Saturday, 14 January 2017

#Snowmaggedon 2017

Yes, we too had 1cm of snow which rocked our world in East Yorkshire. The screaming North-westerlies however offered seawatching potential but alas access to the head was limited by powerlines that were down over Lighthouse Road. I headed to South Landing instead, looking for sheltering birds and hoping for a white-winger or two. Arriving mid-morning there was already a mixture of birds present but there was very little passing - perhaps too soon after the blow started?

The Seawatching Pod
When it comes to the birds it wasn't sensational but there was plenty of decent stuff hiding away. Headlining was a Great Northern Diver which roamed between the dykes and South Landing. Also out there were 19 Common Scoter, a drake Eider and a plethora of Shags, Cormorant and five Red-throated Divers as well as my first Razorbill from three visits. My score marched onto 56/66 for Patchwork Challenge.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

From Russia with Love

European White-fronted Goose
 Today I had a couple of visits to Flamborough, the first to South Landing with my kids as we went for a walk. The aim for me was to add the common woodland species whilst for my eldest Isabelle it was all about her first steps in birding as she ticked away with gay abandon. Her spot of a Treecreeper was handy although these are reasonably common. We just saw the commoner species although a couple of Rock Pipits were a bonus. We also had two Curlew over the wood and a few Turnstones on the beach. After a trip to the living seas centre so the girls could get their colouring fix we returned home. I was granted a pass for the afternoon and made for Thornwick Bay and North Landing.

Pink-footed Goose
First off I headed to Thornwick Pools where a Song Thrush was in sub song. On the pools there were a few Teal and Moorhen plus a single Coot. I decided to head round to North Marsh before I lost too much sun. A Stonechat at the seaward side of Holmes Gut was a useful addition but there were no Meadow Pipits or Skylarks. Before I reached North Marsh after a somewhat muddy trek round I bumped into the feral geese. This was what I was hoping for a quick search through them revealed six European White-fronted Geese plus a single Pink-footed Goose. These were much wanted PWC ticks and I was particularly happy with the White-fronts. I moved onto North Marsh to see if anything else was present.

White-fronted Geese amongst Greylags

After adding Peregrine and Grey Heron on my approach, both easy enough here but enjoyable to catch up with. A few Wigeon, Mallard and a flock of Teal were present but nothing rarer. A helicopter went over flushing the geese and the flock flew into the field north of North Marsh. I got a few pictures before a small plane came in and flushed just the White-fronts, which had increased in number ot eight, towards the village where they put down, seperate to the goose flock whilst the Pink-foot stayed put. I headed back, pleased with my endeavours and I now move onto 47 species and 54 points for Patchwork Challenge 2017.

White-fronted Goose
Last week I was down in Somerset doing wader surveys on the River Parrett. Whilst I cant post details of that I did manage to get the year list away with highlights such as Merlin, Marsh Harrier and best of all a couple of flyover Waxwings which were a survey tick for me.

White-fronted Goose

The final view.

Monday, 2 January 2017


Barmston is dead, long live Flamborough. Four years of envy of them up the road who block my migrants was enough. I had ploughed my own furrow for long enough and I actually fancied seeing some birds during patchwork challenge so this year I am having a bash at Flamborough.

I have joined the observatory and made a fleeting visit today for a dusk seawatch. Nowt too flash as the Glaucous Gull is in care and the White-fronts had flitted back to North Marsh before I arrived. An hour from the seawatching spot below the foghorn provided a smattering of common seabirds including an orange colour-ringed Shag. A mere 19 species for 24 points. Onward!

Waxwings in Hull

A touch of pre-New Year last minute shopping was required in West Hull after we visited the in-laws and I volunteered to run to the supermarket. I can't think why...

