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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.

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♀ 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.

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♂ 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.

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

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

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Reed Bunting along Abbey Lane, Willerby

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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.

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♂ 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.

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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.

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.

Great White Egret at North Cave Wetlands

24 Sep

Last year at this time there were enough birds. particularly waders, locally to keep life interesting. So far this month it’s been hard going at my sites. Choose High Eske/Pulfin NR as my Patchwork Challenge site but so far it’s not pay off with many previously tied on birds not yet recorded. Added nothing this week despite visiting every other day. Nearby at Swine Moor it’s been slightly better finding a Garganey on the 21st.

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Garganey-Hornsea Mere

 

However the waders have been disappointing with just Ruff, peaking at 13, and the occasional Dunlin or Redshank.

Did Hornsea Mere on the 21st where a few Little Gulls were still around the jetties and my first returning Pintail off Swan Island.

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Little Gull at Kirkholme Point-Hornsea Mere

Also had two Bearded Tit briefly under Wassand Hide and a late Hobby nearby.

At Tophill Low NR on the 22nd only managed 2-3 Green Sandpiper with a Barnacle Goose [of unknown origin] on Watton NR.

On walk to Creykebeck substation with Wilbur on the 23rd was bit of a raptor-fest, the highlights being a Hobby hitting finches at Lawns Farm and Peregrine near Millhouse Woods Lane pumping station, although the latter may have had jesses.

Sunday morning I had planned to do Welton Waters in hope of seeing a few Bearded Tit. However got a text from SG about a Great White Egret at North Cave Wetlands. Not even a year tick but although there are a few previous records it would be a site tick for me. Didn’t panic though waiting for The Andrew Marr Show to end. Getting there the Egret had gone over the bank to the back of Main Lake. As distant as it was possible to be but did my best with the camera.

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Great White Egret on Main Lake-North Cave Wetlands

Some debate about whether it was the bird recently seen at Tophill Low NR [see here] but I remember the one I’d seen having pale legs when the current birds are almost black. There have been several records recently anyway including one at Hornsea Mere the same day I was last there. Moved on to Crosslands Hide, usually the best chance for waders, but was very quiet. In fact apart from Lapwing the only waders on site were the large number of Snipe on Island Lake and a brief Dunlin.

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Snipe on Island Lake-North Cave Wetlands

Had earlier seen a falcon, more likely Peregrine than Hobby, spooking everything off the north fields.

American Redstart on Barra

21 Sep

12/9/17 Another quiet day at High Eske NR on Tuesday morning, only a Tawny Owl being mobbed in the bushes on the west side adding any interest. As I was walking back to the farm got a call from TD about twitching the American Redstart on Barra. Been around a few days but had no excuses now so agreed. Did Swine Moor, the easy way, from Weel Road, on the way back. Also been hard work here recently but did have six Ruff in flight a few times from hidden pools near the drain. Also a Dunlin on the closer pools.

Set off for Tony’s a bit early in in hope of avoiding the forecast rain but started early as I reached Harland Way. However despite this and my problem riding in the dark [due to badly scratched glasses, now being replaced] I managed to get to Tony’s in one piece. Waited for AW [his 2nd attempt] then went via Wetherby to pick up SL. As seems the pattern when ever I head to Scotland there was road works on the A1 but fortunately they didn’t delay us much.

13/9/17 However not long after joining the M6 from the A66 the traffic came to a stop. From the ‘net’ found there had been a crash up ahead. Initially talk of not opening again until half past four which would have meant missing the ferry although we could get one early afternoon. Fortunately started moving again around three which meant with luck and fast driving we could make the early ferry. All went well and joined the queue just before they started boarding. The early ferry from Oban to Barra on Wednesday. although getting in earlier than the other one, visits several other islands on the way so is a bit of a drag. Spend the time sea watching when not dropping off. Little of note bird wise only adding Manx Shearwater and Black Guillemot. However a message over the tannoy alerted me to two Basking Sharks close in. Only the distinctive fin tips but a new creature for me. Getting into Castlebay late afternoon we joined the small convoy heading to Eoligarry. Reaching the RC church we were told the American Redstart had just shown so some of the pressure was off. Early on got one of those ‘that’s the bird but hope I see it better’ views but needn’t have worried as although mobile did show well on and off.

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‘Waiting for a better shot”

Got a few shots but when I relented and went closer only got some sharp but headless shots.

 

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Female American Redstart-Eoligarry, Isle of Barra

 

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Pied Wagtail-Eoligarry, Isle of Barra

Had a heavy shower and as the sun had sunk behind the hillside decided to head back to Castlebay. Tried for a B&B but there was no rooms on the island so ended up sleeping in tents or the car. Believe this was the experience of most other birders. Nearly did the Yellow Warbler as a foot passenger a few years back and shudder to think where I’d have spent the night. In fact the island seems lacking in facilities with the Coop superstore the only obvious shop and the only bars in town in hotels. Didn’t try them myself but told even the nearby hotel bar wasn’t very friendly.

