Wednesday 30 January 2013

Barmston January Summary

It has been an incredible first month on the patch with some great birds and a few surprises. I managed 6 visits which is slightly modest but I was also taking part in the Foot It challenge and so focused on that a little more initially. Despite this I dredged up 63 species, not too bad on a slightly barren bit of coastline in the lee of Flamborough.

By far the headline bird and the one which has been attracting twitchers from across the county has been the first winter Kumlien's Gull which I relocated on my first visit (it had been seen a fortnight previously at the same location and in Bridlington). It is a subtle example with little barring but the dark markings spreading to both webs of the primaries appears to have some heavy backing by respected gullers on both sides of the pond. It is apparently the first twitchable example of this variable taxon for Yorkshire after a 1 day bird seen by a handful of observers plenty of years ago.

The supporting act has been none too shabby with heavy snowfalls helping eminently. A Water Rail on the beach on my second visit of the month proceeded to spend the next week living at the entrance to a farm drain. Snipe numbers grew in the reedbed as the snow deepened and eventually I was rewarded for my tramping with a Jack Snipe. At the northern most extremity of the patch a family group of 8 Pale-bellied Brents are a local scarcity and had apparently been in the area for a few days. More expected was the Dark-bellied Brent on the flashes but its companion, a juvenile European White-fronted Goose couldn't have been more of a surprise.

A wintering flock of Snow Buntings vary in number and location in the northern half of the patch but they were often very approachable with a max count for me of 7 birds despite 30 being recorded before Christmas. After the snow a quick check of the woodland revealed weather driven Woodcock with half a dozen birds fleeing as I attempted to avoid the dog turds.

The sea has been generally disappointing thus far with a handful of Red-throated Divers and a single adult Little Gull the sum total seen although a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers wizzing past inland were a bonus. The waders have all been pretty standard and I am still missing Purple Sandpiper despite occasional birds being present on the rocks during the month.

Looking forward to February I hope that some wildfowl movement brings a few ticks and the first few seabirds that are seeping back to Bempton give me a chance to connect with them. Who knows - maybe another rare gull awaits?

Blimmin' Windy

Today I was at my wife's school (she is the head, not a pupil!). I was helping with the Big Schools Birdwatch but it was far too windy and then we got pelted with hail so not a great success. Despite this the students were all eager and interested and it was great to meet them all.

After this I bogged off to Barmston for a couple of hours. Nothing ground breaking although the Kumlien's Gull was still present and showed remarkably well when I left the camera in the car. 4 new patch year ticks in Teal, Wigeon, Mallard and Dunlin but not a great deal else. I got bored and took some photos of maritime plants on the undercliff so here are a few.

Buck's-horn Plantain

Incidentally there has been loads of landslips at Barmston since the snow so if you go looking for the Kumlien's Gull be careful.

Cerastium sp. & Sea Mayweed

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Local Matters

Another 7.5km under the belt taking me to 122km for the month. I finally managed a Little Grebe on the canal with a distant bird that seemed closer to Driffield but it counts nonetheless for the Foot It frivolities. This leaves me a single species short of my target with 2 days to go. We shall see. A Short-eared Owl was between Nafferton & Wansford but failed on my 100 acre pan-species challenge.

Physcia tenella. Yup Im doing Lichen
I did have a little stab at my 100 acre pan challenge as well with a few plants and lichens including the beauty above. I saw my first flower of the year, a sad looking Lesser Celandine and a flock of 19 Siskin which flew over the house (all my other Siskins thus far have been in Wansford).

Monday 28 January 2013

Boosted More Owl

Geddit? An 8km walk today was full of promise as birds scudded over the carrs. Skylarks, pigeons, Starlings, geese, crows by the hundred. Winter thrushes were pouring over and a couple of Buzzards  were no surprise heading towards Wansford. A couple of Siskin were amongst the Goldfinches in the shooting crop.

