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The 2019 Michael Clegg Memorial Birdrace took place across Yorkshire last Sunday, 6th January. Four teams from the York area took part. Here are summaries that were posted on Yorkbirding email and Twitter. Well done to the York Upstarts (Tim, Jack and Adam) who again broke the 100 barrier and topped the league.

York Upstarts
From Tim: “Our second best total 101, highlights Arctic Redpoll, Red-necked Grebe, Great White Egret, stunning Male Merlin, Otter on York Uni campus! And a Siberian Chiffchaff at Hes East!”

Never Mind the Woodcocks
From Emanuela: “Sadly without their captain Jono this year — included Richard, Paul B, Paul W and myself. We scored 90.
We started before dawn with three owl species near Thornton — little, tawny and barn owl. We then headed to Allerthorpe Common where the highlights were crossbill, willow tit and marsh tit. We then toured the LDV, where the highlights were black-tailed godwit, white-fronted geese and pink-footed geese. Next step was Castle Howard Lake, where we saw the red-necked grebe.

We finished off at Wheldrake Ings with a nice woodcock. We missed a few species we had seen on previous years such as stonechat, brambling, green woodpecker, jay and nuthatch.

See Paul’s blog for an account: https://dippyman.wordpress.com/2019/01/09/the-wacky-bird-race-3-revenge-of-the-nuthatch/

York Chairman’s Pick
From Duncan: “The Ex-Chairman’s Pick team for the bird race comprised Peter, Neil as well as myself & later in the morning we were joined by Rob & Jane.

We started at Allerthorpe Common about 6.30, then on to Field Lane, Thornton and Church Bridge and then East Cottingwith, Ellerton, North Duffield Carrs, Escrick, Heslington West & East & finally Bank Island.

Our total was 89 which was the same as last year though we still missed some that we might have hoped for like Meadow Pipit, Stock Dove & Sparrowhawk!

Highlights were the Willow Tit at Allerthorpe and East Cottingwith, Black-tailed Godwit at East Cottingwith, Peregrine & Stonechat at North Duffield Carrs & watching 2 Barn Owls hunting last thing at Bank Island where the White-fronted & Pink-footed Geese were present.

York Bird Club SE53

From Paul D: “Our team (myself, Alan and Jonathan) concentrated on the SE53 10 km square in the southwest of the club area. We scored a modest 71, well down from last year’s bumper 83 and largely explained by the lack of flooding which meant that nine species of wildfowl we saw last year weren’t around today.

Our best birds were Jack Snipe, some stunning Red Kites and several Brambling (usually hard work around here).

Unexpected misses were Common Gull and Greenfinch. The former may seem surprising but last year we didn’t see one until well into the afternoon, so we tried from the outset today, but still didn’t see any.


There is a change of speaker for the January meeting. The talk will be by Richard Baines on “Birds and wildlife of Northern Thailand”.

Date, time and venue remain the same. 8th January 2019 at 7.30pm, St Olave’s Chruch Hall.

11 members and a guest went for the day to St Aidan’s RSPB reserve. It was a sunny day for a change with 74 species seen or heard. Highlights were Red Kite, Peregrine, Great White Egret, Cetti’s Warbler (heard by two early starters at Lin Dike on the way), Stonechat, Dunlin, Redshank ,Shelduck and Barnacle Goose. There were good numbers of Gadwall and Great Crested Grebe. We finished at Lin Dike, Fairburn Ings with a murmuration display by several thousand Starlings. Thanks to Peter for leading the trip.

Last night, 4th December, was the annual photographic competition. Twenty people entered photographs in three categories. Once we managed to gain entry to the hall, a decent turnout had an enjoyable evening. There will be a gallery of winners in due course but here are the results:

York area

  1. Barn Owl – Trevor Walton
  2. Goldfinch – Terry Weston
  3. Hawfinch – Antony Ward


  1. Reddish Egret – Terry Weston
  2. Blue & Yellow Macaw – Phil Moss
  3. Black-throated Robin – Tom Lawson


  1. Short-eared Owl – Antony Ward
  2. Common Tern – Trevor Walton
  3. Puffin – Terry Weston

Congratulations to all the winners and everyone who entered. Thanks to Tom Lawson for organising and running the evening also to Paul Doherty and Jean Smith for judging the entries to get the shortlist for the popular vote.

Fourteen of us met up at Kilnsea Wetlands on Sunday 8th for one of our annual autumn jaunts to Spurn. It was lovely to have Jenny back with us again, now that she has recovered from her broken hip. The winds weren’t looking too promising (where are the easterlies this year?) and the tides times weren’t overly great either, but it turned out to be a much, much, better day than expected; with around 74 species seen and that doesn’t include the Marsh Harrier spotted on the way there!

