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birdwatching Blog.
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In search of short, Eared owls

St Aidens is a RSPB and a mixed use nature reserve on a former open cast coal mine and slag heap in Allerton Bywater in Leeds West Yorkshire. It's not only a great place to relax but also a great place for wildlife of all kinds. The site usually has hundreds of people visiting at any one time and can be very busy.

This mixture of walkers, dog walkers, cyclists and even open water swimmers does not seem to impact on the wildlife too much.
I went with my long time birding mate and photographer Phil Smithson, we are both fairly local to the reserve. It was cold, very cold and threatening rain all the time we were there. It was also very dark for the time of day, and getting darker all the time. In fact, the film above doesn't really show how dark it was when the film was shot. This is a testimony to modern cameras, definitely not the skill of the film maker.

Owls draw a crowd, always have and always will, there were ten or so people waiting near us. Not that you could see them in the darkness, you could hear their teeth chattering in the in the still air. As we walked back towards the car park, more and more people were arriving all to see the birds. I think while you have that much interest and that many people they will be relatively safe from human disturbance.

The still images above were taken by @phil_smithson. Considering the very low light levels and despite ISO settings of 4-6000 I think these are incredible. All taken at 800mm. The birds were around 150 metres from where we were standing.

Ecology Report: Short-Eared Owl (Asio flammeus) in the United Kingdom
The Short-Eared Owl (Asio flammeus) is a captivating and enigmatic bird of prey that inhabits a variety of open habitats across the United Kingdom (UK). This report aims to provide an overview of the ecology of the Short-Eared Owl, emphasising its current status on the Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern.

Distribution and Habitat:
Short-Eared Owls have a widespread distribution in the UK, favouring open landscapes such as moorlands, heathlands, marshes, and coastal areas. They are particularly associated with rough grassland, where they hunt for small mammals like voles and mice. Breeding populations are found throughout the country, with significant concentrations in Scotland, Wales, and northern England.

Breeding Biology:
Short-Eared Owls typically breed on the ground, relying on tall vegetation or the shelter of rocks for nesting sites. Breeding season usually occurs from March to July, and the owls produce a clutch of eggs that hatch after a short incubation period. The survival of their young is closely linked to the availability of prey, particularly small mammals.

Conservation Status:
The conservation status of the Short-Eared Owl is of concern, leading to its inclusion on the Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern in the UK. The Red List categorises species based on their population trends and breeding success. The Short-Eared Owl faces multiple threats that contribute to its declining numbers, including habitat loss due to agriculture intensification, urbanisation, and climate change.

Threats to Short-Eared Owls:

  • Habitat Loss: Changes in land use and agricultural practices, including the conversion of natural habitats into farmland, have reduced the availability of suitable breeding and foraging areas.
  • Climate Change: Alterations in weather patterns and temperature can affect the distribution of prey species, potentially impacting the owls' ability to find food.
  • Human Disturbance: Increased human activities, such as recreational use of habitats, can disturb breeding birds and disrupt their nesting sites.

Conservation Efforts:
Several initiatives and conservation measures have been implemented to mitigate the decline of Short-Eared Owls in the UK. These include:
  • Habitat Protection: Efforts to designate and protect important habitats for Short-Eared Owls, including the creation of nature reserves and conservation areas.
  • Research and Monitoring: Ongoing research projects and monitoring programs help gather essential data on population trends, breeding success, and the impact of conservation interventions.
  • Public Awareness: Increasing public awareness about the importance of conserving the Short-Eared Owl and its habitat, involving local communities in conservation efforts.
The Short-Eared Owl, with its distinctive appearance and unique behaviour, is an integral part of the UK's biodiversity. However, its inclusion on the Red List highlights the urgent need for comprehensive conservation strategies to address the threats it faces. Through collaborative efforts involving government agencies, conservation organisations, and the public, there is hope for the recovery of the Short-Eared Owl population and the preservation of its vital role in the UK's ecosystems.

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Seaton Carew, Common Eider and Little Tern

The Common Eider, known scientifically as Somateria mollissima, is a large sea duck species that belongs to the family Anatidae. It is widely distributed across the northern coasts of Europe, North America, and eastern Siberia. The bird is well-known for its striking appearance, large size, and unique behaviour.

Here's a brief history of the Common Eider:

Ancient History: Common Eiders have a long evolutionary history dating back millions of years. Fossil evidence suggests that the species has existed since the late Miocene epoch, around 10-15 million years ago. Throughout its evolutionary journey, the Common Eider likely adapted to various environmental changes and ice ages.

