Wednesday, 20 January 2016

University Birdwatching

As per for a January, most of my time is being spent in the library revising or procrastinating. My chosen spot has a stunning view out over Sheffield and that means I get to watch birds flying over, which compensates for the lack of birding I get to do otherwise.

January 10th
Pretty sweet to get Peregrine on the yearlist this morning when one of the church birds flew around the window before heading back down towards the church. Always a pleasure to see, and makes spending time in the library a lot more bearable...

January 15th
Today I had a Common Buzzard fly N over the IC. I glanced up from my notes and there it was, this great beast of a bird being mobbed by crows as it leisurely flew by. Its a library tick for me there, the first one of the exam period.

January 16th
The Buzzard flew back again today before soaring away towards Attercliffe but still more than view-able from my vantage point. I also had a Collard Dove fly by which is only my second library record.

January 17th
Today was a real bumper day. There was a reasonable snowfall overnight though it quickly melted away. It all happened in the morning. I was glancing out of the window when I noticed a large Skein of Pink-footed Geese flying West. I was thrilled, a yeartick and a superb library bird. Then, half an hour later, a second, but more distant and higher skein of around 50 birds. About 5 minuets later a third Skein went over of around 70 birds. What a morning, I was buzzing. In addition there was also a flyby from the female Peregrine. Winning.
I tried to grab a shot of the geese with my phone, but the camera on it leaves a lot to be desired and as such you can hardly make out the geese, although you can make out the individual pixels, which is always what you want from a photo...
-Pink-footed Geese

January 21st
Despite the clear conditions today was really very quiet. I did get superb views of a nice female Sparrowhawk fly past the window at eye level though. A real sweet treat.

January 23rd
I had two Peregrines flying round the window. Granted one was only brief but the other stuck around, perching up on the high rise buildings and attacking the local pigeons. It did not catch any though. I have spent many hours up here and I've still never seen any peregrine catch a pigeon despite multiple attempts. Also had 2 Great Tits in the trees in the center of the roundabout.

All things considered its not been a horrific couple of weeks bird wise, with a few nice things to keep the hours tolerable.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Orgreave Lakes

This years revision break was not as extravagant as last years. I decided I'd had enough of the library and needed to spend a day in the fresh air. What better way that to try my luck at a pair of Black Redstarts near Orgreave lakes. I arrived early morning to the news that the male was still present but had gone off according to birders on site. I spent two mins looking where it had apparently gone and immediately refound it. It was very mobile and at no point did I get an outstanding clear view, but its my first adult male Black Redstart and a stunning bird.
Not long after it was lost again and in my attempts to try and refind it I stumbled across the female bird feeding down one of the side roads with some Dunnocks. It was a far more obliging bird but in the gloom I labored to get a decent photo. In the end I managed a couple of record shots of the bird which I am very happy with. A morning well spent I would say. 
-Female Black Redstart
After a while I decided to give up on the male and head over to Orgreave lakes themselves. Being so early in the year I was blessed with a host of yearticks. The best of these was a nice flock of around 40 Siskin feeding in the alders near the track and the host of waterbirds. By far the most abundant bird were the Pochards, which are now a red listed species but very abundant at Orgreave.
-Pochard and Goosander
Whilst at Orgreave I managed to get two patch ticks, something I had not counted on. The first was a bird that has been around all winter but only now connected, a beautiful Short-eared Owl. Another birder I saw let me know he had seen it around and as we talked I picked it out quartering over the hill and then beyond, lost to view. I headed up the hill for a look and was delighted to see it perched up in a tree. It was not bothered at all about the passing lorries but decided not to risk getting any closer. What a superb bird, and probably the best view I have ever had of one.
The second patch tick was a solitary Lesser Redpoll. Just as I was finishing walking round a lake I heard a finch calling overhead and considered that it might be a redpoll. So when it landed I was pleased to see I had been right, and that I could add another species to my patch list for here.
-Short-eared Owl
On the way back I decided to try my luck at the gulls in Attercliffe to see if there was anything unusual among them. Sadly there was not, only commoner large gull species, but it was still a nice way to end the afternoon. More often than not when I try here the large gulls just don't bother landing at all.
-Herring and Great Black-backed Gull
Species List:
Orgreave Lakes: Skylark, Magpie, Collard Dove, Woodpigeon, Linnet, Reed Bunting, Pied Wagtail, Goldfinch, Mistle Thrush, Redwing, Dunnock, Kestrel, Meadow Pipit, Starling, Carrion Crow, Robin, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Siskin, Blue Tit, Fieldfare, Long-tailed Tit, Pochard, Coot, Goldeneye, Great-crested Grebe, Herring Gull, Mute Swan, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Mallard, Goosander, Cormorant, Great Black-backed Gull, Short-eared Owl, Grey Heron, Common Teal, Feral Pigeon, Stonechat, Lesser Redpoll, Grey Wagtail, Great Tit
Attercliffe: Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Mallard, 

