Friday, 31 March 2017

Tophill Low.....Migrants Move In,Thursday 30.03.2017.

As i was still on my hols,a full day out birding today saw me heading over the bridge and into the home county to visit the Yorkshire Water reserve at Tophill Low,this is what i saw through my day.
 After arriving and paying for my day permit,i decided to cover the northern part of the site first and after getting the gear together i was off on my walk.
 As i walked through the gate near to the new visitor centre,my first goodies of the day where seen...Sand Martins.
 I watched as these lovely little birds hawked insects over the surrounding tree line and thought to myself about the incredible journey they had just undertaken all the way from central Africa.
 There were 15 birds in all and after enjoying my fill of these little crackers i was off again.
 The familiar sound of Chiffchaff's singing,saw 3 birds being recorded before i reached middle hide overlooking 'D' Reservoir.
 A quick scan over the res revealed a decent total of 25 Goldeneye still present and a Roe Deer quietly browsed along the bank side.
 Another Chiffie recorded in the notebook before i reached North Marsh and a quick look on here saw nothing of note being seen apart from some prospecting Long-tailed Tits.
 I then made my way around to the hide overlooking the pool next to Hempholme Meadow were the pair of Kingfishers have been displaying etc. and was treated to some lovely views of these beautiful birds as the male frequently brought fish in for his mate.Lets hope they can breed successfully and add to this sites already good population.
 Onwards and further up to Hempholme Lock,a fave area of mine when visiting this extensive site,saw very few notable highlights apart from a Little Egret fishing in Barmston Drain and the first of the day's Common Buzzards overhead.
 By now the sun was wall to wall and the temperature rising and i added another 2 Sand Martin which passed south overhead towards the car park.
 A single Pink-footed Goose was seen feeding on fields at the side of 'D' Res with 2 Greylag,funny how this single birds end up on their own.
 Back at the car,a quick refuel stop saw me shedding some clothing before it began to rain,but at least it was warm.
 North Lagoon held a very dapper male Grey Wagtail,who was singing his little head off in between flycatching,a great sight to see.
 The sun was back out again as i left North Marsh and i continued around to South Marsh to see what birds were present on this superb area.A few notable insects included 2 Brimstone and my first Dark-bordered Bee Fly's of the yearThe hard work from the reserve staff and volunteers is really paying off with the recent breeding of Garganey last spring/summer.
 As i walked towards the hides,that distinct fluty song of a male Blackcap saw me gaining brief views of the bird as it was watched flycatching,another migrant species and my first record for the year.
 South Marsh was alive with birds and more migrants which included another first for the year in the form of a Little-ringed Plover,which also gave brief views before disappearing and a second calendar year Med Gull which was seen in amongst Black-headed and Common Gulls feeding and prospecting over the islands before moving on.
 A singing male Cetti's Warbler blasted it's distinctive song from the far side of the scrapes,another welcome species to add to the days sightings.
 After meeting up with Martin and Karen,i was invited to go along to see what moths had been trapped overnight and a decent variation of species were seen which included Red Chestnut,Hebrew Character,Common Quaker and the lovely Water Carpet amongst others.
 Another look on South Marsh afterwards didn't reveal any new birds for the day,but Peacock and Small Tort were seen to add to the other insect sightings during the visit.
 Watton Nature reserve was covered in birds,but nothing unusual was recorded,but a nice flock of 54 Curlew and a pair of Goldeneye were nice to see all the same and my fourth first for the year nearby,was a singing male Willow Warbler in the hawthorns in South Scrub.This is one of my favourite sounds of summer and it is great news that it is going from strength to strength as a breeding bird.
 So after another great visit to this superb reserve,i travelled back across the Humber to Lincs contented on another great days birding.
Hempholme Lock And The River Hull.

Pink-footed Goose With The Local 'Lags'.


Female Kingfisher With Three-spined Stickleback.

Male Kingfisher.

Male Brimstone,Near 'O' Reservoir.

2nd Calendar Year Mediterranean Gull,South Marsh.

2nd Calendar Year Mediterranean Gull,South Marsh.

Water Carpet,A Pretty Worn Individual.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The Yorkshire Dales etc......Saturday 25th - Tuesday 28th March 2017.

A pre-organised trip to this beautiful area with Trace to celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary,saw us staying one night in very posh Harrogate,before making our way to our B&B at Threshfield in the Yorkshire Dales National Park to spend some time walking and enjoying this fantastic area.
 The following is what we saw and the lovely places we visited.

