Tuesday 22 December 2009

Snow and Fun

Snow is always a good looking thing. Here 8 inches over the weekend, a series of closed roads and -9 celsius make for fun. Today despite this we headed to York. A total of 120 miles driven back and forward but about 7 hours of driving. Most of it crap but in the initial traversing of the Yorkshire Wolds a Red Kite was hunting for carrion over a snow bound field with a Redwing acting like a Robin, sitting on a mound of snow, investigating the seeds entombed below. So confiding it was untrue. The Blackbird was in my garden yesterday. Gorgeous.

Saturday 5 December 2009

Ferruginous Fun

I attempted my first twitch with Isabelle in tow today. We set off for Pugney's at 11am - a more relaxed attitude needed now. We arrived at the site around half 12. A fly-over Cormorant was one of the first birds seen. Not a lot going on until we reached the nature reserve - it takes time with all the bags and stuff. The Fudge duck was right in front of the hide fast asleep before it had a dig at a Pochard. After this its eye kept opening and closing showing how white it was. The hide filled rapidly with the great and the good of Yorkshire birding so I exited before Izzy started screaming. No Bitterns or Cetti's but a much welcome first lifer in nearly three months. We can work with this birding & baby lark...

P.s. thanks to the birders in the hide for being accomadating when I exited.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Saturday 28 November 2009

Sealed with a Miss

Took the family to see the seals at Donna Nook last Sunday and my wife was like a different creature - oohhhing and aahhhing all over the shot and taking so many photos its not true (they will feature in a follow up). Big numbers of Brent Geese were knocking about with a few distant waders. I didnt get a handle on any of the pale-bellied birds but no worries. After an hour of staring at the seals we jumped in the car to avoid getting soaked. It was then the apocalypse occurred. The rain was mental.

The second destination was Saltfleetby where a small party of Shorelark were associating with Twite and Snobs. After heading to the wrong brickyard lane in the vicinity I eventually found the place I wanted. En route a Weasel crossed the road in front of us.

It was still monsoon like when we pulled up so Angela and Isabelle stayed in the car whilst I got wet. As I walked to the end of Brickyard lane another Weasel crossed my path. Magic. The beach was grey but filled with passerines. A handful of super sum plum male Snow Buntings were dotted amongst the hundred or so present. Among these were the inobtrusive but more numerous Twite - about 150. I searched through this flock for 30 minutes or so and scanned across the saltmarsh but no sign of the Shorelarks. I decided not to leave my girls in the car too long and headed back only to be given a nice bonus - 6 Whoopers migrating south. Very nice.

A post-script to this is the shorelarks were seen laterly and not by me. Grrr.

Thursday 12 November 2009


Paid a flying visit to bank island, Wheldrake as my wife visited a friend in the village. Was very successful with 2 Whoopers the highlight. Also 10 or so male Pintail, a couple of Jays, Sprawk, 2 Kestrels and various other bits and pieces made for an entertaining time.

Monday 9 November 2009

Red Rooster

On my way home today I paid my first visit to the wolds Red Kite roost. Upon arrival 2 birds were up with two trios in distant trees. At least12 were seen descending into the roost but im pretty sure i missed some of the early entrants as they were already headed in when i arrived. Along with the kites I had a very vocal Kestrel harrassing an incredibly white Barn Owl in the gloom. Will definitely be back.

Sunday 8 November 2009


BF meet in Filey today was billed as the big November extravaganza but sadly it failed to live up to expectations. An early Peregrine en route was nice and 6 Snobs (a single and a 5) were expected fayre even if they were cute. A very confiding Kingfisher at Filey dams was great but to be honest everything else was standard, scoter, r-t diver and gannet. Bit of a shame really but I had a great time was had with good company and ebirder was packed on his merry way to Inverness. Michael Flowers has done a far superior write-up on his blog - check it out.

p.s. just booked a week in the highlands for 2nd weekof jan. Mint.

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Skiiving my duties

A dank, wet and windy morning on Saturday soon put paid to our ringing with the sensible decision to close the nets taken unanimously after two hours and a retrapped wren. A Concensus was made to decamp to Bempton in order tosee the Red-flanked Bluetail that had taken up temporary residence beside the feeding station. This was merely a year tick for me having seen the corking 2007 bird in Old Fall at Flamborough but it would be a first BOU rare for will aged 9 and Graham, Will's dad. Graham had previously missed Bluetails on there breeding ground so this would be some form of catharsis. Fortunately the bird was showing like a gem at about 5m range when we arrived on low branches and then feeding in the leaves like its commoner red-breasted cousin. It was quite confiding but some dickheads decided they wanted to be at one with the bird and promptly flushed it deeeper in to the plantation when the started edging in. Why? Bloody photographers. BTW thanks for the shots Paul Reed. Also BTW he wasnt the flusher. We quickly moved on to look for the RB Shrike that has been a field or two north but it was sensibly hunkered down in the high winds. Graham had to get away to domestic bliss so I decided to truely abuse my pass out by seeing the Dusky warbler at North Landing. It'd be rude not too. My previous with this species involved a particularly skulky bird in Easington in 2007. All i saw was an eyestripe that went 'TACK' moving through the hedge. This bird as to prove a little better with out in the open views and soft calling. Radde's and Chiffy were duly eliminated and 3 or 4 brief views over a forty minute period pieced it all together. Im chuffed I went to see this educational bird. Back to the baby afterward though...

