With the onset of spring and a really nice weather forecast in store, a trip to the marshy areas of Yorkshire was planned. Myself & Steve K met the York lads at North Cave and after the news that the day before`s Curlew Sandpiper had not been found, it was decided to visit Faxfleet. With Nigel S at the wheel, a new area for myself and Steve K, who was freshly returned from a trip up Scotland with tales about Ptarmigan etc. As soon as we stopped a Cettis Warbler was heard, this was to be the norm throughout the day. Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Marsh Harrier were soon seen at this little known site, but the best was yet to come with the sighting of around 8 Bearded Tits (Reedlings, Parrotbills, whatever) Great birds to watch at close quarters chasing around and calling in the reeds!

News of the sighting of a female Montagu`s Harrier at Blacktoft Sands had us making our way there. Again upon arrival Cettis Warbler seemed everywhere. We went up to Singleton Hide and after a 40 minute wait watching the Marsh Harriers, we finally managed to pick out the Montagu’s Harrier. The bird was distant and only remained on view for around 5 minutes before heading away, hope the male returns soon! A good walk around the reserve were some good pictures of the Cettis Warbler were taken (not by me though) After a bit of a “tip off” we explored Goole Fields hoping to find a “blue pipe” in the ground where a Yellow Wagtail had been seen an hour before. We could not find the pipe, but Steve K picked up a solitary Yellow Wagtail that we all managed to see flying.

A good look around North Cave N.R. was made all the more pleasing when Mark K heard a singing Lesser Whitethroat. After a search the bird performed very well in a large hedge but, it did not sing again. It is probably the first time that any of us have ever seen a Lesser Whitethroat before a Whitethroat. We ended the day with an overhead Red Kite, which is always a real pleasure to observe.

Dave O.

 

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Whisby, Barnack & Yorkshire (1)
A trip to Lincolnshire to see / hear the freshly arrived Nightingales was eagerly awaited and when news of their arrival was confirmed a trip was planned. Meeting at 6am in Newhey with a dodgy weather forecast was not for the faint of heart, but I never really believe forecasts. Off we went with Bob K at the wheel, who soon had us at Whisby NR by 7-40am. Next to nobody there at that time so, with any luck we should be lucky. We reached the location and were all quite staggered by the Nightingales song but better still you could watch them in the dense, dark bushes (Just my excuse for not getting any good pictures really) Nightingales are a very evocative species to be near at this time of year, but we had to give the birds some room etc. We all headed off for a grand tour of the nature reserve amid the cacophony of Black Headed Gulls. Plenty of Willow Warblers, Chiff-chaff, Blackcap all singing, what a joy they are to listen to. We have only really called into Whisby before but I feel sure we will be back again.
A bit of a change was our next port of call, a place called Barnack in Cambridgeshire to see the Pasque flowers. Upon arrival Chris B shot off in pursuit of this rather beautiful flower, his face was a picture of delight having found lots of them! We all took lots of pictures and managed to leave before hordes of people arrived. After a call at a small reserve near Wittering, a check of rare bird news revealed a Red Rumped Swallow at Fairburn Ings NR near Castleford, Yorkshire. As one of the boys needed this species for a “lifer”, we headed off up the A1.
The weather was a little worse upon arrival at Fairburn, but that would keep the swallow in the area we all thought. As we hurried down the path a few birders were looking skywards, quickly telling that the bird was still present. Fairly good views were had of the bird that was in the company of House Martins. An adult Little Gull also performed really well in Village Bay, but not close enough for any pictures. We met Darren from Leeds who told us about a Spoonbill, booming Bittern on the Coal Tip walk. We had to give it a go didn’t we, Bob K by this stage was feeling the effects of a sore ankle and stayed near the visitor centre, wise move Bob. A long uphill slog passing 3 reed fringed ponds revealed the booming Bittern and a “squealing” Water Rail. After searching through lots of Little Egret, Grey Heron and Cormorant nesting areas we had to leave not having found the hoped for Spoonbill, very nice walk though.
Final call was at St Aiden’s / Swillington RSPB for the breeding plumaged Black Necked Grebe`s. We entered the reserve via Station Road, Methley, crossed over the railway and the river and walked along the causeway that cuts across the reserve (ta for the information Darren) The grebe`s were soon located and they performed really well. A pair of Common Tern also seemed newly arrived. This area has changed since we used to birdwatch the area many years ago, for the better this time. We soon reached home having all enjoyed a really good day out. Thanks for driving Bob.
Dave O.


