Sunday, 12 December 2010

Where Are Those Waxwings?

After a week of great birding it seemed really churlish to still be moaning that I hadn't seen a Waxwing.

We'd spent the weekend at the Normanton Park Hotel on the banks of Rutland Water. The hotel gets very mixed reviews on Tripadvisor but that's probably because most of the year it hosts weddings and therefore is very busy and, I imagine, very noisy. We managed to hit it on a very quiet weekend, with a lot of cancellations because of the snow, so it was peaceful and ideally placed for what we wanted to do. The staff were helpful and friendly, the food was good and our room looked out over the water, so we couldn't ask for anything more. This gives you an idea of the atmosphere :

There's another view of the church on my Twitpic page - the link is on the right of this blog. We spent two days on the reserve and whilst I didn't add to my year list, we thoroughly enjoyed the walks and the birding. The best bird of the weekend was a Sparrowhawk from Crake Hide, which perched and preened in front of us.

Then the week just got better and better. Even though I kept dipping on the Hen Harrier at Astley, I got the Water Pipit at Lemonroyd Filter Beds on Tuesday, thanks to Rob Leighton. No pictures of my own, but here's one of Dave Hunton's :

On Wednesday I got great views of Long-eared Owls :

Later in the afternoon I went for a walk down the River Aire with Rob and Alan Robertshaw, where we spotted my first Smew :

Not a great picture, as the light was really going, but there it is, nevertheless. As I say, it seemed churlish to moan about no Waxwings. 

Then, on Friday, we decided to go into Leeds to finish off the Christmas shopping. We went to the German Market for "spicy-sausage-inna-bun" and dunkel, then hit the shops. As we were about to come home, I thought I'd just take a look at Woodhouse Square.  We'd seen Waxwings there during an irruption in 2005 and we were close by.  Our luck was in :

A small flock of twenty or so were flying between the trees in the Square itself and bushes in the grounds of the LGI.  Magic!!

So with less than three weeks to go, I am at 176 on my year list. (BUBO shows 175 as it won't let me count Ruddy Shelduck).  I'm aiming for 180.  Now, where is that Hen Harrier?
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Black-throated Diver

St Aidans comes up trumps again.  Smashing views all the week of a Black-throated Diver.  Managed to get a photo this time.  Nothing startling, as at distance, but at least it shows what I saw.

A lifer for me, taking me to 173 for this year (172 on BUBO).  Still waiting for Waxwing!!

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, 20 November 2010

A Very Good Week, but.....

Three lifers this week!  First winter Iceland and Glaucous Gulls on Monday at Astley Lake and a female Long-tailed Duck on Wednesday at Pugneys.  No pictures though.  The Gulls were just too far away and the Long-tailed was diving frequently.

That takes me to 171 on Bubo, but 172 on Bird Journal, as their BOU list allows Ruddy Shelduck.  So only 9 (or 8) left to get my target of 180 for the year.  Modest, but achievable.

Must do better with the photos next time!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Fairburn Ings - Lin Dyke Hide

Haven't blogged for a long time - not been too well.  Birding has been a real help though, relaxation, exercise and something to occupy my mind.
Anyway, the doc says I should do as much birding as I can, as it's good for me, so no arguments there.
Short one to start back.  Despite being soaked by rain on both walk to and walk from the hide it was a great session.
Highlight of the day - Wood Sand!  Too far away for anything other than record shots, but here they are :

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Sunday 16 May 2010 - Potteric Carr

Even though the forecast was for rain, we thought we'd chance a quick visit to Potteric Carr on Sunday. We had been visiting the parents and it was only a quick hop down the M18. It was well worth the chance, as the sun shone for most of the day and we really enjoyed the ramble round the reserve. We knew about the Iberian Chiffchaff and thought it might be busy, but as it is such a large reserve any crowds were swallowed easily. The only heaving mass was around the wandering warblers haunt. The rest of the reserve was as peaceful as usual.
Except for the gulls, of course. This was a particularly vocal one

My first Damsel Fly of the year was a sheer fluke. Basking in the sun, sheltered by a window in a hide, it was so simple to get up close and really appreciate the delicate detail.
Unfortunately nothing else was so obliging. A very nice Redshank would not stand still, so this was the best I could do.

And the Canada Geese just about showed off their brood.
No year ticks so stubbornly stuck on 107. Roll on Mull - that'll give me a boost!
Posted by Picasa

Monday, 3 May 2010

Monday 3 May 2010 - Golden Acre Circular

Making the most of our May Bank Holiday Monday, we decide to do a circular walk from the car park at Golden Acre Park.  Thanks to Linda's recent blog we decided to take in Adel Dam and Breary Marsh.
Adel Dam is a gem.  Compact, atmospheric, it has two small hides and well worth a visit.  Amongst the birds we saw and heard was my first Treecreeper of the year.
From there we walked out the back of the park, through Five Lane End, to Eccup Moor Lane.  The hedgerows and fields were buzzing.  A bright flash caught my eye and as it landed on the top of a hedge, it seemed to pose.  My first Yellowhammer of the year.

