After the Beast from the East

12 Mar

5/3/18 Filling the feeders on Monday morning it felt more springlike, helped by my resident Blackcap starting to sing. No sign of the dog so headed to Welton Waters. My first visit of 2018 and with reports of Smew, Scaup and Slavonian Grebe on the opposite side of the Humber at Barton Pits I hoped for something interesting. As usual parked on Myrtle Way and took the path to the across the airfield. A few Curlew there and Skylark singing. Reaching the flood bank set up to scan the airfield and adjacent marsh. A few Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Coot on the marsh and on the recently created ‘scrape’ a few Redshank and Dunlin, the latter a year tick. Walking east had a few Goldeneye on Brough Angling Complex. Next was watersports Pit but this apart from a small number of Mute Swan and Mallrd was empty not helped by a few sailing boats. There were a few Black-headed Gull at the far end and looking closer picked out an adult Little Gull, another species that had been seen in small numbers last week. With little to be gained from continuing east I walked Common Lane. Had a good number of small birds including Bullfinch and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Since taking over, the now, Brough Angling Complex, Hull and District anglers have shown if anything hostility to birders so was pleasantly surprised to see a feeding station set up near the entrance gate, attracting a good number of birds including Reed Bunting and Greenfinch. Had a Cetti’s Warbler singing by the small pond. Walked east along the road to view the area of watersports pit not visible from Common Lane. No new birds but was fortunate that the now two Little Gulls were feeding close in.


Adult Little Gull-watersports pit, Welton Waters

Walking back to my bike had two Stonechat on the fence enclosing the building site of the new school. Unfortunately while I had my camera out they didn’t return to the fence so had to make do with shooting them through the mesh, perched on vegetation. I had seen one nearby late last year.



6/3/18 Tuesday morning headed to High Eske NR hopefully for a more complete coverage that my last visit. Still several Russian White-fronted Geese, although exactly how many I wasn’t sure as despite eight birds flying off, including a bird that may have been a Bean Goose, I again counted the regular seventeen birds on the water.


Russian White-fronted Geese with Greylag Geese-High Eske NR

An Otter was feeding at the north end but I decided to walk to the south end then around the back. A Cetti’s Warbler was singing in the bushes but didn’t flush the Woodcock that had been seen for a few weeks on Pulfin NR. This time made it to Leven Canal. The two Whooper Swan were still to the west on Arram Carr and found a Stonechat on Leven Carr. Back at High Eske NR the Otter was showing well and also had a drake Pintail with the Wigeon.


Otter-High Eske NR

A quick look at Swine Moor added Redshank and Golden Plover to the site year list.

7/3/18 On Wednesday the dog went back to his usual routine so had a morning walk. Nothing different from our normal birds but had a very relaxed Brown Rat in Oppy Wood that somehow was missed by the dog, probably too obsessed by Rabbits.


Brown Rat-Oppy Wood, Cottingham

Was genuinely warm. Headed to North Cave Wetlands in the afternoon. My previous visit had been little more than a twitch of the Green-winged Teal so today I headed up Dryham Lane so to avoid wasting time on it. Found an adult Mediterranean Gull on Main Lake then spent a while waiting with out luck for Siskin by Far Lake.


Near summer adult Mediterranean Gull-Main Lake, North Cave Wetlands

While checking reedbed was called by SG, from Turret Hide, he had the Green-winged Teal as well an adult Mediterranean Gull [later proved to be a second bird on comparing photos]. I had a good number of Teal which were pushed into the open by a low flying Marsh Harrier so now knew I didn’t need to look at them too well. Joined SG in Turret Hide and were lucky to see the recently regular Barn Owl.


Drake Green-winged Teal-Island Lake, North Cave Wetlands

On the way out we checked the fields near the entrance and added Red-legged Partridge then a distant Stonechat on Dryham Ings. Had noticed a good number of birds on Church Pond on the way in so stopped to have a look on the way home. Plenty of Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Wigeon and a few Little Grebe. Had a couple of Kingfisher on the far bank, one of which flew closer and was last seen sat high in a large tree, higher than remember seeing one before. Just before SG arrived I found the drake Mandarin that had been resident at the Wetlands all of last year among the tree roots.

