Friday 17 June 2016

Leaving Spurn for York and a Birthday Rest

15th to 17th June   light to fresh N-NW    mostly cloudy and cool

15th June

“There be quail, Captain.” A text from Tim Jones tells me that there are quail around the North Duffield area. I am on my way around lunchtime though leaving the comfort of the new Spurn Bird Observatory is tough. Thanks Spurn, delivered as always. Bee-eater and golden oriole added to the list.

Through Hull and along the lanes, I head for North Cave Wetlands reserve, a superb Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve with gravel pits and black-headed gull covered islands.
At one spot the cycle path is blocked by a mass of fly tipped bin liners and assorted rubbish.
A stop in North cave is for the best fish and chips that I have had this year. Give my compliments to the chef!
I arrive at the reserve and watch gulls and duck from the first hide.

Leaving a hide I meet a scout troop that have been doing some work. Their leader and a local birder, Barry tell me that there is a probable lesser scaup on the other side of the reserve. I head that way after looking at Mediterranean gulls amongst the many black-headeds. Interesting to see how mature the black-headed gull chicks are here. There are lots and some have fledged already.

Once around the north side I meet two Garys. There won't be many times when such an occurrence will occur again. The news tells that the name will be extinct in the future as no one is naming their child such a magnificent name.
So with North cave's highest lister, Gary; Yorkshire highest 2016 year lister, Garry and me, Britain's highest Green lister, we look for the lesser scaup. Unfortunately it has flown and Gary, the local is not sure of its full credentials anyway. Seems there is too much white on the upper wing and it may be a little too large. He has told me that there is a nearby spot that has had quail in the past and so, as the other two go in search of the maybe rare American duck, I head for a nearby ridge and camp there for the night hoping to hear the resonant 'wet-my-lips' call. I don't.


16th June

There's a metal bench conveniently placed at this remote spot and after packing away the tent, I lie on it hoping once more that any quail will call. Once more they don't but I do hear skylarks, corn buntings, yellowhammers and yellow wagtails whilst lying with eyes closed.
I fall asleep.
There is another possible quail site not too far away as one was reportedly heard there the previous evening. I therefore head for North Cliff wood.
It all looks a bit like a needle in a haystack as there are a lot of possible fields with high crops that could conceal a quail or two. I start to stop and give each field a few minutes before moving onto the next.
At one particularly large barley field I think I have heard one call and so stop and push the bike the length of the field. No joy.
Now I am still in an area ten miles or so before the one mentioned by Tim Jones and so I decide to head that way.


Half a mile or so later I think I have heard a quail. I stop beside a large barley field at a junction with a road that heads down to Carr Farm.
Wet-my-lips! Quail utb. It calls four times and like so many times when I have listened to them in the past, that's it.
I text the oracle with the news and location details for Rare Bird Alert. Bird number 255.

I set off for Wheldrake Ings, yet another Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve near to York. I had visited here the day after the RSPB Member's Weekend back at the beginning of April. Then there were large areas of flooded fields and the river was in spate. Now it was lush, the meadows dry and green and the trees and bushes leaf laden. Banded demoiselles and blue-tailed damselflies fluttered along the pathway and the occasional willow and sedge warbler sang. A peaceful afternoon and evening.


17th June to York

Into York, I find a cycle shop and hear that the bike will probably be in need of too much of a repair and a replacement will have to be found. That crash back in November last year has left its legacy and the frame is ruined at the front. I had half expected this news and leave the bike for Andy, the shop owner to do his best.

I wander through the streets of York, buy a ticket for the train back to Worcestershire and head to the library.

I am meeting my daughter, Rebecca this evening for the journey back to my parents’ house and so have a few hours to fill.

Horrific news about the Labour MP being killed. The hatred displayed by too many during this EU campaign fills me with despair.


3 day mileage  . .  82.45

Year's mileage … 4,203

Wednesday 15 June 2016

Gordon Barnes and Spurn with Monthly Target Figures.

Gordon Barnes

It is now well over the ten year anniversary of the death of my very close best friend, Gordon Barnes. The privilege of saying 'friend' will stay with me always.

Sitting here in the Spurn Bird Observatory, having just come across the Fair Isle Bird report for 2006, there is an appreciation of the wonderful man by the respected Nick Riddiford.

Gordon was a wonderful man. A phenomenal birder of amazing knowledge as well as a superb botanist. The stories from his life on Fair Isle are legendary.

There is an autobiography available and if you would like a copy then please email the Fair Isle Bird Observatory for a copy or message/email me. It is well worth the read and at £5 plus postage cheap as chips.

Tonight I am sitting with a brilliant young birder, Dan Branch; a very enthusiastic twenty-one year old and in him I can see reflections of Gordon back when he was that age. I have only faded black and white images of Gordon from then At twenty six Gordon became the assistant warden on Fair Isle. Then a crofter he became with Setter as his home until he, his wife Perry and the two boys John and Alan left to start a new life with a sheep farm in Wales.

I can see Dan having a similar career in birding. He and other 'Next Generation Birders, young RSPB wardens, volunteers and keen unaffiliated youngsters like Jack Bradbury and Mya.Rose Craig, are one of the biggest thrills from a Biking Birding experience.

