Welcome to my birding blog - first launched 12th March 2012...


14th April 2022 ff

April 19, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Birding on the slow...

April 14th took me up to Hartlepool. Zinc Works Road and a wheatear running in the long grass. Got the camera but couldn't refind the bird. So I went to Dorman's Pool looking for sedge warbler. No sign: I kept finding wrens! 

Then a quick stop at Phil Stead's where things were pretty low key: a shelduck and a few blackwits present. Oh, and a moorhen!

Lifeboat station kittiwakes - just a few birds present.

Watchful cormorant

In the grass  nearby a green-veined white butterfly.

Next stop Greatham Creek. Avocets easily spotted, also quite a few redshanks. One avocet was clearly different...red and yellow flag.

More avocets...

I spotted a spotted!

Headland birds were confined to the only remaining bit of rock between the piers - cormorant and shag and some silent big gulls. [Big gulls don't cry!]

Back later to Dorman's Pool for another look. Peter Garbutt took me to where we might see a gropper. But we failed to find it. A crow sat on a post by the car. It liked this post and didn't want to fly off so it let me get out of the car and take a few close-ups. Crows are usually much more wary than this one!

The piece of dead grass was annoying so I walked round the car for a better angle [expecting the crow to fly] but it clearly liked being the centre of my attention!

Black and white version

April 17th: Rufforth tip. I'd never been before so I planned a walk along Manor Lane from the Wetherby road lay-by [B1224]. It was early and blackcaps were everywhere [I saw at least 10 including 3 males chasing each other]; also saw treecreeper and chiffchaffs. No willow warbler unfortunately although whitethroat and willow warbler had been reported.

After a few hundred yards I went left and found three large pools I never knew existed. Complete with tufted ducks, very nervous mallards, a grey heron and a green sandpiper.

Orange tip. Good name for the location!

Nearly back at the car...

The lay-by is close to Rufforth Flying Club.

April 17th: a tour of Poppleton's lanes produced nothing really exciting but I did add red-legged partridge, yellowhammer, shelduck and reed bunting to my list of birds seen this year within the York boundary.

148 UK 2022


8th April 2022 ff

April 11, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Popp goes the Ouzel!

But first of all...

Friday 8th April: Trip to Swillington Ings. Saw Cetti's warbler and a blackcap within minutes of my arrival. Blackcap stayed for a photo.

Great crested grebe and soon after the black-necked grebes.

Back home I spotted a report of a ring ouzel about a mile from home on the Pool of Destiny at Poppleton P&R. Seemed unlikely although the time of year was right...I waited a good twenty minutes until it popped into view just as I was about to give up!

Sunday 10th April: first of all I drove up the A1 to Nosterfield. Group of 22 pink-feet far side of the nature reserve. Surprise bonus included!

A wren seemed unconcerned by my presence.

Oystercatchers buzzing about.

A young rabbit from the viewscreen.

Black-tailed godwits in their summer gear.

I moved on to the quarry reserve. Little to record.  Nice drive across country to Scaling Dam and Lockwood Beck. Smart male brambling at Lockwood Beck 

146 UK 2022

25th March 2022 ff

April 06, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Sleeping Beauty!

I've been out and about looking for garganey mainly. Failed so far! Failed twice at Astley Lake and then again at Bank Island. No doubt I'll bump into one when I least expect to. So what have I seen?

March 25th took me to Scarborough to see a peregrine. That was the plan: peregrine on Marine Drive might be a bit tricky to locate and then move on to Bempton as everybody's been seeing the puffins there. Soon found the peregrine. While I was looking at the peregrine on the cliff this bird cruised along the clifftop. Not sure what it is...sparrowhawk?

...anyway, here's the peregrine.

I drove to Bempton. It soon became very apparent that everything had left the cliffs except a few gannets and the fulmars. There were some razorbills and guillemots on the water but I couldn't find a puffin!  Looking down to the water below I saw a couple of shags with nice tell-tale crests.

Cormorant fly-past and a pair of gannets. That was it!

March 26th: Bank Island visit. Lots of water and plenty of birds but the garganey was hiding. Quite a few pintails present.

March 27th: Astley Lake for invisible garganey [!] then very much obscured view of a little owl by Oddjob. It is one, honest!