Myself, Bob K and Nigel S from York, decided on a trip to the east coast. Me and Bob got to York at 8am and as we picked up Nige news of an Iberian Chiff-chaff at Kilnsea came through. We headed of through the sun drenched city of Hull on our first trip of the year to the Spurn area. In the Crown & Anchor car park a few birders had assembled, news of the bird was good as it had been caught and rung and was still in the area. We watched two Firecrest and a Fieldfare as we waited for about an hour for the bird to show. Nige managed to see the bird pretty well as we had drifted off to search around the ringing area. The bird began calling and showing in a tall tree on the caravan site but visible from the Crown & Anchor car park, the song was very nice to hear, felt like we were in Spain as the sun shone on us all! After seeing some butterflies. Brimstone, Peacock, Green Veined White and Small Tortoiseshell we headed out to Holderness Fields to see the cracking male Garganey that has been around for a few days. It was a little distant but well worth the effort, our first Swallow of the year flew past us, it must be springtime. We called in at Sammy`s Point in the hope of seeing a Wheatear, without any joy. After a search of the bushes and paddocks, that seemed very quiet we managed to see a nearly summer plumaged Golden Plover, this bird was very photogenic.

We called in at North Cave wetlands and watched a couple of Little Ringed Plover along with lots of other water birds, Ruff, Redshank, Gadwall and Great Crested Grebe. The report of a singing Sedge Warbler took us around the reserve, but the bird was not seen, sure there will be more. We did not manage to see any Red Kites in the area, but after we had dropped Nige off in York a single bird was seen from the road in Tadcaster. Good day out with brilliant weather.


Dave O.



A long staying Bluethroat, at a very remote Lincolnshire fen, had been giving birders / photographers amazing views, so a trip was organised. We met in Newhey and with Steve B at the wheel, myself Bob K & Chris B, set off for Willow Tree Fen N.R. at 6am. The promise of a sunny day was very much in evidence as we headed down the A1. The small reserve was a little tricky to find but Chris B did a good job finding it. He made a comment, “We will have this Bluethroat all to ourselves”. Upon reaching the car park it became apparent that it was not too be. The bird showed down to 10 feet and was a real stunner, it was a bit of a skullker though. During its time in the reed cover the birds song could be heard, that was very nice. After about an hour we headed away and gave arriving birders chance to see the bird.
We headed for Rutland Water to try to catch up with the already returned Osprey`s. They did not disappoint, a pair of them sat on top of a nest platform. The water level was very high, but that was not surprising with all the rain we have had recently. We also saw Egyptian Goose, Blackcap and lots of wildfowl. I have never visited Rutland Water unless there has been a Birdfair on and it was nice to really appreciate what a good area it is to visit.
Our final stop was at Budby Common in Nottinghamshire, the northern end of Sherwood Forest. Our target species was Woodlark that are usually singing, displaying around this time. We had a very wet tramp around this area a few years ago looking for a Parrot Crossbill, without success. After about 40 minutes, we again were drawing a blank. Now something really strange happened, Bob said, “There is a man about 300 yards away with no clothes on” We all had a look at this man as he was striding out over the common, strange? A fellow birder called us over to say that he had found 2 Woodlarks, we waited for them to show, then after a few minutes a male Woodlark began calling and displaying. I managed to see a female Woodlark perched in a small tree preening. That was a really nice way to end a good days birding. We reached home by 5pm and the sun was still shining!
Dave O.


