Majorca 2013 – part 4

Monday 24th June

The Reserve Map

The Reserve Map


Off the leash today, down at S’albufera for 08.00 and it’s hot. Shoot – even arriving at this time I’m taking one of the last spaces in the car park. On the yomp from the car park I worked out why I got it wrong about the roost the other day, I’d been looking in the wrong place on Gran Canal due to my remembering things as they were last time. Vegetation grows over time and the open area I remember is now full of reeds and trees. Got good views of both cattle and little egret at the roost but couldn’t find any night herons. Once more had good, though brief, views of Cetti’s from the path to the Visitor Centre.
View along  Gran Canal

View along Gran Canal


Squacco heron - Gran Canal

Squacco heron – Gran Canal

I started my exploration of the reserve by following the Sa Roca loop this took in a couple of hides and an observation hill. The first hide, Sa Roca overlooks what should have been a decent wetland but with all the hot dry weather now looked like a desert in places. First holiday tick of the day, purple gallinule (they are not swamp-hens – end of!) a nice adult plodding across one of the few bits of open water. A moorhen that swam by really gave you a sense of the size of the gallinule.

Purple Gallinule - Sa Roca hide

Purple Gallinule – Es Ras hide


Black-winged stilt chick - Sa Roca hide

Black-winged stilt chick – Sa Roca hide


There was a constant stream of egrets flying over, both cattle and little along with an occasional purple heron. The black-winged stilts were pretty vocal, then I saw the chick and realised why they were giving all the other birds grief. Even the Kentish plovers were getting flown at. There a couple of common terns in the area occasionally landing on a dead bough. Plus all the usual suspects, spot fly, house spuggy, Sardinian warbler and wood pigeons. After about thirty minutes here I moved on to the next hide, Es Ras, this looked out over the same area but from 1/4 past rather than 1/2 past (clock face).
Common tern -Es Ras hide

Common tern -Es Ras hide


Kentish plover - Es Ras hide

Kentish plover – Es Ras hide


So much the same sort of birds again or so I thought until I caught sight of a brown blob across the other side of the dustbowl, a curlew I guessed. Getting the scope on it proved me almost right, it was a stone curlew! The bird was pretty relaxed and I was able to watch it for almost 10 minutes before it disappeared in to the scrub. I even remembered to get some pictures of it as strutted through the vegetation. I took my cue from the bird and quit the hide shortly after it disappeared.
First sight of stone curlew - Es Ras

First sight of stone curlew – Es Ras


Stone curlew - Es Ras

Stone curlew – Es Ras

Following the path around I was hearing nightingales in several places but could not get as much as a fleeting glimpse of one. The observation hill, basically a mound giving views over the lagoon and reedbed, was the next stopping place but sadly there was nothing to see from the top. However in a dyke at the bottom of the mound I found my first lifer of the trip, red-knobbed (crested) coot, a couple of tagged birds which seemed to be a pair. Wandered a bit further along the path and heard great reed warbler singing, couldn’t at first locate the bird but then found it across the water of a small pool and almost at the top of a reed, not where I’m used to seeing ordinary reed warblers. Managed a couple of record shots of the bird.

Red-knobbed coot by observation hill

Red-knobbed coot by observation hill


Great reed warbler behind the observation hill

Great reed warbler behind the observation hill


Arriving back at the visitor centre, the choice now was whether to head off North or South, North won and I started the walk to the Es Colombar hide, there were a couple of viewing platforms on the way but there was naff all to view unfortunately. No major sightings anywhere along the path unless you count a swallowtail butterfly that just wouldn’t stop still for a moment. The approach to the hide is via raised decking and health and safety went out the window when it was built, the wooden slats of the deck are various widths / thicknesses and it makes for interesting walking. Once in the hide I was looking out on a landscape that at first was difficult to understand, then I realised that the white stuff stuck in the bushes was probably Izal or the local equivalent. So that was where the smell came from the other night…
Power station - Es Colombars hide

Power station – Es Colombars hide

However there were birds here, egrets and ducks and little ringed plovers! Was not expecting them, and not breeders. There were also little grebe in abundance. Way over at the back of the area were a couple of ducks that took some time to id, one was a female red-crested pochard which was a mere trip tick, but the other was another life tick, a marbled duck. Sadly the marble was too far away to get even a rubbish record shot, I was only able to id after prolonged views with my scope up at 40x and second guessing the heat haze.
Little egret - Es Colombars hide

