Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Pugneys CP - back again for Blyths Pipit

Having not managed to get over to the pipit yesterday, which had been my original plan prior to the 'gull' turning up, I decided today to try and get the pipit on the deck. Having only seen it in flight last time I felt that I really needed a proper view to be able to appreciate the bird.
I arrived on site just after sunrise at around 9.00, to find more birders than I expected. I approached the first few and they informed me that the bird was on the deck. It took me a while to find it but once I did it showed very well in the glorious morning sunshine. It looked great but was a little too far to get any decent record shots. I was finally able to appreciate the bird for more than a brown smudge in the sky.
-Blyths Pipit
The pipit moved around a bit. I heard it call twice but it was not as vocal as last time, probably because it did not fly as much. The bird eventually made its way to the far side of the field along the edge of the grass. A couple of birders saw it there but when we all arrived it had moved back into the sedge and we had to wait a short while before the bird appeared again.
The bird did come out but only infrequently and I could not manage any photos of it. It was close and I was pretty frustrated that, given it was so close, I had not managed a good shot. The bird remained very skulky along the edge of the grass, before deciding to fly into the middle of the grass where we lost it.
A few birders decided to go at this point, but a few remained. It was difficult to look for the bird as it had dived into tall grass. None of the birders there were really looking though, satisfied with the view they had got. It was at this point that I saw a pipit come out from the grass and land in the open on the bank in front of us. Nobody else seemed to have seen it, and it had not called, leaving me with a challenge to see if this was indeed the pipit. Despite how close it was, and how open it was, I could not get a good view due to a hump in the grass before the bird. As it was I decided to throw it out there, when the others agreed that this was the Blyths Pipit chilling right out in the open in front of us.
-Blyths Pipit
I got a few decent pictures, enough to serve as record shots of it on the ground. I was really please with the view, the only thing that could have made it better was if it had come closer, but alas it did not. Either way I was thrilled, and decided to call it quits when the bird took off again after about 15 mins on the bank, when it went into a different field.
I decided to spend the rest of my time before I had to head back for the train, looking for the smew on the river but sadly it was a no show. A birder informed me that it is a morning bird before the dog walkers scare it off. There were other good birds around though too, including a troop of splendid male Goldeneyes and a Kingfisher on one of the ponds. I managed a decent species count in total, well worth the stroll round the top end of the park
In the end it was a fantastic and very enjoyable morning. I had train options at 13.00 and at 17.00 and was not sure but felt the 13.00 was probably best so went for that. Well worth the return trip for the Blyths, and if it sticks I will probably go in the new year at some point too, a really smart bird.

Species List:
Peel Avenue Business Park: Blyths Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Common Snipe, Reed Bunting, Long-Tailed Tit, Blackbird, Black-Headed Gull, Mallard, Blue Tit, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Great Tit, Mute Swan, Robin, Carrion Crow,
Pugneys CP: Blackbird, Black-Headed Gull, Mallard, Blue Tit, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Mute Swan, Robin, Carrion Crow, Gadwall, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Goosander, Dunnock, Coot, Moorhen, Kingfisher, Lapwing, Little Grebe, Kestrel, Cormorant, Song Thrush, Common Gull, Redwing, Grey Heron, Wren, Mistle Thrush, Goldfinch, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Great Crested Grebe, Herring Gull, Shoveler, Canada Goose, Sparrowhawk,

