Saturday, 28 April 2012

2 Swallows

So after having my first swallow of the calderdale yearyesterday, I managed to double my count today, with 2 hunting by the Bradshaw Tavern today. They were very mobile, but dissapeared when a crow flew by.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Calderdale swallow

So, its almost May and I finally manage my first swallow of the year in Calderdale. Its been a long time coming, but I finally spotted one whilst walking down to school in the rain. It alighted on a telegraph wire, before hunting across the nearby feild.
  Unfortunatly, today was also the day that somebody had the first swift in calderdale of the year. I seem to be behind the times. Such is the curse of exams.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Bolton Abbey

as it was none rainy day, we decided we would go to bolton abbey for a walk to see if there was anything around. On the first corner coming up-river towards the cafe, there were three mandarin ducks, though only
2 on the water, a third sat with the mallards.

-Mandarin males
Walking through the woods, spotted this rather tame robin, less than a meter away, so I got down to take some photos

I got distracted off the path, and found myself looking out of the woods into a feild, where overhead there were a couple of buzzards, and a curlew flying over, which was interesting to see these two completely different birds being so close to each other.

On the way back, we got the novelty sight of watching some mallards get covered in scum, looking like they had large white beards or something.

Walking back towards the car, I went on the loop round the rivers bend to see if I could see the Mandarins again. However, I saw a new bird for the year in the form of red kite. There were quite a few circling above the trees, but they were a way off, so were difficult to identify at first, until I looked at my photos and recognised the distinct forked tail. In the feild they were circling over, there was also a lapwing displaying.

-Red Kite
Walking under the bridge to get back to the car, I spotted the first goosanders of the day. They were on the other side of the river, so my photos are really poor. However, it just gopes to show that they are still there, though theres no reason why they would not be.

And so we went home, and ended a very exciting day.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Grange-Over sands Holiday day 5

The last day of the holiday. we were sad to leave, but at least it was nice for the last day. Even so, it was still cold, so my hands went numb taking down the orning, and moving the caravan.
We decided to go to Sizergh castle national trust, which seemed like a nice place when we pulled in. What we hadn't realised is that this place has a reasonable population of hawfinches that are, apparently, reliable, but that we were a bit too late for us to have a reasonable chance of seeing them. It did however have a bird feeding station where they had occurred before, so that's the first place I went. Mainly they were supposed to live in the hornbeams at the back of the car park, but only really in the morning, so when we arrived at 11, chances are that we were not going to see one.
At the bird feeding station there were plenty of nice birds. Besides the average garden birds there were a pair of bullfinches and a nuthatch that regularly came down from the trees.

-Female Bullfinch

-Male Bullfinch

-Bullfinch and Nuthatch


Other birds nearby included a chiffchaff, that was singing whilst catching insects in a holly tree and the tops of other trees.


Besides the car park, the hawfinches apparently live behind the visitor center, and there were less people there, so that's where I went next. It was difficult looking up into the tall trees with the sun in my eyes, meaning everything was just a black silhouette. However there were other birds more interesting than some potential hawfinches

First on the agenda were a pair of goldfinches that landed around 5 meters from me and started killing each other. They diddnt even seem to notice me as I stood there taking photos, and one eventually won the fighjt by flipping the other oto its back and then pecking its breast until it surrended. They then began to play cat and mouse in the tree tops where I couldnt really see with the camera.

I made my way down to the main lake to see if there were any bird down there. There was a coot and a moorhen that i spotted, but on the stairs down I spotted this long-tailed tit carrying nest material. Once again, it was quite bold and diddnt seem to mind that I was just stood there, until it flew into a hedge and then off.

-Long-Tailed Tit

I couldnt find anything in trhe hedge that could possibly be a nest, however, the hedge was blooming so there were a few early insects around, inlcuding this rather handsome tawney coloured bee, of which I have no idea of its I.D


I made my way back up to the feeding station to see if anything was there hawfinch wise. It wasnt, but there were some other garden birds that i decided to take photos of, just incase photos of that species were missing from my library should I ever need to use them.


After there I headed up a nearby lane lined with hornbeams to see if there were any hawfinches up there, but it was not to be.

After lunch I headed back down to the lake to see what was going on down there. It turns out that there were actually too coots, and that they had a nest, and the reason I hadn't seenm the other originally is because it was sat on the nest. The one "on patrol" at the time I was there the second time clearly disliked mallards. This mallard had a torrid time, sleeping peacefully before being chased and violently awoken. It then slept under a low tree, before swimming out again, before being attacked by the other coot and then making a runner.

