Saturday, 31 December 2011

Life in the playground 2011

I thought I'd post a selection of highlights, seen by my eyes, in 2011...

So many brilliant days out in 2011, spent lots of time with some great people who inspire me, enjoyed lots of surprises and no disappointments.

If only I blogged everything, it wouldn't be right to share my best days! Maybe some surprises in 2012 :)

Happy New Year!

Gulls glorious gulls...

So the final days of the year have seen me spending way to much time scanning the gull roost at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire. However, other than a 1st winter Mediterranean Gull that has appeared on the 27th, 30th and tonight, it has been a case of plenty of gulls, just nothing special among them!

So the final Med of 2011...cracking record shot!!!

I guess I've spent way too much time going through the gulls at Tophill since August, but...

20+ different Mediterranean Gulls (a couple of others may well add to the total, and who knows what got missed in October!!!)
6 Yellow-legged Gulls
2 Caspian Gulls (pending acceptance once I submit descriptions)
2 Glaucous Gulls
1 Little Gull (a rarer bird after late-summer)

So not a bad little haul, and I shouldn't really forget the early part of the winter - the Iceland Gull, and the Glaucous Gull that appeared one evening which I missed, the good numbers of Little Gulls in the summer... I can't really believe I considered retiring from the gull spotting hobby!!! Perhaps the best Larid year in Tophill's history...

Thursday, 29 December 2011

It's got a little cold... so some snaps from sunny Sagres!

I was sitting in a shed today at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire, in the cold and I realised I was really missing the warmth of the Algarve, Portugal!

More pictures taken while sat on my chair on a hill in the sun, just on the outskirts of Sagres last October

Rarely is there nothing to look at on the hill!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Festive birding

Freedom from the office means one thing... being outside!!!

It appears the/one of the Glaucous Gulls was reappeared on several nights the last week at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire, and a Caspian Gull was reported last Thursday in the roost, so I kind of had hopes Santa may drop in a festive surprise... six evenings gull roosting... best I can manage is a 1st winter Mediterranean Gull on the 27th! Still, five more evenings to go before the office calls!

Six afternoons looking over D res hasn't been too unproductive though with the Greenland White-fronted Goose among the Eurasian flock on Christmas Day and tonight (Wednesday), 2 Little Egrets on Boxing Day south at dusk and the drake Green-winged Teal finally appearing on the res on Tuesday (it got a glance at best!!!). And a supporting cast of Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owls, Barn Owls, coupled with the mild temperatures, has made life rather easy and pleasant.

Plenty of Winter Moths have been appearing in the headlights on leaving due to the mild evenings. This Grey-shoulder Knot found itself unable to hide from the camera on the 24th.

The fungi seems to have gone a bit quiet, but for fans of Myxomycetes, a little bit of Fuligo candida , photographed by Doug Fairweather.

Time off at Christmas is so much better without the snow!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Two-night Glaucous

All of the weekend birding involved being sat in a shed looking over D res at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire.

And the gull roost came up trumps with another Glaucous Gull, and it came in Saturday and Sunday. I believe only once before in Tophill's 50 year history has a big 'white-winger' appeared on consecutive nights!!!

Time for some bad pictures!

Record pics! I don't mind admitting I thought the bird was a first winter but these ones on the Tophill Low Blog, taken by Richard Hampshire, show the bird to have a pale iris and a pale tip to the bill (which to be honest wasn't that easy to pick up in the field in fading light) so it is a second winter. Don't mind my error and better to get it right.

Friday, 16 December 2011

First proper blast of cold

Is winter actually here now? Definitely getting colder doing the gull roost at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire. Two degrees celsius and feet like ice blocks after a few hours in the shed today overlooking D res!

The best of it was this 1st winter Mediterranean Gull which appeared in front of the hide as the light started to fade.

Certainly, last weekend, and today, less birds are coming in on evening compared to a month ago. The picture below illustrates that the res isn't packed.