Thursday 22 October 2009

Eastern Crowned Warbler - Whitburn

WOAH!!!! Just come out on BF. 1st for Britain. Chances of getting there slim. Heres a link to the pic

Eastern Crowned Warbler

Sunday 18 October 2009

Day Release

Got allowed out for 4 hours today so hit the geadland at Flamborough. Gave south landing a good workout but it only produced a handful of 'eastern' abietinus type Chiffchaff plus a nice variety of turdus. The beach produced a Mipit amongst the Rockits. Also 3 Barwits and a distant duck sp. Hmm. Not really the quality id hope for. Moved onto old fall where further eastern Chiffers were supported by an acredula type Willow Warbler. A Clouded Yellow was a butterfly lifer. Just as i went to leave a male Ring Ouzel flushed from the plantation into the hedge. Which was nice. The strange Ladybird was not one id seen before -- is it a Harlequin?

Sunday 11 October 2009

Escape to the Country (Park)

As I have been snowed under with my newborn daughter things life-related and specifically bird related have taken somewhat a back seat. This morning I was given permission to join Filey ringing group at the commencement of their ringing week.
An early start saw a soaking wet male Merlin puffed up near the Dotterel pub, Reighton looking thoroughly miserable. Probably wondering if Norway was drier.

I arrived at Filey CP just after 8 and there were already two birds to ring. Sadly I got the male chaffinch whilst the potential ringing tick of a 3F Brambling was taken by somebody else. Not long after my trainer, Graham arrived with his family en masse.
We were quickly into the rounds as vizmig kicked off. Large numbers of Redwing, Song Thrush and Blackbird poured overhead with a distant Jay a site tick for several people (not me as i failed to get onto it). The first round brought in many blackbirds and gold/greenfinches. The star bird of the round was a 1st winter Black Redstart - a year tick for me but sadly I was not the only person who needed this as a ringing tick. I did get the Brambling ringing tick I'd hoped for with a very white rumped 3 female.
Another round produced a sandy, concolourous Lesser Whitethroat which biometrics showed as a probable halimodendri - aka Steppe Lesser Whitethroat. A super little bird which stayed high in the canopy - a good sign along with its stronger bill that it wasn't minula.
Reports of a Yellow-browed Warbler knocking about raised expectation and a Ring Ouzel overflew with Blackbirds chacking away. A nice year tick. Sadly I had to disappear fairly rapidly as lunchtime approached. A Redwing hit the nets but again another ringer needed this as a tick. I got really into the ageing and sexing of Greenfinches and blackbirds and some proper good birds were seen.
As a postscript I got a mildly gripping text from Graham saying that the YB Warbler had been trapped in the afternoon with a photo duly emailed. Doh. Hopefully heading down on Tuesday morning all being well.
p.p.s. Heres a gratuitous photo of my daughter.

Saturday 3 October 2009

Monday 28 September 2009

V for Vendetta

I have rage in my heart and murder in my blood. There were twelve of them, evil to the core. I snapped. I didn't know this inner animal existed but it does. Those rats better beware.
I know its been a quiet week on the idiocy and for that I apologise. There have been zero decent birds that are still within a two hour trip to hull royal infirmary via home. I have moved my feeders up to the bay window in the dining room to discourage the four rats that started visiting. Sadly this merely meant a dozen appeared strewn across the garden. Some snooping proved that they are breeding underneath next doors decking. Drastic action was called for when one made a halfhearted attempt to investigate the patio door. Repeated threats to buy an air rifle soon bore witness to the economic amswer - two slightly shit rat traps. So far they have been set of six times, with two definite hits. One stunned the rat and in all likelyhood it crawled off to die. The other, well you can see in the photo. Sadly the better of the two traps has only been triggered twice. I dont like, endorse or enjoy killing but I cant have rats in my house and that is the likely next step.
Birdwise my last week has again been quiet - on my feeder a Coal Tit has become semi regular and a poecile titvisited once but I only got on to it as it skitted off (was thinking the coal tit looked warm colored and then when it flew off it showed no white nape). Maybe next time. Had a Hobby over my parents garden attacking hirundines which my parents have subsequently seen 4 or 5 times.
Also no baby although 3 hours in Hull Royal yesterday was dull. But thems the breaks. Peace out.

Sunday 20 September 2009

Hey Ratty

My wife is very Ratty at the moment. She is over 39 weeks pregnant and just wants 'it' out. This (funnily enough) has a knock on effect on my birding. Im not allowed to Spurn as it would take too long to get back from there if/when it all kicks off. So several lifers over the last two days have been ignored. Instead this morning I slept in and shot off to Tophill Low to check out the report of two female/juv Yank Wigeon. No sign so I gave the reservoirs a scan - lots of Great Crested Grebes, a flyover Greenshank and 4 Buzzard were the sum total. And a severe dissing of Ringing at Tophill Low by a few people. Can I say here (and I will repeat on the ringing blog) Ringing at Tophill Low is NOT affiliated with the Hull Valley Wildlife Group. Also if you have any issues with the the ringing blog please leave a comment on the blog. The children involved are handling birds legally under strict supervision and have been around ringing since they were toddlers.

