Monday, 28 April 2014

Padley Gorge NT

I may have started lectures, but education does not come between a man and his birds. With that in mind after my one 9.00 lecture I decided to head into the peaks to Padley Gorge again. The weather was also with me, very warm and sunny making it a very pleasant day out.
Apparently when we arrived a cuckoo flew over us, or so I was later informed by another birder, isn't that just my luck. However, we soon found some pretty cool stuff, namely 2 Common Lizards which I managed to get a record shot of.
-Common Lizard
The birder had also given me a pretty acurate description of where to find a singing tree pipit, the bird I really wanted to see. I managed to track down the pipit, though sadly it did not sing, but there were a few of them about, as well as a couple of stonechat, though they were quite distant.
-Tree Pipit
Next we headed down to where the pied flys were, and they did not disappoint. The first spot was a bit barren, only one female of which views were fleeting but further down we stumbled across a pair using a nest box right next to the path. As a result we were able to get some great views and I was able to get some great photos of the birds.
-Female Pied Flycatcher
-Male Pied Flycatcher
The walk was shorter than it had been before, as it only took us about 2 hours. As a result we were unable to find as many species as I had before, and the only view of a redstart was a very distant view through much shrubbery. We did see one though so it was nice, as well as Greater Spotted Woodpecker and Grey Wagtail.

Species List:
Padley Gorge NT: Pied Wagtail, Rook, Meadow Pipit, Carrion Crow, Willow Warbler, Chaffinch, Swallow, Stonechat, Kestrel, Tree Pipit, Blue Tit, Pied Flycatcher, Treecreeper, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Wren, Redstart, Mallard, Grey Wagtail, Sparrowhawk

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Orgreave Lakes - Avenged

Today is the last day of what has been an extraordinary Easter. Since its a Sunday my options as to where I can go, so I decided to go to my local path Orgreave, just to see what was about. The weather improved through the morning, until it was sunny and warm. That made it a rather pleasant walk. Sadly I slept through my alarm so when I arrived there were a too few many dog walkers around. However, there were also a few birders around, so I got to ask them what was around. 
The answer was not a lot, but I set up on main lake to watch. The highlights were a Wigeon that flew in, quite late in the year, and a pair of Little Ringed Plover right in front of me, so I was able to get some decent record shots.
-Little Ringed Plover
After a while I decided to carry on round, on the way flushing a Wheatear and watching Great Crested Grebes on the lake. However, near the outlet pipe I stumbled across a really stunning bird, one that I only saw for the first time this year yesterday. Indeed, it was a Yellow Wagtail, and far more sedentary than yesterdays birds, allowing me to grab a few photos. However, while I was watching it, it was joined by another Yellow Wagtail, the first time I have ever seen more than together.
-Yellow Wagtail
I also found a Pied Wagtail on the banks. I considered the possibility of getting a photo with all 3 British wagtail species in it, but I considered the prospect of finding a grey wagtail on this site was very unlikely...
A few meters up though I saw a wagtail with a grey back land on the bank. I considered it so unlikely that I would find a grey wagtail that I considered blue headed or channel before it, but indeed it was a Grey Wagtail. I was shocked, and impressed, the first time I have ever seen all 3 British wagtail species in one day. A first time for everything.
-Grey Wagtail
I continued round, though there were many dogs around which I thought would end all hopes of finding something. It did not however, as I stumbled across a rather bold male Wheatear near the path, bobbing around and hunting in the grass. Once more, when you see these birds it is difficult to believe just how stunning they are. 
I set up on the far side of where I had been. From my vantage point I could see 4 Little Ringed Plovers in front of me, and a few more Redshank. The Wigeon flew back in, though I did not see it leave. After some time my mind wandered off for a few mins...
I came back to find 2 terns on the lake in front of me. I panicked. I immediately went for the camera to grab some photos so I could identify them when I got back. I then tried to find them with the scope but I could not really get a decent view. From my position I would have said the streamers were too short, but I am not familiar with arctic terns so I could not say so. However, I then checked the photos while the terns were hunting up the far end.
From the photos; Shortish bill, no obvious black at the end, short neck and, most importantly black fringes on the underside of the wing. So then, I have, finally, on the last day of the holiday, finally found my Arctic Terns. The birds (there were 2) stayed on the lake for about 20 mins while they moved up and down the main lake, before heading off northwards. 
Having been over all week looking for these birds it was such a relief to find them, and on my own patch. And that I found them, so overall I probably would not have had it any other way. The only downside was that the birds did not land on the lake, which was disappointing, but I still managed a few decent record shots...
Que record shots:
-Arctic Terns
After they left I decided to head off to finish off my essay. However, I left having had a stunning day, finally finding some Arctic Terns and finding lovely Yellow Wagtails, a great day with great species found.

