Wednesday 19 March 2008

New Scope. New Hope

Took delivery of my new scope - an opticron HR 66 45R with an 18-54x lens yesterday. Obviously I wanted to go test it out so off i toddled. Unfortunately it turned up later than I hoped so I stayed local, Noth Duffield Carrs followed by Wheldrake Ings.

Recently reported at North Duffield, a couple of Bewick's Swans with the resident Whooper herd. I found them nearly a mile south of the main road between NDC and Bubwith. Without the scope I would have been lost as the size difference was masked by the spread of the swans. Eventually I pulled out a couple of Bewick's from about 15 Whoopers and a umber of Mute's. At one stage I had 2 Bewick's, 4 Whoopers and a Mute Swan in the same scope view and a pretty cool illustration of differences it was too. the Bewick's was a year and Yorkshire tick for me, so I was well chuffed (hadn't seen one since 2004 - in Northumberland).

Also at North Duffield. Not a lot - good numbers of Pintail and Shoveller plus the usual finches and the like. A single Whooper stayed on the reserve and a flyover Collared Dove was a reserve tick. No Marsh Harriers present despite being in the area the previous week (probably migrants?). Some crap photos will be added asap! Discovered the new eyepiece isnt really digiscope friendly with the crappy compact but I hbad a bash. Also added to the reserve list (or overlooked previously) were Curlew and Common Gull. Must be an aberation. Was pretty cold at this point so I headed to Wheldrake to see what I could see.

At Wheldrake things never really got going, a mammal tick in the form of Roe Deer bolting across the Ings was as good as it got. The gulls didn't come in until late on, but along with Ingsbirder from BF a good grilling produced precisely no white-wingers, although a few LBBG of both graelsii and intermedius races were present. The Herring gulls had a few more nominate birds in but were still largely 'northern' type and as a whole the roost was much smaller with very few small gulls. A pair of Goldeneye were the highlights from a duck/goose/swan perspective. Winter thrushes chacked over the top but nothing else happened. Nice to get out mind.

Today I mostly bought the Leona Lewis single. Not for me. For the kids in my wifes class. Honest. The new Editors album was my purchase. And i thoroughly recommend it to those miserable bastards like me.

Monday 17 March 2008

Hello Ratty

A flying visit (a mere 3 hours) to Blacktoft sands began with a chat with the on duty assistant warden asking if there was much about. Apparently the Godwits cleared out early doors but there was a Water Vole being very obvious by the visitor centre. Had a look and bosh fantastic views! Much bigger than i had imagined. Mammal tick. As for birds the reserve haeld four marsh harriers, 2 females, a juv male and an adult male. saw a bit of talon grappling. My main reason for coming down was to year tick a few waders. At Xerox 9 spotshanks were showing very well and 6 were later seen to exit the reserve north west. Ot Ousefleet 32 Avocet paraded with 15 Curlew erupting out of the reeds to intercept a harrier. At one stage a Green Sand flew up out of the reeds flushing at the last minute from a harrier. that with the avopigs & spotshank were the 3 year ticks I was getting. I missed a flyover Bittern and the Blackwits but nevermind - they will be easier later on in the year. Apparently 3 Cetti's, minimum are on the reserve but i heard squat. Getting my new scope tomorrow and am off out to look for Firecrests and do some digiscoping tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