On another note - my wife and I went for a stroll this evening around the village and found 2 Water Voles whilst crossing the village beck. Very close and confiding and we didnt need bins. Amazing. Still no baby.

Also thanks to Michael Flowers for the

pictures of the Water Voles

Friday 18 September 2009

300 UK - Leach's Petrel

Went for a seawatch yesterday and two of these went past. This was inceidently my 300th british bird. Not bad for a relative beginner birdwatcher as I was recently told by the glitterati. Wanker. For the record its just over 5 years since I started birding (June 2004).

Sorry for the thieving of a picture - if you took it and object I will remove.

Wednesday 16 September 2009


Im aware that this blog appears on other feeds so ive used the accepted abbreviation in the title but here in the body of text no such luck on the censorship front


Imagine what goes through your head when your seawatching in North Kent and this goes past



Tuesday 15 September 2009


Ive never really subscribed to the Hobby as Swift-alike thing. The only time I called swifts as hobbies or vice versa was before id seen many(any) Hobbies. Today left me somewhat surprised. I was toddling to work through a village called Fridaythorpe cursing the cheek of the coppers as they hid there car and camera trying to catch speeders on my commute (i spotted em thankfully), when whoosh a bird flies low through the hirundines and a couple of feet over the car. My thought process went Swift...white belly...alpine swift...too big, tail too long..Hobby?..ah, of course. It was the plunging psi shape that made it look like a swift and I get it now.

Monday 14 September 2009


In homage to the two birds of note today here is the Rednex.

P.s. Twitched the Red-necked Phalarope (lifer) at Hornsea and found a Red-necked Grebe at the same site. Must be a portent to listening to this aural genius.

Sunday 13 September 2009

Birdforum meet, Sat 12th September

The annual birdforum Yorks chapter embarkment of the good ship 'Yorkshire Belle' to do some spotting of Skuas Shearwaters and the like was undertook yesterday. Attended by Graham (Bitterntwisted), Keith (Keith Dickinson), Paul (Doc Reed), Pete (Pete Mella), Marcus (Marcus Conway-eBirder), Mike (Skink1978), Jim (James Thomas), John (birdieboy123), Rob (Zatcatzooba), Michael (Birdflower) & Mark (Knocker7800), as well as my good self we had some form to live up to - Great Shearwater (2007) & Amur Falcon (2008). Thankfully this was easily achieved with many delightful spots.

I decided upon and early and slightly fruitless start at Old Fall on Flamborough Head where a large gull flock contained nothing unusual and interest was maintained by overhead Snipe, Grey Wagtail plus Kestrel and Chiffchaff in the plantation itself. My malaise was broken by a text from Marcus which told me id started in the wrong place - Barred Warbler in Bay Brambles, a self find for him. Nice (i didnt tell him it was surely just the bird from two days ago :) ).

Too late to take a peek, I headed for the harbour to see millions of birders milling. There was only one thing for it a McMultiNationalConglomerate breakfast. Boarding the boat i noted a lack of seats and was stuck with suboptimal viewing - how dare they? The Great Shearwater finder an all that... I'd show 'em.

The journey out of the harbour was uneventful in the least as a couple of Sarnie Terns livened up procedings. A brief Arctic Skua was seen by a few. A string of very distant shearwaters was led by what I felt to be a Balearic but it was too distant to be sure. It had the jizz of a Manxie rather than the leaden flight action of a sooty but didnt flash white as it banked. It was at a very long distance, perhaps over a mile (the sea was very flat) and partially silhouetted so a probable is all it can be. Little was happening save a string of Teal which passed over the boat. Several more Manxies went past including a very close individual giving my best ever views of this species. A Bonxie gave some unsatisfactory views.

My attention was waning with Porpoise and Grey Seal providing the most interest then suddenly, BLAMMO...I spot a whale spout, very thin and high (10 foot or so) and I notify everyone with my foghorn voice. A couple of others get onto another blow this time a little bushier. The whale just seems to sink but it was very dark coloured. Initially everyone celebrates a Minke but Marcus has reservations. He didnt see this beast but he has seen Minke before and he said there blows are low and bushy and perhaps it is something else. A postscript to this is that a Humpback was seen today from the seawatch and also breaching and it seems this is the species involved as the blow fits the desription. Delighted!

