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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


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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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.

First Time Visitor

Is That a Brambling? Fringilla montifringilla.

Where I live the Brambling is a rare bird indeed, a winter visitor to our shores. I'm not sure if we have any breeding populations but if I was a betting man I would guess very few and far between. A brambling is a Finch and is easily confused with the Chaffinch as it is the same size and a mix of similar colours.
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This morning my wife said "I've never seen one of those before" Now if I was given a penny every time my wife has said that and I have got up from my comfortable chair to take a look and it was a Robin, Chaffinch, or even a Pigeon I'd be eating in a posh restaurant tonight. But occasionally and I mean very occasionally she's quite correct in that the bird she's looking at is not a usual visitor to my garden. And this was one of those rare occasions. I got excited and ran, well walked swiftly to get my camera to take some exceptionally terrible pictures. I have a degree in unusable image taking, some people call it art others call it crap.

Above and below are some shots taken in haste of my new found visitors who didn't hang around for long, just long enough for me to be grateful they chose my garden and my feeders. But why now? If you have the answer let me know.
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It's cold, very cold I wanted to see the Loons in Scarborough Harbour. The Common Loon or Great Northern Diver is a large member of the Loon family of birds. It's 5.00am and a one hour forty five minute drive to Scarborough Harbour and yes I am observing all and I mean all Covid-19 restrictions. We are all in this country expecting a full lockdown in the coming days so I suspect this will be my last trip for some time. I intend to see no one and speak to no one other than through the mask that saves people from the shock of my ugly mug.
I got there just as light was breaking. There was a chap already waiting and I could see he was one of those types that never stops moving, up and down the walkway. "I saw them I saw them" he said, Ah very good I said. It's a Loon he said, Certainly is, I said. Have you seen one before he asked? Yes many times but always good to see another, especially three together! What time does the cafe open he asked, Well, he had obviously mistaken me for the walking talking larger version of Google but that's okay. I just wanted leaving alone really. He never stopped moving but was friendly and knowledgeable and kept a respectful distance in these Covid days, that was appreciated.
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Short Eared Owl. Bempton Cliffs.

Same day and a different location, this was Bempton Cliffs. The site was surprisingly busy with car parks almost full. People just want to get some space really. Everyone I saw was socially distant and respectful. I was only there twenty minutes as the light was fading fast. I managed to get the shots below before the light went then a slow drive home quite satisfied with my last day of freedom.

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Rubbish Images,Great Birds, Garden First.

Just another one of those days, damp, very foggy and not worth going out of the house for "any reason". I'd been doing rubbish stuff all day and now it's 3:00pm and what little light we had was fading fast, there was even fog in the garden, a first I think. My wife said do you want a cup of tea…Yea got on then, please! Have you seen all those birds in the corner of the garden she said as she was walking into the kitchen!

I just stood up, there was the usual Wren on the wall, a group of about ten Long Tailed Tits in the Sycamore tree, the usual group of Coal Tits on the feeders and the fence. Goldfinches and other tits flying around and the usual Blackbird on the decking post trying to outstare me through the glass. Sometimes he wins sometimes he doesn't. But he always tries, he has that look…Who do you think you are! And I think, no one. I'm just the guy that puts the food out…Foodie Man, that's me.
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Above & below, the beautiful Goldcrest, Britains smallest bird. A massive garden tick for me and a huge thrill to see.
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Out of the corner of my eye I could see some birds deeper into the leafless and lifeless autumn bushes, I just stared into the half light. A chaffinch hopped out but I realised there was something smaller, much smaller, I ran to get my camera. As I grabbed it I turned it on, thought what could it be and removed the lens cap whilst maintaining traction on the wooden floor in my socks, all in one action, Impressive Eh!

It was a Goldcrest, yea you heard it, a Goldcrest, in my garden, I was so thrilled, my observation skills were all there, intact, Who Da Man.
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Above: Long Tailed Tit, one of many.

The next day we went for a walk and we could see a large flock of birds in the distance flying towards us, it was a mixed flock of mostly Fieldfare with Redwing interspersed, about 600 - 800 birds, a magnificent sight. Still very foggy I got a few shots just for the record.
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Filey Brigg, Scarborough.

Our last time out before our second lockdown, where do you fancy going Phil asked, anywhere warm said Steve. Well Phil assured me, even guaranteed, it would be dry, perhaps a little blustery he said! Now I trust Phil, but his face said one thing and I could hear his brain saying "you're gonna get wet, very wet you lightweight". When we arrived in the car park it was a little windy, I opened the boot of the car and the wind got hold of some of the contents and before you could blink they were fifty metres away.

As we walked down towards the beach the skys opened up and that rare old thing the sun started to show itself and within ten minutes we had the images below.
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The kestrel was hunting all the time that we were there, the walk down to the brigg and the whole walk back took a couple of hours and this little master of the sky was hunting the whole time.
Don't walk on the rocks, there very very slippy my mind said, I'm fine said my brain.
Steve stupid Farley
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I don't know the history of Filey Brigg but I've always remembered it right from my childhood. As a child it was one of those forbidden places, "don't go down there, the tide will cut you off and you'll have to be rescued". You could see the waves crashing on the rocks, a frightening place, a place you didn't really want to go, even though you all know at the age of 9 "I was actually Superman".

As we got closer we could see the Rock Pipits above our heads, skittish and loud. Different Gulls, Black Backed, Black Headed and those you're not quite sure about. Cormorants sunbathe on the rocks as Purple Sandpipers, Turnstones and even Pigeons forage below their feet.

As you look at the sun, the surf and the beauty of the birds, people's voices linger in the air as your legs start doing a Linford Christie animated run in mid air and you hit the rock, your whole body paralysed with pain as onlookers say "stupid man" Ooo the joys of birding.
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October 25TH UPDATE

It's been more than five months since I last posted on my blog. For those of you that don't know I have an imaging, manufacturing business and employ people, this I have found very difficult over the last seven months. I have been in business for over 30 years and largely enjoyed it, but when you're making decisions about other peoples lives when the circumstances are out of your control and are been taken at government level, it has at times been unbelievably stressful. The act of going birding has been way down my list of priorities and at times I have even felt I shouldn't be going when so many people are genuinely suffering.

Below is all the birding I have done all year with the exception of a couple that I feel are just wash out days not of any note. It will tell you where they were taken and a date but not much more. And from now on I will post more regular updates, more photos, and definitely more narrative. It will take me a while to get back into it, but I will get there, if you are reading this Thank you. All this week I will be uploading and writing.
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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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