Monday, 4 June 2012

Rolling on - slowly

Took a family day trip up the coast to Sewerby Hall and decided to take a slight detour on the way home for this little beauty...
Roller - Aldbrough, East Yorkshire

Was slightly tempted when this bird was at Spurn last Tuesday but then we had the slight distraction of a certain Sylvia warbler in Hartlepool. Anyway, not having seen one since the slightly bedraggled bird at Badicaul, Highland back in 1996 which managed to help me salvage something from a disappointing dip for the Ivory Gull in Inverness, I couldn't turn this oppurtunity down. It also finally provided me with a Yorkshire tick, haven't had too many of those this year, must try harder!!! 

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Next year's hols booked!!!

Nothing fancy or exotic, just a week covering the last few days of May and the first few of June, in the sunny resort of Hartlepool!! It would be nice to be a little closer when the news breaks of the latest MEGA to be pulled out of the net by Chris Brown. Two years running he has managed to deliver a real unblocker, last year it was the infamous White Throated Robin which made the headlines and national press, this year it was the turn of a Western Orphean Warbler to create panic in our house!!

29th May 2012
8.20am - Happily feeding Toby his breakfast as Amy is getting ready for school and leaves a few minutes later with Mummy. Planning a few things around the house and a trip to the accountants followed by an appointment with Amy after lunch.
8.35am - Finished feeding Toby and checked my phone for emails and realise that it was switched onto silent - whoops!! Also notice that there is a couple of missed calls and a text message from Rare Bird Alert. Expecting the usual dross or worse still one of my blockers which are rapidly diminishing quickly, my mood was changed somewhat when it turned out to be a Western Orphean Warbler at Hartlepool Headland, Cleveland, a real MEGA by anyone's standards and less than 2 hours from my house.

Phone calls were made and plans were changed fairly quickly and by 9am I was on the way to the petrol station. Had a call from Jonnybirder on the way saying he was stuck at work until this afternoon so I offered to pick him up enroute. An hour later and we were heading north and another hour later and we arrived at the bowling green to a crowd of about 100. The bird was still present but was sitting motionless in a bush on the opposite side of the bowling green. Views weren't fantastic but by moving positions we were able to piece together the bird.

Bottom photo: Chris Bell

The bird continued to sit almost motionless for the next few hours before perking up and giving a few latecomers the runaround for a while late afternoon. Happily though, I had long departed and was back in Hull by early afternoon.

Roll on next year, what will it be? White Crowned Black Wheatear anyone?!?!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Anyone's guess!

With the continued presence of the Flycatcher at Flamborough, I made changes to the plans for the day and headed to work via the coast! There was little news on the way in the pouring rain but thankfully it came on the pager just before I arrived. Very few people on site, I guess most people with any distance to travel were waiting on confirmation as to what it was, think that could be a long wait.

Small weekday crowds - gotta love em!

Despite the continued rain, the bird showed really well, flycatching at moving quickly from bush to bush, often sitting on the exposed mud below the hawthorn bushes.

Like I said, highly mobile bird!!

I'll be completely honest and say that if I saw that bird on my own, it would be down as a Pied Fly, possibly noting more white than normal but I guess we'll have to leave it to the experts. DNA was obtained when it was trapped Monday evening, so we'll probably have to wait four or five months before anything is decided, even then it may come back as a hybrid. Just didn't fancy that message coming through in late September "Flycatcher at Flamborough April/May confirmed as Atlas Fly - First for Britain", unlikely I know but being so close to the bird, this could have been another Amur Falcon all over again, and we really don't want to go there do we?!?!

An added bonus for the day was a flyover by 2 Whimbrel (133) on the way home from work.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Hornsea and Far Ings NR

With the prospect of a couple of hours birding today after work, it was a question of where to go to make the most of it, do I head south to Covenham for the Bufflehead or east to Hornsea for the erratic Green winged Teal. Luckily, for once, I made the right decision. After a quick trip into work, I found myself at Kirkholme Point at Hornsea Mere in very blustery conditions. Predictably there was no sign of the Teal, but the place was alive with hirundines and I soon picked up my first House Martin (129) of the year followed shortly by several Common Terns (130). The teal is probably still around but the mere is a huge piece of water, with large areas unaccessible. Pretty sure I'll get another chance to catch up with one sometime this year, famous last words!!

