Catch Up Posting

Hello again folks, been a while since I last got around to putting stuff online. I had a busy year in 2014 or at least that’s my excuse. Playing catch up, following on from Majorca 2013 there were a couple of lifers left in the year, Bridled Tern on the Farne Islands in September and Ivory Gull in Yorkshire (Patrington Haven) in December.

Bridled tern

Bridled Tern – John Sadler

Ken and I landed on Inner Farne and the tern was present but hidden by the lie of the land.  I realised now why it is called twitching, I was like a cat on hot bricks during a rather long wait until the birds took to the wing and bingo the Bridled Tern stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb. Happy now I could explore the island and get bombed by the Arctic Terns.

Ivory Gull

Ivory Gull – best one I managed to get

The walk from the car at Patrington Haven first made me aware of how much pain I was in with my right knee. Ken and I had a long wait until the bird came in but when it did boy were we treated to some gorgeous views. At one point the bird was floating less than 4 metres over our heads.

2014 and the start of my Patchwork Challenge. I have cobbled together a patch of just under 3 sq kilometres by careful selection encompassing Paul’s Pond & Breary Marsh in the West, through Golden Acre Park and Adel Dam to Eccup Reservoir in the East.

I had to make sure there was easy access from the car as by January my knee was giving me major jip. I took to visiting either the Eccup or Adel and points West but not the area between as there was no way I could walk that far. Over the year I managed to find 67 species during 19 visits to the patch which gave me 69 points according to the scoring system Not brilliant but it set the standard for 2015.

Birding trips further afield in 2014 were;

January – Lower Derwent Valley, Castle Howard and Red House with BF buddies Andy, Richard, Rob and Ken

February – with Ken, Long Nab (North of Scarborough) in March for the Lapland buntings, lifer no 1 of the year and the usual Forge Valley and Wykeham suspects,

March – Broomhead Reservoir for the Two Barred Crossbills with Ken. A turkey cock wandering down the road was a weird way to finish that day.

May – Bolton Abbey for the Dawn Chorus with BF buddies Richard, Ken and Rob all the usual birds seen, as well as a trip to Scotland with Sheila which got us both red squirrel sightings but no new birds.

Nightjar

Wykeham – Nightjar

June – Redcar for the Black Scoter, lifer no 2 but not a satisfying one, much better this month were the Nightjars at Wykeham.

July – Sheila and I return to Lanzarote – no new birds but on the ferry from Fuertaventura we watched flying fishes doing their stuff.

August – Faxfleet got me a nice Yorkshire tick with juvenile Montagu’s harrier, whilst Nosterfield¬† later in the month allowed Ken to pull one back on me with his first Gt white egret.

blue fulmar

‘Blue’ fulmar

September – Two trips to Spurn, the first getting me Wryneck on my Yorkshire list whilst the second got me lifer no 3 Masked shrike.

masked shrike

record shot only – Masked Shrike

The Skua cruise was a good day out with BF buddies when we saw a ‘blue’ fulmar – sadly not a proper tick just a subspecies but later in the day Ken and I visited Flamborough and I went from never having seen Red-breasted flycatcher to having seen 2 different birds within 20 minutes, lifer no 4, also saw my second Tyke wryneck.Finally added Black guillemot to my Yorkshire list in Filey towards the end of the month.

black guille

Black Guillemot – honest – it is there

October got me my first and second dip of the year, the buff-breasted sandpiper at Ringstone Edge and Twite a little way across the valley from Ringstone.

November was largely taken up with work related stuff, including a trip to Budapest which got me rough-legged buzzard for the year which made up slightly for the dip at Hunley Hall when the Eastern Crowned warbler disappeared overnight.

December saw me back at Long Nab with a handful of my BF buddies failing to see the Lapland buntings this time but at long last allowing me to properly add Richard’s pipit to my list, for too long this bird has been a heard only record, so good to finally get a good view of one. Last stop of the day at Grindale and we added rough-legged buzzard to the day list. I managed to dip the Blyth’s Pipit at Pugney’s this month through having too much on my plate work and family-wise. I even managed to dip it January through a combination of pre-planned family stuff on the good days and totally crap weather on the only day I could have gone persuading the bird to depart.

Mention should be made of my knee, now much improved thanks to the work of a good friend who was on the list of physiotherapists approved by my works medical insurance. Good one Rob! Also a mention for Andrew the podiatrist who made me up a pair of insoles that corrected my wonky ankle enabling me to walk pain-free again.

So this brings me up to date more or less. I shall endeavour to post more frequently during 2015.

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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.