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Soil Hill 01.01 - 06.01

Since returning home for Chirstmas I did not see the sun shine in all of my three weeks. This tragic turn of events did not help me kick start my effort to earn Soil Hill some recognition through the Patchwork Challenge competition. Perhaps unsurprisingly by the time I return to university on the 6th of January I had only amassed 18 species, each of which was only a solitary point.

To be fair, my small assembledge of species did get a very good start by Soil Hill standards. I was hanging after New Years and so took some time to make it up to the Hill. Even as I arrived the ball was set rolling with a flock of around 20 Golden Plovers flying overhead. I have not seen any up there for a few years now, so that was a very welcome start. Other species were all usual, but a nice bonus came in the form of four Roe Deer in the lower fields. They were spooked by traffic and ran straight towards me, coming as close as five meters away. The light was poor and so I gathered no photos, but take it from me the views were impressive. 
-Golden Plover
-Roe Deer
Species List
Soil Hill: Common Gull, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Golden Plover, Jackdaw, Black-Headed Gull, Canada Goose, Skylark, Goldfinch, Starling, Roe Deer

It rained, and there is little more to say than that. Mallard was a nice species to have seen though...
Species List
Soil Hill: Blackbird, Carrion Crow, Mallard

The fog had now also become an issue as well as the rain. Wren was a good bird on the summit today. However, the real winners were down the far slope. I knew flock of Fieldfare had been residing around the bottom fields and but I would have to descend in order to see them through the fog. At the top of the slope I was surprised to see a few Fieldfare in the trees adjacent to the slope. I though that was pretty good, but somehow they saw me through the fog, and about 20 birds all took off from within the fog and then vanished back into it. However, among the 20 or so Fieldfare I picked out a smaller Redwing which is apparently not a patch tick according to my trusty Soil Hill list, but I can't remember the last time I saw one here, and its a fine record for patchwork challenge. 
Species List:
Soil Hill: Blackbird, Wren, Mallard, Fieldfare, Redwing

I had a quick look round the hill in the rain before I set off back to Sheffield. The only thing that made it worthwhile was a Lapwing on the top. Another species to have safely under the belt. 
Species List
Soil Hill: Magpie, Carrion Crow, Wren, Lapwing

Friday, 1 January 2016

Happy New Year

Well, 2015 draws to a close. The first two thirds of the year were fantastic. I got all over the country seeing all kinds of incredible birds and other wildlife, giving my life list a good kick. Sadly the Autumn was incredibly lacking as my days in the field became days in the lab and all the joys of a fantastic Autumn went flying by. The being said, my resolution at the end of last year was to focus on my life list and go for more serious twitches, and I think its fair to say I have done that, having twitched as far north as Aberdeen and as far south as Hampshire. Its also worht mentioning that I got myself a Swaro scope this year, and the difference that has made to my birding has been incredible. Seawatching is now so different to what it once was. Its all been a good do I would say...