Saturday 25th

We set off on our journey up the A1 and after a quick brekkie stop at Wetherby services,we carried on to visit the lovely Ripley Castle.
 On arrival here i had little hope of seeing any birds or wildlife,but to be honest i was pleasantly surprised with some lovely grounds to walk around including a sizable lake.
 A few niceties included a singing male Grey Wagtail on top of one of the castle buildings and the place was literally buzzing with insects,with Peacock and Small Tort being seen also.
 After visiting Ripley Castle we made the short journey over to the National Trust site Brimham Rocks.
 We had visited here before and i sort of expected we may see something of note here amongst the fantastic sandstone scenery.
 The best sighting went to an unidentified White butterfly of some sort,either Small or Green-veined,but i never saw it close enough to ID it.
 Also seen was a single Red Kite along with Common Buzzard,the former a species i had seen here in the past and sort of expected,but nice to see all the same.

Sunday 26th

After a very nice breakfast,we had planned to do a circular walk taking in Muker and Keld and the stunning upper Swaledale valley and after parking up in Muker we were off.
 The scenery here has to be seen to be believed,it is just breathtaking in places and there are some fantastic waterfalls to enjoy at Swinner Gill and Kisdon Force which were both in full spate when we visited.
 Some nice bird sightings included a Redhead Goosander fishing in the river and the usual suspects of Grey Wagtail and Dipper were also enjoyed as always.
 On the evening after enjoying some lovely food at the Old Hall across the road from the B&B i managed to see my first Pipistrelle Bat of the year,a definite added bonus.

Monday 27th 

Today,unfortunately the weather was a little cloudier than the glorious sunshine of the past two days,but it didn't put us off in the slightest and we headed for lovely Malham for the day after a hearty breakfast and some interesting local Jackdaws.
 Today we were going to do a circular walk which we had done before,taking in Janet's Foss,Gordale Scar and of course Malham Cove.
 The scenery here,as in all the dales is just amazing and we enjoyed this fantastic area as always.
 Again,as yesterday,a few nice birds were seen and included a Dipper nesting under Janet's Foss and a couple of singing and displaying Wheatear near Malham Cove itself.
 After visiting this lovely area we made a short visit to the village of Buckden and i heard my first singing Ring Ouzels,just brilliant to hear coming from the nearby hillside.

Tuesday 28th

Unfortunately today,it was time to leave this stunning part of the country and we reluctantly travelled home after another fantastic visit to this beautiful part of the world.
Ripley Castle & Grounds.

Singing Male Grey Wagtail,Ripley Castle.

Brimham Rocks.

The Beautiful Upper Swaledale Valley.

Redhead Goosander,Fishing In The Swale.

One Of The Local Oystercatchers.

Swinner Gill & The Old Lead Mine Works.

The Impressive Kisdon Force,Near To Keld.

The River Swale Near To Keld.

More Stunning Views Of The Upper Swaledale Valley.

A Low Level View Of The River Swale.

Janet's Foss,Near To Gordale Scar.

The Entrance To The Stunning Gordale Scar.

The Very Impressive Scenery Of Gordale Scar.

Looking Down From The Top Of Malham Cove.

The Fantastic Malham Cove.

Lovely Dales Scenery At Buckden.

Beautiful Buckden Scenery.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Eastern-black Redstart.....What A Bird!..,Sunday 19th March 2017.

I had been contemplating on making the effort to travel up to see this gorgeous bird for several weeks and along with Trace,we made the journey up through the Yorkshire Moors seeing a Red Kite and a hand full of Red Grouse along the way and onto the stunning coastline at Skinningrove.
 The weather was brilliant,with a stunning blue sky and a breezy westerly wind,the wind was a bit of a pain at times,but who can complain when it's sunny.
 On arrival at Skinningrove it was apparent the place was alive with day trippers and dog walkers,but i knew from previous experience that this doesn't affect the area where the bird spends his time.
 After reaching the birds wintering area,the huge breakwater adjacent to the pier,it wasn't long before i could hear him singing and there he was.Every time i see this beautiful bird,he just takes my breath away,what a cracker!.
 At first he was a bit elusive,mainly due to the unwanted attentions of a Robin as on my last visit in October,but also the wind was obviously annoying him as well,as we were both getting sand blasted on occasion.
 After a while though,he began to show at incredibly close range,too close for my camera at times,what a beautiful little bird.
 It was interesting to watch his behaviour when he disappeared,as there was one particular area of rocks which i could see into,where he would just sit out of the wind singing away,a great privilege to watch.
 When he disappeared for a short period,i went for a short walk and chanced upon a superb male Wheatear along the pier.Another stunning species and one that always brightens any birding day in spring.This was my first of the year and a very welcome one at that.
 Back to the resident stunner and i spent at least another hour taking photos and just watching this brilliant bird as he fed and sang in amongst his rocky home and i wondered if he will eventually migrate back east where he hatched as a chick the previous summer.
 After enjoying this lovely bird and taking my fill of images,it was time to leave and go and get some lunch,but what a great experience seeing this little beauty again,one of which will last in my memory for years to come.

