Saturday 18th November. Phil Stead hide, Salholme. Arrived 9.05. Amazing light. Waited 2 hours for water pipit - not photographed one properly before. In the meantime took a few photos of other birds.
Black-tongued carrion crow
Common snipe kept us guessing by bobbing like a jack. Eventually came out into the open. Some greylags flew over.
A green sandpiper treated us to ultra close-up views!
Eventually a water pipit appeared reasonably close to the hide. Success!
I walked out to the new viewing mound for the long-eared owl but it had dropped out of sight. A male stonechat let me get ridiculously close - I took a few shots, walked a bit closer and so forth until he was very near to me.
A bit closer The North Gare shore larks had unfortunately crossed to South Gare. A walk out to Seaton Snook was pleasant enough but the tide was very high and the twite had dispersed. The causeway out to the Snook had been breached by the tide. A bit of shopping at Hartlepool Tesco then I called at Newburn Bridge. Not many waders about - mainly sleepy ringed plover.
I called this post ''All's right with the world.'' It isn't really. When I see the persecution of birds of prey on supposedly protected land; the damage plastic is doing to our oceans; the way big business 'forgets' commitments it made when planning permission was granted and the way that in general mankind is happily trashing the planet I wonder just when we will learn or be forced to learn.
In the meantime little old me can mourn when I can no longer find wood warblers or lesser spotted woodpeckers but, on Saturday, I called at Newburn Bridge in the hope a med gull might appear. No sign on the 2 previous visits.
Herring gulls on the lamp-posts; black-headed gulls out on the water. A great black-back flew around over the car park. Wait a minute! What's this coming in? And so, just for a moment, I did feel indeed that all was all right with my world.
A great day's birding!
Maybe something wonderful can still happen. In the improbable meantime I carry on birding. A trip to South Landing, Flamborough [November 11th] produced little more than a meadow pipit... ...and tree sparrows at Bempton... ...or perhaps my heart wasn't quite in it. However a determined drive back to St. Aidan's did get me brief and distant views of a dartford warbler. Rather good Yorkshire tick!
Not getting out so much lately - only because there's not a great deal tempting me - but on the 15th I went to Alkborough Flats hoping for bearded tits. Unusually, none seen. Place was full of chattering wrens. Seems like it is the season of the wren at the moment.
Spotted redshank outside the hide plus posing snipe. Distant marsh harrier in dead tree.
Carried on to Blacktoft to see a green-winged teal. Not a year tick [saw one January 11th at North Cave] but hoped for some photos. Sadly it was on the far side of Marshland hide. Here's the best of the crop. Crop being the appropriate word! Shovelers
Walked down to Singleton for the harriers. Really good scope views of a perched merlin.
Lots of waders including blackwits [I'm really good at pressing the shutter just as they all bury their heads in the water!] and about a dozen ruff.
Nothing flew close so I'll end with a couple of harriers waiting for the roost.
Well, I think I got the title about right...
Two wrens and an interloper were involved in producing this little posting. All taken at Skinningrove when a pied wheatear failed to turn up. However I am really thrilled with this set of photos.
Squeezed in a visit to Castle Howard Arboretum yesterday before going to a family Bonfire Party in the afternoon. Couldn't stay long but the hawfinches did appear much to the delight of the many birders present. From the state of the car park and adjoining roads the arboretum must have had a financial field day! [£7 per head]
Any attempt to photograph the hawfinches high up in the hornbeams was a battle against the light which was bright and harsh. Someone moaned: 'The sun's in the wrong place!' I replied [to a complete stranger]: 'No, it's in the right place. It's either the birds or us who are in the wrong place!' Some of the crowd laughed.
A pair of bullfinch were in a small tree and were nicely lit. When one took off I kept my finger on the shutter - I always shoot in al servo mode... I thought this photo might be improved by straightening the bird up a bit! That's better, isn't it?
Ooops! It's gone! Some photos make me smile. I think it's a cannonball finch!
Pointing a 500mm lens [700 mm with extender] hand-held up into a fairly distant hornbeam into the light is tricky. Here's a few of my reasonable efforts. I have used photoshop in some cases to lighten the shadows without over-exposing the whole image. Others worked all right as they were.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining but it wasn't a great autumn for rarities in my part of the UK although there were indubitably some quality birds elsewhere. The decent strength easterlies didn't come to pass along the north-east coast. At one point I hadn't had a year tick for three weeks - a personal worst! To dispel any despondency I decided to do something about it and booked a last minute week in Scotland. More of that later.
