Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Tophill Low in December

I took a trip to Tophill Low today. There was the promise of a lovely diving trio: a Long-tailed Duck, Smew and Black-necked grebe were at the reserve. As soon as I left Hull I realised it was really foggy, and the fog got thicker as I approached the river and Tophill Low, not the best day for photography.
The old south hide is now gone and the new hide/visitor centre looks almost complete, with the glass panels being fitted today.
Many coots at D res, with Goldeneyes, Wigeon, Shoveler, Gadwall, Great Crested Grebes and Cormorants, even a few Teal flotillas. At some point groups of common gulls, herring gulls and a couple of Great-black Backed gulls started to bathe, joined by a cormorant and a great-crested grebe. Bathing is quite contagious!
After several scans, squinting hard due to the poor visibility, I moved on to the woods. The feeders were being used by Goldfinches, Chaffinches and Great, Blue and Coal tit. Eventually, a Marsh Tit made an appearance.
Hovering Chaffinch.
Coal tit, goldfinch and Chaffinch.
Marsh tit and Goldfinch.
The usual tranquility of North Marsh was broken by the burst of a Cetti's warbler song. The sound came from the reeds at the back of the hide, so there I moved. Eventually, I spotted it and the edge of the reeds, always under cover and close to the ground. I even managed a few poor shots (top shot and below), the firsts I take of this elusive species.

 The view from the north hide, once the fog started to lift. I reached the middle hide and scanned again at the south side, where the long-tailed duck had been seen yesterday. There it was, diving repeatedly. A nice thing about them is that they bubble all the time they are under water, so it's easy to predict where they will emerge. Still, the views were very distant and still misty, so these record shots is the best I managed.

 Noth much at N lagoon and N marsh so I went to O res to check for the Black-necked grebe. There were indeed many Great Crested Grebes about...
and courting Goldeneyes...
 ...but a birdwatcher spotted the Black-necked grebe, right at the other side of the reservoir, so again, just record shots.
 With so much reservoir scanning I run out of time and didn't get to Watton for the Smew, but I was most pleased with the visit.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Hazy winter sun at South Landing

This is the last Monday in the year that was going out, after some deliberation I opted for a trip to my favourite place in East Yorkshire. I was held out by some incident in Beverley, so I had to take a long detour, and I had to drive back all around Beverley but shortly after 10 am I was parking by the Living Seas centre. I was surprised that the feeders had been removed and the centre shut for the winter, including the toilets. There were few small birds around the centre. The tide was going out at the beach. A loose flock of Oystercatchers and a Curlew were feeding on the sandy strip, while some Turnstones fed at the tideline, with a few squabbling Rock Pipits.
 I walked towards Danes Dyke. A Carrion Crow had found a flatfish and flew with it to a safe place to feed on it. It hit it with the bill to break the skin and get to the flesh. A Great Black-backed gull watched from a distance, but respected the crow's ownership.
 I saw a Fulmar circling, they are back at the cliffs! I even managed a flight shot. There were 6 individuals on this stretch of coast. Two sitting in pairs in possible nest sites and much cackling ensued every time a circling individual got near. A selection of Fulmar photos follows. They are very photogenic, the low cliffs allow great views and the light was lovely today.

A crab pincer to ID.
Posing Turnstone. These were very approachable and kept feeding a couple of meters from me.
These Fulmars were on the other side of the cliff towards the Headland. Another six were present, in two sites.

Cliff fall.

Low tide looking towards the headland.
There was not a high number of bird species today, 26 species on two km2, the winter regulars.
This was the only invertebrate, a Winter Moth Operophtera brumata, on a wall by a light in the Living Seas Centre.