9/3/18 After a wet Thursday, Friday morning was again warm and although again like Wednesday turned cooler in the afternoon I headed to Tophill Low NR. Started in the visitor centre and had the Glaucous Gull on the same section of D reservoir straight wall as on my first encounter. Got a record shot and would have tried to get closer walking up the road but it decided to join the other gulls on the reservoir so after a quick look at the feeder without seeing Brambling or Lesser Redpoll by the centre pond I headed south.


Juvenile Glaucous Gull-D reservoir, Tophill Low NR

Work on South Marsh East had finished and had a few birds, unlike on previous visits this year, including returning Oystercatcher. On Watton NR had three Pintail [two drake and a female] as well as a fly over Marsh Harrier which I saw again on my second visit to South Marsh East. Did the D reservoir gull roost and added Lesser Black-backed Gull but failed with Mediterranean Gull but as the gulls were at the north end of the reservoir so weren’t easy from the centre hide. Also no sign of the Glaucous Gull but it doesn’t always appear in the roost. Had a distant Peregrine over D woods.



My first {brief] visit to High Eske NR in 2018.

21 Feb

2018 continues to be cold and wet and I am still struggling to do anything more than walk the dog but the last few days were forecast, at least, to be a bit milder. Wasted Sunday morning on a reported Siberian Rubythroat in South Yorkshire at Bramwith Lock. A bird of my dreams having chickened out on a twitch to Shetland a few years back.  As I would struggle to get there on my own so I took up the offer to go early morning with SM and SE. This would have paid off if it had been seen anyway as the parking was limited and I must admit the navigation would have been difficult with out a satnav. Wasn’t a total waste of time as I added Jay to the year list and the regular Goosander fly overs were nice. The authenticity of the bird has been well debated. My thinking is although a hoax is never out the question [proved by a fictional American Robin in London the same day] the report of several sightings over a few days does make me wonder what actually was seen. No photo doesn’t help as a female Siberian Rubythroat isn’t a straight forward bird. Anyway it’s not been seen since so no point wasting anymore thoughts on it.

Monday was a wash out and Tuesday, with the strong cold wind, kept me to our regular walk to Lawns Farm.

21/2/18 Wednesday, the wind at least had gone but heavy rain mid morning wasn’t promising. However set off with the dog expecting an early return. Walked through the The Lawns Centre then round the playing field behind. The weather didn’t seem to want to make it’s mind up. It was quite warm when the sun got out but black clouds kept building. Head to the Millbeck Wildlife area where I made up my mind to head home and get out early afternoon. The choice was North Cave Wetlands, to add to my small list from the the Green-winged Teal twitch, or make my first visit of the year to High Eske NR. The first would at least give me shelter but it was the cowards choice so headed to the second. A rainbow over the area wasn’t a good sign but it was dry when I pulled up at High Eske Farm. Little in the orchard so didn’t waste any time and quickly headed down the track to the reserve. With DH now on twitter I know what is about. Quickly picked up two of the Russian White-fronted Geese with the Greylags then the other fifteen in a separate flock of their own.


Russian White-fronted Geese-High Eske NR

Otherwise there was the usual few hundred Wigeon, a few tens of Goldeneye but only a few Mallard, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe and Great Crested Grebe. No Coot reflecting the situation last year when numbers were very low throughout. One of Oystercatcher pair had returned. No confidence in the weather so headed north to check the fields to the north for the Whooper Swans. Added Kingfisher to my year list over the north end of the pit. Saw two distant swans just after I left the reserve behind. Got the scope on them and confirmed they were the yellow billed birds I was looking for. Continued towards Leven Carrs but the rain started again becoming heavy as I hurried back to the farm for shelter. Added a few common species as I waited for the shower to pass. Went home via Weel Road to do Swine Moor. As expected there was plenty of water, holding a few hundred Teal and Wigeon and a pair of Shoveler but none of geese from last year. Also the only waders were a few tens of Lapwing. A fairly poor start to the year list but the amount of water should make spring at least interesting.


