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BIG GARDEN BIRDWATCH WEEKEND

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 https://www.wirefence.co.uk/big-garden-birdwatch-2022/

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

ARE YOU MOCKING ME?

In this case the word northern is referring to North America and that's where this bird should be, they do occasionally head south to South America but not very often. Even less often they turn up in Blighty or one of the islands in the Scilly Isles or northern Scotland. So we have established that this bird is way off course. In fact I worked out that it is 4022 miles off course.

I think the bird came from a fence in southern Wyoming and has ended up in Mrs Smith's back garden behind the Co-op in Newbiggin by the Sea.
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It's the 7th of May 2021 and reports of the northern Mockingbird have been around for a few days. Plenty of images have been posted on the Interweb and I was getting itchy feet. Newbiggin By The Sea is quite a trek so I called Phil and said do you fancy a trip to not see the Northern Mockingbird? He understood me perfectly as we never see what we set out to see. So let's go on a Dip trip. (to all you none birders a dip when you do not see the bird).

The 8th of May was a beautiful and typical May day with persistent drizzle as we arrived at the site situated at the back of some shops in Newbiggin By The Sea. As we walked to the rear of the shops there were about 10 people already there and immediately we got a fleeting glance of the bird but it really was fleeting not even a chance to get our cameras to our eyes.

It was drizzly, very persistently drizzly and we stood there for about an hour, and nothing, not a sight not a sound not even a conversation with any of the bedraggled birders. So myself and Phil decided to go back to the car and sit out the rain and then eventually come back to the site.

When we arrived at the car the rain was by now very heavy and Phil said "I need a drizzle" and I said "I don't remember seeing any public drizzle facilities" we waited a little longer, I now need a drizzle quite desperately said Phil. So in the rain he set off in search of a public drizzle facility, in haste.

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Exactly 8 minutes past, Phil was moving quite swiftly towards the car waving his arms and pointing down the street. Come on, come on I've just seen the Mockingbird near the drizzle facility!! So with great speed and now needing a drizzle myself, we nearly ran down the street and turned the corner and as if by magic there were 20 of us looking into Mrs Smiths back garden and on a small bush was the magnificent Northern Mockingbird.
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NO BIRDS IN MY GARDEN

If and when you have a visitor like this, it's highly unlikely you will see anything else for a while. In my case it was a whole day, even the local cats that frequent the wall below where this shot was taken decided to stay away.

This is the closest I have been to one of these beautiful raptors and it stayed just long enough for me to grab a camera and get some reasonable shots. The next day there was a pile of feathers on the lawn belonging to one of the Collared Doves that used to live in a conifer.
The Eurasian sparrowhawk, also known as the northern sparrowhawk or simply the sparrowhawk, is a small bird of prey in the family Accipitridae. Adult male Eurasian sparrowhawks have bluish grey upperparts and orange-barred underparts; females and juveniles are brown above with brown barring below.
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Audio From: xeno Canto. Recordist: Simon Elliott.
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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 SEPTEMBER 2017

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


UntitlYorkshire Wild Logo
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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wykeham-wood

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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