Species List:
Orgreave Lakes: Skylark, Reed Bunting, Starling, Magpie, Woodpigeon, Lapwing, Canada Goose, Graylag Goose, Sand Martin, Coot, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Little Ringed Plover, Mute Swan, Great-Crested Grebe, Black-Headed Gull, Meadow Pipit, Wigeon, Wheatear, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Swallow, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Yellow Wagtail, Redshank, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Kestrel, Linnet, Arctic Tern, Chaffinch,

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Anglers CP

I had no real plans for today, the 2 sites I had been desperate to check out I had done and so I had today off pretty much. Due to the consistent levels of arctic tern at Anglers where as other sites had been less consistent I decided to head there to see what was about.
It cost me an arm and a leg in public transport but I arrived in good time and raced to the hide in order to avoid missing anything. I need not have rushed, as all the birds I saw there stuck around for some time after I arrived. The first thing I did was to check for arctic terns, but there were none. There was a Common Tern however, perched on one of the rocks there, quite close.
-Common Tern
Other birds included a sleeping male Goldeneye, Gadwall and a summer plumaged Dunlin, as well as Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Tufted Duck, Teal and the usual suspects. As I waited though a lovely pair of Common Sandpiper flew in. I got really good views, and then one started to have a thorough makeover, washing and preening right in front of the hide. 
-Common Sandpiper
After a while I decided to up sticks and go to Wintersett Reser and see what was on there. As I arrived 2 terns were leaving, but from what I could see they had short streamers and a wider rump, so they were a pair of Common Tern. The only other birds of note were a Great Crested Grebe that I got pretty decent views of and a Whitethroat that sat out from the brambles to sing for a little while. There was also an Orange Tip butterfly, which continue to be around in good numbers.
I decided to spend the rest of my day at the hide on Anglers. It was a wise decision I feel. I got to enjoy more views of the Common Sands and of the Dunlin. There were also plenty of Hirundines about, but as I continued my scanning of the skies I picked out some much blacker birds in the sky. Indeed I had found my first Swifts of the year, and they were in good numbers too, at least 10 possible more.
Buoyed by that I continued to watch. The common tern from earlier had left by now. However, after some time a tern fly over the lake. Naturally I wondered if it would be an arctic but extensive photo work has revealed them it to be a Common Tern.
I was very close to calling it quits by now. It was early afternoon and I still had public transport to face. However, just as I was contemplating departure another birder walked in. In my wisdom I decided not to go as I would look like I was avoiding them, and that they may potentially have some information. He did not provide the latter but keeping me there certainly had its up-sides.
I stayed about 40 mins longer than I had intended to, and after half and hour we were joined by another pair of birders, these ones being proper Anglers birders through and through. 
There continued to be a lack of change, but then out of nowhere a small bird appeared flying above 2 Starlings, and all 3 were dropping in front of the hide. Immediately I though it was a linnet, but as it left the starlings I realised what it was, and the other birders did too (though I called it the loudest). Yes, it landed on the edge of the nearest island as a stunning Yellow Wagtail, only my second ever, and much closer than the bird last time.
-Yellow Wagtail
However, to say the view was brief would be an understatement. It lasted less than 10 seconds before the bird took off again. However it was enough to get a proper view and and some decent photos of it.
I spent about 15mins after that, but the only thing to add was Curlew to the list. Overall it was a really enjoyable day, the weather picked up and I picked up 2 great year ticks to make up for the lack of arctic terns. So now to conclude here is your species list from today.

