Sunday, 15 January 2017

Yorkshire Birding - Xmas and New Year 2016/2017

A nice trip back home for the Xmas break. Weather was generally good throughout, no snow but more or less a wintry feel. Birding summary below.

South Yorkshire Moorlands
The moorlands and moorland edge provided steady birding over the period. 3 Buzzards at Midhope and similar numbers at Strines were noted on one visit as were scattered sightings of Kestrels. A skein of 35 Pink-footed Geese flew W over Strines Moor (29 Dec). The feeders at Broomhead Reservoir were busy with Coal and Great Tits regular and a couple of Crossbills flew over (24 Dec). Ingbirchworth Reservoir held at least 25 Bramblings in the Beech trees along its western edge.

Wath Area
A brief visit to Old Moor RSPB on a crisp frosty morning (28 Dec) saw a flock of ca. 60 Pink-footed Geese heading NW over the reedbed screen. However, the birding highlight was the sighting of a couple of Bearded Tits in this area - Wath Tick #188.

Gull Roost
Three visits to Anglers CP, West Yorkshire, produced a decent number of large gulls but no white-wingers. Each visit saw an adult winter Caspian Gull present and on one visit a small dark LBB Gull was in the roost (01 Jan), intermedius type. Several Goldeneye and Goosander were on the lake and Barn Owl hunted the scrub. A Woodcock flew over the car park at dusk (01 Jan).

After a slow start dipping birds at Crosspool, Sheffield, eventually saw the 'trillers' nearby at Stannington (15 on Dec) and south of Sheffield city centre (50 on 02 Jan). Elsewhere, when headed east stopped off at Hessle Sainsbury's near the Humber Bridge to see a flock of 50 (31 Dec).

Restricted to East and North Yorkshire. Connected with the wintering juv. Pallid Harrier near Welwick on two visits (27 and 31 Dec), with an excellent supporting cast of Hen and Marsh Harriers, Merlin, Peregrine and Short-eared Owls. Little Egrets present on the Humber shore are now to be expected and a couple were spooked by a hunting Short-eared Owl. The Peregrine flushed the shoreline waders (27 Dec) apart from a single Curlew that simply turned its head as if to give a Kermode-esque style 'Really?' The falcon changed its attention to the nervy Lapwings. A walk east on the same date along the river wall to a small marsh about a mile from the central watchpoint yielded a flock of 10 Geese (7 'White-fronts' and 3 'Tundra Beans') with a further 3 'Pink-feet' closer to the river wall.

Twitched the stunning (Eastern) Black Redstart at Skinningrove and despite a howling wind sandblasting the birders and the Chat, I managed to get a few record shots. It was very active constantly looking for food between the jetty boulders. En route Red Kites were evident over the A1M over a decent stretch running south from the A19 junction.

As always, looking forward to returning home soon.

More photos at 'Latest UK Bird Photos' and video compilation plus a separate one of the Caspian Gull available via 'Birding Videos (YouTube)'.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Barnsley Moorlands and a Pugneys twitch

Weekend birding back home. Saturday 26 November turned into a crisp sunny day on the moorland after starting off foggy at Ingbirchworth Res. with visibility down to 50 feet early morning. It started to clear around 10:00, and the highlight here was the mobile flock of 70 or so Brambling in the Beech trees hugging the western side of the reservoir.

A few moments later over at Midhope the fog had cleared providing difficult viewing conditions against the sun, so my Dad and I drove to Ewden Heights where Ewden Beck was cloaked in fog but the moorland tops were clear. Decided to walk out to Ewden Cabin/Shooting Lodge along the northern side of Broomhead Moor. The 45 min walk provided dramatic viewing of the rolling fog bank in Ewden Beck which receded then grew and finally dispersed late morning. We didn't give it long at the Cabin as the birding was slow with 4 distant Ravens of note.

Sunday 27 November and a quick twitch of the 2 Long-tailed Ducks up the M1 at Pugneys CP was, instead, more protracted. Missed an elusive LTD on the boating lake but saw an equally elusive fem/imm on the western most pond over the road at Calder Wetlands, where a Sparrowhawk nearly had a Song Thrush breakfast. A good variety of wintering duck seen and earlier on at the main boating lake a cracking 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull loafed around with a handful of similarly aged Herring Gulls. It looked better and strikingly white headed in real life than shown in the photo below.

A quick look at the 500 strong Canada Geese flock to the west of Ingbirchworth Reservoir produced 2 birds sporting red darvic rings (BAZN and CAFK). With thanks to Kane B, Tom L and Martin W on twitter for help with their origin -

BAZN adult male 29/06/2014 Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria. vv 27/112016 Ingbirchworth Reservoir. 123 kms SE. 2 yrs 151 days. CAFK adult female 29/06/2014 Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria. vv 27/11/2016 Ingbirchworth Reservoir. 123 kms SE 2 yrs 151 days

Joined 'Upland Tyke' at Midhope Low Moor and we birded there until 1445. A few finches included a pair of showy Crossbills and 5 Bullfinches. At least 3 Ravens patrolled the ridge around Pike Lowe where a couple each of Buzzards and Kestrels were seen. A flock of 30+ Pink-footed Geese tried to sneak by heading west. More details of the sightings at

Monday, 7 November 2016

Germany - Apr/May 2016 Trip Report

(Apr/May 2016) Annual long weekend visit to see my friends Chris and Sue in Germany. Birding around Kalrsruhe and over the years we have ventured north (Waghäusel and beyond) and south (Black Forest and Kaiserstuhl). Highlights added to my cumulative Birding Germany Trip Report updated at Birding Trip Reports - Other.