Down on Wansford Carrs 160 Greylags contained the single patch tick of the day. A very handsome and hungry Pink-footed Goose. This was a predicted species but I expected a skein overhead not a single bird amongst the ferals but I am quite happy with this. Alas the Lapwings were closer to Skerne than Wansford and thus they werent seen well but they did harbour a handful of Redshank. The rest of the carrs had an assortment of Common & Black-headed Gulls. 

I wandered along the main road towards North Frodingham to try and connect with a Little Grebe on the canal. Failed again. A Barn Owl  was hunting over the field opposite and it came in pretty close in cack light.

Watching the owl hunt I noticed a couple of Grey Herons also stalking small furry prey. A Kestrel tried to klepto the owl as well. Then I noticed a couple of lumps on posts. Short-eared Owls both and they slowly moved closer in the gloom. Sadly not good enough for photography really but great to watch. A Buzzard was also sat on a post further up. Not much hope for the small rodents in this field!

Thursday 24 January 2013

Short-eared Owls Baby!

I was traversing Nafferton Carrs this afternoon thinking what a waste of time it was - I could have just booted it down the road to Wansford Carrs which are the place to be at the moment, when I noticed 2 owls hunting over a shooting crop half a mile south of me. 2 Short-eared Owls. Booooom!!! The locale looks good for them but I hadn't thought that they were likely as I have never seen or heard of any here. The threat of extra raptors encourages me to keep crossing the carrs and boy am I glad I did. Here are pics of both owls, the first towering off south mobbed by crows after the other had chased it off and the second bird just about to land back in the crop.

Bird 1
Bird 2
Down on Wansford Carrs there wasnt a great deal to shout about, 130ish Lapwing, 14 Redshank but not much else. I wandered along the Wansford Canal for a bit picking up a female Siskin and a tight flock of 12 Tufted Duck flying along the river to the south. These were followed about a minute later by a single drake Shoveler which was flying east and provided me with my second unexpected Foot It tick of the afternoon. I am now up to 75/78 or 96%. 3 to go.

Just to prove I can work my camera

Wednesday 23 January 2013

More Patch Gold

I bumped into Yorkslister at Barmston today whilst he was after the Kumlien's Gull. We both got frustrating views of this enigmatic individual. Opinion seems to have swayed more firmly into the Kumlien's camp but this isn't an exclusive school of thought. As we were trying to relocate the gull a Little Gull was noted in the surf. Sweet.

This was followed by a couple of geese. I noticed two 'things' feeding by a pool in a field and Garry scoped them, a Dark-bellied Brent and a juvenile European White-fronted Goose. More wildfowl was on the cards as 2 Red-breasted Mergansers flew south overhead.

We wandered back to the cars and picked the Iceland up near Ulrome. Garry headed off to try his luck there whilst I decided to check the hedgerows for patch year ticks. This proved a decent decision with Greenfinch, Coal Tit, Sparrowhawk and Fieldfare added to the patch year list. I saved the best for last with at least 5 Woodcock flushed in and around the pine plantation. Sweet!

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Melting away

The great glacial period appears to be receding as the countryside around here returns to its usual brown and green hues. I still had hope for some weather driven birds and I trudged round the local area, focusing on Wansford Carrs after yesterdays grippers. No Shelduck, no Little Grebe and possible Pintail in with a small group of Wigeon flying away from the area as fast as it could. Any thoughts on my blurry photos?

Wigeon with ?male Pintail, upper left bird.

Down by the river whilst looking for grebes I noticed that the lone alder tree was alive with finches and amongst the Goldfinches were at least 10 Siskins. A foot it tick in a Goldcrest tagging along with some Long-tailed Tits. And I thought that turning into sub-arctic tundra had killed all the local ones. To add insult to injury another tit flock had 1-2 more of the spritely regulus.

Awful into the sun shot heavily photoshopped

Onto the carrs and over 100 Lapwing were about plus 10 Redshank but nothing new to the list. I spent ages trying to eke something else out but failed miserably so I headed up Nafferton Beck. All I really managed here was a Grey Heron and finally a Barn Owl. Halle-bloody-lujah! So onto 73 For Foot it (maybe 74 if anybody fancies backing up my Pintail flight of fancy).

