Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Orgreave Lakes

Another day off, but this time my options were limited. The black-bellied dipper had not been seen for 2 days and there was nothing else to twitch around. So I decided to stay local, and head over to Orgreave, since I had been trying to do more patching this year as well as twitching, and it also gave me a chance to use the scope again.
Funnily enough the bb dipper was reported this morning, but I decided to just stick to my original plan and go to Orgreave. There was not much happening, with duck numbers much lower than they have been previously, and the number of passerines was also down, though there were a lot of Skylarks singing.
Gull numbers had remained the same but aside from a juvenile Great Black Back there was not much there besides Herring and Black-Headed. The real highlight was a trio of Goldcrest as I was leaving, one displaying its crest very nicely but moving through the vegetation and hard to follow, plus they were on the other side of the river, so no photos. Since I decided I did need a photo though, I grabbed a quick shot of the Pochard on the island in the small pool, pochard being the only duck still present in large numbers.
Species List:
Orgreave Lakes: Goldcrest, Goosander, Mute Swan, Great Black-Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Crested Grebe, Sparrowhawk, Linnet, Reed Bunting, Robin, Wren, Stock Dove, Long-Tailed Tit, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall, Moorhen, Coot, Tufted Duck, Carrion Crow, Black-Headed Gull, Pied Wagtail, Woodpigeon, Lapwing, Cormorant, Pochard, Starling, Blackbird, Feral Pigeon,

Monday, 23 February 2015

Fourth Duck lifer in a week: Normanton twitching American Wigeon

Well, another days birding, and another duck twitch it seems. This time though, with the bird being local, its hardly a trek and more like a birding day out. I set off for first light with the American Wigeon thats been around a small lake in the middle of a field in Normanton just north of Wakefield, in my mind.
I was pretty confident I would get it and so it turned out, though the glare was horrific from where I was watching from and I had to move my view several times before I managed to get a really good view of the bird, but thankfully it played ball wonderfully and I got some smashing views of another vagrant duck!
Among the wigeon you could pick out more subtle details in colour and patterning besides the obvious difference with the head colour. It was very happy grazing with the European wigeon, though I happen to think the former look a bit better.
The bird was close, but not as close as I would have liked for my DSLR, so it was back to that digiscoping practice from yesterday that I managed to get some actually quite good record shots of the bird. It was difficult sometimes as the wind was blowing an absolute gale, but I am very happy with what I managed. 
-American Wigeon
There were a couple of other bits and pieces too, such as good numbers of Redwings and the usual winter wildfowl. I also took one of the university camcorders with me to see what it could do and managed a bit of footage but the bird was a long way away. Anyway, it gives a different perspective on the bird.
-American Wigeon
I headed back to the station after 2 hours, when I decided to go home on account that the wind was freezing me to bits and I did not fancy taking it on again at a different site. My mind was made up when I got a text from a course-mate saying my lab had been moved from Tuesday to Monday, so I had to get back for that, and quick! I did make it easily though, good thing I had not gone far!

Species List:
Normanton Lake: Redwing, Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Magpie, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Lapwing, Wigeon, Teal, American Wigeon, Gadwall, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Herring Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Common Gull, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Starling, Chaffinch, Pied Wagtail,

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Orgreave Lakes

Decided to stay local today due to public transport running only a skeleton service on Sundays. As a result I headed to Orgreave to continue working my new scope and now practicing digiscoping on whatever was there.
It was very much a case of the usual suspects, though I had fleeting glimpses of Bullfinch which were nice, as well as the usual assortment of wildfowl. A quick sift through the gulls found nothing, except for a couple of juvenile Greater Black-Backs, the fact that I picked these out shows I am getting somewhere with gulls, though slowly. 
There was a flock of wigeon feeding on the near bank and I grabbed a few digiscoped shots of these, as well as the gulls, and it actually came out alright. From now on there will be no bird too war away to photograph. 
Species List:
Orgreave Lakes: Gadwall, Wigeon, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Blackbird, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Long-Tailed Tit, Robin, Wren, Teal, Black-Headed Gull, Common Gull, Greater Black-Backed Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Skylark, Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Cormorant, 

