Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Hatfield Moor NNR twitching Long-Tailed Skua

Despite the impending examinations the lure of the adult summer long-tailed skua was just too much to handle, so after checking that the bird was still on Hatfield Moor this morning I headed out to try and get it.
The site was a trek. I left the house at around half 8 and made it on site at half eleven. The connections were pretty smooth given my luck but there was plenty else to enjoy. Hatfield is a small town surrounded by farmland. The train station is no more than a pair of platforms and about 20 mins walk from the bus stop I needed. I also needed to use the loo at this point so on my walk to the bus stop I decided to call in at the Co-op to see if they had a loo.
For some reason, at this point I looked up. I dunno why, the sky was pretty standard-grey, but overhead there flew at that moment a Cuckoo. I could not believe it. When I saw the bird it had already gone over me but there was no mistaking its form as it flew away. Because of this I have no shots of it, but its quite a record, and quite an odd place to pick it up. I must have looked an odd sight wandering round the co-op celebrating.
I made it to the reserve, but once there succeeded in getting lost multiple times, and finding myself in surprise places but not where I wanted to be. I flushed a good 50 Four-Spot Chasers along the walk, but on the bird front it quiet. There was also a Roe Deer and Weasel, so overall quite a good turnout. The highlight birdwise were a few Shelducks and 3 Common Terns that flew over. 
-Common Tern
I made it to the site where the bird was supposed to be, but there was nobody there, and the pools were void of birdlife. I was gutted, so after a short stop to see if I was missing anything I began to weary trudge back. I may stress at this point that the reserve is huge, as in its massive, so the trudge back was a long trudge. On the way I did not really pick up any species. The Swifts had been showing well the whole time and they continued to do so, but that was about all.
I did however find some birders at long last, and found out why I had gotten lost. I also found out that the bird had gone at around 12. Apparently it had circled high until it was a mere speck before heading south, alas such is my rotten luck.
I wandered back by the main paths this time to avoid getting lost again. This took me through some smaller pools rather than round the more extensive marsh. Some peculiar calls, probably alarm, led me to a pair of Little Grebes, but they dived as soon as I had eyes on them, and I also found a Southern Marsh Orchid next to the path, so I was able to get some more photos of this species.
-Southern Marsh Orchid
I arrived at the main car park, and finally positioned myself on my map, ideal now that I was going. In the car park there were more birders who helped piece together where the skua had gone. There was also a very vocal garden warbler, which was obviously very close but just not visible. I stayed as long as I dare trying to find it, but it decided to stop calling, or move off as another or the same started singing a way away, so that species still continues to elude me.
In all honesty is was looking like the day could have been better spent revising, as I'm not sure a brief cuckoo along warranted the extortion that was Northern Rail. However, on the way out that all changed. I was wandering out by the road through the farmland when I heard a call that I could not recall ever hearing before, and it sounded like the kind of call that I would have remembered. So I stopped beside a hawthorn tree to try and track down the maker. There was a family party of Blue Tits in the tree by the sounds of it too, but when the bird sang again I was able to locate it on the very top of the tree, meaning I would struggle to get a complete photo. From what I could tell from my obscured view was that it was a large passerine, somewhere between skylark and starling, and that its beak was short and stumpy.
During my research into the site prior to my visit I had seen the occasional report of corn bunting in the area, but I had not really considered it, as the same thing is said of Bempton and I have never seen one there. However, here I had an enigma and my thoughts quickly jumped to the conclusion that it might just be one, finally. I grabbed some shots but the light was against me and I could make out no distinguishable features. However, I could tell that it was streaky, but that it had a stumpy beak, finch or bunting, but I can not recall ever seeing a finch or a bunting as big as this bird. I decided to take a chance and get a better view, by entering the verge of the field. From here I managed some more shots and convinced myself in my head from the evidence I had that it was, but after taking some photos from my new position I raised my binoculars to have a look, and the bird decided it wanted to go.
I had convinced myself that I had finally settled my score but having never seen one before I wanted to check. As such I waited until I could get my photos into photoshop and lighten them up before I would celebrate. Turns out I was right, and it is indeed a Corn Bunting, my first ever.
So what is my beef with corn buntings? Not with corn buntings themselves, but my interest in birds stemmed from I-spy. In I-spy birds corn bunting is somehow warranted 5 points, the same as blue tit, and great tit, but less than dunnock. So I have this ridiculous gap in my pride and glory because of their ridiculous scoring system and the fact that I could not seem to find a corn bunting.
So, finally, having sorted that out I can finally appreciate what I have seen. I was surprised by just how big it was. I had always expected something sparrow sized, but not at all. That was its most defining impression, the rest can really be said from my record shots. What a bird, finally...
-Corn Bunting
Having finally ticked one of Britain's most threatened species I headed back happy. And just to make this bunting day (there was reed on the marsh) I spotted a Yellowhammer feeding on grass seeds on the main road on my walk back.
So in the end the day was rescued from the fire and probably made up for the fact that the skua had done a runner...

