Thursday, February 01, 2007

Potteric Carr (30-01-07)

Well, almost didn't make the return trip, but got here in the end.

The plan was to take in pretty much the same route as Saturday, but add in the loop from Piper Marsh through Corbett Wood and Childers Wood... so that's what I did.

Nothing on the feeders again on arrival, so the first action of the day, just on site, was three Robins having a serious squabble over robin-stuff.

In fact, that was to become something of a theme, as almost every turn taken led to more squabbling robins!

Blue Tits, Long-tailed Tits and a Chaffinch or two were present beside Decoy Marsh, and Coot and Mute Swan could be seen on the marsh, and a Tufted Duck or so, though that was just about it for today.

Along with the plethora of robins was almost as plethoric a showing of Blackbirds, doing whatever it is blackbirds do, and as usual, doing it noisily!

No bacon doorstep today, so straight on to Hawthorn Bank. Rather than double back, I chose Hawthorn first, to the move on the Piper and the loop.

The new pools (Huxter Well?) offered up Gadwall, Black-headed Gull, Mallard, Pochard, Greylag Goose, Lapwing, Moorhen and to complete the list, Carrion Crow. No sign of the other plover on my watch, this time.

I returned along the bank, and rejoined the path to Piper Marsh Hide, adding nothing new just yet. Piper Marsh didn't present me with the Bittern today (I missed it be about half an hour, apparently) but did give Shoveler, Teal and Shelduck, amongst others already mentioned.

The odd Woodpigeon flew over, then just as I was about to leave, a Sparrowhawk flew in, briefly stopping off at one of the islands before taking off again.

I left the hide, in time to see and incoming Cormorant overflying, and then noticed a small group of (what turned out to be ) Redpolls. I'm not familiar with redpolls, and they looked out of the ordinary at first, but happily, I was able to spend a good fifteen minutes in their company confirming their id.

I was thinking, by now, that the bold comment in respect of Bullifinches from last time was coming back to bite me, when at last a female Bullfinch, and soon after her beau, put in a show.

I continued on my way, and the afternoon was drawing to a close now. Things were quietening down. Still Corbett Wood provided Great Tits aplenty, and the fattest Dunnock I've seen away from my garden!

There was something of a commotion in the clearing, just a lot of noise happening, including, I'm pretty sure, much squeaking of voles. Whilst trying to verify this, I was treated to cracking views of a Treecreeper... which had to suffice as the "voles" remained elusive.

The final part of the walk passed through the increasingly gloomy Childers Wood, but was blessed with superb views of a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

And to wrap things up, leaving the site, a Pheasant and a Magpie brought the total to a round thirty.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Hatfield Moor

Today was the first of my two days off work.

After my first proper session at my new gym* I moved on the short distance to Hatfield Moor, to see what treasures this relatively new reserve holds in the... erm... depths of winter.

As I arrived, a butterfly flew across the track in front of me. I know winter butterflies are not unknown, but I think that was a January first for me!

On pulling into the car park, the first obvious bird was a Moorhen mooching around in the short grass whilst three Pied Wagtails and a Meadow Pipit were chattering close to the Boston Park hide.

I decided to take a look over the pool from the hide.

It was warm enough to sit in the hide in my T-shirt, but the sun was both bright and low, and made viewing a bit tricky.

Even so, I was quickly able to make out plenty of Coots and Black-headed Gulls, and a single Canada Goose.

A few Tufted Ducks were have seriously bad hair days, and the duck count was completed by some Pochard.

On the far bank a couple of Oystercatchers were feeding, and I caught sight of a Little Grebe just before it dived.

It never obviously resurfaced, but whilst I was scanning the water I saw a couple of Great Crested Grebes making pairing moves... seems love is already in the air!

A Carrion Crow flying over was just about it for the pool so I decided to move on and see what was singing in the trees.

It didn't take long to come across the first of the Long-tailed Tits, although they wouldn't keep still for long and it took a while to get a good views.

In the meanwhile, a Robin was singing lustily from a perch in the same trees. When I finally took the time out give (I guess) him a look, he turned out to be a beauty. At the moment the Robins I am seeing all have this wonderful tomato-soup coloured breast shining brightly.

In the undergrowth, a Dunnock scurried out, and quickly retreated, and Great Tits were doing their squeaky gate impersonations all around.

A Magpie and an Woodpigeon were the next flyovers, as I made my way along one of the rides towards the peat moor/workings. I heard the first of the day's Green Woodpeckers, although I never did actually see one, and Blackbirds were busy rushing around the lowest branches.

As I turned a corner, I got a sort but unmistakeable view of a flying Kingfisher. Kingfishers are another of my "good day" birds. They are certainly pleasing to look at for long durations when perched, but if anything they are better in flight - although repeated flights to and from a fixed perched are certainly better than seeing then shoot of into the distance!

