Saturday, 30 April 2016

Woolstone Eyes

I intended to spend my Saturday at home working on the dissertation in case a mega cropped up and I had to run off to go see it. So when a mega did break I did just that. I did not leave immediately as the white-crowned sparrow had been caught, and I wondered if it would be seen again. Whilst it was seen after its release, it was only brief, but by then I had already committed to going to the site.
On site there were still a good few twitchers around, but most were chatting away rather than birding, the general consensus seemed to be that the bird was not coming back, as it proved. That being said, there are a number of site specialties, not least the Black-necked Grebes which are very abundant on site. They show nowhere near as well as the birds as Swillington but always a pleasure to see. 
-Black-necked Grebe
But there was one bird I really wanted to see, possibly as much as the sparrow. I had heard rumor of the ducks that will not be named on site. I asked about it when I arrived, to receive negative news. However, once at the hide it was soon apparent a female was present and soon I had it seen. It was distant the whole time and difficult to get a photo of. There is a good chance I will never see this species in this country again, so I did enjoy it. Every cloud...
-The duck that will not be named
Aside from the two obvious highlights there were a number of other really nice species, not least a few very showy spring warblers, e.g. Whitethroat and Chiffchaff. A couple of nice Shelduck near the hide were nice, and there was a very close Common Sandpiper to admire too.
-Common Sandpiper
So despite not seeing the mega, and Halifax Town getting relegated, there was some consolation in the birds that we got seen, including that very special duck.

Species List:
Woolstone Eyes: Common Buzzard, Whitethroat, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Little Grebe, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Mallard, Gadwall, Duck that shall not be named, Tufted Duck, Great Tit, Robin, Canada Goose, Graylag Goose, Mute Swan, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great-crested Grebe, Grey Heron, Goosander,

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Orgreave Lakes

With the dissertation coming together I decided to spend my afternoon at Orgreave in the hope of patch-ticking the Greenshank that had been around for a few days. The only downside being that I was badly caught out in a wintry shower, which was extremely unpleasant. That being said though, there were good numbers of birds to enjoy, and it was a nice afternoon out of the library.
I picked up the Greenshank almost straight away but it was distant and the light appauling so it wasnt until on the way back that I got any photos, even then they were not brilliant. I also got to enjoy a pair of Shelduck, which I can't remember seeing before but I'm sure I must have.
There were also good numbers of migrants, which felt a little odd in the falling snow. A wheatear foraging in the snow is not something I ever really expected to see. There were also plenty of Hirundines, including a couple of House Martins. They were perching up on the wooden fences, probably to try and stay warm and dry given the conditions.
Not only Hirundines though, as there were plenty of Warbler singing in the trees alongside the river, including Chiff-chaff, Blackcap and Willow Warbler, plus my first Whitethroat of the year, which was not especially showy
But the highlight of the walk was another self-found patch tick in the form of a solitary Raven that flew over going north. The bird was so tatty it took me a while to be sure I'd got it right, although its fairly clear that it is a Raven. I never expected to get one of these on my patch list here.
In addition to these goodies there were also plenty of other birds I did not photograph, including the Yellowhammer again, a couple of flyover Yellow Wagtails and a few very nice Little Ringed Plovers. Other waders included Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover and an abundance of Redshank.

Species List:
Orgreave Lakes: Robin, Willow Warbler, Linnet, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Kestrel, Blackbird, Reed Bunting, Pied Wagtail, Yellowhammer, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Raven, Gadwall, Moorhen, Coot, Great-crested Grebe, Mallard, Canada Goose, Graylag Goose, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin, Wheatear, Black-headed Gull, Whitethroat, Chiff-chaff, Willow Warbler, Shelduck, Greenshank, Common Buzzard,