Some photo highlights below:

Friday, 4 November 2016

Cyprus October 2016 - Trip Report

Cyprus (October 2016) birding trip report on the web. Please take a look (pdf) by clicking on 'Birding Trip Reports - Other' and the pdf is available via the first link at the Europe section, or by clicking here.

3 new birds for me - Scopoli's and Yelkouan Shearwaters and White Pelican. The hot weather made migration slow, but it was still a fantastic place to visit.

Short video uploaded at my YouTube Channel (Jonathan's Birding Blog) - Desert Wheatear, Eleonora's Falcon, and Alpine Swift.

Enjoy the trip report and video any questions drop me a tweet @JohnoGull. A few photos to whet your appetite below.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Rainham RSPB: A Snob, a Magician and a LBJ

Saturday 29 October

A visit to Rainham RSPB centre taking the long route from Rainham station to the centre via the Stone Barges returning to Rainham station via the Serin Mound.

Joined MM on the way down from the station and first off Rainham 'West' held several Stonechat, and along the path running parallel to the edge of the silts a passerine was flushed by a bird of prey. This was a cracking (silhouetted) Merlin which turned on the after-burners and within seconds belted it's way onto the silts and out of view. Stone Barges was quiet with wintering gull numbers building up and on walking down towards Coldharbour Point small groups of Redshank made their way upriver on the rising tide (50 in total). Stonechat and Reed Buntings were noteworthy in the bushes, if only we had paid more attention to the Stone Barges bushes :) (Nice one SH re the Dusky Warbler). A pair of Common Sandpipers were at the western most end of Aveley Bay and a pair of Avocets flew downriver. On the reserve a male Marsh Harrier tangled with a Buzzard as viewed from the riverwall, and a lone Ring-necked Parakeet flew north over Aveley Pools (5 others earlier south of the river opposite Coldharbour Point).

After a rest at the RSPB centre and a brief river watch (nowt moving) decided to head back along the riverwall. A Green Sandpiper called from the reserve and the foreshore held 3 or 4 Rock Pipits. Set up shop at Serin Mound and it was fairly quiet for the first 30 minutes, but things were about to change. About 13:45 a Brambling flew west calling but I could not pick it out against the leaden sky. Shortly afterwards a male Snow Bunting went through, this one I did get onto, more on the sighting later. At about 14:20 a small dark Falcon flew low over the old riverwall and landed straight out on Wennington Marsh about 300 yards away, a stunning fem/imm Merlin, fair to say the bird from earlier in the morning. I managed to get the phonescoped record shot of the Merlin below before it took off and was lost to view neat the silts. Sadly it didn't return in the next hour but another birder and myself were treated to nice views of Kestrel, 3 Marsh Harriers (ad male and 2 cream-crown juvs) and distant Common Buzzard and Sparrowhawk. A handful of Chaffinches migrated over as did a lone Redpoll. Then it was time to walk back to Rainham station. A cracking day.

Snow Bunting notes
A few minutes after a Brambling dweezed somewhere overhead at around 13:45 (interspersed with its supplementary soft 'sup-sup' calls), a piercing 'teu' rung out from over Wennington Marsh. Not a call I was familiar with but quickly tried to remember from the 'Collins Guide' - Snow/Lapland Bunting sprung to mind. The bird repeated the call with same ferocity and I picked it up, a long-winded passerine flying over the marsh which had now started to turn and was making a 'bee-line' for the landfill. I tracked it and as it passed level with me (100 yards away and not very high) I could see extensive white wing flashes of a Snow Bunting and almost simultaneously it gave it's more typical 'trolloping' ripple call, a call I'm familiar with from birding the north Norfolk coast in winter.

The bird flew towards the top of the landfill appearing to make heavy weather of it, with slow wing beats revealing the wing flashes in detail confirming it as a male. To be honest the contrast looked like a giant male Banded Demoiselle damselfly (ok the bands do not cloak the end of the wing). The white wing markings were extensive and stretched from leading to trailing edge contrasting with dark wingtips. At one stage the bird was flying with a Skylark in tow, allowing for comparison of the Bunting and Lark shapes. The Snow Bunting being slightly smaller, looked long-winded but they were more slender and the underparts were more streamlined than those features on the Lark. The rest of the body of the Snow Bunting was silhouetted.

Light conditions were ok, reasonably neutral with 8/8 cloud cover and hardly a breeze. The bird almost flew back towards the Serin mound but regained it's flight path to the southwest and over the tip. I stayed in the area for a further hour and half, but no further sign.

