Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Time to Switch

Those who check in regularly will know that the frequency of my blogs on this site has reduced drastically. That is not to say that I have stopped publishing photos from my days out - quite the contrary. Thanks to my wife I have switched on to the joys of Facebook, and have set up a page entitled "Wolds Birdlife".

One of the reasons for the switch is that it is easier to keep in touch and have conversations about aspects of the blog. So if you want to keep in contact, then you need to use this link.

This page will largely become defunct from here on. Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you on Facebook.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Long Time No See

I can't believe it has been 3 months since my last post - but I guess that has been a combination of the bad weather, work, and having assignments to finish for my degree course. Never mind.

Over the last few weeks I have been pleased to notice an increase in the numbers of barn owl around. I regularly see three in the mornings on my way to work, so perhaps winter has not been as hard as we may have thought.

I'm not sure the same can be said out in the North Sea of late. Yesterday afternoon I managed to get out for a couple of hours and popped over to Barmston to see if the Iceland Gull was till about. No sign of the white-wing, but there was lots of other activity as it approached high water.

There were upwards of 6 Little Gulls and immature Kittiwakes floating up and down the cliff edge, and I managed to get some close-up views of Sanderling, Turnstone, Oystercatcher, and a couple of Black-Tailed Godwits.

What surprised me was the amount of mess all over the beach. Yes there was a lot of human debris, as there always is along the North Sea coast. But what struck me was the amount of weed and mussels. Even more surprising were the dozen or more mature lobsters that has been washed up. The sea must have been particularly rough of late for this to happen! I guess that that has been the effect of the strong easterlies we have been having.

The conditions seem also to have taken their toll on the birdlife. Firstly, I came across the carcass of a juvenile Puffin, and then found a mature Guillimot having a struggle with the surf. On the way back to the car park I found a juvenile Kittiwake perched on the edge of the cliff, seemingly exhausted. Hopefully it made it back into the air and found something to eat as the tide ebbed.


Winter seems loathed to loosen its grip - but Spring will out.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Late, but still a Cracker.

I had to work over Christmas this year, which meant that my time off came in early January. Given the weather that was perhaps a bonus.
I decided to go over to the other side and pay a visit to some of my favourite haunts on the other side of the Bridge. First call was Far Ings, with a view to seeing the reported drake Smew. I arrived early with an eye on spotting a Beardie or two collecting grit. With no success after an hour I headed for the Hotel lake for the Smew. There was a nice pair of Goldeneye and two “winter” Great Crested Grebes dancing for eachother, but no Smew. Later I was to find out that it has been spending time across the water at Welton Water, returning late in the afternoon. A Bittern was visible from Ness, but was a bit distant.

I decided to move on, driving down the road to Alkborough. The Prospect Lane was marked as closed, but that I think was only for ice some weeks ago. Not knowing otherwise I parked on the edge of the village and walked down the hill loaded up with scope, camera, bins, and a rucksack full of lunch – yes I got quite warm.
The view from the main hide was all a bit distant, but despite that I was treated to some interesting sights – 16 Spotted Redshank with what looked like a large Snipe amongst them (the reported Long-Billed Dowitcher I was told), lots of Lapwing, Knot, and Dunlin. Interestingly, I didn’t see one harrier. The walk back to the car was long, but was rewarded with an overflying Green Sandpiper and 300-400 Pink-Footed geese which came down across the Humber around Brough Haven.


Back to Far Ings. Still no Smew, but there was a flock of c40 Waxwings in the bushes behind Reeds Hotel. They were feeding on rose hips and generally readying themselves for their roost. This was my closest encounter with that fabulous bird, and I found it very difficult to drag myself away. Eventually they moved on and so did I.
My last stop was Ness hide where I witnessed two pairs of Coot squabbling over one of the side pools. The squabbling eventually and inevitably resulted in noisy fisticuffs.

As thing quietened the last highlight of the day began – a “murmuration” of Starlings. It started with only 5 birds, but gradually the numbers built until a knowledgeable companion estimated the numbers at well over 5,000 birds. As quickly as it had started, the “murmuration” end with every last Starling diving into the reedbeds. I videoed the spectacle, but at 108Mb, the file is too large to share here.

Friday, 30 November 2012


It has been six weeks since my last blog - my apologies to those who have asked what I have been doing. The reason is that I have started a degree course in Countryside Management at Bishop Burton. I am really enjoying the course, but it does carry a large assignment workload and a sizeable reading list to go with it. On top of that I have a work placement with Richard at Tophill as well as my part-time work as a check-out dolly.

None of this means that I don't get out, and in the past few weeks I have seen plenty of Fieldfare, Redwings and continental Blackbirds. Other winter visitors have included 3 Waxwings on the approach road to Tophill, but so far none have come to the garden.

I will update my blog as often as I can, but given my college schedule that may be sporadic. In the mean time have a happy Christmas.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Norfolk Long-Weekend - Part 2

My second reserve visit during my long-weekend in Norfolk was to Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Cley Marshes. It was a bit overcast with some light rain threatened, but I wasn’t going to let that spoil a visit I had been really looking forward to. Fortunately the winds were lighter than during the visit to Titchwell, so my hopes were high of seeing more Beardies.

A view of the Visitor Centre
Following advice from one of the reserve’s volunteers I headed straight for Bishop’s Hide. The walk through the reedbed certainly provided some reassurance with “pings” going off all around me. Inside the hide it wasn’t very long before the birds made a first fleeting appearance. After a number of “pings” a group of 6 or so appeared at the top of the reeds about 50 feet from the hide, but they didn’t stay long as something large overflew them. However, over the next 30 minutes they returned a couple of more times, and seemed to head for a patch of Willow Herb that had gone to seed. Whether that was easier to pull than the other reed I’m not sure, but there was a clear attraction.
Beardie in Willow Herb
 In front of Bishop’s Hide is Pat’s Pool, but this was fairly quiet despite the approach of high tide. There was a single Dunlin and a couple of Black-Tailed Godwits, but otherwise it seemed to be more Wigeon and Teal city than anything else. Large numbers seemed to have flown in, all in various stages of eclipse.