Thursday March 31st: I decided I couldn't resist the temptation to go to Bempton and see if I could get lucky with the returning albatross. Seeing him was very straightforward from New Rollup looking towards Staple Newk.

He's on this photo!

There were other birds of course!  The albatross spent a lot of time asleep. I did manage some shots when he stirred!

Tuesday 5th April: drove to Seamer Tip to look for 4 reported garganey.

 At this time of year our hedgehogs are very active in the evenings and our hedgehog houses are obviously a meeting point. I think we have at least 4 different hogs at the moment and here's some of action from last night [05/04.22] I love how the fox sneaks in to grab some dropped seed and doesn't interfere with the 2 hedgehogs!

141 UK 2022




14th March 2022 ff

March 23, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Walk for a pretty duck and other tales

Monday 14th March

The day did not begin well. My car announced that it had a loss of pressure and told me to check my tyres. Again. I pumped one tyre up the day before. So I thought I'd better call at Kwikfit to sort it out. The girl in Reception chatted on and on to a customer laughing intermittently until eventually she found time to tell me I'd have to wait until the afternoon or leave the car overnight as they were short staffed. Not with all my gear, I decided. So, I won't be going to 'Slowfit' again.

I went to York Tyre sales out at Murton. Very good service and eventually I got to Swine Moor for my long walk along the canal bank to find the Baikal teal - or so I hoped. 

I spent a fair while scanning from the location suggested on Bird Guides but found nothing, although there were plenty of birds to look at. It was good to see an adult lesser black-backed gull. I don't suppose the other birds would agree with me! I spotted a birder with a scope about 200m further south so I headed that way. He told me the teal was in the grass behind a clump of juncus.

The view - the bird was a very long way away and I'm amazed I got the images I got as I was focussing on the ducks in general as through the camera I couldn't be sure which was the Baikal. Taken with 500mm lens plus 1.4 extender at 1000 ISO. Here's the location.

I saw the bird's head a few times so that was good enough as a Baikal teal's head markings are unmistakable. The other birder left after telling me he'd been a few times and never had a really clear view. I remain grateful to him for putting me on the bird as about 10 minutes later...

Heading home I called at Tesco for diesel. They were closed: 'No Fuel' sign displayed. Got diesel elsewhere.

A 9K Day!

I'll explain at the end of the current post what the 'k' stands for. Any guesses?

March 17th: time to bite the bullet and try for the lapland buntings at Buckton clifftop. It's quite a walk from Bempton especially if, at the end, all you've got to show for it is a ploughed field! I've memories of similar experiences at Long Nab looking for lapland buntings. Best ones were round my feet years ago on the Great Orme and, more recently, on the clifftop near Blackhall Rocks. They can be quite reluctant to fly. Anyway, I set off on my walk. I saw skylarks displaying near the old RAF area...

...obligatory gannets and fulmars...

...and a small tortoiseshell butterfly sunning itself just before the big drop to the sea.

A few lapland buntings, pied wagtails and meadow pipits were seen but eventually I managed a photo of one lapland bunting. Not a prizewinner but I was well satisfied.

Tree sparrows greeted me as I eventually got back to the car park.

I decided to drive south to Kilnsea and see some Brent geese before they depart for the summer.

Curlews on the grass opposite the Kilnsea Wetlands car park.

I called next at Canal Scrape. Very quiet. But I've always found wagtails hard to photograph well so I enjoyed this one. He [I think it's a male] was a bit of a poser!

A teal in the sunshine.

9k day - explanation

Quite simple: I drove a fair few miles that day and by the time I got home I'd seen 9 kestrels. 

March 21st: a trip for the afternoon to Middlesbrough to hopefully see an iceland gull. Strange memories of Albert ParK: I once locked myself out of my first Tiguan [the current version is less likely to do this to me!!] and Barry very kindly drove up from York to bring the spare keys after the RAC man failed to get the door open! 

The bird was on Lower Lake. There must be a story here: there's only one lake in Albert Park and it's called Lower Lake on all the maps so what happened to upper lake? Someone must know!

Oh yes, here's the bird.