Swine Moor from Weel Road, Beverley



Green-winged Teal [eventually] at North Cave Wetlands

30 Jan

28/1/18 I had just started out with the dog on Sunday morning when the Green-winged Teal was reported at North Cave Wetlands. I have seen a few there and they have become almost annual at North Cave, although missed the last one in January 2017. Unfortunately I was on a tight schedule as I was going out for lunch so didn’t even have time for our usual walk. I could have turned back and headed straight there but as Green-winged Teal can be tricky to see I decided to continue with the walk.

29/1/18 Monday morning was wet and didn’t stop raining until lunchtime. With no news from North Cave and the dog needing to go out anyway we headed for the park. Walking the bushes at the edge of Millbeck Wildlife area heard a familiar finch call. Initially could only see Greenfinch in the tree tops but then located the expected Siskin. At least seven birds including a few nice males. Unfortunately they were tricky to see and only got one shot of a drab female.


♀ Siskin in Millbeck Wildlife area, Cottingham

Had seen a flock near Cottingham GC entrance ten days back, near enough to be the same flock, but the area isn’t in my Patchwork Challenge Cottingham area so today’s sighting was an patch year tick. Continued our regular walk as far as Lawns Farm. Nothing we hadn’t seen recently but getting back to Millbeck Wildlife area, near dusk, had a Green Woodpecker then the resident Barn Owl showing, my first sight of it there this year.

30/1/18 Again nothing from North Cave early Tuesday and although I tried to sneak out but ended up going out with the dog. This time across the fields south to Haltemprice Farm, the centre of my Willerby Carrs patch. The pair of Stonechat were still around the farm ruin.


♂ Stonechat at Haltemprice Farm, Willerby

A Shelduck was the only unusual bird on the flood scheme, but had seen two there recently. Next walked the drain by Abbey Lane. Had seen a Grey Wagtail regularly late last year but hadn’t so far this year, although it had been photographed by a friend recently.


Grey Wagtail along Abbey Lane, Willerby-9/12/17

No sign of the wagtail but a few Reed Bunting were in the area.


Reed Bunting along Abbey Lane, Willerby


Walking back the Green-winged Teal was reported back at North Cave. Didn’t exactly rush but didn’t dawdle the rest of the way back. Not exactly warm in the winter sun this morning but it was now clouding up and getting colder. Still judged it wouldn’t be too cold on the bike but wouldn’t do the full reserve so I could get away before sunset. On arrival met AA leaving and learned the Teal was still showing on Island Lake. Getting there saw JH leaving. Joked him about not picking me up. Went back in the hide with me and I was soon viewing the Teal, although pretty distant in the south west corner. Got a few shots anyway.


♂ Green-winged Teal on Island Lake, North Cave Wetlands.


With nothing else of interest on the lake moved to the other side of the hide to look for the Ruff on Village Lake. No sign so rejoined JH in East Hide. Eventually located the Ruff among some Redshank I’d not seen earlier. Also had a female Marsh Harrier low over the lake, but it wasn’t a year tick although, reflecting my lack of ‘real’ birding so far this year, the Little Grebe it flushed was.

Lingering Glaucous Gull at Tophill Low NR

23 Jan

23/1/18 2018 has been slow to start for me. Apart from a trip to Tophill Low NR with JH and a quick ride up to Raywell it’s just been long walks with the dog. This week was forecast milder but there was still compacted snow on my street on Monday morning so again it was out with the dog. However managed a second walk at dusk which payed off with good views of both Barn and Little Owls at Haltemprice Farm. Fortunately Tuesday was better with out the rain previously forecast for the morning. Maybe because of the extra walk yesterday, the dog didn’t pester me, so was able to slip out early. Where to go? Although I’d already visited Tophill Low NR this year, with a lingering Glaucous Gull as well as reports of White-fronted Geese it seemed the best choice.

On arrival went straight to the visitors centre where the Gull was immediately seen on D reservoir wall from the “birders hide”. With Stonechats seen recently at Hempholme Meadows I headed north by the road. The Gull could be approached close enough to get a reasonable shot but then flew but usually just up and down before settling back on the wall.


Juvenile Glaucous Gull at Tophill Low NR on D reservoir wall.

Hempholme Meadows was still iced over with only natures icebreakers present.



