Thursday, 31 March 2016

Soil Hill

30.03.2016 AM
The weather was very changeable this morning, with clear blue skies followed by brief rain showers and then sleet and then back to clear blue and so on, all the while with a chilly breeze. 
But regardless of the weather, finally clocked my first Wheatear of the year. I was heading down the tree line to see for anything when I spotted it distantly on the wall near the NK pond. Panic ensued as I had no idea how long it was gonna stay there and badly wanted a photo, but not to worry, it stayed settled if distant. However, once it did go down it did not come back up in the 15 mins or so that I waited...
No sooner had I got eyes on the Wheatear than did another patch yeartick overhead calling, a Siskin. On multiple occasions over Easter I have sworn I heard Siskin calling but nothing had ever become of it so I elected to ignore it. So to finally get eyes on one was a big relief.
And the 3rd patch yeartick of the day was a pair of Mistle Thrushes I picked up whilst walking back.
Other notable birds for the morning were a pair of Oystercatchers feeding with the Lapwings on the bottom field adjacent to the pond, and a redshank calling but I was unable to get eyes on it, despite its obvious continued presence...
So pleased with the Wheatear. I really did not know if they were going to arrive before I left back to uni. Wheatear was my 50th point was Patchwork Challenge this year, and with the other additions to the yearlist I now sit very nicely on 52 points from 48 species. 
Its all looking good

Species List:
Soil Hill: Blackbird, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Dunnock, Magpie, Woodpigeon, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Wren, Kestrel, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Oystercatcher, Siskin, Northern Wheatear, Linnet, Pied Wagtail, Grey Heron, Feral Pigeon, Jackdaw, Mallard, Mistle Thrush, Carrion Crow,

30.03.2016 PM
The weather seemed to settle down this afternoon, so I decided to have another wander up the hill in the hope something moving through. Sadly not, there was nothing moving really. The Oystercatchers were still present but that was the best of it bird wise. Also interesting were a massive increase in the number of Meadow Pipits present. I had noticed a few birds moving this morning, but on this afternoons visit I must have flushed a flock of at least 40 birds from one of the fields, and a flock of around 20 birds was feeding in the fields near my house too...
However, there was a nice bonus in the form a Weasel running along one of the walls. Smashing little things to see, and then as I was leaving I also got a Stoat but it was much too quick for a photo. Two of the Roe Deer were also feeding near the NK pond.
Species List:
Soil Hill: Magpie, Woodpigeon, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Kestrel, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Oystercatcher, Feral Pigeon, Jackdaw, Mallard, Carrion Crow, Curlew, Starling,

I spent the morning round at other sites so only came up for an afternoon visit to the old hill today. The wind had completely dropped and the sky only had intermittent cloud, meaning it was a warm and pleasant day. 
In terms of birdlife it was very quiet, the best of it being an Oystercatcher still down on the playing fields and a singing Linnet. I headed down into the dell on the western side where I hoped there might be something and I was duly rewarded with another patch tick: TAWNY OWL. It must have been roosting in the trees there and I completely missed it until I spooked it. My attempts to relocate it spooked it again and after that it went round the trees and I could not find it again. Its wings were clearly shorter than a LEO or SEO and there was no golden patch on the top sides of the wings. It was certainly not a species I expected to see and I am gutted that I was unable to get a better view of it...

Species List:
Soil Hill: Pied Wagtail, Magpie, Meadow Pipit, Carrion Crow, Skylark, Kestrel, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Blackbird, Tawny Owl. Greenfinch, Linnet, Lapwing,  

Bitterly cold wind up there is morning which probably accounts for the lack of birds. Nothing out of the ordinary today.

Species List:
Soil Hill: Woodpigeon, Blackbird, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Kestrel, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Moorhen, Lapwing

Since it rained all day it was an evening visit today, and I was again rewarded with a Long-eared Owl flying around the hill. That being said it was very tricky to track down as it was extremely mobile. I only managed awful distant record shots, but it was still awesome through the bins. The only other birds really were the two Oystercatchers lingering on the bottom fields.
-Long-eared Owl
Species List:
Soil Hill: Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Long-eared Owl, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Long-eared Owl, Grey Heron,

Fly Flatts

My mum was passing Fly Flatts this morning so I got a lift up to see what was about. Usual moorland suspects around, but my first drumming Snipe of the year was fantastic, always a real treat and 3 Wheatears 2 male and a female made for an excellent mornings birding.
I then moved onto to another location which is good for Little Owl. Its my first time checking out the site this year and I was unsure what to expect, but just going past I picked one up perched on the wall top and after that the other bird did not take much finding. Such smart little birds, really nice to see.
-Little Owl
It all made for a pleasant mornings birding.