Arriving home just after lunchtime, I noticed on the pager that I had apparently missed both Osprey and Arctic Tern mid morning at Hornsea, that cheered me up. The afternoon plans were soon to change from a swimming trip for the kids to a quick trip across the bridge to Far Ings NR, Lincs. for a Red rumped Swallow. Setting off into pouring rain I wasn't too hopeful but with the recent decrease in bridge toll fees I thought we'd give it a go anyway. Arriving on site some 20 minutes later, I was soon onto the Red rumped Swallow (131) as it showed well over the Blow Wells Pits with small numbers of Swallows, Sand Martins and the first Swifts (132) of the year.

Friday, 27 April 2012

North Cave (VERY) Wetlands

Managed a day off on Wednesday, the wettest day of the week!! Was busy with an appointment with Toby in the morning but managed to get out for a walk around North Cave Wetlands. I seem to have been there more than ever this year and with every trip there seems to be more and more work being done. The development of the quarry on the opposite side of the track to the main reserve is coming along nicely and now there's a new state of the art straw bale hide over looking it. I'm lucky to live so close to the reserve and it's starting to pull in some decent birds, last year it was the confiding Spotted Crake and the year before was the Spotted Sandpiper. There's already been a couple of Caspian Gulls this year and a fly over Glossy Ibis, I think it's only a matter of time before a real rarity is found and everyone else discovers what a great place this is.

I thought I'd start off in Turret hide for a look for the Reed Warbler but with the raiin lashing down and wind blowing there was no sign but the flock of Avocets (125) on the pools continues to grow. With the continued presence of the Ruff on Village Lake, I headed round the perimeter path getting drenched in doing so. No sign of the Ruff, my second attempt for this bird this year, but a singing male Blackcap showed well as did my first Willow Warbler (126) of the year. Predictably no sign of the Little Owl in the North West corner, but there were large numbers of Swallows and Sand Martins (127) over the lakes at the west end. Walking into the hide over looking the main lake, I was put onto the moblie Ruff (128) as it disappeared over the bank, again large numbers of hirundines were present alnog with one of the regular Black necked Grebes on the far side. All in all a worthwhile walk, even if it was a little on the damp side!!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

A catch up

Back in January I decided to set myself a few targets for the 12 months ahead. Every year when I read the annual reviews and see all of the decent birds I've missed, I think "Why didn't I get to see that?", usually the answer is either that I simply couldn't be bothered or had family commitments. By setting myself a few, modest achievable targets, I felt that I would get myslef out in the field a bit more than a normal year and would get to see a few decent birds, sounds easy doesn't it?

Year List: 225
A more than achievable target as long as I can actually get out every now and then. Year listing can be a bit full on if you're going to do it properly and I'd really love to be able to have a proper go one year, but for that you need to have a lot of spare time and even more money. My last serious year list was back in 2005 and involved some pretty decent birds as well as a lot of expense. It was the year before Amy was born so meant that I could go for a lot more stuff. One particular madcap trip was the Green Heron in North Wales followed by a return route home for the Surf Scoter in Derbyshire and a Great White Egret in Leicestershire, bit of a long journey round for 3 year ticks but they were pretty decent birds to catch up with. Other "days out" were the King Eider up in Ayrshire and another trip to Anglesey, this time for a Blue winged teal.

Yorkshie List: 30 new ticks
30 new birds for Yorkshire seems a lot in one year but there are some ridiculous gaps on there so with a little effort, it's more than do-able.

Life List: BOU 2 / UK400 4 new ticks
Most years I tend to get a couple of new birds, so again, altthough this may need a bit more effort, it's achievable.

Watch this space............................................

Thursday, 12 April 2012

A little unexpected...

There are some birds that you just don't expect to get the chance to see. For me these include: Fea's Petrel- not being a fan of seawatching and with the Scillonian pelagics now a thing of the past, seems unlikely. Needletail Swift also seems unlikely as you have to be pretty quick off the mark with hirundines and those days have gone.

When the news initially broke, this list also included Thayers Gull. Ok, so they've been turning up with increasing regularity or at least being reported in Ireland but as I don't intend on doing Ireland any time soon, it seemed unlikely that I'd catch up with one. I always fancied one being found by the Welsh birders but have done so ever since the first back in 1989 in County Cork and was still waiting, that was until TL found this contender at Elsham, Lincs.

Little did I realise how much of a rarity finder he'd be when I took him on a twitch to the Scillies back in 1999 for the Siberian and White's Thrush combo, but he's really delivering at the moment, congrats Tom.