Still, we did manage to get the third 'white-winger' of the year when this Glaucous Gull dropped in briefly last Sunday evening.

Still plenty of White-fronted Geese around today numbering 118 Eurasian and the single Greenland bird.

Owls seem to be showing well at the moment in various spots of East Yorkshire. Managed to knock off all five common species without trying over the last 3 weeks - certainly easier when you don't look for them!

This a heavily cropped bad pic of one of the 4+ Short-eared Owls around the north end of Tophill Low in the last few weeks.

I also bumped into 1+ Long-eared Owl during my wanderings. Trying to hide and showing reasonably well!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Whoopers, Wolds and Wow!

So the long weekend continued with a tour of Tophill Low, East Yorkshire again on Saturday.

The 'Greenland' White-front remained with c60-69 Eurasian White-fronts, 3 Pink-footed Geese appeared close by and a Short-eared Owl was in North Marsh briefly before heading east of the river.

A couple of hours scanning the gull roost on D res turned up absolutely nothing, tho a drake Goosander appeared on last light.

Sunday afternoon was once again spent scouring D Res. Other than 5 Whooper Swans and the White-front flock flying around it was generally quiet. The gull numbers appear to have dropped a little since Friday.

A chilly Monday, complete with snow flurries, was spent touring the Yorkshire Wolds with Neil Hart in search of interesting BoPs.

The scenery was reasonable on the eye.

Although we failed to find any Rough-legged Buzzards, we did encounter one or two Peregrines, 3 Buzzards and we ended up at the Wolds Red Kite roost where a minimum of 10 birds appeared before we decided to depart.

The rarest sighting of the day was an unexpected surprise. In fact, I think I've seen it only once since I last photographed it at Warham Greens, Norfolk in 2003 during a Pallid Harrier twitch.

Secretive and elusive it did, at times, show well today...

Neil's Tripod... yes he does own one!!!

Friday, 2 December 2011

The Desert and 'Greenland'... just an hour apart

So having done the hard graft, it is time for some time off!

Fortunately the male Desert Wheatear at Bempton Cliffs, East Yorkshire lingered from last weekend becoming Yorkshire tick 300 and something! Cracking little bird, and despite not showing on arrival, it did eventually show down to 18 inches as it flew up the cliff and hit the wind. Unfortunately it didn't alight close by but stayed just out of camera distance. The problem was compounded by some folk 'telling everyone' the bird was 'quite tame and liked people' !!! Hmmm... interesting then that when approached it flew further away. And the person who made the statement was rather offended when it was pointed out that their fieldcraft was rather lacking!!!

So hence here is another record shot! I don't take pics of Desert Wheatears that often and it is the first one I've twitched since 1997ish!

Within an hour, Neil Hart and myself had arrived at Tophill Low, East Yorkshire ready for some gull spotting. A flock of 49 or so White-fronted Geese appeared on D res, but news of a 'Greenland' White-front among them via the Birdguides website, I must admit, was created with some sceptism. Primarily due to recent claims via Birdguides of a Bonaparte's Gull and a Great-white Egret at the site... no names, just claims! So faced with the same information, naturally news of Greenland White-front got an 'Oh... right!'

However, great credit to Tim Cowley arriving and taking the Birdguides report seriously and taking the hike alongside D res to view Decoy fields and refinding the bird among a few more Eurasian White-fronts... 69 in total

Time for some record shots!

flavirostris White-fronted Goose

Not sure if it is a race tick for Tophill. No doubt folk will be scanning the archive records!

A bit of fieldcraft meant the Eurasion White-fronted also stayed for a picture!

A walk to Top Lock yield a single Short-eared Owl, a Pink-footed Goose and a Little Egret as the light started going.

The D res gull extravaganza featured an adult Yellow-legged Gull, while 2 Goosanders appeared late on and the 'Greenland' White-front became a D res tick.

Maybe the extra effort to do the overtime was worth working to get the day off!!!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Caspian and myxomycetes

The fog last weekend put a stop to the Larid spotting, but clear skies this weekend enabled plenty.