-Coot Vs Mallard
However, there was a bird species that I missed completely on my original visit, a dabchick. And to rub salt in the wound, there were too. I clearly needed to leave hawfinch world and focus on the other lovely birds around. The dabchicks were really shy and stayed under some plants for most of the time, but at one point were out in the open, so I could het some photos. The coots diddnt seem to mind these as much as the mallard.

-Dab/Little Grebe
And to make sure they dont feel left out, I included a photo of the coot, in one of its calmer moments.


And so ends the grnage holiday, which was been really nice, and I have seen lots of really nice things, and it was a perfect way to end it, even though i dipped on hawfinch.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Grange-Over Sands Holiday day 4

After torrential rain yesterday we woke up to a new enemy, The wind! It was horrendous, people were taking down their ornings on the campsite to stop them blowing away. Having said that, there was hardly a cloud in the sky, and those that were quickly moved on, so we decided to go to Arnside. This is a small town on the edge of the bay that last time had an abundance of bold herons as well as cormorants and greater black backed gulls that were butchering flounders.
However, today was not a patch on last time, as most of the birds we saw were on the train journey there. These included plenty of shelducks on the saltmarsh, an abundant bird in these parts that we had so far missed out on during this holiday. However, there were plenty of them today, in two clusters of about 20 each, and then more on the mud.
Driving over the river Kent on the train I spotted some redshanks feeding in the mud, as well as a curlew or two. Arriving in Arnside I headed straight to the beach to look for fossils, of which, over the course of the day, I found many. These included corals and bivalves.
Sadly, I didn't see a single heron, and the one cormorant was flying upstream. The Greater black backed gulls did nothing more than sleep, and the only other birds were the black headed gulls, and the odd pied wagtail.
On the way back from our beach walk, My brother found these sea gooseberries on the beach, which was just about the only thing I took a photo of all day, but were quite interesting.

-Sea Gooseberries
We caught the train back, and were in grange for half 3. We decided to go for a coffee, but on the way we would check in on the blackbird nest to see how they were doing. On the way to the blackbird nest, we passed the bar headed geese feeding quite close to the path, so i bobbed down to take a few photos.

-Bar Headed Goose
At the blackbird nest I was quite surprised to see how much they had grown. They were now covered in protofeathers (if that's the correct term) and seemed really awake and lively. Sadly, once more, I was unable to get any photos of what they looked like due to the entrance to the nest being round the back, so all the chicks were facing that way. However, from my attempt you can see that they had matured from the previous photo. Still unusual to see such well developed chicks this early in the year.

-Blackbird Chicks

Overall, quite a disappointing day on the birdwatching front, but I did find some pretty interesting fossils, as well as being able to catch up on the blackbirds for a last time before we head off home.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Grange-Over Sands holiday Day 3

After almost three weeks, it decided to rain. It was a pity it had to be today, when we were on holiday and not when I was tuck at home revising. However, because of the rain my family decided that they would go to a naval museaum in Barrow, but said I could get the train to leighton moss if I wanted, because there is a train station close to the reserve.
I Arrived at Silverdale station and checked a map to see which direction would lead me to the reserve. I luckily chose the right way, as i dont remeber a golf course or a train line anywhere near the reserve from last time. Right away upon entering the car park, often filled with phesants, but none this time. There was however a Willow tit on one of the peanut feeders, which was a great start.

-Willow Tit
I got into the reserve and went staright to the big first hide, Lilian's, mainly because it has heating. I got in and began to take record shots of all the birds there, before having a scan across the reedbeds, that diddnt produce much else.

-Common Teal

-Dabchick/Little Grebe

-Tufted Duck
There was also an assortment of black-headed gulls and mallards. I stuck around for a while to see what would show up, and I was not dissapointed. I was watching the reedbeds when I overheard somebody mention snow goose, and at the same time a white bird emerged from the reedbed and began to fly above it, but some way off. I couldn't beleive it. I managed a few shots as it flew over towards the other hides, public and lower, before dipping below the reeds.

-Snow Goose
Excited I headed off towards that section of the reserve to see if I could catch up with it. On the way there i had a look at the feeders and was rewarded with views of a bullfinch pair

Heading down the causeway I was hearing wierd noises from the reedbed, but could only find coots and graylag geese, which were quite abundant. I also managed to find my first swallow of the year!

On my way down the causeway i spotted the snow goose flying away, back to where it came. Gutted I enetred public hide to see what was going on in there. I found some other wildfowl, including my first pochard of the year and a goldeneye pair fishing at the back of the lake.