Little egret – Es Colombars hide


Little ringed plover pair - Es Colombars hide

Little ringed plover pair – Es Colombars hide


Sardinian warbler - Es Colombars hide

Sardinian warbler – Es Colombars hide


After the lifer there really wasn’t anything to keep me in the hide so I meandered back towards the visitor centre, calling in at the Es Cibollar hides on the way. The first one was good, shelduck, common tern and chicks, more black-winged stilts and another stone curlew, this time not very far away. I prepared myself for a long wait and sure enough the bird started ambling towards the hide.
Stone curlew - Es Cibollar 1 hide

Stone curlew – Es Cibollar 1 hide

I took several photos over the course of the next few minutes and then it all went wrong. A family entered the hide, 3 generations youngest in backpack on its Dad’s shoulders, none of them birders (no bins). They were quiet enough and the stone curlew kept coming closer, then the middle generation committed the cardinal sin of sticking a camera out the hide window to capture a view. I quickly got through to them that this was not good but the damage was done the stone curlew was spooked and it beat a hasty retreat to further away than when I first saw it.
The closest he got - Es Cibollar 1 hide

The closest he got – Es Cibollar 1 hide


I managed to stay calm and tried my best with my schoolboy german to explain that putting hands out the hide was not good as it frightened the birds. I’d forgotten the words for go, now, before, I, murder, you so couldn’t quite explain how narked I was. I stayed in the hide for a while longer in the hope that the stone curlew would return but sadly it was not to be. Another couple came into the hide, this time at least one of them were birders as he had bins, the chap got onto the stone curlew but was having difficulty getting through to his other half what she should be looking for. I offered her my camera to look at to see the pictures I’d taken of the bird. We managed to communicate successfully and she got a decent view of the bird eventually. At this point I left the first hide and made my way to the second one, a mistake as there was less to see from this hide. In fact no birds at all so I decided to head back to the visitor centre and plan my next move.

So where next, I hadn’t a clue, so after looking at the map and reviewing the water bottle I decided to go clockwise as that would mean a shorter journey to the car if I had to cut things short. The path here overlooks Ses Puntes to the left and Es Ras to the right, or it would do if the reeds weren’t so high. The walking wasn’t the best as the path although not tarmac was just as bloody hard. I had plenty of fan-tailed warblers, Sardinian warblers and goldfinches but no new species over the first half of the path. As I approached the Ses Puntes Deck observation platform I saw a large raptor with a small bird harassing it away to the left, at first I thought it was something like a marsh harrier with a thrush or something doing the harassing. After getting the bins on the smaller bird I realised it was an Eleonora’s falcon, which meant that the other bird had to be huge! Thankfully a common buzzard also started getting annoyed about the big birds presence and came up to dispute things, this gave me a good size indicator, the big bird was roughly twice the size of the buzzard. Turns out that it isn’t a mega-tick, rather an escapee golden eagle that hangs about down there so not a tick by any stretch of imagination BOO!

Golden Eagle with Eleonora's falcon - near Ses Puntes deck

Golden Eagle with Eleonora’s falcon – near Ses Puntes deck


View from Ses Puntes deck

View from Ses Puntes deck


Consolation was achieved quite quickly with my first bee-eater of the trip and also my first in Majorca so a double tick. Followed up by a woodchat shrike and another Cetti’s warbler. At this point my water bottle was looking a little bit lean so discretion being the better part of valour I thought it prudent to turn back. I’d reached the corner by the depuradora gates by this time but as the sun was pretty hot I didn’t want to get into difficulties any further into the reserve so turned back to walk to the car. I was rewarded by a fairly close in osprey that sadly didn’t hang around long enough to get a picture but I did manage to get a shot of a yellow wagtail, one of the subspecies rather than the all yellow bird.
Yellow wagtail - path to car park

Yellow wagtail – path to car park


It was just short of 3.00pm when I got back to the car, so my 2 litres of water had lasted me 7 hours in the field, not bad but I was wishing I’d taken 2 bottles. A bite to eat wouldn’t have gone amiss either. I’d meant to stop and get a sarnie but in my rush to get a parking space I had forgotten all about food. Those who know me will find that last sentence hard to believe.

Majorca 2013 – part 3

Thursday 20th June

A lazy day today, had a walk out to the old town and a thoroughly enjoyable ramble around the place, no crowds as it wasn’t market day. We were blown away by the Church of St Jaume, the artwork in there is amazing, well worth the 2 Euro it cost us to gain entry. The altar piece and the rose window were particularly good.

