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!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Bitten but no Bittern

Blimey it was chilly today! I spent the morning at Tophill in North Marsh hide hoping to see yesterday’s reported Bittern. The weather was rainy, and the wind was in the north-east, right into the hide.
The morning began with some distant views of a Barn Owl that appeared to be chasing Woodpigeons out of the trees. Given the rain and the potential of damage to its plumage, this sight was something of a surprise – but a welcome one nonetheless.

A Mute Swan came into view, and mounted the bank in front of the hide. The next twenty minutes was spent in frantic preening and washing. The behaviour it exhibited seemed to suggest that it had some uncontrollable itch that it needed to get rid of, but couldn’t. Having done some research on line this afternoon, it appears that swans and other waterfowl can suffer from a parasitic worm that can cause cercarial dermatitis. In humans this same parasite causes “swimmers itch”. It is possible that this swan was infected. After a while the swan disappeared to the other end of the Marsh out of sight.

The Bittern didn’t actually show this morning, which was a shame given that it had been seen fishing yesterday. However, by way of compensation I was treated to some lovely views of one of the Kingfishers and a Long-Tailed Tit.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Lower Derwent Visit

Brilliant weather and the kids are back at school!!
Yesterday I took myself off to Wheldrake Ings – always a good bet for a few migrating waders at this time of year. And it might well have been, but I was not able to get close enough to spot anything. There were good, but distant views from the now restored Tower hide, but unfortunately YWT have yet to complete repairs to the boardwalks for the other two - I wish I had known beforehand. However, From Tower hide I was able to watch a couple of Marsh Harrier search the flooded areas for a meal – one female and the other a juvenile. Neither were successful in anything other than spooking all the duck and gulls that had been peacefully roosting.

Marsh Harrier
The dragonflies were relishing the warm sunshine, with a number of Brown and Southern Hawkers, and Ruddy Darters patrolling the hedge and willow borders. Some had paired up and were ready to lay eggs for next year’s generation, and many were looking the worse for wear, with tears to those delicate wing panels. I came across a single Banded Demoiselle – a species I normally associate with earlier months of the summer. What a beauty!

Brown Hawker

Southern Hawker
Mating Southern Hawkers

Mating Ruddy Darters
Baned Demoiselle
On the way back to the car I did come across an obliging Lesser Whitethroat. It looked like a juvenile, and was greedily picking off insects on the brambles near the bailey bridge. A very nice bird.

Lesser Whitethroat

Saturday, 1 September 2012

A Disappointing Start, but an Enjoyable Ending

The weather was forecast to be fine and sunny yesterday, so I decided to take myself off to the north of the region to a site I had not visited before – Filey Dams. The reserve has a reputation as a bit of a hotspot during the return migration period, and as we had had fairly strong north to north-easterlies for the past day or so, I was hoping for something special.
How disappointed was I? When I arrived it was quite cool and the reserve was occupied only by the usual residents – Greylags, Mallard, Mute Swans, a variety of gulls etc. No waders, and only one visiting passerine in the tree next to the hide – a female Blackcap. There were frequent drop-ins from Swallows and some Sand Martins, but otherwise diddly-squat. Opportunities for photos were limited to some moorhen and odd birds at the feeding table. There was a very brief glimpse of a fox, but it had clearly already eaten as it laid down behind some tall grass for a sleep, and was not seen again.

The word was that Filey Brigg was just as quiet, so I decided to relocate to Bempton Cliffs for the afternoon. Unfortunately things weren’t much different there. Yes the cliffs were alive with Gannets, Fulmar, and Herring Gulls, but the rest of the reserve was very quiet. I did spot a second fox near the old RAF watch station, but otherwise I only saw a few Tree Sparrows and Chaffinch. So I settled down to watch the Gannets and Fulmars.

Fulmar - up close

Fulmar - effortless
The interesting thing about the Gannet colony was that even at this late stage of the season things seemed a bit mixed up. There were young birds flying and practicing their landings; young on the cliffs, some still covered in down; adult birds still courting and mating; and even one bird bringing nesting material back to a mate. Weird!

Gannet-sex - a precarious exercise

"Honey, I'm home..."

One of the last fluffy chicks

Must be a late starter

Juvenile practicing with new skills

Although the day had had a disappointing start, I'm glad I went over to Bempton. Watching and photgraphing the Gannets and Fulmars was something I hadn't done for a while, but found it very enjoyable and a good test for the new camera.