Nothing much else is seen on the cruise but after a reinvigorating battered offal in the shape of a penis and woefully anaemic fried carbohydrate storing tubers we hit the head. South Landing had some limitations in terms of birds. There werent any. Actually thats a slight lie - one Pied Fly (not seen by me), one Treecreeper (not seen by me), one Whimbrel, one Bar-tailed Godwit and TWO Dunlin were our rewards. Slightly more enticing was the Barred Warbler that was showing itself in Bay Brambles (which means Marcus wasnt lying, rats). We quickly arrived at the Head en masse to the showest Barred Warbler EVER. Included is a 'record shot' by Marcus and a proper record shot by myself in which it transforms into a Whitethroat. The only way I am sure they are the same bird is the undertail barring although to be fair that might be photographic effect on my effort. Also a new latest Swift record was overhead plus a Whinchat on the brambles.
Leaving Marcus to acquire some nice shots of the warbler we left and hit old fall for little return. As we went to walk on Marcus phoned a report of an Osprey through - and Paul picked it up as it sailed overhead. Views were prolonged as the bird decided where to go once it hit the south edge of the cape before it headed strongly in the direction of Hornsea. Not amazing views but a great bird. Walking around the stubble fields added Wheatear, Linnet and Stonechat.
A final assemblage at the car park led to nice views of Whinchat and Stonechat whilst Graham managed to get most of us onto 2 Bonxies headed north. We were 1/4 mile from the sea. Amazing spot. Several people headed to Filey but I five intrepid souls had a 15 minute seawatch which produced a flyover Greenshank, a mixed flock of Barwits, Whimbrel and Curlew plus a juv Arctic Skua. My first of the day.
Thanks to the aforementioned Mr Conway for the use of his pictures. Can you guess which are his?

Badger Badger Badger

As im waiting for some pictures to illustrate yesterdays day out on the Yorkshire Belle here is a little pick me up for those that dont know


Thursday 10 September 2009

Barred Attitude

A Barred Warbler (drift migrant alert!) was at Flamborough this afternoon, as apparently was the Ortolan again. Sadly I managed a 5 second distant view of the Barred across the gorse field but picked out no field marks other than it was a large brownish warbler. No undertail barring, no comparitive size. Nothing. What I did manage were 2 Whinchats, loads of Stonechats, a Curlew and cold arms.

Conditions looking crap for the cruise on saturday - light easterlies which should ruin the seabirds and no precipitation which should put paid to the land based stuff. Grrr.

Sunday 6 September 2009

Double lifer!

Managed to get two UK ticks before quarter to eight this morning. A delightful start to a seawatch at Flamborough came when it was announced a Hobby was coming in off - working on a silhouette I was seriously impressed by the salty seadogs skills. Not long after another couple of regulars rolled up at the seawatching point on the head and relayed the news that the Ortolan was showing well on the path. I raced up to the cliff top and quickly got some decent views of this scarce European visitor. In the early morning sun the lemony wash showed nice and clear.

Returning to my seat on the cliff I noticed I had been relegated to the upper tier. Not too worry. Soon an Arctic Skua goes through followed by a Sooty Shearwater. Then a cry goes up from somebody - Ive got a large Shearwater. In my head all I could think was - dont be a great, dont be a great. It wasn't - it was a Cory's, slowly doing large loops in calm conditions, on show for a couple of minutes. It was 7.35 and I had two lifers under my belt already.

Soon after a Red-necked Grebe hammered through as did a number of Red-throated Divers. Large numbers of BH Gull were filtering past and amongst them were a couple of meds. A number of Common Scoter dribbled past with a largest group of 13. Grey Wagtail passed overhead calling and a Whimbrel nearly joined us on the watchpoint.

By 9 am it had all slowed down immensely and I could relax. A few Bonxies filtered by as did the odd Manxie but it was pretty rubbish so I tried for the Ortolan again but this proved harder to pin down and Mike had arrived guarenteeing we would see a thing. We didnt but just as we were leaving a Hobby gave great prolonged views as it worked across the headland. Magic.

Friday 4 September 2009


Went seawatching (again!?!) at Flamboro for a few hours before work. Pretty productive including a Yorkshire tick. A self-found Balearic just after 9 marked the end of a steady run of Manxies (c150) in just over 2 hours. Also 6 sooties in there (inc a self found). Very good numbers of the commoner Skuas - c35 Arctics and c20 Bonxies - although I failed with most of the first 10. Other bits and bats included a Swift, 2 Red-throated Diver, Tree Pipit, Greenshank, 10 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Knot, 4 Common Scoter and a couple of juv Wigeon. No real stunner in the seawatch but solid none the less. Mammals weere represented by a couple of porpoise and a few Grey Seals.

Thursday 3 September 2009


Grabbed a quick/wet/cold seawatch at flamboro head this evening between 17.40 - 19.00. A few interesting bits. 2 Arctics including a pale phase I picked up. I managed to see 1 Sooty briefly and distantly yet missed the closer bird. Also managed to miss a couple of Little Terns that went past. A steady stream of Manx Shearwaters contained a Balearic just as I was leaving but I couldnt find it in the rain and mist. Ne'ermind. A few commics went past. Over the land 3 Swifts were about and a Whinchat was lonely on a fencepost - some evidence of passage! A party of recently fledged Stonechat in Bay Brambles reminded that autumn on land is only just getting underway.

The most impressive thing of all was the entrance I made - sliding down the cliff face infront of the various seawatching luminaries of flamboro.

Monday 31 August 2009


I spent a couple of hours seawatching from Flamborough Head this morning. It was pretty unrewarding with only 1 Bonxie, 3 Manxies, 3 Arctics, 5 Sandwich Terns and 4 Common Terns plus single Curlew and Common Scoter. I gave up just before midday and gave old fall a hit. 5 Wheatear, 2 Willow Warbler and a melanistic Swallow were the return. A large group of gulls failed to produce anything of note.