Species List:
Hatfield: Collard Dove, Woodpigeon, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Starling, Cuckoo, Swift, Magpie
Hatfield Moor NNR: Swift, Magpie, Woodpigeon, Goldfinch, Canada Goose, Swallow, House Martin, Whitethroat, Great-Crested Grebe, Mallard, Moorhen, Blackbird, Blackcap, Wren, Graylag Goose, Lapwing, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Great Tit, Common Tern, Reed Bunting, Little Grebe, Carrion Crow, Oystercatcher, Linnet, Tree Pipit, Kestrel, Shellduck, Pied Wagtail, Common Buzzard, Skylark, Feral Pigeon
Other Species: Rabbit, Roe Deer, Weasel, Four-Spot Chaser, Blue-Tailed Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly, Large Red Damselfly,

Monday, 26 May 2014

Endcliffe Park

So what started as a short revision break to photograph the ducks in Endcliffe park that I may put on my weekly roundup actually turned into quite an afternoons birding, on a small scale. I did find some lovely mallards to photograph but the light was against me and I did not get too many that were sharp. Those that I got I have included here...
So just as I was wrapping up at the third pool a heron decided to come and land on the side on the path less than 5 meters in front of me. And even when I moved to get into a better position it did not mind. I got to watch it poo, throw up its previous meal and then jump in the lake and start fishing, all within less than 10 meters of me (When  it entered the lake it moved back a bit). I managed to get some decent shots too, though the light was against me again.
-Grey Heron
After it rounded some bushes out of sight I decided I really needed to get back. That plan lasted about 5 mins before I stumbled across a treecreeper, which then led me to its nest, in a crack in an old park shelter. I was pleased to have found this and got to watch the adults flying too an fro. The shelter was right next to the path, so I was stood on the opposite side of the path while people wandered by. Some stopped to ask what I was doing and I got to talk to some people about the birds and show them my photos. The photos are really not great, the light had really turned on me, but you get the gist. I reckon that's the first time I have ever found a treecreeper nest, and I should hope to be going back at some point.
So my half an hour break actually turned into over an hour and half, but what does it matter when your seeing birds like these.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Uni Semester 2 Week 12

Walking back from church in the evening via Crookes and there was a bat out and about flying down the main road. It was only a brief view as it flew off into the houses but its something to report.

Walking back from dinner and I heard the frantic call of a Long-Tailed Tit, followed by the bird crossing the path in earnest. And no wonder, as I looked up to see a sparrowhawk hunting the avenue. It flew round once and then went into the trees, but as we came out of the avenue it flew down the road. It was a really nice view, and certainly gave the local crows a bit of a fright.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Orgreave Lakes twitching Little Stint

 After yesterdays excursions which resulted in me achieving very little revision today was meant to be a productive day, and it was, but for the wrong reasons. Yesterday I had considered missed the G.W Egret and going for a pair of little stints at Orgreave, since it was closer. No matter, I went for the egret and was justly rewarded for my decision.
However, after my first period of revision it came up on birdguides that the stints were there again. I looked at my revision notes, looked at the weather (Appalling) and decided to just go for it. It took long enough to get there, and the weather only continued to get worse. In fact during the walk round I got more wet that I can ever really recall, even my underwear was soaked.
And it looked like it was not going to be my day, with no sign of them with any of the plovers I found, or with the Redshanks, or with the Lapwing. There were simply incredible views of all 3 hirundine species and of swifts, the latter of which were even skimming the surface of the lakes. I was surprised they were out in such force given the weather was so poor, but they gave me something on the walk round.
But round the far side of the lake I spotted 2 small brown waders with a Ringed Plover on the bank. I had a look and they seemed good but they were a way away, so I approached, only to find that they had gone while I was approaching. The mix of emotions I experienced at that moment was incredible. I resigned myself to the fact that it was going to be one of those days.
But fortunately they had not gone far, and around the headland I stumbled across them again and was able to view them and get some reasonable record shots. Having never seen a stint before I was initially dubious of my identification despite the fact that they seemed good, but another birder came soon looking for the gargany (Which I did not see) and he confirmed it for me.
In the weather as such and the fact that I do not have the worlds greatest scope I was unable to really appreciate all the intricate beauty of their plumage, but certain features I could make out, such as the white stripes on the back. Unfortunatly, as they had shown earlier, they were very mobile, and the view of them only lasted around 10 mins before they decided to move off onto the far side of the lake. It was probably a good thing, as it was already 2.00 and I did need to get back to work.
So that is my 11th lifer of the year, and the second of the weekend, what an incredible year its been. I tried to get some record shots but was not overly successful, but follows are my attempts:
-2 Little Stints and Ringed Plover
But like I say, my photos are not great, so here is someone else photo from the day before, of the same bird's, showing in more detail the plumage.
-Little Stint and Ringed Plover (Not my photo)
The rain did stop in the end, while I was at the bus stop, but since I had got my bird it did not really matter. It was well worth it in the end and I am well happy. So the day list, not that I really kept one.