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Cheswick Sands-Black Scoter, Long-Tailed Duck and plenty more besides

Its been a long time coming, but it was well worth the wait. The Black Scoter twitch is one of the best days birding I have had for a long time. Having been tempted by this bird for so long the time finally came to go, to try and get it. I set off at the later time of 7.12 from Sheffield due to Saturday Public transport and arrived in Berwick for 10.30, on the bus to Cheswick at 11.10 and then on the beach at around 11.40.
During my travels I did pick up one yeartick in the form of Red Kite which drifted over the train near Leeds. Plenty of other birds too, including Lapwing, Common Buzzards, Stock Dove, Curlew and Shelduck to name a few.
As soon as I arrived on the beach at Cheswick having fair paced it down from the road, I began to roll in the birds. First up was a small group of Common Scoter, which were joined by 2 Slavonian Grebes. Smashing start. There were not many birders there, only 3, but there had been no news on the black scoter, so it was down to us to find it.
I, however, had other birds to deal with, as some scanning produced my most desired lifer in the form of a flock of 3 Long-Tailed Ducks. I was over the moon and set about watching and trying to digi-scope them (I failed). It turned out that there were an awful lot of them out there, at least 20, but scattered and hard to count. Either way, they were smashing birds and well worth waiting for. Its just a pity they were so far out.
-Long-Tailed Duck
 I could go on about LTD's for a bit, but the next segment is how Black Scoter came to be added to my list. From the point near the car park we could not seen the black scoter, and only a small group of commons to go off. One birder decided to wander up the beach to the rocks but the other two and myself decided to stay put. After another 15 mins with no joy I noticed that the birder on the rocks had now become 4 birders on the rocks, but through bins I could see they were all looking in different directions. They clearly did not have it!
With that in mind I decided to head down the beach the other way to see if there was anything that way. I had spotted another small group of Common Scoters but they were far away and mainly sleeping it seemed so I wanted to check these out. I found them again from my new vantage point but it was clear that the number of birds was going to be hard to work out as they were consistently diving and very hard to follow. Only around 3 birds stayed up for any real length time. However, when there were more birds one did stick out as having more yellow, but it was swiftly lost again. Heart beating frantically I started my search again, but it was around 5 mins later when I picked up the bright yellow again, but once more it was swiftly lost. On the second time though it was clear there were no common scoters that bright (Some drakes had looked very yellow earlier) and with that it mind I raced to the beach to frantically wave my arms at the birders back near the car park.
it took at least 90 seconds before the birders attention had been gained. Now really worried I may have got it wrong I raced back to my scope to try and re-find the bird. That was never going to happen and when I was joined by the other birders I could only tell them what I had seen as I had been unable to track it down. Thank goodness, one of the arriving birders picked it up not long after he had arrived and so began the describing of the location on a sea with no place-markers on it at all.
For the following 2 hours or so we watched the bird on and off as we lost it, moved position to get a better view, lost it again, saw it, lost it, gave vague directions, lost it, digiscoped it, watched it and so on. By the end though I had seen it plenty of times and could clearly see it was the bird we were looking for.