In the fields, amongst the Jackdaws, Crows and Pheasants were Red-legged Partridges.  These two were soon seen off by the cock Pheasant.
On the way to Lineham Farm, we stopped off at the New Inn at Eccup.  About half way round the walk, this would have been a great place to have lunch.  As we had pack-up, a pint of well kept Taylors Landlord had to do.  In the beer garden we watched some very confident Swallows.
Walking away from the pub we had one of many views of a Red Kite.  They are well scattered all along this walk.
Whilst passing Lineham Farm and the Donkey Sanctuary, the heavens opened.  Hail pinged off us, but we took shelter against a stand of trees and soon were on our way again.  The views on this walk are excellent.  Sometimes you are reminded that you are on the outskirts of a busy city
other times you could be in the middle of nowhere
Showers dogged us right the way through the walk, so it wasn't until we got near the end that we could sit down and eat our lunch.  But the spot we chose was magic.  Breary Marsh has a small lake at one end, called Paul's Pond.  We sat on the bank, watched the Swallows and House Martins swoop and wheel, and reflected on a brilliant day.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Sunday 25 April 2010 - Bempton

A weekend deal was struck.  A day in the garden, then a day out.  Saturday in the garden wasn't a chore at all.  Buy the barbecue, new pots for trees and compost.  Assemble the barbecue, transplant the trees, cut the grass.  Eat barbecue, drink wine, sit out until nine, watch the bats.  Job's a good 'un.

Sunday we decided to go to Bempton.  Hadn't been there for years.  Not too long a journey from Leeds.  The rain held off enough for three good hours on the cliffs.  Perfect conditions, lots of birds, not too many people.

All the usual suspects were there.  Herring Gulls on the best perches, watching the proceedings with disdain.

Fulmars pairing up and displaying in front of uncaring Kittiwakes.

Some, like this Razorbill wanted to hide away.

Others, like these Guillemots, were easier to capture.  I'm particularly pleased that I got the bridle on the one in the middle.

And there were even Puffins.  Not as many as we remember from years ago, but still there if you looked hard enough.

There was a lot of excitement on the reserve because there had been sightings of a Ring Ouzel and a Grasshopper Warbler.  We kept an eye out for both as we walked, but didn't see them.  We did see a Whitethroat in the car park and this Corn Bunting near the Radar Station.  It was very obliging, returning to the same perch on the barbed wire.  It's an odd sight in flight, with its legs dangling, almost like a raptor. 

Finally the clouds in the distance got blacker and blacker and we decided to call it a day.  As we walked quickly back to the car, we passed a clump of bushes and Rebecca's eye was caught by something skulking.  She called me back and we got a great view of the Grasshopper Warbler!!  Too quick to photograph, but what a thrill!  I think Rebecca's a bit tired now of me constantly calling her my Gropper Spotter.

To round the day off we wanted fish and chips in Bridlington.  We left the rain behind in Bempton and took the scenic route, stopping off at Flamborough's South Landing, to relive memories of a school trip some forty years ago.  Not much seemed to have changed - the view was excellent.

As we left the headland, a white object floated in front of the car.  Stopping quickly down a side road we watched our first Barn Owl of the year quarter the fields.  Too far away for the camera to capture, but an excellent end to a perfect day.

Yes, I'm afraid I did say end.  By the time we'd reached Bridlington, the rain had caught up with us.  We parked on the sea front in a monsoon.  Preferring dry and hungry to soaked but sated, we drove back to Leeds for a pizza.

Fifteen year ticks and a lifer.  Roll on Bank Holiday Weekend!!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Keswick - 10th to 17th April 2010 - What More Could You Ask For?

The best week's weather so far this year and we were in the Lake District.  How lucky was that!!

As we had to pack the car and travel over on Saturday morning, we took it easy after we arrived.  We pottered around Keswick, unpacked the car, then did our favourite twilight walk above Castlehead Wood.

On Sunday we walked from the house to Threlkeld, using the old railway line.  A good walk on the flat to get the legs working.  It was warm and sunny.  Everyone we met said the same thing - "It's just like summer - but better!!"

Along the way we saw a pair of Buzzards lazily soaring on the thermals.  We stopped for lunch at The Horse and Farrier in Threlkeld.  A warning here - it's further from the end of the railway at the A66 to the pub than you might think.  We were starving by the time we got there.  A welcome pint of Jennings Snecklifter, then Roast Beef Sunday Lunch brought us round.  Don't take any notice of the reviews that say this pub isn't friendly.  We were sweaty, booted and had big rucksacks, but the youngsters who served us were great.  The beef was really flavoursome and tender, well above the usual pub/carvery standard and the veg were cooked just right.  We'll go back. 

The return journey saw just a flash of a Dipper on the River Greta close to Keswick.  A tick, but too quick for a photo.

As we went under Greta Bridge, entering Keswick, the fells became misty and we were met by this view.

Monday was just as sunny and warm as Sunday, so we walked to the landing stage at Keswick, took the launch to Lodore and walked via Grange and the medium level path to Seatoller.  Here's the landing stage near Keswick's Theatre, with the usual crowd of Mallard, Canada and Greylag Geese.

