Thursday, 2 April 2020

Lockdown Listing and the Wonder of Nocmig

Last night I stood in my garden, no bins (it was dark), glass of gin in hand, and listened. There is was boop- boop-boop. Closer and closer, a little to the south, approaching from the west before heading away to the east with the doppler effect in full force. Common Scoter added to my garden list. This was the first of six flocks as a mass exodus from the Irish Sea had confined birders across the country out listening in the dark. There was a time lag as well so what was happening at 9 in Blackburn happened at 10 in York and then started at half 10 here near Driffield and was 15 minutes later for those at Flamborough. An absolutely incredible movement and proabbly so well witnessed due to the ongoing situation with coronavirus - would so many birders have stood in their gardens if we were free to head out the following day? My fifth flock of the night was a direct hit and I could hear the whistling of the wings. It was genuinely exciting to listen to.

Common Scoter wasn't the only garden tick as I picked up two flocks of Wigeon and a single flock of Teal. These were all new for the garden and took the garden list onto 79 (when I added Lesser Black-backed Gull which I have seen umpteen times but forgotten to add). I am taking part in the Lockdown Listing competition, counting birds seen from the garden whilst we are restricted with movement. So far I am on 45 species with a surprise Goldcrest this morning. There is a pair breeding about 80m from teh house but across a railway line so I didnt expect them to pitch up. I havent had anything else exceptional or unusual although a flock of Redwing early last week were good to add this late on. Im still waiting the returning Blackcap and Willow Warbler on my Blackthorn blossom.

Aside from the birds it has been a delight to see the first insects returning to the garden. Temperatures got up to 16c last week and as a result I recorded four species of butterfly, Small White, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Brimstone. Bees were also conspicuous with Honeybee the first followed rapidly by the now ever present Buff-tailed Bumblebee queens. These were followed later in the week by the Buffish Mining Bee Andrena nigroaenea and then Tree Bumblebee with a single queen seen. A colder turn over the weekend with northerly winds meant only the Buff-tails were still about but yesterday it warmed up and I had the first Early Bumblebee queens. I have also had my first Tapered Droneflies Eristalis pertinax which are ever present, a queen social wasp although I didn't manage a photograph so don't know which species. On the spider front there were plenty of Missing Sector Orb-weavers Zygiella x-notata out and about last night. The garden also has an abundance of wildflowers starting to appear with a violet coming into bloom. When it is fully established I will key it to species but I expect, given the date it will be Early Dog-Violet.

Buffish Mining Bee Andrena nigroaenea
The limited horizons and fact that I have been furloughed mean that I will be looking closely at the garden, what flies over, lands in and generally calls it home I am planning some habitat enhancement for amphibians and grass snakes (the latter is very much on the wish list). I am looking at getting a nocmig setup after the scoter fun and also considering a moth trap. A PSL list of the garden is very much on the cards. To anyone that is reading I hope you stay healthy and safe and are able to enjoy what is on your doorstep.

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Pelagic Mayhem - Sydney March 2018

This is a much belated video, compiled from a number of short clips I managed on the Sydney pelagic I took part in during March 2018. Here, two years later, I am counting down to my next trip which is due in October 2021 and my new found inability to edit videos together yielded this. I hope you enjoy the video as much as I enjoyed reliving some of the birds!

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Early February

The couple of weeks have been a windy blur. I am back home after my second trip to Somerset in that time with birding up in the North Yorkshire forests, Skerne Wetlands, the east bank of the River Hull, Far Ings and a few other places. I will start at the beginning.

Skerne Fieldfare
In Somerset for work and it was the usual breezy and occasionally damp weather. I didn't see a great deal of new stuff on the first visit but what was remarkable was the sheer size of the Starling roost on Shapwick Heath. There must have been getting on for a million birds present and they threw some shapes as they were hassled by Marsh Harriers, Sparrowhawks and Peregrines. I managed some decent footage which is in the last couple of minutes of the video above. Other than that it was the usual Avalon Marshes suspects with plenty of smart Lapwing, Gadwall and Great White Egrets. We failed to find the Firecrests this time but I did get to hear Paul and Euan's theories on cryptozoology and specifically bigfoot and yetis. Bonkers.

Crossbill at Wykeham. It was windy and that is my excuse for the framing.
The Friday had me in North Lincolnshire and I tried to call in at Far Ings to see my mate Simon Wellock who is the warden. Unfortunately Simon was away but some delicious light meant I got to see a Bittern briefly stalk across a clearing in the reeds and the attendant wildfowl all looked fabulous in their breeding finery.

Marsh Tit at Forge Valley
As we were now at the first weekend of February I thought I would try for Goshawk up at Wykeham. I was a touch early seemingly as plenty were seen last weekend but a solitary female cruising about over Broxa was very decent. I also managed to see my first Siskin and Crossbills of the year at the Raptor Viewpoint. Dropping down into Forge Valley and the feeders were well stocked unlike my previous visit and I wasnt disappointed with plenty of Nuthatch and Marsh Tit action along with a friendly Treecreeper nearby. At this point I hadn't heard whether the Flamborough Grey Phalarope was still present but as I had to head that way I thought I would take a punt. Gladly this paid off handsomely as it fed at close range as covered by the previous post. Despite an iffy forecast I had a very productive day and was home by early afternoon, saving brownie points!

