Monday, 17 December 2007

The 'HIT' list

It's being Christmas shopping weekend, and birding has been put on hold for a weekend.

I thought I would list the birds I need in the next 18 days.

Black-throated Diver, Red-necked Grebe, Cattle Egret, White Stork, Bean Goose
White-fronted Goose, Snow Goose, Red-breasted Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, Mandarin Duck
Green-winged Teal, Red-crested Pochard, Ring-necked Duck, Eider, Velvet Scoter, Smew, Rough-legged Buzzard, Common Crane, Jack Snipe, Woodcock, Lesser Yellowlegs, Grey Phalarope, Pomarine Skua, Great Skua, Mediterranean Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull, Little Auk, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Snowy Owl, Wryneck, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Short-toed Lark, Water Pipit, Waxwing, Cetti's Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Red-backed Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Rosy Starling, Twite, Common Crossbill, Hawfinch, Snow Bunting, Little Bunting, Corn Bunting

Thats 48 all together. With 17 realistics

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Winter Desert..

Having my fingers and everything else crossed all week has payed off. A chance to get the lost Desert Wheatear - 2 in the country.
Cromer point, Burniston, North Yorkshire, TA0292. A 6am blast off from home, I get to the top of a very cold Seacliff top. A couple of minutes walk from my warm car, and I am in a small stubble area with 4 or 5 stonechats showing off. The wind is bitter. Then I see it. a few feet to my left. What a poser! The bird was happy to tolerate birders if they stayed still. Crippling views, and then I am back to the car in 10 minutes. As I take my boots off, a strange (to me), call comes from the hedge. A trill - a whistle - a trill.. My brain gives me a question - Is that a Lapland Bunting call? A lapland Bunting, the bird I have most dipped on. I inspect the hedge. A bunting shaped bird, sees me coming, and it's erupts from the bush still calling. Yes! that's it. A lifer. No sign of the Snow Bunts - my bogey bird this year. Face beaming, I'm off to scarborogh harbour - Great Northern Diver - ticked.
184 - Desert Wheatear
185 - Lapland Bunting.
Nail biting times.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Heron their...

It's December, where has this year gone? Time to get those birds I have been putting of for some time now.
Leighton Moss SD4775, Today I have packed the kitchen sink into my rucksack, with the intention to 'roughing it' in Lillians hide -Carpeted, Comfy seats, and heated - untill I get to see Britains most secretive and rariest Herons. On arrival I am greated with the 'Should have been here 15 minutes ago...the Egret was posing a few feet away from the hide, before flying off'..damn! the time I spent in Morrisons buying steak pies, etc....bugger!
Black Sabbath blasts from my pocket...Guess who forgot to turn the mobile off!..Leave the hide time...It's the Wife!!..3 minutes later..back inside..Excitement in the air....A Bittern is flying across the pool, lands, 2 steps into the reeds, and it turns invisible, gone!...Incredible...that was a near miss...phew!
I load up the mule (me), And I am off to another hide in the direction the Egret fly..and get soaked...Nothing here but a very wet looking Heron...One more hide to try. As I leave the hide, My eyes catch a glimpse of a white bird flying just above the 6ft high reeds, being chased by a Heron. Yes! that's it. It lands in the area I am going..700 yards in seconds...The Egret is just outside the window...set up in record time..3 pictures snapped, and the Heron sees off the Foreign bird....Gone...Am I lucky today....Both Bittern and Great White Egret seen in my first Hour....Breakfast time declared..and some bird watching time.
Woodwell SD462744, Is a cert for Britains larges finch, Hawfinch, at the right time of year..not December though, but last week one was seen..I give it 90 sign...But some Marsh Tit made up for the missing finch...should have been here in spring.
Hest bank, Morecombe SD4766, Great timing! I catch the tide just coming in. This brings the birds towards me. No need to leave the car, and get wet. Farsands of birds here. good bird watching, No sign of Eiders. Where have they go to?
High Rid Reservoir, Horwich, SD6610, A lost Long Tailed Duck, prefares here rather than the turbulent seas. I set up for a Foto, only for Dog walkers/ dog swimmers to put the duck in the middle of the reservoir. GRRR!
181 - Bittern
182 - Great White Egret
183 - Long Tailed Duck
Nail biting times.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Swan for the road...

My first trip of the year to the Wirral peninsula.
First stop, Inner Marsh Fam RSPB SJ304744, reports of an easy Green Winged Teal to dip - Yep, I Dipped, for the 2nd time on this species in 6 days. On the way down to the hide, A large number of Bramblings made themselves conspicuous amongst Linnets. A single Black tailded Godwit, was the only bird of note on the lakes - poor. Over on the other (Welsh) side of the reserve, we found 4 Bewick's Swans, amongs Whooper's and Mute's. All three white swans together- a rare sight.
Neston Old Quay SJ2876, chance of stuff here. Lots of Little Egrets, A Peregrine snapped up an unfortunate duck, no sign of Water pipits, or Owls. Poor.

180 - Bewick's Swan.
Nail biting times.

Monday, 19 November 2007

A Grey day in the North West.

