Thursday, 24 April 2014

Open Wide

I set off half an hour later today for the second and final of 2 Nightingale visits; because setting off at 7am is trickier when a 14 year-old is coming along.  We set off in fairly nice weather, but as we crawled through Lincolnshire on their slow roads we passed through some thick mist.  Luckily, it wasn't quite so bad at our destination, but it was still overcast.  In the early morning recce the comparative quiet along the Nightingales compared with yesterday was immediately obvious.  In fact Ben & I failed to get a decent glimpse of any individuals, and the song was rather sparse.

Nightingale - At one time this looked like this would be the best view we'd have all morning
Aileen's Best Nightingale from Yesterday (c) 2014 Aileen Urquhart
The actual class started much quieter too, with fewer birds singing, and we had to walk quite a long way before hearing a decent bird.  This was sat in the far side of a hawthorn bush overlooking the railway line.  However, it was very hard to see until it flew over the track and set up somewhere opposite to us.  Ben managed to spot it & tried to point it out to everyone, but it was very low down, and only a handful of participants were able to see over the hedge in front of us to pick it up.  The view we had of it can be seen in the above photo.  the rich brown colour was particularly noticeable amongst the dull vegetation.  John, an "interloper from Friday morning", probably obtained the best view of it, as he went to where the hedge was very low & peered over there at it.
Nightingale - note white eye-ring and pale gape
We heard another few birds, but views weren't any better.  However, we did obtain sightings of a Whitethroat, a Garden Warbler, a Chiffchaff and a Willow Warbler.  We gave up on the Nightingales and did a circuit of Coot Lake.  Here, we had an even better view of a Garden Warbler, and a male Bullfinch.  We arrived back in plenty of time, so went back the way we had originally come.   

We had nearly gone all the way back to the start when we reached an open area in the Oak Woodland.  A few of us watched a Nightingale, which could just be glimpsed singing close to the ground, but which was impossible to photograph through the thick vegetation.  However, the other section of the group were watching what was reported to be a warbler.  When our bird had moved on we followed Angela's advice & joined the rest of the group in the open area.  It wasn't a warbler, but was a very confiding male Nightingale who sang unconcernedly for perhaps 20 minutes in total, while a dozen people gazed at him in admiration.  He changed his position a couple of time, which enabled photographs to be taken of him from almost every angle, apart from the rear.  I think this is probably the best and most prolonged view of a Nightingale we've ever had since the very first class in 2004.
Nightingale - note rufous back plumage 
 Ditto
 A French Delicacy - Nightingale Tongue
 The Opera Diva - performing his aria alfresco
 Brief Moment of Repose
 Looking to the Left
 Looking Down its Throat
 Inbetween
Ditto
 Ditto
 Garden Warbler
 Ditto
 Ditto
 Ditto
 Willow Warbler
Everyone was perfectly satisfied with their morning viewing, but Ben had to pull a bird of prey out of the bag - just as we were leaving the site!  It was a Peregrine soaring almost like a Sparrowhawk, and was a fitting end to a very worthwhile morning.  Same again, next year, any one? 
Peregrine
 Ditto
 Ditto

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

So much Poetical Baggage

Today we drove over 50 miles for our annual pilgrimage to try and hear and actually see the elusive Nightingale. I arrived at 8.18am to have a look round. There were quite a lot of cars blocking the car park already, so it looked as though it was going to busy. However, many of these were dog walkers coming early to take their dogs around the reserve before the car parking charges came into being. 

Nightingale
Sure enough there were 3 big lenses right at the junction where you normally obtain the best views. I carried on a bit further and arrived at another open area, where a Nightingale was singing in full view. Later, when we went round again the 3 at the front got another excellent view of a nightingale even closer to us. Unfortunately, this time my camera refused to focus on the bird, but the one at 8.30 has come out OK, as the photo shows. 
Nightingale
There was another Nightingale a little further up, and another just a few yards further on. Later, there was a bush near a junction which had 3 males singing snatching of song in between scuffles. There may have been a silent 4th bird present, and this may have been the cause of the antagonism. When we walked this way later, there was still one in the area, but now there was a Common Whitethroat and a Blackcap. 
Lesser Whitethroat
We heard at least 2 Garden Warblers on the way round, and on of them perched briefly in a bare tree, so a couple of us managed to glimpse it in our binoculars, before it disappeared over the railway line. We carried on and on the way back we had a good view of a Lesser Whitethroat. Some uplifting birding encounters, and then another 50+ miles drive back home. 

Monday, 7 April 2014

Tepid off the Press

This Otter photo taken at Tophill Low from 18th February, has just made it into today's Hull Daily Mail

The full story may be read here:

4th Free Session: Kiplingcotes

On Friday's final free session we met at Kiplingcotes Station.  It was another grey overcast day, but at least it didnt rain.  We walked in an easterly direction and encountered Yellowhammers, Bullfinches, Linnets, Greenfinches, Buzzards and eventually a Red Kite.
White Morph Common Buzzard
Doug's Bald Blackbird
Bald Blackbird
 Chiffchaff
 Chiffchaff
 Wren
 Wren
 Yellowhammer
 Yellowhammer
 White Morph Common Buzzard
 Ditto
 White Morph Common Buzzard
 Ditto

Saturday, 5 April 2014

3rd Free Session: RSPB Blacktoft Sands

Thursday's free end of term class was to Blacktoft Sands.  I was lucky enough to see a Bittern from the visitor centre before the class arrived.  However, the Marsh harriers put on a good display for the class participants.  it was possible to see one male collecting reeds from location and transporting one stalk at a time to a proposed nest site.  The Avocets were mainly at Marshland and Ousefleet.  The ducks were sprinkled liberally throughout the reserve.
Male Marsh Harrier
 Male Marsh Harrier
 Male Marsh Harrier
 Avocet (c) 2014 Patrick Ferguson
 Snipe (c) 2014 Patrick Ferguson
 Black-headed Gull (c) 2014 Patrick Ferguson
 Little Grebe
 Linnet
 Linnet
 Twite
 Twite
 Record Shot of Twite in Flight (c) 2014 Patrick Ferguson