Monday, 16 November 2015

Birding at Yorkshire Wildlife Park

  I know a lot of people have mixed feelings about wildlife parks and zoos as no one really wants to see animals in captivity.If the Human Race wasn't a diabolical killing machine and could live in harmony with our planet and its inhabitants then maybe we wouldn't have to.

  Parks and Zoos are a necessity though with their endangered animals breeding programs and conservation projects around the globe and the Yorkshire Wildlife Park near Doncaster is one of the UK's best.They have fantastic animal management and some of the largest enclosures in the world which is why they have had recent success with breeding rare Amur Tigers and Amur Leopards.
  It is a great place to take your kids to educate them and to get them enthused about our Global wildlife.Not only that, it is a fantastic place to do a bit of birding too, so I'm proud to say I renew my annual membership each year:)

  During my numerous visits to the YWP I have now logged over 40 wild bird species in the park.The man made pools in the Baboon enclosure and waterfall in the Tiger enclosure are great for Grey Wagtails.
  Depending on the Season the hedgerows and bushes are alive with Robins, Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrests, Redwings, Goldfinches & Linnets.
  Goldfinch near the Polar Bear enclosures.
  Linnet in the Lion Territory
 Fieldfares, Pied Wagtails, Song Thrushes can be found in the African Plains field along with an array of Corvids.
  Fieldfare on African Plains
  Tree Creepers, Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Jays occupy the wooded areas around the children's playground and in the Oak woodland nature reserve adjacent to the Lemur Walkthrough.
  Jay in Oak woodland

  Having protected wetlands at the rear of the park also helps.As well as numerous Black-headed Gulls, Teal, Moorhens & Greylag Geese you can also find waders along the banks.Black-tailed Godwits, Snipe, Redshank & Common Sandpipers have all been observed there by us.
  Greylag Geese on the Wetlands.
 Part of the protected wetlands behind YWP
 Snipe in the wetlands.
Add to these great views of Raptors such as Common Buzzards, Kestrels, Sparrowhawks and Little Owls and you have a pretty good birding patch.
  Little Owl near Lion Territory
 Fly over by Common Buzzard
 Kestrel at the Polar Bear enclosure.

  So if you fancy a trip to Doncaster and Yorkshire Wildlife Park to see the Amur Tigers, Lions and Giant Otters just remember to bring your binoculars too:)

Monday, 7 September 2015

The 3rd Spurn Migration Festival

  Another month, another Birding Festival.This time on the Yorkshire coast down at Spurn Point.Run by The Spurn Bird Observatory and The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust though they are split at the moment over the proposed building of a new visitor centre in a delicate area of Spurn when there are better places for it which would cause less disturbance for the birds.

  Anyway on to the festival.We arrived on Friday night for the opening welcome and Yorkshire Coast Nature lecture.As soon as we arrived at Westmere Farm we were greeted by friendly faces such as Rob Adams and Martin Garner who then introduced the evenings talks.Both amazing birders with lots of information and advice to share.
Martin Garner

 Rob Adams

  The main lecture gave us an insight into various locations along the East Yorkshire coastline and the variety of birds seen at each point.

  After the lecture we headed back to our accommodation for the 2 nights at a local pub in Hollym.

  The next morning we were up early(though Majella wasn't too keen on the idea) lol and back at Spurn for 6.30am.It started off dull but the sunrise started to break through the clouds.

  The first port of call was Corner Field to see if we could find the Red Backed Shrike.Expecting to be the first ones there we were surprised to find Springwatch artist Darren Woodhead already sat in the field painting Shrikes.
  Red Backed Shrike(top)(with Willow Warbler)

     After our success with the RB Shrike we joined a guided walk around the Triangle with Scott.The Humber shoreline was full of waders.Scores of Redshanks were joined by Knots, Ringed Plovers, Curlews, Little Egrets, Golden Plover and a Whimbrel.
Ringed Plover
 Little Egret

   A search in the garden of Cliff Farm produced another Willow Warbler and our first of 3 Spotted Flycatchers and on our walk back past the cattle field a Yellow Wagtail flew in and disappeared into the grass.
Willow Warbler
 Spotted Flycatchers

   A stop for lunch, kindly provided by the wonderful people at Westmere Farm was followed by a walk to Kilnsea Wetlands.More Little Egrets, Knots, Mute Swans, Redshanks, Mallards and Oystercatchers enjoyed the sanctuary provided by the Wetlands.

  Linnets were to be found in most of the hedgerows.