Up with the birds this morning, even they was later than usual. Outside, I see evidence of the seasons first dusting of snow. Through the grey light, the peninnes are looking splendid with their new white caps.
Clitheroe, Waddington Fell SD715475 : A Great Grey Shrike, - A bird I last saw in this country 16 years ago - has been seen since Friday. And I’m off. The moment I arrive, I scan the quarry for the Shrike, and notice a Female Kestrel swoop at a fast rate along some conifer tops. Nice to see. I then ask a birder, has the Shrike been seen lately. The reply “That Kestrel has just chased it off the conifers”, Bugger! It took 15 minutes, in the rain, before the bird was located someway down the valley, but was very skittish. No chance of photos in this light.
Only 45 miles away from Marshside SD3520. Green Winged Teal to get. Here it’s just as grey. With no sightings by the birders I meet. I wander, along the banking, checking all the Teal I see. Nuffin! From a reedbed in front of me, a pig squeal is heard, then another to my left. Water rail – must be two, Yes One swims across to meet the other. And that was it for Marshide, poor again.
Down the road at Ainsdale sands, SD294124 , I need the 6 Snow Buntings. Easy directions, get me there in good time. A flock of birds drop down about 50 yards away, quick scan with the bins – 20 Finches. Erect the scope in double quick time, located the Finch flock. All Linnets. Bugger!. I stayed till dark, no sightings of the Snow Bunts. Can’t get them all. Back home in the dark, to my sun lamp.

179 – Great Grey Shrike

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Wigan Flashes Local Nature Reserve

Wigan Flashes Local Nature Reserve SD5803.
After a week off from birding. It's once more back in to the saddle. Tons of stuff on the East coast - again, but you gotta get there before dawn. Alarm set for 3:30am. At that time, there is a Hoolie of a gale blowing outside. I couldn't motivate myself to leave the warmness of the bed. Thinking I will get them sea birds another day. ("Regrets..I have a few...but then again..") back to pushing zedz up.
It's 10am when I emerge from the pit. Remembering that I had once told myself that, "I will catch that bird another day...", well there is a bird not to far away in Wigan. "You get them from your back garden". 35 mins in the car, and I am in another wooded area, with half a dozen birders - "should have been here 10 minutes ago greetings - as usual"
About an hour later, Two stunning Firecrest's are putting on a great show for us all. I must quote from a yorkshireman I once met many years ago, describing the close views he got of a Nightjar that day, "they where that close..they could 'ave crapped on our heads", and that's how close we got to them. Two of Britains smallest birds, Flitting above only a couple feet above our heads. Fantastic.
Total 178
7 weekends left - nailbiting times.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Typically Spurned...

After last weeks disappointing West coast trip, I can’t ignore the East coast. So I am back at Spurn Point, TA4011, and it’s full of rarities. At the very end of the reserve, where the sea meets the Humber, is an absolute haven for migrant birds. As I get my equipment from the car, a female and male Black Redstart, have a little game with the frustrated photographers, ‘Now you see me, now you don’t’. But what a stunning bird the male is, for me this bird is just as striking in colour as a Kingfisher, all though it only shows three colours.(check out the photo). Spurn Point is a very dense jungle, where you are at disadvantage to see birds. All the vegetation is used to good effect by there birds as cover and resting point. You could hide farsands of birds here without seeing any of them. From every bush comes a bird call, as you near it, it all goes quiet when you are close. Today we have a Very rare Dusky warbler, a few feet away, A Pallas’ Warbler in that bush to our right, a woodcock flying behind us, And with the southerly wind, comes more birds by the minute.
Elsewhere on the reserve, Rare buntings have turned up, In a ploughed field, 3 Lapland buntings play hide and seek. In the next field a very rare for the east coast, Hooded Crow turns up. Bramblings are common too. A Shorelark was lonesome on the beach. The only non productive area was the sea, only 5 Brent geese seen flying south.
A truly typically fantastic day at Spurn in October with loads of common and rare birds too SEE everywhere you walked. Except I only got to see the black redstarts. How frustrating is that! On the way home, I managed to ‘dip out’ on another Pallas’ Warbler at Holmpton.
178 – Black Redstart.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

East to West..

For a change, I try the West coast (mistake). Southport again, lots of good stuff here last week. The sun was bright, and the theme today is that most of the hides I visit, all face into the sun.
At Martin Mere WWT. A fantastic sight - and sound - of farsand and farsands of Pink Footed Geese arriving on to the reserve couldn't fail to get any ones attention. Awesome. You could follow huge skeins from a far, and watch them make splash landings in front of you.
Marshide RSPB - from the sandgrounders hide, Again the Glossy Ibis, takes most peoples attention, for me, It's the arrival for winter of Pintails, - a stunning duck -, Wigeons, Teals, and Shovelers too. A single Little Egret was on the Shore, as well as 3 Stonechats, and a watching over the sand, A Sparrowhawk.
Meresands NR - A lovely 'family atmosphere' to this reserve. Irregular shaped pools, surrounded by deep, solemn woods, that hide Red Deer. Walking through the woods, you come to the conclusion, that nature is not all piece an quiet. A large murder of crows, with Jackdaws -never quiet, constantly fly overhead, Pheasant communicate with each other with their klaxon sounding calls. A truly breath taking walk through the conifers.
No additions to the year total, This would have been different had I gone to Flamborough again. Damn! Red Flanked Bluetail.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Spurn Point