Monday, 29 December 2014

Mirfield/Pugneys Twitching Thayers Gull

Well, today did not quite go to plan. I ended up getting quite a late train to Mirfield for the thayers gull hoping that it would be chilling on the rooftops. Alas there were no gulls at all on any of the roof tops and none of the gulls going over appeared to be thayers in nature. I had though I would miss the bird at Mirfield but that I would get it at the roost, so by half 12 I decided 1 and a half hours of watching not very much was probably an indication that I should move on.
  I decided to head to Pugneys to revisit the blyths pipit and then head over to the gull watch. Just under 2 hours later I finally arrived at Pugneys having had a nightmare with the public transport. Dusk was already falling so I decided not to go to the blyths as I figured that it would have settled for the night and headed straight to the gull roost.
  There was quite a crowd gathered, at least 50 and certainly more birders all in a line awaiting the gull roost. Sadly it disappointed. The thayers did not come in, and most gulls did not come in until late, so much so that the light was almost gone by the time the gulls started to drop in. So no thayers and no blyths.
  Given how unfortunate I had been with birds and public transport I was bracing myself for a pretty rotten evening. However, all got much better when an Iceland Gull dropped in to the roost late on. I could not find it for the life of me in my scope, but fortunately another gentleman nearby allowed me to look through his Swaro and I got a very nice view of the bird, clearly and Iceland Gull and another lifer for me, probably my last this year. It was way too distant for me to attempt a photo and since I could not locate the gull it waould have been difficult anyway. However, I found on twitter a picture of the bird from someone else, so this can serve as some kind of record shot for this lifer.
-Iceland Gull (Not my photo)
So in the end it was not a total disaster and I spent less than a tenna on the buses and trains, so that made it much better, even if I did have to run for a train in the end. I am well pleased to have ticked off Iceland Gull, pretty reasonable compensation for the Thayers. Although now it is being discussed as possibly being a herring gull, so I may have missed nothing at all...

Species List:
Mirfield: Grey Wagtail, Long-Tailed Tit, Goosander, Blue Tit, Canada Goose, Starling, Graylag Goose, Mute Swan, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Black-Headed Gull, Carrion Crow, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Greater Black-Backed Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Magpie, Cormorant, Mistle Thrush, Pied Wagtail, Blackbird, 
Pugneys CP: Tufted Duck, Mallard, Shoveler, Goldeneye, Pochard, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Cormorant, Pied Wagtail, Graylag Goose, Iceland Gull, Black Headed Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Greater Black-Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Gull, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, 

Friday, 26 December 2014

Boxing Day - Bolton Abbey

For our boxing day walk we decided to head over to Bolton Abbey. I expected nothing outside of the but that there would be some nice species. There were a lot of the usual suspects, but also some less familiar species, such as Bullfinch which I caught briefly flying into the shrubbery, and also a Kingfisher at the end of the walk which was also a brief view but still an excellent species to see. I also had 3 Common Buzzards, which we heard calling first. There were an awful lot of Goosanders along the river, possibly up to 20 birds but it was difficult to tell. Either way its the most I have seen of them at this site before. I was lucky enough to get outstanding views of one as it came to the same side of the river as me. Sadly my photos did not match the quality of the view but I still got one that was half decent.
The undoubted highlight of the day and the first time I have seen the species here was a Woodcock that flew past me when I was scanning a field. I was amazed to have seen one, given that I only saw my first for the year a couple of weeks earlier. At least this one was less of a silhouette but the amount of detail I could make out as it whizzed past was sadly minimal. Either way though, it was a great bird to see and one of the best species I have ever seen at this site.
I also tried to get photos of some other commoner species to put the camera through a bit more testing. The light was very poor sadly and as such I failed with most of my attempted species (Coal Tit, Jackdaw, Nuthatch etc.) but I got a nice close up of some of the Mallard females which I can add to my library.
It was one of the best days birding I have ever had at this site, with some cracking species seen, the Woodcock being the undoubted highlight. Always a pleasure to see, that's for sure!

