Monday, 29 February 2016

Swillington Ings

A single lecture and then exam results or a day out birding somewhere were my options today, and of course I chose to go birding. Who wouldn't.
I decided to call in at Swillington Ings, as it would not require an absurdly early start and I had a good chance of a few scarce yearticks, as well as cleaning up Water Pipit on my life list. Since the Pipits were on a sewage treatment works near the reserve itself I decided to go there first. It took some finding and thats an understatement. I could not work out where to go for the life of me. However, once I was there it did not take long to locate a smart Water Pipit, once I had trawled through the ample Pied Wagtails.
It was nice as they were feeding alongside a small number of Meadow Pipits, allowing a nice comparison of the obviously greyer and bigger Water Pipit. My only previous sighting was a flyover bird at Fairburn that another birder in the hide had pointed out, which when I was seven was fine to tick, but now obviously seems a little sketchy. Anyway, that can now be laid to rest with these two birds showing rather well. Well, one was, the other kept to the back and generally out of sight.
I think birding at a sewage farm is a new low for me...
-Water Pipit
Once I was happy with the Water Pipit I headed on to the reserve itself, this was about midday so I still had plenty of time. I wandered over to see the Greenland White-fronted Goose on the far hillside, but I was hindered by the fact that the causeway was still flooded so had to take the long way round. I got a few nice birds on the way; mainly Wildfowl like Goldeneye and Wigeon. There was also a large flock of Siskin in the birch trees behind the fence.
When I got to the hillside I could see that the geese were well spread out but after a little searching I managed to pick out the bird I was looking for. One look and I could clearly see it was a Greenland bird as opposed to a Eurasian bird. The black belly bars were much stronger than they had been on the Eurasian birds I had seen a couple of weeks ago, and the bill was very much orange. A real nice sub-species lifer for me.
I could have got closer but did not want to flush them so just grabbed record shots from the path below. My second target bird of the day got.
-Greenland White-fronted Goose
Since the afternoon was drawing on I decided to head to the main lake and see what gulls came in to roost. Last night had been a very good roost and I was hoping for something similar tonight. However when I got to the main lake there was nothing more than Black-headed Gulls.That only being on the gull front, as a hunting Peregrine was pretty awesome as it took on the Lapwings and Gulls. It also put up a Ringed Plover which is a yeartick for me.
Since the gulls were not happening here I decided to move over to the other lake where they might have been. As soon as I arrived I could see there were more large gulls here; three. Even from a distance I could see that one was insanely pale, but appeared to have dark primaries. Intrigued I got closer for a better look.
It was pale, with dusky dark primaries. A real mystery. Its was bigger than the two Herring Gulls, with a bicoloured bill. The outer primaries were not black, but a dusky grey. When the wings were open there was an impressive lack of contrast between the primary window and the secondaries. It basically looked like a glaucous gull with dark primaries. I came to the conclusion that it must be a hybrid glauc-herring gull, or an aberrant of either species, although the latter seemed more unlikely given the plumage features.
I waited for it to fly to get some shots of the wings open, which it did eventually when it flew off. At which point I returned to the main lake. There were still no gulls roosting and a scope towards the tip showed none were coming either. With that in mind I decided to call it a day.
When I got back I messaged Tim with the gull, asking what he though, stating that I had wondered if it was a Viking Gull (Glauc x Herring). Tims reply was that it looked spot on for a 2cy Viking Gull, and that I should put the photos up on twitter. So thats that then; sadly not a yeartick but it is the first time I have seen on of these, and its more exciting anyway, as well as educational. A nice way to cap off a smashing days birding. 
-Viking Gull
What a day out, this is why I love birding. Although I got no Lifers, its three species I have never seen properly or ever before. What a day.
Species List:
Swillington Ings: Shellduck, Oystercatcher, Magpie, Tree Sparrow, Robin, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Pied Wagtail, Long-Tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Grey Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Cormorant, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Canada Goose, Graylag Goose, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Goldcrest, Kestrel, Great-crested Grebe, Common Teal, Grey Heron, Goldfinch, Siskin, Lapwing, Goldeneye, Great Tit, Woodpigeon, Chaffinch, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Wren, Reed Bunting, Wigeon, Carrion Crow, Goosander, Linnet, Stock Dove, Stonechat, Greenland White-fronted Goose, Pochard, Peregrine, Shoveler, Common Gull, Ringed Plover, Starling, Collard Dove, Curlew, Sparrowhawk,

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Orgreave Lakes

Another Saturday meant another day of deciding where exactly to go. Since it was a housemates 21st in the evening I decided to stay local so as to keep fresh. Orgreave was the chosen spot, and well chosen it was too. Not long after I arrived I added Stock Dove to the yearlist and this pair or a few pairs spend the rest of the walk flying around.
-Stock Dove
The real bonus of the day was not one but two patch ticks. The first was a superb male Yellowhammer. I picked it up flying towards me as only a silloutheut. The call I recognised but could not put my finger on it, but it was clearly a large finch or bunting. It then landed in a tree where I got superb views of it but the camera was in the bag and by the time I had got it out the bird had dropped so my best shots are through grass.
The second yeartick of the day was a day roosting Tawny Owl. I picked up the brown mass in the tree but it was badly obscurred. I figured it must be a bird and narrowed it down to female pheasant or an owl of some description. As I got closer, though still obscurred, I could make out half the face disc of a Tawny Owl, patch and year tick. Sadly, despite the fact I was still fairly distant, it decided I was too close and dropped into the bushes where I never saw it again...
Still, another cracking day out on the patch.