Monday, 14 November 2016

November at East Park

It feels like I need to give an excuse to go to East Park instead of a countryside place. However, East Park's is a great birdwatching spot on its own right, with a high diversity of birds year round. Today it was quite mild, with light south-westerly wind and quite overcast, although there was a sunny spell at some point. I walked anticlockwise from the main entrance, with a stop in the cafe mid-morning. There were many Black-headed gulls in the park today, several hundred. I went to each flock to try and spot a Mediterranean gull, but only found a few Common Gulls with them. At least 60 Herring gulls, with most immatures were present and an immature Lesser Black-back gull that was present also in October.
Young Black-headed gull.
There were six Mute Swans present, from two families. The browner single young of one of them did a busking display to the young from the other family, looking most impressive. I wonder if he (?) is trying to bond with a partner. The adults looked very relaxed about each other.
The young swan with fluffed up neck after the display.
The very brown young swan approaches the siblings from the other family.
A number of Pied Wagtails was present, two on the bowling green and three on the grass by the boat house.
One of the adult Mute Swans preened itself, managing to keep both feet out of the water. As it did so, it went slowly in circles.
This Carrion Crow and its partner were walking about with head feathers raised (bristle-head posture). 
Another view of one of the show offs.
 One of the highlights of today was superb views of a lone female Goldeneye. She was feeding near the bridge and I could approach while she dived and hide behind the life-saving rings to take her photo when she emerged.
 As I had moved on, a Kingfisher perched on the railing by the life-saving ring. it stood there for a minute or two, before flying across the lake into the distance. I was pleased to finally get good views of the East Park kingfisher.
 Kingfisher on the railing by the bridge.
I caught up with it again and again. This time, it fished from the branches of a fallen tree.
A late Chiffchaff hunted for insects in a Sycamore.
There is a group of rowans, all berries and no leaves on a small hill. This Mistle thrush had taken possession of the lot, and spent quite a long time rattling from them, and then chasing any blackbird that dared fly to its trees.
On the way back, the Goldeneye was still diving on the same spot.
A very yellow Grey Wagtail on a puddle.
This young crow (quite brownish plumage) has white primaries. This is thought to be due to poor diet when being fed by their parents, and, if the bird survives, it should grow black feathers in the next moult.
One of the birds I missed was the Jay, again! But I saw the lone Ring-necked Parakeet flying over the lake being very noisy. Overall, 40 birds in today's visit.

Monday, 7 November 2016

South Landing: lifers and showers

Lately I can't seem to go away from the Flamborough Headland, I just love the area so much. Today the weather forecast wasn't brilliant, with strong wintry showers all morning, but, instead of heading to a reserve with hides, which would be my usual decision, I decided to brave it and I am so glad I did. The morning started bright and mild. The tide was right up, with nice breaking waves. A couple of guys were even surfing!
 I sat by the beach and watched the entertaining Rock Pipits (in a scan I counted 11) and a flock of Turnstones working on the pile of seaweed. A few Sanderlings were roosting and two Purple Sandpipers were with the Turnstones.
 With the occasional clouds the visibility towards the sea was great and I spotted a group of small birds swimming in the bay. I couldn't believe my eyes that they were Little Auks, a lifer for me! I moved up the bay looking for a better light and they were actually getting closer to the shore, forming a compact group, but one of them started to lag behind and almost beached at some point. One of its wings was droopy, but it paddled out at sea again and stayed on the bay close to shore.
 Just then three birds landed and as I pointed and took some photos I realised they were Long-tailed ducks, an adult female and two juveniles. What luck, this was my second lifer of the day. Unfortunately they flew off almost immediately.
 I watched the lone Little Auk for a while, but it started spitting. Ominous clouds were coming fast from the north, and I headed back to the car while the shower passed. A birder (Mark Thomas) came to say that they had captured the injured Little Auk as it came to shore and will take it to the Sealife rescue centre at Scarborough.
 As the rain eased a bit I popped for a coffee at the visitor centre. After a little while the rain stopped and I ventured out, doing the woodland walk and stopping at the clifftop. There were lovely sunny spells. The sandy strip of beach was now exposed, the beach empty of people, but a Great Black-backed gull, a Curlew, a few Oystercatchers and a flock of Ringed Plovers were now in attendance.
 I descended the steep steps and walked up the beach. There were some Scoters, including a male. Some Shags fishing and a Grey Heron by the tide line.
A family of six Brown Rats fed under the feeders by the visitor centre.
High tide and a surfer.
The five Little Auks
The injured Little Auk.
Long-tailed Duck female and two juveniles.
Ominous clouds coming.
Carrion Crow enjoying the sunny spell.
The exposed beach during a sunny spell.
The abandoned Sand Martin colony.
Common Scoters.
Grey Heron.
Rock pools with South Landing in the distance.