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As I watched the rain splashing against the windows at home last Sunday morning, I casually looked at the BBC Weather news. It was sunny in the Southport area, so, I decided to have a look at the 6 Cattle Egrets that have been in the Birkdale area for some time. As there were no takers to accompany me I got my birding gear into the car and off I went. Within 10 miles of leaving home the rain stopped and it was really quite nice. As I reached the bird’s usual feeding area, the sun was shining, now to find the 6 Cattle Egrets. A couple of Little Egrets fooled me at first, but as I searched around an area of allotments 10 egrets could be seen quite a distance away. As I scoped the birds the 6 Cattle Egrets were picked out along with 4 Little Egrets. They were happily feeding and some of them seemed to be in some form of breeding plumage. Such a large concentration of this species I have never seen before in Great Britain. I watched the birds for about half an hour and set of back for home and as I got to 10 miles from home it began raining again.
Myself and Bob K decided to try to see the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers in Moore N.R. near Warrington on Wednesday. The rain was still falling at a great pace as I picked Bob up around 9-30am. We reached Moore and began to explore the wooded area, plenty of Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Green Woodpecker but no “drumming” was heard and perhaps the rain was drowning it out? As we headed back to the car to dry out a bit, the rain finally stopped, so we went back to the area we had been searching before, still no joy, but the first Chiff- Chaff of the year was heard and along with a nest building pair of Lesser Redpoll it made it all worthwhile.
One of my many favourite nature reserves was next at RSPB Burton Marsh, the normal friendly staff told us were all the birds we wanted to see were located. Avocets, Ruffs, Spotted Redshanks and then to listen/see the Cettis Warbler what a place. A Little Gull had arrived last Saturday and was still on the mere and gave good views in amongst the small Black Headed Gull colony, who seemed to like chasing their smaller cousin away. At this stage I made a little boo-boo (not my normal type) but the heads of a couple of gulls were visible and I casually said, “Are those Kittiwakes over there?” A local sage replied with a comment of, “If a single Kittiwake was on here this hide would be full, those are Common Gulls”. Whoops by me, the birds were now seen in all their glory and the sage was quite correct! We had a look up at the “Hill Fort” area that looks out over Burton Point and most of the Dee Estuary with a Great White Egret the only highlight. As we walked back to the car it began to rain again, so we headed for home. This was a bit of a nightmare with 10 miles taking one hour on the M56, but it was rush hour!
Dave O.


A nice trip to the principality to see some birds that, sadly we don’t get to see very often, which is a good enough excuse to visit Wales. We met in Norden at 6am with myself, Steve & Chris Brown with Chris driving. There was a feel of spring in the air as we gained height towards World`s End, we were hoping to get some pictures of the “lekking” Black Grouse. We first saw a distant couple of males but, as we reached a pull in around 14 male Black Grouse were all doing their posturing, displaying etc, only problem was a car was stopped right in the middle of the road! We headed along the single track road and watched from the car as another 20 male birds were displaying. Raven, Peregrine, Meadow Pipit & Stonechat also observed. As we headed back downhill around 6 more birds were seen and a few pictures taken. Great birds to watch and in a really good place.

The long drive to Anglesey was brightened up with lots of Daffodils in full bloom along the roads, very nice. We reached Holyhead Harbour and soon managed to watch a single Black Guillemot. The tide was very high and we remarked that we had never seen it that high before. We headed up to South Stack with its impressive seabird colony, Guillemot, Razorbill and Herring Gull. We were a bit early for Kittiwake and Puffin but a few Sand Martin heading north made up for that. The local Chough flock also put on a good display for us, Steve searched in vain for a Rock Pipit and we all missed a Hooded Crow that had been seen in the area.

We called in at Penrhos, but could not find a Slavonian Grebe that had been seen earlier in the day, next stop was the Spinnies or Aber Ogwen. We managed to see a Greenshank in the tidal pools along with Redshank, Teal, Shelduck and lots of Oystercatchers. We decided to head for Pennington Flash near Leigh as a Yellow Legged Gull had been “coming to bread” on the car park for the last couple of days. We even saved some bread, but no sign of the gull, a few contenders were seen out on the flash but as we had all left our scopes in the car an ID could not be clinched. Got home by 6pm after a good trip out.

Dave O.