Even so, a short glimpse of electric blue as it rose and turned away were fine enough.

I hung around in the hope it would return, but unfortunately, no. But whilst waiting, I was able to enjoy watching a rather noisy Marsh Tit feeding on the bullrushes. There were a fair few Marsh Tits around, in fact.

The next port of call was a bench by the peat, but once again this desolate stretch of land rewarded little in birds... just a few Carrion Crows. The sit down was welcome though!

After about twenty minutes, I moved on, and sood ided a Coal Tit in amongst a small flock of Blue Tits.

I made my way towords the Redbridge hide, upsetting a few Wrens on the way, it seems.

En route, on another pond I was able to add Wigeon and Herring Gull, the latter being somewhat of the bully towards the Black-headed Gulls, although, apat from Mallard, the view from the hide yielded nought.

Anyway, time to make my way back to the car, by a slightly different route.

I picked more of many of the same, but was able to add a female Reed Bunting and a couple of distant Mute Swans, which, if my counting has served me well, was 30 species for the day.

*Yes... those of you who have seen me... imagine how I'd look if I didn't work out!!!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Potteric Carr

I wasn't planning on blogging yesterday's trip to Potteric Carr, partly because it was "only" an opportunity for a stroll, and also because, with a couple of days off work, tomorrow and Tuesday, I am expecting to go there again for some "proper" birding, and I don't want to repeat myself too much.

But the presence of one of Potteric's specialities means I feel compelled, in case I miss out next time.

So, as a bit of brain-relaxation after four months of especially intense work, my good lady suggested a walk there with my daughter, picking up a bite of lunch on arrival, and popping over for coffee and cake at Thornton's at the end.

It's five months since my last visit, and Sedum House (the new function centre) is fully open... very posh! So having figured out how to get in, the three of us made our way to the cafe at the Field Centre.

There was nothing on the feeders at that time, but three Jackdaws were strutting close by.

A Magpie flew across the path ahead of us, and a couple of Goldfinches were flitting in the trees.
As we made our way past the site of the old (no longer present) Decoy Hide, were heard and saw a few Blue Tits and partnyorsha caught sight of a Robin.

Walking along the path beside the railway lines, we saw the first of five or six Bullfinches.

Bullfinches are one of my favorite birds, because they are a bit unusual. They're by no means particularly rare, and I would probably see them just about every day at Potteric, but they are certainly more elusive than most other finches. As a kid, they were amongst the group of birds I never thought I'd see... so a Bullfinch day is always a good day!

My daughter, who had actually spotted (although not ided) the first Bullfinch, spotted a rabbit, and whilst I was looking at that through my trusty, but aged binocs, I saw the head and neck of a reclusive Pheasant in the shrubbery.

Great Tits were also in the trees, and we could now see onto the first pool from the path. The light was a little difficult, but we could easily make out Coot, Wigeon and Mute Swan, and a Grey Heron was perched at the edge of the reeds.

My daughter again got her spotting eyes working and found and ided some Long-tailed Tits.

We arrived at the cafe as a noisy Blackbird charged through the undergrowth!

After relieving the cafe of two bacon butties and bowl of vegetable soup, we continued our stroll. As time wasn't on our side, but equally as we didn't want to rush round at a sprint, we decided just to take a walk up to Piper Marsh hide, call in at the new Hawthorn Hide, and then retrace our steps back to the car (and on to Thornton's!)

We got excellent views of a Treecreeper, and then saw a Moorhen on one of the ditches.

A Carrion Crow (or six) flew over, and we had many more encounters with previously mentioned woodland birdies.

We arrived at Piper Marsh hide, which, not surprisingly at this time of year, was quite full. The Marsh itself brought us Mallard, Gadwall, Black-headed Gull, Shelduck and Shoveler, but best of all, and many thanks to the kind birder who had his scope fixed on the skulking star, we were able to get long distance, highly-camouflaged, but nonetheless unmistakable views of one of the site's Bitterns.

We spent about ten minutes in the hide (fly-by-nights, eh?) before we had to move on.

As I mentioned, we called in at the Hawthorn Hide, and spent perhaps twenty minutes or so watch the wheeling flocks of Lapwings and another wader. Someone who briefly entered the hide ided them as Dunlin, but although I'm rubbish at waders, and therefore perhaps not qualified to argue... I don't think he was right. We figured they were winter-plumaged Golden Plover, but not enough to claim such or type them in red!

(Edit 29/01/07: After some checking of various books and reconsideration, I am happy to now type Golden Plover in red. In comparison to the size of the Starlings and the Lapwings, they were just smaller than the Lapwings and way bigger than the Starlings, so Dunlin is certainly out. Short of being a flock of 100 or so American variants, I'm now convinced they were our very own Golden Plovers.)