Indigenous Peoples: The Common Eider has played a significant role in the lives of indigenous peoples living in its range for thousands of years. In many cultures, including those of the Inuit, Aleut, and Sami people, these ducks have been an important food source and are often depicted in art and folklore.

European History: In Europe, Common Eiders have been historically important as a source of food, down feathers, and cultural significance. In some coastal regions, traditional practices involved collecting the down from the nests of eider ducks without disturbing the birds, providing a sustainable resource for insulation and bedding material.

Hunting and Conservation: Over the centuries, the Common Eider faced challenges due to overhunting for its meat and feathers, habitat destruction, and disturbances during the breeding season. These factors led to population declines in some regions.

Conservation Efforts: In the 20th and 21st centuries, various conservation efforts were initiated to protect the Common Eider and its habitat. Many countries implemented hunting regulations, protected nesting sites, and established marine reserves to safeguard the species and its environment.

Present Status: As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, the Common Eider population was relatively stable, but the species still faces some threats, such as climate change, pollution, and disturbances in breeding areas. Continuous monitoring and conservation efforts are necessary to ensure the long-term survival of this iconic sea duck.

It's important to note that bird populations and their conservation status can change over time. For the most current information on the Common Eider, I recommend consulting up-to-date resources from reputable wildlife organisations and research institutions.

In the footage above there is some far away dodgy quality, forgive me, it was a bad day at the office. There is a piece showing a Ringed Plover pretending to be injured or having a broken wing in order to make itself look weak. This is done in order to draw away other birds from its own chicks, if you've never seen it before, it's a really interesting thing to watch.


The lifecycle of the North Eastern UK population of Little Tern (Sternula albifrons) begins in late spring when these small migratory seabirds return from their wintering grounds in West Africa to their breeding sites along the North East coast of the UK. They are colonial breeders and typically nest on shingle beaches, dunes, or salt marshes close to the shoreline.

Upon arrival, the pairs engage in courtship displays, which involve aerial acrobatics and vocalisations to establish pair bonds. Once a pair forms, they construct shallow scrapes in the sand or gravel, where the female lays 1 to 3 eggs. Incubation duties are shared by both parents, and this period lasts around three weeks.

After hatching, the chicks are precocial, meaning they are relatively independent and mobile from birth. The parents continue to protect and feed them, guiding them to foraging areas near the shoreline where they mainly feed on small fish and invertebrates.

The next crucial stage in their lifecycle is fledging, which usually occurs about 20 to 25 days after hatching. The chicks must learn to fly and become proficient swimmers during this time. Once they fledge, they face various challenges as they embark on their first migration to their wintering grounds in West Africa.

Throughout this lifecycle, Little Terns face threats from human disturbance, predation, coastal development, and changing environmental conditions. Conservation efforts, including habitat protection, predator control, and public awareness campaigns, play a crucial role in supporting the survival and successful breeding of this vulnerable seabird population in the North Eastern UK.

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The Redstart & The Pied Flycatcher

Birds have captivated humans throughout history with their vibrant colors, melodious songs, and graceful flight. Among the countless species that inhabit our planet, the Redstart stands out as a true gem in the avian kingdom. Inspired by one of my favorite books, "Birds in a Cage" by Derek Miemenn, I felt compelled to explore the fascinating world of Redstarts and shed light on their unique characteristics and captivating behavior.

The Enchanting Redstart:
The Redstart, scientifically known as Phoenicurus phoenicurus, is a small passerine bird found predominantly in Europe and Asia. Its name is derived from the Old English word "reestart" which means "tail that trembles." This intriguing name perfectly captures the Redstart's distinctive behaviour of constantly flicking its tail, adding an extra touch of charm to its appearance.

One of the most striking features of the Redstart is its vibrant plumage, particularly the male's breeding plumage. With its deep slate-blue head and upper parts contrasting against its fiery orange-red tail and underparts, the male Redstart is an absolute spectacle to behold. Its eye-catching colours make it stand out against the lush greenery of its habitat, turning any sighting into a memorable experience.

Redstarts are known for their incredible migratory journeys, spanning thousands of miles. They spend their summers in Europe and Asia, nesting in woodlands and forests, before embarking on their epic journey to spend the winter months in sub-Saharan Africa. Witnessing these tiny birds traverse vast distances and overcome numerous challenges along the way is a testament to their remarkable endurance and navigational skills.

