Monday, January 30, 2012


Did a fair bit of birding in the York area this weekend.

Saturday began with a search for Firecrest around some local parks, starting where one had been reported at the back end of last year proved frustrating being next to a busy road and no access into the area it was reported then I couldn't find Clifton Park and  Rowntree Park doesn't have the right habitat! Frustrating morning so I headed off to Hes East where there wasn't a lot around so got bored and took some photos of a known Snow x Barnacle hybrid!

Nothing of note on the lake, so over the other side of the A64 but still no 
Brambling. A walk from here over the Tillmire produced a large flock of Tree Sparrow, displaying Kestrels and plenty of Goldcrest.

Someone was not phased by the cold weather!

By this time it was 2 o'clock so decided to go on a random drive a short way up the A64 to see if I could find a nice game cover strip with finches to try and find Brambling, found one spot but couldn't park anywhere near it! Feeling pretty frustrated I drove off only to notice a decent sized flock of finches flying round a field, pull over and most of the flock land in an alder tree

Redpolls, score! After about 10 minutes managed to pick out a Mealy, nice larger greyer bird but too distant for photos and dropped out of sight too quickly. A game shoot came through the field scattering the flock and so I headed home.

Sunday was spent around Hes East, Redshank was still on the main lake, 4 Tufted Duck and a new Little Owl sharply spotted by Jack!

After a report last night of a Bar-tailed Godwit at Wheldrake yesterday evening and it being a decent York area bird and one that might be tricky to catch up with for my year list I headed over there this morning.

Plenty of birds still about considering the lack of water there at the moment, but no Bar-tailed Godwits! Searching through the waterfowl for unusual head patterns and vertical stripes also drew a blank

Good numbers of waders included 80+ Dunlin, c15 Ruff, 30 Golden Plover and 26 Curlew as well as the usual couple hundred Lapwing and my first Oystercatcher in the area

In amongst the Greylags and Canadas was a single juvenile European White-fronted Goose.

Not a bad morning all round and always nice to get down to Wheldrake. Managed to read 2 Mute Swan rings which I presume are both from the valley but I'll double check. 195 and 351.

Finally a juv Grey Heron posed nicely in front of Swantail hide, still improving my digiscoping skills!

All in all Mealy Redpoll and Oystercatcher new for my York area year list taking me onto 104.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Year list update

So nearly a month gone on my York Area Year list challenge and I'm up to 102 species managing to add Kingfisher at Redhouse Resv and also more views of the Adult Caspian at Upper Poppleton and a second poss adult! 1st winter YLG was a nice bird as well, tomorrow I'm off to look for Firecrests, Brambling and Mealy Redpolls!

Birds that I should to catch up with by March are;

Mealy Redpoll
Egyptian Goose

Species that I'm gonna be targeting trying to find are

Glaucous Gull
Bean Goose
Hen Harrier

Apparently Darren Starkey who jointly holds the previous record of 170 with Russell Slack was on 120 by the end of March, so during March I'll hopefully get

Little Ringed Plover
Marsh Harrier
Ringed Plover

plus possibly

Sand Martin
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

So thats a potential 23 species to take me to 125 by the end of March! A couple of unexpected bonuses would be good!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Askham Bog

Went over to Askham Bog this morning 

in an attempt to find Mealy Redpoll or Lesser Spotted Woodpecker for my York area year list, didn't succeed but added Jay finally and played around with the macro on my camera.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Another Caspian

Went down to Poppleton this afternoon where the gulls often linger in this (SE.548.540) field mid afternoon after visiting the tip.
Was hoping for a bit more white-winger action and getting Glaucous Gull on my York Area Year list, didn't manage that but Chris did manage to pick this out!

initially picked up by Chris around 14:30 and was present until 15:15 when it flew off south presumably to the tip. Fairly distinctive bird, with narrow longish straight bill, small dark eye, sloping forehead, high chest, overall leaning foward stance, legs not visible but when bird moved could tell that it seemed to have a broken left leg. Wing tip showed large white mirror to p10 with a narrow black band just short of the tip, could just see some dark markings on p5 beyond the tertial step but didn't show the extent of this despite preening! When it took flight, luckily only with a few birds, could see how long winged and pale in the wing tip it looked.