East coast again!. This time it's Spurn Point. The piece of a land east of Hull, that reaches out into the sea, and the begins the Humber Estuary. Weather today is very misty, and not much is being reported. We will have to do 'Birding in the cold' ( not knowing what is their till we get their). Pub first stop. Two weeks ago you couldn't park a car in here for twithcers wanting a glimpse of the Greenish Warbler, (Ticked), today, no trouble parking. On the mud flats, farsands of waders getting stuck into the brown stuff. Bar-tailed Godwits and a Merlin are year ticks. Just then my bleeper goes off, American Golden Plover, A mile walk later, It's flown. From inside the hide 3 Barnacle geese, 1 Little Stint, 11 Little grebes and a late Common Tern make the walk worth it. Once again it is obvious that a lot of 'Turds' are still arriving from abroad (Thrushes - LOL). During the day we see at least 3 Yellow Browed Warblers, Common Scoter, Purple Sandpiper. The day remains gloomy, but birding was great.
174 -Bar Tailed Godwit.
175 - Merlin.
176 - Fieldfare.
177 - Barnacle Goose.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Deja Vu

For the second consecutive saturday, I visit Flamborough head. Since Monday, a very rare bird was seen here, but as certain as Man.City will beat Middlesboro today, It has flown. Still, there are some other great birds here. The first two Red-backed shrike, and Barred warbler, I haven't found. Before the day turns into a disaster, my phone alerts my that a Blyth's Reed Warbler, is seen less than half a mile away. In no time at all, I am there, amongst a small, but increasing by the second crowd, surrounding this little bush. "It's gone in here", says one lucky spotter. 30 minute wait and "it's coming out", "It's flying!!", straight into another dense bush. But in that 1 second I saw the 'Little Brown Job' I was all assured that that was indeed the bird - which was identified the night before from a good picture - And a further 90 minutes of waiting to get glimpses totalling 5 seconds, I am satisfied that it is what it is, A little Brown Job. A new lifer for me.The rest of the day was spent photographing waders at Filey. Great for getting close to waders here - No sign of the Grey Phalarope, dip number 4 for the day.
News of a Slavonian Grebe on Audenshaw Res (a couple of mile from where I work), gets me out before the match starts. Great photos too of this rare grebe to Grt.Manchester.
171 Blyh's Reed Warbler
172 Yellowhammer
173 Slavonian Grebe.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Buff Breasted Sandpiper

For the second year running, The Skua cruise was cancelled.
Yippee!. I hate sailing on small boats. But it's a must if you want
good views of sea birds. Just up the road at Flamborough there is
a real rare wader to get and photo. A Juvenile Buff-Breasted
Sandpiper has been seen on the golf course for a couple of days
now. And you dont get many of them on yer yearlist. This
sandpiper is a stunner, don't you think from the photo.
Click-click-tick. Now what do we do? rare birds every elsewhere.
Between the four of us, we decide to drive down to Spurn Point,
some very good stuff there reported. On the way too, Yellow
Brown Warbler, calling in from Siberia..Tick. on too Spurn. Round
the back of the pub at spurn, there's a crowd Rochdale F.C. would
be proud of. Greenish Warbler the quarry. Wasted no time to join
the barbour army. There it was for a moment. good enough for
me..A LIFER! casually slope off to the mudfalts, get some waders
and more year ticks.
An excellent birding trip. We agree to play out together again, If
our better halfs let us.
Total now stands at 170, 30 to go. chewing finger nails now.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Pennington Flash

The last time I was here, I think was February. Since then I have missed a few birds. This week saw a Red-Necked Phalarope, This morning a Mediteranean Gull. All gone now of course. So I have chosen to get a long staying and some times very confiding Garganey Duck. Just as I get to the area of water where it frequents, the heavens open and I didn't give it the time it deserved. In the brief time I was there though, I watched as a Great Crested Grebe struggled to swallow a small Pike of about 6 inches. A predator eating a predator. As all the ducks stuck there heads under their wings, to protect their heads from getting a soaking. (bit odd, don't you think? There they are floating on a lake, and they don't wish to get a soaking from the rain..must be just me to think this!!), All I see a floating backsides. One floating backside I notice, has a stiff-tail pointing up, and that duck could only belong to a Ruddy Duck, (species 159 on the list). Another bird resembled a large ball of black and white cotton.. A Black necked grebe, now in it's winter finery.
From the shelter of the 'NEW' hide, a pair of Green Sandpipers, and 13 Grey Herons, and plenty of wildfowl of different species completed a worthy trip.
Next week: I have booked on a 4 hour Sea cruise from Bridlington. I hate this trip. I was not meant for sailing. Last year the trip was cancelled due to bad weather - my prayers where answered then, but they are not always answered.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

It's a good-bye from him...