While the Redstart's appearance is undeniably captivating, its melodious song adds an extra layer of enchantment to its presence. The male Redstart's song is a delightful combination of sweet, warbling notes and whistling trills, filling the air with a symphony of natural beauty. Their songs are not only used to attract mates but also to defend territories and communicate with other birds.

Redstarts prefer mature deciduous woodlands, often nesting in tree cavities or crevices in rocks. However, they are highly adaptable and can also be found in parks, gardens, and even urban areas. Unfortunately, like many other bird species, Redstarts face numerous threats, including habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. It is crucial that we prioritise their conservation by preserving their natural habitats and promoting sustainable practices
Derek Niemenn's "Birds in a Cage" showcases the beauty and wonder of birds, including the Redstart. This captivating species, with its vibrant colours, melodious songs, and incredible migratory journeys, continues to fascinate birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts worldwide. As we appreciate the Redstart's allure, let us also recognise the importance of conserving its habitat and protecting the diverse avian species that enrich our world.

So, next time you find yourself exploring the great outdoors, keep an eye out for the Redstart—a true feathered jewel that embodies the splendour of our natural world.
• Niemenn, D. (Year). "Birds in a Cage." Publisher.
• BirdLife International. (2021). Phoenicurus phoenicurus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2021: e.T22709251A182360610. Retrieved from

Common Tern: Staveley Reserve


Once upon a time, in the enchanting forests of Europe, a little bird with dashing black and white feathers embarked on the rollercoaster of life - the Pied Flycatcher! As spring arrived, these charming aviators returned from their winter holidays with stylish tan lines from soaking up the sun down south.

In the singles' hotspot of the forest, the males went all out to impress the ladies, flaunting their best moves and belting out love songs like pop stars. After some flirty fly-catching, the lucky ones found their match and became a monogamous couple.

Together, they worked tirelessly to find the perfect nest location, seeking a fixer-upper with good curb appeal. With a dash of twigs, a splash of moss, and a sprinkle of feathers, their nest was ready for the grand opening. Inside, they laid a small clutch of eggs, and their home became a nursery filled with joyous chirping.

The parents took turns incubating the eggs, while the other sneaked off for some "me time" at the local bug buffet. Once the chicks hatched, it was chaos! These tiny fluff balls demanded constant attention and food deliveries.

As the chicks grew, the parents morphed into overworked food delivery services, flying back and forth, trying to keep up with the bottomless pit of chirping mouths. But time flew by, and soon the chicks were all grown up, ready to leave the nest and face the world.

And so, with bittersweet emotions, the Pied Flycatcher parents bid their chicks farewell, hoping they'd soar high and find their own funny stories in this forest of life. And the cycle continued, each spring bringing new laughs, adventures, and unforgettable moments for these little comedians of the woods.

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Spoonbills to Spotted Redshank

Birds never stop amazing me, the interaction between the Spoonbill and the Black Winged Stints was incredible. I and many of my friends
Feeding together

Spoonbill to Spotted Redshank Part 2

Spoonbills are not the most tolerant of other birds, especially when feeding. In the film the Spoonbill and the Stint are feeding very closely to each other, something I have never seen before either in person or in the many films and videos I have watched. I also know how lucky I am to have seen this in the UK. Who knows maybe the Stints will make an attempt at breeding in this amazing location.

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Frampton Marsh Wood Sandpiper

I didn't really want to go Birding on this particular day, however Phil, who is one of my longest standing friends and I had not been out for some time. Phil understood I was having a tough time and knew it would do me good. I also had words ringing in my ears from another long standing mate Pete. Go on it'll do you good. It's really easy to wallow and even feel sorry for yourself and I didn't want to do that.

We didn't set of too early but it's a two hour drive to Frampton from where I live, Phil arrived at mine bang on time and we were of, talking about birding, anything and everything, two minutes later we were there, well that's how it felt. And as soon as we got out of the car and after the necessary visit to the loo after a two hour drive we were into it. Ruff, Shelduck, and Wood sandpiper, even a Garganey all from the car park.
Black winged Stilt & Spoonbill.


Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Lapwing Chicks and a Garganey, all from the car park.

This is a short film looking at the Wood Sandpipers with one of my best friend and birding partner @phil_smithson. We had one of the best days birding we have ever had, this is part one of a multi part film showing the many birds we filmed and photographed.

ABOVE: Black Winged Stilt & Spoonbill.
ABOVE: Garganey
ABOVE: Northern Lapwing.
ABOVE: The magnificent Wood Sandpiper.