Species List:
Orgreave Lakes: Goldfinch, Skylark, Wren, Blackbird, Dunnock, Magpie, Black-headed Gull, Woodpigeon, Collard Dove, House Sparrow, Pied Wagtail, Cormorant, Mallard, Linnet, Lapwing, Tufted Duck, Carrion Crow, Common Teal, Stock Dove, Yellowhammer, Meadow Pipit, Pochard, Coot, Redshank, Gadwall, Goosander, Mute Swan, Wigeon, Sparrowhawk, Robin, Reed Bunting, Chaffinch, Tawny Owl, Long-tailed Tit, Herring Gull,

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Weston Park

I returned back from lectures with the sound intention of working of developing ideas for my dissertation, something which is now well overdue. That idea was quickly cut short when I saw via the University Birdwatching Society that there was a pair of Egyptian Geese on the Weston Park pond. I, of course, headed straight down there and within 10 mins was watching the birds.
Both were reasonably approachable and readily came to bread. They were unringed and were probably the same birds seen on the far side of Sheffield a day earlier. I had a behaviour tick when I got to see them displaying and a vocal tick when I got to hear the male calling, How cool is that?!? The only real downside was that the light was awful and so all 600 photos I took are also not brilliant.
Anyway, what better way to spend an afternoon...
-Egyptian Geese
Besides the obvious highlights there was also a smart female Wigeon present, unringed but almost certainly of suspect origin, not helped by the fact that it was coming to bread. The ever-present male Wood Duck was still strutting his stuff, today he was displaying earnestly to a female mallard.
-Wood Duck
Species List:
Weston Park: Egyptian Geese, Wigeon, Mallard, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Pied Wagtail, 

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Orgreave Lakes

A bright sunny morning on my day off, so I set off down to Orgreave for a look round. The highlights of the day were the numerous signs of spring, namely the singing Skylarks all around, probably at least 30 birds. There were other more unusual site passerines around too such as a pair of Stonechat and a pair of Siskin...
Another highlight was a new addition to my Orgreave Patch List! Whilst walking along the hillside on my way over to the Waverley estate I flushed a pair of Grey Partridges from the long grass. They flew over the hilltop where I lost them but its a patch tick for me. I managed to grab one acceptable record shot before I lost them.
-Grey Partridge
I mentioned that I was heading to Waverley and that was because the male Black Redstart had been refound and was behaving himself. It took some finding but once I had it I was able to finally get some record shots, as well as getting the other birders present onto it. I was not able to get as close as I would have liked, but thats largely due to not wanting to flush it for the other birders. The female bird was also present at the far side of the estate, and I was sure I was going to get some good shots of it given how close it was but then it dropped down and vanished. I could not refind it and since I was becoming pushed for time there was not much I could do.
-Black Redstart
On my way back from Waverley through the lakes again I picked up 3 Common Buzzards soaring overhead. I first picked them up on their call before I spotted them soaring almost directly above me. They are a very majestic bird to say the least.
-Common Buzzard
What a day down on the patch. When it pays off like this, there is nowhere better to bird inland that I can think of.

Species List:
Orgreave Lakes: Blackbird, Magpie, Wren, House Sparrow, Collard Dove, Woodpigeon, Robin, Blue Tit, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting, Great Tit, Moorhen, Common Teal, Mallard, Skylark, Goosander, Black-headed Gull, Little Grebe, Lapwing, Meadow Pipit, Pochard, Coot, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Carrion Crow, Wigeon, Fieldfare, Siskin, Mistle Thrush, Mute Swan, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Pied Wagtail, Black Redstart, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Lesser Redpoll, Linnet, Long-tailed Tit,

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Orgreave Lakes

I was finished at lectures by midday and with the hours getting longer I could spend the afternoon at Orgreave, doing some proper patching and continuing to test the new camera, now that it was actually sunny!!!
By the time I arrived the light was already dropping. I managed to rack up the usuals pretty swiftly but the wind was a major problem and most of the birds were sheltering on the far side of the island. On the island was a nice Oystercatcher, first for the patch this year, and a flock of around 8 Lapwing. There was a decent contingent of gulls on the banks too, but nothing out of the ordinary that I could pick out.
-Common Teal 
I did manage a long overdue patch tick today though. My attention had been caught by the white rumps of two Bullfinches flying into the bushes and as I looked through the bushes I caught a glimpse of the long tail of the Pheasant that has been eluding me for so long. I have heard this bird calling for at least a year and never been able to spot it. A very long overdue patch tick.
The real highlight of the afternoon was a very obliging Redpoll feeding along the edge of the river. I was able to get very close without flushing it, and so was able to get some pretty decent record shots. Funny that there should only be one, but I thought little of it. When I returned I popped my best shots on twitter as a lesser and thought nothing more of it. Until Tim messaged me in the evening pointing out a few things about it to make it a 1st winter female Mealy based on the age of the bird and a number of plumage features. I just saw it as buff and brown so assumed it was a lesser. Discussion then ensued over twitter with the outcome suggest that it was a Lesser Redpoll. It was something of an education to say the least. I need to continue working on my id of this very complicated group...
-Lesser Redpoll
So that was a pretty sweet afternoon. A nice way to spend a few hours casually birding and learning.

Species List:
Orgreave Lakes: Carrion Crow, Magpie, Goosander, Starling, Black-headed Gull, Gadwall, Common Teal, Woodpigeon, Mallard, Blackbird, Tufted Duck, Wren, Cormorant, Coot, Linnet, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Wigeon, Herring Gull, Common Gull, Reed Bunting, Mute Swan, Skylark, Pied Wagtail, Moorhen, Mealy Redpoll, Long-tailed Tit, Dunnock, Bullfinch, Pheasant,