I have marginally better pictures on my DSLR but cant be figged to get them processed as they arent incrementally improved. I was joined by Abigail, 4, who was suitably with the birdies which make a funny noise and have spiky hair.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Dusky Thrush

Last friday I made the pilgrimage to Beeley to see the rather excellent Dusky Thrush which was discovered in similar circumstances to the Northumberland Eyebrowed Thrush. A beginner birder, Rachael Jones in this case, posts pictures to facebook for identification and they show a Starling, a Blackbird and the 11th Dusky Thrush for the UK. She hastily arranged access with the local estate and boom, one of the most successful twitches in the UK happens with thousands raised for a good cause and widespread patronage of the village amenities.

Due to my Dad being in hospital I had some time to kill and some thinking I wanted to do, similar to the Whitby Black-throated Thrush nearly 7 years ago so I headed towards the edge of the Peak District to pay homage to the Siberian gem. Arriving in Beeley I gravitated towards the orchard. The bird was absent and I heard rumours it was in the pasture behind Dukes Barn, the activity centre that was generously hosting the twitch. I made my way to the back and the bird was very distant. Under the belt but I could see a permissible path up to the pastures and quickly ducked out that way. A handful of other birders had similar ideas and a small but growing band set up halfway across the field from the bird. It was foraging unconcerned with half a dozen Blackbirds and showed brilliantly for 10 minutes before moving through the hedge at the back. It was time for me to go see Dad but I was delighted with my views, if not photos of this great bird.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

My Hero

The last 10 days or so have been awful. My Dad's lung cancer has returned and our worst fears have been confirmed. I am going to lose my father in 2017. It feels unfair as he is only 63 but really he got an amazing second chance. In 2010 he was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer and given less than 12 months. Izzy was four months old. Neither my brother or sister were married and my career was still awaiting lift off. And Dad was mad. Mad as hell. He didn't want it, couldnt afford it and couldnt accept this intrusion. He got so lucky because he went into remission for a disease which you dont get that chance thanks to experimental treatment.

Dad playing with Abby in Thassos in 2014
The last six years of remission have had their ups and downs for him. He had radiotherapy of his brain which gave him memory loss but he managed to hold down a full time job again over the last few years. We went on holiday with him and my mum to Thassos which is stacked with amazing memories. He gave away my sister at her wedding, a chance he thought he had missed. My brother married. Dad turned 60 and 61 and 62 and 63. He was well. We had Abby and my sister had Flynn. Finally Tatum, my brother's wife had Patrick in Canberra and Mum and Dad got to visit. Dad had a bad back the whole time. Turns out now that it was a fractured vertebrae due to the cancer. But Dad came back raving about the holiday of a lifetime. He isnt angry now, or suicidal or anything. He is sad as are we all but Tom, my brother, has come back to England and we are going to have one last family Christmas. My wife, another daughter as far as my Dad is concerned, is hosting and we look forward to a warm time of reminiscing and fun for the children. One last hurrah for my hero who has taken his terminal diagnosis with the stoicism of one who knows his job is done, his race is run and his legacy is in place. Steven James Spencer you are now and forever my hero. My girls will remember their Grandad always and I will always carry my loving, supporting, curmudgeonly father in my heart. You are my hero. xxx

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Pallid Party

Pallid Harrier had the biggest hex on me from the British list as I missed them, dipped them and generally avoided them but their ongoing spread as a passage migrant meant this couldn't last forever and I have duly seen the wintering bird at Welwick. Through work I am in the privileged position of seeing plenty of Hen Harriers and the boyant nature and driving flight combined for a very different flight action. I arrived at Welwick this morning at 08.15 which is generally the time the bird leaves roost. It had just emerged when I got there and it showed wonderfully, chasing Redshank and floating between posts. As time moved on it wandered over a larger area and occasionally went over onto Patrington Haven. In fact I still think that viewing from the Pumphouse is the best option for close views.

Other birds of interest included a female Merlin, a couple of Peregrines, a Sparrowhawk, a male Marsh Harrier and a plethora of waders and farmland passerines. A candidate Water Pipit called and dropped into the marsh but views on the deck weren't managed.

Not the greatest selection of photos from the gloom but it was all a bit beyond the reach of my cameras in the dark... It was number 312 for Yorkshire which is starting to look respectable.

Ornithological Idiocy

How brains and birds become mutually exclusive