With practically no birds on Kilnsea Wetlands as the tide was out, we stopped long enough to pick up a couple of Curlew on the fields opposite the car park and enjoy seeing a large skein of Pink-footed Geese flying over, then headed promptly to the Bluebell car park with the intention of walking the Triangle from there. Stonechats, Skylarks and Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers were all showing well south of South Field and there was obviously a good passage of Meadow Pipits going through. The first Redwings of the autumn for most of us passed over too. We were intending to stop to look for the Jack Snipe at Canal Scrape when we were told of a Barred Warbler by the Warren so we all hot-footed it to there instead. With a bit of perseverance most of us picked up the bird which was being rather elusive and exhibiting skulking/‘crashing through bushes’ behaviour before giving a brief but good flight view, while a male Blackcap did its best to fool everyone into thinking it was the Barred Warbler. There were also three or four Brambling by the Heligoland trap. News of a Rosy Starling, relocated and showing well from the bank along the Canal Zone caused us to continue our detour as we headed along the bank to try to catch up with it. With patience, great views were obtained – it was feeding in buckthorn, with a few Starlings, before flying about with a Starling flock that grew to 50+. In excellent light and calm conditions the pale colouration stood out from the rest of the flock and when perched, the yellow on the bill was evident. The flock was pretty mobile flying between wires and bushes – the Rosy Starling even spending some time on the Solar panels on Southfield farm (rather distant from our viewpoint on the bank). We finally made our way back to Canal Scrape Hide to see the Jack Snipe – picking up a mobile but showy Yellow-browed Warbler on the way (another treat for the day, though given the number of them that were about, it was surprising that that was the only one we managed to catch up with). The Jack Snipe proved to be hard work – even looking through a ‘scope trained on it, it was incredibly well camouflaged. Fortunately, it did bob up and down at times which clinched the bird for many who had been looking in the wrong patch of reeds! We then returned to Canal bank and continued with the Triangle. A few Golden Plover were showing well on the mud in the sunlight, and we also picked up Redshank, Ringed Plover and a couple of Knot (one in summer plumage still). A few Fieldfares flew over and most of us saw Wheatear and Chiffchaff too. There were also one or two Swallows and House Martins seen. Stopping off at Church field, we were given a guided tour of the new viewing platform behind the observatory – great views from the top, but not many birds about, though a GWE was supposed to have come down in Kilnsea Wetlands somewhere.

Back at the Bluebell car park for lunch, a bit of sea-watching gave Noel and Neil a Short-eared Owl fly past (the only two lucky enough to see this); then we all picked up a flock of Common Scoter, a few Gannets and a Red-throated Diver.
Heading to Sammy’s Point, we dipped on Ring Ouzel (present there earlier in the day) but had good views of a Bar-tailed Godwit on the mud and more Wheatears. As it had turned quiet we headed off to Easington Cemetery to see if anymore YBW were about – we didn’t find any, but did pick up a Pied Flycatcher, which was much appreciated, and some more Brambling.
Knowing that high tide was only an hour off we then headed back to Kilnsea Wetlands for birds coming in to feed and roost up. We were also rewarded with seven Brent Geese flying over. The wetlands were far more productive this time – Spotted Redshank, White Wagtail, Shoveler, Pintail and Med Gull all being added to the list. We then walked up to overlook Beacon Ponds and hope a few owls might be about near the listening dish. We had a flock of eight Greenshank, good numbers of Grey Plover, several Little Egrets and, satisfyingly, the Great White Egret too on the shores of the ponds. Heading back to the cars in fading light, and a fitting end to the day, most of the group got all too short views of a Short-eared Owl as it flew over the wetlands bank and dived into the long grass, not to be seen by any of us again.

An unpromising weather forecast for seeing much, but we came away having had a really satisfying day’s birding – even if many of the birds weren’t ones we might have expected to see at the time of year.

The full list of species seen (not necessarily in this exact order) was:
Teal, Wigeon, Meadow Pipit, Shelduck, Goldfinch, Little Egret, Curlew, Kestrel, Pink-footed Goose, Starling, Lapwing, Little Grebe, House Sparrow, Grey Heron, Greenfinch, Skylark, Stonechat, Wren, Reed Bunting, Robin, Dunnock, Yellowhammer, Pheasant, Redwing, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Swallow, House Martin, Brambling, Blue Tit, Blackcap, Barred Warbler, Rosy Starling, Great Tit, Yellow-browed Warbler, Jack Snipe, Snipe, Wheatear, Chiffchaff, Redshank, Golden Plover, Ringed Plover, Knot, Fieldfare, Chaffinch, Common Scoter, Red-throated Diver, Gannet, Short-eared Owl, Mallard, Herring Gull, Great black backed Gull, Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Pied Flycatcher, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Linnet, Cormorant, Spotted Redshank, Common Gull, Collared Dove, Brent Goose, White Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Shoveler, Pintail, Med Gull, Greenshank, Grey Plover, Great White Egret, Mute Swan, Black-headed Gull.

