Sunday 24 January 2010

El Presidente

In order to escape the cabin fever at home, family Spencer escaped to Flamborough Head for a Sunday constitutional. We were headed for Filey before my darling wife decided to re-direct us. Obviously I took the bins - it would have been rude not to. A few Guillemots uzzing about on the sea were a year tick.

We headed toward Old Fall hedge and I explained to Angela about the merits of the Pale-bellied Brents that were up there. She got the idea of insurance ticking and how they were a distinctive morphologically and with wintering and breeding in different areas meant they may be a 'good' species. It was the most animated I'd seen her about birds ever. A few Yellowhammers emerged from stubble behind the cottages, a further year tick. A 4th winter Herring Gull was doing the worm dance - id not seen it before and the bird was going crazy like it was riverdancing. Seemingly successful as it was still at it 30 minutes later and regularly picked at the ground.

*Safety Notice - The stile from the road onto Old Fall Hedge is lethal at the moment and looks moments from catastrophic failure. You have been warned*

Upon traversing the climbing frame that is the steps the Pale-bellied Brents were immediately obvious, all 22 of them beyond Old Fall flash. Crossing the field along the shit-festooned footpath, good bins views were had. I noticed some Greylags beyond the hedge and vaguely remembering an e-mail about Tundra Bean Geese I wandered round the corner to have a quick look. About 40 Greylags were meandering about at the back of the field. At this point Isabelle decided to scream her head off. She successfully managed to flush the brents and I had a dilemma. I palmed her off to my wife with a bottle so she calmed down whilst a quick bins view pulled a smaller, browner goose amongst the Greylags but as I was getting a handle on it Isabelle started screaming. Time to beat a hasty retreat - its only a year tick after all, no need to get too clinical.
Suddenly who should appear but El Presidente, LGRE himself plus a couple of cronies. A Redshank skirted round old fall flash as I failed to mention my daughters flushing of the brents. Sorry! Thankfully they seemed to be located a field further west when we drove home. We wandered back to the car so I could clean my daughters bum.

I forgot my camera im afraid so here is a rather surprising shot Izzy standing up. At under 4 months. Madness.

Wednesday 20 January 2010

New Job

Im delighted to say that my job title no longer reads staff nurse and now reads ornithologist. Ive got a part time contract with IECS - a commercial enterprise within the university of Hull undertaking ecological assessments for potential windfarm sights, specifically Birds and Marine Mammals. We have three sites at the moment - Kintyre, Beatrice and Islay and hopefully I should be good to start on February 8th once im back from Spain (with Belted Kingfisher and Spotted Eagle utb fingers crossed).

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Black-throated Rush

Here is a shot of the Black-throated Thrush kindly provided by John Sadler. A small improvement on my efforts.


What does Loch Garten look like when there are no Ospreys or Capercaillie? What about if you stick four foot of snow on it? Im sure like me you have pondered on this question, ruminating on the potential findings. One person was stupid enough to brave -14 temperatures and a snow covered single track road to bring you these exclusive pictures. Me.

Monday 18 January 2010

Quality over Quantity

Visited Tophill this morning as I wanted to get the yearlist kickstarted. On the approach road a covey of 7 or 8 Grey Partridge were a good sight. Severely pissing on my bonfire were the Defra 'sharp'shooters who were firing all morning at the handful of Ruddies on D. This meant D res was out of bounds so I quickly ventured to O. A quick scan into the sun revealed little in quality bar 30 or so Goldeneye and a few Shoveler and Pochard. The rest was the usual Teal/Wigeon/Mallard/Tuftie based dross. I perambulated to the otherside via a very icy south marsh east. Viewing was much better from the 'L' shaped hide and I quickly picked out a redhead Smew. Not the hoped for white nun but very nice indeed.

Heading to Watton borrow pits a shape glided off the path - Woodcock? Probably but we'll never know as it quickly went into the undergrowth. A proper corner of the eye job. From the hide not a lot was doing and I discussed with a couple of regulars the Bittern and the chance of seeing it - no sooner had I said this than it came siling over the hide and circled the right-hand pool before plonking down out of sight. A site tick and year tick. Lovely! In the background a couple of Buzzards circled over a small wood in the balmy 9 degree temperatures. 2 Fieldfares chuckled their way over the pools and a Kestrel had caught a rather large meal for itself - it could barely fly.

Heading back to the car park a Woodcock flashed past me - not often they travel at anything approaching high speed. The reason was soon revealed as a regular emerged from the undergrowth after a quick leak and a rather large shock. From the car park a Siskin 'chewed' its way overhead as a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers shouted from the tree tops.

p.s. forgot to mention a Jay yesterday heading past Nafferton Hall - a very scarce bird locally and a pleasing spot.

Sunday 17 January 2010

Black-throat for kicks

In attempt to lift the malaise that has settled firmly on me I went up to Whitby to see the female Black-throated Thrush. Im really glad that I did as this was a super showy bird with great views of it feeding on apples and grain. An added bonus was a Kingfisher crossing the A171 opposite Primrose Valley en route taking the year list up to 70 - its getting going slowly. Sadly I didnt manage a decent shot of the bird so any donations would e gratefully received.