The Church of St Jaume from near the Roman Ruins

The Church of St Jaume from near the Roman Ruins


The Altarpiece

The Altarpiece


The Rose window showing the surroundings

The Rose window showing the surroundings


Detail of the Rose Window

Detail of the Rose Window

The ceiling

The ceiling

We found a great little bar with an enclosed courtyard, only had a drink but we decided to come back for an evening meal. Later on we found the old walls of the city and as there was a few hundred yards with access to the walkway at roof level, we decided to have a wander. Interesting view as the streets within the walls are so narrow you get the feeling you could jump onto the nearest roof and get across town without having to drop to the ground.

Looking across the roofs

Looking across the roofs


On the way back to the resort complex I realised that the cacti in the garden by the Roman ruins weren’t just haphazardly planted, I did my best to get a photo but really needed to be a few feet taller to really do it justice.
The Cacti

The Cacti


Also on the way back got my first serin of the holiday and managed to get a record shot.
Serin

Serin

Friday 21st June
Another lazy day, this time because I’d to drive to the airport to collect Sheila’s brother and his wife, who were sharing the apartment for the second week. So it was an alcohol free day as well, didn’t want any bother with the police. Come 6.00pm and into the car for the journey South West, not far out of Alcudia had the first hoopoe of the holiday, a single bird flying across the road in front of us. There were some distant raptors seen but I was unable to id them as I’d no optics with me. The flight was on time and surprise, surprise they too had had a stag party on board. Theirs was much worse than ours, all of the group were several sheets to the wind, one particular guy was completely wrecked. We’d seen him wander out of the arrivals area sideways, dressed as Captain Britain and completely incoherent. Thankfully he was ‘rescued’ by his mates before he made too much of a pillock of himself. The drive back was uneventful as once more the light very quickly dropped and we arrived at the resort complex in the dark.

Saturday 22nd & Sunday 23rd June

Another couple of hot days, so once more little activity, just general mooching around Alcudia, allowing the newbies to get their bearings. We again had an osprey fly by the resort complex on Saturday, first the morning and again later in the afternoon. We had our evening meal in the nice little courtyard we visited on Thursday. Mixed paella, bags of langoustines, cockles, mussels and prawns with chicken and rabbit- excellent.

Osprey

Osprey


Cattle egret on a goat

Cattle egret on a goat


Sunday was market day again but this time we knew the ropes and managed to avoid most of the worst stalls. In the afternoon we found the bullring, thankfully not being used for fights today. Quite the opposite in fact, there was a big family party going on, a humungous paella was being cooked. The pan they were using was at least 4 metres across, they were using what looked like dustpans on poles to turn the rice over. We paid our 3 euros and had a wander around the bullring, I hadn’t realised how small they were, probably not more than 40 foot across.
The bullring

The bullring


The sun was by this time not so much cracking the pavement as pulverising it so we didn’t stay long out in the open but came down to the bar area for the free drink that was part of the ticket price. Small beer, lemonade or water, no contest really. Whilst we were drinking the owner of the bullring came over with a large plate of the paella, this he plonked on our table and said ‘enjoy as a memento of your visit’. Very nice. A stroll along the walls and then a short taxi ride back to the resort complex, a dip and a shower and we were ready for the evening meal in the complex.

Majorca 2013 – part 2

Monday 17th June

Today we visited Puerto Pollenca, where we stayed on our first visit to Majorca all those years ago, man it has changed a fair bit. Still the lovely beach but the marina has grown, the boats almost outnumber the people now. We had a burger and a brew in a bar on the town square and looked for the tree that held the scops owl last time we were in town. Had a look at the start of the Bocquer Valley, but have to wait to visit it. First Eleonora’s falcon of the trip during the drive back to Alcudia, little egret at the ‘smelly stream’ loads of spot flys as well.

The beach at Puerto Pollenca

The beach at Puerto Pollenca


Just a few of the boats

Just a few of the boats


Little egret at the 'smelly stream'

Little egret at the ‘smelly stream’

Later that day whilst having a post bedtime snifter I realised that the ‘buzzing’ in my ears wasn’t water from the afternoon swim but nightjars churring somewhere above. A trip up to the roof terrace was called for, I could still hear the birds, then in the light of the moon at least 2 birds were visible flitting backwards and forwards over the roof. One of them taking time out to sit on the aerial and take up the churring again. This was great but sadly the camera was below and I’d had a little too much wine to try and get a photo tonight.