Monday, 25 April 2016

Audenshaw Reservoir

Even if I wanted to, today was going to be a difficult day to twitch given I had a meeting at 12.00 regarding my dissertation. In the morning I saw the news of a white stork in South Yorkshire and though it would have been difficult, it was doable by public transport, and it was slightly gripping. Anyway, that bird up and left at 10.00, so any thoughts of twitching it were quickly dispelled.
However, another curveball was thrown from the opposite side of Sheffield, where a Kentish Plover had rocked up on a reservoir in Manchester. This was certainly doable and, waiting on news, was a go ahead after my meeting. Problem was, the site description said permit only, and nobody on twitter seemed particularly keen to give out any news of access. 
That was my only concern, so fast forward a couple of hours and I rocked up to the site at half 2, hoping beyond hope that I would find a way in and see the bird. Fortunately I bumped into a birder who pointed me towards a way in; through a hole in the fence. Nice.
Once inside we had a bit of bother tracking down the bird. Initially we could not find anyone watching it, although a leaving birder said it was still present. He gave us directions so thats where we headed, scanning the far bank to pick it out. The other birder did pick it out but it was so far away, on the far side of the reser.
For some reason, nobody seemed to want to go round, and I was reluctant to go in case, although unlikely, flushed it. In the end though I got frustrated with distant views and headed round, to truly incredible views, the bird really seeming to not give a care. It took a good half an hour before I was joined by anyone else, birders continuing to scope it from at least 400m away.
It was a stunning little bird, showing really well. I managed to get some nice record shots at least. If you positioned yourself right, it would walk along the shoreline past you. That being said, it did take numerous attempts before I had positioned myself right, but when I had was the only moment in the afternoon when the sun came out.
-Kentish Plover
Possibly my favourite lifer of the year so far, fighting with Hoopoe for top spot. It was not a species I expected to see this year, and certainly not on a reservoir in Manchester. But stranger things...
Other birds on site were a little sparse. I did get a full house of Plovers with both Ringed and Little Ringed also present alongside the Kentish. Common Sandpipers were also present. The sky was full of hirundines, mainly Swallows and Sand Martins but also a few House Martins which were my first of the year.
-House Martins
I could have maybe stayed longer on site, but the sudden lack of rain had brought out some serious swarms of flies, and after three hours watching the bird it did not seem worth lingering in the unpleasantness that had suddenly erupted. I left the site at 5.00 and headed home. What a twitch that was.
Species List:
Audenshaw Reservoir: Grey Wagtail, Little Ringed Plover, Linnet, Pied Wagtail, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Swallow, Sand Martin, House Martin, Carrion Crow, Mallard, Mute Swan, Great-crested Grebe, Common Sandpiper, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Starling

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Slack, Derbyshire

Its been some years since I saw my one and only Dotterel on Soil Hill. So when one turned up in Derbyshire that was easily doable from Sheffield I decided it would be worth a punt. I decided not to go on the first day, but when it was still present this morning I made my move and was on site late morning. It was a largely sunny day with infrequent clouds drifting over.
I arrived on site to see the bird still present. It showed well, if distant, and the heat haze made everything substantially more difficult. Thats why all the photos I decided to include are under cloud cover, if anyone was wondering. Dotterels are really smart birds, and theres not much left for me to say, so please enjoy what attempts at record shots.
Obviously just being upland fields there was not a plentiful supply of other species, but there were bits and pieces. The highlight was undoubtedly the fantastic views I got of a male Yellowhammer, although it moved too quick for a photo. Smashing views of a Raven pair getting mobbed by a Carrion Crow was pretty neat too. All in all, a fantastic morning out.

