Monday, 4 June 2012

A Yorkshire Ride

Having my boy away for five days has given me a bit of spare time to myself (unfortunately not a limitless amount petrol, but we can't win 'em all!). After reading about the Roller in East Yorkshire for a few days I thought it only polite to pay him a visit, and if I'm going that far then I might as well make a day of it and pull the other Yorkshire birds too. So I made a plan of sorts. This included a visit to Bempton Cliffs to top up my seabird yearlist, and probably also Blacktoft, but I'd keep an eye on the birds during the day and see what turned up.

Unfortunately I didn't plan on the weather being quite so wet as it was, the Yorkshire area was supposed to be dry but overcast - so typically it was as wet as the rest of the country! I did have some break in the rain however so it wasn't all wet.

Stop One -
The view over Ten Acre Lake didn't look great in the gloom!
A new reserve for me - Hatfield Moors in South Yorkshire. This is a massive area of peatlands and is home to some unique creatures. A Red-necked Grebe has been visiting on and off for a while so I thought I'd try my luck. I got to the car park to find one of the guys from English Nature coming back to his car after completing some transect work since 5am! Now he looked wet!!

He told me that I was in the wrong car park for Ten Acre Lake, unless I fancied a 50 minute walk in the rain. I moved around to the correct car park and had a wander around the lake. The reserve looks fascinating with low silver birch woodland with these (obviously well-managed) ditches draining the land to create several lakes.
Flooded section of peat
In some areas the cut peat was allowed to flood, and this provides good habitat for Lapwings and other ground nesting birds. There are warning signs about Adders but unsurprisingly given the conditions I didn't bump into any. I also didn't see the Red-necked Grebe, but I did enjoy exploring this very wild reserve.

There are no real footpaths (like most touristy reserves) so you do feel like you are very close to the nature. The only birds I saw were Great Crested and Little Grebes, Tufties, Mute Swan, Coot and Moorhen but I did find this intriguing fungus (any ideas readers?) along one of the paths, and this Twin-spotted Quaker caterpillar was on my hat when I dropped it into the car boot! (Thanks to James O'Neill for the cat id)

Stop 2 -
For some reason the video of the Roller wouldn't upload to this post so I've put it here instead
The star of the day! The main road north out of Aldbrough is, I would imagine, not particularly bird-rich. But in the best sense of birding tradition the ploughed fields here have played host to a rather confiding Roller for the last few days. With all the rain overnight/morning I arrived somewhat skeptical. But I need not have worried. Within a few minutes I'd grabbed these amazing views. The bird was looking a little bit more downcast than on other pictures I'd seen on the net, but it was my 2nd ever Roller - the first being seen from a coach in Kos for a split second - so this bird blew my mind!

Stop 3 -
was Bempton Cliffs. The universally accepted best seabird site in mainland England. The views of the breeding birds here are second to none, and I was pleased to catch up with the three auks, Kittiwake and Gannet. I've not visited Bempton for a few years, and so was very pleased to see that new watchpoints had been installed (together with very knowledgable staff) and that the whole reserve was doing really well. There were certainly lots of people there, not all mad birdwatchers either. And it was great to see so many kids interested in what was there. A grandpa was pointing the birds out to his grad-daughter - "Oh look Grandad I know that one. That's a Gannet cos it has an orange head. I saw it on tv". Never underestimate the power of kids tv!!
The added bonus was that someone spotted a Great Skua feeding on a dead Gannet floating on the sea just below the southern watchpoint. Splendid, but not for the Gannet obviously!
Here's a montage of most of the species seen. I didn't get Puffin but hope you like the photo instead.

Stop - 4
Strictly speaking stop 4 was the the McDonalds in Goole but after checking the birdnews there wasn't anything different reported so my plan from yesterday to visit Blacktoft was borne out. There has been a Marsh Warbler present here for a few days too, and it was reported till about 3pm, even in the rain. I got to Blacktoft at 6.15pm, and only two cars were in the car park. Brilliant! I love having the reserve to myself, it feels so magic. And indeed it turned out to be! The first hide (Xerox) and I picked up a Mediterranean Gull floating round being harrassed by the Black-heads. Unfortunately it didn't stay put very long and dropped out of sight on the river.
A quick chat with two birders in the next hide (Marshland) found out that there wasn't much down at Ousefleed, but some Yellow Wagtails got my attention so I went down anyway. One other quiet birder was intently scanning, and when I asked him if the Med Gull had come this way he said he'd not seen it but had been busy "counting all these waders". I trained the scope on where he was looking and immediately out at least 2 Ringed Plovers, 6 Sanderling, 2 Dunlin, and a Little Ringed Plover. The first two being new for the year. As I watched the group a Whimbrel dropped right into my scope view! Unbelievable, the stuff you read about on other people's blogs not mine!! The Yellow Wags madeit 14 ticks for the day, so I was extremely happy as I retuned along the main path to see the earlier birders listening for the Marsh Warbler. As I stood waiting it made a few attempts at song, an amazing mix of warbles and mimics from other birds. But alas it didn't want to show, and by 9pm the Visitor Manager came along to kindly advise me that he wanted to close the reserve!

All in all a wonderful day - 14 ticks in 13 hours birding! And one new for Britain. That ain't bad!

New birds for the year -
Great Skua
Mediterranean Gull
Ringed Plover
Yellow Wagtail

Bird Yearlist = 157

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