Thursday, 22 January 2015

Orgreave Lakes

Since yesterday I had done my first exam I decided to take the morning off today in order to have a lie in. However, a lie in means you will fail to get a spot in the Library so I decided to spend the day at Orgreave hoping to see some good stuff, such as the snow bunting, while bumping up my yearlist.
I arrived knowing the bunting was with skylarks and began my search for birds. First yeartick was Meadow Pipit, the second was Gadwall and also Coot, Wigeon and then Skylark. There were an awful lot of Skylarks and the first 2 groups I came to did not have a snow bunting in them.
Half way round the first pond I saw a flock of waders heading towards me. As they approached I could see that they were Golden Plover, another yeartick for me and a really nice species to see. They did multiple loops round, sometimes right over my head and I was able to get a record shot.
-Golden Plover
In total there were well over 100 skylarks on site, but I finally managed to find the flock with the Snow Bunting in, though I only managed to pick it up while it was in flight. As soon as I picked it up on the ground it was flushed by a dog. I then had to follow the flock round, but only being able to pick up the bunting in flight. It took a while but I finally found it on the deck at the side of the pool, though it was a distance away and the photos I got reflect that. However, I always love to see Snow Buntings and its a site tick, as well as a yeartick.
-Snow Bunting
There were 2 Skeins of Pink-Footed Geese that went over while I was there. The second Skein I saw go down on the plains. There were less than 50 birds in the skein, so when I rounded the corner to the plains I was surprised to see at least 200 birds grazing there. I could have got much closer but did not want to upset them as they had been brought down by the fog.
-Pink-Footed Geese
The second most surprising yeartick of the day was a smashing Stonechat that was in among the small trees along the side of the large pond. It looked very smart in the snow, though the photos are not exceptional they are still look rather nice with the white backdrop.
It was quite a day thats for certain, one of the best days birding I have had at the site. As I was heading off back along the edge of pools I picked up another yeartick when 5 Snipe flew down, and though my attempts to locate them on the deck on resulted in them being re-flushed they were great to see.
The Pinkies were also flushed, though by what I'm not sure but they must have done a loop round as the another flock of a similar size came up from the south when the grazing birds had gone north, and it would make sense for them not to go far in the fog. They flew very low over my head, so I took a couple of shots.
-Pink-Footed Geese
I mentioned earlier that the stonechat was only the second most surprising yeartick. The most surprising was as I was leaving the site. I decided to go for a wee in the bushes before my long bus journey home. As I rounded the small pond with the trees behind I spotted something running very oddly across the pools and immediately recognised it as a Water Rail, only my second ever and the first for 5 years. I was buzzing but it scuttled off into the bushes before I got my camera out and my attempts to refind it failed. That really was the icing on the cake, and probably the best bird of the day, even beating the bunting.
Species List:
Orgreave Lakes: House Sparrow, Woodpigeon, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Kestrel, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon, Coot, Tufted Duck, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Skylark, Goldfinch, Lapwing, Reed Bunting, Golden Plover, Pochard, Stonechat, Mute Swan, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Linnet, Goosander, Moorhen, Blackbird, Herring Gull, Snow Bunting, Water Rail, Black-Headed Gull, Greater Black-Backed Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Mallard, Robin, Magpie, Feral Pigeon, Snipe

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Not quite bird related but...

The impacts of the day out at the Harlequin and still coming in thick and fast. Today I was honoured to find out for the first time ever that birdguides has used one of my photos, a harlequin photo in their weekly review which is a real honour and I'm so pleased.
-Birdguides weekly review
And then, though this was more predicted was NGB's moment of fame on BBC Winterwatch when we were caught rubbing out knees. Haha, what a day to look back on...
-BBC Winterwatch
It was a fantastic day to be a part of and enjoy! To have a photo published by birdguides and then on Winterwatch is the icing on the cake!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

University Birdwatching

I have not done weekly updates this year like I did last year, mainly because there has been less birds around, however since I have been in the IC so long I have taken up residence at one of the window seats on the fourth floor which has a spectacular view over the city and the valley. From here I have been able to do a reasonable amount of birding, so here is a quick summary of the last two weeks.

