Tuesday 30 January 2024

Novartis Ings and the Humber Bank

 Making the most of a trip to the tip, I decided to visit Novartis Ings and the Humber Bank. Although overcast and cold (7C) the sky cleared during the afternoon to give wonderful light. I was pleased to find the hide open (apparently from 8.30 - 2.30) and if it is closed viewing stations have been created in the fence - excellent.) as the tide was out there was not a lot to see on the Ings but there was plenty of wader activity on the Humber mud. I saw 28 bird species the highlight being a huge flock of golden plover which at one point wheeled into the air before settling to roost again, a magnificent sight.

Novartis Ings
Novartis Ings
A large flock of golden plover on the Humber mud.
Looking towards Immingham
Grimsby dock tower in the distance.

Monday 29 January 2024

An overdue walk around the local patch.

 A dull, grey day but mild at 12C. I misjudged my timing, starting out too late. Not only did I lose the light but I found myself locked in and had to go a long way round to get out. I managed 15 bird species, highlights being a singing song thrush and goldfinches feeding on the alders. The regular aconites were in flower on the usual grave and lichens added a splash of colour on a dull day.


Saturday 20 January 2024

Bramblings at North Cave Wetlands

 Although still very cold, the clear sunny conditions had come to an end and it was grey and overcast, but only 3C as I parked in Dryham Lane at the entrance to North Cave Wetlands YWT reserve. I quickly gathered all of my gear, donned the wellies and set off into the reserve. The viewing platform opposite the Butty Van, overlooking Village Lake, is always a useful place to start. As usual there were good numbers of wildfowl including wigeon, teal, mallard, coot, tufted duck and gadwall. I love to hear the whistling of the wigeon and the bubbling call of curlew echoed over the lake. There were plentiful small birds in the hedge and on the feeders too.

 I was keen to move on and get to the maize field feeders where 50+ brambling were said to be found. I was not disappointed. As I arrived there was a whirring of wings and everything disappeared but the birds quickly returned including the bramblings. I was delighted; apart from a brief glimpse of some at Whisby last year I hadn't seen any of these colourful finches for years. At a quick glance they could be mistaken for chaffinches but they are more orange and far more colourful. As far as we are concerned bramblings are winter visitors to our shores breeding in upland birch forest in Fenno-Scandia. I was delighted to see a fair number of tree sparrows here as well as all the other usual suspects to a winter feeding station.

Having secured plenty of photographs I continued on my way around the reserve. I was pleased to see that the two egyptian geese were still present on the flooded fields to the north of the reserve.

I was hoping to see the usual tawny owl near the NW corner but it must have been tucked away today. There was very little to see from Crossland Hide overlookng Cell A, perhaps because the water was frozen. There were one or two green woodpeckers 'yaffling' around the area, though, which was good to hear. Moving on down Dryham lane back towards the car and Butty Van was another feeding station which again came up trumps as far as brambling were concerned and there were larger numbers of tree sparrows here as well as goldfinches, greenfinches and tits.

Long-Tailed Tit
Long-Tailed Tit
Reed Bunting
Tree Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
Tree Sparrow

Thursday 18 January 2024

Feeding Station Photography

 Temperatures fell to -4 last night and when I set out to the wood at 10.00am it was still only 0C. The roads were frosted as I drove out into the Wolds. The wood was quiet when I arrived at the feeding station and all was frozen. Most of the feeders were empty apart from some seed in one feeder; not a favourite, sunflower hearts are always the first to go. There was very little activity until I put out some sunflower hearts and peanuts near the perches where I wanted the birds to be for photography. As soon as I sat in the hide birds started to come down. The all seemed to be very fast or perhaps I was out of practice since last feeding station season. Although really bright the light was very difficult to handle and very contrasty. All the usual suspects were there and I was very pleased to see a treecreeper. Chaffinches were unusually confident. As I was leaving a buzzard perched in an oak just outside the wood gave fabulous close views but unfortunately it flew off as soon as the car stopped.