Species List:
Bolton Abbey: Bullfinch, Common Buzzard, Goosander, Mistle Thrush, Grey Heron, Goldcrest, Woodcock, Blue Tit. Great Tit, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Robin, Black-Headed Gull, Nuthatch, Mallard, Kestrel, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Rook, Jackdaw, Blackbird, Carrion Crow, Fieldfare, Goldfinch, Kingfisher, Magpie, Common Gull, Moorhen, Pheasant,

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Mercy Christmas - Soil Hill

Merry Christmas everyone. Its another classic Christmas day of not doing very much but fortunately there were some birds to keep the festive spirit alive. In the morning we spotted a few thrushes at the top end of the field behind the house. Had a closer look to see that there was a mixture of Redwings and Fieldfares, though mainly the former, with a few starlings thrown in for good measure. 
Had a wander up to Soil Hill in the afternoon to have a quick look. Grim as per with the only passerines being the Carrion Crows that loiter around. I did however get a decent patch tick when I spotted a green woodpecker on one of the pylons. That was a fantastic bird to see, and a Christmas present worth the walk up to the hill. It was just a pity that it was a little too far away.
-Green Woodpecker
Other birds on the hill were few and far between, the highlight being a Grey Heron. Back in the garden late afternoon we had the pleasure of watching a Coal Tit, a species we only see a few times a year in the garden, so that was a pleasant end to the day.
-Coal Tit

Species List: 
Soil Hill: Grey Heron, Green Woodpecker, Black-Headed Gull, Carrion Crow, Kestrel, Mallard,

Monday, 22 December 2014

Mixenden Reservoir - Twitching Great Northern Diver

Finally got round to going to see the Great Northern Diver on Mixenden today, it probably having been there a week now. It was not a pleasant day, the rain not pretty and the wind pretty gusty. My knowledge of this reser is pretty limited so finding a decent viewing spot took some time but once I had I was unable to locate the bird.
I began to walk round and began to conclude that it had gone. However, I found the bird in the far top corner quite close to the shore with a Canada Goose, where I was able to get an excellent view and some reasonable photos.
The bird began to move out into the reser where I lost it. This happened multiple times with the finding and loosing of the bird, which is bizarre considering the size of the bird and the small shape of the reser. Either way, it was an exceptional view of a very smart bird, one of the best views I have ever had.
-Great Northern Diver
The bird was difficult to track due to its bizarre nature of being able to hide in plain sight. Its a nice bird to see in the Calderdale, and not a bad end to the year before the revision begins.
Also around was a Little Grebe along the edge of the reser, as well as flocks of Long-Tailed Tits and Goldcrests in the woods at the back. It was also great to see Dave on site, its been too long.

Species List:
Mixenden Reservoir: Black-Headed Gull, Grey Wagtail, Carrion Crow, Greater Black-Backed Gull, Great Northern Diver, Canada Goose, Long-Tailed Tit, Goldcrest, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Starling, Little Grebe, 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Pugneys CP - Titching Blyth's Pipit

The timing of Yorkshires first ever Blyth's Pipit could not have been much worse. A site less than an hour away but when I found out on Monday it was already too late for me to get there before darkness. Tuesday was not much better with an Exam that I was woefully unprepared for. As a result the earliest I could do was Wednesday.
I was so relieved when the bird was reported on Tuesday evening, giving me hope that it may have stuck into the Wednesday. I headed across to be on site for a little after first light, hoping that the exact site where the bird was would be easy to find as birders would have already arrived.
Good thing I did, as I would have had no idea where the bird was if there were not birders already on site. There was a gathering of around 10 when I arrived and they reported that the bird was still there and had just dropped down. 
I waited about 10 mins before they decided to do the first flush. I had looked up the call the night before, and as soon as the bird took flight it gave the distinctive call. It was difficult to track though as it flew, as soon as you thought you had picked it up it  had carried on and you had lost it again. Fortunately we could see easily the area where it had landed, so we could go for it again.
We waited a short while before heading over that way, where we pushed it out again. This was the pattern for the whole morning, though it was not relentless flushing to avoid stressing the bird. 
We got some decent flight views but I was unable to get any decent record shots, so all the photos I got are of small black smudges in the sky with a ragged tail characteristic of this individual. I think I need to practice my flight shots so should I ever end on a twitch like this again. There were so many chances for better photos that I missed.
-Blyth's Pipit
Sadly besides the call I could not pick up on any diagnostic features which was a shame, but since all I got of the bird was it in flight that is not really a surprise. The individual itself had a ragged tail edge which was fairly characteristic of the bird, and helped to separate it from the 10 or so Meadow Pipits that were also on the field. As a consequence the bird was not difficult to track down whenever it did go up, but the conditions were a little bleak and the bird did not stay airborne for long, probably pushed down by the wind.
At one stage there were only 2 birders left, which is when I got my best views, but when I left a crowd of around 20 had assembled and deciding what to do. Apparently there were some complaints about the twitching style after I left, but the bird also landed out in the open on a willow tree, which was a bit of a bummer to have missed given I did not even get it on the ground.
Overall it was a very enjoyable morning, made better by the fact that the bird was still there. It was bitterly cold so I decided to leave, and I even made it back in time for my 1.00 lecture, so I even made it to all my lectures. Good work!

