Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Odds and Ends

18 Black-tailed Godwits on Swantail at Wheldrake Ings yesterday, plus lots of Sedge, Willow and Blackcaps in full song. Still no Garganey or rarer...

Today, had a long walk to the Deli on Bishy Road along the river. Saw my first Orange-tips of the year, plus two pairs of Lapwings holding territory on Middlethorpe Ings. A few Sand Martins and Swallows about and a Buzzard over Bish Crematorium.

Tonight, did Hes East. The only new migrant was a female Wheatear. Tried out my new camera which seemed to work ok. This pic of the Wheatear was in bad light and the bird was a dot in the distance. It ain't brilliant, but it would get through the rarities committee if it had have been a Pied. Hordes of gulls came past to roost, but I couldn't pick anything decent out.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

A late Smew

Back to North Duffield Carrs first thing but still couldn't locate a Garganey! Plenty of ducks but nothing unusual. On to East Cottingwith where the flock of Black-tailed Godwits was showing well, numbering 24. Scanning through the ducks I noticed a small grey bird sleeping on a bund. It had white on the wing and looked a bit like a Smew (I couldn't see it's head at this point) but surely not in April? After a couple of minutes, it put it's head up and sure enough it was a lovely little Smew. Nice. A little later it woke up properly and went for a swim.  This seems to be the second latest Smew in the York area, the latest being a female that resided at Castle Howard until 11 April 2008.


Up early and in the Lower Derwent Valley by 6.30am. Wheldrake Ings was alive with the sound of Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Curlews and the new Willow leaves along the river were a terrific vibrant green. My head was full of hopes of Garganeys or rarer. Sadly, not quite that good, but still an enjoyable walk with c20 Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits on the refuge, my first Willow Warbler of the year, several Sand Martins, c20 Ruff, a female Peregrine and an unexpected Corn Bunting.

On to North Duffield Carrs (it seems there is little water anywhere else) where scanning through the ducks I noticed a large white bird on a fencepost in the background. An Osprey! Sweet! I phoned the news out and after a while it took off and flew straight towards me, flushing everything off the water. It landed on another fencepost having halved the distance. With a decent breast band I assumed it was a female. After being mobbed mercilessly by the crows, she flew off, gaining height to the south. A little later, the ducks got up again and sure enough, there she was heading back north. She dropped in to the trees to the north of NDC and vanished. Andy and Arnie turned up just too late but a few minutes later and she got up and began circling high to the north.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

What the wind blows in

This is a great weather website! If you've not seen it, definitely worth checking out to show you what birds might be being whisked our way by Atlantic depressions, southeastern airflows etc.

Sunday, 30 March 2014


Really wanted to show the kids an Adder, so headed off to a likely spot. The sun was just breaking through mid-morning, which created optimism that the scaly ones would be out with their towels on the sun loungers. Chiffchaffs aplenty chiffed and chaffed in the woods and Adelaide's first Green Woodpecker yaffled unseen from a nearby pine.

A likely spot revealed the diamond pattern of an Adder, basking with flattened body under the protective spines of a small Gorse bush. It was incredibly camouflaged and would have been easy to overlook but a fellow snake spotter showed us the spot. The kids all got a close look and behaved really well keeping still and quiet. Their first wild snake - great!

Nearby a Common Lizard gave itself away by scuttling across some dead leaves.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Grafham Revisited

Having spent a fab weekend reuniting The Reserves in Bury St Edmunds, popped in to Grafham Water my old patch for a little look round. My old mate Mark Hawkes had tipped me off about a couple of good birds so I was full of optimism. I headed first for Mander CP, past my old house in Perry. I walked down to Valley Creek Hide and was soon watching a smart, but sleeping 2cy female Long-tailed Duck. A couple of Goldeneye were nearby but otherwise not much else. Down to the lagoons where five Avocet were rather nice, plus Shoveler, Gadwall and Teal. At Plummer CP I thought I saw a diver briefly over near the north shore, so I headed round to Marlow CP and walked south on to the dam. After scouring the water I picked up a fine Red-throated Diver which showed well in the sunshine, diving regularly, but spending enough time on the surface to allow a couple of phone scoped pics. I carried on along the dam and picked up another diver near the Tower- cool, a Great Northern! I walked round and got great views of this big bird. With the sun on the water you could actually see the bird's massive feet trailing behind. On the way back to the car I saw and heard my first Chiffchaffs on the spring in the willows by the edge of the res. A great hour's birding and a good reminder of what a great patch this used to be!