Mute Swan at Tophill Low NR on Hempholme Meadows

Couldn’t see the Stonechats so headed back south, this time via D Woods. A quick stop at the feeders added Marsh Tit [calling!] to the list. Nothing reported from the lagoons and marshes so headed directly to Watton NR hide to look for the White-fronts. Only a few Greylag present but the drake Goosander and Pintail from my last visit were still present.



Drake Goosander at Tophill Low NR on Watton NR

Looking through the Curlew I also located the Black-tailed Godwit with a few Redshank. A few more geese dropped in, this time Canada’s with one Greylag and a hybrid. An Otter was reported but I was unable to catch up with it and then last interest when a larger flock of Greylags dropped in this time carrying the two Russian White-fronted Geese.


One Russian White-fronted Goose at Tophill Low NR on Watton NR

Walked back via the marshes but only had one Mute Swan on West and there was plant working on East. Both Lagoons were bird free. A flock of Lesser Redpoll had been seen around the centre pond recently but there was work going on in the vicinity today. Possibly had them flying off but didn’t relocate the flock. Checked the Alders by the lagoons which had often held them over the year but nothing doing. Met PD et al on leaving North Lagoon. They were looking for the Glaucous Gull, apparently led astray by my D looking like an O. Fortunately heading back to the visitors centre it was again settled on D reservoir wall.


2017 in 12 pictures

2 Jan


The beginning of the year was interesting, reflexed in the number of posts, but in contrast to 2016 there was a very poor return wader passage followed by a predominance of westerly winds leading to little interest on the Yorkshire coast then winter has, so far, been very poor for rarer wildfowl. Thus the blog has been quiet the second half of the year. I have not posted in Cottingham Moths this year. I started but due to technical problems lost the first post and never bothered starting again. It was a poor year anyway but a few highlights will feature below. I hope to start again next year, maybe with a different approach.


Although not a great picture this shot of the male Hooded Merganser at Barr Loch, Renfrewshire on the 21st was a desperate tick for me. Only seen two previous but the first in Nottinghamshire [can’t remember the date!] was an obvious escape on first site, the second at Scaling Dam, Cleveland felt more reliable initially but was quickly deemed an escape also. Always a tricky one to judge but this one had been around a few weeks and hadn’t given any reason to be damned. Also having arrived in late 2016 I only had to wait 9 months for the BBRC to deem it kosher.


Drake Hooded Merganser-Barr Loch,Renfrewshire-21/1/17


In a fairly quiet month February I go for a mammal in a Short-tailed Field Vole at Raywell. See here for the full account.


Short-tailed Field Vole-Wauldby Scrogs, Raywell


Two close contenders for this month but as one appears in the”top ten viewed posts” for the year I will go for the male Pine Bunting at Dunnington near York. One of my bogey birds having had untickable views of one in South Yorkshire and missed another at Filey after it was flushed by a dog then for the fields to be shut, like much of the country, because of Foot and Mouth. Originally saw the bird in January, a few days after it had been found, on the way back from the Hooded Merganser. Wasn’t too happy with the views, in fact wondered whether I should have counted my first unticked bird, but a return visit 7th March provide much better views when it showed regularly in a hedge with finches and buntings in good weather and to a smaller less excited crowd with no-one flushing the bird in an attempt to get the best shot.


Male Pine Bunting-Dunnington, N.Yorks.


April was poor for birds so Shoulder Stripe moth caught on the 9th, a first for me, is this month’s picture


Shoulder Stripe moth


Early 2017 was very good for white-winged gulls so with little else of note this month I go for the Iceland Gull that give great views at Hornsea Mere from Kirkholme Point for a few weeks in May and June.


Juvenile Iceland Gull-Hornsea Mere


Best bird this month was Black-browed Albatross at Bempton Cliffs RSPB. Missed one in October 2016, setting off too late for the Eastern Crowned Warbler, which was followed by several fly throughs but none lingering in 2016 before one on 28th June decided to hang on long enough for RL and I to make a less than hectic trip and despite it departing as we reached the cliff top gave us tickable but not photographical views. Also earlier in the months on the 11th saw Elegant Tern at Pagham Harbour which was beyond useful photographic range. Had seen one in Ireland at Lady’s Island Lake,Co.Wexford in July 1999 so a UK tick but as this one was previously ringed France also a known Elegant Tern. Had two new moths durning the month so the more photogenic, Scorched Wing is this month’s picture.


