Sunday, January 06, 2013

York Bird Race

Today me Chris, Jack and Oli took part in the Michael Clegg Memorial Bird Race around York for the second year running. We managed to beat our last years total of 90 raking up 98 species for the day!

Grey Wagtail before it was even light, got the race off to a cracking start, one that we missed last year!

Carried on brilliantly at Jack's old work place, really came up trumps this year getting us some potentially tricky species including, Woodcock, Green Woodpecker, Crossbill, Nuthatch, Siskin, Treecreeper, Marsh Tit etc, cleared up so headed off to Castle Howard around 08:30

Quick walk out around the lake at Castle Howard produced highlights of Scaup (didn't get last year) female Shoveler (tricky in the LDV and our only one of the day!) Pintail and loads of Goldeneye, Pochard and Tufted Duck, no sign of the hoped for Goosander but there was plenty of time for them.

Down to Strensall where Stonechat was the main target, get out onto the Common and start scanning when a shout from Chris of Harrier was soon followed by HEN! We all got onto the stunning huge adult female as she hunted over the common! Proper bonus species! Took a bit longer to find the Stonechat but eventually got 2 birds in different parts of the common.

Only site I actually took the camera out of the car!

Onto Rufforth where we were targeting gulls, even thought it was a Sunday there were still plenty around and we managed to pick out a 1st and 2nd winter LBBG but couldn't find yesterdays 1w YLG. Didn't want to waste too much time so onto Askham Bog we went, the previous day we'd managed Willow Tit in about 30 seconds of being at the site, today took a bit longer but still only 2 mins! Round the corner to Dringhouses failed to find any Goosander but not too worry, whilst driving along the A64 we managed to pick out c.10 birds on Middlethorpe Ings!

Hes East was our next port of call, where we miraculously managed to see the Green Sand that had been extremely elusive the last 3 months, then the spot of the day went to Jack when he managed to pick out a Kingfisher, crouched down amongst the rocks, by its cheek patch! We were buzzing and a quick walk over a small pool revealed a single Jack Snipe, on the way back to the car we got Red-legged Partridge.

Getting round to the 'back' of Hes East aka then other side of the A64 we quickly got Little Owl and several other farmland passerines including Yellowhammer and Tree Sparrow we managed to jam in on a large redpoll flock where we'd previously seen smaller numbers and Oli picked out a Mealy! Round the corner for Grey Partridge, expertly picked out by Chris in the fog and a tactical stop saw our only Bullfinch of the day!

Off to a now pretty foggy LDV where the first stop was Thorganby, there had been Waxwings reported for the last few days here but we weren't sure exactly where so had a quick look around but no joy,shame that more details weren't forth coming on these birds! Onto the viewing platform where we quickly added Shelduck, Lapwing and Whooper Swan but somehow managed to miss a skein of 600-700 Pinkies in the fog!

Down the road to add Barn Owl and Corn Bunting and we'd equalled the previous York Area Jan Birdrace total of 90 that we set jointly last year! A quick blast round the corner as we were tipped off by Andy Walker of several Golden Plover near North Duffield, we were soon watching these to break the record, and it was only 14:10! Tried for Brambling nearby but missed them, but got Peregrine, then onto Aughton where 5 Bewick's had been reported earlier, a quick stop to miss another skein of Pinkies before missing the Bewick's but getting 5 Whoopers. Onto Aughton where we got really lucky with a brief Marsh Harrier initially only seen by 2 of us (need to get 3 onto any bird to count it for total) but then came back out to flush everything off the ings. Waders galore and we quickly added Ruff, Dunlin and Redshank and were on 96! Up to Ellerton added a single Bewick's Swan for 97, we then looked at what we needed and decided to go to Melbourne to try for Little Grebe.

Arrived at Church Bridge in near dark and amazingly picked out a single Little Grebe just as it was getting dark! We'd managed 98 species still with the potential for Water Rail and possibly a calling Pinkie! However it wasn't meant to be and we called it a day at 98.

Really amazing days birding which was topped off when the other teams from across Yorkshire score's came in, we'd beaten Scarborough (who pretty much always win it?!) and won the birdrace!

Would it be possible to get 100 in a day? We 'missed' Brambling, Mandarin, Pink-footed Goose, Water Rail, Waxwing, Yellow-legged Gull, Blackcap and Curlew that we knew where around in the area running upto the race, but we did get very lucky with certain other species!

Cracking days birding all in all, big thanks to everyone that helped us in the weeks running up to the race!


  1. well done Tim i have a feeling this year is going to be a cracker i did a recky on the area this morning but forgot to take my camera (which was charging) whoopers
    were at the opposite end of the field to the bewicks but by the time i had got back they had gone.again well done and good luck for the rest of the year.

  2. Anonymous10:36 PM

    Fantastic start to 2013 Smart Hen Harrier and glad you got Willow Tit. I know the fog caused a few problems but at least the rain held off.
    Only 75 to go!

  3. Thats a day to remember !

  4. Anonymous1:25 PM


    Where on Strenny Common did you see the Stonechats. I've not seen any there for a couple of years and would like to catch up with them again.

    Cheers Mark.