Zenfolio | Chris Downes' Focus on Birds | Blog

First launched 12th March 2012...

...and this is how it all began...

Welcome to my birding blog! Well no doubt as the seasons progress we'll wander into other areas such as close-up work on flowers and insects. This is all new to me so I'll have to see how things develop and also experiment a little. Here goes...

4th-9th August 2018

August 11, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

A case of déjà vu!

August 4th - Buffy flies in to Blacktoft

Always distant, I did my best to get some decent images.

August 8th - Back to Blacktoft

I suppose I wanted a better photo of the buff-breasted sandpiper. Did I succeed? Not too sure - but I had a pleasant afternoon. Green sandpipers and yellow wagtails too. You'll know which are which...

The buff-breasted had flown off apparently - which explained why there was plenty of room in Marshland hide. And, it came back!

Eventually something unseen spooked everything and Marshland was quiet. I headed for Townend as I knew it liked to go there too...

The bird decided to come our way and set off on a long walk...

...and then the long walk back...

August 9th - Back to Kilnsea

No sign off the red-backed shrike, just the smell, reminiscent of a roadside snack bar, of food cooking in the new cafe they've built. Seems a strange place for a cafe and it's got a strange name too: The Discovery Centre. It was full of people believing they were doing their bit for nature watching the starlings on the feeder.

Under the Orwellian rules which currently apply I may well be banned frrom YWT land for expressing such opinions. All I will say is that the current situation is very sad and needs to be resolved. YWT must realise that some people are saying sensible things...

Birds. I went back to Kilnsea Wetlands. A wall brown posed on the bank as I approached - strong male sex brand. An immature med gull was on the second spit. Dunlins busy feeding.

Eventually went back to the canal zone. David and Chris told me to talk to a Scotsman who was 'on' the shrike. This worked out well although [and I know my hearing is rubbish] I could only understand bits of what he was telling me! Here's the target bird.

The bird dropped out of view so I went to Canal Scrape hide. Swallow still feeding young. Shrike duly appeared.

Snipe in front of hide. Action in the reeds just to my left. Sedge and reed warblers both looking fresh. 224 UK 2018


30th-31st July 2018

August 03, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

East Coast Meanderings

July 30th

Up to Blackhall Rocks to see a drake surf scoter along with a velvet scoter and about 500 or so common scoters. A long linear raft of birds with the surf scoter showing well at the northern end of the raft. Too far for a photo. Later at Dorman's Pool a wader fest plus a juvenile marsh harrier kept me entertained. No photos from this trip however. I tried to photograph the harrier but it was a mite too far away.

July 31st

Barry and I set off fairly early for Flamborough, intending to visit Thornwick Pool. I hoped the wood sandpiper might be present and close. Year tick for Barry - the woodsand delivered. We headed south calling at Hornsea Mere. Little gulls and common terns. Plus an obliging Painted Lady. Ladies first!

Common tern, including one that was bothering a little gull dozing on one of the jetties. Little gulls - quite a few around.

Moi! photo by Barry. Spurn next - Kilnsea Wetlands and Beacon Ponds to be precise. For a full account of the wader filled day [20 species seen!] visit barryjohnbishop.blogspot.com. Overall we saw 62 species of birds that day.

At Kilnsea we had excellent views of a blackwit and of a greenshank. All photographed in Mediterranean-type light conditions.

222 UK 2018


23rd & 25th July 2018

July 28, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

A Touch of Class

Two days out birding

In fact a couple of touches of quality birds. July 23rd took me back to Hartlepool to look out for the roseate terns. A small huddle of birders reassured me as I arrived. Three birds seen although whilst getting the camera sorted I missed the juvenile photograph-wise. Here are the two adults with a sandwich tern and common tern in there somewhere. I walked all round the Snook but things were fairly quiet. I was attacked Farne Islands style by a common tern [or was it an arctic - I didn't look that closely!] Summer sanderlings, oystercatchers and sandwich terns out on the sand. Juvenile common tern too. Limonium vulgare or common sea lavender attractive in flower. The drought continued and it was refreshing to see a sea of green as the samphire was growing well. It almost looked good enough to eat!

I headed for Saltholme before going home quite early. Phil Stead hide was action packed with bad-tempered black-tailed godwits putting on a show. Snipe present in good numbers too. Here comes a super set of images - all credit to the birds not to me.

July 25th was quite exciting. Franklin's gull apparently in front of the hide at Scaling Dam. I had seen one [badly] flying off about 11 years ago at Farmoor Reservoir in Oxfordshire. This was  very different and as a former colleague would have delighted in saying, it ''really nailed it!''

For about an hour it slept and the assembled throng watched those tremendous white eye crescents.

Eventually the bird stirred. From here on I'll let Mr. Franklin do the talking. [The real John Franklin was a napoleonic Royal Navy officer who later tried on several expeditions to find a North-West passage through the Arctic seas] Here's my Mr. Franklin... Finally we spotted just in front of us a a very little little ringed plover. Say ahhhh!!!! 221 UK 2018


18th July 2018

July 22, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

A pleasant afternoon at Blacktoft Sands

No targets, just looking for some nice photo opportunities of waders and anything else that might be around. I started at Marshland. A few ruff were quite close. I spotted a greenshank sleeping on the mud. Eventually it flew a few dozen yards to join another greenshank out on the lagoon.

As well as ruff there were spotted redshank to be seen. This dusky maiden was further out than I might have liked!

A spoonbill over on the far side.

I spotted a few bearded tits around the lagoon. There's two in this shot plus a wagtail juvenile if you can pick them out. This one's a bit clearer. They are never very close at Blacktoft. Alkborough Flats can be very good - if your luck's in! I moved on. Green sandpipers at Townend hide. Spot the dragonfly...

...perflection: a common snipe...

...and marsh harrier resting in a bush. Finally: a couple of butterflies from the walk back. Red admiral and comma.

Since then Sheila and I had an afternoon at Hartlepool Headland hoping for the reported roseate terns. They didn't return but we watched the common and sandwich terns instead. Conditions were very pleasant with little wind. Speaking personally I'm ready for something a bit different weather-wise. I just hope I don't live to regret those words!!

219 UK 2018


15th July 2018

July 18, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

There's more to come!

[I hope!]

Spurn on Sunday 15th July, hoping the greater sand plover would still be around. On arrival things looked grim: lost somewhere north of the Narrows. I decided to go to Kilnsea Wetlands' tiny hide [Get a bigger one, please!] and see what was afoot.

A grass snake made an impressive appearance.

Little gull adult and curlew sandpiper on far side of the main spit. Very distant hazy photos.

Something sent all the sandwich terns off towards the estuary.

Set off home as nothing was showing. Got to Patrington when I looked at the phone. I wish I still had a functioning pager! 

However, 'GSP on Easington Beach' came up on the phone. I turned back. After all, it would be a lifer!!!!!

The bird was on the beach still. I'm a little amazed how the other beachgoers continued to walk about on the sand in front of a line of 60-odd scopes and cameras on tripods as if they weren't there!

First view.

I had fabulous views of this "new for me bird" in the scope. After a while staring out to sea the bird flew over us and higher up the beach so I was looking into the sun to photograph it.  Then it flew south down the beach, but not too far. I left it whilst the other toggers scampered after it. As they do.

Great day. 

219 UK 2018   436 UK Life list