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Acaster and Gos

The water is dropping rapidly and right now the Ings look brilliant. If only they would stay like this for a couple more months, though with a warm week predicted I think they will be dry by next weekend. In the meantime a new high of 38 Gadwall were present this morning, plus five Teal and two drake Shovelers. Let's hope a Garganey shows up before the water disappears!

Headed northeast to meet Tony Martin and Steve Norton and we spent some time searching for Goshawks. The conditions weren't brilliant so we were quite happy with five sightings of three or four birds. The first sighting was of a distant soaring bird that then did a couple of great switchbacks and some good stiff winged flapping. I noticed it also put it's head up, above the level of the wings a couple of times, which is mentioned in BWP. Also saw Dippers, Grey Wags and several Crossbills, one of which flew past calling a piping 'djup' with two more conventionally sounding mates. Sadly, it didn't stop....

By 2pm I decided to head south, having a quick look at a dozen or so Bramblings by the road side, and then on to Castle Howard where a solitary Whooper Swan, two Goosanders and c20 Goldeneye were the only birds of note.

Dad went to Iceland

Following news of 48 Whooper Swans over Hes East first thing I headed to Acaster Ings to check out the rapidly disappearing floods, full of expectation. As I got out of the car, I was greeted with the bugling call of a Whooper Swan! Scanning the water I picked up a couple of these majestic birds behind the hedge. Wow! This followed on from four I had a couple of weeks ago, but to get them on the deck was just cracking. After I had got my scope up and grabbed a few shots as swans swam past gaps in the hedge, the calling volume and frequency increased and it seemed they were thinking about departing. Sure enough, they then ran down the flood and to my amazement not four or five, but 18 birds were in the herd! They headed south, round the back of the church, across the road and then north across the fields and off over Bishopthorpe, their route probably taking them over my house! Next stop the west coast of Scotland, or perhaps even Iceland! A brilliant start to the day and a great reminder of how exciting it is birding a local patch.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Gadwall High

A new high of 19 Gadwall this morning at Acaster floods, plus 9 Goosanders, 2 Teal and c20 Coot. Just hoping for a Garganey any day now...

This evening, 25 Goosander were getting frisky, with the males doing their mad sky pointing display. 4 Shelduck were noisily chasing each other about and three Wigeon loafed in the shallows. Great that the days are drawing out sufficiently to get down here after work now. 

Saturday, 1 March 2014

All's well...

A bit of a disasterous start when my birding was hampered by thick fog. The murk seemed to be held to the east of the Ouse and so I headed over to Rufforth just in time to see the t**t falconer turn up. There weren't many gulls showing from the road anyway, so I decided I'd take the browny points and head home early. In the afternoon, took Adelaide who has been busy learning 35 species of birds in her first bird book out to Askham Bog and then Acaster Ings. She tried out her new serious bins (despite being pink) and managed to get some good bins views of Great Tits and a Robin (see below). It is funny remembering actually how quick you need to be to get your bins on a fast moving small bird and then focus in. This is so natural now I don't even think about it, but it was a real struggle for Addie and only when a bird sat still for a while could she a. find it and b. focus on it. But she seemed to enjoy the challenge so we made a bit of headway. Not much of note in the Bog apart from my first singing Marsh Tit of the year and several Siskins. Afterwards, headed down to the floods at Acaster so Addie could tick off a few ducks. Quite a bit going on with c10 Wigeon, c10 Gadwall, 8 Goosanders, 2 Oyks and best of all, a sleeping Egyptian Goose by the church. This is the first I have had in the York area outside of the LDV. Back home and Addie made her first birdlist. Brilliant.