Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Recent Times Locally

There is no point doing a full blog post for every visit to soil hill as it would no doubt end up extremely repetitive and pointless, so unless there is a significant record or patch tick I see little point in individual posts.
Explanation over, how we stand at the moment. I have been up to the hill a few times over the last week but with nothing overly unusual to show for it. I have, however, tracked down a few Whitethroats which I have not seen on the hill very often previously, but it was in an area where I often do not look. Since then I know pay the area a lot more attention. It would seem that my half an hour scout round the hill days are in the past, as visits now seem to be lasting up to two hours and more.
Other notable sightings include a pair of Stock Doves in the fields on the western side of the hill. In the same area as the Whitethroat I accidentally booted out a Grey Partridge, which probably startled me more than I startled it. Last but not least, I spotted a Robin on the wall near the forest, as I now like to call the clump of trees at the base of the track. This could be my first patch record but I will need to check.

Species List:
Soil Hill: Whitethroat, Grey Partridge, Reed Bunting, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Swift, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Swallow, Magpie, Stock Dove, Feral Pigeon, Linnet, Mistle Thrush, Kestrel, Robin.

Since I have been spending a reasonable amount of time at home either revising for my driving theory test or watching Wimbledon I have been able to catch up with the garden birds. The Sparrowhawk has paid us a visit on one occasion, a male, which sat on the fence post in plain sight, hopped around a bit and rummaged through the bushes in pursuit of some dinner. By the time I had my camera the view was badly obscured but take nothing away from just how awesome it is.
Other garden birds include an impressive number of Sparrows, mainly composed of fledglings. We also have good numbers of Greenfinch around, which is pretty incredible considering that a few years ago we had none due to a virus that wiped them out. Since I have been away this time the numbers have greatly increased which is very positive. Also, one evening whilst watching the tennis I spotted 3 Long-tailed Tits flying around from the tree across the road. They are pretty scarce around here and this is only the third occurrence of them in the garden, so that's pretty exciting.

Species List:
Garden: Sparrowhawk, Mistle Thrush, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Collard Dove, Woodpigeon, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Blue Tit,

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Undisclosed Location

Having recived a tip off from Dave about the status of the owls this year I decided to get out and go get them seen. I decided to set off around 7, as that was when I could get a lift to the site. No sooner did we arrive on site than did a Short-Eared Owl fly across the road right in front of us. I was pretty speechless. It kept flying away from us so I could only grab a record shot, but it says enough.
-Short Eared Owl
As soon as I got out of the car my attention was drawn away from the owl and onto one of my all time favourite birds, the Common Snipe, which was sat on a fence post nearby. Not only that, but there were a few snipe all drumming together, which was a phenomenal experience, my favourite sound in the whole of nature.
-Common Snipe
My attention then turned back to the Owl, although there were plenty of other things going on as well. I was pleased when the owl landed as I was able to get a proper good look at it, and not just it wings and profile. It was distant but through the scope the view was phenomenal. I grabbed a few digiscoped shots but the light was fading and the Shortie was a long way off, so its little more than  a record shot.
-Short-Eared Owl
Its the first time I have seen a Shortie on the deck, so I was pretty chuffed about that. And it was about to get even better as a Long-Eared Owl began hunting the moors behind me. Sadly, continuing camera faults meant all my shots from this encounter came out very poorly, but this is probably as a result of the light too.
It did not matter in the end though. I moved on to the site described by Dave and spotted a stunning adult sat out on the bilberry bushes along the fringe of the trees. Through the scope the view was unreal. I grabbed a few digiscoped shots but the light was fading and the camera battery was on its last legs. After a while watching it the Owl flew off into the trees. It was without doubt one of the best experiences I have ever had with an Owl, possibly with a bird, what an absolute beast.
-Long-Eared Owl
I left the owls too it, in case I would lead to any disturbance, and got a lift back. It has been quite a day. Both Eared Owl species put me on 197 for the year. We look well set to beat last years total as it stands.