Monday 21 January 2013

The Night Walker

So on Saturday night I shared a couple of very large glasses of wine with my good lady and was nicely relaxed. My wife then decided to retire but I wasn't quite ready. So I went for a walk. In the snow. For 4 miles. With the snow on the ground and cloud cover it was actually quite bright and I could make out the mammals doing the rounds with ease. Ostensibly I was looking to add Barn Owl to my Foot It list but that didn't happen so I savoured what I could and enjoyed the walk.

I wandered south along the road to Wansford with Wansford Carrs my eventual destination. I managed to see my first Roe Deer locally with 4 stags hiding in a field. Hares were plentiful with 21 seen in total including 13 in 1 field, mostly feeding but also a bit of social interaction. The sap must be starting to rise for these guys. A distant Fox wandered along the road until disturbed by a car.

There were no bird noises at all until I reached the carrs and it was evident that there were plenty of Lapwing and Teal roosting around the pools (and seemingly much more but I couldn't decipher the shapes in the dark). I wandered beyond the small drain to get a different angle on the cars but all I picked up was another distant Fox traversing a field and bothering some roosting Lapwing without effect. As I mooched back across the drain a funny looking heron flushed directly away. It was sort of hunched and flew very mechanically. Initially I was trying to make it an owl but eventually the logical part of my brain kicked in and placed the mystery shape - a Bittern. I was half cut, it was 11pm and dark and I had just managed to score a local mega. The journey back was uneventful in the extreme with only the big gathering of Hares noted. And of course no owls.

Today I was stuck with the girls due to snow on the high ground round here blocking access to my mothers village. This curtailed any real birding activity as persistent sleet isnt ideal walking weather for a baby and an under 5. Fortunately they both conked out on they way back from Tesco this afternoon (nothing to do with heaters being on max surely?). I checked out the Mere but drew a blank with a single Tufted Duck all I came away with aside from the dross.

I was annoyed so I went by car to Wansford Carrs for a look whilst the kids caught flies. The first thing I saw was a flock of a dozen Redshank feeding on worms as the grass was slowly revealed under the snow. Everytime a bird came up with a worm, a Black-headed Gull would attempt to kleptoparasatise it. It was fascinating behaviour. A flock of 2 dozen Teal flushed from the back of the carrs and they were joined by 3 Pintail as they flew off. I soon noticed 2 Shelduck on the flood. Neither of these were on my predicted list for Foot It and naturally both would have been much wanted ticks. Lets hope they are there tomorrow. A Little Grebe then started whinnying in the background. One that I expect to connect with on foot but haven't to date. In all it would have taken me to 74/78. Gah!

Thursday 17 January 2013

Snowy Bonanza

I went for a Foot It wander today to try and make the most of the cold weather. Nearly 9k in freezing in -9C. Extreme local birding. After yesterdays twitch I hit up the mere first. I thought I had struck out with just an additional pair of Gadwall before I noticed this guy huddled amongst the Mallards.

A drake Teal which is my first local bird. Dead happy! Bizarrely Tufted Duck numbers were down to 4 from 7 yesterday. I smashed on and found a freshly ploughed field which held amongst a plethora of gulls, thrushes and Rook a couple of Skylark. I couldn't believe it had taken me so long to connect with these guys but I was confident I would with the weather.

A bounding bird across the carrs from me wasn't the expected Mistle Thrush but a female Great Spotted Woodpecker, my first of the year and naturally my first for foot it. I was now up to 67 species. As I approached Wansford a vixen was hunting small mammals across the beck from me. I only got record shots which was a shame. A trilling finch in a small tree flew high but not before revealing itself as a Lesser Redpoll. I wondered whether this was a feasible species but dismissed it due to the lack of habitat. A single weather driven bird soon proved me wrong.

I checked the canal and river for Little Grebe but failed miserably. Happily the carrs at Wansford helped me to fare better with some proper patch gold. There was still open water thanks to a farm drain that continued to run and because of this the cars were covered in birds. Hundreds of Black-headed and Common Gulls  were joined by 50-60 Lapwings and inobtrusively around the edges were about 35 Snipe feeding in small groups. No Jacks obvious despite searching.