Dan and I have just come back in from an attempt to see whether two caspian terns, that we've been told left Gibralter Point, Lincolnshire at 19:15 heading north, would come past Spurn. They didn't but we did meet the man top of the BOU Year list on BUBO listing webpage, Gareth Hughes. Top 'Carbon Twitcher' meets The Biking Birder. I'm fourth by the way. Top man, Gareth has seen 295 birds having added the Spurn golden oriole to his year list yesterday. 

We met last year when he was seawatching from atop a sand dune in Northumberland. Smashing to talk to, Gareth's enthusiasm for birding and year listing is inspiring.

Now for Spurn Bird Observatory. For the last three nights I have stayed here, spending two nights almost alone in the old Bird Observatory building with its artefacts and original furniture, history and ambience. Last night was spent in the new Bird Obs; a plush modern affair with spacious kitchen, plush lounge with good bird book library and beds, two of which are a little more expensive with linen and all others without so a sleeping bag is required. Wifi is available here hence the updates.

The birding has been generally low key, well it is June and yet I have seen two of the best birds of the year; bee-eater and golden oriole. So with the list now on 254 I head towards a birthday, and it's a big one, rest and the EU referendum.

Thinking about monthly targets, and thinking that I need exactly fifty birds to equal Ponc Feliu's European record of 304, they are as follows:-

June - 5 birds. (already had)
July - 10 birds (Scotland including Mull, Coll & Abernethy/Cairngorms)
August – 10 birds (North Ronaldsay)
September – 15 birds (Fair Isle)
October - 10 birds (South Shetland & Fair Isle)
November and December - 5 birds (Down the East coast and then 'where's the bird.')

Fifty to go. I can almost taste the record. It's the final countdown.

Tuesday 14 June 2016

Just Occasionally My Confidence Drains

A mystery bird . . Hottoft Pit- Bank Lincolnshire WT nature resevre, June 6th 2016

A morning of glorious sunshine had me retracing my cycling steps along a fabulous cycle path and evntually through Horncastle and on to Hottoft. A
marsh warbler had been reported there and I had decided to try for this great to get bird instead of carrying on to Old Moor RSPB reserve for the little bittern. I was confident that the LB would still be there in a day or so.
Arriving at the reedbed reserve,I found that I was alone and that other than the occasional burst of sedge warbler song, there was silence. That is there were no mimicking calls or songs from the rare acro.
A nice spotted flycatcher was fly catching and for an hour or so the sedge and flycatcher were the only birds of note. A cuckoo cuckooed.

Then low down in the bushes that ran along the southern edge of the path I saw a small acrocephalus warbler. It looked good. From what I initially saw I thought 'marsh.' I photographed it and videoed it. The latter I completely forgot I had taken until today when I was searching on my external hard-drive for more photographs.

The bird disappeared into the undergrowth and a couple of local birders had brief views and thought the same as me, marsh.
They left happy with their identification, leaving me alone with my thoughts.
Now many years ago when in my early twenties I had had a personally embarrassing experience over such an easy to identify yet mega rare back then, Pallas' warbler.
I had found one in Well's wood, the dell, and had run like a headless chicken to find my mates. I bumped into a group of far more experienced than me at that time birders and blurted out a description of stripes and wing bars. I forgot to say the yellow rump! I remember even now blushing at their laughter which was probably well meant but that embarrassed me at the time.
Sitting in the hide in the evening with images on the viewfinder of my camera, I started to be unsure of my id.of the warbler.
Phil Andrews, The Oracle had received my initial text:
18:23 – wish I could get these photographs to you! This looks good . . . . short bill, no warm brown to the rump . . .
And in return Phil texted:
Ready to declare 251 marsh warbler?
I wasn't. I just wasn't sure anymore.
20:50 Sorry mate. I don't think it is.feet look too dark. Not singing.
I camped nearby and was up early hoping that the marsh warbler would be still there going through a repertoire of mimicking song and calls. It wasn't and I cycled away towards Old Moor and really put it to the back of my mind. That is until I put a photograph on here a few days ago and alarm bells rang.
So have a look at the photographs and the video and see what you think. Personally I will put it down as the one I messed up this year, hope there aren't too many cock ups and I won't be adding it to my list.
I am though very interested in the lessons learnt from this bird. Even looking at the photographs and video this morning has left me confused as there are pointers that go both ways; reed and marsh.

Now away from all this acro debate, I have been at the superb Spurn Bird Observatory for the last three days and have been so lucky to have bee-eater and golden oriole to add to the list. Two easy to identify birds, bold and colourful each. So the year list is now on 254 and with honey buzzards just up the road, OK fifty miles up the road and roseate terns and a possible Bonaparte's gull both in Northumberland, things look good to beat the year tick target for June of five birds. Well, six due to missing my May target of twenty five birds by one.

More on monthly target projections next time. All the best everyone.   

BB 2010 Oops, crash and a motorway Abominable Snowman in Hemel Hempstead January 5th

5 th January                                                            Tragedy                                              The Bee Gees   ...