It has noticeably becoming darker earlier, and earlier now. Too fast for me, soon the SAD will set in. Still I keep an eye on the sunsets and get the last rays of light each day. As I notice the sun disappearing, It comes to mind that swallows sightings are getting thin too. This years young have already set of for Africa, with a promise that, ..all well, they will reunite with their parents, (who set of weeks later), in a certain bush they have not seen, thousands of miles away, with only a mental map to guide them. Now that is the mystery of nature that makes me more interested with nature rather than Human beings.
Wishing good luck to all migrants, and I hope to see them next year too.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

..If only here, was in Norfolk.

The map says Hollingworth Lake, a place of beauty. Picturesque it may be with the Pennines in the distance. For a bird, the map says, A place to avoid, too high above sea level, too much disturbance. A scenic walk of almost 2 miles, and the only bird of interest is this single Grey Heron, sigh!! If only the map reads Hollingworth Lake, Norfolk, then we would be looking at 50-60 species, with a few rare migrants as a bonus. The one thing that has increased over the years at Hollingworth, is the number of Sea Launches, which have quadrupled, and all must be tested first thing each morning to see if they still work. Einstein's lesser known theory = launches increased = Bird life decreased...ipso facto. Tonight it looks like Hollingworth is host to the Worlds dingy Olympics/World cup, boats going everywhere, I can't fathom out who is winning, or which way round they should go. One fact is, the birds went west, long ago.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Wader Seasons begins..

August for me is when the wader season really begins. Waders begin showing up anywhere, any many times they are often accompanied with rarities.
Fairburn Ings SE4527:this weekend had a Great White Egret. This, the largest of the Egrets, and is getting more and more common to Britain each year. Once this was ticked, it’s off too..
Blacktoft Sands SE843232: Reports of many species of waders here. So pencil sharpened, book at the ready. Ousefleet and Marshide are the ones to be in. Greenshank, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Black Tailed Godwit, Lapwing, Grey Heron, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Ruff, and Snipe, phew. That’s 15 species. Can’t be bad! And there was the residents as support cast, Bearded Tits, Yellow Wagtails, Marsh Harrier, Barn Owl, Buzzard and more. You should be able to get about 50 species.
August is the best time to get Butterflies and Dragonflies too.
An excellent day out, and some good pictures taken. Looking forward to next week already for some rare waders. Ciao.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

"..Here comes the sun"

Horray the sunshine!. For the first time in ages, we have a dry weekend.
I set of to Leighton Moss, but hearing of congestion J28 M6 area, I made the decission to go to Southport instead.
Martin Mere WFWT L40 oTA. I was hoping to see some beaver!!!. Four Beavers where released two weeks ago. This is the first time they have been resident in Lancashire for 500 years. Sadly, today the didn't show up for a photo, but I could see recent film of them on a laptop.(I will have another go later).
Marshide RSPB. Situated on the coast road of Southport. Marshside has some of the best lowland wet grassland in the north-west of England, including the habitats of swamp, salt marsh and scrub with 11 km of ditches.It is also a favourite haunt for fellow digiscoper John Dempsey, follow the links to his great site. Plenty water, meant that some of the birds chose elsewhere to be. I did see Little Egret, Black Tailed Godwits - Hundreds, And the same Glossy Ibis I saw back in May on the other side of the Ribble.
Formby Point, L37 1LJ. Red squirrels can frequently be seen in the pine trees. To attract the squirrels, buy a bag of nuts - 30p, at the entrance. Follow the well marked routes, and you will surley see a few squirrels. They come very close. Today we was fortunate to see a Fox, a great bonus. There is miles of sand dunes to walk if you have the time. The shoreline attracts many waders, and if the wind is right, a good sea watching can be had.
A fantastic day out in the sun.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Tunisia - New Hammamet

Tunisia - North West Africa. Phew!! What a scorcher...Glad to be back to the rain. With temperatures above the mid Forties during the day, and in the thirties at night. You can miss the rain back home.
Birding here is fantastic, whether you have a garden, sea or find a salt lake.
I gave two half days (mornings only) for birding because of the heat, being out in the afternoons was outside of my motivation, you know the dilemma - Birds in the scrub or birds by the pool?? It's a tough one, init!!
Thirty Eight species in total, I won't forget my first sightings of Grt. Flamingo's - Thousands of them, Collared Pratincole (Both lifers - tickerty-tick), Hundreds of Black-Wing Stilts, Little Terns everywhere there is water. People here are friendly too. Thanks to my Chauffeur for my Birthday drive to Korba Salinas - fantastic place to see wading birds.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

No blog this week or next. I am on my hols in Tunisia.
Cya blah blah

Sunday, 10 June 2007

A day with raptors

Well it started with news of a 'mega' rare bird in Dumfries and Galloway. Halfway, I decided to phone ahead to confirm that the bird was present. Sadly it was not. So with me in Cumbria, I thought I would best put my time looking at Cumbria's famous raptors.