Jane Chapman

We had a great birding trip yesterday to Frampton Marsh, Lincs, followed by Fairburn Ings, West Yorkshire. We had a great day with Long-billed Dowitcher, Cattle Egret, Spoonbills, Merlin, Little Stint, Marsh Harrier among the highlights.

A full account can be read here:


Cheers Jono

Richard Baines has had to cancel his talk next Tuesday but he has lined Steve Race up to replace him. The talk will have a similar theme.

Possibly a first for the Club, an evening where the number of species seen and heard only just beat the number of us on the walk! Another fantastic turnout with nineteen of us assembling at 6.30pm at Galtres Car Park on a mild evening. Peter Reed took us on a circuit out around the Common (away from the firing ranges – which we have done previously), so for many of us it was an introduction to parts of the Common we hadn’t been to before or only know hazily. Sadly, many of the goodies we were hoping to see did not materialise, nevertheless it was a very enjoyable walk – apart from being eyed up and stalked by the Bull and his harem of Cows as we took a detour to look at Kidney Pond (botanically a very special site, holding some rare species). The highlights were Green and Great-Spotted Woodpecker, a small party of 7 Tree Pipits actively flying between trees and perching up, a pair of active Stonechats and late on, a brief glimpse of a Barn Owl. The Rook roost held over 120 individuals and a few hirundines were also about.

The total list, a miserly 20, was: Woodpigeon, Tawny owl ( H briefly), Herring Gull, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Carrion Crow, House Martin, Swallow, Rook, Blue Tit, Kestrel, Pied Wagtail (2), Linnet (6 ), Stonechat (pair), Tree Pipit (7), Robin ( H), Wren ( H), Goldcrest ( H), Treecreeper ( H), Barn Owl.

Many thanks to Peter for showing us a different part of the Common (and for pointing out where we might hope to see/find other specialties of the Common if we tip up on the right day in the right conditions!).

Jane Chapman

As a departure from the usual June talk we held a summer social and BBQ at Bank Island on the evening of 5th June. The weather was very kind to us as can be seen by the clear skies in the photos. Almost 40 members attended the event and the consensus was that it was a success.

BBQ walk on the Ings © Jono Leadley June 18

Elephant Hawkmoth © Jono Leadley June 18


Many thanks to Craig Ralston for the use of the facilities at Bank Island, for some inspired BBQ set up and for showing us some ringing and moth trapping. The Elephant Hawkmoths were superb.

Thanks to Jono and Duncan for leading the bird walks and Jono for the accompanying photos.


Veggie BBQ ©JL 18

BBQ burgers ©JL 18

On the catering side, special thanks to Jane for her hard work arranging the event, sourcing, preparing and cooking the food, to John for his expert BBQ skills, Julia and Peter for further help with the food and drink and not to forget Sue and Robin for sorting out the vegetarian side of the menu.

Shall we do it again next year?

Please email with any views.

On Sunday 10th June, we had the monthly club trip which was to the south east extremities of the recording area. Twelve of us, including two young visiting birders from France, met up at the North Duffield Carrs car park. Though just outside the SE73 10-km square, we spent some time in the two hides where highlights were one of the summering Whooper Swans, a Redshank or two, at least two Little Egrets and great views of Sedge Warbler and Reed Buntings. A couple of us thought they might have had a snatch of Corncrake too.

Stopping at Bubwith Bridge to listen for further signs, without success, we did have some more Curlews. We parked at Highfield and walked along the Rail Trail to Dingle Dell. We heard and saw a selection of warblers: Blackcap, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and a Willow Warbler that was mixed-singing. Also calling was a Cuckoo and we saw Buzzard and, pleasingly given recent correspondence, decent numbers of feeding hirundines and Swifts. Indeed Sand Martins were apparently nesting in the old railway bridge over the River Derwent and nesting Treecreepers were notable in the wood.

After lunch, we walked a loop around the Foggathorpe area where we had Swallows and House Martins plus a couple of Egyptian Geese. The day had started hazy and overcast but by now the sun had burned through and the afternoon was sunny and warm though bird activity dropped off. Most of us finished off by visiting Eastrington Ponds NR where the avian highlights were Great Crested Grebe and a showy Reed Warbler, other items of interest were Four-spotted Chasers, Black-tailed Skimmers and a superb display of orchids.

We recorded around 60 species of birds during the day and one or two in the group were lucky to see Weasel and Stoat, most saw Roe Deer as well.

Rob Chapman