Male Wheatear,My First Of The Year,

One Of The Resident Male Stonechat's.

Monday, 20 March 2017

WEBS Count,Monday 13th March 2017.

As i was busy on WEBS count Sunday and i had a free morning today,i decided to get out and complete my survey sections for the month.
 The weather was excellent with a bright blue sky and a moderate westerly breeze,perhaps there might be some visible passage west up river i thought.
 I started in usual fashion,by parking at Barrow Haven train station and then began to walk the first two sections up to New Holland Bulk Terminal.
 As i left the car,the first of 4 Chiffies were heard singing near to the train station,with others being seen and heard at New Holland,a welcome sight and sound to the mornings proceedings.
 On the pits the usual suspects included Tufties,Mallard,Canada and Greylag Geese and the first pairs of Great-crested Grebes arriving to establish their breeding territories.
 A scattering of Curlew were present on both the fields and on the Humber and as i reached the outflow near Fairfield Pit a superb count of roosting Redshank totalled a whopping 231 birds.
 On Fairfield itself a single female Goldeneye and 12 Pochard dived for food in the brackish water.
 After negotiating a very busy Bulk Terminal,i walked along the sheltered public footpath that takes you back onto the Humber floodbank and it was pretty productive for insects along here to be fair,with me logging my first species of butterfly for the year.This included 2 Small Tortoiseshell,2 Brimstone and a single Comma,the Brimstones positively glowing in the warm sunshine,a most welcome sight to see.
 Very little was seen between New Holland and Goxhill Haven apart from some decent numbers of Curlew and Turnstone and only 2 drake Goldeneye remained on the Humber.
 A light visible passage west up river included small numbers of Siskin,Goldfinch,Linnets,Mips and a few alba Wags,but nothing unexpected.
 The return leg back towards Barrow Haven revealed no new surprises,but i did manage to gain some nice views of one of the Chiffies from earlier in the morning around Fairfield Pit and as i reached Barrow Haven a Cetti's Warbler blasted out it's song and near the car a few insects included 3 Buff-tailed Bumblebees and a Harlequin Ladybird.
 A nice morning out today,with some very welcome diversions away from the birds now we are beginning to see some insects and wildflowers.
Barrow Haven.

Barrow Haven,Looking Towards New Holland And Hull In The Background.

Coltsfoot At Barrow Haven.

New Holland Bulk Terminal,A Surprisingly Rich Area For Birds.

Part Of The 'Shank' Flock At New Holland.

Comma At New Holland.

Looking Towards New Holland Bulk Terminal From The Eastern Side.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

North Linc's....Saturday 11th March 2017.

With the prospect of a dry,albeit cloudy forecast today and another mild one,i decided to cover a few of the local sites to see what was about.
 I started by looking at one of the local sites for Woodlark and hit the jackpot with a single singing male,i just love that melancholy song as they display over their breeding sites.Other sightings here included 3 Siskin and a Jay.
 On to site number two and i always try to visit Manton Warren in spring and like to walk down to the sheep fields at the back of Messingham Nature Reserve as part of my walk.
 So after getting the walking boots on i was off.
 The mild weather was obviously having an effect on the locals,with singing male Yellowhammer's,Reed Bunting and Linnets as i neared the ruins of the old farmhouse.
 Further on and as i walked along a stubble field towards the sheep fields a flurry of activity saw some nice sightings close together and included unbelievably another Woodlark and a pair of Stonechat.
 The Woodlark was watched at close range and gave some cracking views through the scope and i even managed some record shots with the camera,the Stonies performed pretty well also,particularly the male and i managed some half decent shots of him,but his partner had other ideas being typically flighty.
 On arrival at the sheep fields there was a hive of activity as always in spring,with displaying Lapwings and even more Black-headed Gulls than on my last visit to MSQ.
 An interesting sighting,saw a leucistic Starling being seen in amongst the local flock feeding in the fields and it reminded me of a similar bird i had seen here many years ago in the early 2000's,surely it can't be the same bird,but you never know.It had a normal plumaged head and most of it's body,but creamy-white wings and part of it's tail.
 A diversion away from the birds saw several Common Toads spawning in an adjacent drainage dyke and also a hand full of Whirlgig Beetles,both welcome sightings and harbingers of the forthcoming spring.
 The return leg back to the car saw 4 Common Buzzard over the nearby woodland and 2 Redwing,one of which was singing.
 After reaching the car,i drove the short journey over to Messingham Sand Quarries to see what i could find at this superb little reserve.
 A half hearted look for Otters on Grebe Lake saw plenty of the locals pairing up and displaying and this included a flock of 18 Tufted Duck with a couple of Water Rail calling nearby.
 The small woodland pond held at least 1 male Smooth Newt and as i neared the Wader Hide,the familiar sound of croaking male Frog's was another great sound to hear.
 On the Main Lake,100 Wigeon,2 Kingfisher and a pair of Goldeneye were all added in the notebook,then two species of Warbler in quick succession,one of the Cetti's from my last visit and my first migrant species at last,a Chiffchaff.
 I never did see the Cetti's,but got some half decent views of the Chiffie,but unfortunately no pics.The latter was a species that i thought would be on the cards for today's visit,as there had been a substantial arrival around the country.
 A few more non bird sightings to add to the notebook included a couple of Buff-tailed Bumble Bee's and the Marsh Marigolds were beginning to flower now,with those lovely,intense,golden flowers.
 So today was a pretty good day out considering the overcast conditions and it was great to see some more spring sightings,particularly the Woodlark.
Woodlark,Between Manton Warren And Messingham sand quarries LWTR.