Haweswater Res NY4713: Has been home for many years to Britains only breeding Golden Eagles. Sadly the Female has not returned for a few years now. But the male still lives in hope. Allthough distant, great views where had of this huge, majestic Eagle effortlessly gliding, putting every bit of it's 7ft wingspan to good effect..

Bassenthwaite Res: NY2129:Home to breeding Osprey, although you are 1.4 miles away from the nest, the RSPB has many telescopes available for the public to use, and if you are lucky - I was, an Osprey may go fishing and fly much closer to you. At the moment the nest has five young chicks.

Dunsop Bridge SD659542: This years surprise in the bird world was that a pair of Eagle Owls, have raised three chicks. I managed to see all chicks and both adults. Seeing the adults flying, with a wingspan of over 5ft 6 ins, (over twice the lenght of a Buzzard), I will never forget. The whole place was full of other raptors too. Upto four Short-Eared Owls where seen hawking for food constantly,. I was lucky (again!), to spot a Hen Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Raven and Kestrel also hunting for food. A big thank you must go to the RSPB leader - Dave. for saving me a 3 mile walk, upto the Owl site. These special walks are Regularly advertised on the RSPB Northwest website, where you can apply for a permit to take your car upto the site.

In all, we travelled 276miles, and felt like singing 'climb every mountain', from the sound of music many times, today was the best birding day I have had this year.

Years total : 146

Monday, 4 June 2007

TERN-ed out nice again.

June is the time to attempt a full sweep of the five tern species that breed in Britain. One place that gives you this chance is Cemlyn Bay, Anglesey. The Tern colony is mainly made up of Sandwich terns, with a fair number of Common Terns, and a couple of Arctic Terns. About this time of year, you could be lucky and get our rarest tern, the Roseate Tern – I should have been here yesterday.., none today. Also worth trying is Rhosneiger. Little Terns often put in a n appearance too Cemlyn also. Very rare migrant terns have also shown up here too, Sooty and Bridled Terns in resent years.
After a couple of hours, it’s off to Holyhead Harbour. At the right time, (not today) you have a chance of three species of divers (winter months best). At the moment Black Guillemots are here – can’t miss them, follow the AA signposts. Also a Phalacrocorax aristotelis fishing close in.
South Stack RSPB. A typical seabird colony, but the speciality here is Chough. Looking out to sea, a good number of Manx Shearwaters, glide effortlessly inches above the waves. South Stack sometimes holds breeding Peregrine, which you can watch on CCTV from the RSPB information centre. (Not this year though). If you are into Flora, the place is full of plants that beg to be identified. Sea Campion, Sea Cail etc.
One the way back home. Call into Point of Ayr, near Prestatyn and walk West towards Gronnant where a colony of Britain’s smallest terns are easy to see.
This is the longest trip I have to make each year, around trip of 320 miles, but thoroughly enjoy it , as long as it is only the once.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Out of Africa

It's the holiday period for some of us, and I have managed to get a really cheap trip to see some of Africa's fabulous animals - no sign of any dog walkers here - . It didn't take me long to snap hundreds of shots, filling my 1 GB memory card.

Hope you had a good bank holiday.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Watergrove Reservoir

Last week I had an accident during which I managed to break my binoculars. I should get them back in a month. Crikey! Birding without ‘bins’ is?..well. So I am restricting myself to only local sites, and there is no closer than Watergrove Reservoir, Wardle SD908178. Watergrove is one of those sites that isn’t exactly stuffed with birds. Some days you could walk miles and struggle to see 10 species. But hey we are in May. So, with just my scope and camera, I take the car 0.4 miles to the res. The car park is packed with dog walkers – not a good sign. Dogs are magnets to photographers who may have waited patiently for ages to get close to there subject, only for fido to come bounding over to set everything up in the air..Grrr!!. So I chose to take to the hills. These are grazing hills, with sheep and there new lambs about. Along the many walls you will find Meadow Pipits, and Wheatears. Look carefully and you may see one of the many Little Owls on look out for a fat juicy worm.
This year seems to be an excellent year for shorebirds. Whimbrel, Sanderling and Bar-tailed Godwit have paid a visits. By the waters edge, some irregular visitors are just crying out to be digiscoped. Ringed and Little Ringed Plover allow me to get close to them. Common Sandpiper where less obliging.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Welsh Yorkshire.