  The talks for the Saturday evening were preceded by a Hog Roast(I had a cheese sandwich) and wine.Then came the announcement for the "Young Birder Of The Year" and fantastically it was someone I already knew, the amazing Findlay Wilde.A star of Hen Harrier Day and brilliant all round conservationist(though he did annoy me by showing me birds from his recent Portugal trip that I couldn't even ID) lol.I forgive you Findlay ;)

  The main Saturday evening talk was by Yoav Perlman, one of the top ornithologists in Israel.Down to number 3 due to currently living in East Anglia while doing a PhD for Great Bustard conservation.He spoke about Israel and showed us some stunning birds that made you want to go straight online and book a trip there.(Apologies for the photo Yoav)
You can check out the birding site for Israel here -

  The audience for the lectures were joined by the temporary barn residents, Swallows for the weekend.

While Findlay headed all the way back to Cheshire, we just had the 20 minute journey back to the pub and had a fantastic sighting of an Adult Fox on the way:)

  Next morning and we wanted to be back at Spurn early enough to have a early Seawatching session.The North Sea in the early morning light.Plenty of Gulls, knots and a Gannet but I missed the Corys & Sooty Shearwaters and Long-Tailed Skuas:(

  Me Seawatching(photo by Majella Fox)

  We left the Seawatching hut and headed down to the Observatory where they were ringing a few birds.First up was this Pied Flycatcher....
....followed by our first Redpoll of the year.This was followed by more Redpolls at the Church Field ringing station later in the day.

  The highlight of Sunday had to be watching the fastest predator on Earth hunt.We just happened to be in the right spot at the right time near Kew Villa to witness a Female Peregrine chasing a flock of alarm calling Knots.The Knots darted through the sky, abruptly changing direction as the Raptor dived in closer.They disappeared over Cliff Farm as the Knots headed out to open water.
  We had already seen a pair of Peregrines at Westmere Farm mobbing an annoyed Common Buzzard  a few hours beforehand but this sighting was more dramatic and a lot closer:)

  Even the coastguards were enjoying the afternoon sun by having a training session out in the Humber.

  Another miss with a Barred Warbler and we walked back to Westmere Farm to listen to a talk about the local Little Tern colony by Mike before seeing who was around to say our goodbyes too for another year.

  It was another fantastic Migration Festival, one that we hope to return to every year.In the end 57 species were seen by us over the weekend, not sure how far off the top total for the Bird Race that was though, quite a lot I should think.

  A big thank you to all the people who organised the weekend, Martin, Rob , Andy and the rest, and also to the volunteers and people at the farm that watered and fed us for 2 days(best scones ever).

  See you all again next year!! :)

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Rutland Bird Fair 2015

Already two thirds of the way through August and that can only mean one thing......Bird Fair :) I was hoping to blog after each day while in the hotel but was just too exhausted from the walking and talking so apologies for this being another long blog with all 3 days included.

  Friday morning we arrived at around 8.30am excited and ready to wander around the many stands in 10 different marquees.One of the first things we do each year is head over to the optics marquee to first cry over the Swarovski Optics, then have our annual chat with Jonathan Scott.Always a great guy to talk to.
  Jonathan doing his lecture the next day.

On the way back through the marquees we came across Simon King talking about his nuts ;)
He was showing the different ways Hazelnuts are eaten by various mammals like Squirrels, Voles & Mice.

 The first lecture we watched was David Lindo(The Urban Birder) talking about his new book.

  This was followed by legend Bill Oddie talking about anything as he didn't realise he had a talk to do lol I then bought his new book and asked him to sign it for us.

One of the main lectures I wanted to see was by Mark Carwardine on his love for Whales and all Ceteceans.Afterwards he was kind enough to sign one of his books for my nephew who is very interested in Marine Life.

  Another quick wander round the marquees and we had a fantastic talk with Caroline from BirdLife Malta with whom we joined last year.We talked a few times over the 3 days about the illegal hunting on Malta and the amazing work the people over there are doing.I ended up wearing their t-shirt and giving out cards for people to fill in and send to their MEP to get the EU to act against the Maltese Government to save our birds.

  This was followed by another serious lecture in the Events Marquee in association with League Against Cruel Sports with Bill Oddie, Ceri Levy and Dr. Toni Shephard telling us about the horrific killing of millions of birds in the Mediterranean and also in the UK.
 Ceri Levy
 Dr. Toni Shephard

  The shocking number of birds killed each year in the UK:( They also talked about the effect the 50 million game birds released each year have on our habitats and other wildlife.