The trees around Grange were packed with singing birds, none of which wanted to stay still for a photo.  We did get great views of a male Blackcap, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker that announced its presence by loudly drumming just as we walked under its tree.  And the highlight of the walk - I got my Wheatear for 2010.  Everyone else seems to have got one recently and I had to wait, but it was worth it.  Just above Seathwaite.  Not a great photo, but still a thrill.

Tuesday we used the car for the first time and parked across in Dodd Wood Car Park.  We walked across the road into the grounds of Mire House, down to Basenthwaite by the little church and then across the fields to the bay where we had seen the male Osprey fishing last year.  No luck this year, but we did see Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Barnacle Geese, both too far away to photo.  Still, a great place to sit, watch and wait.

Walking back through the Mire House gardens we saw both Song and Mistle Thrushes.

Wednesday was another belter of a day, so we did the circular walk from the house, above Castlehead Wood, via Castlerigg Camp Site and the Stone Circle, onto the railway line and back into Keswick.  Better views of a Dipper this time and a very generous couple showed us the site of a Dippers nest.  Once again, too fast to photo, but a real treat.

Thursday was our one dull day.  So we slept in, read and then took a stroll into Keswick.  After lunch we used the car for the second and last time and parked at Powter Howe Wood.  This is a gem of a place, just above Bassenthwaite.  When the wind is in the right direction, you don't even get road noise.  Saw a Nuthatch almost straight away, which was a year tick.  Shame that we no longer get them in the garden.  No Treecreeper though, unlike last year.  Then under the A66 to the hide on the western side of the lake.

For such a small hide you always meet the most interesting people.  Whilst checking out the Goosander, one guy told us that he'd seen Red-breasted Merganser the previous day on Rydal Water.  Well, my face must have been as green as his scope cover.  RBM are a life tick for me,  Still, at least the Osprey performed.  Great views to the nest on the other side of the lake.  Needed the scope for this shot, but you get the idea.

The hide has a well kept log book, which always mentions Otters.  We've seen glimpses of them before on Bassenthwaite, but dipped in the past two years.

When we got back to the house I checked Twitter and found Nick Frost lamenting the fact that some volcano had spoiled his wife's birthday trip to Rome.  Volcano?  We'd only missed the news item of the year!!  Sky News brought us up to date and we've been glued to updates ever since.  Much more exciting than the Election. 

Friday was our last day and our longest walk yet.  From the house and right round Derwentwater, anticlockwise.  Once again, sun, warmth and blue skies all the way.  Not a drop of rain the whole week, from the wettest place in the country.  Highlights were great views of Lesser Black-backed Gulls

and a real surprise near Lodore.  We had intended to walk to Grange and catch a bus back to Keswick, but we'd made such good progress and the weather was so warm that we decided to cut across the boardwalk at the southern end of the lake and walk back home.  Rebecca chose a spot just before the boardwalk to stop for coffee and we scanned the lake.  Obviously Mallard, a pair of Goldeneye, lots of Tufted.  Hold on, whats that behind the Tufted, in front of the hotel?  Just too far to be sure but they can't be Goosander, can they?  Too much colour on the males.  We waited, they drifted.  Not as close as the Tufted, but still close enough.  Yes, four pairs of Red-breasted Mergansers.  Brilliant!!  Rotten record shots, too far away to show here, but I was made up.

On the way back we got close to some fab Barnacle Geese

and then, just as we were about to leave the lake shore for the final push home, these two hove into view.

Two sightings of Mergansers on the same day, after never seeing them before.  Cracking, cracking day.

We were pretty weary by the end of the walk, but we had tea and packed up ready to leave on Saturday morning.  However, we had to end as we began, so we took one last twilight walk above Castlehead Wood.  Was it the volcanic ash that made the sunset so colourful? I don't really know, but it was a magic end to a perfect week.  Even the bats came out and Tawny Owls kewicked to each other across the woods.  A sliver of silver moon, fresh air in your lungs and the person you love to enjoy it with.  What more could you ask for?

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Sunday At Blacktoft

To start with it looked as though the Easter Weekend would be a bust.  First the washing machine broke down, then the boiler stopped working and finally the weather forecast looked shocking.  So we set our stall out for lazing at home and making the most of it.  Rather like this Goldfinch, which we saw during a bit of back garden birding on Saturday.

Then, miracle of miracles, the new washing machine was delivered first thing on Friday.  Also British Gas was as good as its word and Jeff arrived on Saturday to fix the boiler.  And the sun came out - both metaphorically in the Walton household and physically over the east coast.  So pack the picnic, its off to Blacktoft Sands on Sunday.

Did I say the sun was shining?  Well most of the time.........

The views were worth it though.  Lots of water and plenty of birds.

Managed three more Year Ticks - Reed Bunting, Swallow and Avocet.  The Marsh Harriers were spectacular - at one time we counted ten in the air round Singleton Hide.  Even the Snipe came out into the open.

We were hoping for more waders, but the Black Tailed Godwit were the only ones that would stay still enough to be photo'd.

Posted by Picasa