08 January 2015
I did not really make too many records today but I did year-tick Greater Black-Backed Gull which was exciting and spurred me on to get plenty more work done:
Great Black-backed Gull - 3

09 January 2015
Having been in the library a week it was becoming pretty tough to keep focused but there were a few birds out of the window to keep me excited. Year-ticked Sparrowhawk as well as there being a few other nice things fly by:
Mistle Thrush - 3 ; Sparrowhawk - 1 ; Magpie - 4 ; Blackbird - 1 

10 January 2015
This was the first day that I decided to submit all the birds that I saw to the SBSG. That resolution did not last long but for today at least I did get a full set of species which I saw:
Great Black-backed Gull - 3 ; Magpie - 3 ; Carrion Crow - 4 ; Woodpigeon - 1 ; Mistle Thrush - 1 ; Starling - 4 ; Blackbird - 1 

11 January 2015
There were a good number of large gulls going over during the morning, possibly because it was a Sunday and the tips were closed so they had to find somewhere else, or at least that was the best theory I could come up with:
Lesser Black-Backed Gull - 5 ; Herring Gull - 5 ; Greater Black-Backed Gull - 3; Black-Headed Gull - 20

16 January 2015
The day of my trip to Aberdeen commencing so I was having kittens for most of the day. However, I did library tick Blue tit which was a nice addition to my growing library list:
Blue Tit - 1 

20 January 2015
Got some really good birds from the library today when 2 skeins of Pink-Footed Geese went over within the space of 20 minuets between 10.00 and 10.20. The first was around 70 birds, the second was larger and was at least 100 birds. It was a really nice surprise and good to see the day before my exam.
Pink-footed Goose - c70 - north at 10:08 ; Pink-footed Goose - c100 - A second skein north at 10:14 ; Sparrowhawk - 1 ; Magpie - 2 ; Woodpigeon - 1 ; Feral Pigeon - c50 ;

21 January 2015
Some last minuet cramming for my exam, going over it all one last time rewarded me with a library tick when a Pied Wagtail flew past the window showing. The snow meant the light was not very good but you could still get some decent features on the bird, making it more than a silhouette
Pied Wagtail - 1 

Species List:
University of Sheffield Library/Information Commons:
Magpie, Greater Black-Backed Gull, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Sparrowhawk, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Starling, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Blue Tit, Pink-Footed Goose, Feral Pigeon,

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Aberdeen - twitching Harlequin Duck

