Saturday 28 February 2009


Not sure what this is. Can any one Help?

Was able to help with the moth trap this morning. Now - I know nothing about moths so Ids are either wrong because I got confused or because I wasnt listening. The pics are tagged but if you know any different please let me know.

Tophill Gull Massive and other things

Yesterday I went to Tophill to do some more dissertation work - no interesting birds on Watton - the Smew were absent but I did see somewhere in the region of 50,000 Common Gulls and 10,000 BHGs (but only 2 1st winter Herrings in amongst em). Amazing. Today ive been volunteering and have seen a Siskin on the feeders, a Barn Owl on the drive, a handful of Hare, Redwing, singing Song Thrush, Red-legged Partridge and a pair of Goosander. Have been sticking nest box cameras up today. Hopefully Tree Sparrow and Spotted Fly. Also helped with the moth trap and will come to that after.

Thursday 26 February 2009

Grip Back

Today I had the pleasure of a quick gripback of a bit of a bogey. Last April the first King Eider in Yorkshire for 163 years appeared. Obviously I feared my chance of a county tick had gone. Fortunatly a first winter male appeared at the same location, Breil Nook, on Flamborough Head yesterday and I was able to get good views of this between 15.15 and 16.30 this afternoon. It hung about offshore wandering over about half a miles distanceeast west along the head, occasionally joining up with a pair of Common Eider. I grilled the female intently just in case and checked the male for sails (none) or strange bill colouring (bog standard) after reading Frontiers in Birding. The King Eider seemed pretty typical of a first winter with a uniform grey brown colour across the mantle, hindneck and crown with a dirty cream foreneck and breast and a plastacine like orangey-yellow bill without a significant knob. It dived occasionally but mostly steamed about on the surface. Viewing was hampered by a strong breeze but it came in close enough to appreciate its smaller size and build than the common eiders. It wingflapped at the same time as the female Common Eider showing a marginally shorter wing length but considerably narrower wings. Enclosed is a nasty record shot (windy, distant, poor technique, optics, ability etc) and a pic of the location.

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Sleepy tired

No birding sadly but have got right into my new copy of Frontiers in Birding by Martin Garner (& friends). Its a proper bird book with good stories, great politiking & some magic ID articles. Tonights night shift will be dedicated not to the care of my patients (note to lawyers - this isn't true, I will as always be the diligent super nurse of the night) but to finishing this superb addition to birding & ornithological literature. Buy it, it will inspire you.
Another book I have been reading ***PREGNANCY STORY ALERT**** has been Jon Smith's Blokes Guide To Pregnancy, which for a first timer like myself has been massively reassuring and illustrated all the strange feelings and beliefs I have had are held by most blokes everywhere. For all you veterans out there im sure there is a smug smile but due to the lack of bloke aimed pregnancy books (for good reason no doubt) I wanted to be sure my experience was 'normal'. All very reassurring and i can recommend it heartily.

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Springing to life

Back at tophill (not again i hear you say) this morning to be greeted by a wall of bird song. The snow drops have been on the go for a few weeks and the celandines are out. Song Thrush, Dunnock, Great Tit, Greenfinch and Chaffinch all singing away with Great Spots drumming and ducks displaying. It all felt very spring like. Had a Buzzard wheeling over O reservoir as well. A couple of reminders of winter persisted in the form of the two redhead Smew, with the female on Borrow Pits and the juv male looking super flameheaded on South Marsh East. Sadly no sign of the Bittern for me but I did manage a small party of Pinks headed over the car park. Also the Pochard are behaving like its time to get jiggy. My research went by the by as all but 7 of the 113 Teal on Borrow Pits were asleep and those seven were 6 males fighting over a female. Nevermind. Heres hoping for better on thursday when i head back.

Sunday 22 February 2009

The Rakes

Today was spent at Tophill as part of the volunteer gang. Was great weather and good company. We had to clear the banks of ditches of cut grass to enable the various Orchids to emerge over the spring and summer. We did this by raking piles and then loading the hay onto the tractor trailer. After this we broke up hay bales so that grass snakes could get into them. Believe it or not this filled the entire day. Interesting bits and pieces (all relative) were the return of the breeding Oystercatchers to South Marsh east. Also a Common Frog in the ditch was a rare site record where Pool/Marsh Frog hybrids predominate. A hybernating toad was dealt with sypathetically and placed back in the compost. At lunch the wings of a Tawny Owl were noted behind the shed. Couldnt be a mammal predator as one was in the tree so it was presumed that the Goshawk that was seen on the reserve last week was the culprit. On my way home a Barn Owl showed to 6 feet from the car in good light and a Sparrowhawk cruised over the fields. Tomorrow I have to do some dissertation fieldwork.