Species List:
Slack, Derbyshire: Yellowhammer, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Dotterel, Robin, Swallow, Sand Martin, Carrion Crow, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Grey Heron, Wheatear, Kestrel, Linnet, Raven, 

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Orgreave Lakes

Another chilled out day with glorious sunshine all morning. I had planned to continue working on the dissertation until I saw Mark Reeder had a Black-necked Grebe down at Orgreave. Without hesitation I set off to go and get it seen. Being a Grebe I had little doubt that it would still be present when I arrived, which was around half 10, and I was not disappointed.
The Grebe showed incredibly well, swimming fairly close to the bank without much fear at all. I managed to get some fairly reasonable record shots, which I'm happy with. The bird even called at times, which is not a call I'm familiar with, but it was pretty awesome to hear. 
-Black-necked Grebe
The grebe was my 162 species of the year, arriving shortly after my 161st; Common Sandpiper. Sadly the sandpiper was not approachable in any way, flying to the other side of the lake when I was nowhere even remotely close to it. No record shot there then.
Of course, as is often the case with most birds, whenever Wheatears are present they upstage ever other bird on site, and today was no exception. There were Wheatears everywhere, including some birds standing off against each other by spreading their tails. They are just simply such awesome birds.
There were hosts of other goodies too, including White Wagtails, Redshank, 5 Common Buzzard all in the air at the same time with 2 Sparrowhawks, 1 solitary Yellow Wagtail, Goosanders and two really smart Lesser Redpoll, although sadly they were badly obscured by the trees they were feeding on.
-Lesser Redpoll
Black-necked Grebe was not my only patch tick today though. Whilst on my way back round the small lake, in the hope of getting a shot of Common Sandpiper, I flushed a much rare prize. I missed it until I had already flush it, Green Sandpiper, but fortunately it landed on the island. Distant but still able to get a record shot. They are not common birds here, with only a couple of records per year, so to have stumbled across this one was really nice.
-Green Sandpiper
It was certainly a pleasant morning, and now I have the afternoon to write up some more on the dissertation.

Species List:
Orgreave Lakes: Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Woodpigeon, Great Tit, Skylark, Blackbird, Willow Warbler, Wren, Lapwing, Common Buzzard, Feral Pigeon, Chaffinch, Magpie, Linnet, Mallard, Carrion Crow, Black-headed Gull, Coot, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Gadwall, Redshank, Tufted Duck, Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Grey Heron, Great-crested Grebe, Meadow Pipit, Goosander, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, Starling, Black-necked Grebe, Long-tailed Tit, Blackcap, Dunnock, Sand Martin, Pied Wagtail, Wheatear, Swallow, Common Teal, Green Sandpiper, Sparrowhawk, Moorhen

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Greaves' Piece

Work on the dissertation has kept me in for most of the last week, my thinking being if I can keep working on it now, I will be able to go twitching crazy when I need to. Its worked so far, but with the dissertation a third of the way complete and still a month before the deadline I decided to take the day off.
Chosen destination: Greaves' Piece for the gg shrike thats been there for a couple of weeks. It was a lovely day, and I was taking my course-mate with me in the hope to add the shrike to his life list. Sadly we did not see the shrike, be we had a host of other goodies which compensated somewhat.
First yeartick I got was Tree Pipit, but they were very abundant on the moor as we found out, with numerous birds singing and more 'spizz'-ing overhead. Second was a Cuckoo which my mate found. I would have though it a little early but clearly not, although I only managed a terrible record shot before it flew off. It then started calling from wherever it landed, and most of our walk was serenaded by intermittent Cuckoo calling.
-Tree Pipit
Without a doubt the highlight of the day was a very vocal Raven soaring above us. Sadly it kept soaring where the sun meant we couldn't see it clearly. It had me for a moment, as its tail was not as forked as I remember for Ravens, and the call not as deep. That being said, its so obviously a Raven I don't know what I was thinking.
The warm air meant plenty of Buzzards on the wing, as well as Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. The only additional yeartick was just before we were going to call it a day, when I managed to find a Redstart singing along the edge of the trees. Sadly it did not sit still for a photo but went back into the wood where I lost it. Still, today's additional four year-ticks put me 160 for the year, with plenty of easy species still to get.

