Archive for the ‘Birding’ Category

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.



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.

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.

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.

If you keep trying to do something without any joy, don’t give up, stick at it and eventually you will succeed. Now that is one of my many profound statements which can really be applied to the “A Teams” effort`s to see the Red Breasted Goose near Pilling, Lancashire. We had originally planned to go to see the Pacific Diver at East Chevington, Northumberland, but, after looking at the weather, decided against it.
Steve B, Bob K and myself set off at a leisurely time intending to call at the Pilling area for any news of the goose and then onto Heysham, Pine Lake and Leighton Moss. We reached the all too familiar area and began to sift through the many flocks of Pink Feet without any joy. After a while we decided to head up to Thurnham to watch the Whooper and Bewick Swans. We also managed to find a Pale Bellied Brent Goose in amongst more Pink Feet. Around this time our friends from York, Nige & Mark, had arrived in the area and after waiting around in the area that the Red Breasted Goose had been seen in on Saturday, actually saw it fly in! A hurried call from Nige had us dashing back to the right place, giving my car its first taste of “twitch speed”. Would it fly off after all our efforts over the last few weeks? We reached the area and after some parking difficulties, dashed along the road to meet the boys who put us straight on the bird, thanks for that lads! The bird was feeding very happily with it travel companions White Fronted Geese as we enjoyed the bird. You are all probably a bit bored with this “saga” but it has been a real hard bird for us to locate.
Next stop was Conder Green, surely the Spotted Redshank would be there after all it was high tide, no we missed it, but we did see a Common Sandpiper. Onto to Heysham north harbour wall in the hope of seeing Mediterranean Gull and a nice flock of Twite. The road through Lancaster has always been a torturous one and it again proved difficult, I thought the new road to Heysham would have made it easier. Upon arrival we found the path to the harbour had been blocked off, so we quickly left the area, stopping only to watch a Red Breasted Merganser fishing. At Pine Lake near Carnforth we watched a smart couple of Long Tailed Ducks swimming around.
Our final stop was Leighton Moss RSPB reserve, at Morecambe & Allen Pools we were rather disappointed to not find many birds at all, although one of the pools is almost empty due to a sluice problem. In the main reserve we had really good views of a Marsh Tit and along the public causeway we managed to watch Nuthatch & Treecreeper busily feeding. A Marsh Harrier was making all the wildfowl take to the air as it hunted the marsh. We climbed up the new tower and had a panoramic view of the reserve, good way to end a rather unusual days birding!
Dave O.


Me and Steve K decided on a leisurely, local trip to see what we could find. It was quite foggy in the Rochdale area and as we headed for Pennington Flash (via a new way brought on by myself not watching road signs) the fog did not seem to be lifting. Such birds like Long Tailed Duck, Cettis Warbler and as the Pennington Flash locals say, “Plus the usual’s” might well be encountered. A rather gloomy flash was investigated but no sign of the LT Duck, though it did “appear” later in the day, perhaps the gloom did lift? Lots of photographic opportunities in the various hides but no sign of the Bittern in the Teal hide. Time to move on, we headed for Rindle Road where 3 Grey Partridge became the highlight of a rather quiet area.

News of 18 Waxwings in Morrison’s car park in Hyde had to be worth a go. The Trans GM trip did not take long and as we arrived the birds could be seen high up in the tallest tree. We got a good place to park and spent a pleasant hour watching the Waxwings, who came pretty close to feed on some red berries. They really do brighten up the dullest winter days with their shrill calls and lovely colours.

Our last call was to be Rhodes Lodges / Alkrington Woods to see if we could locate the local population of Ring necked Parakeets. Again we had no luck but Steve K did manage to see a splendid Kingfisher as it dashed across a lodge. I have not visited this area for a long time but it must have some potential. We made our way home after having, certainly, an unusual day out!

Dave O.