Scorched Wing moth


Probably the best month of 2017. My choice is the Pacific Golden Plover at North Cave Wetlands on 21st. A site tick and my first since the Brough Haven bird almost 17 years to the day. Full account here.


Pacific Golden Plover-North Cave Wetlands


This month’s picture is another moth [making up for not posting in Cottingham Moths this year!] This Magpie Moth was found in hedgerow north of Millbeck Wildlife area in Cottingham on 11th. A first for me and the Marsh Harrier that flew over at the same time was my first for the village.


Magpie Moth-Cottingham


This month it’s the Ryhope Scops Owl. The Lewis American Redstart was the other candidate but the fact the owl was totally self twitched pushes it to the front. Full account here.


Scops Owl-Ryhope, Co.Durham


Although a let down compared with last year October still offered a few choices. If I’d got a picture of the Richardson’s Cackling Goose at Budle Bay, Northumberland, that would have been the obvious choice, but without the Great White Egret at High Eske NR is the the next best, being surprisingly my first for the site and only the second certain record despite the number of records just north at Tophill Low NR. First seen on the 3rd, the photograph was taken on the 7th. Found another at North Cave Wetlands on the 4th where the possibility of it being the same bird continuing south did cross my mind but but subsequent multiple sighting the area proved this unlikely. Only added the species to the latter site list on 24th September.


Great White Egret-R.Hull N.of High Eske NR.


This month it’s a Little Egret, not a rare bird but still an unusual bird to see in your local park. Taken on the 7th it was often seen along a drain by Millhouse Woods Lane Water Works in Cottingham until the freeze in early December [including some non birder fellow dog walkers]. Possibly a different bird was seen on the other side of the village in fields south of Haltemprice Farm in December.


Little Egret-Millbeck Wildlife area, Cottingham


Little choice with the last one as the pair of Stonechat present in Willerby at Haltemprice Farm {Abbey} ruin since October were the only nature photographs I took this month. The species winter here most years. More here.


Stonechat-Haltemprice Farm, Willerby

Top 10 posts of 2017 [viewing figures]

1. Birding from the new Tophill Low NR Visitors Centre

2. Scops Owl in Co.Durham

3. Eastern Lesser Whitethroat in Cottingham

4. Stejnegers Stonechat at Spurn Point From 2016 likely boosted by the Stonechat’s upgrade to full species from 2018

5. Scarborough A day of winter birding with plenty to see.

6. Pectoral Sandpiper at Tophill Low NR Another from 2016 reflecting the interest in the site. No Pec Sand in 2017!

7. Eastern Black Redstart in Skinningrove From the end of December 2017 so most of the interest was in early 2017.

8. Geese at Hornsea Mere

9. Great White Egret and other stuff at Tophill Low NR

10. Twitching Waxwing with Wilbur A dog-walk/twitch to Hull.

Stonechat at Haltemprice Farm, Willerby

19 Dec

19/12/17 Tuesday morning, from the unfrozen pond and lack of frost on the roof of the ‘summerhouse’ I could tell it was warmer than recent days. A coat was still required though.fullsizeoutput_1df9 With out any prompting the dog is currently alternating between our two main walks, although can be wilful if I try to go somewhere he doesn’t fancy. As yesterday was north to the KGV Rec, today it was south towards Haltemprice Farm, Willerby. How far we actually get is unpredictable but today dog was happy to walk as far as the farm ruins. One advantage of cold weather is, away from possibly icy pavements, the going across the fields can a lot easier. Today’s route can get to resemble the Somme at times but although getting muddy wasn’t too bad today. A few Stonechat have been regular in the scrub just to the north of the old farm building. I hadn’t seen them since late November but today had a female in the area directly east of the ruins, joined by a smarter male. Can get closer to them here so managed some better shots than usual.


