Catch up 2 – Crete 2015

Later that year we paid a visit to Crete, a first for us and most definitely not the last trip there. It was in September and there was a mini-heatwave when we arrived, even the locals were complaining that it was too hot. Diamond Resorts has a couple of resorts close to Hersonissos, the Village Heights Golf Resort up in the hills about 10 km outside the town  and the Village Appartments which is situated in Koutouloufari a small village only a km or so from the town. We stayed at Village Heights on a promotional week, meaning that at some point we have to spend time with a rep who will attempt to sell us more time share points. The views from the resort are great – you can almost see Heraklion in the West and Malia in the East, whilst Hersonissos is almost invisible due to the lie of the land. Hersonissos has a sm,all sandy beach to the north side of the harbour whilst to the south of the harbour it is extremely rocky.

We both really fell in love with the resort and are detemined to revisit as often as possible. Crete is a gorgeous place, it seems like around every corner there is a fantastic panorama, the people cannot be more helpful and the wildlife is fantastic. Driving on the island can be ‘fun’ as the locals will insist on trying to make 3 lanes on the 2 lane motorways. We toured the Eastern end of the island as the weather was so hot that it made driving long distances very uncomfortable, Agia Nikolai was one of the many places we stopped. Whilst there we had a boat trip out to Spinalonga Island ( a former leper colony) in the bay, Sheila was most annoyed to find out that the boat stopped for people to enjoy a little sea bathing mid trip, she’d not got her cossie with her. The tour of the Island was interesting, our guide having a good grasp of English and a wry manner about her.


Agia Nikolai harbour

Later in the week I attempted to drive up to the Lesithi plateau but gave up after struggling with gears in the hire car, a Yaris, I’m too used to a diesel engine which pulls up hill brilliantly, the petrol engine laboured appallingly.

Looking towards the Lesithi plateau from Village Heights

Looking towards Lesithi Plateau from Village Heights

During the week I saw a fair number of birds but sadly only 1 lifer – a southern grey shrike which I managed to get a fairly rubbish shot of. Had some great views of griffon vulture and buzzard. The highlight of the trip was a european praying mantis which we found walking along the side of the pathway on the resort. On the day we were to leave we visited the Apartments in Koutouloufari and had a quick look around, Sheila had a dip in the pool there whilst I had a Mythos. Looked nice so we determined to try and book for the Apartments in 2016.

Praying mantis

European Praying mantis

Balkan Green lizard 2

Balkan green lizard

Hummingbird Hawkmoth 2

Humming-bird hawkmoth


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.



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?

Where have all the Bewick’s gone?

Friday 28 December

Following several years of only seeing mute swans in Yorkshire I decided to have a shot at the whoopers and Bewick’s that gather in the Lower Derwent Valley.  Ken, Rob and Andy elected to join me on the day.

The drive out to the LDV was relatively uneventful, Ken and I had a nice low red kite as we were leaving Leeds and good numbers of kestrels on the drive over. I managed to find the North Duffield Carrs car park first time, didn’t need to come back to it – unlike my first visit many years ago.

The-view-from-Geoffrey-Smith-Hide-at-LDVNorth Duffield Carrs

We had a walk round to the Geoffrey Smith hide and gawped at the amount  of water there was, we managed to locate the roof of the other hide on the reserve, the rest of it is still underwater.  Very quickly we picked up Canada geese, greylags, along with hundreds of wigeon. Ken picked out a handful of pintail but they didn’t stay for long. Some swans in the fields across the water couldn’t be firmly id’ed as anything other than ‘not mute swan’. The yellow on the beak was only just  visible, but this may have been due to the poor light rather than size of the yellow patch, so we couldn’t nail them as either of the target birds. Andy joined us in the hide and we spent a few more minutes scanning the water before heading off to the village of Ellerton to hopefully find the swans.

The-view-from-Ellerton-ChurchyardEllerton Churchyard.

Rob was already on site and had found the whoopers but couldn’t locate any Bewick’s, we all gathered in the lee of the church building to try and cut down on the wind chill factor. More pintail, wigeon, mallard and teal were on the water in front of the church. There was a line of roosting swans away across the water, however the majority were mutes, there were whoopers. No amount of trying could turn any of them into Bewick’s. After we’d spent enough time turning blood to ice we headed back to the cars and were grateful for the tree sparrows on the feeders in the gardens. A swift conference and the decision was made to head to Aughton and scan the water from the church there for Bewick’s.
The walk to the church was somewhat lively, the mud making keeping your feet somewhat awkward. Other than a different view of the water there was little gained here, there weren’t even the same number of ducks down on the water here. So very rapidly we headed back to the cars, the walk adding mistle thrush, jackdaw and blackbird to the day list.