Its been a pretty poor year for me so far this year...
having spent the majority of my January in the library working for my exams and my yearlist reflected that as a result. All the while there was a rather lovely Harlequin Duck up in Aberdeen that seemed to be showing incredibly well. Of course, this time last year I had resolved not to twitch where I would have public transport transfers, but times have changed and this bird was tempting.
It had already been there 2 weeks by the time I decided to just go for it. Broken by revision I weighed up my options and got moving to hopefully get my first twitch, lifer and mega of 2015.
My best option was to get the coach up to Aberdeen overnight to give me plenty of time there, as I would arrive at 10, and then train back. Train there and back would arrive at 13.00 and I decided, looking at the birds pattern that I could miss a lot of the action if that were the case.
So my journey started at 21.10 on the Friday night. At 21.55 I arrived at Leeds. We were delayed leaving Leeds, setting of 23.20 to arrive at Manchester 00.35 on Saturday! The day of the duck had arrived. At 1.30 we set off for Glasgow. We hit shocking snow outside Hamilton though, and the bus driver did not seem to care, overtaking the gritters on a snow covered motorway at around 4 in the morning but fortunately still made it to Glasgow for 6.15 to get my 7.15 coach to Aberdeen. I finally, finally arrived at Aberdeen at 10.00 in the morning.
The first birds of the day were the Pied Wagtails at Glasgow bus station, and along the coach trip I year ticked Mute Swan, Graylag Goose, Pheasant, Common Buzzard, Curlew, Goosander and Hooded Crow, the latter being a unfortunately brief view for a bird that I have not seen for a long time.
I arrived in Aberdeen and pretty much straight away got the bus to the park. I arrived in the park and quickly made my way to the site that had been described. Having not been birding much this year I picked up plenty of year-ticks on my journey to and through the park; Greenfinch, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Dipper, Goldeneye, Coot. The highlight of this time was to hear my first ever dipper singing. It was a great call to hear, I was pleased with how the day was progressing.
I passed some birders who informed us that the duck was still showing as of 10 mins ago, but I failed to find it. There were a couple of other birders too and we could not find it. However, further up the river we caught a glimpse of some other birders pointing, and as such we decided to move over that way. I got a lift with those birders.
We arrived on site and headed down to the river. Thats when things started to get a little crazy. I was following one of the birders when he said 'its Chris Packham' and it was. That was the first surreal thing that happened, but decided to just go to for the duck. The BBC were filming for Winterwatch and both Chris and Martin HG were there.
Then the duck showed itself, coming out in the rapids close to the near bank. The view was good but sadly obscured due to branches and trees. Not 10 mins after the bird appeared and I turned around to see Jonnie Fisk and Zac Hinchcliffe, a lovely surprise and very unexpected. Matt Bruce had driven up, so it was nice to see them again. NGB does harlequin duck.
The bird showed well, moving in the rapids and sometimes stepping onto a rock to preen, looking sublime in the process. It showed well and I was able to get some decent photos while chatting to the NGBs. I had a look through Matts Swaro too and got an exceptional view while it was sat out on a rock. 
-Harlequin Duck
The weather was glorious and the bird continued to look good, the light bringing out its colours so well. We watched and chatted for a while. The BBC then asked if they could film us for a feature on Winterwatch about twitching, where we all rubbed our legs in a Chris Packham type manner and then looked at the duck. So if you want to watch the NGB and I make fools of ourselves, either Wednesday or Thursdays Winterwatch is the one to look for.
While we were with the BBC the bird had moved downstream. Zac had not come with us to the BBC and in the meantime he had had good views of the bird. Jonnie and Kieran went round to sit with Zac while Bruce and I watched from where we were. After a bit the duck decided to head downstream so we casually went round the corner to the others to catch up with it. On our way round we passed a birder who told us that it had just got onto the bank right in front of the others. Incredibly gripped we headed round to find the bird still paddling close to the bank, dipping and diving in the water near to us.
The birders were spread out along the bank, with the bird swimming right in front of Jonnie. without really thinking I moved to go and sit next to Jonnie round the fence, only moving when the bird was down, but in hindsight this was a rather risky thing to do and if I had been thinking about it properly would not have done it.
However it paid off, as I sat next to Jonnie, Kieran also came round and within about 5 mins the bird decided to return to the bank about 4ft away from where we were sitting. I could not believe it. The light kept changing but I was able to get some incredibly good shots of the bird. It sat there for a couple of mins before swimming off downstream. In that time I got some pretty decent shots and views, while Jonnie and Matt both got selfies with it. I could not have got a better view even if I had wanted to, it was an incredible experience and I still struggle to believe it happened.
-Harlequin Duck
-The Harlequin and I (Photo courtesy of Zac)
That was the best way I could have got my first lifer of 2015, and made the £130 price tag and the 21 hour travel journey all worth it. Not long after it had sat with us the bird swam off downstream and we decided we could no longer follow it. We decided to call it quits, though I still had a couple of hours before my train, the guys said they were going for some food, so I decided to chill with them for a bit.
The BBC had also called it quits, and as we were leaving Jonnie decided to give Chris Packham a biscuit, a tradition of Jonnies on twitches. So we went to go and see the BBC and while we were at it got a photo with Chris and Martin, as if the day could not get any better.
-NGB meets BBC
And with that we left the site and headed into Aberdeen. Sadly the guys could not find anywhere in Aberdeen and so they dropped me off at the station and headed home. My return journey was long and drawn out, but I got stunning views of Durham Cathedral all lit up, and also had a skein of Pink-Footed Geese go over, which was a nice year tick. 
What an incredible bird, What an incredible day.
Species List:
Glasgow Buchanan Bus Station: Pied Wagtail
Coach Journey: Mute Swan, Herring Gull, Woodpigeon, Rook, Feral Pigeon, Hooded Crow, Carrion Crow, Graylag Goose, Jackdaw, Common Pheasant, Common Buzzard, Blackbird, Starling, Curlew, Magpie, Goosander, Black-Headed Gull, 
Seaton Park, Aberdeen: Greenfinch, Greater-Spotted Woodpecker, Oystercatcher, Common Redshank, Goldcrest, Treecreeper, Dipper, Goldeneye, Coot, Goosander, Mute Swan, Blackbird, Robin, Herring Gull, Mallard, Black-Headed Gull, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Harlequin Duck, Sparrowhawk, House Sparrow, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon,
Train Journey: Pink-Footed Goose, Herring Gull, Magpie, Jackdaw,

