Sunday, 31 October 2010


The day after my last visit to Wheldrake, a male American Wigeon was found. This must have been there when I was, so a bit gutted. Nevermind.
Anyway, spent an enjoyable afternoon with me Dad; just like old times. Quickly found the Wig, feeding in the shallows in front of Tower Hide. The black and white rear end seemed to really stand out, allowing the bird to be found easily. I also noted the longer tail than Eurasian Wig, a feature I had not really noticed before. Nearby, 14 Pink-feet were with the collosal Greylag/Canada flock, all of which soon departed; 9 north, 5 south. 20 Whoopers were hanging out and today 18 Ruff were joined by 6 Dunlin. Willow Tits buzzed in the riverside willows, and sadly I got back into Woodthorpe too late for the Waxwings that had been found on Alness Drive. Maybe tomorrow...

Sunday, 24 October 2010


Snook out after lunch, back to the old patch. Hopped out of the car at Bank Island, my mind full of American Wigeons and Baikal Teals. A flock of birds shot out of a patch of scrub just down the slope – Waxwings! I got my bins on them and counted twelve as they flew north towards Wheldrake village. I lost them behind the trees after a little while and despite driving back to the village failed to relocate them. A fab start!

On to the Ings proper, two birders in the tower hide asked me to have a look at a small wader they had found, feeding with some Ruff. Back on I was alarmed to see a hint of a white rump – my heart raced, then the bird turned and revealed itself as a Curlew Sandpiper, a LDV tick for me, but not the hoped for Yank…Shortly, all the Wigeon got up, along with two dozen Snipe, before a rufous juvenile Hen Harrier shot past low, being mobbed by Lapwings. Wow – this place is better than I remember! In the distance, a line of Whooper Swans loafed, occasionally getting a bit excited and heads up and wings out whooping, a top sight!

I walked round to the pool, which was quite, and didn’t seem to have changed in 20 years and then on to Swantail. The view from here was great, and the Hen Harrier came past again, causing chaos. Half a dozen Pintail were hanging out among the hordes of Wigeon and Teal. I headed back and added Bullfinch, a couple of flyover Siskin, lots of Redwings and pair of Willow Tits in the car park. A cracking start to my York birding.

Whooper Swans

Juvenile Hen Harrier

Juvenile Hen Harrier

Curlew Sandpiper

Curlew Sand with Ruff

NNOBS 16-17 October – Sunday

Having enjoyed our one-way walk yesterday, we got seriously logistical and organised, leaving one car at Holme golf course, and the others at Thornham, enabling us to walk between the two without retracing steps. No sign of the Yellowlegs from a few years ago in Thornham harbour and the guys seemed to have much more fun trying to look at me peeing in the middle of the saltmarsh.

It was pretty quiet until we reached Holme, though I did hear a Lap Bunt with the Skylark flock in the stubble near Thornham. After a chat with Gary in the Firs, we went down on to the beach, where, after a tip-off, we picked up the male Black Redstart which was zipping around frenetically on the dune edge, along with some more relaxed Bramblings. A little further on a flock of Snow Buntings drifted on to the beach, c12, giving good views. Back on the boardwalk, I decided to look at a group of three birders who just seemed to be looking that bit too intently at a patch of scrub. The middle guy saw me looking and suddenly beckoned. I shouted to the lads and said that these guys might have got something. I joked that it would be nice if they had something really good, not just a Yellow-brow or a Brambling.

I arrived after a bit of a detour to avoid the danger of flushing whatever they were watching, to find my old birding mate Dick Newell. Having exchanged pleasantries, he said that he had just seen a Red-flanked Bluetail – Ace! He had seen it for five seconds and hadn’t seen it since and his two mates had missed it. The patch of dense Sea Buckthorn scrub was huge and thick. I wasn’t too optimistic! I decided to give Gary a call to let him know what was going on and he arrived shortly. He brought look as the Bluetail suddenly shot out of the scrub and did a little fly past of the ten or so birders that had gathered. I just got a flash of blue as it disappeared into the bushes. Would this be all we would get? On a hunch, I thought I would leave the group and stand in a little open area where I could see the sheltered sunny edge of the bushes where it had gone. After a few tense minutes, the Bluetail appeared, and flew right past me back into the bushes by the other group. So, it had gone over the clear area and into the scrub on the farside. Thank God it had come back this way! Anyway, I joined the others and we got hidden views of it flicking about in the original spot where Dick had seen it. Dick by this point was visibly relieved that others had seen h
is bird! After a few minutes, the bird again headed towards the clear area. I followed my hunch again, but surprisingly, apart from Terry, nobody came with me. After a few moments, Terry pointed out some movement near the end of the scrub. Then, to our delight, the Bluetail hopped out into the open on the grass. What a little belter! It stood there in full sunlight, only ten metres away for at least 30 seconds, before flying low into the scrub on the far side. We immediately shouted the others who came down. Gary arrived back and started roping the area off. We decided we should head off. What a great finale! On the way back to golf course, we had fine views of a Kingfisher feeding in a saltmarsh creek and a colossal flock of Starlings along the coast path. So we finally got some good birds on a NNOBS trip. Newbie Reg will have to improve on his stamina though if he is to last the weekend in future!