 


A hurried decision to go with the lads from York, Nige S & Mark K was fully justified with a really good days birding. We met in York and with Mark driving, we were soon at Ward Jackson Park in Hartlepool. A couple of Ring Necked Parakeet`s gave excellent close up views on a sunny but cold morning. Next stop was the Jewish Cemetery on the way up to the headland in Hartlepool. The Shore Lark was soon being watched and gave quite a good show. The fish quay in Hartlepool has been used by lots of white winged gulls over the years and, as we managed to be invited in we found a very obliging juvenile Iceland Gull. The bird was photographed many times, some really close shots. We also watched a couple of fishing boats come into dock and chatted with the men on the quayside about the state of sea fishing in Britain. We called at Newburn Bridge on the coast to watch one of the local Mediterranean Gull`s and a few waders as they fed and preened on the foreshore.
At Seal Sands on Teesside we searched for a Spotted Redshank without success, but Nige found a newly arrived flock of Avocet`s, spring is nearly here we all thought. We watched the seals as they used as little energy as possible trying to get into the water, great fun! We headed for Redcar and were soon watching a small flock of Velvet Scoter and in trying to get a bit closer managed to catch a couple of waves in our footwear. Just down the road behind The Stray Café we had hoped to see a small flock of Snow Bunting, but with lots of people and dogs around they were nowhere to be seen. At Marske by the Sea a couple of Lapland Buntings had been seen in the morning. On site birders told us that they had not been seen for a couple of hours. We decided to walk the large stubble field and we managed to encourage one of the Lapland Buntings to fly up and call as it flew around us, very nice indeed. The birds were left in peace to enjoy the food left out by some birders.
As we were so close to Skinningrove it made sense to call in and enjoy the Eastern Black Redstart that seems to have taken up residency there. The bird did not let us down, showing really well and a few pictures were taken. Along with the Rock Pipits, Stonechats & Wrens and lots of enquiring tourists a very nice hour was spent on the sandy beach admiring the Redstart. At Lockwood Beck Reservoir a Water Pipit had been showing all day, well up until we got there! A few Grey Wagtails were seen, but that was all. Our final call was to be Danby Beacon were lots of Red Grouse seemed to be dotted all over the place, they are always good entertainment. The drive back over the North York Moors was very spectacular, especially Rosedale, but being a heavily keepered area the chance of seeing any birds of prey was minimal. We reached York after a good days birding around 5-30pm, thanks for showing me some new places lads.
Dave O.


med-gulls-etc-at-scarboro-2A good day out with Mark K and Nige S from York and apart from an early communications problem, a memorable one. We met in York at 8am and headed off towards Wykeham Lakes with Nige S driving. The possibility of seeing Egyptian Geese at Wykeham spurred us on as we traversed a bumpy, muddy track to a good viewing area. The weather was cold, but at least it was dry. We checked out the old gravel pits, now used by gentlemen yachters, without seeing the geese. At Hackness Nige saw a Kingfisher as it dashed upstream, we did see a couple of Dipper on the river and on a pool nearby a small flock of Mandarin Ducks were admired. We called at Forge Valley, Troutsdale feeding area were lots of birds were seen: – Marsh Tit, Treecreeper, Nuthatch and various other species were seen, very nice place to stop in at in the car. A move along the valley below the Wykeham raptor watch point revealed a Crossbill and after 30 minutes or so a flock of Wood Pigeons burst out of a wooded area. Was a bird of prey around? Then Mark K saw two Goshawks take to the air, within a few seconds they were seen flying around, one quickly disappeared but the larger female was on show for around a minute, what a stunning bird to be seen so close (150 metres?) Good job we didn’t leave the area chaps!
Next stop was the area below the castle in Scarborough to try to find a wintering Black Redstart. After around 10 minutes Mark K (who had his eye in today) found the Black Redstart as it showed itself dashing from on rock to another then hiding again. Nice bird! The tide was out in Scarborough Harbour but it didn’t stop us watching the wintering Black Necked Grebe and Great Northern Diver as they fished in between the boats. A few Purple Sandpipers were also seen as we walked around the harbour wall. In an area known as Holbeck in Scarborough we decided to have our lunch (or at least share it) with the Mediterranean Gulls that winter there? They did not let us down, I managed to sit on a bench and get them to come to around 2 metres away and they seemed to enjoy my Ham & French Mustard sandwiches. A few pictures were taken. News of an Arctic Redpoll having been relocated in Hagg Wood in Dunnington was now our next target species.
A pleasant ride back to Dunnington (I might be paying poll tax for the area if I visit again) with not much news about the birds whereabouts except that it had been seen in the south east corner of the wood. We trudged around in ankle deep mud and winding paths without any joy, until we saw a couple who had just watched a flock of about 30 Redpoll, we could not find them and went back to the car after having met a couple of York birders going in. After 10 minutes Mark got a call that they were watching the Arctic Redpoll. We all dashed back to a completely different spot, but guess what? The small flock had flown again, another half an hour searching without any luck and we abandoned the search. Really enjoyed the day out though lads. Got home by 6-30pm.
Dave O.