I had hoped to get more Megas than I did, but 6 is not a bad haul. 3 of those were waders, 2 were ducks and the final one was the late Crag Martin in Chesterfield. The standout of those? Easily the Harlequin Duck, which is to date the best bird I have ever seen, not just because its an awesome bird, but it performed outstandingly and I had to put so much into getting there to see it. Also shout out to the Black Scoter, which I refound and then sold a photo of, and the Hudsonian Godwit after I ran out of lectures to see it.
-Harlequin Duck, Aberdeen (17.01.2015)
-Black Scoter, Cheswick Sands (21.02.2015)
-Hudsonian Godwit, Meare Heath (30.04.2015)
Some cracking birds have been added to the life list this year. Obviously its not just been Megas that I've gone after but a host of scarce and rarer species too. 32 species have been added onto the life list. Highlights are hard to choose, but first shoutout must go to the Lady Amherst Pheasant, a bird with impending extinction in this country. 6 hours wait for 10 seconds of bird was hardly worth it but I've seen it now. A few tarts have fallen too, like Long-Tailed Duck and Woodlark. I also got a self found lifer, which are few and far between these days, when I stumbled across that Caspian Gull at Spurn. Not only that, but its my first ever description species, so that was very exciting. A few scarcer species really tarted themselves out allowing me to get some cracking shots. Red-footed Falcon, Sabines Gull, Laughing Gull and Bee Eater the real stars. And a final mention to the Feas Petrel, what a bird to have seen.
-Caspian Gull, Kilnsea Wetlands (09.09.2015)
-Laughing Gull, New Brighton (06.02.2015)
-European Bee-Eater, Kilnsea (13.06.2015)
-Red-Footed Falcon, Chatterley Whitfield Colliery (28.07.2015)
Soil Hill
Despite all the Megas and the twitching, I think the place where I really got to grips with my birding was Soil Hill. Learning to drive over the summer meant I had plenty of time to check the hill for any birds, and I was rewarded with some real goodies. My site list got a tremendous boost picking up 16 patch ticks, most of which were unusual records. The best bird I found up there was undoubtedly the Nuthatch (Patch first), but special mention to Common Tern (1st North Halifax Record for 2 Years), Red Kite, Grasshopper Warbler, Tree Pipit, Spotted Flycatcher and Twite. Additional patch ticks included: Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Oystercatcher, Greenfinch, Willow Warbler, Little Owl, Sand Martin, Canada Goose, Siskin, 
-Spotted Flycatcher
So a full breakdown of the yearlist
I clocked out this year on 227 species, but only one additional species after September, leaving me to wonder just how many I could have got if I had time in the Autumn. Still, its an improvement on last years total and thats what I was going for really. A full list of lifers now:

Harlequin Duck, Great Grey Shrike, Laughing Gull, Surf Scoter, Long-Tailed Duck, Black Scoter, American Wigeon, Bean Goose, Lady Amherst's Pheasant, Black Winged Stilt, Black-crowned Night Heron, Hudsonian Godwit, Montagu's Harrier, Red-throated Pipit, Lesser Scaup, Wood Warbler, Greater Yellowlegs, Red-necked Phalarope, Alpine Swift, European Bee-eater, Grasshopper Warbler, Marsh Warbler, White-winged Black Tern, Woodlark, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Red-footed Falcon, Sabines Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Black Stork, Mealy Redpoll, Feas Petrel, Caspian Gull, Crag Martin, 

And the complete yearlist: 