Bluetail photo borrowed from Penny Clarke's fab blog - I hope she doesn't mind!

NNOBS 16-17 October - Saturday

After the YWT crew had headed back north, the NNOBS guys turned up in drabs, meeting us at the Jolly Sailor, for pies and beers, as is the traditional start. Up early, we took a hunch and walked at dawn from Burnham Overy Staithe to the Dunes and then into Holkham. We started well, with a Ring Ouzel in the scrub by the seawall, and a Wheatear on the path. Then Reg called ‘Egrets’ and we marvelled at the sight of 116 Little Egrets heading west along the coast. Presumably all flushed out of their roost over at Holkham. I hope they had had a better night’s sleep than we had had…

It was blowing a hoolie and we were glad to get to the shelter of the dunes. Sadly, due to the clear conditions the night before, the dunes had emptied, and there was very little about. A quick look on the sea revealed it to be ‘going off’ with tonnes of auks, ducks, gannets and other stuff heading west. Best of the bunch were a gang of 5 imm Pomarine Skuas powering east, followed by two more further out. Unfortunately we were not dressed for seawatching or being sand-blasted so we soon headed west to check out a huge pong from the beach. Sadly, no Sperm Whale could be found, just a pile of rotting seaweed. Close to the start of the pines, Reg, who was obviously on form, shouted something inaudible. We all looked up to see a Waxwing hurtling west, calling loudly. Nice one! There had already been one or two singletons reported by that time, mainly from Spurn. The start of something perhaps? Into the pines, more birds about, including Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and some showy Bramblings. Paul, by this stage, was starting to get grumpy, so we needed to find some food. I assured them that there was a butty wagon down the end of Lady Anne’s. Sadly, a few minutes later a devastated and starving Paul rang to say it wasn’t there. We hastened up the drive to catch the bus, which shot past within yards of us. Doh! I feared a mutiny, or a clout, so I pegged it up to the Adnam’s shop and bought the only food they had – some crisps, before returning to persuade Paul not to kill me.

One Coasthopper stop later, we were back at the car and Al was relieved that his BMW hadn’t needed to test its resistance to the North Sea. Having stuffed our faces, we went west to taunt the dudes at the Raspberry Zoo. I enjoyed being shown a Skylark, named as a Lap Bunt, and we all enjoyed seeing the rehoming of the Stansted Terminal 2 building on the site of the old Parrinder Hide. Down to the sea, I was keen to check it out due to our brief success earlier. An hour later, I had nailed a fine pale adult Pom, plus three immatures. Again, all heading west. Several Red-throated Divers, and a number of thrushes, Blackies and Skylarks in-off. The rest of the lazy gits slept in the dunes, while I indulged myself.

Later on, we decided we fancied checking out the Stiffkey roost. On arrival at Warham Greens we found a lot of cars and a lot of anoraks, all busy searching presumably for a Pallas’s Warbler, that Reg had missed the day before. Sure enough, within a few minutes we were enjoying cracking views of the sprite behaving almost lethargically in the late afternoon sun at the top of an oak. A fine Hen Harrier shot overhead, suggesting the roost might come up trumps. We wandered down the track after having our stripy fill, before bumping into several more stripes in the form of an equally showy Yellow-browed Warbler sitting in the sunlit edge of the hedge. Nice.

The roost failed to disappoint. I was quite amazed that none, that’s NONE, of the birders who had been twitching the Pallas’s (c40-50) bothered doing any birding. In an hour, we had 3-4 Hen Harriers, several Marsh and a brief Merlin, plus two Barn Owls and few noisy Grey Partridges. Then the pub beckoned.

