Sunday, 29 March 2015

MSQ....A Dull Morning.

As the forecast had suggested last night,it was fairly dull as i made my way to the Sand Quarries this morning,but thankfully the wind which had been promised was none existent,so all wasn't bad.
 I decided to look on the sheep fields to begin with and there was plenty of activity with displaying Lapwings and Redshank renewing their territories for the coming breeding season.On the fields a pair of Grey Partridge fed and that lovely,bubbling call of a Curlew gave away the presence of a party of 17 birds feeding nearby,while a Common Buzzard patiently hunted from a nearby fence line.
 A quick look on the new workings were the aggregate company are excavating revealed a party of 8 Avocet quietly feeding,but no sign of any Sand Martins yet,but a Kingfisher was fine recompense.
 So onto the reserve proper and after getting the gear together i began my walk to be greeted by the first of at least 7 singing male Chiffchaff seen and heard around the reserve.It always amazes me to think that this little bird has just arrived all the way from Africa to spend its breeding season here,the wonders of bird migration in action.
 A visit to the wader hide was brightened by the sound of the singing male Cetti's Warbler from my last visit and on the pits themselves lots of gull activity saw 39 Herring,2 pairs of Lesser black-backed and larger numbers of Black heads than on the previous visit.Also in this area were courting pairs and groups of Shelduck,Gadwall,Teal and Shoveler with a hand full of Cormorant loafing on the island.
 In the plantation a couple of Siskin and 2 Redwing were seen and a clump of Scarlet-elf Cup positively glowed in the dull conditions.
 Eventually the promised for rain arrived and i made my way back to the car and travelled the short journey back home.
 Not a bad few hours,but some prolonged,settled,sunny weather would be nice.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Beautiful Dovedale....Sunday 22nd March 2015.

After reading and hearing about this gem of a place in the heart of the White Peak in the renowned Peak District National Park,this was the destination for the day today.
 Trace and myself arrived at the lovely little village of Ilam and eventually found a parking place beside the lovely River Manifold.After a quick cuppa we decided to walk into Dovedale and explore the area.
 A few birds were seen as we walked alongside the river and included at least 4 pairs of Grey Wagtail,a single Dipper and overhead a mewing Common Buzzard.There were plenty of people walking in this lovely area no doubt having the same idea as us in getting out into the very welcome sunshine.
 The scenery was very easy on the eye,with rocky crags and riverside trees and a few more birds entered the notebook which included several Nuthatches and a couple of 'Pitchooing' Marsh Tit.
 After a couple of hours of walking we came across a footpath which said Ilam,so we decided to take this route,it was a tad testing on my knackered knees,but as we reached the top of the hill the scenery was just stunning to say the least with some lovely views of the surrounding valley and countryside.
 A distinct 'Cronk cronk' call revealed a Raven on the opposite side of the valley and i watched it with anticipation as it mobbed a Common Buzzard,but it didn't cross to our side and i relaxed the camera again.A further 2 Raven were encountered and as we descended back down to Ilam the distinct call of a Little Owl was heard from some adjacent ivy covered trees.We never did see the Owl,but further on and nearer the village a Chiffchaff called from some waterside trees and a Grey Heron patiently fished from the bankside.
 We eventually made it back to the car and quickly scoffed a very welcome,thirst quenching ice-cream and rested our weary legs,but what a brilliant place to visit,one from which we will be certainly visiting again that is for sure!.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Hatfield Moor NNR.....Saturday 21st March 2015.