When the birds did stay up in a group  the yellow stood out so much. It was so obviously different with a bright yellow blob on its beak. The only real downside was that it was so far away, and I would deffo not have been able to do it with my old scope. Its the first time I have been at a twitch and personally found the bird we were looking for, so that was a great personal milestone to have reached and I was choughed, as were the other birders. I even got handshakes, though I was just pleased to have been able to see it and get the others onto it.
I mentioned my digiscoping...
-Black Scoter (With Common Scoter)
Its my first time digiscoping since my compact camera has not liked any scope I have tried it with except for this one. Just as well really, as otherwise I would have been unable to get a record shot at all with the distance.
There were plenty of other goodies out there besides the LT duck and the Scoters, including all 3 diver species, though the Great Northerns were only fly-bys and there was only one Black-Throat. There were plenty of Eiders on the sea and flying, and also a drake Red Breasted Merganser flew north, which was another yeartick for the day. On the beach itself there were a few Sanderling and a flock of Ringed Plovers, just to add to the fantastic cast of birds.
By around half 3 I decided to walk back to Berwick and save myself a couple quid on the bus. It was a well founded decision and took nowhere near as long as google maps said it would. It started very well, though I got lost in the dunes, but for getting lost I did pick up Stonechat near a small stream with some reeds. Whilst watching the stonechat I noticed something small and blueish move in the reeds and though my view was brief I had spotted my second Water Rail of the year. I had gone for the camera in my bag but I had not been able to get it out in time before the bird melted into the reeds. But still a fantastic record.
To avoid getting so lost I would end up missing my train I headed back to the beach to walk along. On the rocks where the birders had been earlier were a few Turnstones and Purple Sandpipers which were roosting there now that the tide was in. In the late afternoon sun they looked superb and another reason to put up more photos of Purple Sandpipers this year. What simply great birds.
-Purple Sandpiper and Turnstone
The walk back along the coast was beautiful with the early evening sun casting a reddish glow over everything and the general peace of the area. Once back in the Berwick town area I picked up another nice day-tick with a few Goldeneye that were in the harbor. There were a few other birds too, like Rock Pipit, Grey Wagtail and Sparrowhawk.
It was a really nice end to the day, so I will close off with a couple of shots of the area, the first of the beach and the second of Berwick in the evening light. A truly fantastic days birding, with a bonus of 2 lifers. Can't go wrong there!
-Cheswick Beach
Species List:
Train Journey: Red Kite, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Kestrel, Black-Headed Gull, Starling, Blackbird, Feral Pigeon, Common Buzzard, Pheasant, Stock Dove, Lapwing, Collard Dove, Mallard, Coot, Grey Heron, Goosander, Curlew, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Cormorant, Shelduck, Rook, Goldfinch, Mistle Thrush, Herring Gull, Roe Deer, Brown Hare, Red Fox,
Cheswick Sands: Common Scoter, Slavonian Grebe, Long-Tailed Duck, Eider, Great Northern Diver, Black Scoter, Red Throated Diver, Black-Throated Diver, Rock Pipit, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Turnstone, Purple Sandpiper, Pied Wagtail, Gannet, Stonechat, Water Rail, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Red-Breasted Merganser, Robin, Redshank, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Mute Swan, Cormorant, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, House Sparrow, 
Berwick-Upon-Tweed: Goldeneye, Grey Wagtail, Mute Swan, Eider, Rock Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Mallard, Herring Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Common Gull, Sparrowhawk, Redshank, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Chatsworth Park and Bakewell