After kicking out the jams I visited my parents and they seemed in good spirits, my dad looking a little brighter and with the dry sense of humour returning. Fingers crossed.

Saturday 16 January 2010

A Very Strange Week

We travelled to the highlands and our cottage in Boat of Garten last Friday & Saturday with an overnight at Kinross. A low temperature of minus 1o on the A66 and in the Southern Uplands on Friday led to a couple of interesting sightings - a pure Hooded Crow on the from the motorway between Glasgow and Edinburgh, a very southerly location but a corking bird. Even earlier in the journey a Pere skimmed across the bonnet on the A66 distracting from the dire driving conditions. A constant trickle of Buzzards had us at 20 or so by the time we got to Kinross. Snow of up to 3 feet all along made it dicey.

On the Saturday morning en famille descended on Vane Farm for Bacon Sandwiches and a scope of a sea eagle. No sign of any of the 3 eagles but a single Pink-foot on the ice plus a male Brambling around the feeder looking moribund. The snow set in and after concussing myself on the 42inch telly in the visitor centre we set off for the highlands. As we passed through Tayside my wife became proficient at seeing Buzzards. At a particularly mountainous juncture she mentioned "2 massive birds like buzzards but all dark. One has white on its tail and they have very long wings. Like Buzzards only bigger". Goddam it ive missed 2 Golden Eagles, gripped off by my wife. And one was a subadult. All wrong, my wife hates birding. She also managed her first few Monarch of the Glens...

My parents arrived later that evening and drinks were had all round. My dad hadn't been well prior with pneumonia and he looked ghastly after a 400 mile drive. We were more interested in that it was minus 14. Madness. A drive to Loch Garten and Tulloch Moor the next day was interesting as there were was 6 inches of packed ice to drive on. We took a few photos and buggered off...

The next day we headed to Channory Point where I saw a Seal and halfway up Findhorn Valley where 25 Raven were compensation for no eagles and no dolphins (although my wife managed a brief view on the farside of the estuary). A Mountain Hare crossed the road infront of the car up findhorn valley. Mammal lifer! We got back to news of my dad having had emergency dental surgery. He had a shit nights sleep.

The next morning and dad wasnt well. My mum wanted him home for safe keeping so they headed home sothe doc could check him out. We perservered and had a nice day at Loch an Eileen with Red Squirrels and a Peregrine wheeling over the ridge.

Dad was admitted when he got home. AF and Pneumonia. I was glad he was getting the care he needed and couldnt believe he managed the drive home with a heart condition. I found on my emails that I'd been offered a job part time offshore surveying and data analysis which rocked. Maybe I can give up nursing. I hope so. Ange's mate Kate has had a little Girl - a playmate for Izzy. Me and Ange were headed up the mountain or to a distillery or anywhere that wasnt closed. That turned out to be the Highland Wildlife Park where we saw Otter and Wildcat and Pine Martin. Cool as. The tigers were good as were the Hoodie hybrids knocking about and one purish bird. Ish. And then we dragged Izzy through two foot of snow up to see the Polar Bear. My phone rang. It was mum. Dad has Lung Cancer...

Thursday 7 January 2010

Winter Sun

The family have decided to get away from it all this January for some winter sun. Somehow - and dont ask how - I have managed to con(vince) her to go to Boat of Garten to explore the highlands in winter. Rather unfortunately 5 foot of snow has fallen there since we booked in late november. Despite this we will plod on. The route has been somewhat amended with the journey taking two days with an overnight in dumfermline. No A1 as the Police have discouraged driving through the Borders and no A66 as it has been closed at Brough for about a week which means we have to trawl off along the M62 then M6 to Glasgow. All worthwhile im sure you will agree. Im going to hook up with Marcus (eBirder) to score some scottish spesh plus have a bash at some Eagles and Dolphins, all weather permitting. When we get back its gonna be a quick fortnight before a week in Spain - Belted Kingfisher and Greater Spotted Eagle are both on the cards as we go to press. Last couple of days have heralded Barn Owl, Buzzard and salt munching Skylark in some quite severe weather. -11 on the car thermometer the otherday outside Stamford Bridge and repeated freezes and Blizzards with snow depths getting on for a foot by Garrowby. Awesome.

Sunday 3 January 2010


I promise this blog hasn't died a death - just a very busy time my dear readers and a complete dearth of birding save one day. A recent JBRC meeting (James' Birding Records Committee) deceided to bin a few records from my list. Purple Heron (a flyover at Spun) went because no matter how many ways I looked at it - it would never get past a real records committee, Nightingale went because it was too brief a view of a bird on passage not calling in a hedge full of female Redstarts, Cetti's Warbler was also binned as the calling bird (a definite Cetti's) moved through a bush I saw something emerge the other side which could have been the bird but also could have been a Wren (seen through a bramble thicket), unlikely I guess but hey its my list. The last bird to go was the Booted Warbler at Flamborough 2 years ago which hasnt been accepted (or submitted I think - should have taken more notes whilst I was there). This leaves me on 298 UK and 272 for Yorkshire with the addition of Ferruginous Duck and latterly Ring-necked Duck (at last!) but more of that in a moment.