Species List:
Undisclosed Location: Short-eared Owl, Snipe, Golden Plover, Red Grouse, Curlew, Meadow Pipit, Kestrel, Skylark, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Mallard, Canada Goose, Lapwing, Pied Wagtail, Long-eared Owl, Oystercatcher, Merlin, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Pheasant,

Ladybower and Derwent Reservoirs

My family decided today they were going to Ladybower Reser to cycle round the reser to test out their new tandem. I decided to tag along as I could wander around and hopefully see some good birds, with a goshawk still a possibility.
It was not goshawk that got me today though. It was another bird of prey. As we were driving along Ladybower having just come down the valley on onto the side of the reser I spotted a large bird in the sky. I my verbal thought process went something like this; 'seems like there are plenty of large birds around today, (Only bird in the sky) looks like a raptor or a gull... its a raptor... nope its a gull... S*it, its an Osprey. Dad pull over, just pull in here, now' or something like that. 
It was a very low flying bird, but was almost directly above us, so a much better view of the underwings than the bird at Spurn. Sadly due to camera faults I could not nail the shot which the experience required to full show how close and well showing this bird was. It even crossed our minds that it might try to catch a fish, but sadly not, and it began to circle higher and higher until it drifted over the crest of the hill on the NE side. It was, simply, unbelievable! 
Absolutely buzzing from that experience I set off for a wander round Derwent Reservoir. Keeping an eye on the sky and the other for anything else around. There were a few Common Buzzards and Kestrels but the sky was reasonably quiet over the course of the day, the standard having been set so high so early on.
The woods still had plenty to provide though. As I was walking along I picked up on a trilling call from the woods. Once I had noticed it I listened more closely and realised that it was a Wood Warbler, the species I had suspected it might be. Unfortunately it was in a fenced off paddock, so had to wait until nobody was around before trying to locate the bird.
Once I was onto it, it required little difficulty to track down as its song flight was very distinct and the call loud. The only downside was that it tended to stay high up in the trees, which was a bit disappointing but since I remained plagued by camera errors it mattered little, so I was able to sit back and watch the bird sing and descend, a real nice surprise for the day.
-Wood Warbler
As I carried on up there remained good numbers of species. They were mostly commoner species but the highlights included 4 fledgling Treecreepers chasing each other round, and a Common Sandpiper on the shore of the reser. 
I had planned to go all the way round Derwent until I reached the Dam of Howden and realised this was not an option. I took a moment here to have a breather and some lunch, but as I stopped I heard my second Wood Warbler of the day trilling from the woods. This one was not fenced off so I rushed up to try and get to grips with it.
This individual was far more mobile, and remained high up, but was a more constant singer than the first bird. I tried to take some sound recordings but failed, and only managed one record shot. Considering it was a lifer not 2 months ago, to see 2 in one day was pretty special.
-Second Wood Warbler
That was the icing on the cake for an awesome day. I headed a little further up the side of Howden to where the path curved round and I had a good view of the surrounding environment to scan for raptors. I only had Common Buzzard but was treated when this rather funky longhorn beetle flew in at my feet. A quick check of the book informs me this is a 'Rhagium bifasciatum' but please correct me if I'm wrong.
-Rhagium bifasciatum 
I say Common Buzzard was the only raptor, this was not true. whilst scanning I picked out a couple of young Kestrels on the dam wall, and when I got closer to have a look I could see there were 3 well developed young kestrels looking very nice all sat out preening. Its obviously been a good year for them.
-Kestrel Fledglings
I caught my parents as I was here, and as they were cycling back and I was not I decided to make a move. I did not get much else on the way back but it had already been such a super day, I was more than thrilled.

Species List:
Ladybower and Derwent Reservoirs: Osprey, Common Buzzard, Jay, Swallow, Mallard, Canada Goose, Carrion Crow, Kestrel, Grey Heron, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Woodpigeon, Wood Warbler, Great Tit, Pied Wagtail, Swift, Siskin, Treecreeper, Coal Tit, Goldfinch, Wren, Chaffinch, Long-Tailed Tit, Common Sandpiper, Grey Wagtail, Cormorant, Nuthatch, Blackbird, Spotted Flycatcher, Curlew,

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Soil Hill

First day back on the hill today, so I was hopeful for something a bit different to have happened during my time away. There was Himalayan Bolsom growing on the verge going up, which I don 't recall being there before.
As I passed the small group of trees at the base of the track-way I thought I could hear Goldcrest calling, which would be a remarkable patch tick, so set up to get wait to see if I could confirm my suspicions. I was pleased after a wait of around 20 mins that I got decent views of a Goldcrest feeding among the pine needles. However, I was unable to get a photo, so I decided to wait a longer to try and get a photo of this patch tick.
As I waited I gained another patch tick, though this one a little less unexpected, in the form of 2 juvenile Coal Tits that were flitting around the pines. These I was able to get a record shot of, and I was pretty pleased with my effort.
-Coal Tit
The Coal Tits sat out for a bit, and they were more than obliging while I was waiting. The Goldcrest made another fleeting visit, but I failed to have my camera ready and I missed my chance to grab a record shot, so cue more waiting!
Its a good thing I did too, as I got my most remarkable record for the site I have ever got. Another bird landed on a horizontal branch, which was so obvious but so unexpected, Nuthatch! I could not believe what I was seeing, but sadly only managed one, very obscured record shot. I was thrilled at seeing this, a real patch MEGA. If I had not spent so long looking at the patch of trees I would never had known it was there, which makes you wonder what other goodies are lurking in there. The Nuthatch flitted for around 30 seconds before it dropped back into the wood never to be seen again.
I was buzzing after seeing that, and nothing could really top it. And nothing did! The top was pretty quiet all in all. I spotted a couple of Roe Deer down the north face, though at the time I could only see one, but looking at there photos I spotted the ears of a second 
-Roe Deer
Its a thrilling return to the patch with numerous patch ticks, and the Nuthatch being an exceptional addition to the Soil Hill list. What an afternoon, you don't get many like that up there.