Tuesday 18th June

Visited the market in Alcudia old town to day, great if you want a belt or a leather bag but not really much else there. The various bars etc all looked very inviting but we stayed alcohol free for the duration. Nice kestrel action over the town and there were several goldfinches feeding in a field close by the Roman ruins, much darker birds than the UK variety.

Spotted Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher

Later in the day I had a wander about the area behind the resort complex and found Tucan Marsh, which I’d heard about but couldn’t find in any of the books. Loads of coot, pochard, mallard and little grebes. The first woodchat shrike of the holiday was photographed but sadly I committed the cardinal sin of focussing on the bush rather than the bird. A couple of stonechats also put in appearance but they were way too mobile for me. Another Eleonora’s falcon over the scrub was a nice addition to the day list.

The evening meal was at a bar on the main strip with live music, well the guy was breathing! He ‘played’ guitar and ‘sang’ along to karaoke tracks, Neil Diamond, Simon and Garfunkel that sort of stuff. Thing was his singing was appalling and the guitar playing was almost non-existent as the karaoke track had all the music there. When he was switching between tracks on his laptop he was playing the guitar whilst waiting for the tracks to queue up and daft thing was he was playing some good little riffs, why he didn’t actually play more I’ll never know.

The guitarist

The guitarist

Wednesday 19th June

Today we are mostly driving around the island, started from Alcudia and heading East along the road towards Arta then on to Cala Rajada and Son Moll beach out in the East of the island. Lovely place but why are they building a multi-storey apartment block right at the side of the sand? Once finished this is going to be a real blight. A walk along the clifftop brought decent views of Audouin’s gull, the inevitable spot fly but not much else.

Back to the car and then Southwards to Porto Colmb, Porto Cristo and then Cala D’Or, we stayed here a few years back during October and found it very nice. Today it was anything but, the temperature was ridiculous, somewhere in the 30’s and not a breath of a breeze. We were baking! Went to the main beach and after 10 minutes of being ignored at the beach cafe we moved inland a little and had lunch in a lovely little bar. Fried squid rings, delicious.

Returning to the car we set off Westwards for Santanyi, Ses Salines where I had intended to stop and scan the salt pans but the pans are not close to the town and I missed the correct junction. Never mind press on, Campos, Lluc Major where I almost drove the wrong way down a one way street. Direction change to head North towards Algaida, Sencelles and Inca. The roads here were a little narrow and there were times when I was doubting that a vehicle could get by without crashing, thankfully the locals knew what they were doing and collisions were avoided. We’d a couple of red kite during this drive along with a few woodchat shrike on fence wires. Once in Inca it was find the motorway and head back home.

After the evening meal and before too much vino had been consumed I made my way to the roof with the camera and laid wait for the nightjars. Cloud cover meant that the night was pitch black but based on the previous night I figured that when the bird was churring it was on the aerial. I took a few shots with the camera on highest ISO but they were pitch black, so I dropped the ISO and brought in the flash. Took a couple of shots and this time could just make out the satellite dish so kept things like that for when the birds arrived. Thankfully not too long to wait and as soon as the churring started I took a few shots in the direction of the aerial. It worked, as after a little work in Lightroom I was able to reveal a reasonable picture.

Nightjar

Nightjar

Majorca 2013 – Part 1

Friday 14th June
2.30pm and we are waiting for the taxi to whisk my wife and me off to the delights of Leeds & Bradford airport for the flight to Majorca. Jet2.com again, they are cheap and cheerful and usually on time. Two weeks in the sun and hopefully a few days birding for me.
There was a stag group on the flight, quite a subdued group really, their worst prank was continually hitting the call button. They did buy 3 bottles of the ‘champagne’ during the flight. The plane made good time, we landed at roughly 8.00 local time and after the normal hanging about for the luggage to appear, we had only a few minutes to wait for the pick-up bus to carry us to the car hire depot. I asked for a Ford Focus and got a Hyundai i-30, nice car but boot space limited. The drive from Palma to Alcudia was fun, I only upset one other driver when I had to hang a sharp right to get the correct slip road.
First bird of the holiday was a House sparrow at the airport, sadly the bulk of the drive to the resort was in the dark thanks to a knobhead at the car hire depot who was either stupid, senile or just plain bloody-minded and took forever to sign a piece of paper and pay for a tank full of gas. Got to the depot in daylight and left in the growing gloom.