Black Winged Stilt

I was working and my Birdguides app was pinging and pinging and pinging. Without looking I had no choice but to silence the phone. I was installing some signs at another nature reserve just over the border in Wales. It can be very frustrating, especially on a bank holiday when your app pings and a bird you really want to see, often a real rarity but you just can't get there.
We were joined by four students, young people with a real passion for wildlife, even in this horrendous weather they were positive, I soon knocked that out of them.
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This particular bird was one I have seen before but in Spain and a real beauty for me. Their usual breeding grounds are Africa and Eurasia, they often form large noisy groups in fact very noisy especially when alarmed by predators or humans. These three were in York, near the university in Heslington, literally a few hundred metres from my daughters home.

I have seen many images of this bird basking in the sunshine, but for me there was to be no sun. As we were walking towards the bird hide which is quite a way from the birds we realised that a fence that had been put there some time ago, was still there. And the rain was getting much much heavier. My little warm but definitely not waterproof coat was breached in nanoseconds and water was getting into, well everywhere!

If you watch the video below you will be able to see the rain bouncing at least two feet of the water (I'm not prone to exaggeration) and this rain was going up my trouser legs! We were joined by four students, young people with a real passion for wildlife, even in this horrendous weather they were positive, I soon knocked that out of them hahaha.
Black Winged Stilt.

Three Black Winged Stilt, this really is a beautiful striking bird. Latin Name Himantopus Himantopus, how cool is that.

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We were lucky enough to be staying in Flamborough over the bank holiday weekend at the end of April. This in turn meant that when all the crowds had gone we had the cliff-tops to ourselves. I’m not being selfish, Flamborough's North landing can get pretty crowded.

The film below was all shot later in the day when activity amongst the colony is high with most of the birds either feeding or collecting nest material. There is something about North Landing, especially the very quiet area behind the cafe. This, for me is the most stunning part of this area and very few people go there.

Birding Flamborough


Purple Sandpiper
Now for me this really is a very special bird. For many years I have been aware of a small flock of this very hardy bird. Often they hang around with the much bigger and equally robust turnstones. And Turnstones do just that! They turn stones over looking for food, small crustaceans.

The film below was taken early evening in the lower part of Bridlington old harbour. It shows the Turnstones in the foreground and the smaller Purple Sandpipers in the background. Also below is the sound recording of individual Purple Sandpipers.

The Turnstones are the larger more mottled birds and the Purple Sandpipers are smaller with a grey head. The name comes from the fact they are from the species Sandpiper but also they have a Purple colouring as adult birds in good light.

Sound of Purple Sandpiper

Above: Some of the many thousands of Gannets returning in the evening.
Above: Northern Fulmar.
Above: Kittiwake collecting mud and grass as nesting material.

Northern Pintail

Saturday 16th April 2023. Myself and my daughter went to Bank Island for a couple of hours. We spotted the Pintail almost immediately, a very elegant surface feeding duck that really stands out in a crowd. They're not exactly rare but can be very scarce in many parts of the UK.

It's not unusual to see this duck upside down and can easily be identified by its long "pin like" tail, black behind and white underparts, not to be confused with the Long Tailed Duck.

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Black Crowned Night Heron

I use an alert system which is countrywide to alert me to birds that are locally or nationally scarce or rare. If they are very rare, they are called Mega's. For these birds below, there was and still is at the time of writing this a pair in Ossett West Yorkshire. This is nothing short of a miracle.

The Species is Nycticorax (Latin Name) the bird looks a little grey but is in fact very white with slightly skin tone ish legs. It was fascinating to watch it feeding.

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Crossbill can be really hard to find! Famous last words, Some years none and others quite plentiful, North Yorkshire, especially Wykeham Forest can be a bit of a hot spot.
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In Search of Crossbill

It's a Sunday morning in February. Some photographers have been posting images of Crossbill in both North Yorkshire and Middleton in Teesdale, a good sign you may think, but dead certs are rarely that in the birding world. We went to Wykeham Forest raptor watchpoint and although we could hear crossbill it was some hours before we got a view, plenty of Buzzard and Goshawk though, too distant to photograph,
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I spent most of last year rebuilding my business, making sure we stayed afloat and ensuring everyone's future was safe. This impacted greatly on my birding activity. I make no apologies for this, I did what I had to do, I do hope you missed me!
I really hope 2023 is much better for us all, much better for wildlife and much better for birds and birding. 2022 wasn't a bad year, in fact, it was quite a good one, more people seemed gentler, more in tune with nature, people spent more time outside, noticing more and intern "kinder".
Attenborough Nature Reserve.
Common Birds but plenty of joy.