Species List
Orgreave Lakes: Swift, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Blackbird, Black-Headed Gull, Mallard, Mute Swan, Pied Wagtail, Woodpigeon, Goldfinch, Cormorant, Tufted Duck, Coot, Great Crested Grebe, Meadow Pipit, Herring Gull, Redshank, Reed Bunting, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Skylark, House Martin, Sand Martin, Swallow, Ringed Plover, Canada Goose, Graylag Goose, Little Stint,

Friday, 23 May 2014

Old Moor twitching Great White Egret

So it tends to happen that on productive revision days a rare bird turns up at one of my local sites, and so it was yesterday when a great white egret turned up at Old Moor. Once more, as I had done before I decided to speed off after lectures to try and track it down, only lectures finished later today that I would usually go birding after, so that left a very real possibility that the bird would go in the morning.
I tracked the incoming records all morning and at 12.00 when I was good to go the bird was still there. It took a while to finally arrive, I dropped in at half 2, but I arrived to the outstanding news that the bird was still there, only there were people who were seeing it, and others that were not. Apparently there was also a bittern showing well at the 'Bittern Hide', where I had not been before. 
My intention was to make this a short visit as revision called, so I went straight to the bittern hide. The bittern itself had gone and the egret was out of site, so I settled down to wait and see. While I waited there were great views of Common Tern and Great Crested Grebes, as well as hirundines and Swifts.
I had been looking in the wrong place but the I soon tracked down the egret when it re-appeared from behind the reeds. Initially you could only see its head as it was mobbed by gulls, but soon it came out in all its glory, showing off fishing, and when it was mobbed its aigrette tail feathers were blowing wonderfully in the wind.
It was sad that it was quite a way away so I could not get this detail on camera, but I managed some reasonable record shots all things considered. I watched the bird for over an hour before deciding that the degree was probably pretty important and needed seeing to. 
When I first saw the birds head I did wonder if everyone had got it wrong, a white heron head with a black beak did make me wonder if it was just a little egret. It was only when it stepped out from behind the reeds that I really got to appreciate the bird in all its glory as it waded up and down the bank. Its no wonder really that I took so many pictures...
-Great White Egret
Thats my tenth lifer and 151st species this year, an incredible year. The only other bird of note was a very brief view of the bittern as it moved through the reeds. A very fleeting glimpse not even worth really noting, until I got home and found these 2 photos among my collection. I chuckled to myself when I found these, clearly showing the bittern flying in the background behind the egret, a truly fantastic fluke shot.
-Bittern and Great White Egret
Another thing to note was the presence of a small cluster of Southern Marsh Orchids in front of the hide. Sadly I was obviously unable to get a really good view but I took a quick photo from the hide for record purposes.
-Southern Marsh Orchid
In review it was well worth taking the afternoon off revision to see this bird, so elegant, and put Monday well and truly behind me. I was glad to see that the bird really showed well, so that I got to see all aspects of it, truly stunning. In summary, here is the rather brief daylist:

Species List:
RSPB Old Moor: Pheasant, Magpie, Sparrowhawk, Blue Tit, Mute Swan, Black-Headed Gull, Common Tern, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Moorhen, Jackdaw, Coot, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Gadwall, Canada Goose, Swift, Swallow, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Sand Martin, Great White Egret, Bittern, Lapwing Cormorant, Woodpigeon