There wasn't much time left so I headed to Greatham Creek for a bit of a walk. Tide was coming in and things were quite quiet. A few godwits [black-tailed] and redshanks were present along with a number of avocets. I smiled to myself as I recalled the lady who said she'd just seen her first exocets!

Pictures that I liked so I've put them on. Godwit and redshank doing the walk! March 22nd: one hour at Blacktoft! I had mown the lawns, sown seeds and watered greenhouses and felt ready for a more relaxing afternoon so I popped down to Blacktoft as the sun was shining and I thought something will be there. There's always something at Blacktoft. 

Spoonbills, dunlins [over 100 - I'm just showing one of 2 islets that held large numbers], fighting avocets, godwits...

Who woke me? [Glad something did!]

Scrum down!

A little egret landed, then got nervous and flew up in the air. This spooked some snipe which also appeared from nownere.

Then a second snipe flew too.

Which left one snipe happily sitting enjoying the sunshine! All done in 75 minutes!

135 UK 2022

8th March 2022 ff

March 11, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Finished version: Green Stars and Black Stars!

I decided to award a green star to any reserve I visit where the Birds are getting a good deal and where the RSPB or other wildlife body has provided what its members hoped for when they joined: a good birding experience where the birds are given what they need in order to prosper. Note that I said members not the wider public as I think some reserves are suffering from 'theme park syndrome' and are resorting to gimmickry. 

On the other hand I'm 72 and past it and what I think is completely out of touch with modern reality. Maybe. But it's just my opinion and I hope no-one takes any of what I say too much to heart!

So on March 8th I visited Wombwell Ings reserve near Old Moor. There have been various improvements to the reserve and there is now water on both sides of the path down to the metal box hide. the hide is primitive and even more draughty now you can look out in both directions but I guess it's pretty vandal proof. Wombwell gets a green star: it's about the birds. There's no neglected sensory garden or line of empty feeders just a plain and simple bird reserve. I saw a green sandpiper and some ringed plovers. Here's a few photos.

From there I went on to Old Moor [half a mile away] and this was black star land. Gimmickry, a new path past water with no birds [what do others think of the closing of Green Lane?]. Tree Sparrow Farm seems neglected. The main lake is still a quality area as are the reedbed trails but otherwise it doesn't feel right. I don't think it's a members' reserve, it's more like a municipal park with some decent birds and other dubious features. So, sorry, it's a black star reserve.

Moving on. Photos from old Moor.

Next I went to North Cave, another green star reserve. It's all about nature, it's well run, well signed and it's just a damn fine reserve...

...and it had a Russian white-fronted goose.

White-front on far left.

From North Cave I drove the last leg of my day's trip, heading for Blacktoft Sands where I have been going ever since I started birding in earnest. Still remember my first avocet! Blacktoft has not succumbed to the diluting effects of gimmickry and I hope it never will. Yes, it's a green star reserve. Someone asked me what comes in between? Well, the two stars are at opposite ends of a spectrum: many reserves won't get a green or a black star. Fairburn Ings for instance. By the way if you look at the RSPB Fairburn Ings website for latest sightings [as at 13.03.22] it says: 

Recent Sightings at Fairburn Ings 1st January to 12th January

19 Jan 2020

Wildfowl numbers are uncommonly low around the reserve for the time of year, this is also being experienced at our sister site at St. Aidens, its unknown what the cause of the low numbers are at this moment. Bucking the trend has been a higher number of shelducks with up to 23 noted on one day.

That is 783 days ago by my reckoning! But no black star because the stars are about the reserve not the associated websites.

Ok, back to the day in hand: Blacktoft.

the light was good for photography and a marsh harrier duly obliged. Dunlin and ruff record shots too. Photos taken with 100-400 zoom.

































A chance sighting of a water rail and a goldeneye to finish.

Saturday 12th March: an afternoon trek to Thruscross reservoir area to hunt a snow goose on the bleak fields east of the reservoir. Sheltering by a stone wall I managed these with the 500mm lens plus extender giving me a total of 700mm. The bird was quite distant and I don't think it was aware of my presence. One other birder was further down the road. The reservoir itself is a wild place or at least it was yesterday. Quite choppy too. Here's the unringed bird.

it was being harassed by jackdaws.

128 UK 2022

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