I have never seen a nature reserve as busy as Nottingham's Attenborough nature reserve and visitor centre. People are desperate for the freedom that being outdoors brings. There were hundreds and hundreds of people with children and dogs all enjoying this vast open space.

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Above: Egyptian Goose (more in the video)
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Above: Gull on the Ice.
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Above: Grey Heron and Great White Egret heading for trouble.
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Above: Grey Heron and Great White Egret nearly collide in the mist.
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Above: Great White Egret in the mist.
Two Days in The North East
A Video Diary
Above film in UHD.
It's January and a few trips planned

Blacktoft Sands, Yorkshire.

It was a quiet day at Blacktoft Sands, not many birds about, it was cold though…very cold and crisp. I saw some ponies walking towards us, probably half a mile away. Within what seemed to be a couple of minutes they were in the water.



What a beautiful bird.

Red Tailed Shrike!

Red Tailed Shrike, possible country of origin, Tajikistan! Well who knows, it really is a beautiful bird though. We all get wrapped up in names and none are really wrong. I caught up with this individual on Sunday 31st July by which time it had been with us for at least 100 days.


Also known as the

Turkestan Shrike

Lanius phoenicuroides.

This is one of the smaller Shrike of the family, the bird is considered a mega and of course a must see. It is still showing well as I write this on the 4th August.


The Kittewakes of Bempton

Kittiwake are among the most beautiful birds in the world. They are the Marilyn Monroe, the Audrey Hepburn of birds, graceful with beautiful plumage and an air of superiority about them. They are accomplished and graceful flyers, they breed well in these parts and are a joy to look at.


Many people say that Bempton Cliffs is one of the best places in the United Kingdom for Gannet, Kittiwake, Razorbill, Puffin, Guillemot, Fulmar and now Black Browed Albatross. I never thought I would construct a sentence ending with Albatross and be talking about Yorkshire.

It's been a while

It's been quite a while since I have posted anything on my blog, and for those of you that have been coming back to look, I really am sorry. I work and for many reasons which I will not bore you with Iv'e had to work harder and for longer. I know many of you have too, let's hope we can all get back to some better work life balance soon. Most of my birding friends , best friends and acquaintances have retired and many are almost full time birders or campervanning nomads or both. They can spend months out on the road, travelling and posting to a whole raft of loyal followers who expect content every day in some cases.

Where did you take that photograph? One asked! I can't remember came the answer! Is this birding self preservation or bird preservation, well both in some cases and selfishness in others. Recently I was asked where I took some Owl shots that appeared on Flickr and when I responded with the very well known Short Eared Owl location, the lady was astounded that I told her. She explained that she had asked many and got no reply.

The following set of images are a result of a very very non selfish birder, he helped me locate and take these images and I won't name him but he knows who he is and I can't thank him and his friend enough. I have been asked with very good reason not to reveal where these birds are by a study authority who are monitoring the population of the Flycatcher family. And to that end I will uphold the agreement while they are monitoring.
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The Pied Flycatcher is one of those birds, magical and elusive and even secretive. Iv'e been a birder for over thirty five years and I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen let alone photographed this beautiful creature. They mostly visit and very few stay all year, they breed and in certain areas breed well. I hope you see one, and are able to take in their beauty, a largely woodland bird but they do like woods near rivers or water courses.


Another rare bird for me but in woodlands if you listen and look carefully and you're lucky, you can hear and see them.

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Above: On our little journey around the area of Leathley in North Yorkshire, we bumped into this little chap too.
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Above: This is a male Common Redstart and not so common at all.

Below: This little chap was keeping a very careful eye on us. Pied Wagtail are of course very common and very very striking.
A little brown job.

Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)

There are 
approximately 100,000 breeding pairs, which is a relatively low number in comparison to more common UK birds: Robins, for instance, number approximately 7,200,000 breeding pairs in the UK

This makes the common Redstart not common at all, in fact rather special

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Today is the start date for the 2022 big garden Birdwatch. Tens of thousands of people will be recording all the birds they see in a one hour period of their choice and feeding this information back to the RSPB team. If you want to take part and I urge you to do so, head over to the RSPB's website and sign up the rest is easy.

The Big Garden Birdwatch has been around for many years now and is the largest piece of citizen science regarding wildlife in the United Kingdom. Citizen science means "you" you will be directly helping birds and believe me they need help. The pressure on all wildlife is increasing on a weekly basis, habitat loss, a warming planet and many many other reasons all take there toll on our wildlife.

