Saturday, January 14, 2017

Starling Murmurations

Spot the sparrowhawk !! 

We are so lucky to have this murmuration not too far from home. We were keeping our eye on the numbers before we went to Cuba and were stunned by how they had built up recently. Unfortunately, there is no vantage point here to watch, we have tried the site from all sides and angles! This was a chance drive by and couldn't believe our luck when a sparrowhawk constantly flew through the starlings, looking for its supper ! 

Willow Tits

Willow Tits 

Blue Tits, such gorgeous little birds that we hardly ever look at but just look at the colours, lovely ! 

We are chuffed to have found a further nearby site with willow tits. This is another one of our local walks that we enjoy almost daily.


We have lots of time now to go places, not just for birds, but for an enjoyable walk and we often head to Cleethorpes to do just that. With free parking near the light railway, we head there at least once a week. Often walking to the old Wonderland and if we don't take any money we are not tempted by the many chip shops !  A walk around the boating lake is always nice as you never know whats going to be on there. This scaup has been on there for some time. Infact, we might just head to Cleethorpes today as the wind has died down and the sky is blue....will be a nice refreshing start to the weekend!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Birding highlights of 2016

2016 was our first full year of retirement so it was nice to have the time to get out and birdwatch, spending as much time enjoying nature as we liked. The total opposite to the Saturday and Sunday chase around that we did whilst working. Birding is chilled now and we love it !  I am going to tell you of all the birding highlights of 2016.

The year got off to a flying start with 3 chiffchaffs at Alkborough Flats on the 1st January, and I will continued with just the highlights below

5th - willow tit
6th - merlin, peregrine and pintails at Alkborough Flats
10th - short eared owls, barn owl and tawny owl at Alkborough Flats
11th - bittern and cettis warbler at Messingham NR
16th - red-necked grebe at Cleethorpes Country Park and snow buntings at Buck Beck
17th - a black-eared grebe was on Barton Sailing Pit
21st - a smew was on Toft Newton Reservoir
22nd - a male hen harrier at Blacktoft Sands
27th - red-breasted merganser at Whisby 

2nd - our 100th bird of the year was a slavonian grebe at Toft Newton Reservoir
3rd - 7+ hawfinches at Rufford Country Park, Notts
8th - this day saw our first fail of the year when we drove up to Saltholme for penduline tits but we were lucky with a red kite sighting on the way home
9th - marsh tit and goshawk at the Welbeck Raptor Viewpoint
10th - woodlark, yellowhammer and corn bunting
22nd - goshawks at Troutdale and a dipper under the bridge.   A stop at North Cave Wetlands for a green-winged teal was bird number 115. 
24th  - 116 whooper swans and 4 bewick swans at Alderfen along with English partridges

10th - crossbill at Alkborough and a firecrest at Lound, Notts
13th - back to Saltholme for the penduline tits, a successful day gave us bird number 123 of the year
15th - an American wigeon at the Sealife Centre, Scarborough
19th - our first big find of the year - a pair of common cranes
22nd - more goshawks at Troutdale and puffins at Bempton
24th - sand martin over Reads Island
25th - another good find, a local raven and a swallow at Winteringham Haven brought us up to 133 birds 

2nd - long eared owl at Blacktoft Sands, a house martin, and a willow warbler
3rd - more local ravens
4th - wheatears and yellow wagtails
5th - 2 Richards pipits at Flamborough
14th - a grasshopper warbler and a reed warbler were at Waters' Edge
20th - Ospreys at Rutland Water
21st - Nightingales at Whisby
24th - whimbrel at Frampton Marsh (but failed with turtle dove)
27th - garden warbler at Whisby and it SNOWED !
30th - swifts at Hatfield Moor was bird number 160 

1st - cuckoo, tree pipits at Laughton and ring ouzels at Barton
24th - a female montagues harrier was at Blacktoft Sands
26th - little gulls and 4 turtle doves took the count so far this year to 166
27th - red-breasted flycatcher and red-backed shrike at Spurn. A savis warbler at Blacktoft and nightjar and woodcock at Laughton. 
28th - great reed warbler at Paxton Pits and another turtle dove

5th - great reed warbler at Waters' Edge 
7th - red-necked phalarope at Blacktoft Sands and spoonbills at Alkborough Flats was bird 175 
8th - spotted flycatchers at Willingham-by-Stow
15th - Great Knot at Titchwell, Norfolk
19th - a trip to Scotland. Corn crakes on Iona, sea eagles, golden eagles
25th - broad-billed sandpiper, little stint, pectoral sandpiper and curlew sandpiper at Frampton Marsh took the tally to 195 for the year so far