Species List:
Anglers CP: Dunlin, Common Tern, Oystercatcher, Canada Goose, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Willow Warbler, Lapwing, Coot, Robin, Rook, Magpie, Woodpigeon, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Teal, Jackdaw, Sand Martin, House Martin, Swallow, Great Crested Grebe, Reed Bunting, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Goldeneye, Carrion Crow, Pied Wagtail, Feral Pigeon, Swift, Goldfinch, Yellow Wagtail, Bullfinch, Linnet, Kestrel, Blackcap

Friday, 25 April 2014

Orgreave Lakes

I got back to the flat at 3 that this afternoon, maybe intending to take the afternoon lightly, work on my essay kind of thing. When I checked birdguides every single site I have ever visited while at uni had seen arctic terns go through, including Orgreave. Their terns were at 7.00 in the morning though. However since I had time I decided to go for it, just in case.
They were not there. The highlights for my trip were Ringed Plover on the near shoreline which was lovely to see, but the real highlight was the sheer number of hirundines that were all over the lake, of all 3 species. Whats more is that they were coming very close, so I got incredible views.
-Ringed Plover
I would like to say they were ample compensation for missing out on the terns but it did not feel like that at the time. I seemed to be destined to miss out on this influx...

Species List:
Orgreave Lakes: Linnet, Skylark, Woodpigeon, Sand Martin, House Martin, Swallow, Canada Goose, Graylag Goose, Mallard, Jay, Great Crested Grebe, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Wheatear, Gadwall, Pied Wagtail, Coot, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Tufted Duck, Meadow Pipit, Carrion Crow, Mute Swan,

Padley Gorge NT

Today the weather took a turn for the worse, as I woke up to fog and drizzle, and a forecast saying it was going to get worse. However I persevered and went into the peaks to a NT site named Padley Gorge, a valley of ancient woodland very similar to Hardcastle Craggs. The site is well known for its pied flycatchers and redstarts.
By the time I arrived it looked clearer and the rain had stopped. I set off through the wood constantly keeping an eye open for anything, as 8 pied flycatchers had been seen the day before. However I passed through the woodland on the eastern side of the river without seeing one, though I did get good views of jay feeding and of Nuthatch.
Things started to pick up when I arrived on the moorland at the end of the gorge. There were meant to be a few tree pipit around, but I initially failed to track one down. However the bird I tracked down instead was far more pleasing on the eye, as I found this stunning male stonechat singing from the moorland. I was unable to get very close but from a distance he was very bold, sat out in the open singing.
There were a few Meadow Pipits around, so my quest for a tree pipit was hindered by that, and that there was obviously not one singing nearby. However I did hear my first cuckoo of the year, just one call from a distant part of the valley, but it was still my first call.
I then spotted another pipit in flight, and this one landed in a tree. I failed to get a photo as it was difficult to locate. Obviously meadow pipits can land in trees if they want, though the usually don't, but this bird then moved trees. So that was my first year tick of the day; Tree Pipit, though the view was not great it was pretty clear as to its identity.
Just down from there the path re-entered the woodland via a slope with sheer rocks on one side and a drop on the other. Even as I entered I knew this was probably the best spot as there were clear nest boxes. However the first bird I saw in this area was a lovely Great Spotted Woodpecker, that was pulling moss of the branches.
-Greater Spotted Woodpecker
As I watched the woodpecker I spotted a small white bird alight on a branch a way down the path. When you see it you know, so even before I raised my bins I knew I would see a stunning male Pied Flycatcher. And it was, though the view was distant it was still a stunning bird, and only my second ever.
I moved closer but he was very mobile and was feeding in the mid level of the trees, and because the path was going down from the slope I realised I would soon end up looking up to the bird, not ideal.
-Pied Flycatcher
After a bit he moved off into the forest and I lost him. I decided to stick around this area, and it is a good job I did because soon after I lost the pied flycatcher I noticed a dash of red whizz past me and land on a branch pretty close in all fairness.
Yes, it was indeed a stunning Male Redstart, unbelievable, I could not believe it. There had only been a few records so far this year so to get a view like I had was unbelievable. I even got to see the lovely tail twizzle that makes these birds so charming. 
Sadly the view was brief, as it only landed on about 3 branches, spending about 10 seconds on each. I grabbed some photos but now that I am home I have realised the light was badly against me so none of them are particularly good. All I can say is that it was a truly stunning bird and no photo would ever have done it justice anyway.
-Male Redstart
After that, and a little wait longer I decided to walk around this side a bit more, try and track down some more pairs. I failed to do this so ended up back where I knew was a safe bet to find them. I continued to spot them hunting in the trees, but they were very mobile and quite high up, so getting a decent picture was difficult. I made a fist of it, but like the redstart they will never do the birds justice.
-Female Pied Flycatcher
-Male Pied Flycatcher
By around half 12 the weather really began to set in, but since I had finished the walk it did not really matter and so decided to call it quits. I would highly recommend the site to anyone, not only are its birds stunning, but the site itself is very beautiful. Here to follow is today's species list, woo!