Species List:
Fly Flatts: Meadow Pipit, Common Snipe, Northern Wheatear. Canada Goose, Lapwing, Mallard, Grey Heron, Jackdaw, Greylag Goose, Red Grouse, Carrion Crow, Pheasant, Redshank,

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Soil Hill

I was beginning to wonder where my additional points for Patchwork were going to come from, yet somehow managed to accumulate four more points from four species up on Soil Hill today...
First of all was not just a point, but a full blown patch tick, my 80th species up on Soil Hill in my 9 years of birding there. I was just photographing a distant Greylag Goose when I could have sworn I heard a Redshank somewhere. I scanned around me but could not pick it up, but it called again. Realising I had a patch tick on my hands but could not see it was infuriating to say the least. More infuriating perhaps was that I would be able to count it for PWC on call, yet it wouldn't actually be on my patch list...
My fears were put to rest when the bird dropped from the sky and landed on the largest pool in the center of the track and proceeded to feed there. It lingered for about 5 minuets before heading off NE. What a start to the walk.
The next points came from a similar source. I could hear an Oystercatcher calling somewhere down in the valley but I could not for the life of me pick it up. It took a few minuets but I eventually managed to get the 3 Oystercatchers coming south. They then turned, flew straight over me and then off Eastwards. That was another nice addition, and only the second time I have seen the species on the hill.
The other two year-ticks were a Solitary Grey Partridge which gave me quite a fright when I spooked it and a single flyover Linnet, which is remarkable given then are usually fairly abundant on patch. Todays new birds put me on a nice 47 points from 43 species. Not bad going given I've probably clocked only around 2 weeks worth of visits over the course of the year.

Species List:
Soil Hill: Blackbird, Goldfinch, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Dunnock, Wren, Robin, Kestrel, Starling, Redshank, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Woodpigeon, Grey Heron, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Jackdaw, Grey Partridge, Linnet, Pied Wagtail, Herring Gull, Feral Pigeon, 

Conditions took something of a turn for the worse today, with the wind speed picking up and the rain falling down. I went up yonder hill late morning in the hope that a migrant or something might have been forced down but if there were any then they were taking shelter.
One additional point from the hill was a nice Goldcrest down in the dell on the western side, another one pointer for PWC. 

Species List:
Soil Hill: Meadow Pipit, Carrion Crow, Skylark, Kestrel, Starling, Lapwing, Herring Gull, Goldcrest, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Jackdaw, 

A bright but breezy morning, so spent a couple of hours up on the hill. I gathered a good species list but little of any real note. Up to four Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk were nice for the raptors. I flushed a Grey Partridge again and had 2 cock Pheasants. There was a flock of 10 Fieldfare in the fields just down from the hill too, presumably they will now be thinking of making their way back.
The main plus for the day was a patch tick, although its so long overdue I can hardly get excited about it. A Cormorant flew past the hill. The birds frequently move in and out of Ogden so how its taken me this long to spot one is beyond me. 
Species List:
Soil Hill: Linnet, Chaffinch, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Curlew, Lapwing, Herring Gull, Kestrel, Feral Pigeon, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Starling, Sparrowhawk, Cormorant, Jackdaw, Grey Heron, Pheasant, Grey Partridge, Pied Wagtail, Fieldfare, Moorhen, Mallard,

It was a bleak day today, but a marked improvement on the last couple days which I missed. That being said the birds were a little thin on the ground, possibly as a result of the snowfall keeping things in shelter. Once more there were no migrants around. The best of the birds today was a small flock of Golden Plover, 7 birds, which flew south at some distance away. No additional points for patchwork today unfortunately
-Golden Plover
Species List:
Soil Hill: Carrion Crow, Magpie, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Skylark, Moorhen, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Wren, Common Gull, Kestrel, Grey Heron, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Woodpigeon

