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Monday, 27 February 2017

Scarborough area and back to Dunnington

Out with Mark and our mate Dave from Rochdale yesterday (Sunday) and a day in the Scarborough area was planned, we started at Wykeham Lakes for the resident Egyptian Geese and whatever else was there, unfortunately the Geese had gone AWOL this morning and there wasn’t much else so we soon moved on to Hackness calling in at Forge Valley feeding station en route where I year ticked Marsh Tit, Nuthatch and Treecreeper, a quick look at the Lake at Hackness soon found a drake Mandarin with two females in tow then we headed into Troutsdale, a stop at the bridge at Hilla Green saw a Kingfisher flying upstream and a pair of Dippers, a bit further up the valley we hoped for a bit of Raptor action but it was seemingly very quiet and we were just thinking of giving up when a load of Pigeons exploded out of the trees on the ridge behind us, Mark picked up a Raptor flying low in front of some trees and I got on to it just before it disappeared into them, we were both happy it was a Goshawk and it was confirmed a few minutes later when a pair got up above the trees the large female drifting off over the valley, we also had Siskin and Crossbill in the area. We dropped down into Scarborough and thought we’d try for the wintering Black Redstart by the Royal Albert Cafe on Marine Drive, after several minutes scanning the sea defences which it favours it wasn’t looking good but then all of sudden it was there, feeding in amongst the large boulders it spent more time out of sight than in view, the Harbour produced the Great Northern Diver and Black Necked Grebe which Dave still needed for the year and a few Purple Sandpipers along the outer wall, we had lunch at Holbeck with up to seven Med Gulls one or two now obtaining full black hoods. We headed down to Filey next to try for the Red Necked Grebe in the Bay but it was extremely windy there and with everything miles out there was little chance of finding it so with a report of the Coues’ Arctic Redpoll found late yesterday at Hagg Wood, Dunnington being seen this morning we headed back to York to have a go for that, upon arrival we learned the Redpoll flock had been spooked mid-morning and had not been relocated, we had a good tramp around the woods for an hour and a half anyway but the best we managed was hearing a flock of Redpolls flying over. 
Mandarin at Hackness

Dippers at Hilla Green

Scarborough North Bay

Med Gulls at Holbeck

Saturday, 25 February 2017

The Pine Bunting Saga

Back in January local Dunnington birder Terry Weston announced he had a huge flock of Buntings particularly Yellowhammers in the area, on Friday the 20th another local birder, Chris Gomersall went to check them out and incredibly found a superb male Pine Bunting with them but it was not seen again that day however a few intrepid locals gathered the following morning and refound it, I arrived on site late morning but the bird had become elusive and after a couple of hours of suffering the miserable weather due to starting my 2nd cycle of chemo the previous day I gave up on it, typically 20-30 mins after I left up it popped. I was back there on the Sunday with Mark, better weather, bigger twitch and it was seen briefly several times but we were always in the wrong place, thoroughly frustrated by early afternoon I gave up on it again. I hoped it would be third time lucky on the 30th but it didn't prove to be, first of all I dropped my scope smashing the casing around the eyepiece and again the bird didn't show, having superglued the scope back together (although it's misted up a bit inside now) I was back for a fourth attempt after work on the 2nd February, it had been reported around lunchtime in the original field near where some seed had been put down and upon arrival some birders informed me they had seen it about an hour previously but a dog walker had flushed the flock, I went out there anyway and found quite a few birds had returned and after 10 mins of scanning through them I got onto it but as I got it in the scope it moved deeper into the hedge then a couple of seconds later the whole flock flew off, they flew towards the Horse Paddock and I moved round there but although a big number of Buntings were flitting in and out of the stubble I never saw the Pine Bunting there, happy to have seen it but I still would have liked a better view. I tried for that better view on the 16th but sightings had become less frequent and there wasn't many birders looking and subsequently I failed to see it again then today I made my Sixth attempt, it had been reported with regularity from the Paddock at the north end of Kerver Lane all this last week and with already a report from 8am that seemed the place to be, I arrived mid-morning and joined the 10-12 birders there but there had been no further sign of it, a couple of hours passed and a couple of local birders, Jono and Chris moved off to search other areas, after 3+ hours it was typically looking a bit grim but then I got a text off Jono, the birds original finder Chris Gomersall had relocated it in the original field near the seeded area, we moved round there and joined the small group who had seen it and fortunately after 10 mins Chris picked it out again, sat deep in the hedge it was a bit obscured but all its features could be made out and it was nice to get a more prolonged view, it eventually moved further into the hedge and out of sight but about 20 mins later another birder got it near the top of the hedge where it was more out in the open and I at last got a view I was happy with, bloody hard work this bird has been, nice to see a few Bramblings still about as well looking nice and bright as they come into breeding finery.
second sighting near top of hedge a bit less obscured than first sighting