Saturday and Sunday afternoon at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire was spent scanning through the gulls that passed through D res. The highlight undoubtably an adult Caspian Gull which appeared late afternoon on Saturday. However, as seems to be the case with Tophill gulls, it didn't reappear Sunday, which makes it rather frustrating for folk wanting to connect the day after. So after waiting 11 years, to find two in fortnight is rather surprising and lucky. Or maybe perhaps I spend too much time sat looking!!! A 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull appeared briefly on the wall Saturday afternoon, before presumably flying south. The best of the rest was made up of 54 White-fronted Geese on Saturday (a few more were present on Sunday) a 'redhead' Goosander was present lunchtime on Sunday and an Egyptian Goose flew in alone to join the goose flock on the site late-afternoon. Click here for Richard's Tophill news

With me opting to spend Saturday doing the larids, Doug Fairweather was finding myxomycetes. Smart little organisms which aren't quite fungi, but we come across with increasing regularity. I could explain in my terms what myxomycetes are, but this piece by Michael Kuo explains it simply!!

We still don't have many on the site list but here are a couple Doug photographed.

Leocarpus fragilis

Tubifera ferruginosa

Posted last autumn, but the first we have encountered this season, a collection of Parrot Waxcaps.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Odonata in the Algarve October 2011

Anax parthenope - Lesser Emperor

When not sitting on a chair in Sagres, Algarve, Portugal, scanning the skies for the next raptor to add to the day count, probably the next easiest things to see are the masses of Sympetrum, normally moving west or north. It is an impressive sight for anyone who hasn't seen what can only be called a 'swarm' of darters!

A quiet day in Sagres in early October prompted me to head to a site I know reasonably well called the Boca Do Rio which provides ample opportunity to see dragonflies and darters, as well as a few birds.

When the Boca holds areas of standing water it is best described as awesome. On arrival I was greeted by a mass of Odonata of various species which numbered 50+ Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator 150+ Lesser Emperor A. parthenope the odd Vagrant Emperor A. ephippiger (though these were noticeable by their lack of number compared to recent years) 1500+ Red-viened Darter Sympetrum fonscolombii 60+ Broad Scarlet Crocothemis erythraea the odd Southern Darter S. meridionale a few Iberian Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura graellsii while my first Black Percher Diplacodes lefebvrii showed well flying past me before perching up just too far away for a picture in the impenetrable Portuguese vegetation. You get the idea? It is a bit of spectacle!!! Rather makes my Yorkshire site counts of 80 Four-spotted Chaser Libellula quadrimaculata look rather tame by comparison!

Anax imperator Emperor Dragonfly

Aeshna mixta Migrant Hawker

The Red-viened Darters S. fonscolombii sit reasonably well, though sometimes the wind makes getting a decent photo awkward.

While the Broad Scarlets C. erythraea are most often seen perched up sky-pointing or defending territory against just about anything that flies into their zone.

Though this washed out female/over-mature male posed a few problems for identification as its flight pattern and behaviour was total different to any others of this species I've ever seen in my life. I'm reasonably familiar with the species but it was good to learn from.

Having made numerous visits to the site over several years, I have an idea of what is around though its good to add new species to my area list. This time around, searching yielded a male and female Epaulet Skimmer Orthetrum chryostigma

Male above, female below

This Willow Emerald Lestes viridis one of two encountered while I had the wrong lens on the camera!

Plenty to see, and not enough time to spend doing Odonata and draining everything that could be seen in the Algarve, but it gives a taste of just what is there.

I've been trying to capture a decent picture to relate the idea of the number of Sympetrum in Sagres at any one time. So I've decided to show this evening picture showing part of the pine line viewable from the hill one evening. I've altered it to black and white so the wings show up a little more... and bear in mind you can only see the ones against the dark trees!

And that line of pines is about 700 metres away from the hill! Darters are everywhere, these are just the ones the camera picked up!