Wigeon - in eclipse

Tufted Duck - also in eclipse
I tried my luck along East Bank. This was the volunteer’s second suggestion, and given the length of the reedbed alongside the path I was hopeful for more success. Interestingly it was along this path that I actually saw my first Cetti’s Warbler in the spring; even more interestingly a bird was calling from the reeds but was not so willing to be seen. Perhaps it may have been the same bird?

Very soon, though, the Beardies made a welcome appearance, and I was able to get some good views of both male and female birds. Again they were flighty and didn’t stay in one place for very long, and usually headed for the lower reeds if startled. However, these views we probably amongst the best I have ever had, and without the need for a scope!

Beardies - male and female

Resplendent male Beardie

Male and female Beardies
On our way back to our hotel, we stopped in at Morston Quay and Wells-next-the Sea, just to see what may be about. Both locations allowed some good shots of Little Egret and Redshank, but the surprise for me was two winter-dressed Guillemots diving off the main quay at Wells. Given the distance from the open sea, it seemed strange to see these two birds at close confines and not while on a boat!

Little Egret



Guillemot ready for winter
The following day we travelled home to East Yorkshire. Hopefully it won’t be long before I can go back to Norfolk.

Autumnal Norfolk - Part 1

This week my wife and I went down to the north Norfolk coast to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Being the wonderful woman she is, Lyndsay allowed me a couple of visits to reserves as a chance to get some photos and experience the last throes of this year’s summer return migration. I also wanted the chance to photograph Bearded Tits (or Reedlings as they are known locally).

The first visit was to Titchwell RSPB – the so-called flagship of the Society. It was my first visit, and my first impressions were all good despite the numbers of visitors. The day had been chosen specifically because high tide was due late in the morning. As at Spurn the tide supposedly pushes the waders up the beach, at which point they fly to the reserve’s freshwater and tidal marshes to roost until the feeding grounds resurface again. My expectations were of the scenes shot by “Countryfile” with thousands of Knot flying overhead. Given my past record you’ll not be surprised to hear that that didn’t happen. However, the day was by no means a waste for that.

The walk towards the beach took me past extensive reedbeds, and it wasn’t long before they were alive with the “pings” of my target bird. The wind wasn’t quite perfect, but very soon Bearded Tits could be seen in the reed-tops plucking at seed heads. These little birds are very flighty, and are a nightmare to photography as they cling to the reed tops, swaying back and forth in the breeze. But their fantastic colours were bright in the morning light.
Bearded Tit


 An additional surprise was the occasional, but noisy call of a Cetti's Warbler. It seemed to be very close, but after a full 45 minutes sat waiting for an appearance, I had to give up to the hunger pangs and have something to eat in the cafe.
After lunch I walked to the Freshwater Lagoon to find it stuffed full of allsorts – distant Spoonbill (from the nesting colony up the road at Holkham), Knot, Golden Plover, Ruff, Curlew, Black-Tailed and Bar-Tailed Godwits, Redshank and Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Curlew, Little Egret, Lapwing, and lots of duck.

Black-Tailed Godwit




Little Egret

I think that the thing that stuck with me was just how approachable some of the birds were. The walk alongside the tidal lagoon allowed me to get some close shots of Godwits, Redshank, Curlew, Greenshank, and Little Egret. Despite the numbers of people walking past these birds seemed not to mind at all – something that I find a little disturbing. Could Titchwell be turning into something of a zoo?

I tried the new walks. These are clearly under development, so it was not surprising that there wasn’t much about. However, I did come across one very tired Swallow. It was all it could do to fly a circuit of one of the small lagoons, before landing on one of the seats. It was so tired – presumably from flying across the Wash – that I was able to get within 3 or 4 feet of it. I left it sitting on the gravel, warming itself in the afternoon sun.

A very tired Swallow!!

Little Grebe
My impressions of Titchwell? I had a good visit. Titchwell is a good reserve with some excellent photo opportunties, hides and facilities - but for me, a bit too busy.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Bittern and Twisted…… Not Me!!

Seven and a half hours in North Marsh hide waiting for a Bittern, and nothing! Some would say that was dedication, others that I am going mad! And all because of those fantastic photos on Richard Hampshire’sTophill Blog. Bittern’s have always been a bogie bird for me, with the best shot I have taken at Potteric Carr a couple of years ago.
Record shot of Bittern from Potteric Carr
The morning session went slowly with little to report other than gangs of other birdwatchers dropping in for short periods of time. Some quite considerate, others not so.
After a quick bite to eat I was joined by that other celebrated “Jonah”, Tony Simpson. We sat quietly but nothing happened until we were joined by John Leasson late in the afternoon. Still no Bittern, but within minutes we had our first of two Kingfisher visits (male and female), followed by a sighting of a Peregrine, a Hobby scaring the be-Jesus out of some Black-Headed Gulls, a juvenile Marsh Harrier, and finally a swimming Grass Snake – something I haven’t before seen this late in the year. Next time I go out I might have to see what John is doing….

Our male visitor

Our female visitor

On the hunt...

Just tasting the air....

Trying the nearside bank...
Today was just one of those days I guess. Sometimes you strike lucky, other times you have to put up with the frustration. At least I was out in the countryside and among enjoyable company. Perhaps next time my luck will be better and I will get to see that damned elusive Bittern!