House Spuggy

House Spuggy

Saturday 15th June
My god the sun is bright early doors in Majorca, breakfast on the balcony and we are taking in the area. The resort complex is towards the North Western part of Alcudia, at the side of the smaller of the two man-made lakes. We are on the top floor, normally a bit of a bind but we got a roof terrace and a couple of sunbeds to ourselves, plus the views are to die for. There’s a couple of house martins building a nest on the eaves of the balcony to our left so something interesting to look at. Plenty of swifts tazzing about, slowly dawned on me that they weren’t commons, got a couple in the bins against good background and ticked pallid swift for the trip.

The partial nest

The partial nest

House Martins - all 3 of them

House Martins – all 3 of them

First gull of the trip is… yellow-legged, buns, I did so want it to be a different species. Got used to seeing them around the resort complex over the holiday. Distant bird flying South – scope and first Purple heron, also a few egrets but too far off to make any other call.
A walk to the beach later in the morning gave me more yellow-legged gulls and then the first Audouin’s gull of the trip. Most days there were a couple of them hanging about on the beach, never landing for long.

Yellow-legged gull

Yellow-legged gull


The walk back gave me a nice spotted flycatcher and young,lots of food begging, the first Sardinian warbler of the trip and later in the day collared dove around the resort complex. As this was Majorca and not Lanzarote I didn’t need to rule out African this time. Early evening and the flyover egrets/herons were very nice, managed to id a cattle egret this time, then a lone bird flew close, darker than the egrets but smaller than the purple herons, got the bins on it and thought I had the id, jumped for the scope and managed to get it in focus and nearly had an accident. I’m looking at a bittern, first one on Majorca and I can hardly believe it.

Sunday 16th June
Morning and a walk to Port d’Alcudia got me the first picture of Audouin’s gull, a singleton on a roof but it’s snapped. We saw other birds on the walk, but by now the litany was establishing itself, house martin, swift, flycatcher, sparrow, woodpigeon/collared dove. These were to be ever present, in fact the spot flys were by far the commonest bird I saw.

Audouin's gull

Audouin’s gull


Afternoon and it’s off to the S’albufera to blag a permit for the fortnight, took bins but not camera. 15 years since I’d been here and last time you could drive up to the visitor centre, not anymore. You got to park outside the reserve, and as the car park only holds about 15 cars it was with relief we saw someone leaving as we arrived to park up. Then you need to yomp a kilometre to the office to get your permit. It seemed churlish not to have a bit of a birdwatch whilst there, so I nipped into the Sa Roca hide for a few minutes, my wife was sat in the shade of the trees by the vc so I couldn’t be long. I managed to rack up both egrets, stilt, Kentish plover, Cetti’s and fan-tailed warblers (bugger zitting cisticola for a name) as well as a particularly vocal nightingale just by the path to the hide. On the walk back couldn’t find the heron/egret roost so unable to get night heron.
Back at the resort complex had an osprey fly between our block and the next hotel along as we were getting ready to go for our evening meal, once more the camera was in another room. I really got to get into the habit of carrying it around with me at all times.

Dawn Chorus – well almost!

The 5th of May dawned quite bright in Leeds with only broken clouds and a little sunshine, the drive down to pick up Ken was enlivened by a dog fox sauntering across the road in front of me. It looked in fine fettle as it hopped over the wall into the churchyard at St Michael’s.  Ken was at the appointed spot and less than 20 minutes after I left home we were off to Barden Bridge above Bolton Abbey for the ritual Dawn Chorus walk along the Strid.

5.30am was the start time and we made good time on the journey, although little in the way of birdlife was logged, we did have a hare by the side of the road as we crossed Blubberhouse’s Moor and then a roe deer ambled across as we passed the Strid Wood car park.

Reaching Barden Bridge, we saw Rob scanning the river from the bridge, whilst Sandra and her hubby Bob, and Andy K were already at the car park waiting for us. We had time for a quick brew before Richard turned up, and he’d managed to get his son Dominic to come along.

Our little party set off down the East bank of the River Wharfe, taking a clockwise circuit to cross the River at the Cavendish Pavilion and return to the cars via the West bank.  The early birds amongst us had already had grey wagtail and dipper but the first bird of note for the combined group was a drumming great spotted woodpecker away up the hill side, the bird flew off behind farm buildings rather quickly – I can’t believe it realised we were watching it from that far away! We’d several more great spots during the walk, including 3 birds in one tree, 2 males arguing over a female.