Species List:
Soil Hill: Swift, Carrion Crow, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Blackbird, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Swallow, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Nuthatch, Skylark, Starling, Swift, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Moorhen, Kestrel, Magpie, Great Tit, Pied Wagtail,

Monday, 22 June 2015

Blacktoft Sands RSPB

First day back in Halifax and I decided to head off. Chosen site? Blacktoft to hopefully get better views of the Monties and see the ring-necked duck that had been showing on and off there for a week or so.
I only narrowly made all my connections, with the train prior breaking down and meaning I missed a connecting train. The subsequent train got me to Goole 2 mins before the bus arrive, leaving me with that time to find the bus stop. Somehow I made it, and was on site for 10.
The RND had not been seen yet, so I thought about how best to approach my day. I decided to go and see the Spotted Redshanks first, as they were in full summer plumage, which is a plumage I have never seen before. There were 3 all lined up looking amazing in black, but they spent all their time sleeping, which kind of took the gloss off it. They only moved occasionally when flushed by a Lapwing, so I could not really get a good record shot. Either way they looked superb, but it would have been nicer if they were doing something.
-Spotted Redshank
After a while watching the spotshanks I moved on to the hide I had visited prior to look for the harriers. They were not showing, and I did not stay in that hide for long. I next moved on to the hide where the RND had been favoring. That was also not showing but I stayed in here a bit longer. There was an upstairs to this hide giving me more of a vantage point over the marsh, and I soon picked out the female Montagu's Harrier flying over the reeds.
It was distant, though she came a bit closer as she moved from right to left, but never close, and all my record shots were distant and nothing spectacular. Having said that, it meant I got to finally look and appreciate the birds, unlike last times fleeting glimpse which I messed up with the camera. And I have some record shots. Despite the lack of duck I was well pleased with how the day was progressing.
-Female Montagu's Harrier
The female came by a few times in the end, never close but good views could be had through the scope. I had to wait until mid afternoon before I got a look at the male, who was very distant and did not come particularly close.
Its the first time I have seen a male harrier that's not been a Marsh Harrier (which were in abundance on site) and I was pretty ecstatic about seeing it. It would have been nicer if he had come closer but I was more than pleased to have seen him. At one point, both he and a Marsh Harrier were in the air together, and at another point I saw both the female and male Monties flying together. What a superb bird, outstanding.
-Male Montagu's Harrier
Despite the lack of signal I was desperately refreshing the birdguides app to try and make sure that if the duck did appear I did not miss it. I did not get any information on the duck, but got a pleasant surprise when I saw a male Red-Necked Phalarope had been seen from the Singleton Hide. So I headed there.
As I arrived the rain began to pelt down, and before long there was a thunderstorm going on. The Phalarope looked less than impressed but once the storm had moved on it began to look a little happier. This is the first male of this species I have seen and was a bonus for the day out. It did not come especially close so I only got record shots but its still a superb looking little bird.
-Male Red-Necked Phalarope

-Red-Necked Phalarope
I left the reserve at 5.00 feeling pretty pleased with a fine days birding. The other birds of note were a few distant Bearded Tits, but these were mere specks. The only downside was at 6.00, when waiting in Doncaster station I checked the news to see that the RND had been found again at 5.00 from the Singleton Hide, but you can't win them all.