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Out and About

Back on the patch today, but decided to make it a more extended affair to grab Red Grouse for my yearlist. My initial trip up the hill produced very little, absolutely no additional points for Patchwork Challenge.
I next headed onto Ogden where there was a smart male Goldeneye but again there was not much going on. Along the walk up to the golf course there remained quite little. Once I was up on the moors it did not take long to locate my quarry, with numerous Red Grouse on the moors. Other birds around the moors included Redshank on Fly Flatts and at least 3 Golden Plover on the moors themselves.
-Red Grouse
-Golden Plover
I wandered back and decided to call it a day and head home...
But then everything changed. As I was heading back I spotted an obvious bird of prey flying over the trees down from the patch. Long wings ruled out most suspects and I raised my bins to see a forked tail. RED KITE. Part of me was elated at finding a rare Calderdale bird, but another part of me was gutted that the bird had flown straight through patch, but whilst I was not there. There goes two fantastic points begging...
-Red Kite
Stunned by what had just happened I decided to call in at the patch on the way back. 2 Little Owls were a one point reconciliation, a nice addition to the patch yeartick.
I made my way up to the top and scanned around in the faint hope the Kite would come back. As I scanned I picked up a bird flying towards me. The jizz seemed right but I could not make much out on it as it was flying towards me. As a result I could not call, but I had a suspicion that the bird was a Peregrine, which would have been a patch tick. As it flew its angle changed and I could make out a browish back, so maybe not. I was stood back from the hill so I was frantic when the bird dropped below the hill, out of sight. I rushed to the edge of the hill and started scanning again with the bins. I could not pick it out though, and I wondered if it was the one that got away.
That was until I heard a commotion near me and lowered my bins to see the Peregrine, locked in talons with a short-eared owl. Peregrine was a patch tick, but sadly it did not stick around. No sooner had I seen it but it dropped below the hill and I did not see it again. 
The Owl that had now joined it flew around my head a couple of times before it too dropped, but it did allow me to grab a couple of shots in the low light. To have the bird flying round my head a couple of times was really special. And I was buzzing. A patch tick and a couple of two pointers, what more could I want?
I tell you what. When I arrived back and checked my photos I was stunned to see that it was not a short-eared owl as I had thought initially, but a Long-eared Owl, a patch tick. I had thought about it for a second whilst there and when I checked my photos on site I was surprised by the colour of its eyes, but I still did not expect this. What a result.
Its always a good day when your two patch ticks lock talons about 6ft away from your head.
-Long-eared Owl
I don't know why I ever bird anywhere else to be honest. It cost me Red Kite patch yeartick but resulted in two patch ticks. What a result.

Species List:
Unspecified Location: Blackbird, Chaffinch, Robin, Feral Pigeon, Skylark, Carrion Crow, Meadow Pipit, Grey Heron, Curlew, Stock Dove, Magpie, Jackdaw, Woodpigeon, Little Owl, Red Kite, Teal, Mallard, Peregrine, Long-eared Owl, Lapwing,
Ogden Water: Woodpigeon, Blackbird, Goldfinch, Starling, Mallard, Canada Goose, Common Gull, Black-headed Gull, Carrion Crow, Coal Tit, Jay, Goldeneye, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Robin, Reed Bunting, Great Tit, Meadow Pipit, Greylag Goose, Curlew,
Oxenhope Moor: Meadow Pipit, Canada Goose, Carrion Crow, Red Grouse, Curlew, Lapwing, Stock Dove, Redshank, Wren, Golden Plover, Mallard, Skylark, Grey Wagtail, Woodpigeon, Pheasant, 

