With a fairly bright start and little wind, I took a walk on the North bank of the Humber in search of Grasshopper Warbler. I find this particular warbler fascinating with its long reeling song, roughly giving away its position and yet being extremely secretive at the same time. On the other hand, every now and then, one will show really well and can be observed turning its head, as it lets out its prolonged song.
At my starting point this morning, I was lucky to hear a Grasshopper Warbler straightaway but realised it was singing from the depths of an extensive reedbed. Despite spending some time listening to its frequent song, it was clearly moving within the reedbed, but failed to show at all.
I decided to move on and found Sedge Warblers were much more showy and saw five, in a short space of time.
Also calling well and good to see on the North bank, were Bearded Tits. Strangely, these birds were happy to be in the company of Reed Buntings, feeding together in the reeds.
3 male and a female Marsh Harrier made appearances, gliding over the reedbeds and a Sparrowhawk quietened the Sedge Warblers down for a while.
An unusual appearance came in the form of 6 Barnacle Geese, coming off the estuary from the South.
No more Grasshopper Warblers unfortunately, but a Reed Warbler showed and Cetti's Warblers were calling in two locations.
Only a brief visit, my next stop was to be London Camera Exchange in Lincoln - yesss!!
The temperature was hovering around 5C when I arrived at Spurn this morning. The light wind was off the sea and had a cold feel to it, not ideal for the arrival of Spring migrants.
Despite that, a Chiffchaff was singing in the canal bushes and a Wheatear was in Well field.
The Canal Scrape was quiet, until a Sedge Warbler sang briefly from the car park bushes - my first this year. The usual Linnets and Goldfinches were about and only the Wrens seemed to have something to shout about.
Over at Sammy's Point, it seemed equally quiet. A noticeable Easterly movement of Curlews took place throughout the morning, flying out to sea. On the ground there wasn't a single Wheatear, Ring Ouzel or Yellow Wagtail in what is a good area for them.
Fortunately, a nice encounter with a Short-eared Owl (one of two present) passed the time, as it hunted the area repeatedly.
Whilst watching the owl, a cream crowned Marsh Harrier flew East towards Kilnsea.
I walked the clifftop around Sandybeaches in case a Black Redstart had shown up, but only found this pair of Swallows. One of them is ringed and I wonder if it is a returning Spurn bird.
A further pair of Swallows was on Canal Scrape, joined by this Sand Martin for a while.
A Whitethroat and two Lesser Whitethroats were seen by others, I found a male Blackcap and two Willow Warblers along the canal. We need some warmer weather!
Without question, Tophill Low reserve in East Yorkshire has a wonderful range of habitats with two reservoirs, marshes, areas of scrub, woodland walks and a river through adjacent farmland. Consequently, a visit in early Spring will reveal the remaining over-wintering birds along with the newly arriving migrants, giving a substantial number of species to be found.
The sound of bird song in the car park alone had to be believed this morning. High in the conifers, Goldcrests were calling with Mistle Thrush, Tree Sparrow, Great and Blue Tit, Robin, Blackcap and Chiffchaffs all in the vicinity. A Brambling wheezed and Great-spotted Woodpeckers were drumming alternately.
Walking in the direction of South Marsh, I saw another Brambling and my 'first of the year' Willow Warbler, one of three this morning.
The marsh was already busy with numerous Black-headed Gulls settling in to the colony and a drake with two female Pintails, was a pleasant surprise. A familiar call alerted me to two Little Ringed Plovers - early migrant waders.
Little Grebe close to the hide.
A Redshank was present and among the wildfowl were a handful of Shelduck, a pair of remaining Wigeon and small numbers of Teal, Shoveler and Gadwall.
No sign of Sedge Warblers yet but, a Whitethroat was singing at the back of the marsh as was a Cetti's Warbler.
Moving on to Watton NR lake, the Garganey didn't seem to be about (seen yesterday morning) but a Snipe showed well and several Grey Herons and Cormorants arrived. A Willow Warbler was singing here and a male Bullfinch was in trees by the hide.
The walk through D Woods started with a look from the South Hide over the reservoir. Winter wildfowl numbers have decreased though a good number of Goldeneye were still here - the drakes displaying and looking splendid.
D Woods was also full of bird song - another Brambling was high in a conifer, more Chiffies and a further Willow Warbler. Two Treecreepers were busy high up and Blackcaps were very obliging in full song!
On North Marsh, I struggled with the Kingfishers this morning, A couple of Greylag Geese were messing about in the channels and the Kingfishers wouldn't come to the perches. They kept at a distance, flying about the reeds and being very mobile.
The biggest photographic challenge by far this morning was at the new hide where, a female Long-tailed Duck which has been around for a while, was in the opposite corner of the reservoir. It would surface for around five seconds before diving again, repeatedly.
You can see from the very varying images, what a great day or year list can be had at this Reserve. When you include the four Common Buzzards and Sparrowhawk overhead, the Geese, Crow and Pigeon families, the species number is an admirable one.
