Tuesday, 19 February 2013

16 & 17th February Birdathon

This weekend I managed to squeeze in a day and a half of birding which was very enjoyable and flew by!

I'll keep Saturdays news brief then and focus on Sundays Birdforum Tyke Meet.

I decided to try out Askham Bog to see if I could get Willow Tit on the list, I had heard they were pretty much guaranteed here so off I went. Within 2 minutes of arriving I was stood 10 yards away from Marsh and Willow Tits coming down from the bushes to take seed from the boardwalk fence. There were about 4 Marsh Tits and 2 Willow Tits, it was a great opportunity to separate the two and appreciate their ID points which I had been researching earlier (Thanks to Lucy from the Natural England team for sending me a brilliant presentation on Marsh vs Willow Tits). A quick circuit of this small but brilliant reserve produced a single male Great Spotted Woodpecker. I managed to get this in my scope for fantastic views as it called from the top of a tree - looking for a mate?? It was about 12c by now and felt very much like Spring!

I will definitely be going back for some photo opportunities, I would recommend this to anyone, there were also Great, Blue and Coal Tits feeding in very close proximity as well as Robin, Chaffinch & Dunnock.

On my way over to Leeds I called in at Fairburn Ings RSPB to see if I could grab the Redhead Smew which was reported earlier in the day, but I didn't have any luck. I did see a single Pink-Footed Goose though which was a nice year tick and there were loads of Goldeneye about - cracking bird.

17/02/13 Birdforum Meet

                                            Sunrise at Derwent Cottage Farm, North Duffield

I started out early today, 7am just as the sun was rising maximising the hours for today birding. In the fields here (which have been very productive lately) were 80 Lapwing & 11 Golden Plover, a few Mute and Whooper Swans, one singing Skylark and a male Pheasant. It was pretty quiet until a flock of Whoopers flew in overhead providing a good photo opportunity...

                                                          Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus)

After about an hour I was joined by Ken, Keith, Nick, Richard & Rob. Moving on to North Duffield Carrs from the Geoff Smith hide species of note were 5 Reed Buntings, 3 Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, 4 Shelduck, Curlew and a male Goosander passing right in front of us in the hide!

                                                          Goosander (Mergus merganser)
After a while we moved on again to nearby Ellerton picking up a good host of birds including Pintail, Gadwall, Redshank, Fieldfare, Pied Wagtail and a Buzzard which soared overhead.

                                                        Common Buzzard (Buteo Buteo)

Also present was a single Pink-Footed Goose in with a few Greylag Geese in a field next to the church. We also had 2 Egyptian Geese fly through towards Duffield Carrs.

                                               Pink-Footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus)
On we went again, this time South to Aughton for more birdwatching from a churchyard! Not a lot about here but a single Goldeneye was picked up on the water along with Tufted Duck & Wigeon and a Curlew (the same bird seen from Duffield Carrs presumably). We also heard a Great spotted woodpecker calling & eventually saw it flying away and a Sparrowhawk flew over, another year tick for myself. 

As we left the church I noticed a large thrush in the field, Song Thrush trashing about looking for worms! Just as we had seen this the familiar sound of jangling keys could be heard, and indeed it was as we'd hoped, a singing Corn Bunting perched atop a tree... and then another!

Heading back to Bubwith Bridge we viewed over Duffield Ings which was stacked out with waders, hundreds of Golden Plover & Lapwing, along with Dunlin, 6 Ruff and 2 Black-Tailed Godwits. A call from Andy Walker got me onto a flock of 53 Barnacle Geese heading our way, the flock spilt and was seen a few times in the next hour circling and looking completely lost... could they really be wild and not the York University birds??
                                                     Barnacle Geese (Branta leucopsis)
A single Green Woodpecker flying overhead was an unexpected bonus here.A cormorant flew overhead and then chaos ensued as a Peregrine Falcon passed over the flock, sending everything up and away from the area.

We returned to Derwent Cottage Farm determined to find the Bewick's Swans which had been seen by others on the day. By now the light was terrible causing a faded image in the scope, but I did manage to find 2 Peregrine Falcons sat in the field in close proximity, presumably Male & Female as one bird was considerably larger than the other. We had almost given up on the Bewicks heading back towards the Carrs, but we returned to the fields further down the road which made for better viewing. The bird I had earlier suspected to be a Bewick's was on the move, and showed nicely the size difference from the Whoopers it passed, eventually joining another similar looking bird, finally we'd caught up with the pair of Bewick's which have now been here for some time.

The rest of the group went on to Skipwith Common & Thorganby platform whilst I went in search of some fuel, for the car and for my belly!

A report came through that the Waxwings were still showing well at Acomb and this brought the end of our time in the Lower Derwent Valley.
Beckfield Lane at Acomb, York was the destination and we all met up here (after Nick and Richard took a detour into the centre of Acomb!). I parked up unwittingly directly under the tree where some of the waxwings were, and they did the dirty all over my car (not many can say they have waxwing poo on their car!) My maximum count was 48 but there have been more reported in the area recently. The birds were sat in 3 trees and would all converge upon one small berry laden tree at once, which provided for spectacular photographic opportunities!

                                                              Waxwing (Bombycilla)

After we'd had our fill of Waxwing action we headed to Upper Poppleton for the Gulls, which were nowhere to be seen, so we carried on to Rufforth Airfield. Not a lot about here either, just as good numbers were arriving a micro-lite went up and sent everything off never to return. So that was the end to a fantastic day with some great company and a cracking weekends birding!


  1. That was a good haul for a w/e in Feb Andy .... corn buntings would have been my highlight (not seen one this year yet), thanks for the nice comments about Askham Bog too. You have a new blog follower.

    Tim@Timbobaggins Abroad

  2. Thanks Ken& Tim. Nice to meet you on Saturday Tim, will probably be signing up to ywt in a couple of months when I've got some money, will use the forms you gave me.