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.  


  1. Superb Ellis (write up and photos).
    I'm sure things will pick up with people like you and Fin helping them out.
    Great attitude ;)

  2. A great post Ellis. Really love the gull picture on one leg staring at the camera. It was great to see you both today.