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!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Wet & wild goose chase!

I set off at around half past eight this morning for a mornings birding, it was pretty cold out, just 2 degrees above and overcast. I decided to start out at Duffield Carrs to check out the situation with the water levels (its the first time i've been back since the floods hit again). Levels are basically back to what they were early January, the garganey hide is partially submerged again.
As I walked down the path to the hide I noticed a familiar sight, a big white bird perched on the fence post... A Barn Owl! As I stealthily manouvered myself to grab my camera, my heart sunk as i realised clutching in my bag I had my small lens on, I rifled around for the larger lens, attached it (whilst being intently watched by the barn owl) who then flew off. Typical, this seems to be my luck with Barn Owls here (im sure its the same one playing games with me!). However my fortunes have since changed on this - more on that later.

                                                           Duffield Carrs in flood 10.02.13

Not a huge amount about on the water but on the floodbank were 103 lapwing, my highest ever count of Lapwing here. Still lots of wigeon about (I didn't count them), 25 Teal, a single Coot, 10 Canadian Geese and a smattering of Mallard. A flock of circa 20 dunlin flew past heading towards Bubwith.
In the fields over the road from the car park were Whooper and Mute swans but nothing much else about (at this time).

I carried on to Duffield & Bubwith Ings, connecting with my first Curlew of the year, I always enjoying seeing these birds, with their ungainly long bills! Thousands of Wigeon on the water here & lots more Teal and 2 Pintail.

Moving on looking for farmland birds at a nearby site I quckly connected with circa 20 Yellowhammer & 30 Tree Sparrows. Its great to see so many of these birds thriving, the local farmers are obviously doing their bit for nature. The Yellowhammer & Tree Sparrows were particularly showy, but it really wasnt a good day for photography! Also seen here were 2 Corn Bunting, 2 Reed Bunting, Chaffinch & Greenfinch

                                                      Tree Sparrows & Yellowhammer (rear)
                                                   Yellowhammer (L) & Reed Bunting (R)

In the field beyound the hedge were circa 400 Starling mixed with Fieldfare & Redwing, they were very flighty & as they took off a huge noise was made, sounded like a roll of thunder, pretty spectacular to see too! There were also 2 male Pheasants & 20+ Woodpigeon.

                                                                     Starling & Pheasant

I'd decided i'd had enough for the day with the cold & persistant rain, but on my way home I noticed big numbers of lapwing in the fields opposite Duffield Carrs, I pulled in to check it out for other waders & noticed Andy Walker was here too. He'd picked out 5 European White Fronted Geese mixed in with Greylags & Whooper Swans in the distance. The conditions made for difficult viewing but eventually I noted the large white patch behind the bill and the dark patches on their breast - this was a lifer for me, result!

Whilst we were watching masses of lapwing shot up all at once, usally a sure sign of a bird of prey and it was, not just 1 but 2 Peregrine Falcons were tussling in the air. Always a magnificent sight, one flew straight towards us & I got on it with the scope providing fantastic views, though I totally forgot to reach for the camera! It was here my luck also changed with the Barn Owls, one flew along the road from Bubwith direction straight towards us, this time I managed to get some photos!

                                                                               Barn Owl

There were also lots of Dunlin about here, with a flock of 25 flying in to join the others along the waters edge. After this I went for a quick visit up to Thorganby to look for the reported Barnacle Goose, but no such luck here, quite a few wigeon & teal about again, 2 shelduck and some whooper swans in the distance. It was time to go home and the end of my birding day.... or was it?!

After a few hours at home enjoying the warmth of the fire, a text came through from Andy to let me know the Egyptian Geese were in the field where i'd seen the whitefronts earlier so back out I went! It was about 4pm now and the light was going, the rain was still falling too! As I arrived I picked up the two Egyptian Geese within minutes, giving me a chance to appreciate their characteristics, but they soon wandered off out of view. This was another Lifer for me, quite a day for Geese! The whitefronts were still about but there was a marked increase in Greylags here too, which made it difficult to pick them out as it was now darker, mistier and possibly wetter too!

2 Lifers and 3 year ticks in a day, pretty pleased with that really!

In other news...

In my previous post I mentioned the bird I'd seen at Bank Island was a Willow Tit. Its been pointed out to me that this is actually a Marsh Tit (I'd never seen one of these either) so I'll have to go back to look for Willow Tit!

And finally...

Saturday morning got off with a bang with 5 Waxwings on the next street to where I live, my first chance to get some good photographs of these stunning birds!


Next week some of the Yorkshire Birdforum lot are visiting my patch for a full days birding (weather permitting), so look forward to an even longer blog post next time!

Thanks for reading!