Strutting amongst the Snipe were 5 Redshank. Another hoped for weather driven tick. I was delighted with my haul but was blown away by the next bird. A flock of Redwing were feeding in stubbles between a flood and the drain. A corking Green Sandpiper bobbing away amongst them. I had predicted this bird but was worrying it would elude me as I hadnt found any in my local drains and becks and as they can be quite site faithful in winter I feared that it my chance was gone.

This bird took me to 70 species seen on foot from home this year. Quite a decent milestone I think. Only 8 species to go to meet my original target. Stuff that is gettable include Barn Owl, Goldcrest, Little Egret, Pink-footed Goose, Pochard, Little Grebe, Goldeneye, Water Rail, Goosander, Waxwing, Jack Snipe & Great-crested Grebe. Hopefully the cold weather remains for the next couple of weeks and I may even beat my prediction. I have also managed to cover nearly 55 miles on foot since the turn of the year which has slimmed me down to my pre-christmas weight which was also a post diet weight so I am pretty pleased and in covering the distance have burned over 8,000 calories.

Although the sandpiper was the last avian highlight of my walk four further Foxes were on Wansford Carrs simultaneously. I don't think I have seen multiple Foxes in the day simultaneously before so for 4 to be on view at the same time is quite a site. This was the closest one.

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Barm Storming

Another visit to snowy Barmston and more decent birds. Almost immediately I stumbled on the Iceland/Kumlien's Gull pictured below and a few waders were around the car park (still no Purple Sandpiper though). Plenty of Sanderling foraged on the beach - I stopped counting at 100 and there were loads more than that. As I tried to get better photos of this guy a few Redwing moved along the cliff top - new birds this year for the patch. One was feeding on the beach alongside a Blackbird.

I continued towards Fraisthorpe via the reedbed which today held only a single Snipe. The Water Rail was still present in the drain. Numbers were up of buntings with 7 Snow Buntings, 25 Yellowhammers and a dozen or more Reed Buntings in a stubble field. Large numbers of Skylark & Meadow Pipit were amongst the bunts. I tried to find a Lap but failed badly. New plovers were also in evidence with a single Lapwing and 3 Golden Plovers not far apart in fields and a flyover flock of 40 odd of the former. A single Grey Plover on the beach was also new for the yearlist.

 Up at Fraisthorpe a group of Pale-bellied Brent Geese foraged in a farmers field before being flushed by dog walkers onto the beach and later south towards Ulrome before returning. An added bonus here was a hunting Barn Owl which I imagined would be a tricky local addition.

At the turnaround another new patch species for the year was present - a smart Song Thrush. Yum. Feeding on the undercliff was my final new patch year tick. A scruffy looking Rock Pipit amongst the Meadow Pipits. Time was marching on as I clocked up plenty of miles so a quick march back brought little reward.

 When I got back to the village I called in at the Mere to ensure I wasnt missing any footit ticks. Lucky I did as a pair of Gadwall were present. Which necessitated a footit twitch of my own find... Also present was my first ever Wigeon for the mere, hiding in vegetation plus a big increase in Tufted Duck from 1 originally, 2 yesterday and finally 7 birds today. C'mon Goldeneye and Pochard!

Patch Challenge is up to 51 species/57 points, Footit is up to 64 species/82% and both Wigeon and Gadwall count for the Pan-species challenge taking me up to 65 species in my Nafferton 100 acres. All go in my challenges!

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Happy T-rails

A very snowy hike around Barmston today centred largely on the reedbed trying to eek out tricky species and it was pretty successful. Numbers of Snipe were up from odd ones and twos to 11 that I flushed. In with these was the first of two star birds a fine Jack Snipe which flushed from much closer and dropped back in quickly about 20 yards away whereas the Snipe all towered before dropping on the other side of the reedbed. A few Skylarks were also seeking shelter as was a female Pheasant which isnt that easy to connect with on patch. A couple of Hares also flushed from their hideaways in the reeds giving views like this...