of course as usual it flew off after a short while

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Wintering Bluethroat

Last weekend we received the incredible news of a wintering Bluethroat at Willow Tree Fen near Spalding, South Lincs but with a bad weather forecast for the area we weren’t tempted, however the bird has remained present all week and been really confiding judging by all the photos so a second opportunity was not to be passed up. Travelled down with Mark and Pete, we arrived mid-morning and joined the fairly sizeable crowd already assembled and were a bit worried the bird might not perform as well in front of so many people, after around 10 mins the bird popped out from the reeds and soon allayed our fears by hopping along the path towards us picking at the mealworms put out for it as it passed by totally unfazed by all the bodies and sound of scores of camera shutters going off, super little bird and it’s something really special when you get one like this, after a second session with it it then went missing for 40 mins so happy with our lot we took our leave. Next up we undertook a long drive over to Donna Nook with Shore Lark, Lapland Bunting and Twite in mind unfortunately upon arrival we were informed they were a 2-3 mile slog along the beach, we decided against that however it wasn’t a totally wasted journey as we had superb close views of a male Hen Harrier hunting the fields along the approach road, a bit further along the coast road we added Brent Geese (dark bellied) to the year list at Horseshoe Point and then decided to end the day at Far Ings, that proved to be rather quiet on a now very gloomy late afternoon, no hoped for Bittern or Cetti’s Warblers the best bird being a male Marsh Harrier that flew across Ness Pool. 
a star performer

Teal pair at Far Ings

and fly by Marsh Harrier in very poor light

Saturday, 18 February 2017

A visit to see the local Butcher

I managed to get a pass out this afternoon so I made a quick trip out to Acaster Airfield where a Great Grey Shrike had been discovered a couple of days ago wintering in the area, I joined Mark who was already there and had been watching it earlier but he had lost sight of it however another birder came along and told us it was showing a bit further back along the road, we moved down there and got some reasonable views of it before it eventually flitted off over a hedge and we lost it to view again, nice local bird. 

