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2017 in 12 pictures

2 Jan

Intro

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.

January

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.

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

February

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.

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Short-tailed Field Vole-Wauldby Scrogs, Raywell

March

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.

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Male Pine Bunting-Dunnington, N.Yorks.

April

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

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Shoulder Stripe moth

May

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.

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Juvenile Iceland Gull-Hornsea Mere

June

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.

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Scorched Wing moth

July

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.

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Pacific Golden Plover-North Cave Wetlands

August

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.

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Magpie Moth-Cottingham

September

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.

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Scops Owl-Ryhope, Co.Durham

October

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.

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

November

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.

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Little Egret-Millbeck Wildlife area, Cottingham

December

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.

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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.

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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.

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Scops Owl-Ryhope, Co.Durham

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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.