Seph.Photography has produced a limited number of calendars for the new year which is fast approaching. It contains 12 beautiful and varied images from across the British Isles. The calendar is in aid of Ada with 50% of the profits going straight to the Childrens’ Liver Disease Foundation (CLDF).
Ada has biliary atresia a very rare and life threatening type of liver disease, she underwent life saving surgery at just 5 weeks old but will almost certainly need a liver transplant one day. Ada is one of many children living with liver disease, 2 children are diagnosed every day and there are over 100 different types of liver disease. Yet there is one small charity with only a handful of paid workers supporting all these children and their families. CLDF do an amazing job and rely heavily on donations to continue their excellent work, supporting these children and their families and providing essential research which will hopefully find a cure for Ada and her little liver buddies one day.
Please contact me on how to get yours before they all go!
As the new year gets in full flow the 2017 year list has gotten off on a good foot; so today we headed up North to get our sights on two species of gulls. Arriving we were greeted to views of several numbers of Eider. This sea duck is the heaviest of the duck family in the UK, it very rarely strays away from its coastal habitat in which it dives or up-ends to feed on molluscs or slow moving crustaceans on the sea-bed. As in most ducks it’s the male that is the most striking, with a primarily white head, neck, chest and back. The breast, belly, sides, rump and tail are black; a white spot occurs on the black flank just before the tail.. The cheeks are pales green and the bill is olive-grey, turning yellowish near the facial area. Female eider are russet-brown to gray; they are heavily barred with dark brown lines on their backs, chests, breasts, sides and flanks.
After spending a while with the majestic Eiders we headed for the fish quay to look for two species of gull that we were hoping to see. However the quay has been taken over and they’ve put a fence all the way round and are now not allowed entry to view. Although just around the corner there is a car park where you can get reasonable views and where some birders were gathering. As a few minutes past one of birders shouted and we were greeted with some great views over head as an Iceland Gull flew past. We could also see on the water a Glaucous Gull so we decided to walk back round to the entrance of the fish quay and try to get in for better views. We were granted permission to enter but was a bit nervous when gates automatically locked behind us but we got great views of the Glauc and did manage to get back out.
Leaving here we headed inland and to a reserve that had been reported to have good views of long-eared owls. As this species was missed in 2016 I was eager to get it on my new year list. Upon arrival we were treated to views of a merlin as it sat perched distantly in a small bush before whizzing off out of sight.It was quite a walk to where the owl was and stopped for a while to see the magnificent Teal. In the winter light and stood on the ice the male duck, like the Eider, is stunning. Being the smallest of the duck family it is probably the most striking, the males have a cinnamon coloured head with an iridescent green band that spreads from one eye round the back of the head and to the other eye. The sides and back are marked with tiny black and white stripes, not to be mistaken the its relative the Green-winged Teal which has a horizontal white stripe. Moving on we passed a couple Stonechats and got to the location the owls were seen. After much searching we finally got close views of a single Long-eared Owl.
As we left we past a relatively large flock of Barnacle Geese and had to turn back for some pics as they flew off. Our next stop was further down the coast as to hopefully photograph some waders and see some sea ducks. The sea however was too rough to get any views of any bird life that was out there. There were plenty of waders to get us excited though from Redshanks to Oystercatchers and Turstones to Bar-tailed Godwits. We didn’t stay too long as their was one last stop we wanted to go before heading home. Back in November last year we visited a site that was housing an Eastern Black Redstart. Like our more common Black Redstart that does breed in the UK the eastern race is mainly from central Asia and is classed as a UK mega which means they are exceedingly rare. The most prominent difference is that the eastern race has an orange belly and black chest whereas the European race’s are all greyish black.
Eastern Black Redstart
My list for 2017 currently stands on 118 species and we are not even at the end of January yet, although I know it will start to get harder.
What is Ardeidae? I hear you ask. Well this is the name of the family that herons, bitterns and egrets belong to. For sometime this year I’ve been focusing my photography on herons and egrets and I have finally decided I’ve got enough images to produce a blog. Before we get any further I must inform you this blog contains an image some people may find disturbing.