Monday, 19 May 2014

Potteric Carr twitching Spotted Sandpiper

Yesterday at approximately 9.45 in the morning an adult summer plumage Spotted Sandpiper was found at Potteric Carr. Pretty special to say the least, but due to it being a Sunday and revision I decided not to go for it there and then, but to go after my 9.00 lecture on Monday.
I arrived at around 11 to the heartbreaking news that the bird had not been seen that morning, and since the reserve had opened early specially it seemed that the bird had cleared off, just my luck. I made my way straight to the main marsh to see what was around, on the way I encountered Song Thrush, a cuckoo calling but not seen and a Brimstone Butterfly looking lovely in what was glorious sunshine.
I arrived first at the hide where the  BNG's had been last time, but there was very little around today, a Whitethroat singing very visibly was probably the highlight. I made my way round the hide, not encountering an excessive amount but still plenty of nice things.
All the way round I had been surrounded by Damselflies, of the Common Blue, Common Blue-Tailed and Large Red varieties. However, south of the viewing screen there was a ditch and it was here that I encountered my first Dragonflies of the year in the form of a pair of Four-Spot Chasers. I tried to grab some photos but was unsuccessful.
The first hide where there was much of note was 'Roger Mitchell Hide'. Right outside the hide there were 4 lapwings and a flock of starlings feeding, so I was able to grab some pretty decent photos for the day, in case I encountered naught else.
But there was else, as I checked the island in the middle of the lake I observed a wader on the end that I was not confident was a redshank, at which it initially appeared. I grabbed some photos but the bird was too far off for a clear diagnosis, however my hunch told me that it was almost certainly a Greenshank. Sadly though the bird flew off while I was not looking, leaving me with a few photos on which to base my analysis. 
I need not have worried as in the next hide, 'West Scrape Hide' there were two stunning Greenshanks feeding right in front of the hide. Almost certainly the same one that I had seen on the other marsh. They were happy feeding, back on forth in front of the hide. I managed to pick up some great shots of this species which I am not overly familiar with. However, the true significance of this find is that it is my 150th species this year. So that made up for the lack of Spot Sand, the big 150...
After a while the Greenshank took off and landed on the far side of the lake, where they were difficult to see. I began looking round for other birds and spotted 3 redshank, a pair of shellduck and no less than 8 Ringed Plovers, a pair of which were sat right in front of the hide. Where the other 6 birds thought it would be a good idea to join them on the near island I got to watch a very territorial display from the original birds which was very nice to see. 
-Ringed Plover
West Scrape was where the spot sand was meant to be incidentally, but it was distinctly lacking in such species. After a while I decided to move on, as work would be waiting for me when I returned. I called in at 'Piper Marsh Hide' where the kingfishers were meant to be last time. And this time they were there, or at least one was, but it was some way off. Through the bins I got pretty decent views but the bird was very mobile, flying into trees and reeds so it was not often that it showed well except when it was in flight.
On the way out from the hide I spotted a very large and subtly colourful caterpillar on the path. I have done some research and reckon this is a Drinker Moth Caterpillar but I stand to be corrected should I be incorrect.
-Drinker Moth Caterpillar
 On the way round the 'Black Carr Field' I found one of the nicest surprises of the day when I spotted my first Long-Tailed Tit fledglings, or certainly the first I can ever remember seeing. Sadly I had to look up to it, but I was able to watch it being fed by the adult, but I did still get a pretty decent view so that I could see the brown face mask.
-Long-Tailed Tit fledgling
I decided to take a longer way round back to the entrance in case I could find a cuckoo. I could not, but did find Grey Heron and a very large Dragonfly Exuvia, of what I can't begin to imagine as there was no dragonfly species that large that emerge this early in the year. I would assume it was probably an early emerging emperor.
And thats that then. No Spot Sand but I managed to find my 150th species so I'm pleased. And the weather was good, and I was bitten and stung and covered in cobwebs and just generally beaten by nature, and the train copped it on the way home, but that's pretty standard really.

--150 SPECIES--

Species List:
Potteric Carr: Jackdaw, Dunnock, Great Tit, Black-Headed Gull, Jay, Blackbird, Carrion Crow, Canada Goose, Moorhen, Wren, Shelduck, Song Thrush, Swift, Coot, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Gadwall, Whitethroat, Mallard, Pochard, Willow Warbler, Great-Crested Grebe, Woodpigeon, Lapwing, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Graylag Goose, Reed Bunting, Oystercatcher, Magpie, Starling, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Cormorant, Greenshank, Shoveler, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Common Buzzard, Sand Martin, Chiff-Chaff, Kingfisher, Collard Dove, Long-Tailed Tit, Robin, Grey Heron, Blue Tit, Blackcap 
None Birds: Speckled Wood, Brimstone, Large White, Small White, Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Orange Tip, Common Blue Tailed Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly, Large Red Damselfly, Four-Spot Chaser