Blue tit
Grat Tit
Great Tit
Grey Squirrel

Saturday 13 January 2024

Gibraltar Point Birding

 The day began bright and sunny, but a fresh 2C. It remained sunny throughout giving a splendid day with temperatures rising to 6C. We began with coffee and cake before setting off on our usual route around the reserve other than heading from the north car park straight down to Mill Hill and the beach in the hope of finding shore lark and snow bunting. We were unlucky in this partly owing to the fact that rising sea levels and very high tides are creating serious erosion and eating into the dunes.

We saw 47 bird species during the day, highlights being superb views of a pair of red kites on Jackson's Marsh and on Tennyson's Sands a marsh harrier mobbing a fox. From here we also had supeb views of a sparrowhawk perched on a post close to the harrier. Along the track down to Mill Hill a hunting barn owl gave amazingly close views.

Thursday 11 January 2024

Setting up the Winter Feeding Station.

The wood is quiet and drab at this time of year especially on the dark, dull days of my visits. Although the first snowdrops are just coming into flower in our local Churchyard, up here on the Wolds, where it is always a few degrees colder, there are still no signs of flowering, just the first shoots emerging from the dry leaf litter on the woodland floor. The highlight in the wood, though, in the dank, grey light of January is one group of plants that vibrates with a soft, vivid green. Not so noticeable against the greens of spring and summer, in deepest winter mosses glow gently, demanding our attention. In the feeding station wood most mosses present are common feather moss and this coats the dead fallen and felled trees with a vibrant green carpet. In the hotter temperatures of summer, mosses tend to desiccate and appear to be totally dried up, but now they are rehydrated, lush and luxurious adding a splash of colour to the winter wood. 

Despite the awful wet weather of late, double the amount of rainfall of the 10 year average in December, the wood was relatively dry and I had no need of my wellies. Apart from the mosses I found some coral spot fungus and a patch of jelly ear fungus. On my second visit to top up the feeders, I sat in the hide for a while to see what birds were coming down. All the usual species of tits were there along with a nuthatch, wren, robin and chaffinch. A buzzard drifted overhead; I love to hear the wild, plaintive mewing as it soars over the wood and meadow. Jackdaws were calling , as were rooks at their nests, a sure sign of approaching spring. 

Friday 5 January 2024

East Halton Marshes

 As Brian and I drew up in the parking space at Winter's Pit, adjacent to East Halton Marshes, we could see the group of grey lag geese feeding on the grassy bank of the pit next to the car park. Reaching for the bins it was easy to pick out the single Russian white-fronted goose among them. It was easy to differentiate from the grey lags as it has a prominant white blaze around the base of the bill and noticable black markings on the belly and flanks. Two distinct populations of white-fronted geese winter in the UK: birds breeding in Greenlant migrate to Ireland and SW Scotland, while those breeding on the tundra in the far north east winter in west, central and SE Europe. This was a good start to the day and after checking the rest of the birds on the bank and scanning the pit we headed along the track at the rear of the marshland.

It was wet down here and wellies were appreciated but it was not so bad as I anticipated. The marsh, however was more flooded than I have seen it.

We had good views of both red fox and roe deer along here. The whistling of the plentiful wigeon echoing over the marsh sounded wonderful as did the haunting cries of culew. Despite being so close to industry there is a real wild feel to these marshes. It was pleasing to see large flocks of lapwing wheeling in the air above the marsh; occasional flocks of pink feet also few over regularly.

On reaching East Halton Skitter where the beck runs out to sea, we were impressed with the amount of water in the beck, higher than I have ever seen it. Up on the sea wall it was time for some lunch: tomato soup, Christmas cake and cheese, marvellous. As we were eating we watched with trepidation a squall blowing in from the north. Fortunately most of it missed up but it did produce a splendid rainbow. Wandering back to Winter's along the sea wall we noticed again how flooded the marsh was. On reaching the pit I was pleased to find a female goldeneye and we had excellent views of a fox on the far side.

We saw 43 bird species, 2 foxes and nine roe deer, a great start to the new year.