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Thursday, 29 January 2015

Red Kite Country

Out after work and went for a look at the Red Kite roost at Nunburnholme, it was a nice sunny but cold afternoon and I reckon there will have been between 30 and 40 floating around as well as several Buzzards and a pair of Kestrels, a Barn Owl came out just before dusk.

playful aerial combat

several Buzzards too

Monday, 26 January 2015

A Trip to Teesside

Thought I would do a bit of year ticking in Teesside yesterday with a few goodies on offer, started at Ward Jackson Park in Hartlepool where at least six Ring Necked Parakeets were showing, then carried on to the Headland and the area of waste ground just north of the Jewish Cemetery, unfortunately there was no sign of the recent Shore Lark although half a dozen Snow Buntings entertained then upon hearing the Glaucous Gull was showing at the Fish Quay I decided to go and see that then come back, couldn’t believe it, the Gull had also gone missing when I got there but fortunately after 40 mins or so I picked it up flying around then quite fortuitously me and another guy I was talking with got invited in to the compound where the fishing guys were actually feeding it, we got some stonking views, happy with that I returned for the Shore Lark to find out it had been showing well while I had been away but had gone missing again, however after around 15 mins it returned to its favoured area and performed well for the next 30 and the sun even came out for a bit. Nothing at Jackson’s Landing today, the tide was well out at a busy Newburn Bridge, a quick look at Seaton Snook found a small flock of around 18 Snow Buntings but no Twite, I arrived at Saltholme mid-afternoon bumping into James Robson and with up to three Long Eared Owls showing we headed straight out to the Haverton end encountering a rather tame Fox on the way, good views of one of the Owls, distant as usual but sat out in an open position at least, made my way back round to Paddy’s Hide, a Kingfisher flashed over the reeds and a couple of Stonechats hunted from the fence posts, a good selection of Wildfowl from the hide included a Pink Footed and two Barnacle Geese, ended the day at Dorman’s Pool where I added Shoveler and Pintail to the day list.
Parrots in the Park

a nice little flock of Snow Buntings

Mega views of this charismatic Gull

being fed well

the Shore Lark eventually gave itself up

not the best of backdrops, its favoured area being strewn with rubble and rubbish

the Saltholme Foxes are getting incredibly tame

one of the Long Eared Owls

Monday, 19 January 2015

East Coast

Me, Mark and Paz decided on the East coast today, we started at Wykeham Lakes where 16 Tundra Bean Geese had been reported yesterday, just a single bird remained today possibly a sick or injured bird left behind by the others, also a couple of Egyptian Geese amongst the many Greylags and Canada’s. We moved on to Scarborough Mere next which was largely frozen but the drake Scaup was still present amongst Tufties and Goldeneyes on an open stretch, not the best Scaup I've ever seen, probably a 1st winter moulting in to adult plumage. Being informed there was some Barnacle Geese and Pinkfeet near Seamer we went in search but didn’t find them, just flushed a couple of Snipe near Seamer Pools. We took a drive along the front next where a few Fulmars have returned to the cliffs and a Peregrine surveyed his territory before carrying on to Hayburn Wyke, the long staying Richard’s Pipit was soon located in its favoured field and showed well but kept its distance as usual then with news that the Rough Legged Buzzard had been seen this morning down Grindale we headed off there, there was some nice late afternoon sun to make for some good viewing but again we only managed to find a Common Buzzard. We took a steady drive home over the Wolds but didn’t see anything of note and with still a bit of light left as we got back to York it was suggested we try for the Little Owls at Heslington, after trying this site ten times or more last year without success I was more than pleased to see two birds this evening one showing very well in a tree right next to the road, a good end to the day.
the Scaup with Tufties

long staying Richard's Pipit

Grindale Common Buzzard, the Rough Legged eluded us yet again

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Riding the breeze with a Harley on a wintry Scottish weekend

A twitch up to Aberdeen on Saturday morning with Mark, Darren and Stuart for a first winter drake Harlequin Duck that had been found on the river Don a week ago, we got there about 9-30 am and the bird was showing very well, we spent a couple of hours with it as it fed along a short stretch of this fast flowing river occasionally resting up on a branch or rock, just a year tick for me as I saw the females at Girvan back in 1996, nice to see a male though and already showing signs of what is to come. Next it was up the coast to Inverallochy where a winter plumaged Spotted Sandpiper was still present, a load of Pink Footed Geese were seen in a field en route as well as a few Greylags that owing to their wariness we thought were probably genuine wild ones, that corner of the coast was a bit exposed and it was blowing a gale, however a few Purple Sandpipers were scurrying about the rocks and eventually our quarry was spotted, or not spotted as the case may be (pardon the pun), a very distinctive bird nevertheless, a little look out over a very rough sea only managed to find a few Eiders. We had decided to stay over and make a weekend of it with the plan to try and photograph Crested Tit in Speyside tomorrow, we made our way down to the Guest House in the Boat of Garten encountering a fair bit of snow as we neared the mountains and with half an hour of light left when we got there we had a little tour around some feeding stations we knew of to suss out for the morning, the one near the village looking to be the best bet with at least three Crested Tits attending it.
out on the open river when we arrived

it soon flew off to its favourite area opposite the toilet block

we left him on one of his favourite rocks

winter Spotted Sandpiper coping with the wind better than we did

Sunday morning we awoke to find several inches more snow had fallen overnight although being Scotland the roads were soon cleared and after a hearty breakfast we ventured out. With it being a last minute decision to stay over we hadn’t got any info on where it would be best to go so we just headed to the feeding station up the road, great views of three or four Crested Tits there amongst the many Coal Tits etc as well as a Red Squirrel but the feeders were well under the trees and coupled with a dull cloudy morning there wasn’t much light so we didn’t get what we had really hoped for, oh well it gives an excuse to go back again. We headed up to the Ski Centre on Cairngorm next and even though it was still snowing quite heavily apparently there was not enough for Skiing so there wasn’t many people about, no Snow Buntings neither but plenty of Red Grouse were telling us to “go back”, a couple of Mountain Hares looked for shelter and after a short climb we found a pair of nice white Ptarmigans, the first time any of us had seen them in winter finery so it was a real treat. We dropped back down trying to think of where there might be more favourable feeding stations and ended up at Loch an Eilein car park, there was a good number of birds in attendance at the feeders there and we added Lesser Redpoll to the list but there were no Cresties, with the snow becoming more persistent we made a start for home with the plan to pick up a few Sea Duck on the Forth Estuary but by the time we got to Perth we realised there was no time for that so we had half an hour at Loch Leven instead, it broke the journey a bit but a load of Pink Footed Geese in a field and Goldeneye on the Loch was about it.
a snowy Boat of Garten

probably the best shot, shame about the perch


good for Mountain Hare and Red Grouse 

a Red Grouse in the snow

a Ptarmigan in the snow, a bit far for the camera really but you just got to get a record shot or two

Loch an Eilein birds