Species List:
Blacktoft Sands RSPB: Swift, Tree Sparrow, Gadwall, Shoveler, Woodpigeon, Grey Heron, Lapwing, Little Grebe, Spotted Redshank, Black-Headed Gull, Mallard, Marsh Harrier, Coot, Little Egret, Reed Bunting, Tufted Duck, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Kestrel, House Martin, Swallow, Montagu's Harrier, Pochard, Starling, Shelduck, Pied Wagtail, Great Crested Grebe, Dunnock, Mute Swan, Linnet, Sedge Warbler, Wigeon, Goldfinch, Herring Gull, Avocet, Redshank, Sand Martin, Bearded Tit, Curlew, Chaffinch, Red-Necked Phalarope, Swallow, Moorhen, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Pheasant, Robin,

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Peak District Field Course

Day 1
For the first day we headed out to Burbage edge to do a 'plant survey' of a recently felled plantation. Of course there were a few birds about, including a couple of Peregrines blogging around the cliff and a good number of singing Siskins along the edge of the remaining plantation. The real bonus for the day was a Merlin that flew past the coach as we were pulling up. When I first spotted it I thought it was a swift, but it soon became clear it was a small falcon, which could only mean one thing. Merlin is my 192 species this year.

Species List:
Burbage Edge: Merlin, Kestrel, Peregrine, Siskin, Robin, Grey Wagtail, Great-Spotted Woodpecker, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Pheasant, Pied Wagtail, Reed Bunting,

Day 2
Another day out in the field, but this time looking specifically at Insects around the Padley Moor and Surprise View area of the Longshaw Estate, and area I am very familiar with. Sadly we did not get to explore the actual moor where the birds are, but we did get plenty of nice things down in the quarry and around the car park. Sadly we had to kill a number of the insects we found for our assessed collections, which was a real shame (though not the big dragonflies and moths), as many casualties were Green Tiger Beetles, which are my favorites.
-Golden-Bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle
-Stick Caterpillar
-Freshly Emerged Common Hawker
-Oak Eggar (Sadly did not sit still for a photo)
Species List:
Lawrencefield Quarry and Surprise View: Jackdaw, Meadow Pipit, Long-Tailed Tit, Common Buzzard, 

Day 3
Today we started our personal group projects, and my group worked on the Moor itself, so I could sit and watch the birds that I am used to on moors. One of the lads in my group had not seen cuckoo before and I was quite keen to find one for him, as they are pretty frequent on the moor here. Sadly, despite it calling frequently, I was not able to pick it up. I did get a lovely male Whinchat, and a few Stonechats, including a juvenile. It was difficult to try and remain focused on our assessment whilst trying to get stuff seen.

Species List:
Padley Moor: Kestrel, Common Buzzard, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Carrion Crow, Whinchat, Stonechat, 

Day 4
While we crammed to finish off collecting the data for the project I got a few birds in, namely the Cuckoo finally gave us a flyby. Though breif it was decent, and more than enough to tell what it was. It landed in a tree further down the moor, before it took off again and entered the wood at the bottom. The Whinchat was still showing and singing, and one of the guys in the group picked out a Green Woodpecker flying down the moor, which was pretty nice to see.

Species List:
Padley Moor: Cuckoo, Green Woodpecker, Whinchat, Meadow Pipit, Siskin, Stonechat,

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Spurn Weekend Day 3

I had a rather rough night in the pub and as such was not up to much at all today. Somehow I got out of bed at 7.00 to find nobody around, but those I did find informed me that I had missed nothing, so that was good to hear.
During my breakfast on the living room window I could see everyone gathered around the ringing hut photographing something, so I staggered across to see what it was, only to be met with a stunning Sparrowhawk in Adams hand, only the second one I have ever seen in the hand. My compact camera was still dead so I only had my big telephoto lens, and the light was poor so I only managed a solitary decent shot.
After that I went with Barry and Jonnie to look at the moth traps after the news came they had caught an elephant hawkmoth. They had let that one go by the time I arrived but they found another, allowing me to get a quick shot of this species which I have only seen once before and never photographed. I stayed while they sampled the others too, with a superb Drinker being a highlight.
-Small Elephant Hawkmoth
I spent the rest of the day recovering, sleeping or staying close to the Warren. Matt and I headed off to wetlands mid afternoon to try and see some stuff but there was not much going on and we saw nothing of note. The rain looked to be setting in so we did not stay out long, even if we had I doubt it would have made much difference.
After the NGBs had gone I did a little seawatching and recorded year-ticks of Razorbill and Arctic Tern, though Adam Hutt found the terns as mere dots flying along over the triangle. How on earth he does this stuff is beyond me.
After a short while seawatching I returned to the Warren to pack and have a rest. While looking out of the window I noticed a small mouse scurrying round, feeding on the grasses. It looked quite sweet so grabbed a couple of shots. It did not seem bothered about being out in the open, where it would be vulnerable. It made me wonder how long it would last. The answer came soon enough, as after five mins of watching a kestrel came down, landed on the mouse, killing it, and then flew off. It was pretty awesome to see, unless you were the mouse.
-House Mouse
It was not long before I was back up at the seawatching hut, as Adam called out a Hummingbird Hawkmoth, so I raced up to try and photograph it. It was a very active moth and impossible to pin down for a good photo. I tried but did not get anything exceptional. It does mean I have seen and photographed both of the only hawkmoth species I have seen prior to today.
-Hummingbird Hawkmoth
And that was that, with the weekend over we drove back and began to work through the photos I took with a field course in the peak district looming all week.