May I just wish you all a very happy new year and hopefully a profitable one. Be prepared for a blizzard of pictures of my daughter doing cold during the odd chrimble jaunt out. Plus pictures of her doing unconcerned as many of her presents were opened. Still extremely snowy round here - 17 days and counting now. In fact its currently 7am and I have just returned from an attempt to get to work but fish-tailing at 20mph on an ice-rink wasnt my idea of fun. On Friday I head to Strathspey with my young family and my parents for a week of being very cold. Sounds most excellent and any birding that does occur will be recorded for posterity in both picture and word formats. The 28th of January sees me in Alicante again showing our baby off to Angela's friends on the retirement coast whilst I try to catch up with Tonn the Greater Spotted Eagle that winters in El Hondo. Lets hope that Belted Kingfisher sticks at Mar Menor! Also this year I should be surveying again in Scotland so lets hope for lots of good incidental birds like LT Skua and White-billed Diver as we now have some west coast sites. Im cutting my hours at work in order to facilitate my wife returning early. Which is a crying shame obviously as it means I will have time to take Isabelle out (birding). Hooray! And finally before a report on real birdwatching (by fake birdwatchers) my yearlist has begun with no decent bird sightings although I have managed a couple of Foxes, plenty of Hares, a myriad of Rabbits and this morning in the snow a Polecat/Ferret crossed the road 50 yards in front of the car. A lifer for me and likely a Ferret I believe but I didnt get any details on its coat/build really. A good sighting nonetheless.


On the 28 day of the 12th month of the year of our lord two thousand and nine a band of birdspotting reprobates did undertake a mission to Potteric Carr. It was cold and snowy and there was an extreme dearth of bird numbers but some extremely decent birds were seen with a Lesser Redpoll kicking off precedings for the group whilst the journey in contained Red Kite, Grey Partridge and Jay. A wander about the reserve produced a few Bullfinches at Low Ellers but no Bittern. The marsh was iced over - we hoped this wasnt the theme of the day. Moving onward to Piper 20 minutes of scanning brought nothing until it was kindly pointed out that the Bittern was showing 50 yards or so in front of the hide. My first in a couple of years and by far my best views of one on the deck which isnt saying very much at all. Ambling on as the rest of Piper was ice-laden we scanned Huxter Wells which had lots of Greylags wheeling about overhead and a mixture of the common gulls (as opposed to Common Gulls) including a few Lesser Black-backs which are a little scarcer out east. My legs started to ice to the floor so in order to avoid unrinating on my own feet to set them free we headed in the direction of the cafe for a refreshing Bacon Sandwich and Coffee combo. En route we saw The Kingfisher in his usual place and Keith found a none birdtable trained Water Rail snuffling about at the side of a drain. The pork based produce was extremely well received all round, as was the caffeine boost. We visited the bird table hide whose name I forget which produced brief views of Willow Tit plus a few Reed Buntings. The Water Rail did its usual thing and Rattus norvegicus was very much involved although sadly without a Bittern trying to murder it as had been the case of the preceding week. It was decided as a group to head for the Wakey duck-fest to try for the Fudge/Ring-neck/Sawbill orgy. Meandering toward the carpark a large group of Lesser Redpolls and Siskins were found amongst the alder but there was no sign of the Cetti's Warbler that had apparently been singing on and off all morning. Time was starting to press so we made haste around Barnsley and pushed on to the Calder Wetlands.

Calder Wetlands is a stones throw from Pugneys and had about as much icefree water as my sink. It was raining Great-crested Grebes - i havent seen so many in flight before let alone crashing into the ice before. All ended well. There was a very lare number of Aythya ducksin the vicinity although the Ferruginous had bogged off. A gaggle of Goosander passed overhead as we noticed a dusky sided duck amongst the Tufties - the 1st winter drake Ring-necked Duck. This is a lifer and I was extremely chuffed as it is also about the biggest tart left for me in county along with Firecrest. Keith and Rob wandered off to the river to try and catch up with the white nun that had been seen on and off in the area whilst myself, Mark and Paul stayed put with the ring-neck. We heard how the Fudge had pushed off, possibly to Wintersett (although it later turned out to be Anglers). Slightly dismayed we followed Keith and Rob only to notice a rather strange shape emerge from the reedbed - they had flushed a Bittern. The bird was seen well in flight for several seconds as it traversed the rather paltry reedbed but we all stood aghast as Keith and Rob wandered on oblivious to the consequence of their actions. Obviously I rang Keith to grip him...*ahem* try and help him to get on the bird but alas it disappeared into the six reedstems that constituted the eastern end of the reeded never to be seen again. A wander along the river gave up a few more Goosander, Little Grebe, Kingfisher and Goldeneye but no Smew so we decided to head back to the cars and home as the sun set on a cold and productive day in southern Yorkshire.
With thanks to Paul Reed with the photos

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