Species List: Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Blyth's Pipit, Common Snipe, Fieldfare, Magpie, Black-Headed Gull, Wigeon, Mallard, Coot, Tufted Duck, Cormorant, Canada Goose, Blackbird, Kestrel, Herring Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Goldfinch,

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Gull Watching in Attercliffe MK11

Take two at the caspian gulls. I was pretty keen to catch up with one and had a little more information so headed down. I waited on the bridge looking over the roof tops where the gulls had been, and there were a few large gulls there. I had a look and got nothing but another couple of birders turned up and he picked out a young gull that he thought might be. I could see why he thought that but I still thought it was a young herring. He made his points though and I began to see it as a casp, seeing the points he made. However, when it flew it had dark under-wings confirming that it was indeed a Herring Gull. Moral of the story? stay true to what you think!
-1st Winter and Adult Herring Gull
-1st Winter Herring Gull
It came to a stage where all the gulls had drifted away until there were none left. The tip was not open so there were no gulls there, but they all seemed to have flown off in the other direction anyway. After another half an hour large numbers of larger gulls came back through and started to settle, on the roof of the tip. As a result I quickly headed over there.
On the roof I had a look through the large gulls and could not see anything. I was a little disappointed, but I kept checking and I soon picked up on a bird that had a black eye. Immediately my heart started racing and I grabbed the camera to get some shots. As soon as I put the camera down the gulls all took off and I lost the bird. This meant I could not get much on it through the scope so I would have to base my i.d. off the camera.
I had a look and could see some features, namely that eye, but there seemed to be too much gony's. Looking back at the photos now its pretty obvious that the body shape is wrong but at the time I could not see much beyond the eye, but I messaged Tim to make sure, noting my concerns about the gony's angle. Tim pointed out the body shape and said that it was not a casp but was close. Fortunately its all good practice so I can get better at this gull malarkey.
-Herring Gull
So that was that, all the gulls left again and I was left with no gulls to look at and certainly no casps. As a result I called it a day and decided to tackle my Christmas shopping instead.

Species List: Herring Gull, Black Headed Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Greater Black-Backed Gull, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Cormorant, Feral Pigeon,

Friday, 5 December 2014

Gull Watching in Attercliffe MK1

Since there have been a few caspian gulls around down in Attercliffe I decided to head down to see if I could see one, and to do some proper gull watching to improve my ability in this area. I bumped into a couple of other birders there and we watched the gulls on the tip roof. We picked out one that looked good and I was fairly confident, but it was not, and I should have seen it really given it has a whopping great big Gonys angle, but in the scope it was not that clear. The bird in question was a 2nd Winter Greater Black-Back but with a dark bill. It was an important mistake to make, as it helps me learn and hopefully wont happen again. It also gave me a chance to look into different ages of gulls in the field, something I have not really done before.
Adult and 2nd Winter Greater Black-Backed Gull
-2nd Winter Greater Black-Backed Gull

