Friday, 23 March 2012

A Reason to Return

The recent launch of the Yorkshire Nature Triangle website made me decide it was time I visited Tophill Low Nature reserve . It has been on my list of places to visit and with the membership starting on April 1st I thought it a good idea to have a quick walk around to see if I wanted to join this year.

Having a bit of work to do over on the coast it seemed a good plan to call in on my way. With the sat nav guiding me it was not long before I was approaching the reserve. Things looked good as I drove along with fields at the side. Heading to the car park there was a sign warning of crossing toads but I did not see any. There was a hose over the road with a metal ramp - my car is very low and I think the underside of it made slight contact - a gentler ramp would be better.

Amazingly the sun had decided to join me but there were few cars in the car park. I bought my ticket and picked up the useful leaflet. I got the impression the place was well run.

With limited time I headed to what they call D reservoir and was slightly disappointed that it had a wall running around it but then I saw the good sized hides.

Entering one of the hides I saw what a good view of the reservoir it offered. There were plenty of Tufted duck about and some Goldeneye (a first for me  - it is one of those species that seems to have evaded me).

Coots seem to be everywhere and I was not surprised to see plenty here.

There was only a gentle breeze and it was very peaceful. The only sound was the regular noise of a pump. It seemed like the heart of the place beating with a regular and quite relaxing beat.

There were also a few Pochard about. This one needed a run for takeoff.

Leaving the hide I walked along the woodland path listening to the Chiffchaffs and a Comma butterfly fluttered past - it seemed a repeat of the other day.

At a feeding station there were Goldfinches and Greenfinches together with a pheasant that was mopping up the food on the ground.

I stopped at another hide but as time was short I headed back on the long straight section of the reservoir.

This Small tortoiseshell was basking in the sun.

An Oystercatcher was snoozing on the wall.

A few Pied wagtails flew over and I saw more Goldfinches in some of the bushes.

Reaching the car park I saw a few more people had arrived but I had hardly seen anybody.

I was told that a Bittern had been seen on the other side of the reserve so I think word had got around and everybody had gone to the nearest hide.

Time sadly did not allow me to go and see the Bittern but I always think that you should leave nice places with a reason to go back. The Bittern will be one of the reasons I return and I will be paying the annual membership come April 1st.

Driving out of the car park I had to stop for a Toad (and passenger) that was crossing the road. It decided to stop in front of me but a helpful birder encouraged it to continue.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

A Familiar Song

Today I decided on a local walk. Wanting to travel light I just took a Fuji superzoom camera as the wood I was heading to is popular with dog walkers and I did not think I would get much chance to photograph wildlife.

Entering the wood I took a relatively new path.

The wood has been heavily managed recently with the removal of many trees and the creation of more paths.

A Long-tailed tit entertained me for a while with its acrobatic antics.

I love the sounds in woodland especially in spring and was listening to the birds when it slowly dawned on me that one song that becomes very familiar over the course of the summer was present today but had been missing over the winter months. It was the song of the Chiffchaff - the first I have heard this year. My attempts to locate it and get a photo ended in disappointment when a dog walker appeared behind me and the bird decided to move on.

Walking out of the wood a Grey squirrel ran along the path.

I walked along the edge of the wood and saw 3 Roe deer. They had probably been disturbed by somebody on the main path but they soon saw me.

I managed a quick grab shot before they faded into the wood.

I chose not to disturb them anymore and walked back through the wood away from the direction they had gone and joined the main path where I saw this Comma butterfly.

Continuing along the path I worked my way back to the main entrance.

Although there was a fairly strong breeze it was a wonderful day with lots of sunshine and a beautiful blue sky.

I watched this Pied wagtail for a short while before returning home.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Courting Gulls and Avocets

The weather has played tricks on me again. A gorgeous Spring morning with lovely blue sky persuaded me to get out with my camera but I had a few tasks to perform first. As lunchtime approached the clouds appeared but the odd sunny spell encouraged me to think all was not lost.