Grey herons have nested at my local reserve for as long as I can remember. However, the little egret has only bred on the reserve for the last couple of years. In fact over ten years ago the little egret was a rare sight in Britain, and the appearance of a lone individual would cause a stir within the bird watching world.
Standing between ninety and ninety-eight centimetres tall the grey heron is a large, long-legged grey and white bird. They are often seen standing motionless in shallow water or wading purposefully in search of fish. Juveniles resemble adults, but have more black and white markings and greyer underparts.Grey herons are one of the earliest nesters, with clutches of four to five eggs often being complete in March. Incubation of the eggs and the rearing of the chicks takes a lot longer than smaller species, seeing them fledged by July.
Standing at a mere fifty-six centimetres tall the little egret is a distinctive heron-like bird with pure white plumage. The breeding adult has long plumes on the nape and back. The legs are black with yellow feet and the bill is dagger like. Unlike their motionless cousins the little egret will be seen striding through the shallows in ambush. It will often shuffle along to flush out prey before making the strike. Breeding between May and June they will only lay two to three eggs.
The diet between a little egret and a grey heron is surprisingly very different. The little egret feeds mainly on fish, but also amphibians and larger aquatic invertebrates, Whereas, the grey heron can be found eating fish, frogs and small aquatic life. But more shockingly they are known to eat birds and can even be found standing in fields during harvesting looking for mice, voles and other mammals.
Hope you enjoyed the read and learned some new things about these large wading birds that are adapted for feeding in water. Feel free to share my work but please credit me. Please contact me for further details.
In winter the turnstone has greyish-brown upperparts, white underparts, a grey head and neck and dull orange legs. Both sexes are alike and juveniles resemble adults, but their feathers have a more scaly appearance. The male’s breeding plumage is striking with black and white facial markings, rich chestnut upperparts with dark bands a white belly. The female is a duller version of the male. This species is most often seen on coasts in winter, using its bill to flip stones or probe seaweeds on the tide line.
Outside the breeding season, the turnstone’s comparatively drab mottled brown, black and white plumage gives it good camouflage on rocky coasts. These birds were photographed on the Yorkshire coast where they winter from there Arctic tundra breeding grounds. Currently in moult these still feature some of their breeding plumage.
A turnstone’s nest is a shallow scrape on open ground, sometimes on a slight mound. Between May and June they will lay three to five buff eggs marked with darker blotches. They feed on invertebrates and insects. A short, harsh alarm call will be heard if feeding birds are disturbed. A turnstone is roughly twenty-one to twenty-four centimeters long.
If you fancy seeing these beautiful waders along the Yorkshire Coast then harbours are the key areas, such as, Whitby, Scarborough and Bridlington.
Whilst at Spurn on Saturday we were keeping an eye on the latest sightings on Birdguides. We noticed a pair of Glossy Ibises that seem to have set off from Loch of Strathbeg in Aberdeenshire on Thursday and were on their way south towards Yorkshire hopefully passing us. On Friday they were reported from multiple sites across Northumberland, which is where they hung around until Saturday morning which became the day of travelling.
They awoke in Northumberland on Saturday morning where they’d fed up ready to go. The first report of them on the move was Whitburn in Durham flying south. Just 40 minutes later they were flying over Hartlepool; then to Seal Sands and then to RSPB Saltholme and finally to North Cave wetlands in East Yorkshire. They spent yesterday at North Cave and thinking they’d not stick around I’d arranged with Keith (a fellow birder) to meet him at Fairburn and we’d see if they’re still in the area, which they were. We walked up to the visitor centre and was going to have a hot drink but the coffee machine was currently being cleaned . So instead of waiting for them to put it back together Keith suggested we set off for North Cave and get a brew there.
