Sunday, 29 March 2015

In Search of Harriers and a Good Laugh

I started my half term with a very nice Friday afternoons trip over to Heslington Common in search of the Great Grey Shrike and a few nests to start our nest record scheme off for the BTO. We had a good search of the site but unfortunately we had no luck with either but at around dusk, 2 amazing Barn Owls came along to hunt over the common, a truly amazing spectacle. For a good hour or so I just sat in the grass hoping they would fly right past me and amazingly they did! they gave cracking views. It is the closest I have ever got to a Barn Owl.


Barn Owl
On Sunday we had a drive down to Cheshire as a good friend of mine (Findlay Wilde) told us that there would be a high tide at Parkgate and that there would be one or two Hen Harriers around. Hen Harriers have had a big decline in the past couple of years due mainly to shooting which is pathetic as why would anyone want to shoot such a beautiful bird. Soon this bird could be gone from England and none of us want to see such a superb bird disappear. Once we arrived at Parkgate we started scanning for whatever we could find, we picked up lots of Black Tailed Godwit, Little Egret and a couple of Redshank but sadly no Hen Harriers plus sadly the weather was shocking, mist everywhere and it was chucking it down with rain so it made it quite difficult to see things.
After a little while me and my Dad both decided that we would go and have a look at the Laughing Gull in New Brighton as it was only 20mins away. Still chucking it down we arrived at New Brighton with not as high hopes but thankfully as soon as we pulled up to park it flew straight in front of the car! Easiest bird to see ever? Literally took us no less than 5 seconds! I know a few people who found this bird a bit drab and boring but I think it was quite impressive especially when it was it flight. This North American cracker was showing well throughout all the time we were there plus the best thing is that we had it all to our self! The bird was constantly flying around the Marine Lake picking up some left over pieces of bread as it did. After about 20mins of flying around it landed on the Pontoons so we went over to get a closer look. A great bird plus to be showing well was an understatement, it was fantastic! After a while it flew off and landed on the beach, we managed to creep really close, we got within about 5 meters! Definitly one of my favourite birding highlights this year so far!

Laughing Gull
After that we had a little trip over to RSPB Burton Mere where we had our first Chiffchaff and Sand Martins of year which were nice to see. On some of the scrapes there was lots of Avocets, a few Black Tailed Godwits and tons of Black Headed Gulls after a good hour or so walking round we went to meet Findlay Wilde in Parkgate. It was great to catch up with him on what we have seen in the past couple of weeks. We had a good scan across the estuary but still no Hen Harriers but most of us thought that was still down to the weather. Findlay Wilde writes are great blog which is definitely worth reading. Last year I met Findlay at the BTO conference where he did a great talk. Due to a long drive we had to leave quite early, after a while of driving (not me, my Dad!) I got a text from Findlay saying Male and Female Hen Harrier just flew past! Typical, if we had just waited a little while longer we would have seen them! But despite that we still had a very enjoyable day out.  

Monday, 23 March 2015

Spring Surprises!

Today we were in two minds on where to go, Coast or Cleveland, after a good 10minutes or so photographing the 4 Waxwings outside my house me and my Dad both decided we would go to the coast. We had a couple of target species which were the Black Bellied Dipper in Harpham which was still sticking around, Black Redstart and Scandinavian Rock Pipits on South Landing beach and the Red Necked Grebes of Sewerby.


Our first destination was the long staying Black Bellied Dipper at Harpham although we have seen this bird in the past it is in a very beautiful spot with some of the clearest waters I have ever seen (we even saw a Trout jump). More or less as soon as we stepped off the little wooden footbridge we spotted this confiding little bird and only seconds later Mark (someone I know off Twitter) and Nigel appeared who we seem to see pretty much everywhere we go, it was great to catch up with them. Also on the beck I had brief views of a Kingfisher fly by which unfortunately my Dad missed (unlucky Dad).

Black Bellied Dipper
We then headed of towards Sewerby in hope of seeing the Red Necked Grebes. As soon as we arrived at the right spot, well at least we hoped it was the right spot, we started scanning the sea for the Grebes. We spotted a couple of Eiders, Shags but not a single Grebe. After a while Mark and Nigel arrived as they had basically planned the same day as us, with the help of them we spotted a Grebe but sadly it was miles out to sea so it was just to hard to identify. We spent a little while more waiting and hoping the Grebes would appear but sadly they didn't in the end. We then moved onto South Landing for the Black Redstart and the Scandinavian Rock Pipits.
As soon as we arrived on the beach, tons of Pipits flew over our head and we noticed they were coming down on a big line of seaweed to feed on what ever they could find. As we got closer we knew they were all Rock Pipits but the bad thing is they were really flighty but with a bit of patience they came right in front of us, we reckon we had about 5 Scandinavian Rock Pipits in amongst the seaweed, a few were more strongly marked than others.
Scandinavian Rock Pipit
We failed to find the Black Redstart but the amount of birds flying around it could have easily still been present. We then headed off to Buckton as we heard some Short Eared Owls were showing very well around the area. After about a ten minute walk we arrived at big group of gorse bushes, we had a quick scan round but no Owls but I did manage to pick out a Corn Bunting in one of the bushes. Also in the area there was lots of Yellowhammers, Linnets and a single Goldcrest.
Corn Bunting
 As we were walking along a woman stopped us and said have you seen the Short Eared Owl, we went no and then she very kindly showed us one sitting in the bottom of some vegetation in a field! It was fairly close and we got our best ever views of this cracking species! a really nice bird. As we were watching it my Dad moved to a better area to view but instead of seeing that one he found another one! Soon though a woman came along with a dog and flushed them but as we saw the other two fly up another joined them! A great experience watching 3 together. They then all landed a little further away but one kept on going and landed on a post. The dog walker then walked right up to it and it didn't budge one bit, she must have been about 5 foot away from it! I mean why couldn't that be us! We then saw Mark and Nigel once again and told them about the Owls as they hadn't seen them yet, in the end they saw them to.

Short Eared Owl
Someone then informed us of a Rough Legged Buzzard in a field just about a miles walk from where we there so we went to take a look but we didn't see it in the end but on the cliff we did see a cracking Peregrine!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

No More Dipping This Dipper!

This morning I was hoping the Waxwing would show for a little while as it was a very nice day to get some photos but despite waiting for a while there was no sign until late afternoon when my Mum spotted it but by then we were already on the hunt for something else...

Me and my Dad were on our way to see the Black Bellied Dipper in Harpham with positive news on it this morning our hopes were high. After about an hours drive we finally arrived at the right spot. There was only one birder on site so we asked him and he said he had a good walk up and down the stream and he couldn't see it. Please no......... I really didn't want to dip the Dipper 2 times in a row so with not as high hopes we decided to have a walk up the stream. Thankfully within only about 2 minutes my Dad spotted it on the other side of the stream, get in!!!! I am really pleased to have seen this bird as I have heard on how well it has been showing. At one point it flew to the closer side of the stream where it came within about 4 feet, it was awesome to get so close. One of my best highlights this year so far. It was great watching bobbing up and down the stream looking for anything it can eat. A superb bird!!!!!!! It is much better when they show well.

Black Bellied Dipper
On the way back to the car we spotted a group of 14 Bullfinch which was very nice to see.