We rounded off our time in the LDV by returning to North Duffield Carrs and scanning the waters from the hide. This turned up some 25+ dunlin, shelduck and a little grebe but no Bewick’s.

At the end of the morning as Andy had to shoot off, the rest of us decided eventually to try Pugney’s C.P. near Wakefield. A bittern had been reported on and off for a couple of months and as Rob needed one for his year list it seemed a good idea. The weather was turning against us a little, and the light was certainly fading fast when we arrived. A chap already there was trying to convince himself that a juvenile gull was a yellow legged, but he did let us know that the long tailed duck had been seen that day.

Nature-reserve-lake-at-Pugneys Nature Reserve Lake

So with hope in our heart we walked the Main Lake path towards the Nature reserve lake and the hide. Nothing much on the water other than gulls, great crested grebes and cormorants. As we neared the nature reserve area we picked up on a few goldeneye, more grebes but no LTD on the Main lake. The Nature reserve lake didn’t hold anything hugely exciting, although we did add pochard, stock dove and heron to the day list from here.


One of the local guys said that the scaup had been seen over on the wetlands so we decided to decamp to the Calder Wetlands. Again not a huge number of birds were present and the scaup proved elusive until Rob found the bird asleep in a group of tufted duck.

Scaup-at-Calder-WetlandsHunt the scaup!

By this time both the light and the weather were turning against us so we called it a day.
Total species count for the day on my reckoning was 45

Foot It Rehearsal

I had a bit of a try out for January’s Foot It Challenge. Walked roughly half of the circuit I’d worked out, there was just too much road walking (impossible to avoid unfortunately) and my knees started giving me mucho jip. So I’ll have to do things in bits rather than a great long day out.

Set off down to Roundhay Park, and again drew a blank on the house sparrows at the end of my street, I reckon the colony must have either moved or died out. Did have a nice surporise though, found a goldcrest feeding in a birch, always good to see them, even better as it was less than a hundred yards from my house, there’s chance for a garden tick yet. Before I’d reached the park I’d clocked up a dozen species, this was starting to look good for amassing a sizeable list for the day.

The Upper Lake was almost completely frozen over, the only open water being by the fountain in the middle. This meant that there was virtually no waterfowl on the lake, just a handful of moorhens and mallards, with a family group of mute swans. Couple this with around 50 black-headed gulls and you’ve the sum total of the birds there, even the coot had flown the lake.

Heading up through the Gorge I was more hopeful of scoring but all I could find were birds I’d already seen on the way down to the Park, robin, blue tit, great tit and dunnock, try as I might I couldn’t find nuthatch or great spotted woodpecker, even though I visited those areas that I knew held them. I exited the Gorge and crossed the Outer Ring Road to make my way up to Shadwell via the footpath, which the bloody mountain bikers have turned into a blessed mud bath in places.

The walk here was completely bird less, until just before the village a lone red kite angled across the sky in front of me before disappearing behind the small hills to my right. The fields which used to be rough pasture are now cultivated, so the birds are fewer and further between. I reckon I can knock partridge and pheasant off the target list as this was my spot for them, they had been very evident 4 years ago when I did the survey of the area for the BTO Atlas.

When I left the footpath and started walking along the road from Shadwell back towards home I found in quick succession, goldfinch, bullfinch, stock dove and greenfinch all visiting various gardens along the route. Sadly there were some disappointments, a small copse has been replaced with a house and garden, also what had been a very well overgrown garden with plenty of birdlife has been cleaned up, with no life at all visible in it.

As I was reaching the turn off to go down to the Ring Road again, I was lucky enough to be under and overhanging bush when a mistle thrush dropped in to it, only a foot or two above my head. Never seen the under-tail coverts of a mistle thrush so clearly before. A small feeding party of blue tits and great tits making there way through a stand of birches attracted my attention, so I paused to count them, god job I did, as there was a single coal tit in the flock, the 24th species of the day. After crossing the Ring Road and heading up Roman Avenue I had a fly over sparrowhawk, which from the direction it came from must have passed over my garden.

The total for the day was a meagre 27 species, not the hoped for 40+. As the second part of the route I planned out covers some of Eccup Reservoir I’m hoping that I can boost the count some more. Think I might have over estimated the possibilities though with my initial 90 species statement.