Arriving at North Cave we parked the car and walked further down to where they were; instead of going for a drink we wanted to tick them off. We got to them and got a distant view of them. Whilst watching one slowing walking round towards we saw the other right in front of us. They were feeding for about half an hour until the took off and headed further on their journey south. So if we’d had stayed at Fairburn waiting for the coffee machine we’d have misssed them.
Unfortunately they haven’t been reported again today so who those where they currently are. So my list now stands at 185.
Two Glossy Ibises were reported the next day (Tuesday) at Mickle Mere in Suffolk, presumably the same two.
Had a trip to Spurn in the East Riding of Yorkshire today, hoping for some new bird species to tick off my year list. During the week there were lots of reports of different species such as a Red-breasted flycatcher and an Icterine Warbler. Unfortunately neither of these were seen.
Driving towards Spurn you pass through a few of the local villages, we past one lawn and had to reverse back. This was to see a Song Thrush which was foraging for food.
Arriving at Spurn and parking the car we decided to go for a short wander to see what birds were on the near by pond. Not a lot was going on but we stuck around for a bit as a Little Egret was in front of the hide before it flew across to the other side as we walked in; and we were hoping it would come back round. There was also a couple of Mute Swans, a couple of Greylag Geese, a singing Sedge Warbler and both Common and Lesser Whitethroats.
Moving on from here we had heard about a Red-backed Shrike so headed on the path which would leads us to the location. As we were walking up a birder coming towards us said there were two Turtle Doves back in the direction we’d just come from so we turned around and headed back only to be told they’d just flown off. So we turned back and headed for the Shrike. As we got up to where we had originally turned around we were told it had flown towards us. We finally managed to locate it and get a view. It was quite a distance away but a record shot for Britain (as I’ve seen them in Greece) was captured.
As we were viewing the Shrike a Cuckoo flew in and started flying around us and calling like crazy. The damn bird just would not shut up. It’s great to see these birds but when they’re Cuckoo’ing none stop it does get a bit annoying.
Other than the Shrike there wasn’t much around at Spurn so we decided to head off and take a slight diversion to RSPB Blacktoft Sands on the way home. Passing a farm on the way I had to again stop and reverse back as I saw a Yellow Wagtail and it’s not every day you get close views of these birds.
On arrival to Blacktoft we were hoping to get views of the female Montagu’s Harrier that’s been hanging around a bit. We saw lots a Marsh Harriers but the Monty just didn’t want to play. So we watched the Avocets and listened to the very elusive Cetti’s Warbler and had our very own personal flypast from the Red Arrows that were heading south.
A trip to the top edge of the North York Moors and to a small village called Danby was in order; to hopefully get views of the Dotterels that people had been seeing. On arrival to Danby and after getting a breakfast sandwich from the bakery we asked for directions. A little old lady gave us some good directions, however putting them into use proved not so good. We ended up on the most bumpiest of tracks possible and for a ford fiesta it wasn’t brilliant, but we finally managed to get back onto a tarmac road. After a while of searching the moorland we finally found not just one Dotterel but nine! Its not the best of shots as we didn’t want to get too close and scare them.
After here we headed just over fifty miles north to Hartlepool Headland to the Red-Spotted Bluethroat twitch. It’s only the second time I personally have seen this subspecies, the last time was on Filey Brigg in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Anyway when we arrived we saw all the birders at the side of the road starring on to the bowling green and after a few minutes of waiting out it came…
From Hartlepool we headed back down south to RSPB Saltholme, twenty minutes away, to where the Whiskered Terns had been seen. On arrival we were greeted by the friendly staff and shown where we could see the Terns. Like the bluethroat, I have only seen these once before. These two weren’t very shy to the public, however, they did keep their distance but you couldn’t get too close anyway.
We then had a short walk around the reserve to try and get views of the Spoonbills. These were miles away from use and you could hardly see them. Whilst at one of the hides there were a couple of Avocets that posed quite nicely. We then headed down the east coast calling at both Robin Hoods Bay near Whitby and Ravenscar near Scarborough to try and see the Red-backed Shrikes. With no look we headed home. My bird list now stands on 177 for 2016.