Another day off, but instead of twitching today my family came down so we went off for a walk into the peaks. I was not predicting any year-ticks, so when I spotted a Mandarin drake flying over a lake near the roadside I was very happy indeed.
We went for a walk on the river at Chatsworth where we had the usual assembly of common riverside species such as a flyby Dipper, a couple of Stock Doves, Treecreeper, Long-Tailed Tit and a few Goosanders which were around. There was also a Common Buzzard soaring over the hills on the far side of the valley.
-Female Goosander
After our walk we headed into Bakewell but by the time we arrived at the river it was already quite late and there were not as many ducks around as there usually is. Having said that, there was a Little Grebe which is a species I don't think I have seen here before, but it kept to the far bank skulking in the vegetation. There was only a single pair of Tufted Ducks, but there was a Grey Wagtail on the bank with us.

Species List:
Chatsworth Park: Mandarin, Common Buzzard, Mistle Thrush, Dipper, Coot, Moorhen, Kestrel, Blue Tit, Treecreeper, Goosander, Grey Heron, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Mallard, Black-Headed Gull, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Great Tit, Magpie, Pheasant,
Bakewell: Tufted Duck, Mallard, Grey Wagtail, Little Grebe, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Moorhen, Coot, House Sparrow, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, 

Monday, 16 February 2015

Filey Twitching Surf Scoter

I was occupied the whole weekend with church to put my new scope through its paces, but with Mondays off I was able to have a little twitch to see what it could do. My options were either the long staying black scoter at Berwick (Which would also include long-tailed duck) or the recently found Surf Scoter which was a new find but was showing very well. I eventually decided on the latter at 10.00 the night before.
So the usual pattern of trains, out of Sheffield at 5.30 before arriving in Filey at 9.30 and then arriving on site itself at around 10.00ish. I quickly got out the scope and scanned the brig for birders, there were none. I then scanned the bay, and saw nothing. I should add at this point that it was absolutely teeming down with rain, and the conditions were not great. Not seeing the bird I decided I had wasted my time, but since I still had time I wandered along the brig to see if I had missed anything.
Of course I had! Even when I was close it was hard to pick out, but I did manage to spot the bird and get it in the scope to see the stunning bill and white on the head and neck. It was close given that scoters are usually far out at sea, and you could clearly make out all the features of what was a stunning bird.
I was about to get closer but another birder appeared at this point. I waited until he had got onto it before we both tried to get closer. We got a bit closer but not much as the bird kept moving. At one point it started to come back to us, so we set up to watch it but it stopped and the tide eventually pushed us back. I did get some reasonable shots but due to the bobbing of the water they are only just in focus and not exceptional by any stretch of the imagination.
-Surf Scoter
The Scoter remained in sight all through our time on the brig before being pushed back by the tide. So other birds. I picked up some partridges in flight from the train, which were a yeartick, but I could not allocate them a species so they remain off my yearlist.
On the brig, despite the weather, there was decent movement of birds offshore, including many yearticks; Fulmar, Guillemot, Gannet and a single Red-Throated Diver. In the bay itself there was a small raft of Common Scoters and a solitary Eider, also adding to the yearlist. There were also plenty of cormorants and a single Great-Crested Grebe.
On the Brig itself there were a good few waders. The usual Redshank and Oystercatcher were present as well as Turnstone which were very approachable and a large group of the delightful Purple Sandpipers, some of which we were able to get close to and I snapped a few shots in a more natural setting than the pontoons at New Brighton.
-Purple Sandpipers
Once the tide had forced us back I headed onto Filey Dams to see if there was anything there. The usual suspects, including a Shoveler, Gadwall and Wigeon. The highlight for me was when a flock of 3 Stock Dove came and landed in front of the hide. Not only are they smashing birds but it was also my first of the year, Sadly the camera had fogged up due to the consistent rain so the photo I managed were very hazy.
-Stock Dove
It nice to meet up with Nick Carter as well, now of the Filey area. It was great to see him again after we both moved away from the Calderdale area. I also bumped into a birder that I had met on Friday at Attercliffe with the gulls. He had mentioned to other birders he knew about 'this lad birding in shorts' so it was a surprise to see him again in a completely different context.

Species List:
Train Journey: Graylag Goose, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Woodpigeon, Starling, Partridge sp., Herring Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Swan sp., Pheasant, Carrion Crow Roe Deer,
Filey Brig: Great-Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Surf Scoter, Fulmar, Rock Pipit, Gannet, Common Scoter, Eider, Turnstone, Purple Sandpiper, Red-Throated Diver, Guillemot, Oystercatcher, Common Redshank, Herring Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Grey Seal,
Filey Dams: Stock Dove, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Shoveler, Greater Black-Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Teal, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Graylag Goose, Sparrowhawk, Robin, Reed Bunting, Wren, Dunnock, Common Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Shelduck, Woodpigeon, Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow, Starling, Blackbird, Canada Goose, Chaffinch, Pheasant,

Friday, 13 February 2015

Gull Watching in Attercliffe

Christened my new scope with a pre-lecture look at the gulls down in Attercliffe trying to see the iceland gull that had been around. It took a while before I could actually find any gulls down on the rooftops but eventually they settled on the tip and I was able to get a good look at them. Sadly no iceland gull but I did see a pretty pale bird that I wondered if could be a hybrid. I messaged Nick who said he thought it was just a pale Herring Gull, and passed it onto Martin Garner who agreed that it was a pretty funky looking Herring Gull.
-Funky Herring Gull
So that was a little exciting, but did leave me with yet another gull challenge. Also on site was a Grey Heron fishing on the weir and a female Sparrowhawk flew through. Plenty of large gulls did eventually land, but only the usual species.