Norfolk 14-15 October

A work trip checking out nature-related tourism in North Norfolk. This involved quite a bit of outdoor activity, leading to one or two birds, the highlight being a flyover Richard’s Pipit whilst standing listening to the National Trust warden at Morston Quay. Me and Andy Gibson from Spurn just looked at each other and said simultaneously “Richard’s Pipit!” much to the hilarity of everybody else. Burnham Deepdale was quiet despite trying every morning, the highlight being the fab breakfast in the cafĂ©. A couple of Lap Bunts flew over me on the wall at Titchwell, and a Spotshank in the harbour at Morston were the only other birds of note.

Saturday, 9 October 2010


Wake up, 5 to 6, wierd how that happens when you have an alarm set. Coffee, stroke dog, pile into car. Still dark, drizzling, east wind - excellent.
Painful drive over the Wolds in fog behind very early Sunday drivers. On to the verge by The Viking, North Landing, Flamboro'.

Goldcrests in tiny Hawthorn by the side of the car. A flash of yellow stripes in the grass at my feet - Siskins - wierd! Not the usual view; tired or tame. Or both. The air is alive with bird calls. Wheezing Bramblings, hundreds of Redwings and Song Thrushes. Blackbirds. A tucking Ring Ouzel. A Chiffchaff zips across the road, making my heart beat that little bit quicker. Another birder appears. He has just found a Yellow-brow. Nice.

The sky lightens; it is full of birds. Thrushes coming in-off suddenly drop like stones into the hawthorns and elders, seeking a little respite. A Blackcap skulks, pretending to be something rarer. More Goldcrests. Two more Ring Ouzels. A rather bemused and noisy Great Spotted Woodpecker in-off. Robins 'ticking' everywhere. This is great! First news arrives; a Great Grey Shrike a couple of fields away. I am joined by Russ and John B. A Redstart zips out of the hedge and zips back in again. Fieldfares over. More Siskins feeding in low weeds. A deluge of Chaffinches and Bramblings pours overhead, many unseen, some joining the hordes of Tree and House Sparrows lining the hedges.

We are really grilling everything, really trying hard. Another Redstart, plus a Whitethroat. Down to the landing; looks good for a Black Red. There's one! A cracking jet and red corker with glowing white wing patches. A female Redstart nearby and two Stonechats make fine companions, enjoying the pile of hedge cuttings some moron has dumped in this idyllic spot. More Goldcrests - some just in, feeding in the grass, some along a barbed wire fence in the middle of a field. Two Peregrines overhead make the local Kestrels nervous; one was clouted yesterday. A large flock of Mippits in the clifftop fields fail to harbour anything else. Chiffchaffs tail-dipping in the brambles. Reed Buntings along the wires, teasing me. Song Thrushes all over the place. News of another Great Grey Shrike and a LEO on the head comes through. Disappointment that the cafe is closed. Another Ring Ouzel, this time a fine male.

Where is the Bluetail? They seem to be everywhere else! Late morning, it is slowing, but it seems Goldfinches have arrived (bizarrely!) I have to go. A fantastic four hours. Nothing rare, but heaps of fun. And then somebody jams a Radde's at Filey...Doh!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Yorkshire birding

First morning out in the old county (26 Sept) heralded a stonking passage of Sooty Shears going north past Flaming Bog Horror in a big northwesterly. I counted 151 in 2 hours, plus c25 Manx, 2 Velvet Scoters, 2 Red-necked Grebes, 2 Bonxies, etc. RS later saw a Long-tailed Skua and a Balearic Shear, but I had to scarper home. We did manage a quick romp down to the Old Fall where we mused over the lack of the Eastern olly, enjoying a Redstart instead.

Today, in the pouring rain I checked out a Goldie flock near Naburn, but they had cleared off. Yesterday the same area held a male Peregrine and c50 Goldies. c20 Tree Sparrows and 50 Chaffinches were in a stubble field near Moreby. This field will be worth keeping an eye on. RS tells me that Bank Island has water now, so here we go for the winter LDV action.

Everybody here in the north has been very welcoming!

And I must mention my sis who finally got wed on Friday. Congratulations to her and her hubbie!

My last day in Norfolk (17 Sept) was memorable for skiving my last day at work (that showed 'em!) and birding Winterton with Reg - a fine Red-backed Shrike was near Gemma's house, a corking, close-in juv Pomarine Skua, and a few Lap Bunts flitting about on the beach, plus an enjoyable bacon buttie courtesy of Reg, who I will miss.