Species List: Herring Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Greater Black-Backed Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Magpie, Feral Pigeon, Pied Wagtail,

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Forge Dam

As part of a course competition my partner and I headed to the peaks to film robins for our documentary. As a result we spent a lovely morning in the peaks under a stunning sunrise. We were treated to some nice birds, including stunning views of a Jay, a Dipper flew through and Great-Spotted Woodpecker. 
we were also treated to great views of a Robin that we were able to get good film of singing, which we can use for our project. I reckoned we would be able to get it feeding out our hands but there were soon too many people and the bird moved off.
Species List: Grey Wagtail, Jay, Pheasant, Coot, Mallard, Black-Headed Gull, Robin, Dipper, Great-Spotted Woodpecker, Grey Heron, Nuthatch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Carrion Crow, Magpie

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Seaton Snook - Twitching Isabelline Wheatear

Too much work and too little time had meant no birding for some time. It reached a stage where I decided to just go on a mad one. Just as well that there was an Isabelline Wheatear on a beach at Teesmouth. I decided to have a look at the prices and found I could do it under £20 by train, though it would be another of those dreadful half 4 starts and 4 trains there and the same on the way back, but if the bird stuck it would be worth it. 
I made it to Seaton Carew for 9.00 and wandered through the town to the beach where the bird was for 10.00. Being out of the loop meant I had no idea if the bird was there and the fact that few birders drove past me while I wandered down Zinc Works road made me more nervous. However, the first birder I spoke to informed me that the bird was still there. I headed out to find a solitary birder looking for the bird, and that the bird had moved into the dune.
Shortly after another couple of birders turned up and they soon picked it out. It had been difficult to see as it was stationary on the strand line, blending in so well. It started to come a little closer as it moved, so I grabbed a couple of shots, but then it came and landed on a log less than two meters away. It became apparent that someone had been putting mealworms on the log for the bird to draw it in, but it had worked a treat obviously.
Sadly the light was a little too poor to make the most of this opportunity, and the opportunity itself happened to be all to brief. The bird was flushed by a dog walker who decided to walk right in front of the people with bins and scopes. The bird cleared off over the dunes and as such we were all left wondering what course of action to take next.
-Isabelline Wheatear
Fortunatley it did not take long as the bird was quickly re-found by another birder who had been round the corner looking at the sea having presumably already seen the wheatear. As a result we all trotted quickly round there to get another view of the bird. It was sitting up on a log about 3-4 meters in front of us. It stayed in this vicinity for the vast majority of the remaining time of my stay.
I spent a good 2 hours with the bird here, as the crowd grew and shrank and new birders arrived in order to replace the birders leaving. The bird put on a great show, coming along the strand line towards the crowd until it passed at around a meters distance, though sadly I was not at the front at this point. It then did it again at the top of the crowd and a third time when I was near enough the front to be that close to it. It was a fantastic shower, possibly the most showy bird I have ever twitched since it did not seem bothered by the people watching it. At one point it flew startled and almost flew into the crowd, banking up at the last moment.
It was such a smart bird too, doing quirky little things like jumping a couple of inches every time it was startled. We got to watch the bird complete most of its behaviors, such as preening, feeding etc and just generally put on a great show. I took the liberty of taking a tonne load of photos just to display what a show off the bird was.
-Isabelline Wheatear
Towards the end of my time with the bird it became more distant, though still close but nowhere near as close as it had been. As a result I began checking the harbor for birds. There was a large flock of Teal loitering around, as well as few Common Scoter and a small group of Eider including a really nice male. Also at the back there were 3 Red-Throated Divers and Cormorants flew around the harbor on a regular basis.
The Wheatear was eventually flushed by a jogger who pushed it into the dunes and far away, to much anger, not that he cared. I decided that I might begin to make my way off and headed back to the path. Given the birds feeding pattern though I decided it might be worth having a check on the log where it had been in the morning to see if that's where it had gone.
It was sat right on the log, I could not believe it. I had a little panic attack, I have never been in this position before. I moved off from where I was so I could see the still assembled mass of twitchers looking grumpy. I whistled and waved my arms and fortunately someone saw me and the crowd moved over in my direction. I prayed the bird would stick to the log so I would not be a made a fool of, but at the last possible moment the bird dropped and I lost it, leaving me to explain to the arriving twitchers where the bird was. Somehow it was not picked up for about five minuets and when it was it was sat right next to the log completely motionless.
After another short stop with my re-found bird I headed off along the beach to see if there was anything around. The dunes were pretty barren but there remained a few birds on the sea, though nothing new really. On the breakwater there was a bit more, including Oystercatcher, Dunlin and Curlew. Here though I picked up a real bonus for the day. I had set up the scope for some seawatching and just finished scanning when I spotted a partridge sized bird fly over my head with a long bill in front. I knew what it was immediately; Woodcock, at long last, having missed so many here it was on this day of all days. I stupidly went for the camera to try and grab a year-tick record shot but the bird pulled out and flew over the bay to the far side where I lost it. Either way, I was even more buzzing after that.
The rest of the walk was steady but not many birds. The only other birds of note though, were of great note. I was halfway between the town Seaton Carew and the Breakwater when I flushed a pair of Snow Buntings from the dunes. These were very dark individuals and certainly not as bold as I have had them in the past but still quite showy as the scampered along the dune. I tried to get a decent photo but alas the light was already dropping and it was not even 3.00 yet. My efforts all came out blurry but I managed one that is good enough to put on here as a record to these great birds.
-Snow Bunting
Though my train was not until 19.20, with the light fading and the birds almost all gone I decided to catch the 15.20 train and wait around in Darlington for my reserved seat. I ended up spending four hours in Darlington Station so got very familar with it, while having a kip, a pint and getting some work done, so not all bad. It also gave me a chance to reminisce on what had been one of the best days birding I have ever had. Not bad, not bad at all.