We need to understand all the pressures right down to when, where, and how, this is where we come in. By recording what you can see and where you see it, ornithologists can understand the decline or abundance of our birds. Success and of course failures, play a huge part in our understanding of birds.
So who is involved? Adults, children, whole schools and companies are all playing a part in this years event. I know of one company who is giving the company's profits for a whole day to the RSPB to help save our birds. So if you are buying a wire fence or related products why not take a look at

Live TV...

I can remember a time when you definitely definitely did not tell anyone you were a birder, birdwatcher and most definitely not a twitcher. In fact myself and Phil Smithson who have been friends for a very long time did not even know we were each in fact weirdo birders. If in a conversation it slipped out, you very quickly made a joke and ended the joke with hahah "as if I could be a birdwatcher….me" and then made a disparaging cutting joke about trainspotters!
Today we understand the importance of wildlife and the benefits given to us by seeing it, interacting with it, learning about it. Wildlife is such an important part of all our lives, sometimes we just don't understand how much. There are massive mental health benefits from just spending a few hours every now and again outside in the open air. It's really easy to think that you need to go to a nature reserve, a park, or a place designated for wildlife in order to see it. The fact is that wildlife especially birds are all around us all the time, and sometimes we just don't see it because we are so wrapped up in our day-to-day lives. For me birds are natures box sets, a film or a play that never ends. Every time I want a new episode I just open my front door, put one foot in front of the other, open my ears and let the episode begin.

Birds are all around us, in our vision and their sounds in our ears, they are in our culture, literature, our history and language. They are capable of sponging away our troubles if only momentarily, but sometimes its the moments that help us change our thinking and our lives.

Wheldrake Ings "what a spectical"

In many ways Wheldrake could be anywhere in the world, it can look like the Everglades, or even the planes of mid America or Africa. But it's Britain and the very British countryside in all its glory. When flooded it's at its best and manages to attract the very best of birds and wildlife. At the time of writing there is a Dusky Warbler located in the south of the reserve, many have heard it and fewer have seen it, but hearing it is the surest way of identification. I have been twice but not managed to hear nor see it, but the fact that it's there is amazing.
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Pink feet, gracefully gliding in
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We saw 8 or so Bullfinch on this trip
Wheldrake, is a very special place. This is a wetlands habitat that changes its shape and its atmosphere almost on a daily basis. If you go to Wheldrake regularly you will know what I mean. You can park your car in the car park at bank island and then start your journey down to the bottom of the Wheldrake reserve. If you're lucky you will see birds but sometimes, just sometimes you will see nothing. This isn't because there is nothing there, this is because your brain switches off and all the thoughts good or bad just drain from your head. This is what Wheldrake can do to you, empty your head, empty your brain and just walk soaking in the incredible atmosphere. Bumping into some of the most interesting people you'll ever meet is also part of the Wheldrake experience.
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Wheldrake is a great place to see Whooper Swans
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As I said earlier, this looks like a very exotic Savannah but is our very own countryside, we should cherish it, protect it, use it and when necessary fight like hell for it.

Yorkshire Coast Trip

We went in search of Snow and, or Lapland Buntings. Firstly to Long Nab in Burniston which is the North side of the wider Scarborough area. Long Nab is without doubt "wild" with wide open clifftop farmland, dramatic cliffs and access to the beach and rocks below. Every year reports come in about the buntings and this week was no exception. It was cold and showery, we could see medium sized flocks of what we presumed were Linnets, but that was only a presumption.

We walked and walked but actually got close to very little so photographs were few and far between. We eventually split up as a larger flock of supposed Linnets were scooting about and after some time I was able to see that there was a couple of Snow buntings among them but even with a long lens photography was impossible. But at least I got a view of these birds. So off to Scarborough we went, firstly to the Scalby Mills area.
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It has been many many years since I have visited Scalby Mills and the Sea Life Centre area of Scarborough and to be honest I have forgotten how good this area can be. We arrived and I did not recognise the area at all. A massive car park and superb promenade had been installed overnight, well 20 years or so actually. I had no idea it was like this and I think the last time I was here was with Paul Howard, a very good marine biologist amongst other things friend of mine. I can't for the life of me remember why we were there but I remember it vividly.

