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A birding blog, with sounds and film

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Crossbill to Goshawk and a Mediterrenean show off.

We started the day at 6.30am and drove directly to Wykeham. I know Wykeham very well having run camping rallies for 20 years on Downy Estates land including Wykeham Lakes. We went to the very top of Moor road, this is where many people sit and watch many woodland birds. There are some large stones and you often find seed or apples put out for the birds, people sit in cars and just watch as the day goes by.

We did some watching and at this time of year the birds we most often see look different. Immature birds can even look like different species and can be difficult to identify. Below are some very common birds that just look a little different because of their age. Some all new with new coats and some old hands bedraggled as the ravages of winter takes its toll.

A few days before we heard on Birdguids that
Crossbills had been seen in large numbers. We looked and listened for these often quite showy birds, but nothing near where we were. We started walking east and started to pick up a few chirps, after a few minutes I had seen and photographed my first year Crossbill, that's a first year for me not the Crossbill. A significant part of this blog has been removed after a growing concern for a particular animal seen on this trip. This decision has not been taken lightly and it was never my intention to suppress information. This decision is entirely my own and is the best way to ensure the welfare of the animal.

It wasn't long before brain was in gear and I was seeing a few more Crossbills, perhaps six in total but others had seen significantly more. We decided to go down to the raptor point and after parking we started talking to a few people coming back from the point, it was still only 9.20am and they were saying they had seen plenty of Crossbill and Goshawk. The weather conditions were perfect and as the reports of Crossbill were plentiful we walked slowly and quietly up the long path to the viewing point. Nothing, zilch, not a scooby. Where had all the Crossbill gone, well I don't know but they were not showing themselves to me.
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Juvenile Chaffinch, looking like an American G.I
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Sorry about the quality of the image but this Goldcrest was quite a distance away and as they do, moving fast to avoid detection.
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I just love the antics of Tits, especially Coal tits, the speed at which they can fly in, take some seed and be 100s of meters away in seconds is breathtaking.
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Often unnoticed Redpoll are a superb bird.
Steve Farley
Not a bird I see very often but when I go to Foxglove Covert there are hundreds of these mysterious birds. Redpoll and one of those birds that just go unnoticed, even if you hear one. Again sorry about the image quality but I love them and as usual there was a small flock in dense foliage.
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Making quite a noise this Crossbill was hard to miss even though distant.
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Above and below more Crossbill at the top of very tall trees.
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Purple Sandpipers on the seafront at Scarborough.
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The rather splendid Herring Gull above and below. Above the adult gull looking quite dapper and below the Juvenile Looking…well not so dapper.
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Mediterranean Gulls

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I don't usually take that much notice of gulls. I think the main reason is the same reason I don't play golf…I just can't do it. Gulls are difficult to ID, they are frustrating and embarrassing too. You take a photograph, take it home and look at it, get your Helm book of gulls out and open the pages. Page 1 to page 678 contains 3000 photographs of the same gull, this gull flies around the world being photographed in different poses, but it's the same gull and his name is Dave. He makes a fortune, this is Dave with his suntanned legs, red lipstick and old mottled black cap. That's how I remember.
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Med Gulls different life stages all together.
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Tim Jones talk.

Ottenby is a town on the island of Öland, Sweden, located in the parish, Morbylanga
, Municipality in Kalmar County. Ottenby is located just north of the southern tip of Öland, over three miles south of the area's main town, Mörbylånga. I didn't know any of this until I was educated by Tim Jones last night. Tim, showed us images and told us of his exploits in Sweden, birding for a living? Well I don't know that really and I didn't ask, I was already jealous enough.

What I can tell you is that listening to someone so knowledgable and informative, spurs you on, makes you dream of far flung birding lands, and your future in this great pastime. You can follow Tim on Twitter
@timsbirding or the York Ornithological Club and if you are interested in the bird observatory at Ottenby just go to

Want to know more?
The film below was produced to promote birding in the Ottenby area.

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Birding with my wife.