I dropped onto the beach and amongst the Turnstones was a slighly tricky for the site Redshank. Probably regular but I dont remember seeing any here before. Walking along and what looked like a Moorhen was skulking at the top of the beach just below the entrance to a farm drain. Bins up and it is a Water Rail. Absolute gold - and on the beach. I am sure they occur often in the reedbed but they are very hard to see so I couldn't believe my luck. Just the reason to check it today. It flushed into the drain but remarkably was back again when I returned.

Showy in the Snow
Lovely light but the lens wasnt keen on the cold.

Monday 14 January 2013

Kumlien's Gull?

Martin Garner of Birding Frontiers has suggested that the Barmston Iceland Gull may be a Kumlien's Gull. My pictures aren't really good enough but some dark pigmentation in the outer webs is visible in the open wing shot and 4 darker tips are visible in the closed wing. Allied with the moult timings this is suggestive of kumlieni although whether it is clinchable who knows.

A brief foot it walk today failed to turn much up aside from a heavy overhead passage of Common Gulls despite snowy conditions but a group of 4 Yellowhammers visited the garden today and a male Reed Bunting was present briefly yesterday. These are expected fare with snow on the ground and hopefully I am able to add more species to both my Foot It and Patch Challenge lists.

Garden Yammers
 In addition to these patch challenges I am also taking part in a local pan-species challenge which you can find on Robert Jaques blog I've Never Killed A Pipit. Link is also now on the sidebar. I have re-added Pink Cuckoos to the links as Jess has started posting again (hurray!). Also Blogs added for Keith Dickinson, Ken Graham and local nature blog The Wold Ranger.

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Route March

Today was a long walk to the east of the village. So far east that I completed about 15km by the time I returned home. Walking through Nafferton I recorded nothing of note except 3 Herring Gulls and 2 displaying Sparrowhawks before crossing some pretty barren farmland to Lowthorpe. Here I added a single Buzzard which took my Foot It list to 60 species. Another kilometer down the road and no woodpeckers in the wood but a group of 5-6 displaying Buzzards filling the air with their evocative calls.

Nothing much else so I headed to my primary destination - Kelk lake. Here I had hopes of a variety of wildfowl. Sadly my hopes were dashed with just 2 Mute Swans. Safe to say I wont be heading back... I booted back through Millingtondale where I saw nothing much except a flock of c40 Yellowhammers mixed with Chaffinches as I got to Nafferton Carrs. I guess this is the regular flock that live in Yellowhammer hedge which got flailed at the beginning of winter. Nonetheless they were a pleasant surprise. The last sighting of interest was a Grey Heron hunting in a flooded field in the Carrs. Reading it back it all seems very staid but it was hugely enjoyable walking in the sun as I got the miles UTB and burnt upward of 1300 calories. Which is after all the point of foot it?

Monday 7 January 2013

Snow at Barmston

Not shy
 Its all about white birds today. This confiding Snow Bunting was hiding in cliff top grass before feeding on the field nearby. I also managed to see the Iceland Gull on occasion despite the gull flock being pushed up and down the beach by a survey boat. For the patch challenge I managed to add a few waders - Knot, Turnstone and Ringed Plover whilst Tree and House Sparrow also finally crawled on. A Red-throated Diver and single Great Crested Grebe were present on the sea and a couple of Snipe flushed from round the reedbed. Not huge numbers but all good fun!

First views
The Snow Bunting was trying to hide in the cliff top before feeding almost at my feet. An amazing bird - properly confiding.

I also added a few other bits to the patch year list, Linnet & Robin. Next time I am up there I will be trying for garden & woodland birds to get the diversity up although I fear lots of single pointers for the patch challenge.