Camera gear packed I headed down the road but as the miles passed by the cloud cover increased. far in the distance things looked brighter but alas when I arrived at North Cave Wetlands the sky was a uniform grey and a chilly breeze had sprung up.

I decided to walk around first before visiting the cafe even though it was lunchtime.

A Great crested grebe was feeding and every so often dived in search of fish.

This female Tufted duck kept turning onto her back to groom her front.

Although it no longer felt like spring there were signs that the year was moving on. I sat on one of the benches and nearby was this Coltsfoot.

There were plenty of Black-headed gulls some of which were starting their courtship which is quite an interesting performance. The duck below seemed to agree.

All around where signs that the breeding season is starting with nest building and courtship.

I was delighted to see a group of over 20 Avocets which I would have missed if it not had been for a birder telling me they could be seen from the Turret hide.

They flew from the Island lake to the Village lake.

There were also a few Shelducks

But less geese than my last visit

The cold breeze had now got to me so I made my way slowly back to the cafe for a cup of coffee stopping to take a few more photos.


I also spotted this Little grebe


 Black-headed gull

My bird identification skills have much room for improvement and I am not sure what this bird is so any help would be appreciated. I am thinking it is a Godwit but if so is it a Black-tailed or Bar-tailed.
I only saw it for a few seconds and it was some distance away so it is not a good photograph.

I sat in the car enjoying my coffee and slowly warming up. listening to the sounds of the birds. It had been a changeable day but one I would remember for the Avocets as it is the first time I have seen any.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Bempton, the return of the seabirds

Hearing that the seabirds had returned to Bempton cliffs we decided to make our first visit of the year.

The car park was quite busy and really the overflow area needed to be used but we were lucky enough to find a parking space.

Sunday was one of those beautiful spring days with hardly a breeze and a big blue sky. We expected things may be different on the cliff tops but found the air was just as still and ended up returning our warm clothing to the car, it was a day for summer gear.
 Tree sparrows could be seen near the visitor centre.

As we made our way towards the viewpoints the air was full of the sound of Skylarks.

At Staple Newk we could see the Gannets had returned. They are an amazing bird both in appearance and behaviour.

Every year there are thousands of seabirds nesting at Bempton. Even though Gannets, Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Razorbills have their fans most visitors scan the cliff face to see Puffins. 
It is a bit early in the year to see many but you can see a couple amongst the Gannets in this photograph (click on the photo to view a larger version).

To me they are an added bonus at Bempton and I do not favour any species over another. They are all part of the whole experience but there is no doubting the popularity of the Puffin.

Jackdaws are very common on the cliff tops. I love their blue eyes.

This one was keeping a close eye on me.

Looking down to the base of the cliffs we could see an angler. He was quite a distance from the safety of the sands of Filey bay and as the tide was coming in I wonder how he got back. There are some treacherous looking "get downs" known to the locals with ropes and ladders so maybe he used one of these to climb back up.

The high cliffs mean that often we are looking down to birds in flight.

They need little space to build their nests or rear their young.

The RSPB have installed some cameras to give a closer view. It is a good job these Razorbills are not shy.

The sea was very calm. This sailing boat was having to use engine power.

Groups of Gannets kept flying past.

Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Razorbills bobbed about on the sea below them.

Most of the birds kept low down but some like this Fulmar would venture higher up towards the cliff tops.

Or like these gulls, venture above.

Large numbers of Ladybirds were present. This one had found a good spot to catch the sun although being bright red it wasn't well hidden.I quite liked the way the fence post mimicked the cliff face.

We made our way back to the car park. Unfortunately the ECO cafe is not at Bempton anymore and we had to make do with drinks from the RSPB shop, still we had worked up a thirst and were grateful for the tea, coffee and the limited snacks on offer. A cafe would no doubt do very well here.

Some of the birds hang around the picnic tables in the hope of food. These two pigeons had other things on their mind though and were engaging in a courtship routine.

There is no doubt that Spring has arrived.