Harlequin Duck

The library at university kindly lends of out 'creative media equipment' and since this discovery a couple of months ago I had contemplated taking a video camera on a twitch to see what I could get. I decided to loan one out and take it with me to the Harlequin. Sadly I did not have it on me when the bird sat in front of me, but I preferred to get some photos of it rather than video. I did get a bit of video from before when it was out on a rock preening. Its not groundbreaking but it will do and offers a different view of the bird.
-Harlequin Duck
I also got some video while the bird was swimming showing how amazing it was at diving and yet remaining stationary within the rapids. It must have had to use up so much energy to avoid being taken by the river.

-Harlequin Duck
Zac also took did some video, but his video was while the bird was close and he got some fantastic footage of the bird. He put it up on Youtube so to have a look at it just have a click on this link:

His video is fantastic and really flaunts the bird. Its just another viewpoint on the bird and another reminder of a fantastic day, it really was superb. 

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

West Street

After a 2 hour stint in the Library I decided to head into town as means of a break. I don't normally post wandering sightings but this one was very good. Walking down West Street I saw a large bird flying towards me, that when it went over my head showed itself to be a Peregrine, one of the birds from the church presumably. Its not even that big a surprise given how close they nest but I was not expecting it, which is why it was so nice to see, and the way it flew over my head.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Mixenden Reservoir - year ticking Great Northern Diver

The dawn of the new year means that my yearlist has now been reduced to zero one again. I decided to get 2015 rolling with a morning visit to Mixenden to have a look at the Great Northern Diver again, the same species involved in my first 'twitch' of 2014 too. The bird showed very well and look very nice in the morning light. I was able to get some more record shots of it as it came quite close to the bank at points.
-Great Northern Diver
A smashing bird to get the ball rolling. In addition there were a good number of common woodland species out and about, including Goldcrest, Treecreeper. Nuthatch and Greater-Spotted Woodpecker, as well as Redwings in the fields nearby. Overall I clocked a good few species to set me on my way.
Sadly though when I got home I saw that the little bustard I had hoped to twitch the next day and done a runner, leaving me feeling a little bitter sweet, but I'm sure there will be another at some point...
Species List:
Mixenden Reservoir: Starling, Black-Headed Gull, Common Gull, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Blackbird, Robin, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Jackdaw, Great Northern Diver, Treecreeper, Feral Pigeon, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Chaffinch. Goldfinch, Great-Crested Grebe, Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Long-Tailed Tit, Kestrel, Herring Gull, Nuthatch, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail, Wren, Little Grebe, Redwing, Mistle Thrush,

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Happy New Year

Well 2014 is now over. Its been a pretty fantastic year, and that's an understatement. Its probably been the best year of my life, and the birding has been a major part of that. Its the first year I had done a year-list and also probably the first year where my birding has had any kind of weight behind it to make me get out and do some serious birding.