Sunday 30 October

Back again at Rainham RSPB, caught up with SH's excellent find, London's 2nd? Dusky Warbler . It was typically elusive but over a long waiting period managed to have excellent flight views and saw it well in the bushes on 3 or 4 occasions. Calling 'tic' fairly frequently.

Walking down to the RSPB centre what must have been yesterday's fem/imm Merlin took off from the slope up to Rainham 'Ridge' west of Aveley Bay car park. It perched on a hillside post and launched itself in pursuit a couple of times, ending up back on a post. After a few minutes it flew off with purpose towards the landfill. I managed to get a few photos (mainly phonescoped). One shown below, much better than yesterday's effort!!! More at 'Latest UK Bird Photos'.

A short video of the Merlin uploaded to my You Tube channel, enjoy.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Vis-migging- Rainham twinned with Numpties, Spurn?

Ringtail Delight (Sat 22 October 2016)

Migration in evident at Rainham RSPB on walking down to the Serin Mound on Saturday morning with Chaffinches, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits moving through west. Most were up high and some silent. Variety was provided by a group of Redpoll and back near the centre a group of 6 calling Tree Sparrows shot by (local rarity). Vis-miggers stationed at the bottom of the ramp were logging the birds and a Short-eared Owl entertained on occasion when spooked from the centre of the marsh by corvids or an adult male Marsh Harrier. Into the afternoon it was becoming evident that Common Buzzards were moving through singles or in groups, with the largest being a group of 7, and lesser numbers of Sparrowhawks. The star was way out west from the watch point, namely whilst watching a pale Buzzard over Wennington Marsh PS picked out a ringtail Harrier heading strongly north-east from over that area. Scoping it revealed it to be a Hen Harrier with the warm underparts and small size suggesting imm. male. It was good that several folk got onto it as this beauty was heading out of town at a fair pace.

Egrets... We've had a few! (Sun 23 October 2016)

A return visit on Sunday saw a group of us (AT, RB, PS and myself) head down the riverwall. Aveley Bay was quiet so encouraged by AT we carried on to Serin Mound mindful of Cattle Egrets recently reported (a day or so ago?) a few miles east at Thurrock. Setting up the scope on the mound mid morning and I soon picked up a small Egret flying from the south-west corner heading out towards the A13 flyover. First noted all dark legs and feet (which looked strikingly black). This set alarm bells ringing and I quickly noted that the wings appeared rounded and then straight onto the bill, it was short. As the bird was flying away only when it turned right to head east towards the reserve did it reveal details of the bill - a short orange bill. I quickly got the others onto it and it looked like it was heading out east but turned around and landed by Aveley Pools. All were happy on its 'id' and news was put out over the radio, text and Twitter airwaves. It wasn't settled as soon afterwards it took off and landed back on Wennington Marsh by a distant group of cattle, where it showed well but distant for a bit, then viewing was obscured by the vegetation as it moved at the feet of the cattle. After a while and with this bird still out of sight, a Cattle Egret was picked with a more distant group of cattle. We watched it for a while and then established that 2 birds present, confirmed by others later in the morning. FS arrived quickly by cycle power and was one of many who could share in this sighting during the day.

On leaving and by the Aveley Bay car park AT got onto 3 Egrets in front of us heading fast downriver. We scoped them, 3 Great White Egrets and watched them flying east and lost to view beyond the RSPB visitors centre. Found out that others at the centre were able to see them fly by as well. Not a bad tally, but it took me an hour to add the commonplace Little Egret to the day list!

Caught up with one of the Cattle Egrets (flight view) in the afternoon in the company of a Little Egret near Aveley Pools. Other highlights include the cracking male Marsh Harrier and a distant big Peregrine over the Silts. A Kestrel mobbing it looked tiny by comparison, a brave/foolish Kestrel!

Phonescoped video of one of the Cattle Egret (at distance) uploaded at:

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Cyprus Birding mid October

A quick note on a recent birding trip to Cyprus (08 - 15 October 2016). Migration was steady at best and hard work given the hot temperatures (25-33C).

Connected with White Pelican near Larnaca and other highlights include Desert Wheatear (Paphos Lighthouse), Scopolli's and Yelkouan Shearwaters (Cape Pomos), not forgetting the stunning Eleonora's Falcons NW of Akrotiri Peninsula. The dragonflies and butterflies were worth studying when the birding was slow. A trip report to follow.

Here are some of my first photos sorted out from the trip. Looking forward to returning soon. It was obvious that there has been a severe lack of rainfall in Cyprus, badly needed for irrigation... thought he worked on BBC Look North ;-)


Arrived back late on Saturday 15 October, how to spend the Sunday? Sort out the washing, get the shopping in, ease back into things... Not likely when these Siberian Accentor beauties have been turning up in Blighty.

Twitched the Easington (East Yorks.) Siberian Accentor with my dad and also caught up with Pallas's and Yellow-browed Warbler at the Crown and Anchor, Kilnsea and the Bean Geese between Kilnsea and Easington. Now, that's a proper way to spend Sunday afternoon. Plus, Wednesday won at Huddersfield!