Thursday 13 March 2008


Had the afternnon off today after a corking shift at York Hospital this morning. Well it was good compared to yesterday when i got alcohol gel chucked in my eye (accidentally) by a colleague. Think alcohol mixed with soap. It burns. Anyway, scabby eyes apart, I decided to head down to Wheldrake for a few hours and see what I could see on the patch. Lots of thrushes on the reserve but no Mistle Thrush (over 100 sp. on my patch list & no MT). Fighting Song Thrush was the highlight as were some mixed flocks of winter thrushes. Other passerines were busy singing there heads off. No Poecile action but plenty of Lotti's and Bluti's. the Curlews were singing and display flighting everywhere. On the pool a couple of pairs of Goldeneye were gorgeous synchronised diving (males are scarce at Wheldrake for some reason but usually a few fems about). The Reed Buntings have returned in small numbers but no singing. A pair of Little Grebe building a nest were a good sight as I rarely see them on site. Went down to Swantail for the gull roost wich was most excellent. As water levels were low the birds were at the southern end of the reserve spilling onto the refuge. At least 3 Glaucous Gulls were present including one massive one that flew around the hide. All were immatures as was an Iceland Gull with an all black bill. Other interesting gulls (but beyond my ID abilities) were a Herring Gull with a glauc like bicolour bill and a bird I was convinced was a 1st-w Iceland Gull but which had a tiny amount of black in the primary tips (like a BHG). It had a very different pattern and build to the argentatus Herrings that were knocking about. Also big numbers of intermedius LBBG which are unusual in the roost. A sprinkling of graelsii were nice. On my tramp back I flushed 3 Jack Snipe including one bird that gave a nice silhouette against the darkening sky.

Tuesday 11 March 2008

She got legs (to the tune of ZZ Top)

Went up to Kildale this afternoon to have a shufty at the Rough-legged Buzzard. It was cold, very cold. Found the chevrons on my way back from Commondale - note you can only see em coming the otherway. Met another birder (a guy i'd met at the Brown Fly twitch). Discussed the bird and he said it favoured the ridge NNW of the viewing point. After a few minutes he spotted a Peregrine working the ridge. 3 other birders then pitched up. After 15 minutes or so with the Peregrine making occasional forays onto the skyline a bigger bird came up. I called it and quickly everybody got onto it. It dropped this side of the ridge and banked showing its white rump and pale underwings. Rough-leg. A Yorks tick for me. It came into a couple of hundred yards eventually and was attacked by a Stoat at one stage whenit attempted to alight. A very sandy bird it hoverred like a giant Kes. I lost it and then pulled it out up against the escarpment being mobbed by a gull. Saw the white rump when it turned but it seemed small and was in silhouette in the sky at about 1 miles distance. Then someone else picked he roughleg in close. I had a Hen Harrier-whoops! Velly nice though. A few Red Grouse flushed and Lapwing and Curlew displayed. The Buzzard continued to show extremely well moving to the valley NW of the viewpoint. By this time I was Frozen so home I headed, pleased to note another Yorkshire tick.

Monday 10 March 2008


Overslept today, so bang went the planned trip for Hawfinches. I bobbed my wifes phone into school, a quick trip of 20some miles! Tried for LEO and Little Owl at Fairburn en route but no luck (that Little Owl is an elusive bugger!). Headed from there to a top secret site in Yorkshire for Raven, duly seen and life ticked *chortle chortle* - no chance of Mike seeing that if I have anything to do with it. Also Green Woodpecker and GSW which were all very cute. Get home and get well and truely gripped by the report of a Cattle Egret at Wheldrake - good job I have one for Yorks and year otherwise i'd have cursed those giant crows!

Saturday 8 March 2008

Redpoll, Red eyes

You have just finished a punishing night shift. There is a Mealy Redpoll the other side of the city. You have already seen one before. And it was this year. In York. So in no way is this going to be a tick. Do you go? Of course you do. A bloody good study in bird I.D. it was too. In fact there were 2 Mealy Redpolls present in a flock of approximately 11 birds. These two birds were marginally bigger, had pale 'shoulders', paler less streaked flanks, Pale less streaked Undertail Coverts and looked marginally different than the much earthier Lesser Redpolls they were feeding with. Initially I thought I could see braces on the birds but that may have been delerium as I was post night shift. My identification was clinched (for me anyhow) when one of the birds flitted up into a tree with a Lesser Redpoll and they both flew, the lesser showing a brownish rump and the Mealy showing a pale streaked rump. Also from behind the ealy was much wider than the lesser although this feature was less obvious when the birds were on the deck. On the deck? yup, they fed like a small group of Snowb's rolling across the leaf litter under the alder trees between the university lake and the Biology department on the York Uni campus. Other stuff kicking about included a GC Grebe on the lake and numerious plastic wildfowl. I'm now going to retire to bed, cos I is tired. Night.