Back in the village this evening I was surprised to see a Swift going to roost in one of the roofs with a further 2 circling above - I keep setting new personal latest Swift records.

Sunday 30 August 2009

Happy families

I was persuaded by my loving wife to drop any pretensions of going birding today to instead go for a walk on the beach. Immediately I suggested that Barmston would be a good idea as it would not be as busy as Fraisthorpe - her destination of choice. Obviously the better birding on offer at Barmston had nothing to do with my reasoning but I did take my bins just in case. I forgot my camera sadly and left my phone in the car so I cant provide you with an image of the female flava wagatail that was associating with the subadult Pied's on the cliff-top. It showed down to a couple of feet and seemed likely to be a Blue-headed but ruling out thunbergii (or anything else) would be impossible on my limited knowledge.

Also seen offshore were a small group of feeding Sandwich Terns and a handful of Cormorants.

Pretty quickly my wife, who now approximates a small country in surface area (due to pregnancy), needed to pee so we returned to the car. I suggested Hornsea Mere as the next port of call and my wife agreed so long as we visited Hornsea Chavport first. After an hour of looking at cheap crap and being aurally assualted by sub-human shaved monkeys we headed on to the mere. Very little doing save for a couple of huddled juvie Dunlin. No sign of the Egret or of any Little Gulls/Terns/Ospreys/Garganey etc. Angela needed to wee (for the fourth time) so we set off for my parents abode. Im just chuffed i managed to con a bit of birding out of my wife!

Friday 28 August 2009

Swift Return

Shot back to Hornsea Mere before work hoping for a second chance at the White-winged Black Tern. Instead - total failure on that score but I had a pleasant jaunt along the southern shore with John Sadler (sans half a finger) and Michael Flowers. We managed a few nice sights. A very late Swift was hawking with hirundines and a Hobby was seen zipping through. Infact the hirundines all stopped ffeding and flew very high about 30 seconds before the Hobby went through and we all commented how it must be a hobby and low and behold... A nice passerine in the form of a Whinchat was a quality migrant to add. moulting Common Tern was the next highlight but that was about that as we trotted off to avoid the rain. Unsuccessfully.

Thursday 27 August 2009

Great White Hope

Hope is one of those things that drives you on as a birder. Never real belief but hope - definitly. But Great White Egret was different - I always believed that one would turn up close to home so i didnt have to bother with a proper twitch. Well it finally happened - a slightly distant individual at the west end of Hornsea Mere after dipping the one at Tophill 2 years ago and not going for the Swilly bird (cant believe I didnt realise how close it was when I saw the fairburn Cattle Egret). Anyway a successful visit with added Marsh Harrier (x 2), Buzzard, male Sprawk, GSW and plenty of gulls and hirundines. Sadly I missed the Osprey which was round the lake and a juv WW Black Tern which turned up late doors which was gutting as it would have been a lifer. Going to head down early tomorrow for a look. A UK lifer which puts me on 296 UK & 267 Yorkshire.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

eBirder hits the hebs

Long-time collaberator eBirder (Marcus Conway) is leading a tour to Mull next May for a variety of nature watching and photgraphy. Find the full details in the link below:

With accomadation, travel from Oban and on Mull as well as ferries to Iona and the Trenish isles included a price of £895 is very reasonable as Marcus includes his personal photgraphy tuition to help you produce a few shots like those below. Marcus has been to Mull several times including as part of our legendary highland fling, although no doubt this trip will be a more sedate pace. You will see all the sights of Mull and learn something about nature and photography from an outstanding naturalist.


Today is a definite liquorice day - theres all sorts to talk about. Lets start at the beginning - went to Gourmet Burger Kitchen in York last night to see a couple of mates. Nice food(in fact ridiculous burgers with garlic, mayo, bacon, avacado, beetroot, relish, lots of beef and a bit of lettuce) and excedingly good company. On the way home we were ascending Garrowby Hill when it finally happened - I saw a non-deceased badger. Some nifthy driving by my wife ensured it stayed that way as a lovely adult crossed the road leisurely. Elated we drove home. An inevitable spot eventually as I regularly see roadkill in the same place. This was my wife and I's first ever badger so all round smiles.

Today I have been mostly assembling the nursery which is coming on leaps and bounds as you can just about make out.

Spurs won in the Carling cup by lots which always pleases me and on a more birdy note there is a Great White Egret at Hornsea Mere so lets hope I can get rid of a bit of a tart (and get a better look at the Osprey). Autumn is definitely here...

Monday 24 August 2009

Tick amongst other things

Here are a few pictures from ringing on saturday.

Yesterday I went to a Barbeque at Wheldrake and saw a couple of Swifts and i think these are my latest ever in the UK (23rd August). Pretty cool anyhow. Other than that it was a bit of a brain deadener as pregnant women bladdered on and bored men drank beer to blot out their meaningless and depressing lives, further ruined by the fact we were all missing the finale to the ashes, Spurs winning and the formula 1. And there was no 3G reception.