Species List:
Seaton Snook: Cormorant, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Curlew, Starling, Collard Dove, Mallard, Little Grebe, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Isabelline Wheatear, Carrion Crow, Eider, Oystercatcher, Blackbird, Common Teal, Skylark, Little Egret, Common Scoter, Reed Bunting, Robin, Pied Wagtail, Red-Throated Diver, Great-Crested Grebe, Rook, Greater Black-Backed Gull, Dunlin, Woodcock, Linnet, Snow Bunting, Black-Headed Gull, Sparrowhawk,

Monday, 24 November 2014

Old Moor RSPB

This trip was not one of my true birding trips but a course related trip to teach us how to identify wildfowl, which would be assessed in an exam. However, instead of sitting there drawing ducks in order to be able to identify them in an exam I decided to make the most of the opportunity and do some birding.
There was some decent stuff around too, including Redshank, Dunlin, 4 Grey Herons and multiple species of wildfowl, the highlight of those probably being a female Godleneye. Sadly we arrived at 1.00 when the light was already dropping and as such I was unable to get many photos.
Fortunately I was able to get photos of the 2 highlights of the trip; a young Peregrine sat right out in the open on one of the islands looking stunning in the evening sun. There was also a rather well concealed Barn Owl, which had I not asked about, would only have assumed to be another stick in the tree. Once I was on it though it was pretty clear that it was an owl so that was another great species for the day.
-Barn Owl
The birds were great, though it felt a little odd birding with so many coursemates, but hopefully they enjoyed. They certainly got some great birds out of it.

Species List:
Old Moor RSPB: Common Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Gadwall, Canada Goose, Moorhen, Redshank, Coot, Lapwing, Goosander, Barn Owl, Peregrine, Woodpigeon, Goldfinch, Carrion Crow, Common Gull, Pheasant, Tree Sparrow, Goldeneye, Dunlin, Tufted Duck, Starling, Feral Pigeon,