Our annual “blow away the cobwebs” trip started with an early (6-30am) departure from Rochdale for four A team members. We decided on Merseyside initially and we headed for Marshside, Southport with myself at the wheel. After a tricky drive in the dark we soon reached Southport and it was still dark! A good mooch around as the dawn broke, had us all watching a Great White Egret in the company of a Little Egret, nice for comparison. The usual expected birds were seen and then at Nell`s Hide a Lesser Snow Goose (Blue Phase) was seen right outside the hide and a couple of “phone scope” pictures were taken. The bird soon departed in the direction of Martin Mere?
A few Cattle Egrets had been seen a couple of times in Birkdale, but after meeting a couple of birders, who narrowly missed the Lesser Snow Goose, told us that they had looked for the egrets without success, we had a look anyway and they were right, no sign, but 3 Grey Partridge at the side of the road in Hightown helped. Next stop Seaforth & Crosby Marina. It was very cold and fairly quiet bird wise but lots of people out enjoying the sea air. We headed through the tunnel onto the Wirral and straight to New Brighton. We arrived just in time to watch around 10 hardy souls plunge into the icy waters for a swim, we think we are daft sometimes! Purple Sandpipers on the pontoon with Dunlin, Redshank, Turnstone, Shag, Cormorant and a small selection of gulls gave us all some photographic opportunities.
Final call of the day was the beautiful Dee Estuary, which never fails to be interesting, we parked up on Denhall Lane and searched for any of the numerous birds of prey that hunt the marshes. In around an hour we saw: – 1 Short Eared Owl, 6 Marsh Harriers, 2 Kestrels, 3 Buzzards, 4 Hen Harriers (including 1 cracking male on show for around 5 minutes) Brilliant birding. We even tried to turn a gull into a male Hen Harrier shortly before the real one appeared, was it the dreaded two bird theory or what? Home by 5-30pm after seeing around 65 species.
Dave O.

With the lads from York needing the Pallid Harrier for a Yorkshire tick, it only seemed right to join them on their quest for the bird after many failures. The bird has been frequenting the area around Welwick since early November, apart from the odd trip across the water to see what Lincolnshire had to offer. We met at North Cave at a civilised time around 9am, news that the bird had been seen at 8-15am sort off made us visit the site first. We arrived at 10am with the news that the bird flew west and had not been seen since. It looked like we would be in for a long wait!
Lots of birds were seen in the area with Grey Partridge, Yellowhammer, Redwing, Fieldfare, Starling and Stock Dove. Once the birds of prey began to hunt the marshy area the place seemed to come alive. Kestrel`s, Buzzard, Merlin, Marsh Harrier and a cracking Sparrowhawk all were seen hunting. The hours rolled by on a very pleasant day and the birder`s began to arrive in the hope that the star of the show a juvenile Pallid Harrier would put in an appearance. Some of Greater Manchester`s finest birders were also in attendance and I had a good laugh with them. At around 2-10pm a harrier was seen, the bird sat in a distant bush and allowed all the telescopes to focus on it and to all decide that that was our bird, the Pallid Harrier. The bird remained on show for around 30 minutes distantly hunting the saltmarsh chasing and nearly catching a Curlew then a Pheasant. Really nice bird to watch. A supporting cast of 4 Short eared Owls were also a delight to watch them hunting. The light was now beginning to fade rapidly and it was time for home. The 4 hour wait for the harrier was well worth it and Mark K and Nigel S both had a new bird for their Yorkshire list!

Dave O.

The controversy surrounding most unusual wildfowl arriving on our shores has always mystified me, the usual questions, “is it wild, does it come to bread, has it got a ring, has it escaped from a wildfowl collection?” All may have a bearing on a bird’s ability to get it self-accepted by the rarity committee. The fact remains that if they all satisfy the identification criteria then, without being able to communicate with these creatures apart, we will never really know where they have come from!

Many years ago we headed up to RSPB Lochwinnoch, just north of Kilbirnie Loch and after an unsuccessful attempt, connected with an American Black Duck, which was accepted by the rarity committee. So when a male Hooded Merganser arrived at RSPB Lochwinnoch last week we began to make plans to visit the bird. The bird then moved onto Kilbirnie Loch and we decided to head north on Sunday. I met the lads from York in Milnrow, Mark K, Mark L & Ellis L at 7am and away we went in my car. The drive over the Lune Valley, Shap, Lockerbie and Beatock was made rather spectacular because of the amount of snow that had fallen in the last week, great scenery. Well Glasgow was reached and a really major amount of roadworks were being carried out, without too much effect on our progress. We passed three major football grounds close to the motorway namely, Hampden Park, Celtic Park and Ibrox.