Saturday 21 February 2009

A Day of 3 Halves

Orginally today I was going for an amble about East Yorkshire prior to my appointment with the bacon at a speed conference but a Marcus Conway (eBirder) suggested joining him and Michael Flowers for some birding in the Patrington area whilst he searched for Barn Owls to photograph. All to keenly I accepted and an early meet of 6.30 was agreed.

Marcus met me at McDo's next to Comet in Hull and a swift brekkie was purchased. Marcus picked up Michael in East Hull 10 minutes later and we were soon looking at a Barn Owl on the way to Paull. I dropped my car at Paull Holme Strays and we started cruising the roads toward Stone Creek. c40 Roe Deer were seen plus a couple of very obliging Grey Partridge, as well as some less obliging Golden Plover, Hare a couple of Kestrels. Some Fieldfare were on some overhead wires. Curlew were seemingly everywhere. It was soon full daylight and very pleasant. Marcus picked a (very) distant Barn Owl on a post. Another was soon seen beside the road showing very well. We pushed on to Stone Creek where a lot of Knot were in the distance plus a few Shelduck and 3 Common Seal hauled up.

Time was pushing on and we headed back to my car so we could have a quick look at Paull Holme Strays. Black and Bar-tailed Godwit were soon self found year ticked with plenty of Sanderling, Dunlin, Lapwing and a couple of thousand Golden Plover. A skein of 100 or so Pink-feet were overhead, part of the large national movement. The time had come for me to head to my seminar which was very educational and worthwhile.

Afteran early finish I headed to Keyingham marshes seeing very little except what was perhaps Marcus and Michael headed back (unconfirmed at this point). Heading home the back way I chanced upon a few Grey Partridge, 2 Merlin and 2 Barn Owls. The Merlin both shot across in front of me near Brandesburton in the half light. Magic! Thanks guys for a great day.

Friday 20 February 2009

Fat Paul Scholes

Check out the linked blogspot blogs thing on the side for Mark Lewis's Blog - Fat Paul Scholes.


Well so much for the lack of something to say - just recorded my next new species for the garden. I thought filling up the niger seed feeder may bring something in an I was right - a male Siskin sat beside it. But it wasn't eating the niger seed. It was in fact gorging on the slightly stale slice of my neice's birthday cake with oodles of thick icing. Here are some crap and blurry images to provie a splash of colour.

RB Gulls

There have been a couple of cryptic reports of gulls that may or may not have been Ring-billed in East Yorks in the last week and im intrigued - as a relatively inexperienced birder in terms of years (est.2004) I cant really remember and Ring-billed records out this way. How regular are they?? Quite a few knocking about the country this winter - all the regulars plus a few new site regular birds. RBG is still a species which escapes me and I believe is nearing my most needed according to Bubo (save a handful of other bits of dross). Hmm.

Anyway major DIY works are starting at home (off my own back thank you - no sniggering). In order to manage to get a decent spring in am looking to move our office upstairs into the games room - reconvert that into a games room/study, change the old office into a study and then skip all the crap. Following this I have to seal the floor in the garage (super dusty!) and turn that into my workshop for the special project I have in mind for the summer months. I may update again on this topic but if i do that I will have to change the name of the blog to foetal idiocy or idiocybreeding.

Anywhoo - im sure you have ascertained that I had not a lot to post today but im trying to keep you, my readership interested and thus am rambling in the style of Gavin Haig, of Not Quite Scilly.