Even though the clouds had closed in, the sand martins were hawking over the river, and we had a green woodpecker fly across river in front of us, a pair of great spots were found on the other side of the river as well. Little else was seen until we reached the woods, within a few yards of entering the woods we had the first of what was to turn out to be many sightings of pied flycatchers, totalling nearly a dozen birds, males outnumbering females by 5 to 1. Whilst walking along the high path we also had views of a pair of treecreepers, a nuthatch that came down to our level almost and a red-legged  partridge ambling along the top of the wall. I had a momentary view of male redstart but sadly it was just too flighty and was away before the others got anything like a decent view.

Got to the stone hut and we had a sit down, a female roe deer delighted us by emerging from the undergrowth down the hill from us and we had good views as she nibbled away at the greenery. A siskin that came in to the scattered seeds was a newbie for me (I think).  After a suitable amount of time to recharge our batteries we were up and on the way again, Sandra and Bob back to their car as they’d got other business on whilst the rest of pressed on downstream. Rob gave everyone the jitters when he called wood warbler, sadly it turned out to be a very greenish willow warbler.  Down by the river we had numerous dipper and common sandpiper sightings, at least 2 birds of each species. One of the dippers was an incredibly scruffy individual, no brilliant white chest at all, just a mucky pale patch. Image

When we reached the bottom end of the valley of desolation we decided to venture up to the area around Laund House to have another look for redstart, this was successful for all but me, I was the one who didn’t get a look in this time. Still no little owl in the venerable oak tree outside Laund House, it’s an absolutely perfect home for them so why they  don’t turn up there I do not know. As there was a bit of a breeze up there we made our way back down to the river.

Over the river and after another sit down at the pavilion we started back up stream. Richard came into his own here, finding possibly 2 tawny owls, first one not far from the pavilion, the second (or maybe the first that relocated) a bit further up stream. The latter bird being exceptionally photogenic, even a duffer like me managed a photo.

Image

Back by the bridge the area that in previous years held garden warbler and spotted flycatcher had only blackcaps and dunnocks today.  Not a bad morning even though for all we didn’t catch up with one of the target birds. As Rob had a commitment he couldn’t break he left us at the car park whilst we decamped to the Barden Moor layby and made our way up on to the moor, last year we got raptors and whinchat, this year we got cold and wet, the weather turned against us so we didn’t hang about, a few mipits and red grouse along with nesting greylags were the sole ticks from there.

Back at the cars we all agreed it had been a good mornings ramble, even if no wood warblers had been found. Ken and I drove back to Leeds, noting a 10 degree increase in temperature during the journey, by the time I dropped him off the sun was out with hardly a cloud in the sky.

Woods and Ings

3 April 2013
My first visit to Hetchell Woods this year, this is a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve that I surveyed last year and am intending to survey again this year.

A little about the place

A little about the place

Today’s foray is just to re-familiarise myself with the terrain. Wasn’t really expecting to find the large area of cleared scrub in the middle of the reserve, the YWT are going to commence coppicing the area so have cleared out the undergrowth and taken the hazel stands down to ground level to allow them to re-grow and be cut for hazel stakes. Nice concept but as I found a couple of pairs of blackcaps nesting in the area last year – not really what I wanted to see. We shall see what happens this year.
The devastation all to the left of the path should be scrub

The devastation


There was surprisingly little in the way of bird life in the area today, an odd blackbird or two and a nice buzzard overhead as I got to the ford. A couple of mistle thrushes in the fields to the East of the reserve were a nice tick but outside the recording area, hopefully they will be within the recording area next time.
Could this be this years' nest?

Could this be this years’ nest?

The ford

The ford

Later in the day I took some time out from my journey to a committee meeting to have a mooch around at Fairburn Ings with the camera. Not much around there really, I was hoping the brambling from earlier in the year might just be sat on a branch waiting for me to take it’s picture but no. Down by the Kingfisher screen and no kingfishers, this is just too much, what are the RSPB playing at. Back at the visitor centre and a redpoll on the niger feeder was a nice sight, as was the collared dove by the fence.

Nice

Nice


Collared Dove

Collared Dove


I had a walk down to the duck feeding area to have a shot at birds in flight with the gulls.
Black-headed Gull

Black-headed Gull

Got to get some practise in for later in the year when I’ll be snapping long -tailed skuas from the boat in September, well a man can dream can’t he?