Getting the time to go birding at the weekend can be a struggle sometimes. But if you can get your partner interested in what you do that can be a real bonus for your birding interests. Some of my friends cannot get a pass out every weekend as they have child or family duties. I have to resort to go birding alone or cajole Maureen to go with me.

There was a time when the idea of going birding with Maureen was the stuff of a horror movie as there was no interest. But as the years progress she has taken a great interest in all things wildlife. So today when I said do you fancy going birding, she said yes. This is a great help as when I am driving she can spot the things I need to pull over for. It's also great to spend time doing even more things together. Another bonus is she stops me eating rubbish and keeps me of the kind of foods only a weak me could eat.

We started this morning with a drive to Wheldrake first stopping at bank Island. We surveyed Bank Island however there was very little to be seen. So proceeded to the Storwood and Melbourne areas of York. Up high in the sky we saw a couple of Red Kites and within a few moments they were been mobbed by Crows many meters below where we first saw them. As the Red Kites twisted and turned they spooked approximately 500 Geese which scattered in all directions, after a few minutes the geese landed in a nearby field.

I scanned the flock and saw there was two Egyptian geese, Greylag, Canada and at lease six white fronted. I must admit I do struggle with the identification of some geese so it took me at least fifteen minutes to pick out the white fronted. Then just as I had identified them the whole flock spooked again this time by a Sparrow hawk and that was the last I saw of them.

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Egyptian Geese look like they belong in a horror movie.
Steve Farley
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Amongst the Canada geese, Greylag, Teal and Wigeon were these two Egyptian geese. Like something from another world, Egyptian geese are rather unusual to look at and completely different from anything else in the uk.
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Above is a young Canada goose.
The video shows Mistle Thrush at Bank Island and Egyptian geese in Storwood.
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Magnificent Barn Owl near Melbourne.
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High Speed Birds

To say it's windy is an understatement, I'm here at Wheldrake in the Derwent Valley, Its my local patch really and it really is a wonderful birding paradise. There are 1000s of birds all hunkered down for the day because they already know what we are just finding out. The winds are really strong, a flock of goldfinch have just passed me at little above head height doing at least 600mph Clarkson would be proud and Hammond would have crashed.

There are very few birds in the air as when they attempt to rise, the are carried off at high speed turning into missiles in an instant. The sun is shining in a very dramatic way, low fluffy bits of cloud and blue sky poking through to make this beautiful scene. Some birds, very powerful flyers are in the air, playing and frolicking with the wind, these are of course gulls.

South Gare, a birding trip.

I have been up to South Gare many times in the last year. It's a fabulous place for Short Eared Owls, Twite, Snow Buntings, Lapland Buntings and many passing pelagic birds reported each year. This trip was to hopefully see the Great Northern Diver reported just offshore on the north side to the east of the small harbour. It was a very cold day, very cold indeed and there was quite a lot of birders out all looking for the same bird.

After a few minutes we spotted the diver about 50 meters off the pebble beach and as you can see below I got a few reasonable shots. The camera was struggling to keep focus because the sea was a little choppy also quite windy so it was difficult holding the camera still. The diver is a beautiful bird and it was doing what it's supposed to do, dive. The bird spent most of the time under the water hunting for small crabs and it was very successful.
A Video log showing the wider area of South Gare.
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Great Northern Diver
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Above, Guillemot. Not great pictures as they were too far out.
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Common Eider.
About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things.
Steve Farley.
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The fantastic new walkways and viewing screens on the Tyneside Nature reserve, you can't ignore them as they change everything. They give great views of the all new flooded Cowpen Marsh. 1000s of Golden Plover, 2000 Lapwings and the none flying seals are all visible from the screens and a real resource for wheelchair users with parking interconnected with the paths at the new Seal Sands car park. This entire area from the Saltholme reserve all the way up to Seal Sands, Greatham Creek and beyond has been turned over to wildlife and I have to say the balance between visitor and wildlife is very well done. I could easily write about this area for days, but the only real way to appreciate this area is to go and enjoy.