Thursday 6 March 2008

Pop Goes The Weasel

Had a trip out this afternoon in East Yorks. Was going raptor watching and very quickly had a distant Red Kite working a field. Walking along a stand of trees I saw loads of the usual woodland stuff including Song Thrush and Buzzard. The Kee-kee-kee gave away a male Kestrel and a female Bullfinch trumpeted her heart out. Best of all was a small mammal. A Weasel shot across the path and as I turned I noticed it was totally oblivious to me, working a narrow corridor of woodland, eating beetles and the like. It methodically worked its way along this corridor at a slow mooching pace (for me). The weasel was in and out of everything, backward and forward. Now I realise that my description are pretty lame but I cannot do justice to how brill this wee beastie was. The best bit was that it kept coming up to the edge of the copse and standing on its hind legs surveying what was about. It didnt notice me if I was stock still and regularly approached within 6 foot or so. At one stage it ran straight toward me and I could have touched it (if i wanted a nip). Brilliant.

Tuesday 4 March 2008


Nothing to do with birds today except in a very indirect way. I have been doing my personal survival training with Humberside Offshore Training (HOTA). And very good it was too, lots of lectures on how to deploy liferafts, lifeboats and how to wear a lifejacket. All very easy. And a corking pie and chips lunch. There were plenty of 'characters' present, guys off a seismic survey ship, a singer, a kids entertainer and some grunts from the Pride of Hull ferry who couldn't speak without swearing. Fuckers.

After lunch came the practical- I got togged up in my trackies and old tour T-shirt (Gran Canaria '01) - which were all blue for the chavs amongst you - and got into my survival suit. The first one restricted blood flow to my brain and I started cursing like a neaderthal, blessed as I am with a bit of bull neck. The next size up was less horrific and I got stuck in, swimming with no life jacket and jumping in from a height, all good fun. I soon discovered that my suit leaked and when on land I looked like the ex-girlfriend with clubfoot and swollen legs as the booties at the bottom prevented letting the water out. We then had to get in to a huddle and cuddle each other to keep warm. Fat ex-dockers aren't particularly cuddly but I managed and then had to right a flipped life-raft - one of the trickiest things I've ever done, clamber on top and lean back, getting smacked on the head by a raft, half drowning and coming up gasping. Loved it.

The final task was to string all this together in the dark and get sprayed with a cold hose with background nose of wind and thunder ringing. Upon getting into the life raft all 11 of us had various jobs - mine initially was to haul fat men from the water by any means possible with the only other lad that wasnt 18 stone and hungover. I must have arms of steel (well tinfoil) now! A worthwhile exercise all said and much more difficult than expected. On finishing the instructers pissed emselves looking at my swollen trouser legs, full of water and got me to lay on the floor whilst i was picked up by my feet as the water emptied round my ears. How everyone laughed. Apparently I'd have been stuck in the suit if they hadnt done that as the water would have formed a vacuum on attempting to struggle free.

P.S. the oblique reference to birds is I'm now fully insured to go bird surveying in Aberdeen (whats that I've already been? Hmm, I hope nobody works for IECs' insurers!). Rock on.

Monday 3 March 2008

Briefly Caving

Called in at North Cave today on the way home from uni. No great shakes but I got a site tick (well-overdue) in the form of Goosander. They were sat resting up on the Little Ring Plover islands, 1 male and 2 redheads. Perhaps the best views I've had of this species including the male just punting about.
Also present were a few large gulls amongst the Common's and Black-heads, including 4 intermedius LBBG's and an argentatus 1st winter. Also kicking about were a good number of Oycs and Lapwing. No sign of the 2 avopigs unfortunatly.

How birds and brains become mutually exclusive

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