Black Grouse – White Out

Well today was supposed to be one of the two Black Grouse Meets that the Yorkshire BFers are having this year, next weekend will be the other. However things did not go as planned. I woke up minutes before the alarm clock went off, and the first thing I noticed was a text from Ken bailing out due to illness, Graham having bailed out earlier in the week. Not so bad I thought, at least Richard and Mark will still be coming. I arrived at Golden Acre Park and within minutes Richard had also arrived and he transferred his gear into my car and we were off. Through Pool, round Harrogate and out onto the A1. The weather at this point wasn’t bad, we even had a bit of sun.

Even driving along the A66 there was still some brightness to the morning, the turn onto Stang Lane was still in sunshine. We soon racked up curlew, oystercatcher and pheasant along with red grouse as we passed the fields along the way.

When we reached the Stang Forest though things started to look a bit worrisome. We reached the trees and there was a little snow on the road, which slowly increased as we drove along, a couple of times I had to roll back and gun the car a little to clear particularly slippy bits. At this time there was still some sunshine, but as we cleared the forested area the clouds came in. It took some time to negotiate the hill with the hairpin bends, only 14% but I had to drop down and try again 3 or 4 times before we reached the summit. Once at the top things became much more doubtful, there was little if any grit on the road so the only traction was where vehicles had cut through to the road surface. I parked up here and we walked to the edge of the descent into the valley where Shaw Farm is located. Thankfully Richard took my word that the farm was down there as it was like looking at a sheet of blank A4 paper. A couple whiteout down in the valley, no ways was I going to drive down into that, I’d no idea if the car would survive it, let alone us. The idea of walking in crossed my mind and was instantly dismissed, no other thing to do but turn the car around and head back the way we came. I sent a text to Mark to tell him that it was a non starter, hopefully it reached him in time to stop him getting too far.

On the way back to the A66 we saw two snipe flying over the moor in brilliant sunshine and green fields, all this less than a mile from the top of the dale. Back on the A1 I considered the next move, going back to Leeds wasn’t an option really – too defeatist. I hit on the idea of crossbills at Wykeham as Richard had not seen one before. So as soon as possible it was off the A1 and onto the A170.

Sutton Bank was clear of snow, indeed we only saw traces of the white stuff in the shadiest area from now on. This was Richard’s first visit to Wykeham, so we made straight for the raptor viewpoint, it’s usually easy to get crossbills here. Sadly not today, not a peep all the time we were there. What we did get was a cracking view of a goshawk being harassed by a couple of corvids, great views of the silhouette and belly as the bird jinked in the air. This was a lifer for Richard and only 15-20 minutes into his first visit to the viewpoint. Lucky beggar, it took me nigh on thirty hours of visiting the viewpoint before I got my first goshawk. Picking up another raptor in the distance we were both hoping for another gos but this one was a common buzzard our third raptor of the day as we’d seen kestrels at various points.
Having only a small window of time we decided to head down to Forge Valley and see if we could rustle up a marsh tit or two. This was another new spot for Richard and one he is already thinking about re-visiting. Within minutes of parking the car we’d a marsh tit coming down to the feeders, Richard was firing away with his DSLR from the passenger window whilst I was doing things with my camera as I rested my arms on the roof of the car.
marsh-tit

Once we’d had enough of the birds at the feeders it was back on the road and Scarborough here we come, stopping only to get our secret weapon, a loaf of bread. My memory is shocking and it took some time for us to reach our destination, Holbeck car park. We opened the bread and lay down a goodly amount on the grass in front of the car and within a few minutes we’d a flock of black-headed gulls coming down to it. Then Richard spotted the pale primaries of a Mediterranean gull, this one being way better at snatching the bread from the grass almost without landing. Eventually we both managed to get photos that we were happy with and we headed off back to the A64 and the journey home.

med-gull

It was on this journey that we got raptor species 4 and 5 for the day, a nice sparrowhawk in Scarboro and red kite as we came around North Leeds. As we made excellent time on the road we had enough spare to spend a little time at Adel Dams before returning to Richard’s car. The reserve was very quite and the only good sighting was of a pair of great spotted woodpeckers. A bit of a rum day and the journey through the Stang is one I do not want to make in those conditions again, still a lifer for Richard and 3 more year ticks for me taking my total to 105 now.