Northumberland weekend – April 21/23

Club trip to Northumberland

21st to 23rd April 2017                                Leader: Peter Watson

Fifteen club members went on this weekend. Having agreed to meet up at Seahouses, where we were staying for the weekend, most of the group headed early for Hulne Park (via a stop off for hearty breakfast on route), to try somewhere new to many club members. This proved to be an excellent choice, with several hours spent there, and a wide variety of woodland birds were seen, highlights including Crossbill, Siskin, Wood Warbler, Nuthatch, Bullfinch, Treecreeper, several Mistle Thrushes, late Fieldfare and Redpoll. Firecrest was also heard and a Kingfisher seen, each by one lucky person. The river running alongside the edge of the park also afforded great views of Dipper, Common Sandpiper and Grey Wagtail. Everyone else met up here by 2pm, and the competitive spirit was well and truly sparked on swapping details of the morning’s birding, with the Rob and I having seen a Black Tern and a Grasshopper Warbler on our stopover at East Chevington on the way north!

Late afternoon saw us all visiting Budle Bay where the tide was out, but Knot, Curlew and Grey Plover were added. On then to Seahouses where sharp eyes picked out Purple Sandpiper on the rocks, and we added the first Shags, Kittiwakes, Turnstones and Ringed Plovers of the trip. Watching a flock of Eider waddling up the slipway at the harbour to come and beg bread alongside Mallards was a first – how often can you put out a hand and have it pecked by one of these stunning sea ducks? An excellent first day saw a combined total of 106 species seen.

A number of us ventured out on an early morning walk round the harbour in biting cold on Saturday morning (northerly winds); good to see House Martin here as well. We headed off to Lindesfarne after breakfast as the tides were favourable – a planned trip to the Farne Islands was ditched on hearing that many of the nesting birds weren’t back there yet. Despite the cold weather and periods when it was very dark overhead in the morning the weather improved markedly towards the end of the day. Whilst nothing particularly rare was about, highlights included good views of Bar-tailed Godwit, Red-breasted Merganser, Golden Plover (in full breeding plumage, on the ground), Sandwich Tern, streams of Gannets (heading both north and south as we sat seawatching by the triangulation point), a flock of Sanderling on the beach, Red-throated Diver and Rock Pipit. Coming off Holy Island we made our way to Fenham-le-Moor and some great birding, the undoubted highlights being close views of Whimbrel, then a Short-eared Owl which flew past close by before heading over the mud flats towards Holy Island. Distant views of pale-bellied Brent Goose and a flock of Little Terns feeding were also much enjoyed. The moaning of the large Seal colony could also be heard clearly – an extraordinary sound.

Sunday dawned bright and sunny and stayed that way all day. After another early morning harbour walk, we birded our way back south stopping first at Low Newton, which was rather quiet apart from a Pink-footed Goose, White Wagtail and a couple of Stonechats, then at Hauxley to try and pick up a Green-winged Teal reported from there (sadly not seen), though we did have our first Whitethroats. We also spent some time looking across to Coquet Island, but the terns were just too far away to reliably identify any Roseate Terns that might have been there, though Puffins were visible. Then on to Druridge CP where we cut through the car park to East Chevington pool. To everyone’s relief, the Black Tern was still on the pool flying up and down so we spent ages enjoying it. Most of us then moved on to Druridge Pools, where a Grasshopper warbler obligingly showed itself to all those who had not seen one on Friday. Other highlights included Yellow Wagtail, Whooper Swan, White-fronted Goose (probably injured as it had a dodgy looking wing) and some Ruff. Sadly the Hooded Crow seen in fields nearby earlier in the day did not reappear for us. A small group that went to the ‘usual’ parking place at East Chevington before heading to Druridge Pools picked up a pair of Garganey and a Marsh Harrier there. The last stop was Cresswell Ponds where we had a Bar-tailed Godwit in full breeding plumage, several Avocets and Little Egret.

It was a highly enjoyable trip despite the cold weather on the first couple of days and we pooled a grand total of 135 species – about the maximum we could have hoped for short of a major fall of rarities!

Thank you very much to Peter Watson for arranging it all and leading the trip.

Jane Chapman

(Apologies for the late write up for those of you wondering where it had got to!)