Monday, 13 February 2017

Wild Geese chasing in the West

Out with Mark yesterday (Sunday) and we decided on Lancashire one because we like a bit of wild Geese chasing and two it was a better weather forecast, we were trying for the Red Breasted Goose first and headed for Pilling Moss where it was reported Saturday but there was no sign of any Geese at all there in the morning, we had a drive around the area and eventually came across another birder scanning a large flock of Pinkfeet near the village of Stake Pool, we joined him but a good couple of scans only revealed two or three White Fronts with them however we did note that other small flocks were dropping in on a regular basis, we decided to hang around for a while in which time we were joined by a couple of our Leeds mates, Richard and Mike who'd had the same idea as us and after 45mins or more I followed a flock flying in noting them to be all White Fronts for a change and as they landed there it was in the middle of them, really chuffed with that and it gave good scope views, we informed our mates from Rochdale who were also in the area and a very grateful Dave, Bob and Steve who had missed this Goose several times arrived a bit later and luckily it never flew off before they got there, after a good bit of banter and socialising we all went our separate ways although we did bump into each other a couple more times later in the day, next up for us was Upper Thurnham where a Todd’s Canada Goose had been seen earlier, didn’t manage to find it but all three species of Swan were nice to see, then nearby Condor Green where we had good views of a Great White Egret on the Lancaster Canal and Black Tailed Godwit and Spotted Redshank by the river Condor. There had been no news on the blue phase Snow Goose all week near Nateby with one local telling us it was seen to fly off last Monday but another told us a mate of his had seen it a couple of days ago in another area so after a late lunch we thought we’d give it a try, we got to the place we’d been told but there was nothing there so we decided to try the area it was frequenting last weekend, again nothing but as we turned the car round and headed back Mark espied a flock of Greylags in a field next to the entrance road to the Woodlands Trust CP, we stopped and a quick scan soon found the bird with them, lady luck was certainly with us today, we drove down the entrance road and got a bit closer for some pics then headed off to Southport for our final target birds, the Cattle Egrets at Birkdale Cop, it was quite a long drive and when we got there we couldn’t believe we were in the right place however a reread of the pager message took us down a track at the end of some cottages and there in the field behind were six bonny little Cattle Egrets strutting through it although fairly distant right over the other side, we ended the day at Marshside RSPB but there was nothing much of note apart from a few Pinkfeet coming in to roost. 
the Red Breasted Goose arrived with some White Fronts

Bewick's Swan at Upper Thurnham

and lots of Whoopers

a few Waders at Condor Green included Curlew

Black Tailed Godwit

and Spotted Redshank

the blue phase Lesser Snow Goose at Nateby

one of the very distant Cattle Egrets at Birkdale Cop, very nice to see six together though

Sunday, 5 February 2017

General year ticking, Teesside to Filey

A bit of general year ticking today, started up at Teesside at Hartlepool Fish Quay where the juv Glaucous Gull eventually flew in and landed on a roof followed a bit later by the juv Iceland Gull but that appeared to land on the Quayside and out of sight. I thought I’d have another go for the Shore Lark by the Jewish Cemetery next, no sign of that but a pair of Grey Partridge were a bonus, tracking back there was nothing at Jackson’s Landing, the usual Med Gull and Waders were at Newburn Bridge, a good selection of Wildfowl were at Saltholme Pools but no sign of yesterdays White Fronted Geese then on to Redcar where seven Velvet Scoter were on the sea off the cinema and two Snow Buntings showed well behind the Stray Cafe despite all the dogs. The next part of the plan was to head down to Scarborough and I called off at Long Nab on the way where up to 16 Shore Larks had been reported earlier unfortunately they had been flushed by a dog and not seen again, I walked up to the next field but there was no sign, upon my return I came across a couple who were fairly confident they had got them and indeed there was a small flock feeding around 50 yards away but as I went through them with the scope all I could find were Skylarks, I carried on to Scarborough taking in the Peregrines along Marine Drive then as I entered the Harbour my heart sank, the tide was out and as I feared the Harbour was bereft of birds, as I walked out towards the footbridge however I picked up the Great Northern Diver on the left hand side catching crabs as usual and then while looking out into South Bay I got onto one of the Black Necked Grebes swimming back to the Harbour. I finished the day with a quick dash to Filey to search for a Red Necked Grebe reported earlier in the Bay corner, plenty of Great Crested but I couldn’t find the Red Necked, ended up with eight year ticks so not too bad.
juv Glaucous up on the roof

a most unusual location for Grey Partridge

Newburn Med Gull on its lamppost

Velvet Scoters at Redcar

lovely wing patches

down the road a couple of Snow Buntings were posing

Peregrine on the lookout at Marine Drive

Great Northern in the Harbour

and Black Necked Grebe on its way back in

telling us all about it