Sheila and I went up to Saltholme hoping for a long-eared owl. We got two - but one of them was rather hard to spot! As you will see.
At first he had his back to us but then he turned to look to the right.
Then he faced us and the sun nicely caught his 'ears'! In the above photo you can detect a second owl on the left. As we walked back we watched a pair of stonechats. Fighter jets over the visitor centre. Sheila spotted the black swan cruising the main lake. The green-winged teal was said to be showing at Saltholme Pools hide. I'd fallen for that trick before only to find it had disappeared in the long grass: this time we struck lucky. It's like our cat: sleeps about 21 hours a day and disappears when you most need him! Well, here he is, showing a few signs of life!
Snap decision to go to Brompton by Sawdon church to see hawfinch and a very early ring ouzel. No sign of hawfinch but found the ouzel in the field across from the church. Photographed into the sun which explains the bright fringing round the bird. The forecast snow hadn't materialised and Tophill Low was only about 14 miles away across country. A pleasant drive on the back roads to Driffield and I was surprised how soon I got to the waterworks. Hoping for a glaucous gull which comes to roost in the afternoon, I soon had 3 redpolls in the gloomy woods on the ramp up to the new hide. Quite a pale bird.
If you want to see small birds, the feeders at the new hide are an excellent spot. Grab a blue chair and sit in the hide but some way from the glass. If you stand right by the window you'll see very little.
On the feeders I saw chaffinch, greenfinch, goldfinch, siskin, blue tit, great tit, marsh tit, coal tit, robin. The only downside is the use of special 'Horrorglass' in the hide. This means photos taken from in the hide are blurred and the excellent telescopes provided are worse than useless. Some strange planning decisions going on there, Yorkshire Water!
If you want a decent view of D reservoir go to the left hand cubicle and open the window slots! What will they do when there's a really rare bird present and there's only room for 4 or 5 birders in there?
I watched the assembled waterfowl - coots, wigeon, tufties, great crested grebe, a few of the commoner gulls. Here's a pochard and a nice goldeneye.
Anyway, the glaucous turned up early at about 2.30. Looked different when the sun came out.
After a while it flew out onto the reservoir. Time for a biggy?
Words used when things don't go entirely to plan. Two such days this week. Wednesday 10th January up in Cleveland/Co. Durham I managed to see nothing new for the year list but still enjoyed my day. South Shields pier area: Mr. Crow in the car park.
Lots of waders...dunlin, sanderlings and purple sandpiper. Dunlins followed by a sanderling huddle and purple sandpipers.
Look what turned up among the ringed plovers! A rather dull snow bunting.
No sign of a glaucous gull. This great black-back came close!
Finally a cormorant just off the car park. An afternoon run out to Fairburn Lin Dike hide on the 11th January saw this distant drake smew. Always a thrill to see a white nun!
First photo is uncropped to give an idea how far it was even with the 700mm equivalent lens plus extender. Believe it or not, the smew is just north-west [as it were] of the left hand coot.
Same photo cropped. Here's the best few of the crop - also much cropped! You can only tell the pictures are in colour from the first shots with the shoveler in view.
Another afternoon run at the last minute to Scarborough on January 12th to try for a waxwing at B&Q. We'd seen them there in a previous year. Got really lucky this time! At first they [3 birds] were up in a tree and the light was tricky as was finding an unobstructed view.
Then they flew down to a low-growing cotoneaster bush for berries. The birds had already eaten all the visible ones and were now poking their heads into the bush for more! Then head up with berry in bill! I always think they can look quite fierce. Next one is my favourite shot.
January 13th I went back to South Shields for the glaucous gull; to North Shields for a firecrest; to Wingate quarry for a little owl and to Saltholme for a long-eared owl. I saw none of them: another dot day for year ticks! But it was good to be out!! I think. It was very cold at Seaton Snook where I had close views of 6 snow buntings but no twite. Altogether a blank day.
I encountered a co-operative rock pipit however - so here s/he is! Even little brown jobs can make interesting images in my view.