Here is a part of Wales, found in the Yorkshire Dales SE0754. Why Wales? Many years ago, I had to drive all the way (150+miles),to the mid-west coast of Wales to be amongst the flora and fauna found here. And it is only 47miles from my house, Near Skipton. I have been coming here every May for over ten years. This has to be my favorite woodland walk. The ancient woodland is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and one of the largest areas of acidic oak woodland in the Yorkshire Dales. It is renowned for the flora and fauna, particularly the carpets of bluebells in Spring. See my photos. From the car park (£5.50), turn right, at the bridge over the River Wharfe – Checkout the Brown Trout catching Mayflies, and follow the wooded trail in a anti-clockwise direction. And then turn left. You follow the river bank straight into the Woods. Once in the wood. At this time of year, carpets of Bluebells are everywhere. Fantastic sights. And the aroma of Wild Garlic is unmistakable through out. Bird song is at it’s most vocal this time of year, with many Warblers all calling out for company. Listen out to the trill of the Wood Warbler, a small warbler with a large voice. Redstart are here too. Once you have located them by sound, you are greeted with good views of this magnificent warbler. Spread out along the way, are nest boxes for Pied Flycatchers. Just stand by an inhabited nest box, and appreciate the airborne skills these birds display in catching flies with ease. If you are not into the flora and fauna, you will not be disappointed with the many stunning high views of the Wharfe valley. Take a few moments, on a well placed bench at one of the many vista points. Stunning you will agree. Along the way you come to where the river comes to a bottleneck. You have reached a place called the Strid. The Strid gets its name from the fact that it is said to be a ‘Stride’ wide, but there is danger here. It is wider than it looks and the rocks are usually very slippy. Water here turns colour from a ‘rich-tea’ colour, to ragging white. The gap is narrow enough to tempt the foolhardy of you to leap across. The strid not only takes no prisoners here, it keeps hold of them too. Holding it’s victims under the wide caverns beneath the rocks from where they dared leap. Take caution here. Just further on we me a large bridge where the Dipper (Water Robin), makes it’s nest. Cross the bridge and head back through the woods, taking in more spectacular sites, sounds, and smells, back to the car park and a pot of tea at the restaurant. May is my favorite month of the year by far, and here is my favorite part of Wales, here in the Yorkshire Dales. I may see you there too. Enjoy.
Year total : 123

Monday, 23 April 2007

Warblers have arrived.

Heysham Nature Reserve (SD 407 601), is managed by the Wildlife Trust in agreement with British Energy. Nearest town is Morecombe. The habitat here is mainly Gorse, Hawthorn, with reedbeds and grass in abundance too. Over 21 species of butterflys have been recorded here, and today there certainly was evidence, that this was a popular site for them. Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, and Orange tips could easily be seen. During the main summer months, the site also attracts it's fair share of dragonflies and Damselflys - Ruddy Darter, and Emperor Dragonfly. From the foot of the old lighthouse, we can overlook a scubland oasis, which acts like a magnet for migrating birds. Today we had newly arrived Blackcaps, Willow Warbler, and a species which has eluded my list for a few years now - Lesser Whitethroat. Maybe 2 or 3 where seen displaying along the hedge on the right-hand side from the carpark. This reserve really needs some time spending here to cover all the areas on offer. And while your here, also visit Heysham power station. Along the now derelict jetty, many wading birds use it as a resting/roosting place when the tide is in. Look out for Purple Sandpiper, flitting about below the rotten planks.

New to list: include, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Purple Sandpiper, Lesser Whitethroat.

Year total: 117

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Crosby Marina, Merseyside

Easter Monday, I am at the mouth of another estuary. This time it's the Mersey. Crosby Marina, is well known to birders for the variety of gulls that are attracted here. It's list include gulls from the Americas, Scandinavia as well as below the Mediterranean sea. Today i have come to see one of the most delicate of gulls native to Britain. Little Gull. Noticeably smaller than the Black headed Gulls. With a pink flush to it's breast, and its distinctive black under wings, it has a butterfly type flight. About 50 Little Gulls are present today, in varying plumage's, and ages. If you are lucky, you may see the Ring Billed Gull - an American gull. I was not. Still cant' get them all, can you? While you are here, you must see the life sized sculpures of men on the beach. All the sculptures are planted all over the beach. All looking out to sea, as if there is something better out there. Awesome. At Hale, a Ring Ouzel, was present. This species is more commonly found on the moors. Also known as the Mountain Blackbird. Well that was a very busy Easter for me. What did you get up to?

New Little Gull, Turnstone, Swallow, Ring Ouzel.

Total : 112

Lytham St. Annes

After a long drive yesterday to Bempton. I am in need of something more relaxing. Lytham St. Annes, North shore of the Ribble estuary is a perfect place to wind down. whether it's looking at the sea, watching the colourful wildfowl on Fairhaven lake, or just a gentle shop through the Victorian town. Pace of life hear is much at an easier pace than what you find at Blackpool just up the coast. So before some shopping, there was a small matter of some Continental birds to see. In resent years, one can't help but notice that the once rare Little Egrets, each year have increased in numbers up and down the North West coast. Today, upto 10 birds could be seen through the heat haze, and a strange dark wading bird, that just shone in the sunshine. It was in fact an Immature Glossy Ibis. Common on the Mediterranean, and below, this bird turned up here earlier this year, and probably finds the weather and pace of things to it's liking, to stay here so long. Do visit the RSPB hut at Fairhaven Lake. cracking displays, and enjoy a gentle cruise around the lake on one of the many putt-putt boats.
New: Glossy Ibis and Little Egret.
Total 108.