Monday, 21 March 2016

Saltholme RSPB and Hartlepool

So today I decided to take a short break from my patch at Soil Hill and go on a little adventure to the North-East to see if I could put to bed the demons of Penduline Tit and green-winged teal. Being in Halifax the public transport options are more limited but in the end I only lost an hour from Sheffield and I arrived at Saltholme RSPB at around quarter to eleven.
Within minuets of getting off the bus I had eyes on the Penduline Tits. They were distant but the sun was out and in the light they looked really smart. They would be up feeding on the Bull-rushes for about 10 minuets before they would drop for another 10 and then repeat. They showed really well when they were up though, if a little distant. I tried to get some decent photos but the distance made it difficult, still I managed some nice record shots...
-Penduline Tits
I was thrilled to have got them on the list having dipped them on their first day. Given their pattern of showing I decided to move on after an hour of watching them. I headed into the reserve in the hope of finally seeing a green-winged teal. I can safely say now that green-winged teal is my bogey bird, as once again I did not see it. This is the fifth time I have dipped this species...
I did however see plenty of common teal, including a large group of males which were displaying, something I can't remember seeing before and was really nice to watch. I also saw the female Smew again and had year-ticks of Black-tailed Godwit. The Smew was badly against the light so I was unable to get any decent photos. There was a nice Little Egret from the wildlife watchpoint though which I grabbed a couple of photos of to compensate.
-Little Egret
By half 2 I decided to call it time on my hunt for the teal, which was not reported all day, and get on with my day. I got the bus off the reserve at half 2 and headed up to Hartlepool. The next stop for me was Ward Jackson Park to have a look at Hartlepool's resident population of Ring-necked Parakeets. I have no shame in this, its a species I have not really had the chance to photograph and have hardly seen at all to be fair.
As soon as I arrived at the park I could hear some calling but it took a while to pin them down, and then again to find one that was in a suitable position for a photo. When I eventually got a few in a photogenic position thought they were very obliging, and I was able to get a few nice photos in the late afternoon light.
-Ring-necked Parakeet
There were not many other birds in the park, but there was a very tame Gadwall on the pond, that was willingly coming to bread with the mallards. I had to suspect its origin but could see nothing so would have to assume that it is a wild bird that has become familiar with people. Either way it meant I could get some nice shots of it...
By four I had wrapped up in the park. I could have gone home then but decided to endure the long trek to the headland to see the Shore Larks again. It was some walk there and by the time I arrived I never wanted to walk again.
The larks took some finding but this time I was able to pick them up on the deck rather than flushing them as before. They were more distant this time and I did not try to get too close. The light was much better this time, and in the early evening they looked fantastic. I mean they are Shore Larks, so they look fantastic anyway but when the conditions are right they really look the business. 
-Shore Lark
By the time I left the larks the sun was well on its way to setting. What a fantastic days birding, with a lifer and a host of other goodies. And all by public transport. All very nice indeed.

Species List:
Traveling: Common Buzzard, Jay, Little Owl, Grey Partridge, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Blackbird, Feral Pigeon, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Collard Dove, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Skylark, Kestrel, Rook, Starling, Chaffinch, Jackdaw,
Saltholme RSPB: Penduline Tit, Smew, Blue Tit, Reed Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Wren, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Pochard, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Moorhen, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Little Egret, Great-crested Grebe, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Redshank, Meadow Pipit, Coot, Little Grebe, Shoveler, Shelduck, Lapwing, Gadwall, Common Snipe, Curlew, Pintail, Oystercatcher, Black-tailed Godwit, Greylag Goose, Stock Dove, Barnacle Goose, Chaffinch, Lesser Black-backed Gull,
Ward Jackson Park: Magpie, Treecreeper, Gadwall, Mallard, Moorhen, Coot, Tufted Duck, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Chaffinch, Ring-necked Parakeet, Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow, Feral Pigeon, Herring Gull
Hartlepool Headland: Skylark, Shore Lark, Meadow Pipit, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Carrion Crow, Herring Gull, Sparrowhawk, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Magpie

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Soil Hill

After yesterdays dizzying return to the patch today was a more somber affair. I did however manage no less than 5 patch year-ticks; Woodpigeon (remarkably), Dunnock, Herring Gull, Pied Wagtail and Moorhen. So not a bad return to the hill

Species List:
Soil Hill: Magpie, Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow, Dunnock, Blackbird, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Starling, Lapwing, Stock Dove, Grey Heron, Jackdaw, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Moorhen, Pied Wagtail,

An early morning visit today, starting at 08.00 and then onto 10.00. Bright blue sky so I had hoped for a few moving whoopers but alas, no joy. There were good numbers of large gulls coming out of roost though, all Herring and Lesser Black-backed. Got a patch tick when 4 Greylag Geese flew north up the valley. I added Kestrel and Sparrowhawk to the patch yearlist, and there was a nice treat with 4 Teal on the bottom pond.
An additional, non-bird, treat were four Roe Deer moving around the hill and between the neighboring fields.
-Roe Deer

Species List:
Soil Hill: Magpie, Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Meadow Pipit, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Stock Dove, Skylark, Greylag Goose, Herring Gull, Lapwing, Curlew, Kestrel, Canada Goose, Starling, Mallard, Sparrowhawk, Black-headed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Pheasant, Pied Wagtail, Greenfinch, Common Teal, Wren,