Also present was an adult Iceland Gull

and an adult Yellow-legged Gull, awesome!

Along with a Grey Wagtail over the house this morning the Yellow-leg takes me onto 98 for my York Area year list.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Caspian Gull

Jammed in on finding a 1st winter Caspian Gull at Wheldrake yesterday, managed to leave my memory card in my laptop though!

Went back this afternoon with my memory card and luckily it was still there and got these record shots.

This weekend involved- adult Med Gull at Hes East, 450+ Pinkies over East Cottingwith, 1w Caspian and 2w Iceland Gull at Wheldrake, 5 Goosander at Castle Howard and 2 White-fronts over Wheldrake.

York area year list is going pretty well, after the bird race last weekend I've since managed to add the above birds taking me onto 95.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Bird Race

So yesterday I did the Michael Clegg bird race. The idea of the day is to see as many species as possible on the day to raise money for a wildflife cause in East Yorkshire. This year the money raised will go towards the Heslington East site of York Uni where tern rafts and a sand martin bank will be put in!

So we wanted to do well! In the months running up to it between the 4 of us we put in a lot of work finding sites for certain species and planning out a route that we see us get as many as possible!

After birding all day on the 7th we planned out a target possible 92 species if we managed to see everything that we knew was in the area! Hoping that we might jam in on something to boost the total!

The previous York area record was 86 and apparently the 80-mark had only once been broken when this record was set! So we aimed for a total of 80+ with an eye on the record!

The day started well at Buttercrambe Woods, a private site to the north of the city where luckily one of our team members works!

We arrived at the woods at 06:45 with our eyes and scoring plenty of woodland species and getting the day off to a good start!

Wondering around the woods and checking out the feeding station that Jack had set up scored us some good species; Tawny Owl, Marsh TIt, Woodcock, Green Woodpecker, Crossbill, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll and Song Thrush only missing one target, Jay!

Moving on towards Castle Howard a few tactical stops got us Tree Sparrow, Meadow Pipit and Stock Dove.

A quick stop and scan of the main lake at Castle Howard got us plenty of duck species such as Goldeneye, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal and Pochard, again missing one target, Goosander.

From Castle Howard we then headed south to Heslington East. Getting out of the car we noticed a 'Buzzard' over the fields, this Buzzard quickly turned into a Red Kite! Bonus species! Buzzing from that we quickly added Snipe and Jack Snipe and Red-legged Partridge. Getting back in the car and heading off site we flushed a falcon out of a tree alongside low lane, we quickly realised it was a Merlin! We all scrambled to get out the car to see it fly back along the lane towards the lake. A quick jog up the lane and we soon nailed it as a stunning female Merlin, my second campus raptor tick of the day!

On a high we headed over the other side of the A64 quickly bagging Little Owl, Corn Bunting, Reed Bunting, Great-spotted Woodpecker and Linnet, we couldn't pick out a Brambling in with the good numbers of finches but it doesn't seem to be the best winter for them!

New Leica and Canon work well together! Just need an adapter and practice now!

By this point we we're up to 74 species and we hadn't even got into the LDV! Feeling confident we arrived at Bank Island and added Shoveler, but the Willow Tits weren't playing game on the feeders. Undeterred we headed onto Wheldrake and a quick walk out to the hides saw us add Peregrine, Dunlin, Ruff, Redhshank, Pintail, Shelduck, Whooper Swan and Pied Wagtail! (our 82nd sp!)

Up the road to Elvington for a shot at Geese we bumped into the rivals! A claim of the being on 90 whilst we were on 83 saw our spirits drop! Walking back gloomily to the car, Oli came running back announcing that they were actually on 80! Game on, quick dash round the corner to get Little Grebe and we were on our way back towards the city. A lucky Grey Partridge on the way equaled the record, then a quick stop at some gulls gathered in a field near Poppleton scored us LBBG to break the record! 

