Sunday, 30 August 2015

Soil Hill 27.08 - 01.09

A few afternoon visits this week to see what was about. Most of the activity relates to the Juvenile Cuckoo that had now settled near the bottom of Taylor Lane. That single juvenile Cuckoo soon became 2 Juvenile Cuckoos, and then an adult. The most I have managed was 2 birds at once but I reckon I have seen all 3 at some point. They have been present for all my trips up this week, which is a nice bonus to the pretty low bird diversity.
Any patch ticks this week? The first, though not really a patch tick, was on the 27th when a Grey Wagtail flew over Taylor Lane whilst watching the Cuckoos. Sadly not in the patch area but still a bird I've not seen on the hill at all previously. 
So the only real patch tick was on the 30th. Whilst walking up, but in my recording area, I heard a Siskin calling, but could not see it at all, and so considered it a patch tick that had got away. However, along the western side of the hill I flushed 2 Siskin feeding on thistles and managed to pin them down settled on a wall-top. However, they then flew off North into another thistle patch further up the track, where they were greeted by a chorus of siskin calls. A quick investigation revealed a flock of around 20 birds. I watched them for some time and got a few nice record shots. Walking round the hill a few more flew over calling, so I reckon it total I saw about 25 birds. A nice way to get a patch tick. 

Diddnt make it up to the summit today, ended up watching 2 of the cuckoos for an hour and half, though they never came close. 
Species List:
Soil Hill: Cuckoo, Grey Wagtail, Common Gull, Swallow, Black-Headed Gull,

Species List:
Soil Hill: Linnet, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Common Gull, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Starling, Kestrel, Swallow, Pheasant, Stock Dove, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, 

Besides the Siskins there was also a good count of Starling on the hill tonight, at least 50 birds gathered on the wires outside the Koi farm.
Species List:
Soil Hill: Swallow, Carrion Crow, Feral Pigeon, Jackdaw, Meadow Pipit, Black-Headed Gull, Woodpigeon, Stock Dove, Common Gull, Siskin, Goldfinch, Wren, Blackbird, Skylark, Starling,

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Soil Hill 20.08 - 26.08

From 2 trips so far this week I have managed two outstanding birds, and not just by Soil Hill standards. On the 22nd I had cut my time on the hill short on account of my parents who warned me of and oncoming storm. On my way back down Taylor Lane, I was scanning the wall tops when I spotted a largish bird on one of the near walls. I struck me by its shape as being a Cuckoo immediately. However, a jogger was coming, so my heart was in my mouth that it would not flush. It did, but did not go far at all and I was able to rattle off a few photos. Thrilled, I texted out the news but when I looked up again it had gone and I could not refind it. However, on the 24th I refound the bird feeding on Peacock Caterpillars further down Taylor Lane and showing very well indeed. 
If that was one patch tick, the second came on the 23rd when I was walking along the top and flushed a Grasshopper Warbler. To say I was thrilled with this would be an understatement. I've put the description under the date. Having only seen gropper once before I could stand to be corrected, although the evidence seems to be stacked up. A real nice treat.
Also on the 22nd I found a second Spotted Flycatcher down the lane left of the Koi farm. This time I got a proper look at them, and they were even flycatching right above my head, which was pretty awesome to see. Signs that Autumn has really hit the hill.

Species List:
Soil Hill: Rook, Magpie, Starling, Feral Pigeon, Black-Headed Gull, Kestrel, Linnet, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Wren, Spotted Flycatcher, Cuckoo,
-Spotted Flycatcher

On the Northern Side of the hill's summit I was trudging through the grass when I flushed a small dark passerine. It lacked any white on its tail, which was narrow and pointed, or on its wings, removing both Skylark and Meadow Pipit as possibilities. Its back was a uniform dark brown. I considered Grasshopper Warbler as an option and went to flush it again in order to establish anything else on the bird. It clearly had an orange-y flash on its side, which was very distinct on the second flyby. The back was still very dark but appeared to be streaked. It landed in a field which was barbed off, so I decided to try and play it a gropper call and see if that did anything. I realised that the wind was strong, and my phone speaker was not, so quickly gave up. However, after around 5 mins it flew from the field, did a flyby past me and landed in the scrub behind me. I flushed it a few more times after to try and get a photo but did not pick up any more features, except the lack of a distinct Supercilium. I lost it in the thicker scrub at the top of the North Slope and subsequent efforts failed to re-locate it. From the features described I am confident that the bird was a Grasshopper Warbler, which was a species I never excepted to see on site once the marsh had been demolished. I was pretty thrilled with that.
Also a few bonus birds around this afternoon. First of these was a female type Common Teal which I initially flushed from one of the top pools, followed by a subsequent flushing from one of the fields adjacent to the summit. I also flushed a nice Common Snipe from the scrapes on the top, which was my first of the Autumn.
Species List:
Soil Hill: Rook, Jackdaw, Woodpigeon, Swallow, Feral Pigeon, Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Black-Headed Gull, Starling, Common Teal, Grasshopper Warbler, Magpie, Common Snipe, Skylark, Common Gull,