Species List:
Greaves' Piece: Swallow, Kestrel, Meadow Pipit, Common Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Tree Pipit, Robin, Wren, Blackbird, Sparrowhawk, Willow Warbler, Raven, Cuckoo, Long-tailed Tit, Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Blue Tit, Curlew, Pheasant, Redstart,

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Oakengate, Shropshire

So with only my dissertation to write, and over a period of two months, I decided to take a 'day on, day off' approach so I hopefully had time to work my way through it without stress whilst still allowing me time to get plenty of stuff twitched and seen.
So for my first day off I decided to visit the Iberian Chiffchaff in Telford, Shropshire. I had a look, saw I could do it, then waited on news in the morning, and when positive news came in I set off. I was with the bird by half 1 in the afternoon. As soon as I got on site I heard it singing in the trees and was soon on it showing very well.
The problem was, the bird has no distinctive plumage features, so when the bird stopped singing, which it often did for up to 20 mins at a time, you simply had no idea where it was. This problem was made worse for the fact that the woods were filled with normal Chiffchaffs, and a bush could contain at least five at a time, and you simply had no idea if the Iberian was in there with them. But when the bird did sing you often got fantastic views, including on one occasion when it was sat only a couple of feet away from my face.
-Iberian Chiffchaff
For a little brown job it was a smart bird, and the song was really quite sweet. I tried to get some video footage of the song and have to some extent, although obviously the bird is barely in any of the video and its pretty shaky to say the least.
As for other birds on site, there were mainly only common woodland species including Jay, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler etc. I did grab my first Blackcap of the year though when a nice female emerged from the ivy and started feeding out in the open. A nice yeartick to add to the collection. 
And thats the story of how I added Iberian Chiffchaff to my life list. A really smart bird and well worth the trip down.

Species List:
Granville NR: Chiffchaff, Iberian Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Robin, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Common Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Jay, Magpie, Willow Warbler,

Friday, 8 April 2016

Norfolk Day 5

Since today was the last day Norfolk we had the caravan on the back and that restricted where we could go. Our decision was to go to Titchwell as we had done it before. The weather was really nice and crucially the wind had dropped.
As soon as I arrived on site I got more cracking views of the Bramblings that I only got fleeting views of last time. A really nice start to the day. My only year-tick of the day followed shortly after. I could see a crowd of people looking at something but did not need to ask what as the pinging call alerted me to Bearded Tits being the area. Scanning the reeds eventually produced a nice male, and then a female before they flew across the channel. This pattern was the pattern for the whole time I watched them, as they were not overly shy or difficult to get a good look at.
-Bearded Tit
Not much further up the path I finally got a decent view of a Cettis Warbler this year, including getting to see its explosive song. It sat up for all of five mins before it dived back into the shrubbery. This was just after it had gone bezerk chasing a wren. Anyway, who can fathom the mind of a bird.
-Cettis Warbler
The rest of the walk passed with nothing new, though plenty of nice species. There were abundant White Wagtails on the meadow and out at sea there remained a large flock of Common Scoter. Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit were on the beach too along with the usual Turnstone and Grey Plover. All in all it made for a very pleasant last day.
On the way back to the car before heading home I managed to grab a few shots of the Brambling on the bird table. Sadly they were in a dark area of shade so only a couple of shots came out and sadly none of the rather handsome male that was about. Still, an excellent way to end an excellent week. 
And that was that. We called in at Hunstanton on the way home but nothing much there, and we did drive past the Wolferton Triangle but the pheasant was not showing in our brief passing.

Species List:
Titchwell RSPB: Woodpigeon, Chaffinch, Wren, Moorhen, Greylag Goose, Blue Tit, Robin, Magpie, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Blackbird, Brambling, Marsh Harrier, Avocet, Redshank, Little-ringed Plover, Black-headed Gull, Teal, Pied Wagtail, White Wagtail, Reed Bunting, Bearded Tit, Coot, Red-crested Pochard, Brent Goose, Moorhen, Tufted Duck, Kestrel, Curlew, Meadow Pipit, Cettis Warbler, Oystercatcher, Little Egret, Shoveler, Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Herring Gull, Grey Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Linnet, Red-breasted Merganser, Dunlin, Great-crested Grebe, Sanderling, Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Gull, Sandwich Tern, Turnstone, Knot, Little Grebe, Canada Goose, Chiff-chaff, Coal Tit,