Wednesday 18 February 2009

High and Dry

A few days away and im deserted by you all! A drop of 50 places on the all important Fatbirder Top500 is killing me. I suppose I had better put some more stuff up here that is vaguely interesting to entice return visits. Sadly this post wont contain that sort of thing because if it did it would be lies and forgery, and that girls and boys, as we know is just plain wrong. What has happened is that ive become nocturnal again. Oh and my wife isnt ill any more. Thankfully. Oh and she had an emergency scan on Monday so I got to see my baby (Jeremiah Zebedee is the current favoured name) 4 weeks early. All is well fortunatly and the miracle of creation wowed me before I started thinking about Meiosis and Mitosis. Which is a good thing as i struggle with those at the best of times. Also I developed a siamese twin on my temple overnight(if your squimish join us in about 2 lines time). Took a hyperdermic to it last night and it looked like the texas chainsaw massacre as i lanced the bastard to death. Its now merely a shadow of its formerly body snatching glory thankfully. On the birds front, I now have regular House Sparrows on my feeders. Oh and apparently you have to suppress wintering urban Peregrines for fear of ... well im not really sure but i will be certain to not mention them. Check out Michael Flowers's blog (EY Birding) to find out why. Oh and I will put pictures on the blog as soon as I have the camera back from my wifes school. Cant promise quality but at least it will break up the monotony. Peace.

Saturday 14 February 2009

Gull-den Delicious

And that isn't the best of it. Today was one of the rare occasions I actually got round to going out birding as opposed to twitching a specific bird or being at Tophill Low! Headed up to Barmston for the morning (11ish) and ambling about found 100 or so RT Diver offshore. I went and pootled round the marsh producing a single Snipe, Skylark and a couple of Reed Bunts. Waderwise a few Sanderling were nice. Looking at the gulls in the distance, on seemed very white - it was the 2nd winter Glaucous Gull that had been knocking about for a couple of weeks. Sweet. Before i could get down there a bird shot across the marsh - bins up expecting a Curlew and a Short-eared Owl revealed itslef. A self found year tick no less. I then got myself within 30 yards of the Glonk and took a few photos on my phone (one of which i sent to Marcus to highlight my camera skills) but unfortunately without the power of Bluetooth on my computer i cant upload them. In bragging to my tutor I found out that he had just found a 1st winter (note not juvenile as birdguides put out) Iceland Gull in Scarborough Harbour (probably the bird from before christmas). I pushed off in that direction via Flamborough where i dipped the Hooded Crows at Danes Dyke for the 2nd time this year (after seeing one in Dec). Scarborough was busy and I saw one couple get engaged on the breakwater. Was actually really romantic. Offshore a couple of shag and not a lot else. No sign of the Iceland in the harbour so I went to get chips for my next assignment. Wandering back tot he car and I spotted a very long winged gull entering the harbour after a lobster boat. Result. The Iceland than sat on top of the harbour warehouse roof until I left. Very different bird to the Glonk from earlier. The last part of my mission involved heading up to Holbeck for my 3rd scarce white winger of the day. A single med gull duly performed briefly amongst the hundreds of BHGs. Very nice. And how you wonder did I manage this on valentines day? Well we postponed that until tomorrow due to Ange's illness when we are going walking (and looking for Hawfinch) at Millington pastures. Mint.

Thursday 12 February 2009

Snow Joke

Before we start may I just say I love snow, it makes me think of log fires and skiing but its starting to annoy me a little. For the umpteenth time today I went to Tophill to do some dissertation research and the Teal were all on the O res due to the weather. Rats! Right now im watching the snow come hurtling down endangering tomorrows uni and completely stopping any proper birding.
Oh and Ange is ill. Not fake ill but not serious ill either just worn down moany ill. Which is fun. And I have to provide sympathy and regular chocolate (which i have to try desperately hard not to eat myself) as she can't have anti-biotics or much else in the way of meds. So its fun fun fun in chez Spencer right now.
Anyway back to Tophill (because thats all I seem to do right now - so much for deciding not to have a locla patch). I, along with a couple of lecturers guided some second year ecology students around and was on hand to answer questions about how the site had been managed and shaped. 2 questions I was asked by them - do the ponds have fish in? and are there badgers? Quite how these relate to land management I'm not quite sure but hey ho. I tried to point out the management of the marshes and the snake piles but they were so obsessed with scooting on the ice pools that they idnt notice. The muncher is in at Tophill now though busy destroying the overgrown hawthorn and willow scrub, saving us volunteers much neeed work. Birdwise the reserve was very quiet with only a Brambling and Siskin noted.
Can I just ask you all to check out Marcus Conway's photo of the week on birdguides. You may or may not be familiar with this fellas work but my gosh his picture today is incredible - better than last years puffin, I cant hurl enough superlatives at it. Also a rather cute picture of some Snobs on his blog as well.
Also for those that don't know - it is the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth today so have a look at Buckton Birders latest post, a fitting appraisal of his life.