We were driving to
Seaton Common a few miles past, this is where the Short Eared Owls have been seen and I have seen them many times. This time we saw at least three but in reality four, we had seen them from the car and as we parked up they started flying back and forth across the tiny road, a superb sight.
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How many birds did you see in 2018? I wanted to see 200 different species and only managed 192, a poor effort then! Well I don't think so, after all I do work five long days a week, I can't ignore my family at the weekend, I need a pass out to go birding! All excuses? No not really, I'm a keen birder, I like photography and I love the outdoors all the things I need to fit into modern life.

#Mybirding200 is an initiative from that wonderful magazine Bird Watching. They bring us Go Birding site reports and other wonderful bird related things, other magazines are available like Birdwatch and bring us Bird Guides . The initiative started a few years ago and when I first read about it I thought "easy" Oooo yea, how hard can that be.I know, I'll set myself a personal challenge of 250 ha ha ha "in my own back garden" hah hah hah.

Yea I hear you say, this guy is an utter Ass and you'd be right because I have never achieved it to this day. Not once and the closest I've come is the 2018 record of 192. But there's a BUT, I think I have seen 200 and perhaps even more, the big problem is I have run out of talent. Yea, talent, I can't identify all the birds I see, not because I'm thick but because I'm …Well you make your own mind up.

As the years go by my identification skills grow but it grows slowly, reading books, Apps, and listening in hides. The listening in hides is by far the greatest resource, your'e there and you can see the hard to identify bird, well if someone is helpful enough to point it out to you. There it is, they shout, spinning in the water, pecking frantically a bit like a lunatic at an Iron Maiden concert "It's a Grey Phalarope". Oh yea, and you never forget it, you will always remember what a Grey Phalarope looks like… Right?

You will because you know roughly what it looks like, and definitely what it behaves like and what time of year it may turn up. Put all you have gleaned from others together and you have it. Birding is brilliant.
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Red Necked Grebe Castle Howard

But our scopes, binoculars and cameras have American Wigeon and Green Winged Teal avoidance systems built in, so we managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Steve Farley

Myself and Phil Smithson set off quite early to get to Castle Howard and start a full day of birding. Our intention was to see the Red Necked Grebe then move back to the Derwent Valley area starting at North Duffield Carrs. We saw the Grebe and Goldeneye, Goosander plus many other birds and then moved on to North Duffield.

We quickly saw Peregrine Falcon, Buzzard and Marsh Harrier, 1000s of Wigeon, Teal and a few hundred Pintail but our scopes, binoculars and cameras have American Wigeon and Green Winged Teal avoidance systems built in so we managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
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Red Necked Grebe on Castle Howard main lake.
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Thrybergh Reservoir

Thrybergh Reservoir is one of those places you either are in the know about or not and I definitely was not. That is until I met Ron Marshall, Birdmanron on Flickr, he told me about the Water Rail that are almost tame "take a tin of seed" he said, and don't forget to shake it and they will come. I'm sure its a line from a film, well I thought he was joking but he was not. These incredibly shy and uncooperative birds are as tame as can be, they have got so used to people from nearby feeding them that they come out to the sound of seed in a tin.
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We saw a total of three Water Rail in all and they really were very unafraid of the human presence. However two ladies came along with four dogs, they were screaming at the dogs and the dogs were in and out of the water disturbing everything and any birds within a half mile.
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The reservoir is a great place to bird, however the prolific use by dog walkers can be a real problem. Some, a real minority let their dogs chase the wildfowl and anything else they want sending waves of birds into the air and some even think this is incredibly funny.
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Redwing and Fieldfare were abundant at this site with larger flocks in the trees around the reservoir. Overall though there does not seem to be the same numbers of winter thrushes about this year.
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Alkborough again...

Godwits of the Bar Tailed variety, Teal and a couple of Marsh Harriers were all present as was a rather fast Water Rail, just in front of the hide, no time to get the camera focused unfortunately although the Rail was so close I would have hit it on the head with the lens.
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