We now had our eyes on 90 but with half an hour of light left could we do it?!

Racing down the road where SEO had been showing but wasn't now, a quick tactical decision and we headed round the corner to Redhouse Reservoir, potential for Goosander and Jay a run down to the Resv got Oystercatcher but no Goosander! Back round the corner where we needed 2 to get to 90 would the owls preform?! 

We quickly got SEO for 89, but would Barn Owl show?! They weren't particularly regular so should we move somewhere else to see them?! 15 mins to go so we stayed put and luckily the Barn Owl hopped out of its tree before quickly dissapearing again! We'd managed it! 

A fantastic day had by all and despite the rivals only being on 80 something before it got dark they somehow managed to pull out 90!

As the totals were rang in later on it turned out that we'd managed to come 3rd in Yorkshire behind Scarborough and Filey!

Anyone for a May-day bird race?!

Species list in post below.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Michael Clegg Bird Race

Did the bird race around York today managing 90 sp beating any previous York record by 4!

Highlight was a double Campus raptor tick! Red Kite shortly followed by female Merlin!!!

Competed with Andy Walker, Russell Slack, Jono Leadley and John Beaumont who also managed 90 sp!

Between us we managed 98 species!

Both teams saw;

Little Grebe 
Great Crested Grebe
Grey Heron 
Mute Swan 
Whooper Swan
Greylag Goose 
Canada Goose 
Tufted Duck 
Red-legged Partridge 
Grey Partridge 
Peregrine Falcon 
Golden Plover 
Black-headed Gull 
Common Gull 
Lesser Black-backed Gull 
Herring Gull 
Great Black-backed Gull
Rock/Feral Pigeon
Stock Dove
Wood Pigeon 
Collared Dove 
Barn Owl 
Tawny Owl 
Short-eared Owl
Great Spotted Woodpecker 
Sky Lark 
Meadow Pipit 
Pied Wagtail 
Song Thrush 
Mistle Thrush 
Long-tailed Tit 
Blue Tit 
Great Tit 
Coal Tit
Marsh Tit 
Carrion Crow 
House Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
Lesser Redpoll 
Reed Bunting 
Corn Bunting

then we gripped them with

Red Kite 
Jack Snipe
Little Owl 
Green Woodpecker 
Common Crossbill

and they gripped us with

Bean Goose
Pink-footed Goose
Water Rail
Willow Tit

Stonking day, detailed write up tomorrow, oppositions write up on Andy's blog here

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Local Gypos

Thought I'd have a check of Bittell Reservoirs today as its only down the road and even if there is something good there then news doesn't always get out!

Started at Lower where there were 8 Goosander, several Pochard, Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Teal, a single Little Grebe and a bit of a surprise in the form of

County tick an' all!

Carried onto Upper where there were 123 Greylags but nothing scarcer, plenty of Lapwing and Great Crested Grebe and a scattering of gulls including an adult GBBG.

Back round to Lower where a mini twitch had developed, turns out these were a Bittell tick for quite a few regulars!

Good days birding and the year list bumbles onto 52.

Got my hands on a Leica APO-televid 77 to try out for a few days, anyone reccomend or use one of these?

Tuesday, January 03, 2012


Happy New year!

So what will 2012 bring?!

I've decided to do a York area year list, going to actually attempt to see a decent number of species in the area! Previous record is around the 170 mark! So lets see if its possible in 2012! Any help with tip offs most appreciated!

Having said that I'm not back in York until the 7th so lets hope I don't miss much in between now and then!

Sunday, January 01, 2012



A nice gull from Bartley this evening, didn't pick it up until 16:15 and was a bit wet and cold so just thought it was a hooded argentatus, thought I'd rattle off a couple of photos just in case! It was basically dark by this point though!

Have left top photo cropped, lightened and sharpened, second photo cropped and lightened all others just cropped to try and show 'true' colours and range of mantle shades, I think there is an adult Yellow-legged in the photos, didn't notice it in the field so not definite but looks good from photos. 

Interesting bird? I'll be back tomorrow!