Besides the aforementioned Cuckoo showing well, there were also 2 Common Buzzards circling the hill, though quite high and increasing in height as they moved south. Also 17 Mistle Thrushes down the track where the Spotted Flycatchers had been, plus a late Swift going south, and a large group of around 40 Swallows going south high.
Species List:
Soil Hill: Swift, Mistle Thrush, Starling, Meadow Pipit, Feral Pigeon, Swallow, House Martin, Black-Headed Gull, Kestrel, Magpie, Pheasant, Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow, Stock Dove, Wren, Jackdaw, Common Buzzard, Lesser Black-Backed Gull,
-Common Buzzard

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Soil Hill 13.08 - 19.08

Highlights from the past week have been surprisingly numerous, with quite a few patch ticks around.On the 13th I spotted a group of Canada Geese feeding on the fields near the marsh. This is my first record of them here, though I probably have seen them before in my armchair birder days.
On the 15th August I patch ticked Sand Martin with a nice individual blogging with the swallows on the west side of the hill. It moved off north though and I was unable to reconnect with it.
The 16th was a superb day. When walking along the west side I was pleasantly surprised to spot 2 Little Owls resting on the wall. It looked like an adult and a well developed juvenile. I was pretty thrilled with that, a patch tick!
On the 17th I had two really good birds, but neither of them were in the area that I record as Soil Hill. The first was a Spotted Flycatcher which was down the track left of the Koi Shop. It alighted on the wall in front of me, but we both recognised each other at the same time and it dived over the wall. I raced over to see where it had gone but it obviously saw me again and I had to watch it fly on up the valley away from me. The next birds would not have been patch ticks, so I did not feel so bad them not being on the site. As I was walking down Taylor Lane I heard a jangling finch call which I realised might be Twite again. I go them landed on the wire but they did not stay long and flew off, though they did bank back round and appear to come back to that area, though I was unable to confirm it. A quick refresh in the Collins App confirm my suspicions that they were Twite, possibly 2 of the 3 birds I had seen earlier in the year.

Species List:
Soil Hill: Woodpigeon, Greenfinch, Swallow, Feral Pigeon, Meadow Pipit, Carrion Crow, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Magpie, Starling, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Common Gull, Stock Dove, Jackdaw, Kestrel, Canada Goose, Skylark,

It was also nice to bump into Nigel Kerwin today, who showed me a new area of Soil Hill that I have never been to, so that will be something to keep an eye on in future. 
Species List:
Soil Hill: Willow Warbler, Magpie, Swallow, Starling, Linnet, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Carrion Crow, Sand Martin, Kestrel, Blackbird, Whitethroat, Dunnock, Rook, Pheasant, Skylark, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Stock Dove, Meadow Pipit, 
-Willow Warbler

It was also nice to bump into Brian Sumner up there, who was arriving just as I was leaving. Glad you got the Owls Brian.
Species List:
Soil Hill:
Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Swallow, Stock Dove, Swift, House Martin, Black-Headed Gull, Common Gull, Kestrel, Linnet, Jackdaw, Little Owl, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Goldfinch, Blackbird, Sparrowhawk, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Rook, Magpie, Wheatear, 
-Little Owl

Of note today were the Spotted Flycatcher (Plus Willow Warbler) down the track near the Koi Shop and the 2 Twite that flew over Taylor Lane. The Twite are probably still in the area so worth looking for. Perhaps the real highlight however, was when two Weasel kits emerged from the vegetation along the edge of Taylor Lane, ran past me and then started play-fighting in the middle of the road. It was incredible to see, simply superb.
Species List:
Soil Hill: Magpie, Starling, Kestrel, Feral Pigeon, Carrion Crow, Linnet, Swallow, Woodpigeon, Black-Headed Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Wren, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Whitethroat, Meadow Pipit, Moorhen, Stock Dove, Skylark,

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Soil Hill: 29.07 - 12.08

To save with constant individual posts about Soil Hill trips with limited sightings I figured I may was well round them up in one long post at weekly intervals (Starting now) and so here is a quick round up of all that I've seen on the almost daily trips up to the hill. 
A quick note on the notable sightings. On the 7th August a Common Buzzard drifted over the hill. It started circling down over the Queensbury direction before flying low but directly over the hill towards Ogden and Thornton Moor, where it started circling again but continuing to drift of. On the 6th I headed up for an evening session where I gained a patch tick of Greenfinch with a flock of 5 birds associating with the small group of trees at the end of the track. A long overdue tick to say the least.
 On the 12th August I managed to get another patch tick. It was a very slow afternoon with nothing happening. It was then that I heard a distinct 'Spizz' call overhead and looked to see a Tree Pipit flying over. It alighted on a wall, so I rushed for my camera, but when I looked again it was gone. At this point a second Tree Pipit flew over calling and this seemingly was enough to bring out the other bird from the wall, and both birds continued flying south. No record shot there then!