Monday, 9 April 2007

Bempton Cliffs - Bird City

It's Good Friday, and I am off to the the East coast. Bempton Cliffs, Nr. Bridlington, is home to almost a quarter of a million seabirds. A short walk from the visitor centre takes you to a number of specially-created cliff top viewpoints, where the massed ranks of gannets, guillemots and kittiwakes can be seen (and smelled!). Close to the top of the cliff, you have a good chance to see colourful puffins, and some spectacular views. BEWARE, although the cliff top is securely fenced, you should exercise caution at all times, unless you want an expensive ride in a helicopter. While I was there, the Helicopter rescue was called out for some poor soul. A truly excellent day out.
Years total now : 106

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Monday, 2 April 2007

"Something old...Something new.."

Pennington flash, near Leigh, close to the East-Lancs road (A580), A typical flash, developed into a Country Park, with some rough scrub reed and rush areas. This week saw the mix of new arrivals, as well as some of the remaining birds from the winter. Earlier in the week, a small passage of Kittiwakes briefly showed, before taking a short-cut across to the east coast - probably? Both Ringed and Little Plovers where in small numbers, but easily viewable from the main hide - now with roof, after being blown off during the February gales. In the woods, if you was lucky, a Long-Eared Owl could be seen. You could not escape the monotonous di-syllabic sounds from the trees. Chiffchaffs announced that they are the years first warblers to arrive in this country. Calling from everywhere it seems. On the lake itself, three Black Necked Grebes, gave distant and close views. This like all the grebes, is absolutely resplendent. With golden plumes as ear coverts, against a black face and deep red eyes. (The picture was borrowed from Olia Roma tours). Also Sand Martins and a Swallow passed through. Long stayers still present Goldeneye and Goosander.
New to the list: Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Black Neck Grebe, Chiffchaff.
Total :98

Saturday, 31 March 2007

Derbyshire delights.

It is located only 45 miles from Rochdale, but it never fails to remind me of Eastern European landscapes. Howden reservoir, situated at the northern end of Ladybower reservoir, just off A57 (snake pass), Manchester – Sheffield, offers fantastic views of part of the famous Derbyshire peak district. Howden reservoir is famous for two reasons: 1 – this was where the great war time film ‘The Dambusters’ was filmed, where Lancaster bombers drop Barnes Wallaces’ bouncing bomb onto the water surface towards destroying the dam. 2 – Goshawks. This Buzzard sized Sparrowhawk, in the right time and place, can give viewers fantastic Ariel displays to the fortunate. From the visitors center take the long road to windy corner and look over towards Cold side oaks. This spot is called by the locals as,’Windy corner’, very apt. The peak times to view them here are mid March to mid April. In the past, I have had great success from 11am to 1pm. Also there is good chance of Peregrine falcon putting in a appearence. Lower down from Howden, the visitors center offfers you few species on the bird feeders.

New to the list Red Grouse and Siskin.

Total 94.

Monday, 19 March 2007

“It may be winter outside…but in my heart it’s spring”

To beat this weekends foul weather coming from the North. I headed East, too mop up on some long staying birds.
First stop. Pule Hill, Halifax. This hill, overlooking Halifax town itself, was favoured by a single Shorelark. A bird that is more typically found on the shores of the East coast, seems to have overshot it’s landing grounds by 70 miles. I struggled to stand upright, in a real “hooli” of a gale. After about an hour, I was fortunate to find the bird. But the wind did not allow for any photos.
Second stop: Fairburn Ings RSPB Castleford. For a few weeks now, a pair of Long Eared Owls, had taken up residency in evergreens. Once pointed out, a single bird was easy to spot. Other birds of note where good numbers of Tree Sparrows at the feeding station. With the Owl found quickly, it’s of to the next stop.
Budwith, Nr Selby. Part of the extensive Lower Derwent Valley floodplain. Two male American Wigeon, had made friends among a few hundred European Wigeon. Their notable size and plumage differences made this another spot in no time, but too distant for photies. So with the “Yanks” in the book, A short trip to:
Blacktoft sands RSPB, Ousefleet. Part of the exciting complex of habitats around the Humber estuary. The tidal reedbed is the largest in England and is important for its breeding Bearded Tits, Marsh Harriers and Bittern. It was here that I once choose to volunteer to spend a ‘Birthday week’, pulling up weeds, digging dirt, and guiding visitors around the reserve for NO PAY, just feeding my soul, with the knowledge that I have contributed to the future of both existing and visiting birds. The reserve is waiting for the start of the ‘wader season’ to begin. Single, Avocet (RSPB logo), and Spotted Redshank, where the only specialists on show. Above the extensive reed beds, 3 ‘lezzer’ female Marsh Harriers, practiced ariel maneuvers! with each other, in readiness, should, a male show up. An excellent day, in atrocious wind.
Additions to the list included: Avocet, Snipe, Spotted Redshank, Shorelark, Long-Eared Owl, Linnet.
Year Total: 92

Monday, 12 March 2007

One Swallow, doesn't make a summer..

The first migrants from Africa slowly trickled into Manchester, with news of a very rare bird called a Desert Wheatear. The bird had found itself way off course, in a field, in that magnet (NOT), for all rare birds called Irlam. When I arrived, I was greated by a few hundred twitchers, all with faces like slapped-arses. The bird didn't like Irlam too much, and flown away. Ah-well!. I carried on my trip to Marbury C.P. in hope of catching a glimpse of the much sort after Woodpecker. Alas no. But got some more pictures of the locals.