The sea rolls in and smashes against the promenade walls and in the corner near the base of the cliffs mixes with the fresh water of the sea cut Scalby Beck which is a run of from the river Derwent many many miles back. This in turn creates large pools which are often taken advantage of by sea ducks taking respite from the rolling waves.
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There is a bridge between the cliffs and the Promenade and below the bridge and up the beck are rocks. Many birds like Pipits and thrushes use the rocks to gain access to the water and presumably small creatures which you could see were in abundance. The photographs above are of a Dipper doing just that. Dippers are amazing birds to watch, very active in there perusal of food, diving down under the water and returning with all sorts of larvae and flies.
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Above: one of the many Wigeon in the sea pools.

We had a walk just a little further on, in front of the Sea Life complex and we both noticed a Red Throated Diver quite close into the sea wall. Images are below.
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...And a drive to the main Harbour in Scarborough.

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A Legless Rock Pipit.
Is it a Rock Pipit or a Meadow Pipit masquerading as a Rock Pipit? We cannot always assume the former just because it's on rocks and as this one has no legs in the shot it could be the latter in disguise. This is in fact a Rock pipit as I did get a better look before we left to go to Bridlington to try and photograph what is probably one of the easiest coastal birds to see. Often overlooked the Sanderling is a beautiful bird, fast, funny and reliable.
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Another legless Rock Pipit .

Below: One of my absolute favourite birds to sit and watch, The Sanderling. I took lots of photographs as the sun was very low in the sky but the fact was I just wanted to stay and watch. And that's what we did another £1.50 in the parking meter and I sat for another hour watching. The sun was setting on what had turned out to be a perfect day. OOooo and a Redshank to boot.
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Blacktoft Sands Visiting Plover

There had been many reports of a white tailed plover at Blacktoft Sands in Yorkshire. This is not far from where I live, probably one hour away, so I called Phil my longtime birding cohort and off we went.
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While we were there reports started coming in "Little Stint viewable from the next Hide", and up until this point I had never seen one. At the time of writing this I have now seen several but probably wouldn't be able to point one out if it was wearing a red coat and wearing a top hat let alone a Long Toed version, this is very much out of my birding ability.
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No, I never said the photographs were any good, but here are the photographs I was able to get of the Little Stint. The photograph on the right is with Black Tailed Godwit.

Common Scoter

It's Saturday morning, and I wasn't going to go birding today but the Scoter has been around for a few days and a good friend of mine Ron Marshall had said it was showing particularly well with very close views. I got up at 5:30 and arrived at Roundhay Park at 6:20, with little light I knew I had a bit of a wait so I sat on a bench and although I could see the Scoter it wasn't really worth taking any images other than the necessary record shot.

I was soon joined by two others and as we chatted the light started to get a little better but the bird was drifting further and further away. Eventually this rather unusual sea duck was on the opposite bank of this freshwater lake.
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Another chap turned up and asked us if we had located the Scoter as he was having a little trouble locating it. We explained where the bird was on the opposite bank. I did recognise this chap but didn't say anything as he probably just wanted a few hours of peace. Without naming him he is definitely one of the UK's leading authorities on birds, bird science and especially ecology if not a world authority. I have followed him and his incredible writings for many many years.

He set off for the opposite bank to enjoy the Scoter. After another thirty minutes or so I decided to do the same then call it a day as I had been watching the bird for some time earlier that morning.
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When I arrived on the opposite side of the lake the scooter was very obliging and only a few metres away from the bank. I took lots of images and answered a few peoples questions, these were interested passers by and local people out jogging who were just wondering what we were photographing. All this was very cordial and even jovial, when I said "they are not VERY skittish birds anyway". Quite unexpectedly the chap said "you must be joking they are exceptionally skittish" I turned and said "not in my experience"! "Then you have very little or no experience of Scoter", he said. He most definitely has more birding knowledge in his little finger than I will ever have, 100 times more ecological knowledge and 10 times the photographer. His reputation is of a kind helpful gentleman so I just don't get it, even though I know I have the kind of face you just want to punch.

Well, my experience of Scoter is a gentle respectful approach and I have seen many in a few countries around the world but especially Scotland and Ireland. My approach is not to have 20 or so fee paying photographers all waving their arms and lenses shouting "it's over there" or on a boat chasing the birds so all the people can get their shots while shouting, waving and trampling one another. If that's the way you go about birding then you can call your birds skittish even though they are probably scared to death.