Posted in Trip Reports

Spurn Trip May 7th

Yesterday, 7th May, we had a great start at Sammy’s Point with a selection of migrants including Ring Ouzel, Pied Flycatcher, Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat, Lesser Whitethroat and some late Fieldfares and Redwing as well. A number of Whimbrel were on the estuary mud and in the horse paddocks too. Later in the morning we walked the Triangle at Kilnsea, hoping for a sight of the Wryneck that had been reported. There was no luck with that, unfortunately, though several more Whimbrel, Whinchat and Wheatears were seen. In the trees by Canal Scrape there was a striking male Redstart and here a Lesser Whitethroat was seen rather than just heard.

After a bite to eat and relocating to Kilnsea Wetlands, we added Common Scoter and Little Tern. Then to the Warren for some high tide waders including some sparkling Grey Plover, Dunlin in breeding plumage and red Bar-tailed Godwits and Knot. Despite the biting wind, the thirteen of us finished at Spurn with a decent list of migrants and over 60 species in total.

Four of us met up at North Cave Wetlands on the return home for a further hour and a half and enjoyed the hirundines and Swifts which were feeding up and down the road, missing our heads by inches.

Rob Chapman

Posted in Trip Reports

Heslington Tillmire

Eight of us took part in the walk on the Tillmire yesterday [26th April] evening; a bit cold, but lovely light.

After the prolonged period without much rain, the Tillmire is very dry for the time of the year, and wader numbers are well down.

The best birds were:
Barn owl: one hunting and showing well
Lapwing: About 7 birds on the Tillmire itself, and about another 7-8 on spring cereal fields just to the east
Curlew: a displaying pair
Redshank: just one solitary bird
Little egret: 1 further along the same dyke as the Redshank
Snipe: 3
Shoveler: a male on the central pond – the first I have ever seen here
Meadow pipit: at least 12
Skylark: 3 singing males
Yellowhammer: 2 males
Wheatear: 1m, 1f on spring cereal fields just to east
And remarkably one field just to east with no less than 11 hares in it.

For those who were with us I took £16 round to Jan’s this morning for use of the church car park.


Posted in Trip Reports

Teesdale and Grouse

The changed plan to meet at Langdon Beck at 7 a.m. rather than setting off from York at that time for the club’s trip to Teesdale yesterday (9th April) proved a success. The Black Grouse lek was underway with 18 males displaying and later peaking at 21 when five grey hens showed some interest. In good light and fair weather, they put on a superb show for almost two hours, though they were fairly distant. The black cocks squared up to each other, jumped about, show their lyre-shaped tails and white undertails and we could hear their bubbling calling. If we had met at the original time we would have missed most of this.

And, it wasn’t just the grouse that we displaying, Snipe, Curlew, Lapwing and Redshank gave us a treat too as well as singing Skylarks and parachuting Meadow Pipits. While the four members who had stayed at the pub overnight tucked into their late breakfast, the other 11 walked down the hill, picking up signs of spring with Chiffchaff and Willow Warblers singing while a couple of flocks of Fieldfare reminded us some of our winter visitors are still with us. Along the beck we had good views of Grey Wagtail and Dipper, with Sand Martins overhead. More surprisingly, there was a House Martin around the pub and later we had, for many, the first Swallow of the year. On the botanical front, the landlady of the pub had given directions to some early flowering Spring Gentians, the vibrant blue flowers of five plants stood out on a grassy bank. Walking back up the hill, three people were lucky to see a Woodcock fly into the wood.

We then headed up to the quarry on the road to Weardale, Wheatear and a female Ring Ouzel were picked up but it was windy and overrun with motorcycles so we drove round to Bollihope Burn, a new site for many of us. Here were more Ring Ouzels and Wheatears. Then we returned to Teesdale to finish off with some woodland birds, more Dippers and another Swallow at Bowlees. It was a great day out with almost 60 species.

Rob Chapman

Posted in Trip Reports

Teesdale Trip 9th April – change of time

In order to try to see the Black Grouse lekking, the trip to Teesdale on 9th April has been changed to a meeting time of 7.00 am at the destination, Langdon Beck, near to the cattle grid on the minor road to the north of the houses; grid reference NY850321.