A visit to this excellent NNR today in the hope of some half decent weather and some encounters with our native Vipers,didn't go exactly to plan,with the hoped for sunshine not really materialising and it stayed cloudy for most of the visit and fairly cool to be fair...this is how our visit unfolded. As we left the car park a 'Yaffling' Green Woodie called near to us and a few metres away a distinct 'Chiff chaff' heralded my first Chiffchaff of the year,a good start.The Chiffie showed only briefly,in typical fashion,as they never stay still in one place until they find a mate and we didn't see the Green Woodpecker.
 After much searching we finally saw our target an Adder.In fact,2 males were found sheltering behind a clump of Silver Birch from the fairly strong north easterly wind and didn't stay put for long as they soon disappeared into the scrub and that was that.We did search in another area and managed to find another male,but none of the individuals showed particularly well today no doubt due to the poor conditions.
 After looking for the snakes,a chance find on a gate saw us enjoying some nice views of a male March Moth and constituted only my second sighting of this species.
 Back to the birds,saw us getting brief views on middle moor of a Merlin and while walking around the Dragon Pits the resident male Mandarin showed as he consorted with his Mallard buddies.
 The only other birds of note were a drumming male Great-spotted Woodpecker seen on a few occasions and three Jays.
 Not the best visit today,but time was at a premium and the weather certainly didn't help.
Blue Tit.

Blue Tit.

Great Tit.

Male March Moth.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Messingham Visit And Wild Swan Surprise.....Monday 09.03.2015.

With a free morning available today as i was swapping onto my night shift pattern tonight,i decided to travel over to MSQ as it was a relatively decent forecast.
 On arrival after the short journey down the M180 i was greeted by the sight of a Great-spotted Woodpecker and a male Pheasant and his harem around the mini feeding station near the car park...a pleasant start to proceedings.A quick walk up along the approach track revealed some nice signs of spring in the form of a singing male Reed Bunting and a flock of 17 north bound Redwings,breaking into their song,no doubt limbering up for their breeding territories further north and east.
 To be fair even though it was an overcast sky,there was plenty of spring bird song elsewhere to cheer me up,from the spritely Coal Tits in the pine plantation to the lovely song of local Mistle and Song Thrushes and an electric blue flash saw me disturbing a Kingfisher from it's fishing perch.The song theme was continued as i approached the final stretch of path up to the duck hide,with an explosive burst of Cetti's song and the obligatory fleeting glimpse as the bird shot around the corner of a bush...a nice surprise and my first here for several years.
 On to the duck hide and several expectant scans of the sparse reed beds revealed no sightings of the reported recent Bittern records,but fine compensation was had in the form of 7 beautiful Whooper Swans.
As i have mentioned here on many occasions these lovely birds rate as one of my all time favourite birds,they are just stunning with that lovely trumpeting call and gleaming white plumage set off perfectly with the yellow blaze on their bills.Added interest was provided by one of the adult birds having a yellow darvic ring with B4A in black lettering on it's right leg and on arriving home and some quick response from the WWT conservation body and particularly Kane Brides i was told that this bird had been ringed as a cygnet in Iceland in 2006.It was an interesting piece of information and iam waiting for some further history of the bird from the C-Ring website from which i have submitted the sighting.Its amazing to think that this bird has made it's ninth visit to the UK to get away from those harsh Icelandic winters.
 Other sightings on the main lake included 17 Cormorant which were indulging in some courtship display,21 Shoveler,15 Teal and as previous springs,a displaying pair of Lesser black-backed Gulls.Hopefully one day both the Cormorants and the Leebs will stop to breed.
 The remainder of the reserve was fairly quiet apart from more of the same species in the plantation as earlier with the added sightings of a hand full of Goldcrest.
 Another great visit to this gem of a reserve.
6 of the 7 Whooper Swans,with the colour-ringed bird central in the photo.

Whooper Swans.

Whooper Swans.

Colour ringed adult Whooper Swan,B4A.


Courting Lesser black-backed Gulls.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Black Beauties And The Stunning Dales....Saturday 07.03.2015.