Whooper Swans by the River Hull
A couple of hours free time last weekend saw a flying visit to Skerne Wetlands where the Marsh Harriers were up to their usual tricks at the southern end of the site and other than that it was pretty quiet as the wind cranked prior to Storm Ciara. I decided on a safari of the east bank of the River Hull from North Frodingham down to Brandesburton Ponds and Hempholme. It wasn't massively productive but I did manage to find a quintet of Whooper Swans lazing in fields with Mutes and Greylags which was pleasing. A brief encounter with a hunt meant I quickly retreated to the sanctity of home.

Red-crested Pochard on Meare Heath
This week I have been down in Somerset again undertaking some training with a new colleague and taking advantage of a break in the storms to get back to Shapwick Heath. Prior to the RSPB closing down access to half the levels due to the risk of getting bonced by falling debris we managed to see a few Egrets and the usual waterfowl along with a very smart pair of Red-crested Pochard which were apparently picked up the day prior on Meare Heath Pool. All said it was a challenging but fun visit with a female Merlin attempting to predate Avocets and unlikely highlight. I may be heading to Scotland next week but looking at the weather forecast equally I may not. We shall see!

Great White Egret at Ham Wall RSPB

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Grey Phalarope at Thornwick Pools

I called in at Thornwick Pools this afternoon to see the unseasonal Grey Phalarope which has spent the last couple of days in residence. This is an unusual time of year for Grey Phalaropes with six records thus far in 2020 and none in January 2019. This species should be wintering on cold water upwellings off the west coast of South Africa or in the Gulf of Mexico. It is my first winter Grey Phalarope and a new species for Flamborough Head for me (#216). After watching it thirty minutes it flew to the back of the pool and preened out of the wind. I met the finder, Dave Simmonite, who has recently relocated to the headland and congratulated him on a good start to the year. I also found out the two Mute Swans which were on Hood's Flash last week were now on North Marsh. Mute Swan is less than annual at Flamborough and a species I hadn't caught up with until now. A quick dash up to Lighthouse Road saw me scoping the snowy giants loafing on the scrape for Flamborough tick #217. I managed to get a few photos and some short video of the phalarope as it bobbed on the small pool.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Episode 5 - No Rough-legged Buzzards

This week I visited Skerne twice, had a walk down Nafferton Beck and dipped the Stainforth Rough-legged Buzzard.

This afternoon I went to watch the Starling roost at Shapwick Heath. I will have to have a look at how the footage turned out but hopefully there will be something up shortly.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Episode 4 - Somerset Starlings and Great White Egrets

After a drizzly morning at Ulrome I headed to Somerset via the Red Kites in the Yorkshire Wolds and the Whooper Swans in the Lower Derwent Valley. On the River Parrett I managed to film a Mediterranean Gull and found a Great White Egret with more on the Avalon Marshes plus a stunning Starling roost with attendant Peregrine.

Monday, 13 January 2020

Episode 3 of the 2020 Vlog - the lunchbreak one

I failed to get out and about this week but a couple of pleasant days meant I meandered through the village. A walk down the Nafferton beck produced the expected Little Egret and a bonus Green Sandpiper whilst Dunnock, Blue Tit and Great Tit were more expected fare. A Coal Tit on the Spittle Beck feeders was a pleasant surprise. They are about in this area in winter, breeding in leylandii nearby, but they aren't reliable due to small numbers.

This weekend gone I headed to Ulrome and despite grim weather added a few species to both the video year list and the Patch year list. Not really enough to produce a video but I am down in Somerset this week so hopefully I can see plenty down there.

Friday, 3 January 2020

Year List Vlogging

Hi all, Happy New Year! I hope you had a restful Christmas and are ready and raring for 2020. I got a couple of new toys for Christmas, a GoPro Hero 7 White and a Nikon P900. With these I am trying to do some vlogging and to get started I am looking at a video yearlist as well as doing some videos for Patchwork Challenge as I head back to Barmston for the first time in a few years. My Youtube Channel is here:

I got out on the 2nd January (yesterday) and started out with 47 species at Barmston including Merlin and Gadwall which were the highlights. I moved onto Hornsea Mere where 5 Russian White-fronted Geese and a Long-tailed Duck perked things up in a biting wind. Video below:

I also got a pass today and a visit to RSPB St Aidan's led to Barnacle Goose and Water Pipit (x5 at Lemonroyd Sewage Treatment Works across the river) getting seen. This was followed up with a trip to Blacktoft Sands where there were over a dozen Marsh Harriers into roost (probably well over a dozen) plus two Hen Harriers, an adult male and female. Three Black-tailed Godwits and plenty of Golden Plover were highlights as well as several large skeins of Pink-footed Geese. The yearlist moves onto 83 and I managed to record 55 species across the two videos.

How brains and birds become mutually exclusive