Species List:
Padley Gorge NT: Nuthatch, Great Tit, Jay, Song Thrush, Robin, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Wren, Woodpigeon, Treecreeper, Swallow, Willow Warbler, Meadow Pipit, Carrion Crow, Stonechat, Tree Pipit, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Grey Heron, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Magpie, Curlew

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Swillington Ings

Today we were back into the swing of things, and I started off my few days birding with a long awaited trip to Swillington Ings. This site has been getting increased press recently due to the number of unusual species that it seems to get. Another reason it is doing so well is the occurrence of Black-Necked Grebes in summer plumage that spend their summers here. That was the big draw for me, even though I managed to tick them yesterday. 
So after long train journey on which I was robbed by Northern Rail, standard, I arrived at Woodlesford and began to make my way onto the site. I decided to stick to the roads and enter from the Western side, since my map was better that way, and I did not want to risk getting lost.
Once on site I began immediately, with Kestrel and Skylark quickly recorded. It was not long, a short walk down the side of the Eastern Reedbed that I encountered my first Black-Necked Grebe of the day. What had really struck me was how close it was to the path, and how little it seemed to care. These were a long way from yesterdays distant skulking birds that I was unable to really photograph. This bird seemed to be unable to stop showing off right in front of me.
It really was a joy to watch, but eventually he drifted off into the middle of the pools and behind some reeds. Either way I got some stunning shots, of a really stunning bird. In my opinion, they are the best bird on the year-list this so far this year for me. 
-Black Necked Grebe
I decided after that to go have a look at the Mere, as that was where most of the key bird species seemed to turn up. I checked from the side nearest to where the grebes were but could make out very little so decided to wander round the back and see what I could find.
What I found was a pair of very helpful local birders who come to the site regularly. They guided me to a large flock of Black-Tailed Godwit in full summer plumage, a Common Sandpiper, only ticked for the year yesterday, and the undoubted highlight a sleeping male Gargany. They said I would be able to get a better view further up, so headed that way.
It took a while but the Gargany did eventually wake up, assisted by the arrival of a pair of Shelduck onto the bank. There it ambled into the water and began swimming. Even through the scope the view was not great the bird was so far away, so given that information please respect my frankly awful record shots, not helped by the fact that blogger has decided to intensify their green-ness. 
However, I was able to watch the bird for some time, and eventually tracked down the second. It was only a short swim however, as it soon decided to go back to sleep, becoming a small brown mass with a white eye stripe. Being only my second ever Gargany I was very excited by this sighting.
-Male Gargany
After a while the birders that I had spoken to joined me, and we relocated all the birds mentioned before. After a while he left and began watching further up the bank while I remained where I was. After some time my second year-tick of the day dropped in, when a small group of 4 Common Terns flew by. Initially I was unsure if they were all common, so when the birder returned down the path towards me I half expected him to tell me that there was an Arctic among them. 
-Common Tern