First of all a trip to Blacktoft on October 12th. A curlew sandpiper at Marshland.
Above: konik pony at Blacktoft.
I left for Scotland on October 21st calling at Budle Bay for a cackling goose. I found the 5,000 strong flock of barnacle geese at Ross, just north-west of the bay. They were easily disturbed although I remained hidden behind a hedge. I spotted the cackling goose at the rear of the flock. Attempts to photograph it on the ground proved fruitless as it constantly disappeared among the foliage of the leaf beet. I took lots of flight shots too...
You may spot the cackling goose a quarter of the way up, centre image. Next shot: another view. I carried on northbound over the new Queensferry Crossing and on towards the Cairngorms.
October 22nd started near Loch Garten. Coal tits feeding from people's hands [including mine] and a couple of crested tits feeding on seed left on an electrical supply box.
Then up the Findhorn Valley in an area called Strathdearn - a magical place I hadn't visited before.
Red kite, buzzard, white-tailed eagle and golden eagle all seen - plus ravens. Brown hare late afternoon near Nethy Bridge.
October 23rd calling at Portsoy a long-tailed duck - a 'splodgy' female was in the harbour. Next stop Banff. Shags and a cormorant. Eider everywhere...sometimes displays turned violent...
Lunch at Pennan [Local Hero film location]. Stonechat and rock pipits on the seaweed.
The wind was strengthening at Rosehearty - a juvenile gannet diving into the wild waves. Final stop at Loch of Strathbeg RSPB.
As we left we passed two fields each of which held several hundred whooper swans. Here's just a few. October 24th a break at Cruden Bay where we found dippers. Here's one of the pair.
Near Peterhead by the mouth of the River Ugie we watched gulls, snipe and lapwings. We headed for the Ythan estuary and after a session at the Waulkmill Hide watching a variety of waders we headed for Newburgh where the river meets the sea. I don't think I've ever seen so many eiders gathered in one place. October 25th we saw snow geese distantly with hundreds of pinkfeet at Loch of Skene. The best stop that day was at Mar Lodge Estate where we saw few birds but the scenery was magnificent. It's where BBC Winterwatch is based. I liked the dead pines. Here's one I deliberately over-processed. October 26th we toured the Black Isle north and east of Inverness. Apparently so-called [although a peninsula not an island] as it's warmed by the surrounding sea and low-lying so remains 'black' when all else is snow-covered. Lots of pinkfeet at RSPB Udale Bay. Memory card failure meant that two days worth of photos are currently still trapped in a crashed compact flash card!
The Kessock Bridge takes you across to the Black Isle from Inverness. [I used an old Nikon Coolpix 4500 on the trip for all my landscape shots]
October 27th we set off to look for capercaillie again. Fortuitously we struck lucky almost immediately. In poor light and through glass I fired off some shots. Retrospectively I should have pushed the ISO up even higher than I did. Still pleased with this one anyway!
From there we went up the funicular and out on to the mountain top with a qualified guide [You can only do this if you have a licensed guide with you.]
The mist enveloped us but we did see ptarmigan reasonably close - a covey of 9 birds in total. In these conditions you could easily mistake the birds for lichen encrusted rocks.
Some reindeer were spotted on the lower slopes. A walk at Allt Mor looking for crossbill produced coal tits and some nice but fleeting views of crested tits. Crossbills had been our target bird. The river views were enchanting.
Another walk on the south side of Loch Morlich to try to track down some crossbills was more successful. We finished the day at Insh Marshes watching a ringtail hen harrier. Loch Insh.
Insh Marshes plus a very distant hen harrier flying in front of the mound you can see on the right of the first picture below
October 30th looking for some water pipits. Redshank from Phil Stead hide at Saltholme.
Teal The water pipits were seen briefly. Bumped into Barry at Hartlepool Headland. He pointed out some purple sandpipers.
November 1st. Barry and I failed to find any hawfinches at Rufford, Notts. So drove to Alkborough: allsorts seen there including bearded tits, avocets, marsh harrier to name just a few. Far Ings had a possible slavonian grebe. After a long walk we tracked it down hiding on Ness Pit in the reeds. Had to shoot when the breeze created a gap in the reeds! A kingfished dropped in in front of our hide. There may be more to come! You never know!!