Over the year I managed to get 5 Megas, which is a very good return, especially since I only started serious twitching in the second half of the year. Of those 5 I have to say that the Issabeline Wheatear was my personal fave though all were smashing birds to see. I was a little gutted not to have got any photos of the Masked Shrike, especially considering how close it came, but the other four I managed decent photos of, the Blyths Pipit only 2 days ago.
-Eastern Crowned Warbler (Brotton 01.11.2014)
-Bridled Tern (Farne Islands, 08.06.2014)
-Isabelline Wheatear (Seaton Snook, 27.11.2014)

Little Terns
Of course, most of what I managed this year revolves around the fantastic job at Spurn point as the Little Tern Warden. It was great fun and I got to meet some great people whilst being part of a fantastic birding community. Through the job I volunteered at the migration festival and there I was able to finally meet some of the NGBs, a fantastic organisation promoting birding in young adults. While at Spurn I clocked up 15 lifers, and then an additional 6 on visits after my post had finished. It was also while I was at Spurn that I found my best ever bird, a stunning Osprey that flew right round the seawatching crew gathered giving me my best ever views of the species. A really nice bird to see. Even now, Spurn birders that were there mention it to me, about that bird.
-Little Tern
Soil Hill
I have not had much opportunity to get up to the patch this year, which is unfortunate as I really wanted to give it a good go like I should have done when I had plenty of free time to. I did see some super birds up there earlier in the year when I stumbled across the Ring Ouzels Nigel had seen in the morning, only my second time seeing this species and to have them on patch was great. They were great fun to track down, and one of the best birds I have ever seen up there. 
-Ring Ouzel (Soil Hill)
So a full breakdown of the yearlist:
The final score was 215 species in all, beating my life list at the start of the year and a fantastic total considering its my first time doing one. I could not be more thrilled with the result. In that I managed to clock up 43 lifers, which is a vast improvement on the one in 2013. Below is the full list of the lifers in 2014:

Two-Barred Crossbill, Smew, Scaup, Spotted Redshank, Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Lesser Whitethroat, Black-Necked Grebe, Glossy Ibis, Great White Egret, Little Stint. Corn Bunting, Pectoral Sandpiper, Slavonian Grebe, Bridled Tern, Green Sandpiper, Spoonbill, Little Tern, Curlew Sandpiper, Black Tern, Wood Sandpiper, Terek Sandpiper, Sooty Shearwater, Black-Throated Diver, Balearic Shearwater, Pomarine Skua, Long-Tailed Skua, Wryneck, Common Rosefinch, Icterine Warbler, Red-Necked Grebe, Barred Warbler, Masked Shrike, Yellow-Browed Warbler, Lapland Bunting, Firecrest, Grey Phalarope, Raddes Warbler, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Rough-Legged Buzzard, Isabelline Wheatear, Blyth's Pipit, Iceland Gull,

So, the complete yearlist for 2014, all 215 species:

Starling, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Common Gull, Blue Tit, Magpie, Carrion Crow, House Sparrow, Blackbird, Blackcap, Great Tit, Robin, Common Pheasant, Black-Headed Gull, Wren, Mallard, Jackdaw, Mute Swan, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Mistle Thrush, Bullfinch, Goldfinch, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Goosander, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Grey Heron, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Rook, Collard Dove, Lapwing, Redwing, Feildfare, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Long-Tailed Tit, Tufted Duck, Cormorant, Moorhen, Coot, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Great Northern Diver, Sparrowhawk, Meadow Pipit, Siskin, Red Grouse, Song Thrush, Jay, Common Crossbill, Two Barred Crossbill, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Greater Black-Backed Gull, Common Teal, Shoveler, Pochard, Redshank, Goldeneye, Kingfisher, Gadwall, Smew, Greenfinch, Tree Sparrow, Reed Bunting, Common Snipe, Stock Dove, Wigeon, Yellowhammer, Brambling, Willow Tit, Bittern, Mediterranean Gull, Oystercatcher, Lesser Redpoll, Dunlin, Shelduck, Raven, Curlew, Chiffchaff, Skylark, House Martin, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Peregrine, Mandarin, Linnet, Northern Wheatear, Tawny Owl, Sand Martin, Golden Plover, Yellow-Legged Gull, Dipper, Kittywake, Ruff, Willow Warbler, Swallow, Scaup, Ring Ouzel, Red-Legged Partridge, Merlin, Canada Goose, Stonechat, Graylag Goose, Grey Partridge, Red Kite, Little Egret, Turnstone, Avocet, Sandwich Tern, Egyptian Goose, Brent Goose, Little Gull, Spotted Redshank, Black-Tailed Godwit, Bar-Tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Marsh Harrier, Sanderling, Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Fulmar, Red Crested Pochard, Sedge Warbler, Bearded Tit, Cettis Warbler, Pink-Footed Goose, Lesser Whitethroat, Little Owl, Barnacle Goose, Common Sandpiper, Black-Necked Grebe, Gargany, Whimbrel, Common Tern, Whitethroat, Reed Warbler, Tree Pipit, Pied Flycatcher, Common Redstart, Swift, Yellow Wagtail, Arctic Tern, Glossy Ibis, Greenshank, Great White Egret, Little Stint, Cuckoo, Corn Bunting, Whinchat, Spotted Flycatcher, Green Woodpecker, Pectoral Sandpiper, Slavonian Grebe, Eider, Gannet, Puffin, Common Guillemot, Shag, Razorbill, Red-Breasted Merganser, Bridled Tern, Long-Eared Owl, Green Sandpiper, Hobby, Spoonbill, Little Tern, Knot, Rock Pipit, Manx Shearwater, Barn Owl, Arctic Skua, Curlew Sandpiper, Great Skua, Black Tern, Wood Sandpiper, Terek Sandpiper, Short-Eared Owl, Osprey, Pintail, Purple Sandpiper, Garden Warbler, Sooty Shearwater, Black-Throated Diver, Balearic Shearwater, Pomarine Skua, Red-Throated Diver, Long-Tailed Skua, Wryneck, Common Rosefinch, Icterine Warbler, Red-Backed Shrike, Roseate Tern, Red-Necked Grebe, Barred Warbler, Masked Shrike, Yellow-Browed Warbler, Jack Snipe, Lapland Bunting, Firecrest, Whooper Swan, Grey Phalarope, Raddes Warbler, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Rough-Legged Buzzard, Snow Bunting, Little Auk, Isabelline Wheatear, Woodcock, Blyths Pipit, Iceland Gull

Not a bad list! Personal highlights? I think finally seeing Corn Bunting must be one of the highlights of the year, after suffering through it remaining unticked in my I-Spy book for a meager five points its now finally there and out of the way, especially given when I saw it I had just dipped long-tailed skua!
-Corn Bunting
 None Birds
Of course, in recent years I would have had far more to write about here given the lack of birds, but this year I only have a handful of none bird lifers and events to write about. On the dragonfly front I clocked up a good few species, 8 in total, but that included my solitary lifer this year, Red-Veined Darter, seen while I was working at Spurn on clubleys field. It took a while to find them but they were well worth it.
-Red Veined Darter
It was also just the one lifer for butterflies, but what a lifer it was. I have long wanted to see Clouded Yellow but their migratory nature makes them hard to get hold of, even at a site where they have a good track record. I only saw them on one day but there were at least 5 and I eventually tracked one down that would sit still for a decent photo. They were lovely butterflies, and far more yellow than I had imagined.
-Clouded Yellow
I don't usually keep track of mammals but they had a very good year, with great views of both Fox and Badger in Sheffield, and then the others that I have seen on trips. The Mountain Hares showed incredibly well in the peaks, being able to get great views of them in their white coats. But the best mammal has to be the Minke Whale that swam past Spurn that time. Steve Exleys reaction and then the following views made it one of the wildlife highlights of the year, a great encounter.
-Mountain Hare

Wow, thats a lot of breakdown but I think its fair to say that this year has needed it. Hopefully next year will have more of the same, and maybe I can even beat this years total! We shall see...

Happy New Year!!