A Pine Bunting was found in Dunnington near York last week. It associated itself with a large flock of finches (Yellowhammer, Chaffinch, Brambling and Tree Sparrow) A few of our friends from the York area had really struggled to see the bird but, as the flock was being fed in a couple of area`s and with one of our team needing to see it, a trip was planned for Saturday. A 10am start with Bob K driving had us soon near to the bird’s favoured spot, or so we thought! We enjoyed all the birds in and around the fields and after Bob K had walked along a hedge lots more birds took to the air. After two and a half hours searching/waiting, Chris B found the bird in the hedge but before anyone else could get on it, the bird had flown into the field. Luckily, the original finder of the Pine Bunting was stood next to us and he quickly got all (about10 birders) onto the bird as it sat and preened in the hedge. The views were not great but most of the features were seen. Nige from York also got much better sightings of the bird just after we left (this was his 4th visit though). We also called to see a Great Grey Shrike near a disused RAF base near York, but we could not find it.
On our way towards home around 4 Red Kites were seen in the Leeds area before we reached our next stop at Fairburn Ings. We asked a couple of local birders about the whereabouts of the 2 Smew that had been reported there. Their directions were spot on and we soon saw the female and the quickly disappearing male in Village Bay, what a stunning bird to end a good, if difficult, days birding.
Dave O


With two of the “A” team needing to see the Pacific Diver that has been present at East Chevington, Northumberland for a while and with the promise of fine weather, we arranged to go. We met in Newhey at 6am, a time that our driver Steve K seemed unfamiliar with having had to miss his regular large breakfast. Myself, Bob K & Chris B made up the numbers. We made good progress using the satnav in Steve`s car, even allowing for some of its eccentricities, we reached the car park at Druridge Bay at 8-50am. We had a good look at Ladyburn pool first and could not find the diver, so we headed for its regular haunt, North pool. The weather was really nice and sunny, but not that warm. We soon found the Pacific Diver and all enjoyed its diving and preening in the sunshine, handshakes all around then. We called into one of the hides and had good views of a few Scaup and eventually saw the Slavonian Grebe, a bird that I have not seen for a few years.
After a slog over the sand dunes we found a flock of around a 100 Twite, Bob K went and got a few good pictures of them. We did a bit of sea watching and saw: – Guillemot, Razorbill, Red Breasted Merganser, Shag, Common Scoter & around ten Red Throated Divers, a few Sanderling, Ringed Plover also. After 40 minutes or so a single Skylark began singing and seven Shorelark flew onto the beach near the Twite, we really enjoyed watching them for the short time they were there. Some really nice birds at this reserve and lots of people out enjoying the weather.
We decided to go and have a look at the long staying Eastern Black Redstart at Skinningrove, Cleveland. We reached the area after a bit of my dodgy navigation (as I had been before) we got to the bird’s favoured area and apart from: – Rock Pipit, Stonechat, Robin & Wren, the bird was nowhere to be found. A few early returning Fulmar entertained us high up on the cliffs, but after 30 minutes most of us returned to the car for refreshments, apart from Bob K. After a long search of the area he had found the Eastern Black Redstart and it was now back in its normal place on the rocks, well done Bob. The bird performed very well for us all and lots of pictures were taken. On our way back to the car Chris B casually mentioned that he had not added Pine Bunting to his British list. Next stop it is then.
After a very long slog over the hills south of Whitby, which are very picturesque, also with lots of Sunday drivers, traffic problems etc our chances of seeing the Pine Bunting had gone. We did go to its daytime area at Dunnington, near York, but it was too late as all the birds had gone to roost. We headed for home after a really good days birding at around 7pm.
Dave O.