Male Stonechat,Manton Warren.

Female Stonechat,Manton Warren.

Male Smooth Newt,Messingham Sand Quarries LWTR.

Muntjac Prints,Messingham Sand Quarries LWTR.

Marsh Marigolds,Messingham Sand Quarries LWTR.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Northumberland.....The Big Twitch,Saturday 4th March - Sunday 5th March 2017.

I had been contemplating about making the trip up north for the duo of Megas on offer,namely the Black Scoter at Goswick and the Pacific Diver at East Chevington since just after the news broke on the Diver and as Mrs R had the weekend off,we booked a hotel at lovely Alnwick for the Saturday night and off we went on another adventure.

Saturday 4th.

 We set off up the A1 making a quick brekkie stop near Durham before eventually making it all the way to Goswick,a small hamlet on the stunning Northumberland coast.....except today the weather wasn't conducive for looking far out to sea for a Common Scoter with extra yellow on it's bill.
 As i mentioned above,on arrival at Goswick golf club,the weather wasn't particularly great,with light drizzle on and off and slight mist,but i thought buggar it,i'll give it a go anyway.
 I made my way down to the beach,with not a soul in sight and began to scan the sea.I located the Scoter flock,about half a mile offshore,so quickly realised without the hubble telescope at hand,i certainly wasn't going to be seeing any Black Scoters today!.
 I stuck at it though and was kept entertained by the lovely wintering locals, which included singles of Great-northern Diver and Slavonian Grebe,a duo of Velvet Scoter,20+ Long-tailed Duck and a pair of Red-breasted Merg's.
 To be fair,it was a disappointment that i had no chance of seeing the Black Scoter,at the range of the flock or in the current conditions,but the birds on offer otherwise would have made for an impressive tally back home and certainly made up for it.
 After talking to some of the local birders next day,they laughed that i had tried to see the Black Scoter,as it is a proper nightmare to see,this certainly made me feel a bit better.

Sunday 5th.

After a good nights sleep and a mega brekkie,we left the hotel in bright sunshine,a welcome change to the day previous and headed over to Druiridge Bay Country Park.The drive was a very enjoyable one seeing some lovely coastal towns which included the stunning Warkworth.
 After arriving at East Chevington TDR decided to chill in the car,while i went off in search of target number two,the Pacific Diver.
 After a quick look around Ladyburn Lake and some cracking views of Scaup and more Mergs it was onto East Chevington north pool.A quick scan and there it was,the Pacific Diver.
 The first thing that struck me about this bird,was it's smaller,compact size than Black-throated Diver,something that was highlighted perfectly when it swam alongside a Coot,being not that much larger to be fair.The more rounded dusky head,shorter looking bill and lack of rear flank patch were all use full ID pointers,particularly the latter feature which was particularly help full when the bird was sleeping,making it really easy to pick out.It is incredible to think were this bird has travelled from to arrive here,as the bird will have hatched as a chick the previous summer in the high arctic of North America and should be wintering somewhere off the Pacific coast of North America right now,amazing!.
 I continued to just watch the bird at my leisure,taking in all the features and some field notes,being truly relieved that i had added my second 'New' species of the year to the notebook after not seeing the Scooter.
 A few other niceties were also seen while watching the Diver and included another Slav Grebe,more 'Punky Crested' Mergs and at least 7 Scaup.
 After enjoying this cracking bird,the local goodies and great scenery,i wandered back to the car seeing 3 lovely Stonechat along the way.
 Unfortunately it was lunch time by now and we had to head back home along the A1 back to Linc's,but it won't be too long before we are back up here again in May.
 Another great couple of days away in this beautiful part of the world and we both look forward to coming back.
Some Of The Noisy Locals At Druiridge Bay.

Posing Cormorant,Ladyburn Lake,Druiridge Pools CP.

Cormorant,Druiridge Pools CP.

Cormorant,Druiridge Pools CP.

East Chevington North Pool.

East Chevington North Pool.

Believe It Or Not,The Grey And White Blob In The Middle Of The Pic Is A Pacific Diver.