 

14/9/17 Early ferry back and direct to Oban so not too long and the drive back was uneventful getting home before midnight.

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The ferry back in Castlebay Harbour.

Pacific Golden Plover at North Cave Wetlands

22 Jul

21/7/17 Spent Friday morning at High Eske NR. Again nothing new but at it was peaceful, without the teenagers who tend to invade on warm summer days. Took in Swine Moor on the way back. Despite some good rain yesterday it was drier than on Tuesday won’t be worth looking at again before some prolonged rain. May be some hidden pools nearer Barmston Drain which I may check next week.

Getting in saw a probable Pacific Golden Plover was at North Cave Wetlands. My previous Pacific Golden Plover was found by RL and spent much of July 2000 at nearby Brough Haven. My first was on the opposite side of the Humber at South Ferriby in 1993, yet again in July. Checked the reserve Facebook page to confirm it was at least a Lesser Golden Plover and therefore worth ignoring Wilbur’s demands for a walk. Getting there mid afternoon had reasonable views over the gate on Dryham Lane.

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Pacific Golden Plover on Cell A-North Cave Wetlands.

It moved close to Crossland’s Hide but before entering was I distracted by a group viewing an adult Yellow-legged Gull on the silt lagoon. Had a look at it among Lesser Black-backed before they all got up and on re-alighting the Yellow-legged wasn’t to be seen. A Caspian Gull had been found so I went into the hide where luckily most were still looking the other way at the plover. The Caspian was easily found, being the only large pale gull among the Lesser Black-backs with no Herring Gulls present. Was shortly joined by JH who’d also viewed the plover from Dryham Lane. After taking a few pictures of the Caspian, and the Yellow-legged Gull not reappearing, I decided to get back to take Wilbur out instead of visiting the rest of the reserve.

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Caspian Gull with Lesser Black-backed Gulls on silt pond-North Cave Wetlands

Managed to find a Smoky Wainscot on a thistle in fields off Dunswell Road but typical of this time of year the birds were hard work.

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Smoky Wainscot-fields off Dunswell Road-Cottingham

The plover flew high south after I left and didn’t return by dusk.

 

Caspian Tern at Swillington

22 Jul

A Caspian Tern was seen at Swillington Ings near Leeds on Tuesday morning [18/7/17] but disappeared fives minutes after being reported. Belatedly reported through nearby Fairburn Ings the previous evening. Back at Swillington Ings on Wednesday morning where this time it lingered all day.

I have already seen three Caspian Tern in Britain, the first at Lound GPs in Nottinghamshire on 3rd July 1998, then a lucky addition to my Yorkshire List after twitching the Kilnsea Rock Thrush and the third again in Yorkshire when one lingered on the river off Faxfleet/Alkborough Flats on 24th July 2016, a county tick for RL. Also seen a few in Spain and Finland. As I don’t habitually year list, the current bird was more a matter of hoping it would come nearer to add to one of my site lists.

20/7/17 Thursday morning brought torrential rain so a rest from birding. However late morning got a call from JH asking if I fancied the tern. Nothing better to do so shortly we were heading along the M62 in rather worrying conditions. Fortunately things improved the further west we got and when we reached the end of Fleet Lane, Oulton, with the help of the SatNav, it was just a fine drizzle. Joined the small group below the private elevated hide expecting to be given some positive news but there was talk of no sign for over 90 minutes, despite reports on the pager much more recent. Scanning further afield noticed a few distant birders ‘walking with a purpose’. Obviously we weren’t in the right place so headed off like a latter day Pied Piper. A good walk reached another lake [would give names but not being local not sure of the correct ones to use]. Still not meeting anyone who had seen the tern we kept towards what we hoped was the east where the tern was last reported to be. Headed across a causeway from where we could see what appeared to be some very distant birders looking at something. By this time I’d lost JH so hoped we’d meet up at the bird. Continued to circumnavigate the lake and after what seemed a very long walk finally caught sight of the tern and not much further a small group watching it. Only grabbed a few shots before setting back in the hope of finding JH.

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Adult Caspian Tern-Swillington Ings.

He’d tried ringing me but either my phone was malfunctioning or the signal was poor. Tried ringing back with no answer then JH called back. Fortunately by continuing straight on he’d located some birder watching the tern but at a greater distant. Was now heading back to the car park. Finished my circumnavigation of the lake and then more by luck than judgement found my way back to the car.

The Caspian Tern wasn’t seen on Friday but may turn up again somewhere soon.