Stonechat-Haltemprice Farm, Willerby

Checked the Willerby and Derringham Flood Alleviation Scheme just to the south. Only gulls, corvids and a few Mallard but a Wood Sandpiper seen in October proves this area is worth keeping an eye on.


Wood Sandpiper-Willerby and Derringham Flood Alleviation Scheme-10/10/2017

The dog had decide he’d gone far enough so headed back north. No sign of the Kingfisher I’d seen in the area on the last two trips.

As it’s nearly Christmas a picture of an approachable Robin at Jone’s Farm seems right.


Robin-Jone’s Farm, Cottingham

Is no surprise these days to see a Buzzard flying south being mobbed by Crows and gulls as I neared The Garth.

Scops Owl in Co.Durham

28 Sep

27/9/17 A text message at 0830 informed me of a Scops Owl at Ryhope in Co.Durham. This was followed closely by the siren MegaAlert of the RBA pager. This has quickly lost it’s novelty and made a note to change to a less disturbing alert before too long. Need this one having not been able to twitch the Cornish bird and not going for the Oxfordshire bird early enough. Also failed to connect with one in southern Europe. None of my usual “team’ needed Scops so I started by texting JH and putting a message on twitter asking for a lift. I haven’t done any twitching on my own outside of Yorkshire, except for the odd excursion into Lincolnshire, for over fifteen years, largely due to RSI in my hands that started not long after I brought my current bike. I also suffer from a mental fear of motorways. However on checking the Apple “Maps’ found Ryhope only just over 100 miles away and just off the A19. Having attended Teesside Polytechnic in the 80’s most of the route was familiar. I still had a feelings of miss belief about the Owl but further updates, plus a photo on twitter, dispelled them. With no offers of lifts it’s seemed time to give it a try on my own. Three route were offered by “Maps”, the quickest but longest by M62/A1/A19 wasn’t a option so it was via York bypass or the cross country route via Malton. Like most people I find the York bypass complicated and often very slow [pre-bypass I always found the inner ring road very easy] but the other route had the problem of possible wrong turns and having to stop to check the map. I choice the York route and for once it was problem free. I did have some problem with my hands initially due to regular braking and clutch use but once on the A19 dual carriageway things good easier. I did get some legs pain but late enough not to worry about. Traffic was light and the wind was light so didn’t get the motorway “panics’ due to going fast in congested traffic or the wind blast when passing HGV’s. Therefore reached the turn off for Sunderland feeling sanguine. The turning for Ryhope followed and was expecting to have to stop for directions but reached Albion Pub before I did. One issue with twitching by bike is you can’t check the pager and can ride for hours after the bird was messaged to have gone. A quick look though confirmed it was still present recently. It was just a quick walk through a railway underpass and almost immediately saw a quite small crowd looking in a fairly close bush. Grabbed a quick look in a scope then set up myself. Initially found it difficult to find for myself as being deep in the bush it was obscured from some angles but eventually got an good position where I managed a few record shots then watched it for about an hour, occasionally waking to preen.


Scops Owl-Ryhope, Co.Durham


Viewing the Scops Owl at Ryhope Village Dene.

Not usually one to tick and run but as it wasn’t doing much and the only other attraction were a few Yellow-browed Warblers I decided to leave early afternoon. Partially this was a fear that the feeling of euphoria would go making the trip back a drag but also I wanted to get round York before the rush hour. The trip back down the A19 wasn’t as easy as coming as the traffic was much heavier and the wind had increased so I was glad to get back on ordinary roads at Thirsk. The York bypass again caused no horrors, the early return paying off. The only fear was noticing how low my petrol was, due to high speed riding, but fortunately cleared the bypass before needing to go on reserve.

The addition of Scops Owl means I have now seen all the European Owls.

Post Script

This was written and posted in the early hours of Thursday morning well before any news had got out. Last report of the Scops Owl was flying off, presumably to hunt at dusk. Not seen in it’s bush early morning but re-found mid morning.

No sign on Friday but seen again on Saturday. Again after going missing for two days it has been located again early Tuesday morning. Obviously it’s varying it’s roost site and it’s a lottery whether it’s found each day. No sign on Wednesday, although windy so could just been hunkered down, but no news so far on Thursday.