There were a few other birds on and around the water, including three Greylag Geese. A couple of Skeins of other geese flew over, but I couldn't id them.

Also, in the wader flocks, there was a smattering of Starlings.

May daughter spotted a squirrel, along with more Blackbirds and Robins, before adding to the list with Dunnock.

It was then time to make our way back to the car, with no more additions until we reached the exit, and noticed a Chaffinch or two in with the Goldfinches.

The final bird of the day, was the Lakeside Village speciality bird... Pied Wagtail.

All that was left to do was coffee and cake!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The String of Pearls

On the evening of Saturday 5th August, my beloved was at a bit of a get-together with workmates at one of their homes in Cudworth, and I was acting as personal taxi service.

During the day, the suggestion was proffered that rather than come home, I do a bit of birding in the area, as it still stays light until well past 9pm.

Good idea… and so I took a couple of hours or so out taking a look at the birds on show at some local watery locations that, at least in one leaflet, go by the somewhat poetically licentious name of “The String of Pearls”.

My home county, and particularly this part of it has a long industrial heritage driven primarily by getting things out of the ground by one method or another.

Many of these are now former mines and quarries, disused, often “naturalised”, and in a number of cases resulting in areas of shallow water that are appealing to birds both resident and in passage.

The first of the “pearls” I visited was Broomhill Flash. A smallish pool overlooked by a single sturdy hide.

There was a reasonable amount of activity – perhaps activity is the wrong word as it was getting late and I think much of the “action” involved preparing to roost.

I will list the full selection of ids at the end, but amongst a fair few ducks on the water it was noticeable there were at least 20 Ruddy Ducks.

I have mixed feelings (that I have expressed elsewhere) about Ruddy Ducks, because I like ducks in general and these are fine birds indeed… but they are out of place, and a potential threat to our European Whiteheads.

As far as I know, we don’t have Whiteheads here, but the Ruddies are spreading and the Whiteheads are in danger on the European Mainland.

A few grebes were also dotted around, both Little and Great Crested – but as I said, the main objective of all the birds seemed to be settling down for the night, so after half an hour, I moved on.

Indeed I moved on the Wombwell Ings, from which Broomhill Flash can be see, although not vice versa due to the lie of the land.

As I approached, rather alarming a Weimeraner who didn’t like to look of me and all my gear, the owners of said beast informed me there were “four ’erons” on the ings, and I’d see them from the “viewin’ ’ut”.

So I made my way to the ’ut, and in fact there were six ’erons!

As an aside, there was some rather highbrow graffiti on the hide; “He who wanders isn’t necessarily lost” and something by Keats that I don’t remember – well at least the scribe said it was Keats and it looked suitably classy!)

Pretty much the same sort of action going on here, with the majority of the birds being, again, ducks (Mallards) and this time also a fair few Lapwings.

Swallows and both House and Sand Martins were flitting over the water, and something like 300 Canada Geese circled over before eventually coming down at Old Moor.

There was a little more peripheral activity, and I ended up staying the best part of two hours.

Patience was rewarded by sightings of Greenshank, Redshank (one of each), Ringed Plover (three) and numerous wagtails of which some, more or fewer were Yellow Wagtails.

As I left, a Cormorant flew over.

Finally, and because Old Moor closes gates early, I decided to have a look over Edderthorpe Flash.

Unfortunately, unless someone can tell me otherwise, only distant views are possible, and the birds proved to be very much “more of the same” with the exception of the evening’s first Moorhens.

And then, taxi duties were once more required, and off I went.

Nice evening.

Full List of 29 IDs:

Black-headed Gull
Canada Goose
Carrion Crow
Great Crested Grebe
Grey Heron
Greylag Goose
House Martin
Little Grebe
Mute Swan
Pied Wagtail
Ringed Plover
Ruddy Duck
Sand Martin
Stock Dove
Tufted Duck
Yellow Wagtail

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Hatfield Moor

Took a chance to get a couple of hours in at Hatfield Moor before today's F1GP.

Without trying, it was easy to spot the Swallows on the way, and when I arrived I parked close to the hide over the first lake.

It wasn't so hot as it has been, but it was still bright and sunny, and a look over the lake brought me many of the usual suspects going about their business in the bright light.

There were a couple of Great Crested Grebe young calling to various parents, as well as Coots doing the same.

Over on the farthest bank was a large mixed gaggle of Canada Geese and Greylag Geese, and a flock of Black-headed Gulls was on the water, as was at least one Little Grebe and a Mute Swan.

I didn't stay in the hide long, as I wanted to roam a little.

As I left, a couple of Oystercatchers flew in, and a two Common Terns flew over, whilst a Yellowhammer was singing closeby.