Species List:
Kilnsea Wetlands and Holderness Field: Little Egret, Avocet, Little Tern, Yellow Wagtail, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Mute Swan, Mallard, Gadwall, Woodpigeon, Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Black-Headed Gull,
Canal Scrape: Mallard, Mute Swan, Carrion Crow, Reed Bunting, Swallow, Swift, Woodpigeon, 
Seawatching: Razorbill, Puffin, Guillemot, Arctic Tern, Sandwich Tern, Little Tern, Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake,

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Spurn Weekend Day 2

The NGBs arrived last night so there was a good squad of us in the warren in the morning. As a consequence of the weather we had taken the day slowly and by 7 there were only 3 of us up. It was at that point that news broke of a laughing gull at Beacon Ponds. I have never seen birders move so fast.
We arrived at the wetlands to be pointed a distant bird heading south over Beacon Lane to be told that was the bird, before it was lost to sight and was never seen again. Guys at numpties did not see it go south so it was assumed to be still in the area, though it was not seen again.
Since we did not know this we went to numpties to see if it would come south but it never did, and we soon gave up as the rain continued to fall.
By mid morning we decided to actually do some birding. Zac had already decided to quit being lazy and had gone to the point. As a result, the rest of us decided to go to Sammies. This was an excellent choice as it resulted in us finding a Marsh Warbler, which was the first of the year for spurn and a lifer for me.
We heard it calling first and all picked it up at roughly the same time before discussing it among us before releasing it as a Marsh Warbler. It was typically elusive and difficult to pin down, but I got a couple of nice enough record shots. Some of the other guys took sonograms of the bird too. Jonnie kept a list of all the birds being imitated, which included Bee-Eater, Yellow and Pied Wagtail, Chaffinch, Great Tit and a host of other species. Super.
-Marsh Warbler
Other birds were thin on the ground, the only other notable being a Barn Owl. We the returned to the Warren. When Zac arrived back from the point Jonnie, Matt and I took him up to the site to see the Warbler again, but it remained flighty and elusive. After a while we left Zac to try and get a photo, whilst we headed to Patrington to grab a few things.
We returned to the warren for more laziness. Then, once again, the radio buzzed that a Bee-Eater was flying about sammies, then Churchfield, then the canal before settling down in Sammies. We raced up to numpties to pick it up over the canal before racing round the roads trying to find it, before we pulled up in Churchfield.
In churchfield the bird was calling frequently, sat closely and whizzing round our heads. It was a better experience than last time as it was closer, flying around us and calling. It was unbelievably awesome. It just does not get any better than this really. It nearly did as Tim set up the nets to try and catch it, and it so nearly went in, landing on the net poles twice and dodging the net only narrowly. What a superb bird and experience. Sadly the battery on my compact died so I only managed a few shots with that.
-European Bee-Eater
-European Bee-Eater
Paul said he was off to catch the Marsh Warbler, but with the bee eater still around I did not want to leave should it be caught. As soon as Paul had left with the other NGBs though the bee-eater flew off, so I grabbed a lift with Mick to long bank and ran through the sodden grass to catch them with the Marsh Warbler.
I was in luck, they had only just set up when I arrived and within 2 mins the bird had gone straight into the net. My lack of compact camera meant I had to stand well back but I'm still pleased with the shots I got, only that I did not get the feet, which were incredibly distinctive when you saw the bird up close, bright yellow. What a superb little bird and lifer.
-Marsh Warbler
We let the warbler go without putting it out. We then wandered along Sammies where Zac spotted a Kestrel ripping apart a wheatear. Jonnie wanted the feathers so we waited until the kestrel had done before he went to go and get them. By now, with the thick cloud cover, it was quite dusky so we decided to call it quits on the day. Despite the weather we had got some fantastic birds seen and had a great days birding.

Species List:
Sammies Point: Marsh Warbler, Kestrel, Barn Owl, Wheatear, Woodpigeon, Black-Headed Gull, Shelduck, Mute Swan, Swallow, House Martin, House Sparrow, Linnet, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Sand Martin, Ringed Plover, Cuckoo, Meadow Pipit,
Churchfield: Collard Dove, European Bee-Eater, Woodpigeon, Greenfinch, Barn Owl, Swallow, Swift, House Martin,