I also spotted my first marsh harrier of the day in that hide, but it diddnt stick around for a photo. So I left Public hide to see what was at lower hide. To this day, lower hide has been the poorest hide on the reserve, however that diddnt mean that it wasnt worth a look. Just past public hide there was a as small river, where there was a heron fishing.

-Grey Heron
There were other birds as I made my way down the causeway, like lapwings, but I still could'nt find any trace of the snow goose, so i reckoned that it must be in one of the lakes that wasnt visable from the hides. I had it confirmed in public hide that it was a snow goose from my photo by some other birder. The conversation was prompted by somebody asking what the large white bird that he had seen flying round that area earlier could have been, a snow goose apparently!

Off the footpath and walking down through the woods to lower hide produced a chiffchaff singing and a blackcap also singing

Lower hide wasn't great, but did have some nice things, such as a wren singing outside. It also had a pair of grebes doing a courtship dance in the background, and lots of teals in the foreground. There was also a marsh harrier seemingly hunting some greylag geese, which, if it was, failed to catch any.

On my way back I called in at public hide again to see if there was anything going on. I noticed that one of the grebes I had seen dancing at lower hide had come to rest on one of the islands quite close to the public hide, so i could get a record shot for the day.

-Great crested grebes
Back on the causeway and once more there were plenty of marsh harriers to keep me interested, but the photos of marsh harriers from the day will come up later. It was however another raptor that caught my attention, in a buzzard that was flying high above.

At the top of the causeway A deer ran out infront of me, but I wasnt quick enough with my camera to get a photo of the deer, instead I had to make do with a photo of its leg, not included for obviouse reasons.

Back at Lilians hide I sat down to have my lunch, and see if the snow goose would make a re-appearance. I was enetrtained, in the days only breif sunshine window, by a heron hunting in front of the hide. It then took off and flew right in front of us, offering me a great chance to get some photos.

-Grey Heron
Most of lunch was spent watching marsh harriers in the distance, while otherbirders argued wether or not they were male, female or buzzards. In the meantime I spotted another species of wildfowl drop in the shape of a gadwall pair

i was just wrapping up with my lunch when the goose re-appeared and once more went over towards public hide. So once more I followed suit. I noted that it had gone down to the small narrow waterway that i had spotted a grey heron in earlier. I also noted the prescence of a dark cloud mass coming in, and assessed that during the walk it was very likely I would get heavily rained on. It was a risk worth taking.

And as i walked down the causeway I spotted a marsh harrier that was actually worth attempting to a take a photo off. It was a good thing I did, because they came out well. Possibly my new favoiurite marsh harrier photos

-Marsh Harrier
I reached the area where I reckoned the goose was, and was dissapointed to notfind it there. I took a photo of the waterway though, and it just goes to show how dark it was under the cloud.

-Waterway under a dark cloud
On the way back up the causeway I spotted a marsh tit in the flooded woody bit at the top, and it allowed me to get my best ever marsh tit photos.

-Marsh Tit
I made my way all the way to Griesdale hide at the other end of the reserve for a look at what was there. I just made it in time before the heavens finally opened. The poor birds all looked pretty miserable in the rain!

I had a look around and spotted another couple of wildfowl species for the day in wigeon and shoveler, a well as teal. The wigeon were well at the back under a tree, but the shoveler were quite bold and tame and were swimming around in front of the hide readily.


I was just about to leave to make sure i got my train back, when a guy next to me with a big camera suddenly spotted a bittern right out in the open on the reedbed on the far side. It was the best view of a bittern I have ever had, but at the point of maximum viewing, as it were, I opted to watch it instead of photograph it. I did, however, give me agreat view of a bittern

I called in at the main hide as I had a bit of time, and was rewarded by some birders noting that some small dots in the distance were sandmartins, and that one brighter white blob was an early house martin, which was very nice. I recorded all my first hirundines of the year in the same day.

I stopped off at the birdfeeding station on my way to the station just for a quick look. I was rewarded with great views of a male bullfinch, plus a baby rabbit and a couple of female phesants. Which was a nice ending to the day.


So ends the day for then, and i made it to my train, in the rain, and made it to grnage and got a lift back from a succesful day.

N.B There was always a nagging doubt about said snow goose. It just seemed too good to be true, and lo and behold, on birdguides it is regarded as an escape, so it is not my new tick for the holiday. Pity really, as it was quite nice to see.