1st - western purple swamphen at Minsmere along with stone curlew
9th - squacco heron at Pasture Fisheries, Barton
17th - pied flycatchers and an ortolan bunting at Spurn was bird 200
22nd - spotted crake at North Cave Wetlands
23rd - wryneck and red-backed shrike
30th - the western purple swamphen that we went to Minsmere to see turned up at Alkborough Flats where it remained for most of the year

6th - bairds sandpiper at Hatfield Moors
10th - a kentish plover at Kilnsea Wetlands
20th - yellow-browed warblers at Spurn
24th - great northern and red-throated divers at Flamborough
28th - a self found yellow-browed warbler at Alkborough Flats

5th - eastern crowned warbler, black-browed albatros at Bempton took the total to 214
6th - little bunting, rustic bunting, great-grey shrike, jack snipe at Spurn
7th - pallas leaf warbler at Donna Nook
10th - red-flanked bluetail at Donna Nook was bird 223
13th - paddyfield warbler and olive-backed pipit at Flamborough
14th - a siberian accentor was at Spurn
24th - humes leaf warbler and a waxwing at Flamborough 
31st - brown shrike at Spurn took the total for the year so far to 232
This was, without doubt, the best birdwatching month we have ever had. It was phenomenal !

3rd - purple sandpiper at Covenham Reservoir
28th - pallid harrier at Stone Creek

5th - dusky thrush at Beesly, Derbyshire
11th - eastern black redstart at Skinningrove toot the final tally to 236 for the year

These are just the highlights, as you can see I haven't listed breeding birds or the more common species.

The birds missing from our 2016 list include lesser spotted woodpecker, quail and honey buzzard.

Blue Rock Thrush, Stow-on-the-Wolds

At long last we found a day when we could drive over for the Blue Rock Thrush. A Christmas holiday followed by a delayed Christmas and then the New Year, plus bad weather, meant we were only able to make this journey yesterday. Not a good choice of day as we drove along many motorways the rain stayed with us. As we pulled up in this lovely little town, the rain subsided slightly. But when we found the site, we were the only people there which is never a particularly good sign. There was no sign of the bird but being as we had driven so far, we were going to give it a couple of hours. The postman came over to chat and pointed out the roofs and chimneys that the thrush favoured but said that he hadn't seen it on any roofs that day. We were getting a bit despondent until it finally popped up in the tree in the garden of number 7. It had obviously been feeding in that garden all the time we had been there. We watched it for a good half hour, just us two, excellent ! The first new UK bird of 2017 and it takes Karen's UK tally to 397. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Waxwings, Hessle

Just back from holiday and straight to Sainsburys / Aldi in Hessle for these waxwings. There were about 40 left on the day we were there but the berries were getting devoured at a right old speed so they won't be there for much longer. Amazing that in the biggest car park in the world, and just four of us looking at the waxwings, someone stands straight infront of Karen.......and then asks where they can photograph a kingfisher !!  You get my drift....enough said !

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cuba !

This is birdwatching heaven !

A sneaky photo at a police checkpoint

Paulino, Simon and Ray.....just before the car broke down !

We decided to spend our Christmas in Cuba this year and the Melia Hotel on Cayo Coco was a perfect choice. A fabulous hotel and an excellent choice. The grounds were stacked with birds and we had asked for a ground floor room with a garden view. We couldn't have asked for more, perfect! The warblers that flitted through the bushes at the back was endless, catbird, red-legged thrush, waterthrush, woodpeckers, kingbirds and masses of hummingbirds. The sun shone but it was windy each day and by the afternoon, cloud built up. Still, cracking tans all round ! 

We had booked Paulino Delgado as our birdguide. A brilliant birder with eyes like a hawk, not a bird passed his eyes without he called it. But......the first 3 days he had double booked so we didn't get out until day 4. Then, although not anyones fault, on our first morning out with him, the front steering arm snapped and the front wheel came we walked birding as much as we could but he wasn't a happy chappy so we gave up and a taxi was called to take us back to our hotel. The car was then 2 days being fixed so we were nearly into the second week before we got to the mainland for our target birds. A further double booking followed and on our third trip out with him we had to share with a our Zapata Sparrow posting posting !

So, a lovely Christmas was had relaxing on a caribbean beach with the sun shining, blue sky and sea lapping, it was heaven. Can definately recommend the Melia for a perfect holiday. Excellent food with masses of choice, lovely friendly staff (especially the gardeners!), beach, sea, palm trees and coconuts!  Karen added around 50 new birds to her world list, a happy bunny! What more can you ask for xx

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

American Kestrels, Cuba

We never tired of seeing these tiny raptors. We were lucky to have them just outside the hotel gates and we saw them daily. Birds don't get much better than these !