Respect for the wildlife, the environment and a little respect for your fellow man is all it needs. Never meet your hero's as they say.
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The common Scoter is fairly common, a medium to large sea duck and as proved here can turn up almost anywhere. Usually found at sea or in coastal bays with many making an appearance in and among boats in the odd marina. This duck is quite distinctive as it appears all black with a very distinctive bill with the yellow flash on top on the male bird. It can fly fairly low over the sea in general often in small groups, however I have seen quite large groups relatively speaking in Scotland and Ireland. If you want to find out more about this sea duck then eBird is a great place to start with many hundreds of close up shots and videos, just click Common Scoter Melanitta nigra
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The Champions of the Flyway
Bird Race

Champions of the Flyway 2018

It’s 7.15pm and I’m sat in the Ron Cook hub on the York University campus. I’m looking out of the windows at birds in silhouette to see if I can identify them, some I can and some I can’t Heslington is really quite ethereal at night in the winter. Last night I went to a talk, a lecture, a piece of information delivered expertly by a fellow if somewhat better birder. The Champions of the flyway was the title “a talk by Mark James Pearson” @fileybirder.
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Alkborough Flats and the area of Alkborough is not in Yorkshire, however this is most definitely one of my favourite birding spots. Yesterday, 17th September 2017 I visited with long term birding friend Phil Smithson. Phil picked me up at 6.15am and we set of in very poor visibility, low heavy fog but with a strange glow above. Our route, M62, M18 didn't clear at all until we got into the Burton Upon Strather area and then only slightly. We were determined to get out of the car and at the very least walk and listen, and what a soundscape. The first sound I heard was of Reed Buntings, hundreds of Reed Buntings, Then a single Cetis Warbler and a loud symphony of bird calls & alerts all coming from the fog.
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BOU changing to the IOC

If you are a birder you will have or will eventually come into contact with a bird list of some kind. Whether your list is a printed list or a list in an app but a bird list non the less. There are several kinds of bird list but here in the UK we tend to use the BOU list "British Ornithology Union" This gives us names we all know and many understand and relate too.
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Hutton, East Yorkshire

I was in Hutton East Yorkshire this weekend and although the weather was awful the sound was great for anyone who cared to listen. I was stood in a gateway on a country road and because the winds were so high the birds were static, the sounds wonderful and the lighting beautiful
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Its all about the Godwits

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Well, the weekend had just about every weather front the British Isles has ever seen. On Saturday I ventured to Alkborough and the weather was amazing with blue skies and not much around on the birding front. I did manage to film some displaying Mallard and Teal, you can see this on the film page under media. I then moved on to North cave Wetlands and again not much but think the high winds kept most birds down. A study reveals that more than half of the worlds Godwits and Curlews face extinction you can read more here Godwits.
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On our way to moo moo land

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It's all about Respect

Driving down the motorway today, M62 in fact, there was a large lorry carrying cows. On the rear of this lorry was a graphic, "on our way to moo moo land" Tasteful, I think not, funny I think not, why would you pay for this kind of decal if you had any respect for the animals you are carrying, in charge of?

I couldn't get the name of the haulage company or I would have challenged them on this disrespectful and quite frankly offensive statement. I am a meat eater, a total carnivore but I hope with some respect for animals and their welfare.

There Has been Icelandic Gull at Taphill Low, Waxwings at Hemphome, Long Tailed Duck at Hornsea Mere and Black Redstart at Flamborough. Waxwings were also seen at Dunsville and Rotherham in South Yorkshire. The Palid Harrier was also seen at Welwick Saltmarsh and I must go over to see it as it's not on my list.

Fairburn Ings also had waxwings by the visitor centre and a couple in the village.

I have been listening to the excellent
BBC podcast series on the east Asian Flyway, this four part series tells the real story of this flyway birds use in world wide migration from Australia and New Zealand up through China's Yellow River. I've put a link on the soundscape page under Media.
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This weekend I spent in Wykeham, North Yorkshire. Wykeham forest is a working forest with birdlife in abundance, the only problem is the abundance did not show themselves to me. I could hear, Nuthatch, Woodpecker an entire forest full of Tits and Finches but without many sightings. In the distance I could see Red Kite, Buzzard but not close enough to get good views. I really will have to try harder next weekend when I'm staying in Hutton, East Yorkshire. There has been plenty of waxwings about this weekend and all avoiding me.

So this week we have had Firecrest and Waxwings at Blacktoft, Glaucous Gull at Swillington Ings, Long Tailed Duck at St Aidens, Waxwings at Swillington, Short Eared Owl at Bempton, Hen Harriers at Blacktoft, and the Pine Bunting is still at Dunnington.

Beautiful Light

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