Migration News: The first Swallow has arrived.

This week, we should see Sand Martins, Chiffchaffs, and Common Wheatears, making a welcome return, with a chance of something rare turning up. The spring migration has begun.

Years total: 85 - New additions: Green Woodpecker & Skylark.

Monday, 5 March 2007

"Love is in the air.."

March for me, means one thing. For the last eight years, I have making 3 trips to Marbury country park, Cheshire to see Britain's smallest Woodpecker - I have still yet to see them. Whilst waiting for a sighting, or even sounding of this very elusive bird, there are plenty of opportunities to photograph the other inhabitants of the wood. This weekend, you could not help but notice that most of the birds where beginning courtships. On the lake, many Grebes where starting their must see, fantastic courtship rituals with there intended. Kingfishers where flying around in groups, using the bright sunshine to reflect the electric colouring of the feathers to attract partners. Overhead, seven Buzzards danced on the air, with the same hope. The aggressive Robins spent most of the time chasing each other. A fabulous day spent with nature.
New species to the list: Water Rail, Raven, Little Grebe.
Year Total 83.

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Its a HOOT!

So far my birdwatching has mainly been outside my home town of Rochdale. We must not forget that our local birds are just as important, if not more, than birds seen elsewhere. We must constantly monitor our local birds, and recognise any change in trends regarding numbers and sightings. It is only recently that one particular bird the Short Eared Owl, that has become a local bird. This bird, if you are in the right place at the right time can be seen hunting the moorland which Rochdale is surrounded by. An even rarer bird, is the Hen Harrier. A stunning male performed for only a lucky few birders while waiting for the Owl to show, before dissapearing back to where it came from.

Noticable changes to the season, where the arrivals of Skylarks back to the moors. Tawny Owls are heard most nights, trying to attract a mate. Estuary birds like Curlew and Oystercatchers are now looking inland to begin nesting.

Total so far 80

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Beside the seaside..beside the sea.

Well after two, miserable weekends. It was a pleasure to take advantage of some sun this weekend. My list was defunct of shorebirds, so, it was off too Morecambe Bay. The abundant bird life and diverse marine habitats make the Bay one of the most important wildlife sites in Europe. As luck happened, I arrived well before the tide came in, always a good time here. The birds where everywhere, prodding and probing the very rich mud flats. Just about every size and shape of bill could be seen. Oystercatchers, Black Tailed Godwits, Curlews, using their long bills to reach deep into the mud, while Knot, Redshank, Dunlin worked their tiny bills through the mud like sewing machines. A fantastic spectacle of near a thousand Knot, swarming as one over the shores edge. Stunning!

Back at home, my bird table was graced with the presence of a stunning female Bullfinch while I had my camera focused on it.
Count so far 78.

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Bird list 2007

January for typical birders means only one thing... A fresh slate...From the 1st all serious birders, begin the new year equal. This means that the number of birds seen last year, are history. We all begin at zero birds seen. From zero we can only improve on that. All plans and goals are set. Places to visit, fresh places to see, weekends away, and hopefully a couple of birds not seen by you before in this country. Targets are set. For a serious birder, the target begins at 200 species. This means getting all the common, as well as some rare birds.
Based in Grt. Manchester - In my veiw the poorest county blessed for birds - this means getting out of this county most of the time. Also at the right time of year, travelling to the meca for birders Norfolk, and also Wales and Scotland.
I have not reached 200 this millenium - not putting the time in.
So follow me on my blogg throughout the year of a typical lister. Along the way, I hope to add some photos I have taken of my triumphs too.

The year so far. - Inc 28th January.
This weekend the RSPB asked us all to record the birds seen in our gardens. I chose to check out a bird in sombody else's instead. A beutifull garden in Bingley (Keighley) held an American Robin. A VERY rare bird to this country (16),and a first for Yorkshire. I previously saw this speices in Grimsby 2004, where It was soon dispatched by a sparrowhawk. Excellent views of this stunning bird where had.
Total - 63.

Monday, 15 January 2007

Global warming is here..NOW!

Yesterday was the first day that the great north west of England did not see rain. So it was that I seized the opportunity to dust of the trusted binoculors and telescope (literally..they was covered in dust from my recent trip to Egypt), and headed over to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve Martin Mere near southport. Every January I look forward to seeing farsands of swans having their summer hols hear in the cold north west. And I was greated by farsands of geese....But...fewer than in recent years...In fact I was looking forward to seeing hundreds of Bewick's Swans among farsands of the very similar Whooper swans. Among 1100 Whoopers (nice sight), the reserve held 1 lone Bewick swan...All the other hundred, seem to have stayed away from comming this far south, or stayed on their breeding grounds becuase the climate is at a temperature they can cope with.
Each passing week we hear about global warming in the media, and become abit blaze about it. Well it seems to have krept up on us, and it's here..NOW.