Friday, 18 March 2016

Soil Hill

First time back on patch in two months. I was on site within ten mins of arriving back home, so keen was I to catch up on two months lost patching. My walk up did not fill me with hope for grand return, featuring only Magpies and Carrion Crow. A robin in the small patch of trees was a patch year-tick so I considered that a minor victory. That was until I reached the top where I got both Curlew and Grey Heron to my patch year-list, both within a few seconds of each other.
I would have settled for that, but on the top things took a massive turn for the better. I was just rubbing my hands together at the prospect of being able to bird Soil Hill again when I flushed a bird from right next to me. It did not call. It had fantastic golden stripes on its back but it took me a fraction of a second to work out what that meant. JACK SNIPE. As soon as I worked it out I raised my bins to confirm what I had seen with the short bill, it was there. I next went for the camera to grab some kind of record shot, but the bird had already flown a long way towards the other side of the hill. I managed a few shots but the light had frustratingly not brought out the golden stripes, although the short bill is clearly visible.
-Jack Snipe
I was absolutely buzzing after that. Jack Snipe is a yeartick for me, my first since 2014, and is my first two point species on PWC16. What a return to patch. I was thrilled to say the least.
I wandered over to where I had seen the snipe go down, over on the western side of the hill. I failed to get it again, but without any pools over that side I did not really know where to look for it. I did however add Meadow Pipit and Stock Dove to my patch yearlist. What an afternoon. What a return to patch.

Species List:
Soil Hill: Magpie, Carrion Crow, Robin, Grey Heron, Curlew, Jack Snipe, Skylark, Stock Dove, Meadow Pipit, Mallard, Blackbird, 

Monday, 14 March 2016


Now that lectures are finished I can go and twitch anything I want. Having found a new cheaper train to get to Filey I decided to go and have a look at the Surf Scoter there. last years visit had been in torrential rain so I hoped to be able to get some better photos in better light, as this time there was not a cloud in the sky.
So when I arrived the scoter took some picking out due to the very strong glare over the bay, and the fact that it was distant. It did come closer and I had hoped the glare would drop but sadly it did not and all I managed were photos of its silhouette. At least it made for a nicer day out than last time. From the photos you can see the white behind the head but the colours on the bill are lacking. That being said, they are somewhat lacking anyway due to the bird only being a 1st winter male.
Its nice to be able to connect with this species again, but I think I will be back for the next one too in an attempt to finally get a decent photo of one. 
-Surf Scoter
One of my reasons for coming to Filey besides the Scoter were the Purple Sandpipers. I love this species and with the spring arriving I knew I might not get some this winter. Fortunately there were still plenty on the brig, including a pretty sweet flock of around 60 birds accompanied by a solitary Dunlin. I managed to get some nice shots as they were on the right side of the light. It really brought out the purple sheen on some of the individuals. A real treat.
-Purple Sandpiper
This was my first proper trip to the coast besides Hartlepool so I was keen to knock off a few coastal yearticks. I managed to plow through 5 additional yearticks; Razorbill, Fulmar, Gannet, Kittiwake and Rock Pipi, as well as Red-legged Partridge from the train. Not a bad haul. In addition to that there were nice views of other coastal species, particularly Red-throated Diver when an individual I had not noticed popped up right in front of me as I was watching the Scoter. There were also signs of spring everywhere, particcularly on the cliff tops where there were at least 10 parachuting Meadow Pipits.
-Red-throated Diver
-Meadow Pipit
-Kittiwake and Guillemot
The weather was fantastic and it made it a really pleasant day out, with awesome birds too. What a way to start my months off from work...

Species List:
Filey: Red-legged Partridge, Woodpigeon, Blackbird, Redwing, Fieldfare, Black-headed Gull, Collard Dove, Feral Pigeon, Pied Wagtail, Lapwing, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Mallard, Rook, Pheasant, Skylark, Graylag Goose, Grey Partridge, Herring Gull, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Turnstone, Gannet, Oystercatcher, Purple Sandpiper, Guillemot, Cormorant, Razorbill, Surf Scoter, Shag, Dunlin, Meadow Pipit, Eider, Redshank, Curlew, Red-throated Diver, Rock Pipit, Great Black-backed Gull, Linnet, Stock Dove, Kestrel,