I arrived home at 1330, in time to witness the Red Kite passing through again, the second time in four days. I hope it becomes a regular visitor here. It was pursued by one of the locals!
Half of the rear garden.
I commented a few days ago that, at the new bungalow, I'm struggling to get birds in the garden. The 'list' has gone up three last week with a brief appearance from a Chaffinch, Greenfinch and two Goldcrests shot through, which was a surprise.
Fortunately, the raptors are still turning up. Yesterday, a Red Kite flew low over the Close but I didn't have the camera with me.
This morning, a Kestrel was the first seen over head and this afternoon, no less than nine Common Buzzards were in the air together.
The male Sparrowhawk seen a couple of days ago.
Three of today's Buzzards, all high up but I might get to tell them apart if they live around here.
Looking forward to a day out on Monday.....
Well, we've moved house (not far) and after two weeks solid work, I'm having a day out. In the new garden, the feeders have been up for ten days and so far, I've only seen a Collared Dove and a Dunnock - looking a bit grim!
Previous homes have always had even a small area of 'untouched' land and trees to the rear, which has always provided an interesting garden list. Now I'm in what I usually describe as a 'sea of bricks and tarmac' and 'spot the tree' - so it will be interesting to see what happens. The plus point of being surrounded by other bungalows is that there is plenty of sky and this afternoon, 5 Common Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk were in the air.
Although it's rather early for migrants on the East Coast, a visit to the Spurn area was made in view of an Easterly wind. I found a lovely male Northern Wheatear and I think it's my earliest ever Wheatear in Spring.
The wind was cold off the sea and it was a while before Chiffchaffs became noticeable by their song. I counted eight around the area, during the day.
Also warming up in the morning sun were two Long-tailed Tits huddled together in a hedgerow.
At Kilnsea Wetlands, the Countryfile film crew were at work in the hide so, waiting outside, I scanned the large Brent Goose flock and located the long-staying Black Brant. Six Avocets were nearby.
There were plenty of Brents to sift through!
A flock of Wigeon contained this individual, which I've found a bit puzzling. The bill has an interesting pattern and I'm not sure if this is a hybrid x wigeon, or a 'still' immature male Wigeon.
Great to be out again today.
I'm looking back on some of the wonderful moments I've had on our winter stay in Portugal's Algarve region. At this time of year, the Algarve is quiet, the days can be sunny and warm, and the countryside is filled with orange orchards and almond blossom. Most days the Atlantic has been flat calm and a deep blue, with a pure white surf, rolling up the long expanses of beach.
The only addition to my Life List came in the form of an American Herring Gull, found by a Portuguese birder in the fishing port at Portimao. I went down a couple of times to see this bird and it seems to have remained there throughout my stay.
Perhaps even more exciting was the arrival of a Sora from N. America as this constituted a 'first' for Portugal. Although by nature, a fairly skulking bird, this Sora had found a habitat bordered by a riverside wall in the town of Silves making it very easy to see with a little patience.
This was not the best time of year for raptor watching but I was treated to some exceptional views, on occasions.
The juvenile Bonelli's Eagle pursuing Glossy Ibises at Lagoa was spectacular. One of three seen during my stay.
The Peregrine which frequents Alvor Marsh was quite approachable.
..... as was the stunning Black-shouldered Kite - possibly my favourite Algarve raptor.
An early Short-toed Eagle was found on the way to Monchique, two Golden Eagles being seen in the hills also.
Marsh Harriers were frequent, as were Ospreys on the marshes and Booted Eagles were seen occasionally.
On the ground, Bluethroats showed really well at times and it was good getting to grips with Iberian Chiffchaff, once they started calling!
I recorded 124 species in all. New additions to my Algarve List were the American Herring Gull. Sora and a single Common Gull at Pera Marsh.
It was good to meet with old friends and new - Cheryl, Roger and the Alvor gang, Idris and Jacqui, Luis and friends at Silves. Looking forward to seeing you all again in Alvor.
Well, it's back to the UK and moving house so......I may be gone some time!!
The water levels have been raised once more and the site looked really good this morning. The level seemed just right for all the waders and the roosting gulls too.
Feeding waders included Golden Plover, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwits, Sanderling, 12 Avocet, Green Sandpiper, Redshank and a single Spotted Redshank. No Flamingos were present but 2 Spoonbills, several Grey Heron and the occasional Glossy Ibis emerged from the reeds.
Nothing unusual among the wildfowl this morning, whilst scanning a Purple Gallinule was seen distantly.
I was on the lookout for early migrants and certainly the number of Swallows had increased dramatically with a hundred or so feeding low over the water. House Martins were with them also,
Newly arrived adult Swallows resting in the tamarisk bushes.
I met with two other birders who were deliberating over a distant gull which aroused my interest. It was larger than a nearby Black-headed Gull, clearly not a Med Gull and smaller than a Yellow-legged Gull. Common Gull is a very scarce visitor and this was looking like one, in terms of size and shape.