Putting your best foot forward! A turnstone was too cold to be bothered moving. Second photo is uncropped.
Birding progress is reasonably good so far this year. I've had a few local trips where photography wasn't really practical. It was nice when Sheila and I bumped into some bird racers from York Ornithological Club at Ellerton Church. We picked up a few ticks there including whooper swans and a ruddy shelduck.
Photos relate to the 6th and 8th of January. Starting with Saturday 6th Janaury I went up to Hartlepool. Good number of year ticks. I found a brambling in the hedge at Saltholme. Later it turned up at the Watchpoint feeders. I tried to creep up on a party of fieldfare in a tree at Saltholme but they flew off as I approached. I swung the camera, clicked and hoped... 8th January took me up Forge Valley, along Marine Drive Scarborough and then on to Holbeck. No seed at Forge Valley so I supplied some. Amazed how quickly the birds appeared: they must have had spies out watching me!
Mediterranean gulls x8 at Holbeck car park. Next stop Bempton. Just 2 gannets [both adults] and hundreds of guillemots on the sea and on the cliffs. Bridled version mid-left. Filey Brigg or Carr Naze from Bempton. I always think it looks like a man-made structure. Finally I dropped down to Blacktoft for the roost. Three marsh harriers and a crow in a bush at Singleton hide.
January 4th I went up to Fountains Abbey near Ripon to [hopefully] see some hawfinches. I knew to head for the West Gate. I parked and walked towards the entrance scanning the yew trees as I went. I thought I'd better pay and go in to the grounds a bit to explore properly. An unpleasant woman in her little booth said it would cost £15. 'That much?!' I replied. The sarcastic woman replied 'You can pay Gift Aid if you want, then it's £16.50.' I told that was too expensive. I kept my cool and left but, I must admit, I was left feeling very angry. I don't understand how they can charge one adult that kind of money. Perhaps I'm completely out of touch. I think I paid about £7 quid at the Castle Howard Arboretum - and that was for hawfinch too!!
Very expensive birds hawfinches.
Happy ending. I hung around in the rain. Scanning leafless trees as well as the yews. Five showed up, bless them. And free of charge too! Wasn't sure what to do next as I knew the light would soon fail. Nosterfield sprang to mind. Only 10 miles away.
I was surprised to find a single avocet there... ...and a bedraggled kestrel.
The quarry site was quiet. Redwing and curlew in the rain.
January 5th. Indecision time! Eventually decided to spend the afternoon at Lemonroyd Sewage Works [tourist hot spot] and persist until I saw a water pipit. It took me about a quarter of an hour. No photo because the coarse fine mesh netting makes it tricky. The bird performed beautifully. I watched it for a bit on the sewage bed then it jumped up onto one of the rotating arms and did a full circle in front of me before dropping down again! Beware: there are a few meadow pipits there too [plus grey wagtails].
Time left to go down the causeway at Swillington Ings. I drove round to Methley Bridge. At the far end of the causeway a kingfisher was perched on a bulrush in the sun. To my consternation someone was standing about 4 feet from it. I approached. The rest as they say is mystery! Just a trusting bird. Also seen: great crested grebe and goldeneyes.
Early start saw me in Cowpen Bewley country park by 7.55 as the light was still dim. Slowly the birds appeared. Next stop Ward Jackson Park - met a few local birders getting their fix on some reliable species. Parakeets showed well in the early sunshine. Went back to Tiggy for camera - the bird waited patiently! Newburn Bridge area [via the marina] for the linnets and the lapland bunting. Soon dealt with! Normal stuff on the beach at low tide; pied wagtail on the rock armour.
Then on to North Gare. Skylarks x3 in the car park. Nearly overlooked them hunkered down in the grass. Second bird visible top left. Snow buntings at Seaton Snook [very flighty] then on to Saltholme area.
Year list building nicely!
By one o'clock decided [as I had planned in my mind if the bird was still around] to bomb off to Whitby for my friend the wheatear. I knew where to park and where to go as this would be my third visit. Wanted it on the 2018 list! Previous visits it was always on the ground. January 1st is obviously Post Day!