The 2016 Report has been printed and will be available for members to collect at the next meeting on Tuesday 5th December.
Despite the cold wind, nine members left York for North Lincolnshire on Sunday 12th. Our first stop was overlooking Read’s Island where the numerous waders featured active flocks of Golden Plover and Dunlin with some Bar-tailed Godwit. Several skeins of Pink-footed geese flew over, some fairly low, and in the distance we could see what must have been thousands of them over the Wolds. A couple of Whooper Swans passed by and a Marsh Harrier was hunting over the island.
We then moved on to Alkborough Flats where the wind kept many passerines quiet, though a pair of Stonechats were sitting on wires. A Water Rail briefly showed itself but the highlights were the waders: two Little Stints, a Spotted Redshank, several Black-tailed Godwits in addition to the commoner Dunlin and Redshank on the pools. Hundreds of Lapwings and Golden Plover settled in the fields and then were disturbed by Marsh Harriers giving us a spectacular show. We were also treated to a Woodcock flying low past us. Before dusk and as the rain moved in, we moved on to Far Ings where a Slavonian Grebe was a fine bird to end the day.
One of the events of this autumn is the influx of Hawfinches into England. The York area has had its share of these visitors with up to nine birds at Gilling East and small numbers elsewhere including six today over Milford Common. The largest flock, however, has been at the Yorkshire Arboretum, Castle Howard, where birds were first reported on 2nd November and numbers have built up to 50 or 60 over the weekend. There were fewer on Sunday but BirdGuides reports 50 again today, 6th November.
18 of us crossed the border into Lancashire for the trip (I know, it’s tough, but somebody has to risk it).
The weather varied between glorious (Friday and Sunday) and on the grim side (Saturday). We took in Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Brockholes reserve on the way over on Friday, and the Hest Bank Wader roost that evening. Saturday we were all day at Leighton Moss, calling again briefly at Hest Bank on the way back. Sunday we were able to check out Morecambe Bay from Morecambe promenade before breakfast and then did Leighton again until mid-morning, followed by the Kent Estuary at Arnside and Arnside Knott.
In total we had 92 species (including Feral pigeon which I was instructed to include despite my better judgement), although as usual not everybody saw everything.
Highlights and Lowlights included:
Bittern an Kingfisher (almost the first two birds) at Brockholes.
A good variety of waders (including both Bar- and Black-tailed godwits) at Hest Bank, but a feeble high tide and stupid dog walkers meant numbers were very low and disappointing,
Good movements of mixed Fieldfare and Redwing flocks on Saturday and Sunday
Great views of a singing Cetti’s warbler at Leighton Moss
Fleeting views of Bearded tits on Saturday at Leighton, followed by stunning views on Sunday
Marsh harrier at Leighton
Fabulous views of a couple of Otters at Leighton which some of us watched for 45 minutes; probably a female and (a much smaller) youngster, which mum (if it was mum) appearing to be teaching the smaller one to catch fish. Twice she appeared with fish in her mouth, dived next to the youngster, resurfaced without the fish (which she appeared to have dropped for the smaller one), all accompanied by play. It was the longest views of otters I have ever had in England.
Mixed flock of Siskins, Redpolls and Godfinches at Leighton
Chiffchaff at Leighton
Great white egret at Leighton
Peregrine causing panic at Leighton
But totally dipped out on Purple heron at Leighton, despite super-human patience by some of us.
3 Ravens at Arnside.
Rather wondering if Spurn was going to be very quiet owing to the lack of easterly winds in the preceding week, sixteen of us nevertheless took a chance that something might be about. As the high tide was at 7.40 am we met up at Kilnsea Wetlands first, just after 8.30am, to enjoy the roosting waders there. A good decision as a flock of waders comprising mostly Dunlin and Redshank also contained Bar-tailed Godwit, a Spotted Redshank and two Little Stints. Two further Little Stints were then spotted running about under the feet of some Mute Swans standing on mud at the far end. Much to everyone’s delight a Slavonian Grebe was feeding up at the far end and a party of seven Whooper Swans were swanning about and calling to each other. Just over the road was a very large flock of over 100 Curlews and three Roe Deer. Common duck species were also about and several Little Egrets.
We then headed down to the Warren to watch the waders feed close by on the shoreline as the tide receded. The wader spectacle between the breach and the Warren Car Park was well worth seeing; thousands of waders coming in, flying up in swirls then landing on newly exposed mud. Golden Plover and Sanderling flocks were particularly striking while the Grey Plover showed their black armpits well in flight. Whinchat and Stonechat were also sitting up well in the bushes there. The first Redwings of the year were also coming in.
With regard to birders, it was a day for meeting friends from York and further afield; everywhere we went we seemed to bump into people we know. Andy Walker is a very rare UK sighting these days and it was great to see Martin Quinlan too. Tim and Ollie were being kept busy with ringing duties – we were able to see a juvenile female Kestrel in the hand which was much admired.
We then heard that Red-breasted Flycatcher was showing on Vicar Lane in Easington, so we headed off there – no luck with the RBF, but Brambling were showing well and I got a well-marked Yellow-browed Warbler. On then to the bird that many of us were desperate to see as it would be a lifer – a juvenile Rose-coloured Starling. Having seen it last week, Peter Watson said that he knew exactly where it would be (by bungalows on the road into Easington), even pointing out the very tree it would land in – and we were not disappointed as it turned up in a small flock of Starlings landing in full sight at the top of a tree several times so we all got a good look at it. Not wanting to be greedy or anything, but it wasn’t the most exciting tick ever! On then to catch up with the Red-backed Shrike in a hedgerow opposite Easington Cemetery and many thanks to Lance Degnan for his pin-point directions as to the hedgerow it was favouring. We had excellent views of that, then the news came through that an Arctic Warbler had turned up in Church Field so off we hared back to Kilnsea. We arrived to find a large number of observers already there and thankfully all of us managed to pick it out as it flitted about in the bushes, showing really well at times. A few minutes later it was trapped and after a short wait we were shown the bird in the hand too before it was released, allowing even closer views of its distinguishing characteristics.