To make up for this today on returning from another day at the coal face I went to see the osprey at Hornsea Mere and whilst I did see it, you needed ESP to enjoy the bird at what must have been 1.5 miles distance. More rewarding were the 8 Little Gulls which suddenly mushroomed into 100 or so and were ever increasing in number dip feeding away.
Thoughtid take a pic of the view which contained the osprey - imagine a dot in the sky on the left hand side and you get the idea. Also a typical mutant goose.

Saturday 22 August 2009


Got up at the crack of dawn to yawn lots and catch a few birds at Tophill. Got several ringing and extraction ticks including Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Woodpigeon, Song Thrush, Whitethroat and Willow Warbler. No retraps but a corking morning and warm sun. Also a couple of Grass Snakes seen and an Osprey missed. A Black-tailed Godwit gave a brief fly-by.

Friday 21 August 2009

Ringing at Tophill Low

The ringing group come into being in 6 hours (ergh! need some fecking sleep!). Please note the homepage/blog for updates of ringing at Tophill, catches, photos and hopefully the aquatic warbler which is going to hit the net ;) Not a lot on the site at the moment but will have lots of inhand photos and details of tomorrows catch by sunday. Any bird obs, wildlife or ringing groups that want some reciprocal linking get in touch - it would be much appreciated.

Tuesday 18 August 2009


That is the colour of the flava wagtails head that shot off from the lock-up west of Nafferton whilst I was commuting home. Not seen a male before - seen presumed females and a distant channel wag so a very nice find in my own village. Also a few knocking about at Spurn so presumably a wide and thin arrival filtering south. When I went back I could only find bog standard flavissima and females at that.

Also today we had our ante-natal class - after the weekends fright only to be told that the baby is 5lb already we were ready for it and we now know the score for the real thing. Hopefully it stays put for another three weeks but we will be happy either way. Luckily you dont have to do the breathing exercises anymore. Oh and I finished the nursery - will get a pic on here when the border is on and the furniture is in. Not that you care!

Friday 14 August 2009

All quiet

Had a few problems with my wifes pregnancy today so we have to go for an emergency scan on monday and the baby may have to be born next week. Bit of a nightmare but perhaps baby spencer may arrive 6 weeks early. In any case may be limited blogging over the next few weeks but i will keep all updated and there will be zillions of photos should the baby arrive early.

Wednesday 12 August 2009

Tophill. Dead quiet.

Went to tophill to lend my dissertation to the warden (it was based on teal behaviour on the reserve). Had a wander round and it was QUIET. Not a single wader save for the lapwings. Not a passerine. Nothing. No little egrets. Nevermind, there were plenty of butterflies ( i did try and take some photos but they were all blurry and i know you read this for the intellectual commentry rather than the trivial photos).

Sunday 9 August 2009

No Shags in Benidorm - Alicante Province, Spain 23rd July - 7th August 2009

With my wife being pregnant we decided to make a short haul trip for our fortnight somewhere warm and thus opted for Spain where we stayed with relatives near Torrevieja, Alicante. The villa we stayed in backed onto a major wetland nature reserve called La Mata, a large ex salt extraction lagoon. I managed to hit this pretty hard over the first few days. I also spent the 27th July with Jules Sykes, a bird guide who covers Alicante province. During the entire trip I managed 12 lifers and best ever views of a number of other species. Due to a strange shortage of hire cars I we didnt manage to hire one but we did have occasional use of my wifes aunts car.

Arriving at Alicante airport o the 23rd many Pallid Swifts overflew and Santa Pola salinas produced a few Little Egret, Whiskered Tern, Flamingo & Black-winged Stilt. Ah - was back in the med. It was however the hottest day we had at 42 celcius and we retired to the villa for the evening. The lack of aircon in the villa led to one of the most uncomfortable nights sleep i have ever had.

Rising early on the 24th I decided to give La Mata a darn good thrashing and was quickly rewarded with a Red-rumped Swallow flying round me in circles hawking for insects. Previously I have dipped these birds frequently and have only had a brief flypast further up the coast at Santa Pola. I soon found out that post breeding dispersal brings good numbers of Bee-eaters to La Mata as the familiar vrrt-vrrt call rang out. Infact we had a number from the swimming pool later in the week. Walking to the lake edge I reconnected with familiar species such as Sardinian Warbler, Woodchat & Southern Grey Shrikes. Galerida larks were abundant and over the week I found many pairs of crested and several pairs of Thekla Lark around La Mata. Many birds were down to genus only. A pseudo-lifer and potential armchair tick came in the form of Iberian Green Woodpecker - a flypast and usual view. I managed infinitely better views later in the week only to scare a juvenile off with my flash. Meandering down to the hide I saw several Swallowtail butterflies - sadly too fast for a photo but a near constant presence. A squadron of uvenile Spotless Starlings bombed past. Not as regular a site in August as in late spring although whether that is due to post-breeding dispersal or a general movement away from Torrevieja to breed im not sure. Every passerine I looked at seemed to be different and yet 9/10 times it was a House Sparrow - they are super common out there. At the hide a handful of passage waders were noted - a theme for the fortnight. Alongwith the expected horde of Kentish Plovers, a pair of sum plum Sanderling sat in full view whilst a pair of Turnstone - one in summer dress were further along the waters edge. Out on the lake a small proportion of the wintering Black-necked Grebes were out there with only 500 or so present (La Mata is the most significant wintering grounds for BN Grebe in western Europe with c4,000 present last March). The only other birds on the salina were Black-headed Gulls. Yawn. Another birder in the small hide pointed to a couple of Stone Curlew, a very definite lifer and significant tart removed. Earlier this spring I had visited Weeting Heath in Norfolk in order to lifetick Stone Curlew only to fail miserably so I was chuffed to find out these birds really did exist. As the morning heated up quickly I returned to base to tan and swim. And drink a little beer.