However his news was more exciting than that, as he had tracked down a pair of Whimbrel on the far side. We headed back up and got to watch them feeding on the far side for some time. By chance they were with a pair of Curlew, so you could really appreciate the size difference. But once again, because they were on the far bank the view was poor and it was only occasionally that you could really make out the eye stripe, though the size of the bill was clear, which was another bird give away. 
As to the photos its the same scenario as above, in that they were distant and that blogger had exaggerated the green. However, it does the job of being a record shot, a badly needed one as it has been some time since my last whimbrel. The whimbrel are the birds on the left if your struggling, the curlew are the ones on the right. 
-Whimbrel and Curlew
When I had finished at the Whimbrel, a large crowd had gathered, I set off in search of garden warbler as there had been one singing. I did not track down that bird but did track down another year-tick in the form of Whitethroat. Initially I only heard it but after a while I got views of it in flight, and flitting through the brambles, sadly no photos though; the bird was too quick for that. At the same sight there were Common Terns diving into the river which was lovely to watch.
I decided to wander round the top and head back down to see if the Grebe had come back out. The walk round the top produced very surprisingly little, but once back at the grebe site the bird (only one today) was still there flaunting his ravishing plumage, giving great views. The only downside was that the sun had moved to behind the bird, so that the photos have had to be edited in order to get their features to stand out. However, that was only really a photo issue as I still got incredible views from my perch on the bank.
-Black-Necked Grebe
I left the grebe and headed back to the mere for a bit, hoping for some terns to fly in. They did not. The only thing to add from before was a ruff, a female that was hunting along the shoreline.
I decided to make my way off the site via the western reedbed so that I would then have covered most of the site. On this bit of the walk the number of flies made it very unpleasant, but I did pick up a female gargany, self found from the reeds. I was struck by how pale it was, and when I got the bins to it I could clearly see the eye-stripe. This is the first time I have ever seen a female gargany, so to have identified it all by myself I was well pleased. Sadly it did not stick around for photos and drifted off into the reeds not to come out while I was there.
There was a Bittern Booming along this part of the walk but as is so often the case I failed to see it. The final year tick of the day was achieved right at the end of the walk just as I was leaving the site. I heard a call from the reeds that I did not think was a sedge warbler, and I was right. After much hunting I finally got brief views of a Reed Warbler, though the view was brief as it kept its head down during its song. The flies made it pretty unbearable but I waited for some time for it to shows itself, though the only thing that came out of the reeds was Reed Bunting
And that was it birdwise. Feeling very heavy legged I almost missed the train and had to run with all my gear, and after a shower I realised I was extensively sunburnt, which was not an ideal outcome, but such things must be taken when out birding.

Species List:
Swillington Ings: Greenfinch, Mallard, Black-Headed Gull, Robin, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Gadwall, Blue Tit, Carrion Crow, Blackcap, Great Tit, Swallow, Chaffinch, Mallard, Jay, Moorhen, Kestrel, Graylag Goose, Tufted Duck, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Reed Bunting, Skylark, Little Grebe, Pochard, Cormorant, Starling, Great-Crested Grebe, Black-Necked Grebe, Common Sandpiper, Black-Tailed Godwit, Curlew, Wigeon,Gargany, Shelduck, Greater Black-Backed Gull, Redshank, Linnet, Teal, Oystercatcher, Common Tern, Whimbrel, Stock Dove, Shoveler, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Ruff, Grey Heron, Pied Wagtail, Reed Warbler, Sand Martin