Sunday, August 29, 2010

Birding in Yorkshire - Sunday

Sunday, after a prompt breakfast, we headed first to RSPB Fairburn Ings, parking at the visitors' centre and then walking out onto the reserve. It's quite a long walk to the hides compared with other RSPB reserves and, apart from hundreds of hirundines zooming across the water (mostly Sand Martins), there wasn't much to see. Whilst sat in a hide a dog came and nuzzled up to us, the owner birder then joined us in the hide. He recommended we go down to the other end of the reserve, which after said walk in reverse we did.

From here we got distant views of Curlew Sandpiper, mixed in with some Dunlin, and reasonable views of Greenshank and Ruff, together with a fly-over of probably the last Swifts of summer.

From Fairburn Ings we headed on and now heading homewards, to RSPB Old Moor. The visitor facilities here are great, and the reserve itself was good too. We heard reports of a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper so followed their advice and headed to the Wath Ings hide to see. We couldn't see that bird but a Green Sandpiper was very close:

As was this Grey Heron:

The wierd light effects come from late August sunshine being mostly obscured by fast-moving, shower-bearing clouds.

Attempting to see the Curlew Sandpiper we moved on to a nearby hide, where indeed we did get decent albeit reasonably distant views.

Lunch at RSPB Old Moor was fantastic, a fiver for an excellent vegetarian Sunday Roast! After lunch we waddled back to the car and drove on to the YWT Potterick Carr reserve, headquarters of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and a significant reserve adjacent to the M18. Unfortunately it's also adjacent to a wood plantation which on Bank Holiday Sunday was being used for a no-bird-left-alive shoot. That put a major dampener on our visit to Potterick Carr. I do wish they'd shoot themselves and rid us all of their misery rather than taking it out on 20 million odd birds each winter.

We did enjoy the cafe at Potterick Carr and the treat of a Kestrel hovering on the still strong winds, pretty close to a hide we parked in:

Still feeling miffed about missing out on the Pectoral Sandpiper, one chap we sat next to in a hide at Potteric Carr told us he had missed out on the UK's first Amur Falcon as he'd stopped for ten minutes for a cup of tea, that story made us feel much better :) Everyone we met on this weekend was warm and friendly even if the manner of being so can take some adjusting to, much more so than birding around home or even further south... one point we also noticed though, every bird we actually saw we could have seen within fifteen miles of home over the same weekend... hmmmm...

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Birding in Yorkshire - Saturday

Plan A was to do a pelagic trip - we'd heard the P&O Santander Ferry is finishing this year, and therefore this would be an ideal opportunity. The publicity that brought this to our attention also meant it was fully booked. Humbug. We therefore had to look closer to home for the Bank Holiday weekend and decided on visiting Yorkshire, a county where thus far we've only birded a few points on the coast.

Helen planned out the itinerary with the first stop on Saturday morning at RSPB Blacktoft Sands, as high tide was due at 10am.

It's a very pleasant reserve and readily accessible, essentially a series of hides strung along a few pools. There were good numbers of waders present including these Redshank:

Lapwing and (foreground) Ruff:

as well as Yellow Wagtail, Green Sandpiper, Water Rail, Greenshank, Dunlin and Spotted Redshank. We enjoyed our visit to Blacktoft. We were going to head into the Lower Derwent Valley, however a local birder at Blacktoft pointed out this was more a winter site and suggested we'd be wasting our time, so we changed plans there and then and drove instead to Spurn Point. Here I got to see some visible migration, with Wheatears, Yellow Wagtails and Whinchats moving through. We walked from the car park to the ponds, though these were substantially dried out and absent of birds, and back again. On our return we dipped out on a Pectoral Sandpiper by less than three minutes, and enjoying tea in the cafe during a heavy rain shower, we didn't go running after the Monatgu's Harrier either...
You can see the weather closing in on the point:

For our third stop we headed to a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve at North Cave. This one doesn't appear on any maps or in any guidebooks yet. The birds have found it though. Rather like Paxton Pits the reserve is a former (and expanding) gravel quarry where local residents preferred a nature reserve to a landfill and have done an excellent job in creating a large area of wetlands (soon to be bigger, we understand).
We saw Sand Martins, House Martins and Swallows together with a number of common ducks and geese and again waders featured with Dunlin, Green Sandpipers, Greenshank and Redshsank. The wind had picked-up though, you can see this rabbit had found a good spot to shelter:

On the water a Tufted Duck was nursing a brood of fifteen ducklings - this Lesser Black-backed Gull kept buzzing them, but they were safe on the water from this predator at least:

We finished off by doing a bit of shopping at the outlet village next to the Premier Inn we were staying in at Castleford, before retiring early in anticipation of Sunday.

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