A full day free to ourselves today saw Trace and myself heading to the beautiful Yorkshire Dales(even at this time of year) to do some sight seeing along with looking for my 'First' Black Grouse sightings in Yorkshire.The journey up the A1 was pretty uneventful apart from a single Common Buzzard and a party of 6 Roe Deer to relieve the boredom,but we eventually arrived at Bedale and headed into the Dales.
 I had been given some very helpful info. in where to find our target birds,by fellow birder Gareth Picton and we headed in the direction of Reeth near to Leyburn.There had obviously been some substantial amounts of snow recently ,as it was still white on the tops of the hills and unfortunately as we neared the area of Arkengarthdale where we were to look for our quarry,the weather began to deteriorate the higher we travelled.
 Some stunning views of roadside Red Grouse and some lovely Golden Plover certainly made up for the poor weather conditions and we sought some respite in the world famous Tan Hill Inn.
 Getting out of the car here for us was an experience all in its own,with gale force wind and rain nearly blowing us back were we had travelled from,but eventually we enjoyed a well earned mug of tea inside this historic pub.
 After enjoying our cuppa we carried on back in the direction of Reeth,looking in all the suitable pasture fields until,at last!....i spotted a single male Black Grouse in a field just above the village of Whaw.
 I clambered out of the car,set the scope up and Trace and myself watched our first 'Yorkshire' Black Grouse as he fed in the grass field.A quick scan revealed a further 2 males here sat on one of the drystone walls,what a cracking bird they are with their glossy blue-black plumage,just stunning!.
 More searching near to Reeth,revealed another 7 males sheltering and feeding behind a drystone wall,giving more distant views,but very welcome all the same.What a stunning area to watch some beautiful birds.
 The rest of our visit was spent looking around the lovely town of Richmond and the very impressive River Swale followed by a slap up steak meal at Penley's a very impressive eatery in the middle of the town.
 So what a great day out again in this beautiful part of the world watching some stunning birds and great food to boot,we travelled home happy...and slightly full....and we even managed to see 2 Red Kites on the journey home,good times.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Stunning Accipiters And Beautiful Dippers.....Sunday 1st March 2015.

With a bit of a mixed forecast today,i headed for North Yorkshire in the hope i was at least going to get some sunny spells to look for today's target birds.It was just beginning to get light properly as i stopped briefly en route to my destination for the day,looking at the Forge Valley feeding station alongside the babbling River Derwent.Highlights here included a few expectant Grey Squirrels as they stared at me as if to say were are my peanuts!....but the real beauties were seen in the form of a couple of Marsh Tit,Nuthatch and a drumming Great-spotted Woodpecker in the riverside trees.
 Onward to my usual parking spot in Troutsdale Valley,i arrived just as the sun began to break through the cloud cover.Plenty of layers were put on as it was pretty cold and there was a heck of a breeze blowing from the west,making the temperature decidedly chilly.A quick look on the river revealed no Dippers,but a single Grey Wagtail dropped in from overhead.
 On the small ox bow next to Hilla,a nice surprise in the form of two pairs of Mandarin showed pretty well before flying around to the back of the pond and a few parties of Siskin passed by into the nearby Alders.
 I eventually walked up to my vantage point and began to scan the valley,but there were very few birds in the air and the wind was certainly not helping matters.A nearby Common Buzzard escaped into the nearby Pine forest as if to get out of the wind and 4 Kestrel and a local Sparrowhawk hunted nearby.Enough was enough and i decided to head back to the car and have a look along the river.As i neared the car,first one,then two Goshawks appeared and flew past me and along the valley to the last i had some sightings in the bag of this stunning raptor species.
 A look along the river saw the local Dippers putting on a fine show,particularly the male of the pair,as he sang his scratchy song on some nearby rocks.The trees along the banks of the river saw a foraging tit flock being seen and included a couple of Marsh Tit and a Treecreeper which gave superb views.
 Back to the car saw me heading around to the raptor viewpoint at Wykeham to attempt to get some more raptor sightings in the bag for the day and it wasn't long before i was watching more Goshawks,albeit on the opposite side of the valley.A sparring pair of females were seen chasing each other before dropping into the forest and about an hour later a displaying male at a similar distance was watched putting on a great show...what a bird species they are!.Other sightings during my watch included 30 plus Siskins,with 1 male doing his bat like display flight around some nearby Spruces and a pair of Common Buzzards soared around over the forest.
 Today's visit wasn't in the best conditions to be fair and it was four seasons in one day,i will make another visit in a couple of weeks time in some better weather conditions.
 A good day out despite the rain at times.
Troutsdale Valley.

Troutsdale Valley.

Male Dipper.

Male Dipper.