Our lunch break provided the main dip of the day for those of us that did not drive the short distance to the Carpark by the Bluebell – Peter, Noel, Neal and Emanuela being the only ones to see a Lapland Bunting there, found in a flock of Meadow Pipits by none other than Andy W!
We then headed up Beacon Lane in search of Red-Breasted Flycatcher and were rewarded eventually with good views of both it and a Yellow-browed Warbler in trees just over the hedge inside the Caravan Park.
Walking the triangle produced Wheatear and more Meadow Pipits and Reed Buntings, but no further sign of the Lapland Bunting. However in the late afternoon sun we had fantastic, close views of up to eight Bearded Tits including three males feeding in the reed bed along the Canal.
A few of us finished off the day at Sammy’s point where we had at least five Stonechats perched close to each other in the second paddock and a flight view of a Great Grey Shrike which then dived into a berry covered bush and sat half obscured, presumably intending to roost there. Antony was also lucky to have a Red-backed Shrike sitting up on a bush beside the road as he drove in. A Mediterranean Gull was seen distantly on the ploughed fields behind the paddocks and the day ended with a Barn Owl hunting successfully then devouring its prey as it sat on a fence post.
A great day’s birding with the morning’s wader spectacle capped by a number of scarce and some common autumn migrants, with many of us achieving at least one lifer. We also had super weather for the time of year (mild, calm and no rain), and a stunning sunset. It was fun to see so many birding friends down there too.
Seven brave souls headed north to Teesside on the morning of 10th September. Despite the strong southwesterly winds, we had a good day with highlights being good views of two or three Water Rails at Saltholme and one or two adult and one juvenile Roseate Terns roosting on the rocks at South Gare among a flock of Common, Arctic and Sandwich Terns.
We noticed a steady passage of Swallows, House Martins and Meadow Pipits throughout the morning with large flocks of hirundines coming in off the sea at North Gare. We saw several Sand Martins too over the water at Back Saltholme Pool.
Very few other passage migrants about, as one might expect given the conditions, with one Wheatear at South Gare noted. Waders were more in evidence, with Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, Ruff, Dunlin, Greenshank, Golden Plover and Snipe amongst others, though we missed the Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint at South Gare.
Harbour (Common) and Grey Seals gave good views at Greatham Creek, making up for being thwarted in our walk by the coastal realignment modifications being made to the flood bank.
Insect-wise, we had a few Red Admirals, a posing Migrant Hawker, a few Common Darters and a moth at South Gare which proved to be a Flounced Rustic.
York Area Recorder
Neil Glenn and John Miles’ book ‘Best Birdwatching Sites: Yorkshire’ is a fine piece of work and one that should be of use to all Yorkshire birders, especially those keen on county listing or exploring Yorkshire’s best birding sites. The book provides information on 88 sites, five of which are in the York Recording Area (Askham Bog, North Duffield Carrs, Skipwith Common, Strensall Common and Wheldrake Ings). Most sites are allocated a double page spread, but larger, more complex sites such as Spurn are given eight pages, enabling the authors to convey lots of useful detail.
Much of the information on Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and RSPB sites is available elsewhere (on their websites for instance) but what this book offers is a review of the sites purely from a birders perspective, which is useful. The information for each site is up to date – although things change rapidly of course – and includes birding tips to get the best from your visit, detailed site maps which is a great help for finding and enjoying the site, information about disabled access, what birds you might see in each month or season and what the public transport options are. For patch workers there will be undoubtedly be improvements that could be suggested, but as a general birders guide it is an impressive piece of work and an essential handbook.
The book also provides suggested itineraries for birding month by month, with key avian highlights mentioned, and finishes with an annotated Yorkshire bird list, which includes rarities such as the Siberian Accentor from 2016 and recent taxonomic changes, such as the lumping of Common/Mealy and Lesser Redpolls.
The only downside of this book is that there are a few errors in site names and other typos plus inconsistencies around site ownership, issues that should have been picked up by the proof reader. These things do not detract from what is a comprehensive review of Yorkshire’s top 88 birding sites and the authors have done a fine job. I am sure this book will find a place in many Yorkshire birders car glove boxes and book shelves and will be used for many years to come.
Visit http://www.buckinghampress.co.uk/best-birdwatching-sites-yorkshire1.html for details of how to purchase the book. The cost is £19.95 (inc. p&p).
Jono Leadley, York Area Recorder
Revised meeting point for the walk on 9th July at 10.00am around Redhouse Wood, Lagoon and River.
Please IGNORE directions on Club Programme as parking at a local farm has been negotiated.
Leave York Bypass A1237 on to A59 near Poppleton. Continue for just over 3 miles and turn right at the cross roads towards Moor Monkton on Church Lane. Continue and pass Oakland and the Church. On entering Moor Monkton bear right at the T junction along Main Street. At the first bend turn left over the cattle grid signed Laund House Farm. You will then be taken to the farm for parking in the Farm Yard.