Species List:
Attercliffe: Herring Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Greater Black-Backed Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Moorhen, Mallard, Grey Heron, Sparrowhawk, 

Monday, 9 February 2015

Anglers CP

I went to Anglers from Pugneys and arrived at half 1. I went straight to the hide and did not leave until half four, hoping for a good gull roost. As it happened, the gull roost was a little slow, the gulls were a long way away (Too far for my scope) and I was the only birder there. As a result I did not stay long into the roost, also due to the fact that it was freezing cold and I had lost sense in all my digits. It was pleasing to return home to see that no unusual gulls had been seen in the roost, though I know not where these lack of gulls were being reported from.
On the birds that were actually there I had some good stuff, including a skein of 23 Pinkies, a Shelduck (Yeartick), Sparrowhawk went through twice, putting up at least 5 snipe, and plenty of Lapwings. The sheer number of Lapwings actually made quite an impressive din, but its not the most pleasant of noises when heard en mass.
So overall a good end to the day, just a pity that I could not get more into the gull roost, but we can't have it all.

Species List:
Anglers CP: Blackbird, Song Thrush, Pink-Footed Goose, Lapwing, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Wigeon, Starling, Goldeneye, Long-Tailed Tit, Oystercatcher, Grey Heron, Coot, Moorhen, Great-Crested Grebe, Black-Headed Gull, Cormorant, Goosander, Gadwall, Carrion Crow, Tufted Duck, Teal, Common Gull, Magpie, Pochard, Woodpigeon, Common Snipe, Herring Gull, Jackdaw, Sparrowhawk, Pied Wagtail, Shelduck, Blue Tit, Mallard, Common Buzzard,

Pugneys CP

Last year I went to go see the Smew at Pugneys and recorded it as a lifer for around 1 min. Given that, and the fact that it would be a yeartick, and (Most importantly) its one of the most dapper and suarve birds on the British list, I decided to head over to Pugneys today to try and find it, and appreciate it with a bit of time unlike last time.
Not going to lie, it is a real pain to locate. After about 2 hours walking up and down the same 500 meter stretch of river I decided to try something new and go upstream of Pugneys, where I have never been. I did this for the first 200 meters the path did not follow the river. When it did join the river I found a small flock of Goldeneye. And then, into the scene but who should drift, the star of the show himself. I grabbed some shots to make up for last time before settling on him with my scope. I got fantastic views for about 5 mins before, for no reason, he took off upstream and I failed to relocate him again. Its obviously a very flighty bird. So here are the record shots of one of the finest birds on the British list.
Whilst hunting Smew I got plenty of other nice things. Most notably was a Kingfisher that flew right past me, my first of the year and close enough to actually make out features as opposed to a blue blur. Wildfowl was plenty, mainly Goldeneye, Tufted Duck and Mallard but a couple of Goosander too as well as at least 3 Little Grebe.
Post seeing the smew I added Pink-Footed Goose to the day-list when a skein of around 200 went overhead. I heard them first but struggled to pick them up, though they then went right over my head, allowing me some good views. The only other significant thing was my first butterfly of the year, when a peacock came and landed near me whilst I was watching the Smew.
-Pink-Footed Geese
So that was the mornings work, one of the best birds in Britain and only my second time ever seeing one. What a glorious morning. I decided to head over to Anglers CP for the afternoon to finally go to the gull roost and see what that was all about.

