! On walking back we were greeted by smiling birders who’d finally seen it showing well just a few minutes ago! D’oh! In a way this was quite a relief as we were a bit uneasy about the “organised flush” planned, as it was resting a bit uneasily with some of our principles, and despite the pissing weather we didn’t want to just see the arse-end of a bunting just so we can tick it.

We stood and watched again for a bit, and after not too long a bird flew up into the Rustic’s favoured bush, sadly just as the rain started lashing at its worst again. I got onto it in the scope – bunting, striking head pattern, hint of wingbars! Bingo! As it was quicker to lend my scope than to give directions, and I wanted everyone to get a look before if flitted off, I gave it up to other members of the group, who all had a good look while I tried and failed to look through the fog of my steamed up specs and binoculars. By the time I took my turn back at the scope I had to refind it, as I’d adjusted my tripod for shorter people, and got on to it briefly through the now raindrop-covered scope just as it flitted out of view, and others around us with similarly afflicted optics murmuring about whether it had actually been the right bird? Had I been quite embarrassingly wrong with my initial ID?! But all members of the group who had a scoped look (all fine birders who would pick up on such a stupid error) saw the bunting plain as day, and I wonder if there were two birds in that bush to confuse matters (apparently a whinchat had been up with it when it appeared earlier).

Elsewhere at North Landing were a nice party of red-legged partridge, a yellowhammer, and plenty of gannets and cormorants over the sea, but the weather didn’t encourage us to explore too far.

After that we took the decision to move inland, and ended up at Blacktoft just as the rain stopped, where there were loads of marsh harriers around as usual, and a fine selection of waders that included curlew sandpiper, spotted redshank and black-tailed godwit.

A big up too to Paul who’s run the SBSG coach trips for well over a decade – it was his final trip today as he retires from the role. A big thanks to him for doing this for so long, and we’ve had some great trips with him at the wheel.

Seeing in October…

My first proper walk in October and a good one! I walked from Bradfield, to Broomhead Res, and back, taking in Agden Rocher, and checking Cowell Flat, Walker Edge, White Lee Moor, Spout House Hill, West Nab – plenty of nooks and crannies where there were plenty of birds to be found.

A good count of 41 species seen on the walk, the highlights including llttle owl, wheatear, raven, common buzzard, snipe, siskin (plenty of these about), grey wagtail, great spotted woodpecker, goldcrest, treecreeper, nuthatch, swallow, house martin, red grouse, linnet and meadow pipit.

A few pics…

Common Buzzard

Buzzard

 Wheatear

Wheatear

Red Grouse

Red Grouse

Little Owl

Little Owl