Species List:
Soil Hill: Wren, Kestrel, Mistle Thrush, Swift, Swallow, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, 

Species List:
Soil Hill:Carrion Crow, Swallow, Swift, Wren, Starling, Mistle Thrush, Kestrel, Meadow Pipit, Woodpigeon, Skylark, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Common Gull, Stock Dove, Linnet, Rook, Jackdaw,

It is important to note that it rained intensively on this day, and I quickly gave up upon arriving on the hill
Species List:
Soil Hill: Meadow Pipit, Woodpigeon,

Species List:
Soil Hill: Mistle Thrush, Linnet, Feral Pigeon, Dunnock, Greenfinch, Starling, Woodpigeon, Kestrel, Carrion Crow, Common Gull,

Species List:
Soil Hill: Kestrel, Swallow, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Mistle Thrush, Woodpigeon, Wheatear, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Linnet, Stock Dove, Skylark, Feral Pigeon, Common Buzzard, Swift, Meadow Pipit, Dunnock, 
-Common Buzzard

Species List:
Soil Hill: Lapwing, Starling, Woodpigeon, Linnet, Mistle Thrush, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Pheasant, Skylark, Swallow, Magpie, Stock Dove, Wheatear, Canada Goose, Carrion Crow, Black-Headed Gull, Kestrel, Feral Pigeon,

Also of note today was the first dragonfly of the year on the hill: a real nice male Common Hawker. Its just a pity it did not settle down for a proper photo.
Species List:
Soil Hill: Swallow, Goldfinch, Kestrel, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Dunnock, Carrion Crow, Black-Headed Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Meadow Pipit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Skylark, Wheatear, Mistle Thrush,
-Common Hawker

Species List:
Soil Hill: Feral Pigeon, Goldfinch, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Tree Pipit, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Skylark, Stock Dove, Kestrel,

And that's it for Soil Hill. Other stuff has been happening, especially in the garden where we have had a nice garden tick of Willow Warbler. A nice yellow individual came and stayed for only a minuet or so, and most of that time was spent in bushes, but it was still and exciting sighting.
But not as exciting as when my dad went out one night to lock the garage only to come back saying there was a Common Toad near the pond. This is a garden tick and pretty special. Not bad going at all.
-Common Toad

Burnsal Bridge

Pretty usual affair here. A walk up the river in the morning to see what was about, if anything. Usual suspects were on the cards, with a couple of nice female Mandarin ducks, a brief and distant dipper and a few Spotted Flycatcher hanging around, including a couple of young birds.
The real highlight was a nice family of Goosanders, consisting of a female and a group of around 7 chicks all settled down on the rocks in the middle of the river. I cannot recall seeing goosander chicks ever before, so this was something of a novelty for me. Sadly none of my attempts to photograph them really came out due to the depth of field.
-Goosander family

Species List: Mallard, Mandarin, Pied Wagtail, Black-Headed Gull, Swallow, House Martin, Blue Tit, Rook, Dipper, Spotted Flycatcher, Robin, Blackbird, Nuthatch, Goosander, Goldfinch, Collard Dove, Wren, Common Gull, Grey Wagtail,

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Preston Docks

Its been a difficult week, having opted for the Sabines on Wednesday I then had to endure a number of days where little things meant I could not go for the Ring-Billed Gull in Preston. Finally though my time came and by half past nine of Saturday morning I was at Preston Docks finally enjoying the Ring-Billed Gull.
As I arrived there were more birders than I had expected. However, I decided to try and find the gull myself, which I managed after about 10 mins of sifting through the gulls on the wavebreakers. The problem was that it was asleep and distant. After a while I tossed it some bread but there was no response from any of the gulls.
However, it was not longer before more birders arrived so more bread was thrown, and that seemed to wake it up a bit and it flew across to the near wavebreakers. After a little hesitation it was even persuaded to come onto the very closest, and it does not need to be said that the views we were getting were absolutely outstanding.
In the end I was there for three hours, while the bird showed often very close and well but sometimes more distant. I took 1000 photos in the end and the best of these are below. It was a superb bird, complete with a ring on its bill, as if I could ask for any more. Well worth waiting for. When in flight you can clearly see the gaps in the wings showing it is well into its moult. With that in mind I would think the bird will be around for some time yet.
-Ring-Billed Gull
The docks were actually a pretty decent birding spot. I was very surprised to find that there was a colony of Common Terns on the wavebreakers which seemed to have a good number of nesting pairs and quite a few chicks of different ages could be seen.
There were a number of other gulls present on the breakers, and the hunt was on to find the reported Yellow Legged Gull. I only managed to string 3 birds before getting it. The first was almost plumage perfect for a YLG but was a pretty small bird and as such we decided it probably was not. The second was a Lesser Black-Backed with a little bit of notching and very long primary extensions. The third was the bird that had been seen previously, with perfectly notched plumage on a whitish head. It was a hefty bird, dwarfing the herring gulls around it. So that was a nice added bonus.
-Yellow Legged Gull
For an urban spot, Preston docks made for a great days birding with a lifer and a chance to continue working on my gulls. Not bad going at all.

Species List:
Preston Docks: Cormorant, Mallard, Great-Crested Grebe, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Coot, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Yellow-Legged Gull, Ring-Billed Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Magpie, Common Tern, Moorhen, Swallow, Swift,