Species List:
Pugneys CP: Cormorant, Mute Swan, Little Grebe, Wren, Robin, Jay, Fieldfare, Blackbird, Mallard, Goldeneye, Teal, Tufted Duck, Goosander, Woodpigeon, Black-Headed Gull, Carrion Crow, Kingfisher, Feral Pigeon, Common Gull, Moorhen, Coot, Dunnock, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-Tailed Tit, Great Crested Grebe, Meadow Pipit, Mistle Thrush, Kestrel, Canada Goose, Smew, Pink-Footed Goose, Goldfinch, Magpie, Reed Bunting, Peacock Butterfly

Friday, 6 February 2015

New Brighton - Avenged

Last time I went to New Brighton it was a great day's birding, but it did lack the bird that I actually went for. Today then I decided to try again, given that the evening of when I originally went the bird decided to show itself again, and then on Thursday showed incredibly well all day. With all this in mind I decided to arrive for almost first light, but as the train drove up the Wirral I wondered if the bird would still be alive, given that there had been an extreme ground-frost.
I arrived on the Promenade and could see a crowd of about 10-15 birders looking out over the beach. They informed that the bird was still there, out on the rock breach but that it was feeding among the rocks. I was so pleased that it was still here, and that it now seemed inevitable I would avenge Wednesdays dip. The bird came out after about 5 mins, but was distant. Through the scope I got to watch it move along the rocks for about half an hour on and off. 
The tide was coming in and the bird was soon forced off the rocks. As we hoped it flew round and onto the pontoons on the Marine Lake. Once it had flown round the small mass of birders all raced round watching it among the wader roost. We got a great view of the bird as it settled down in the roost. Sadly it then spent most of its time asleep, with its head tucked under its wing. When it did wake up though, which it did do often in fairness it showed its characteristics well, such as the long bill and legs which were both deep red. The overall profile of the bird was what really impressed me, it being so sleek and narrow, a really classy bird.
-Laughing Gull
The bird was close, but the light was not brilliant and we knew that we could try and get it closer. Sadly the bird did not like my sandwich, as I forfeited around half of it, and the only bird to flinch was a Herring Gull, and all that did was stand up. However, one geezer on the other side of the pond decided to throw some cake or something and that certainly got the birds attention, so much so that it flew over and started running around within feet of that guy.
As a result we all raced round and joined in the fun, with the bird running around with the pigeons right in front of us. It was crazy to see, but more than made up for my losses last time out. The light remained a bit of an issue but I managed to get some decent shots, almost as good as those I managed of the harlequin. A really nice bird, great profile on it, I'm raving about the profile I realise but it just looked so good.
-Laughing Gull
After a good ten mins running around chasing bread the bird took off and we lost it for some time. It returned briefly a couple of times, once to the pontoons and the other just a fly through, but both times flying right over our heads in a crazy way, allowing us to really see the wing structure.
The bird did come back for some time though but curiously decided to land on the water, not something it has done frequently in the past. It was paddling round right at the base of the wall directly below us. If it could get any crazier, it just did. It swum around there chasing fragments of cake for about 5 mins before flying off.
-Laughing Gull
It was at this point that I had to leave for my train, as I had booked it with the intention of getting back for something in Sheffield, which was then cancelled. Alas, but it was a good time as the bird had just left.
Any other birds? The waders remained a delight, with Purple Sandpipers still among the roost, the Sanderling still there and a bumped 5 Dunlin today, compared to the one on Wednesday. An additional species to the site list was a Skein of Pink-Footed Geese that went over just before we first tried baiting the gull with bread, the first I have seen since the end of exams and really nice to see against the clear blue sky.
-Pink-Footed Geese
So overall it was well worth coming back. The gull showed incredibly well, while it was great chatting to the other twitchers, especially those who had also been on Wednesday and also missed it on that occasion. Laughing Gull is my 3rd lifer this year and my 91st species of the year.

Species List:
New Brighton: Herring Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Laughing Gull, Dunlin, Purple Sandpiper, Redshank, Turnstone, Cormorant, Magpie, Mallard, Sanderling, Pink-Footed Goose, Starling,
Train Journey: Lapwing, Common Buzzard, Mallard, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Woodpigeon, Canada Goose, Feral Pigeon,