Living less than 20 miles away from Elsham, all be it on the North shore of the Humber, should have meant for a pretty straight forward little twitch, hmmm- yeah right!! The bird was confirmed on Weds 4th April but we had an appointment and couldn't cancel at such short notice. Thursday saw us all heading to Norfolk for Easter, driving past the field that the bird had been frequenting, game on! Arrived on site at 10am with no sign of the bird so far and with 2 children in the back of the car who didn't want to stop, aaagggghhhh! Decided to have a quick recce of the site in case it turned up again. Of course it did, when we were an hour and a half closer to Norfolk, disaster! Decided for the best that we should continue on our journey and get to Norfolk. The bird continued to show for most of the afternoon and I considered heading straight back as soon as I'd dropped off the family but was needed for the kids bedtimes. Plans were immediately made for the next day.

As the bird hadn't been picked up much before lunch on any of the days it had been present, we decided not to be onsite for first light, of course, less than 10 minutes into the journey, it was reported as still being present. FOOT DOWN!!! This helped to speed the journey up a bit, although it wasn't reported again until we were less than 30 minutes away from Elsham. Having been onsite the previous day proved invaluable as we were able to get straight to the bird and it was still there - result.

The bird showed reasonably well if a little distant. Having been for 2 previous reported Thayers, in Cambs in the nineties and more recently, Worcestershire, for what turned out to be a Herring Gull!!!, it was something of a relief to catch up with a real one.  Oh well, all good things come to those who wait.

Above 3 photos all courtesy of Alan Lewis

Saturday, 25 February 2012

28 years and finally unblocked

Certain things stick in your memory and a phone call from my Dad back in October 1984 from the Scillies, always has. He was phoning for his daily catch up with things at home as he was on his yearly birding trip to the Scillies and although I was only 8 at the time, I still remember crying when he told me he'd just seen a Common Yellowthroat on Bryher, worse was still to come when he phoned later in the same week to tell me he'd also ticked off Cliff Swallow. Still haven't got that one back yet, although I have tried, was only half an hour away from the Dorset bird when we got stuck in traffic and arrived too late, there'll be another but just might have to be a bit quicker off the mark next time.

Thursday 16th Feb and we had just arrived at Amy's favourite restaurant for a treat, Pizza Hut, then the MEGA alert went off on the phone - Common Yellowthroat Rhiwderyn, Gwent, well that put a downer on the rest of the evening although thankfully Amy didn't notice. I could have gone the next day but I'd already made plans to work - whoops!! Negative news on the Saturday morning in heavy rain came as something of a relief as the family had come down with a sickness bug. But then of course it was refound in the afternoon when the sun came out and a potential twitch was back on, just needed to hope it would hang around. It was still there Monday morning when I left for work so that was that, I was going Tuesday morning with the aim of being there at first light.

Heavy drizzle first thing brought no sign of the bird, but once the 30 or 40 birders had decided there was no point staring into one bush when there was so much other suitable habitat where it could be, things looked more promising. Of course I was as far away as possible from the bird when the shout went up that it had been relocated but after a quick sprint, I was grilling the bird in the scope as it fed along the bottom of the hedgerow.

Common Yellowthroat - Andy Jordan

Check out some fantastic footage here 

Having had decent views for an hour or so, I decided to head off for the Lesser Scaup at Cosmeston Lakes at nearby Penarth. Having made my way through Cardiff, I eventually arrived at the lakes and found I was the only birder present, excellent!! Nevermind, a drake Lesser Scaup isn't too  difficult to pick up but then I saw the size of the place and wished some others had followed me down from the Yellowthroat. Undeterred I set off to the far lake and began searching, an hour or so and still no sign even though it had been reported on the Monday, right where I was searching. As I'd seen a few before I decided to cut my losses and head back to the car and start the long journey home. Stopping at the East lake on the way back I decided on one more quick scan and there not more than fifty yards from the shore was the Lesser Scaup - result!

Lesser Scaup - Cosmestn Lakes (iPhone through scope)

A quick look through the ducks and swans being fed by the vistor centre also revealed the very confiding Whooper Swan.

Whooper Swan - Cosmeston Lakes

All in all a decent twitch and one finally back on my Dad, the last time thta happened was the Red necked Stint at Somersham in Cambridgeshire in 2001. Just hope it's not another 11 years before the Song Sparrow in Yorkshire!!

It's been a while...

Sorry for the distinct lack of drivel/updates on here lately, things have been a bit hectic what with work, being ill, living, oh yeah and we also had another one of these!!!

Toby was born at the end of November last year, hence the lack of birding updates. But now, as things have started to settle down and we're managing more than 2 hours sleep a night, I've managed a bit of local birding and even would you believe it, a twitch! I've already got a pair of bins for him, courtesy of Mothercare, to match his big sisters, just in case he decides to get interested (as if he has a choice). She's already got a couple of decent blockers on him though, White Throated Robin and Audouin's Gull, are good starters.