Still there

Saturday 5 January 2013

Flying with Foot It

 I got out properly this morning for Foot It and fared pretty well. 21 species added to my total taking me to 58 species or 74% of my target of 78 species. I got cracking early(ish) and quickly added Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush and a bonus Lesser Black-backed Gull which are pretty scarce round here in the winter. A detour via the sewage works failed to add much and I hoofed it to halfway to Wansford. 3 bumps in a field were not the expected partridges but 3 Golden Plover. On my hitlist but not a guarentee so I was chuffed with them. I righted the Grey Partridge situation immediately as 5 birds sat in the field opposite. I watched these and noticed the first Cormorants of the year circling over the fish farm in the distance.

The Carrs flooded
Belatedly both Rook and Common Gull were added as I arrived in Wansford. The undoubted highlight came just as I was arriving getting into the village as a brown finch lifted out of the stubbles, a Twite! As I tweeted at the time wtf was that doing there? After this excitement I decided to have a coffee break and this gave me my only raptors of the piece, single male Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. Quickly on the move again and a tit flock contained 1, maybe 2 Treecreepers. I could see that the carrs were flooded across the river and I heard the winter whistles of Wigeon as a distant flock of duck hightailed to the horizon.

I headed over to the floods where a flock of 62 Greylags sat containing no Pinks et al. There were also no interesting waders amongst the c150 Lapwing that were also about nor a med amongst the plethora of Blach-headed and Common Gulls. A small flock of Linnet worked the flood edges, this time there were no horn coloured bills.

I wandered up to the much heralded mill pond where there was...a single Tufted Duck. Rubbish. Not rubbish were the 2 Jays that flushed from the shooting crop to the north. This increases my total number of Jays seen on patch by 100% in 5 years but sadly they legged it before digital rendering. A big flock of Redwing were joined by a dozen Fieldfares. As I followed the beck back north a Kingfisher flew past and a small mixed flock of Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer emerged from one of the few unflailed hedges. A very attractive young lady wandered past at this juncture and looked at me with disdain. I smiled back safe in the knowledge that her nubile 23(ish) year old frame was no match for the noble endeavours of foot it. Ha who am I kidding - I looked like a mud encrusted loser clad in geekiness.

Putting my dignity behind me I continued towards home, finding another Kingfisher (pictured above) and finally a flock of about 30 Siskin flew in tight formation past my nose. Very odd sighting but welcome nonetheless as the garden birds tend to be in February (if at all). And then I was home after 8km, 900 calories and a cracking start despite some obvious misses (Great Spot, RL Partridge, Snipe, Buzzard, Barn Owl, Goldcrest etc.).

Ice Ice Baby

This chap was sat on the sea as I started my Patch Birding Challenge which pleased me immensely as a white-winger is pretty much the best thing I could hope for at the moment. There have been reports of a 1st or 2nd winter Iceland Gull between Bridlington & Barmston since before Christmas so I was pleased to bump into this first winter although it was repeatedly flushed by walkers and finally as I approached to within 15m on the beach a fisherman in neon orange wandered up and asked what I was looking at. I just groaned.

Aside from the Icer there was little of note due to the hordes of people but I did pick out a flock of 14 Great Crested Grebes on the sea and a single Red-throated Diver flying south. Waders are normally pretty easy but none were on the beach with a Snipe in the dunes and a Sanderling flying north the sum total. Strangely 5 Grey Partridges flushed from stubbles at the top of the beach and I also found a decent bunting flock in a hedgerow with 4 Reed Buntings and c20 Yellowhammers

That just about sums it up - hardly earth shattering but an eminently positive couple of hours on the patch. 25 species and 28 points according to the challenge scoring system. 

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Happy New Year

I hope that you all enjoyed the festive season and got all the presents that you wanted. I certainly faired as well as I have in the last ten years and am delighted with the new paraphenalia. Not much birding stuff but that is sometimes a blessing. Today I havent even managed to get out birding but I managed an excellent start to the Foot It challenge with my first local Brambling hiding away in our hedge. Aside from that it was all the usual local stuff getting me to a Foot It total of 17 species and a year total of 21. No great shakes but I have the whole of tomorrow to get both the patch challenges off and running properly.

Aside from staring at the bird table for inordinate amounts of time we visited family and I managed to get this corker of our youngest. Super cute.

How birds and brains become mutually exclusive

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