We reached Kilbirnie Loch around 10-45am and the bird was found on the far side of the water and did not give any real chance to the waiting cameras. Mark commented that we were all a little bit underwhelmed with the bird, but nevertheless a cracking bird seen well in the telescope as it dived for small fish. Not many other birds were present here so after a while we moved up to Lochwinnoch. This reserve has been transformed since my last visit and was really nice. With time pressing on we headed south hoping to reach Brampton near Carlisle to connect with a group of Waxwings in the area.

Reaching the sleepy town of Brampton around 2-20pm, we soon located a flock of around 40 Waxwing`s. The birds must have been feeding all day and were getting into “roost mode” as they kept their distance, before flying away around 3pm. The weather had been a little gloomy all day up to now, but as we headed south over Shap the sunset lit up the spectacular scenery once more.

Dave O.

Late Friday afternoon, around 4-30pm, I got a call from Mark K, he said, “There is a Cliff Swallow at Minsmere”. Apart from being a bit shocked an Eyebrowed Thrush had also been discovered in Northumberland (it was never refound). Just as we all had thoughts of this bird rich autumn finally running down this happens! Talk about a dilemma, we firstly got a team together, then had various discussions about whether to go overnight or wait for news. We decided to go overnight and arranged to meet at Fairburn Ings at 3am, Darren W, Nigel S, Mark K and myself and Bob K, who drove, all headed down the A1. After leaving the A14 at Stowmarket the usual 30 mile slog seemed to take an age on small twisty roads and the Satnav also seemed overworked.

Upon reaching Minsmere the car park already looked quite full and lots of birders were milling about in the early morning gloom. We headed off towards the Bittern hide area through the wooded part of the reserve when lots of birders were seen heading towards us, some at great speed! The Cliff Swallow was still present and flying about with 8 “Barn” Swallows over the Sand Martin colony. We made good progress amongst the masses and all had a brief look at the bird flying above our heads. Success again for the, “Strike whilst the iron is hot” brigade. What a really nice bird the first winter Cliff Swallow is! We headed into the area known as the Stone Curlew field (they are summer visitors) The bird returned to the same area after about 15 minutes and was on show for around 30 minutes perched up preening, flying around with its Barn Swallow mates and sometimes landing on the ground, it showed really well. We all had the customary handshakes and decided on a return to the car for some food and a drink. Whilst at the car, a gentleman was in such a rush to see the Cliff Swallow that he slipped on some wood right at the side of us and fell to the ground with a right crash. I just said, “Man down” he did not see the funny side but we all did! We returned to have seconds of the bird but it was only seen in flight and was spreading itself out over a bigger area. I had time to have a chat to Steve Gantlet (the very top lister in Britain) which was quite informative. Even Lee Evans was in attendance to watch this rare American bird. We had a walk down to the East hide to watch the 5 Berwick’s Swan`s and lots of wildfowl on the reserve.

It was still only 11am when we headed onto Dunwich Heath to try to find the Dartford Warblers that reside there. When the sun came out around 4 birds were seen by the team and a few pictures were taken. With not much more rare bird activity in and around Suffolk / Norfolk we decided to head off home. Our trusty Satnav took us home via Norwich and the A47 and onto everyone’s favourite road the A17. We stopped at The Farm Café near Sutton Bridge and all enjoyed a good meal and had a laugh about our best visits to this café. We dropped the lads of at Fairburn Ings and both got home around 6pm. We all had a new bird and Bob K had something special to celebrate, his 500th species on the UK400 club, well done Bob! Thanks to both drivers Bob and Darren and to everyone, thanks for your company and lots of laugh`s that we always have. Great, memorable day`s birding.

Dave O.