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Hatfield Moor. 2020
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We did go to Lincolnshire but we went to Hatfield Moors first. There was a long staying Great Grey Shrike, it had been reported near the Polish War Memorial by many. We arrived at first light and to our astonishment there was a building in the car park. Was it really that long since we had been?

The new building is the
Humberhead Peatlands National Nature Reserve  I have tried to get definitive information about the building, its purpose and who can use it without success. When I get better information I will put it on here. The facility looks impressive and one chap told me "it wasn't for the public" only schools can use it. This I take with a pinch of salt as in this day and age education is for all and I really do not believe anyone would limit a market like that.

Back to the Shrike, we never found it, we did see a Peregrine at great distance and we left having had a great walk with great views. The Shrike was reported again within a hour of us leaving this wonderful site. Just marvellous!!!

I went to the dark side, Lincolnshire!

We left Hatfield Moor and headed for Alkborough Flats, The site on the dark side, Lincolnshire that is, Alkborough has all that you need for a great days birding. And within moments of arrival we were treated to a display by two Marsh Harriers, these unmistakable raptors were just flying and interacting with each other, probably a female and first year.

Within a few minutes a third Harrier was present and almost certainly this was the male. We watched these for about 30 minutes until they went out of sight. We walked up the main path towards the river but we were stopped by flood water. There were hundreds of geese and Golden plover in the fields around.
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You always live in hope don't you! Will I, won't I, that's the question. We were walking back in the direction of the car and out of the blue we heard the unmistakable ting ting of the Bearded Reedling or Bearded Tit as most like to call it. Even though you can hear them and you know you're close you can't always "get your eye in".

We eventually saw our birds first two, then three and four, all quite vocal as they usually are. The sun was shining and in my very humble opinion it does not get better than this. All the wows are now ebbing away as you look at this truly enigmatic of birds, feeding without a care in the world and they don't give a dam about your presence.
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Above: A passing Little Egret, once a rare sight but now quite common. It wasn't too long ago when a Little Egret would attract the attention of all, including the battle hardened twitcher.
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Bittern, Bearded Tits then your mate poo's on your head.

St Aiden's is a relatively new RSPB reserve in the heart of Leeds. The reserve in Allerton Byewater is on reclaimed land from the coal mining industry. I don't often visit St Aiden's as it's one of those multi use reserves with every type of recreational activity. These activities include cycling, dog walking, jogging and even open water swimming. Many of these as you can imagine do not seem to fit with a RSPB reserve.

People with dogs off leads are the largest problem for me, many are completely inconsiderate and quite genuinely think they own the place. I do not have a problem with anyone with a dog on a lead and picking up after their animals.

I had seen many images of Bearded Tits over the last few weeks all from this reserve and understand how unconcerned with all the activity of their human watchers they are. This week I had seen close up wonderful images of these usually elusive birds taken close up with phones, It was time to visit. Friday morning was a two hour window before a hospital check up, and off I went.

The morning was beautiful with a staggering sunrise and low lying mist. At one point I did wonder if I would see anything never mind a small bird such was the mist. The reserve was as usual locked and does not open until 9.00am. You can park outside and walk in so this I did, it was warm, really warm and hopes were high. I was armed with a great little map from Phil Smithson, this had circles on it exactly where the Beardies had been seen last so there I went first…aaaand nothing. In fact everywhere I went there was nothing, nothing at all.

I walked up and down the path many times and saw nothing, no small birds at all. I have grabbed defeat from the jaws of success many many times but this is embarrassing. Children had fabulous images of these birds on their Fisher Price photographic equipment. After wearing out a pair of shoes I gave up and started walking back to the car. I saw a group of crows mobbing something low over the reeds, but what was it?

A bittern flew over the reeds low and slow, in complete silhouette you could still tell this was a Bittern and this was better than any Bearded Tit, I convinced myself.
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Above and below, Bittern. A superb bird to see in flight.
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I couldn't dip on a Bearded Tit within a few miles of my home surely. Its now 3.00pm and I finished work and I was thinking about those Beardies again. The temptation was too much and off I went, camera and 600mm lens in hand. There was a group of birders in exactly the same spot as I was this morning, so they were there, I was sure of it. I walked very fast towards the birders position and there it was a single Bearded Tit, walking up and down on the path perimeter.

Walking up and down? I have seen many beardies in my time but have never seen them behave like this. Up and down, up and down the path it went, never flying and never climbing. I have seen them drinking low down in reedbeds but not like this. The bird was completely unconcerned with the three birders photographing it, the lenses within inches of the birds body, well not quite! But if you have seen Bearded Tits/Reedlings you will know how difficult and elusive they are. This bird was posing, defiantly posing!


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Below: Greylag Geese, but not good friends.
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ALKBOROUGH SEPTEMBER 2017

Alkborough Flats and the area of Alkborough is not in Yorkshire, however this is most definitely one of my favourite birding spots. Yesterday, 17th September 2017 I visited with long term birding friend Phil Smithson. Phil picked me up at 6.15am and we set of in very poor visibility, low heavy fog but with a strange glow above. Our route, M62, M18 didn't clear at all until we got into the Burton Upon Strather area and then only slightly. We were determined to get out of the car and at the very least walk and listen, and what a soundscape. The first sound I heard was of Reed Buntings, hundreds of Reed Buntings, Then a single Cetis Warbler and a loud symphony of bird calls & alerts all coming from the fog.
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