If this start is too early for you and you want to arrive later or to arrange transport, please contact Rob Chapman beforehand using or at the indoor meeting on 4th April.

Posted in Club News

Staveley YWT 12th March

Fifteen of us (including a visiting birder from Canada) enjoyed a glorious sunny spring day at Staveley YWT reserve SW of Boroughbridge on Sunday morning, followed by a visit to Nosterfield Quarry N of Ripon in the afternoon.

We clocked up 78 species (though as usual not everybody saw everything). Some of the highlights included:


First singing Chiffchaffs
A small marsh with up to 30 Snipe
Reed buntings everywhere
Tree sparrows ditto
Flock of (elusive) Siskins
Marsh tit
A single Brambling
Displaying Goldeneye
2 Buzzards and a Red kite soaring together in beautiful light
A good selection of dabbling ducks (Mallard, Teal, Gadwall, Wigeon, Shoveler, Shelduck)
Fieldfares and a single Redwing
Water rail (heard, not seen)


Avocet 4
(European) White-fronted geese – 2
Little owl – 2
Dunlin – 2
Great drifts of Lapwings
A mystery flock of about 100 ‘small brown birds’ too distant to ID with certainty, but could have been Linnets
Barn Owl
Tawny Owl
Stock Dove
And the Starling murmuration was very good and worth the wait (per PEWW)

Altogether a great day out
John L

Posted in Trip Reports

Tophill Low – February 12th

Owing to the poor weather forecast, only eight members headed to Tophill Low, with its hides, rather than being caught in cold, wet and windy conditions on the east coast. A selection of duck were seen and the highlights were two redhead Smew. Around 50 species were seen, a low total by normal standards, and we did see a few woodland species including Treecreeper and Goldcrest.


Posted in Trip Reports

The Second York Gull Watch

Rufforth Gull Trip © Jono Leadley Feb 2017

About 25 intrepid souls joined Chris Gomersall and Jono Leadley to have a look at the Rufforth Tip gulls for the second annual York Gull Watch. It was a mild morning and following a welcome from the Club Chairman, Peter Watson, the group split into two, with Chris taking half the gang down to the field opposite the tip and Jono staying with the others at the layby.

Glaucous Gull, Rufforth © Jono Leadley Feb 2017


A small flock of gulls were loafing in the field across the road and gave the group a good chance to look through the various ages of Herring, Great Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls. A little later Jono picked up a first winter Glaucous Gull over the tip and several of the group managed to see it in their scopes. Meanwhile, Chris had found a second Glaucous Gull in the other field and the group enjoyed good views of this and some argentatus Herring Gulls. Jono led the others to meet Chris and after a while we added a second winter Lesser Black-backed Gull to the list. A first winter Glaucous Gull dropped in and the whole group got scope views. This may have been the bird Jono had over the tip as it was a paler bird than the one that was sitting in the field earlier.

Rufforth Gull Trip © Jono Leadley Feb 2017

Towards midday, birders began to drift off and a flock of  Fieldfares went over north. An enjoyable morning despite relatively few gulls to look through. Many birders headed south to Acaster Airfield where a Great Grey Shrike has been showing well for the last couple of days.


Posted in Sightings, Trip Reports

Pine Bunting at Dunnington – Updated

During last week, Terry Weston found a large flock of Yellowhammers at Intake Lane, Dunnington. On Friday, Chris Gomersall took a look, intrigued by the possibility of something interesting with them. He was rewarded by a brief glimpse of a male Pine Bunting at 12.20 though it was not seen subsequently. Yesterday, Saturday 21st Jan, he and other birders had further sightings through the day and there were some video clips posted on social media.

See Jono’s blog for an account

This is a real rarity; there are only 53 accepted records for the UK currently. Let’s hope that it sticks around for more birders to enjoy this excellent find. Keep an eye on the Twitter feed on the home page of this site for news.

Update 29/01/17 – The bird is still present, though elusive. Please do not park on Intake Lane or on the grass verges. The owner of the horse paddock who has very kindly allowed access for viewing will withdraw permission if birders do not heed the warning.