Later, the Gull appeared closer, perched on a post in the lake. I thought, yes it's a Common Gull - in terms of age, the bill and leg colour (darkish green) looked like a second winter. The problem was, the head was white and unstreaked, the sides were extensively white which I have never seen on a Common Gull.
I wish I'd taken more images, but I was being distracted by more birds and hadn't realised it wasn't that clear cut!
Back on the search for migrants and my first Yellow Wagtail called overhead. I found it near a pool of fresh water, it was a smart Iberiae race.
We walked the boardwalk to the sea end and had lunch in the restaurant. On returning, an adult Little Bittern flew between two reedbeds and a surprise Stone Curlew landed in the dunes on the seaward side and out of view.
Today was much better for Penduline Tits, there was practically no wind in the morning and twelve were seen in one flock, but very mobile. I found them later in the afternoon, close to the viewing screen and feeding on tamarisk seeds.
A female Black-header Weaver was with the Penduline Tits.
One of our favourite haunts in the Monchique hills, is the walk up to the small and picturesque village of Caldas.
I have visited this site many times and usually come across something completely unexpected. There are always the 'residents' - plentiful supplies of Blackcaps, Nuthatches around the village square and, the Grey Wagtails along the stream, the source of the Monchique mineral water.
There is a wonderful air of tranquility and quiet walking around Caldas, at the same time though, I felt the need to dig out some star birds in all this woodland. I got off to a good start with two Firecrests, following a tit flock and constantly checked all the Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. A Jay and Great-spotted Woodpecker made their presence known vocally.
Between two trees in a patch of blue sky, I saw two eagles passing over the valley. By the time I had configured the camera for bright sky, I had all but lost the birds behind distant trees. Looking over several images I took, I'm sure they were Golden Eagles and, this one, possibly a second/third year bird.
I had no sooner taken those images when a Common Buzzard flew past, carrying a eucalyptus branch to a conifer tree in the valley. Nesting time already perhaps.
These were the unexpected sightings I referred to earlier as, I have had little success with raptors here in the past, despite the ideal landscape.
With my eyes back in the trees, another great bird to see at Caldas is the Crested Tit. The approach road has large pines on the left and these are likely places to check. Rather like the Firecrest, a 'zi-zi' is all that may be heard and they don't always show well among the pine needles.
On the subject of bird calls, the Common Chiffchaffs which have spent the winter in 'silent mode' are now starting their 'chiff cheff chiff cheff' calling, more noticeably each day and, so it seems is the Iberian Chiffchaff with its completely different 'seeo' call.
I found at least three at Caldas today and photographed this one many times, looking for visual differences. Identification by call is still the safest way, this particular Iberian Chiffchaff has some white on its forehead which is not normally found.
An excellent day at Caldas de Monchique with the tiny Firecrest to the mighty Golden Eagle providing much enjoyment.
As I start the final week of my winter getaway, I am encouraged by what I have read in the english Portugal News, regarding the Lagoa Wetlands.
Otherwise known as Alagoas Brancas, this area is the last freshwater wetlands in the Algarve and is refuge for many species you would expect in such a habitat. The area has been acquired by a developer who intends to build - yes, just what we're desperate for - a supermarket, facing another supermarket across the road (sounds just like home!)
I became aware of an action group of local people and fellow birders/naturalists, who were raising a petition to draw the local council's attention to the opposition and destruction of an important habitat.
The petition has had initial success as the council has stopped the developer and the whole matter is being escalated to Central Government. I hope the people of Lagoa can achieve a favourable settlement for their local area. It is remarkable how a small organisation can bring to the attention of 'the powers that be', an issue which they had no knowledge of and sometimes, similar judgements can be applied favourably to other habitats.
I feel the same despair at home sometimes, living on an island of finite square miles with an ever-increasing demand for housing and services. Lip service paid to farming and the countryside in general, having to create marine zones for sea creatures to live in safety.
Whether it be a small woodland you've always known, a high-speed train through an important nature reserve, or a third runway at Heathrow obliterating village life - once that tarmac's down, it's down for good and the habitat's gone. Keep making your voices heard.
Finally, some birds of the Lagoa area.
As always, the Black Redstarts were showing well from an elevated rock or building. This morning the males were in fine singing voice.
One of four females Black Redstarts seen, below.
Cape St. Vincent was very quiet apart from a couple of Linnets and Crested Larks. I spent a considerable time scanning the rocky slopes around the lighthouse, in search of an Alpine Accentor. A rare winter visitor but I have usually found one and, with patience, my search paid off.
Also on the peninsula were 16 Choughs, 3 Kestrels, a Little Owl at Vale Santo farm, 3 White Storks and many Meadow Pipits.
In Porto Baliero harbour, there was no sign of the Glaucous Gull and I watched the Cormorants drying off.
This one was in superb breeding plumage.
Nearer to home, this male Blue Rock Thrush was found on a disused building - a lovely colour!
Some local mammals -
Finally, back home a real treat - a large group of gulls alerted me to a passing school of dolphins, close inshore.
I have no knowledge at all on dolphins and don't know which species frequent these waters.