  The first day ended with a more light-hearted lecture about best birding days.Bill Oddie, Ian Wallace, Lucy McRobert & Adam Rowlands each talked about their own best birding day and then had the audience vote on the best.
  Ian Wallace had a resounding victory after his amazing, entertaining speech and we got to see him afterwards whilst having free beer :)

  Day 2 and the main talk was with Chris Packham and a trio of young Birders, Scientists, Conservationists.Three very mature youngsters far braver than I am to do public speaking.All three doing an immense job.
Chris Packham.
 Josie Hewitt.
 Conor McCombe
 Georgia Locock

  Straight after this we had to rush across to Marquee 3 to see Mark Avery & Charlie Moores talking about Birders Against Wildlife Crime(BAWC).We caught up with the Bawc team(Charlie Moores, Lawrie Phipps & Phil Walton) numerous times during the Bird Fair, always great to see them and to try and support the amazing work they have done.
With Charlie.

  A quick run into the next doors Marquee 1 to see Tormod show us more about Varanger in Arctic Norway.Another great guy to talk too and hopefully we can get up to Varanger soon.We finally managed to meet up with a friend, Sara Frost who we hadn't seen since she took us out on a boat on the West coast of Scotland.
  We then saw Bird Brain Of Britain hosted by , yes that man again, Bill Oddie before heading over to the Authors Forum to listen to Mark Avery, Keith Betton, Ian Wallace and Debbie Pain talk about their collaboration on Behind The Binoculars.We also met Alan Davies & Ruth Miller(authors of The Biggest Twitch) afterwards too.
  A 15 minute drive back to Travelodge to collapse exhausted onto the bed before going back out for a meal at the nearby Little Chef.

  It seemed to have got to Day 3 of Bird Fair far too quickly:( but we were up earlier and arrived before 7.30am to get in a bit of bird watching from the hides before the event opened for the final day.
  A Wood Sandpiper was the highlight along with views of Green Sandpipers, Egyptian Geese and an Osprey.

There is an Osprey in this photo, honest :)

  We seemed to spend the last day mainly in the Events marquee but with quick trips out to various stands in between.More visits to Birding For All to meet the fantastic Phil Gatley, BirdLife Malta, BAWC, Islay(always good for free whisky;)), Hawk & Owl Trust, Biotope, and Hawke Optics(to get my first scope that cost more than £30).

  In the Events Marquee we again listened to Jonathan Scott explaining photography before introducing his wonderful wife Angie.This was followed by probably one of the most entertaining talks of the weekend by Martin Hughes-Games.It was his first Bird Fair and hopefully he will be back as he was great to talk too and while there Wild Sounds told us his book had become their biggest ever seller at Bird Fair, even beating Sir David Attenboroughs last visit.

  His lecture was followed by the Bird Fair's first ever Birdless Pointbrain(Tv's Pointless with Birders) chaired by Nigel Redman & Neil Glenn.Stephen Moss, Nick Baker, Mike Dilger & Martin joined in the fun along with a few Bird Fair volunteers.

  After listening to Martin's talk I decided I should go buy his new book so off we went to the Wild Sounds stand.Martin was joined by Nick, Mike & David Lindo at the signing table.

  After getting Martin to sign his book for us we went to talk to Mike about the Spurn Migration Festival that is coming up in 2 weeks time.He then signed our programme before doing his own artwork on Nick's profile photo.I then went to see Nick who signed his own photo before adding his own artistic touches to Mike's photo.:) Just looking at this pic and only now have noticed that it says Bird Fair 2014 on the bottom lol Guess they forgot to change the year on every page.

  The final event we attended, which turned out to be the funniest thing I've seen for a long time was the Bird Fair's rendition of "The Gruffalo"
  It starred Mike Dilger as Mouse, Nick Baker as Snake, Dominic Couzens as Owl, Rob Lambert as Fox and Bill Oddie as The Gruffalo, all narrated by Squirrel, Lucy McRobert.They all looked to be having as much fun doing the play as we had watching it.

  A hilarious end to our Bird Fair and another fantastic 3 days of lectures and meeting friends.Thanks to everyone who helped make it so enjoyable.I will probably miss some people off that we talked to but here are a few.
  Sara Frost, Charlie Moores, Phil Walton, Lawrie Phipps, Paul Cowley, Mark Avery, Nicola Main, Andrew Glaysher, Hawys Wynne, Karen Elizabeth, Georgia Locock, Phil Gatley, Caroline(BirdLifeMalta), Tormod Amundsen, Alan Davies, Ruth Miller, Ian Wallace, Mike Dilger, Martin Hughes-Games, Mark Carwardine, Nick Baker & Bill Oddie.
  Thanks to you all:)

  Only 358 days to Bird Fair 2016 ;)

  A few important websites you should take the time to check out:) Thanks


 Thanks for putting up with the very long blog, would've been shorter to write a book ;)