Posted in Sightings

Michael Clegg Memorial Birdrace. Sunday 8th January 2017

A total of 18 teams took part this year covering their selected areas around Yorkshire. The recipients of this years sponsor money will be ‘The English Twite Recovery Project’ and will go towards helping Twite in Yorkshire.

Many congratulations to all the York members who took part – we had a record 5 teams in the York area. After some near misses the York Upstarts broke the 100 barrier in some style – an excellent achievement. Chris Gomersall mentioned that they didn’t get great crested grebe, crossbill, red kite or curlew. Paul Doherty’s group had a Red Kite so there were at least 106 species in the Club area. Can any of the other groups add great crested grebe, crossbill or curlew?

York Upstarts
Well what a fantastic day today has been. Jack, Tim, Adam and Chris competed in the annual birdrace and after a check of species it transpires that we amassed a total of 105 species! There were many highlights and flukes, long eared owl on Strensall common, 10+ tawnys throughout the day, the first flock of gulls we looked at contained 2x Glaucous, Iceland, Caspian, Greater and Lesser black backed and Herring gulls, all in 10 mins, waxwings, whitefronts and bean geese, 15 species in an hour at hes east. All very hectic and fun!

The fog made it particularly difficult at times. All said, the YOC area is a pretty good one to live and bird in.

Nevermind the Woodcocks
Evening all, NTW (Richard Baines, Emanuela, Paul Brook and Jono Leadley) scored 95 in the York area.
Best birds- Waxwings, Scaup, Jack Snipe, Tundra Bean and White-fronted Geese, Bramblings, Chiffchaff.

York Chairmans Pick
Our team of Duncan Bye, Peter Watson, Jane Chapman and Rob Chapman had a total of 82 species (if you exclude a Black Swan and rogue Barnacle Goose). Highlights were Glaucous Gull and Tundra Bean Goose. We started at Redhouse Wood and ended at Wheldrake Ings, via Hessay, Poppleton, Rawcliffe, briefly at Strensall, a fog bound Castle Howard, Thornton and East Cottingwith.

York Bird Club
Our team (Paul Doherty, Neal Hildreth, Jim Reid, Alan Swain, Noel Wilkinson) covered SE53 (the 10km square in the extreme southwest of the club area) and saw 71 species. A pretty reasonable total given that there was no flooding along the Lower Wharfe, so several species we might have seen were absent. We started at Milford Common, went on to Bishop Wood, along the Lower Wharfe to Kirkby Wharfe, then back to Milford Common.

The best bird was the last one, a Little Egret which came in to roost at Milford Common. Another highlight was the male Peregrine hunting over Milford Common in the morning. We had permission from the shoot to go off the public footpath at Milford Common and recorded an impressive 11 Jack Snipe and at least 20 Common Snipe. Other species seen during the day included Red Kite, Water Rail, Green Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll and Corn Bunting.

Species we missed included Tawny Owl (first time ever), various wildfowl, Golden Plover, Kingfisher, Sky Lark and Tree Sparrow.

Our team (Keith and Liz Reynolds, Helen Searstone and Sue Ball) confirmed 67 York Area sightings to Paul, for our first and very enjoyable participation in the Bird Race.

We started at dawn at Allerthorpe, then down via Thornton (taking in Field Lane for TB Geese etc) and Melbourne and discovering interesting little pockets of habitat in that area before making our way round to Bank Island. We decided to go the Castle Howard for last stop rather than Andy Booth Hide. The earlier mist had cleared and the clouds peeled back as the sun was going down. So much activity on the water with 100s of gulls, BHG, Common, Herring and the odd GBB, like a churning white mass highlighting the waterfowl in the fading light, inc Goosander, Mandarin and Goldeneye. It was an amazing sight and very atmospheric as some mist started to hang low over the far side of the lake. Going back past the end of the lake in the moonlight we could hear the calls of 100’s of geese which had lifted from the fields, they appeared out of the dark and passed right over us. A spectacular end to a great day out, birding with friends. Can’t beat it!

Our best bird in terms of rarity would have to be Tundra Bean Goose, but we enjoyed seeing so many fieldfare with redwing, some with starlings, others with linnet feeding in the fields. We also had some great views of Bullfinch and Yellowhammer.

Posted in Club News, Sightings, Trip Reports

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