In the evening I went out for a brief walk which had a few Chlidonias Terns on the lake which I suspected were Whiskered Terns. Also flying over the scrubland were many Common Tern, a spanish tick and many Bee-eaters. A large roost was seen of Bee-eaters in the taller of the Stone Pines. Several gull species were seen roosting on the salina or overflying with Yellow-legged Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Slender-billed Gull & Audouin's Gull all putting in an appearance. Rather mundanely Blackbird, Shelduck and Collared Dove were added to the trip list. On returning to the villa a large lizard with a long whip like tail and raised front end shot across the path - seemingly a likely candidate for Spiny-fooed Lizard. A Sparrowhawk gave chase to a White Wagtail and the first of a few Hoopoes was flushed at my feet.

The 25th saw me trying to give the southern end of La Mata a good thrashing and produced little of note with Goldfinch the only trip tick on the way down. The southern hide provided a bit more interest with a Common Tern colony on the island in full view and many Little Terns resting amongst the Commons. Im not sure if they breed here. A couple of Red-legged Partridge ran across the saltmarsh and I picked out a lone Ringed Plover amongst its cogeners.

By the 26th I started to feel I had got to grips with most of what La Mata had to offer having spent around 10 hours pacing the paths over the previous two days. I decided to head to the northern end in the early evening and lok at the wader roost and reedbed. Sadly the access to the hide was closed but as I wandered up good numbers of the common waders were seen along with another Common Tern colony on an island in the lake. A large Yellow-legged Gull roost was seen with an all dark bird with orange undersides in amongst them wading in the shallows. Remarkably it was a juvenile Montagu's Harrier and its kin were sat higher up the saltmarsh - 2 brothers or sisters. The male soared across the mainroad at good height as rain started to fall on the hills. A magpie cackled unseen and a couple of Redshanks patrolled the edges of La Mata, further evidence of some wader passage.Feral pigeon and Spotted Flycatcher were duly added to the trip list. As I walked back I flushed an Iberian Green Woodie from a large area of grassy scrub with a single tree about 15 metres from myself and was treated to really good views of this distinctive form as it hit the tree, showing no black surrounding the eye. The bird proved to be a juvenile but was still very distinctive.

The 27th was a day I had been looking forward too for a very long time. I was to have a day tour with local bird guide Jules Sykes as my birthday/anniversary/graduation present. An early start gave me brief views of Red-necked Nightjar and after a brief misunderstanding we met up and were underway. Our first target was Rufous-tailed Scrub-Robin. A single bird was heard but it seems we were a fortnight or so too late. I hoped this wasnt a portent to the day. Jules didnt seem overly optomistic but we pushed on. Jules is a Yorkshireman gone native in northern Alicante province who leads tours across Europe and the World but who patches Pego marshes and has found some amazing birds in Spain. If you ever find yourself on the Costa Blanca make sure you get in touch with him - he is a vibrant personality and highly competent birder. He had only just returned to Oliva from Scotland where he had been surveying raptors with a mutual acquaintance with camera issues who i had seen just a few days earlier at the Collared Pratincole twitch in East Yorkshire.

We next headed to the Clot de Galvany which yielded a couple of lifers which were remarkable in their ease. A group of White-headed Ducks with a single male and a harem of 4 females sat tight on the water. These cute ruddy-alikes are rapidly increasing in Alicante and were close enough to your common or garden yank stiff-tail that any I see I will be examining in blighty for the Spaniard in the pack. munching through the reeds in the background were a couple of Purple Gallinule/Swamphens. A breeding pair of Little Ringed Plovers were noted along with a couple of passage Common Sanpipers. Pochard and Mallard lurked in the shallows along with Little Grebe and Moorhen and Coot. A Reed Warbler flicked through the reed stems. Moving round to the hide I had high hopes as a Little Owl perched atop a dead tree and 3 Turtle doves gave a flypast. At the hide BW Stilts were everywhere but most impressive was a Purple Gallinule sat in the open, seemingly oblivious to what was going on around it. Sadly it was camera sensitive and quickly hid. No Marbled Teal but there were more sites to explore. A swarm of Red-rumped Swallows descended as we moved off.

Next up was Santa Pola salinas, a large area of salt workings. Bird of the day for Jules was seen here with a couple of summering adult Cormorants, an extremely rare bird out of winter. Glossy Ibis crossed the road - a first for Spain for me with an assortment of Terns blasting about. Collared Pratincole hawked with the Whiskered Terns and then two larger terns started blasting through - they immediately reminded me of winter plumage Sandwich Terns but Jules quickly had them down as Gull-billed Terns, my fourth lifer of the day aand a real surprise. Apart from a few Grey Herons nothing else new was forth coming and we headed into El Hondo filled apparently with great birds and abundent prostitutes on every corner.