Dunnock, Blue Tit, Black-Headed Gull, Blackbird, Robin, Common Gull, Carrion Crow, House Sparrow, Great Tit, Starling, 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, Pied Wagtail, Mallard, Rook, Yellowhammer, Fieldfare, Lapwing, Grey Heron, Collard Dove, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, Greater Black-Backed Gull, Mute Swan, Hooded Crow, Graylag Goose, Pheasant, Common Buzzard, Curlew, Goosander, Greenfinch, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Dipper, Goldeneye, Moorhen, Harlequin Duck, Pink-Footed Goose, Meadow Pipit, Gadwall, Wigeon, Coot, Tufted Duck, Cormorant, Skylark, Reed Bunting, Golden Plover, Pochard, Stonechat, Linnet, Snow Bunting, Water Rail, Common Snipe, Bullfinch, Song Thrush, Willow Tit, Tree Sparrow, Brambling, Canada Goose, Shoveler, Barn Owl, Sanderling, Turnstone, Mediterranean Gull, Purple Sandpiper, Knot, Dunlin, Red Grouse, Great Grey Shrike, Jay, Laughing Gull, Kingfisher, Smew, Shelduck, Surf Scoter, Fulmar, Rock Pipit, Gannet, Common Scoter, Eider, Guillemot, Stock Dove, Red-Throated Diver, Mandarin, Red Kite, Slavonian Grebe, Long-Tailed Duck, Black Scoter, Black-Throated Diver, Ringed Plover, Red-Breasted Merganser, American Wigeon, Tawny Owl, Little Egret, Kittiwake, Pintail, Bean Goose, Whimbrel, Glaucous Gull, Little Ringed Plover, Chiffchaff, Whooper Swan, Little Owl, Barnacle Goose, Woodcock, Red-Legged Partridge, Lady Amherst's Pheasant, Green Woodpecker, Firecrest, Swallow, Siskin, Osprey, Egyptian Goose, Northern Wheatear, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Ring Ouzel, House Martin, Sand Martin, Common Sandpiper, Yellow Wagtail, Black Winged Stilt, Avocet, Green Sandpiper, Marsh Harrier, Common Tern, Garganey, Whitethroat, Red Crested Pochard, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Cettis Warbler, Black-Tailed Godwit, Hudsonian Godwit, Sedge Warbler, Swift, Montagu's Harrier, Raven, Red-throated Pipit, Black Tern, Curlew Sandpiper, Grey Plover, Lesser Scaup, Black-Necked Grebe, Wood Warbler, Whinchat, Cuckoo, Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Grey Partridge, Spotted Flycatcher, Hobby, Brent Goose, Little Tern, Reed Warbler, Ring-Necked Parakeet, Greater Yellowlegs, Sandwich Tern, Red-Necked Phalarope, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Crossbill, Bar-Tailed Godwit, Lesser Redpoll, Alpine Swift, European Bee Eater, Puffin, Tree Pipit, Grasshopper Warbler, Corn Bunting, Marsh Warbler, Razorbill, Arctic Tern, Merlin, Spotted Redshank, Bearded Tit, Short-Eared Owl, Long-Eared Owl, Bittern, Twite, White-Winged Black Tern, Great White Egret, Greenshank, Woodlark, Dartford Warbler, Arctic Skua, Shag, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Balearic Shearwater, Manx Shearwater, Nightjar, Yellow-legged Gull, Red-footed Falcon, Sabines Gull, Ring-Billed Gull, Great Skua, Little Gull, Sooty Shearwater, Pomarine Skua, Barred Warbler, Red-backed Shrike, Black Stork, Garden Warbler, Hen Harrier, Ruff, Mealy Redpoll, Feas Petrel, Caspian Gull, Crag Martin

Even if the final total was less than I would have liked, without driving its still a pretty reasonable total. It gives me something to aim for in 2016.

None Birds
The number of invertebrates has increased since last year, largely as a result of the holiday down in Dorset. That being said, I only managed to get one butterfly lifer, although it is probably the most local butterfly species in the UK in Lulworth Skipper. A much needed addition to my butterfly list. Despite seeing plenty of dragonfly species there were no new additions to my dragonfly list. Moths had a great year, with 2 new Hawkmoth ticks, and a host of other nice species from down in Dorset. They were the real invert winners. 
Reptiles had a massive boost this year from Dorset, seeing all British species except adder. Mammals dropped off with nothing major to report there, although Otter and Sika Deer were obviously fantastic to see. 
-Lulworth Skipper
-Convolvulus Hawkmoth
-Yellow-legged Clearwing Moth
-Smooth Snake

2015 has been quite a year, and hopefully 2016 will also be awesome