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Norfolk Day 4

Continuing on the theme of trying to avoid popular sites in Norfolk for birding I decided to go to Holkham for a visit today. A GWE had turned up yesterday and though it had dissapeared after half an hour with no further news it remained a possibility despite not really thinking I would see it. The dunes are also great places for migrants so I figured my chances of finding something were pretty good.
And so it turned out. Scanning the hedgerows near the car-park as I arrived I picked up a blackbird with a white crescent on its chest. Ring Ouzel. I couldn't believe it and quickly tried to get my camera out of my bag. However, when I looked again it had gone, and despite half an hour scanning I was unable to relocate it. I was gutted to say the least, my first decent find in my week visit and it goes after five seconds. Still, there were plenty of other good birds in the car park area, including Marsh Harrier and Egyptian Geese.
-Egyptian Geese
I decided to walk along to the hides first and then explore the dunes after. I was treated to obscene views of Jay and especially Muntjac Deer, which seemed to be very abundant and tame despite the number of dog walkers.
Just before I reached the main hide I scanned across and to my disbelief picked up the Great White Egret fishing in a ditch. I was so please. Buzzing even. What a striking bird, the best view I have ever had of one and certainly the best photos I have ever managed to get of one. Sadly it was very mobile and after around 10mins it took off and flew to the far side of the freshmarsh well out of view. It did do a massive poo though on the way, which was something of a novelty. I can now add GWE to me species seen pooing list. And on the subject of lists I should mention that Ring Ouzel was my 150th species this year, GWE being the 150th for public transport.
-Great White Egret
Walking on I arrived at the main hide and decided to pop in and have lunch there. Looking over I picked up Pheasant and Grey Partridge in abundance, as well as a smart Peregrine. Then a couple of other birders came in, saying to look out for the resident Spoonbills, they were hoping to see from the hide. It was not long after that we had Spoonbills flying, followed by views of one actually feeding. Not sleeping, actually feeding. Granted it was rather distant but to get views like this is something of a novelty with this species.
After lunch I decided to move on. A hooded crow seemed to have set up at Blakeney having being moving West along the coast all morning. As a result I decided to make a move there. It turned out to be a waste of time as the bird had clearly flown off about two hours before I arrived and nobody had bothered to put news out yet. Anyway, I was at least given some consolation with my first Yellow Wagtail of the year, although it was nothing more than a distant yellow spec.
Following a breif stint there then I moved on and ended up with time to kill in Sheringham on the way back. I wandered down to the seafront to kill time but instead found that there were some seriously tame Turnstones feeding around the area near my feet so spent the time photographing those instead.
Thats the account of my last full day in Norfolk, and I pretty much had the best of it. A real nice way to finish off an excellent week.

Species List:
Holkham NNR: Woodpigeon, Jackdaw, Pied Wagtail, Shelduck, Teal, Lapwing, Marsh Harrier, Starling, Black-headed Gull, Greylag Goose, Egyptian Goose, Meadow Pipit, Shoveler, Redshank, Ring Ouzel, Moorhen, Chaffinch, Jay, Robin, Blue Tit, Tufted Duck, Cormorant, Pheasant, Great-white Egret, Peregrine, Goldcrest, Canada Goose, Avocet, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Grey Partridge, Spoonbill, Common Buzzard, Magpie, Goldfinch, Blackbird, Brent Goose, Red Kite,
Blakeney Freshmarsh: Yellow Wagtail, Rook, Jackdaw, Gadwall, Teal, Mallard, Shelduck, Shoveler, Greylag Goose, Willow Warbler, Robin, Greenfinch, Peregrine, Moorhen, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Mute Swan, Grey Heron, Redshank, Pied Wagtail, Oystercatcher, Marsh Harrier, Egyptian Goose, Black-tailed Godwit, Lapwing, Chaffinch, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Goldfinch, Pheasant,