We soon found a few Rollers with excellent views of them feeding and a nest hole amonst date-palms. A couple of Green Sandpiper and 2 parties of Whimbrel told us autumn had reached the med, even if it was 37 degrees. El Hondo reserve provided us with Squacco Heron, brief flight views of a male Little Bittern a lifer for me and Great Reed Warbler. A probable Moustached Warbler hid after brief flight views whilst we were surrounded by the beautiful Plain Tiger butterflies, a close relative of the Monarch. Pushing on quickly we saw large numbers of Cattle Egrets in the surrounding fields. We were headed for the mountains.

"Whats that raptor?!" Jules hollared as we sped towards Crevillente. My immediate impression was Buzzard but Jules wasnt convinced and we made an emergency stop on a roundabout. A first summer rufous morph Booted Eagle was the actual id and it was most out of place as it meandered towards perhaps Cabo de Gata before crossing into north Africa. Very much a surprise and by far my best view of this species after a similar experience where i couldnt stop when a pale morph passed over the previous year. Up into the mountains we headed with the sound of Monk Parakeet ringing in our ears from Crevillente high stree- this species is Cat C in Spain and a legitimate addition to a life list but i really didnt care enough to look. Plastic fantastic alright. Onto the Sierra we headed and Thekla larks sang with gusto. Southern Grey Shrikes sat atop most bushes and Bee-eaters were over head. A largish bird disappeared over an escarpment but i felt it was a Raven rather than anything more interesting. 40 minutes later and no raptors had been seen when the Bee-eaters went nuts. Jules quickly called me and I got onto an adult Bonelli's Eagle, a bird i had missed several times at the very same spot. The bird disappearred within a few seconds never to reappear. We moved to lower elavations elated with our luck. Several Alpine Swifts dallied over the crags as we descended.

Moving back to El Hondo we tried for one of the primary targets for the day Marbled Duck. We were giving up when a dstant duck sheltering round a drain cover had a Pintail like jizz and dark eye-mask. It was the badger - a Marbled Duck and a quality bird. The lifers didn't stop there as Jules picked a number of Lesser Short-toed Larks up in flight and ran through the diagnostics with the most important feature the 'dzzryd' buzzy call. It is likely i had merely overlooked these birds throughout my trip but getting to grips with them was satisfying. The last site of the day gave up a wandering colony of Collared Pratincoles. I was delighted with how the day went and Jules was equally pleased and somewhat surprised. It just shows what Alicante can hold.

The 28th had us heading to Murcia and Mar Menor golf resort to see Angelas parents, sister and family. Little was seen of note. More productive was a trip to La Manga for Torrevieja FC (the local kick and run merchants) versus U.D. Almeria from La Liga managed by Hugo Sanchez. 5-0 was the score but La Manga is a corking place set in the hills of Almeria beneath a dammed river. A reservoir by the resort held a colony of Gull-billed Terns plus a few Little Egrets and masses of Hirundines. I was fortunate enough to catch a Red-rumped Swallow drinking from a puddle.

Over the next week I managed little birding time as real life intervened but a brief escape to try for the Rufous-tailed Bush-Robins ended in total failure with an illegal Spanish rave on the site which was then closed down by the police at 8am whilst I sat and pondered in the car with the road closed by the police. Fortuitously my bins and lack of spanish had me marked out as a non-raver and i was soon allowed to go. The Clot de Galvany provided little new save for a few Black Wheatear and Blue Rock Thrush on the escarpment above. Later that day I tried again with my wife in tow for the Bonelli's Eagles at Crevillente and soon found two adults perched doing nothing on the crags. After 40 minutes and the only movement coming from the unborn babies kicks to my wifes stomach we decided to leave when one Eagle flew. It gave the most spectacular display over the next ten minutes leaving even the devout non-birder speechless. A return to the crags hurried our departure to the beach at Guardamar.

The last couple of evenings in Spain saw me determined for a better view of the nightlife. Not in the grimey clubs but the nocturnal creatures of La Mata. Along the various paths beetles were on the prowl. Several types of bat were seen including large Noctule like ones, medium sized ones with large ears and small pipistrelles types. As i wandered I was unsurprised to see Nightjars moving about but a churring individual confused me - that was European Nightjar - as it turned out most of the 'jars were European but a large number were Red-necked, the predominant species in this area. A Barn Owl nearly took my hair off as it was mobbed by a Red-necked Nightjar and these two had a dogfight within spitting distance of my ears before the owl retreated to a bush. Stone Curlews flew overhead in screechy gangs and a couple of Scops Owls were heard only (must remember a spotlight next time!). As i made my way down to the lake on these nocturnal walks I kept an eye on the waders and several Curlew Sandpipers in full summer dress were adorning the shoreline. All very nice.
Here are a couple of photos I could do with a hand identifying - whilst both Galerida larks were seen this one looks quite intermediate with regards its bill. The second photo shows a lizard that thought I couldn't see it - I could but have no real idea what it is. Also seen of interest was Mediterranean Gecko in our villa kitchen most nights and a brown praying Mantis on the last evening (6th) on the drive after a successful quiz night.

How birds and brains become mutually exclusive

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