Monday 9 February 2009

Happy Birthday

I missed my own birthday yesterday. Ornithological Idiocy is 1! Ive inflicted a post every 3 days on my visitors and yet 6,100 odd visits have occurred. Ive enjoyed blogging and i hope occasionally there is an amusing or interesting post and i promise there will be less of the...and this week i went to Tophill low mundanity. I like the place but sheesh how many puns can i play on the name.


The Idiot

Guilty as Sin

Some of you may have caught the horrendous liability of a post I put up the other evening. Apologies if you did. I had, at the time consumed enough Chardonnay to stun a small manatee. Sadly it inflicted my mood and writings with an arrogance i never wish to repeat. Sorry. If you didnt catch it - you missed out on a laugh (at me). Not been birding much over the last few days - lots of uni and work, but did volunteer at Tophill. Ive tried to update the twitter feed reasonably regularly but as can be expected its more day to day stuff than birding (although birds are involved). For those of you that have signed up to Rarevine on Twitter (just follow Rarevine) thanks. You can join a growing grapevine of hopefully speedy news about rarebirds by following both rarevine and the people rarevine is following (not all the followers as some are not solely concerned with rare birds and spam will hit your feed). If you want to contribute signup with a rarebird dedicated account and i can follow you also so that your information will hit my feed and indicate to other people to follow you - id like to see more contributions (it all sounds difficult but its not honest).
Volunteered at Tophill yesterday and cut down and lugged more trees. No sign of the Firecrest but 3 Roe Deer on the way in were nice as was a Barn Owl over South Marsh west. Might try and take some photos of the York Waxwings tomorrow but we shall see.

Wednesday 4 February 2009


For those that are fully multimedia - i have just set up a twitter: OrnId, as its micro-blogging i have down scaled the name. Catch the feed. It may not be much but it is right now...

Tophill Snow

Only place in this part of the world undersnow is Tophill. Went up there to do my dissertation bit and the Borrowpits were under ice with no Teal (or other wildfowl) present. Had a blast round the reserve. D was mostly glazed and thus a single Pintail, female Ruddy Duck (formerly the largest pop in the country until they got DEFRA'd last week) & the juv male Smew doing circuits. The feeders held the same 2 Brambling and i managed to see one away from here on the meadow but i assume it was one of these birds. 6 or 7 Siskin flanked the road in the Alders and O' Reservoir had 3 Pintail. Not a great haul despite grilling all the ducks. Definitely no yanks hiding here! Also good to see Michael Flowers and his group.

Tuesday 3 February 2009

Agent Joyce revisited

Went to see Cowlam in the snow and very pretty it was too. Sadly only one owl and this was a Barn but floating over the snow it looked incredible. Other bits of interest were a couple of Roe Deer and a few Hares boxing. Not massively productive but a nice walk in lovely light.

Here are a couple of garden pics from the snow yesterday - not great as i was mostly doing my dissertation and it got whiter and busier.

Was still dark and pre-main flurry with the blackbird whilst the feeders are mid afternoon and well past the peak.

Monday 2 February 2009

Pregnancy Blog?

Sorry if this turns into a blog about the spawn of satan that my wife carries with her (i fully intend to keep a *mostly* birdy theme). Just a note to say that due date at the moment 26th September. Sadly the child will have one black mark against its name, aside from its lineage including me - its going to be born in Hull. Wife wasn't thrilled at the prospect but the choice was between there and Scarborough.

East Yorkshire was pretty today in the snow although we seem to be getting less than most and rain is currently coming down and is forecast for the next couple of days. The garden was chokka with birds - mostly just better numbers of the normal stuff with up to 8 Blackbirds at one time. Did get a garden tick but not the Brambling or Siskin i had hoped for but a swift flyover Sparrowhawk - cant wait to see that sat on the fence/feeder.

Sunday 1 February 2009

Fruit of the Loin

Somehow the miracle of creation has entered the chez Spencer and ive found out im going to be a Dad. My wife and I are both over joyed with the new arrival being delivered by Stork in late September. It seems likely that autumn is a near total write off but not too worry...

In other news I spent yesterday at Tophill Low where we mostly showed people a highly showy Woodcock and a couple of Bramblings (a yeartick). The 2 Smew are still on Borrowpits and the GSW with Syrian coloured underparts is still about and a spectacular lookng bird. The Water Rail also continues to come to feeders. Good to see Andy Walker who was out year-ticking for another non-existant yearlist.

Anyway after a very nice Italian in Garforth im dissertation writing today.

How birds and brains become mutually exclusive

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