I walked on, but was quickly soon by the number of insects around the bramble bushes, so I took the chance of a few photos.

There were a number of butterflies, two kinds of White, two Browns, two different Blues (obvious even to me) as well as Peacock, Red Admiral, Painted Lady and a Silver-Y moth.

In addition were several species of Dragon/Damselfly, one of which I got decent shots of and I'll let Pete identitfy, and various other flyin' 'n' buzzin' things.

Whilst watching the insect-life, a Blackbird sneaked out, and quickly sneaked back in, Wrens and a Chiffchaff were calling and Carrion Crows were cawing raucously all around.

I soon heard the first of many Green Woodpecker calls, and I was lucky enough the get two great sightings also, as I walked around the reserve.

My attention was still as much on the insect population as bird population, not least because some wouldn't leave me alone! There were more D-flies and butterflies, including Speckled Wood.

One of the ponds played host to some Mallard, along with another Little Grebe, whilst Woodpigeon and Sedge Warbler were making their presence known in their own special ways.

Walking back to the car, another pond was residence to a few Tufted Duck, and I was now on a mission to get back to the car.

Leaving the reserve, a Grey Partridge ran across my path, followed by at least 13 younngsters - I had to stop to let them all pass.

And whilst stopping, I noticed some bathers in the puddles up ahead. A Goldfinch and a Yellow Wagtail.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Blacktoft Sands

I decided to take a trip to Blacktoft Sands this evening on my way home from work, as it is only a short detour, and it is something I keep promising myself I will do.

In fact, I was going to yesterday evening, but forgot to take my gear to work. As it was, the heavens opened in an almighty downpour yesterday, so forgetting wasn't such a bad thing after all!

Anyway, I arrived this evening at about 5.20, to be greeted by a Tree Sparrow calling from the hedge at the side of the car park. Wood Pigeons were calling and would be ubiquitous, and as I made my way onto the reserve, an old favourite Sedge Warbler was giving its all in the way only a Sedge Warbler can.

As the reception was closed, I made my way to the hides, today calling in at the Townend hide first.

I wasn’t expecting too much activity to be honest, another hot day in the height of summer, but in fact there were quite a few birds, mostly waders, around.

There were perhaps a dozen or more Greenshank, and at least eight Snipe feeding on the lagoon. Now waders are far from my area of expertise and so I might well have missed one or two of the more tricky ones!

Another birder in the hide was calling Ruff, but he did try to make the Snipe into Woodcock, and the Greenshank into Redshank, so without wishing to be unduly critical, I think his expertise was less than mine, and I’m not at all comfortable claiming that particular bird.

There were dozens and dozens of Lapwings (well into three figures over the whole reserve), maybe a dozen Grey Heron feeding, and indeed plenty of bona fide Redshank, along with Dunlin and Common Sandpiper.

Large numbers of Mallard were hunkered on the islands, with one or two feeding, and a Pheasant was roaming in front of the hide. A Moorhen was also feeding to one side of the water. I spent a good time in Townend, but the air was very calm and I was very hot and bothered, and decided to move on to Singleton.

There were loads of insects, butterflies on the teasels in particular, as well as some green-eyed monsters that wouldn’t leave me alone!!!

Arriving at Singleton (less than 100 metres further on) and the wind was beginning to pick up, and would become quite pleasant.

More of the same from Singleton, but additions were some overflying Black-headed Gulls, Wrens calling and a couple of Shovelers shovelling.

As nothing much else was happening, I made my way back to the reception, stopping off first at First hide.

Again, quieter here, although more Grey Herons were present, along with a juvenile Great Crested Grebe, an adult Little Grebe and loads of Coot. A short stay here too, though a check of the time showed I had now been here two hours, so I decided I would call in at Xerox and make that the last for today. Just before leaving, far to the east of the reserve, one of the Marsh Harriers emerged, and flew off to do whatever it is Marsh Harriers do at that time of an evening.

Xerox rewarded my visit. A couple of Greylag Geese were raucously obvious, but the waders were in force again. This time, though, in excess of 50 were Black-tailed Godwits, although all the shanks etc. from the previous pools were also in evidence in similarly large numbers.

A few Swallows were making feeding runs, the geese left, disturbing a hitherto hidden Cormorant, a small party of mischievous Magpies called in, and a sweep of the Mallards turned a pair into Gadwall.

Xerox took an hour itself, and so it was time to go home.

Leaving the reserve I was able to add Yellowhammer calling, and the journey through Garthorpe brought screaming Swifts, whilst Carrion Crow and Collared Dove were picked up before journey’s end.

Not a bad way to spend the evening!

Oh… did I mention the Spoonbills?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

In the garden

I didn't plan to include garden sightings on this blog - not sure why (?) - but this fella has forced my hand somewhat.

Yesterday morning, 6 am, first time ever...