Wednesday, 19 October 2016

A glorious autumnal day at Pennington Flash

For once I thought I was going to have a yellow-browed warbler free day, with no sign of the Houghton Green Pool bird this morning, but I just can't resist and when news came through that two were still in the area of the Teal scrape at Pennington Flash, I decided to head that way this afternoon. It took some finding, but I did manage to get a decent view of one of the birds, but I didn't hear either bird call once. The trees are a glorious colour at the flash at the moment

I might be able to find yellow-browed warblers even when silent, but somehow I managed to walk past and not notice 8 adult whooper swans near the car park. Fortunately they were still present when I was leaving. Star birds of the day though were 2 bearded tits from Tom Edmondson hide. Unfortunately I didn't manage to connect with these, but perhaps they're still present in which case there might still be hope for all of us.

The green sandpiper was at Houghton Green Pool, with 12 grey partridge and 11 wigeon.

When I was told about these whoopers, I expected them to be in the centre of the flash not just off the car park!

Monday, 17 October 2016


I stumbled across a 9.6m high tide at Marshside today. I'd gone for a look at the three cattle egrets and arrived at 11:45am to find Crossens Outer marsh flooded, with impressive numbers of ducks and waders. The only raptors I saw though were marsh harrier, buzzard and peregrine.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Spurn dripping with birds

What a day on the east coast! Having resisted the temptation to jump in the car and travel to Easington for the Siberian accentor as soon as it was reported on Thursday, I even managed to resist again on Friday despite all of the drooling tweets coming through from various friends on site, and I ended up instead having yet another look at the yellow-browed warbler at Houghton Green Pool. Today though I finally succumed and Ray and I headed over to Easington to have a look at a bird which just a week ago was a mega but which with news of yet another in Cleveland today is rapidly becoming just a good county tick, with three in a week. With 37 so far reported elsewhere in north west Europe, it seems possible that even more might be found over the next few days. How long before we get one in the north west? Got to see them while you can though, the Siberian accentor on Shetland last weekend was a first for Britain and it could be another 50 years before we get another! This might be a one off invasion year.

UK Life: 416 (Siberian accentor), Year: 250 (Siberian acccentor, dusky warbler).

Edit 16/10/216: it's now four in a week with another bird seen in Durham.

The bird showed incredibly well for a species which is reputedly shy. Unfortunately though the light was very poor while we were watching it, so the photos are a disappointment.

It was one of those days you dream of at Spurn, literally dripping with birds. Goldcrests and robins everywhere, there must have been hundreds of each, every other bird we saw was a goldcrest or a robin. On the walk back to the car from watching the accentor we saw firecrest, yellow-browed warbler and lesser whitethroat, the latter looking suspiciously Siberian like, and then we drove to Kilnsea. We watched a very obliging shorelark near the car park, and then as we were having lunch 23 European white-fronted geese flew over.

After lunch we walked to the church yard where there was one of two Pallas's warblers showing well, and another yellow-browed warbler. Next into the Crown and Anchor car park where there was another firecrest and another yellow-browed warbler. It was that kind of day, everywhere you looked there were groups of birders watching something of interest. There were over 12,000 redwings seen, 1700 fieldfare and 400 each of blackbirds and song thrushes, and air was full of their seeps and cackles and ticks. A very exciting atmosphere when you could believe that anything was a possibility.

From the Crown and Anchor we walked along the sea bank towards the canal, on the way ignoring a small flock of brents that most likely contained the a reported black brant. Half way along we came across a very obliging dusky warbler, one of an incredible nine seen at Spurn today!

Finally we headed back to Easington for another look at the Siberian accentor before leaving. We found that the bird had moved, it was no longer in the car park of the Old School, it was now on the other side of the gas terminal fence and though still close was a far poorer view. On the walk back to the car we saw the lesser whitethroat again and a redstart.

We also missed Radde's warbler, great grey shrike, 3 little buntings, Richards pipit, jack snipe and a whole flock of bean geese, plus who knows what else on a day like today?

This dusky warbler at the canal performed very well and was one of nine seen at Spurn today. I heard it call a couple of times.

We saw two firecrests, one in Vicars Lane at Easington and this one in the Crown and Anchor car park at Kilnsea.

Goldcrest where everywhere, some just a couple of feet away. I had to put my camera into macro focusing mode to photograph this bird.

Shorelark. There had been up to 14 in the area, but this was the only one which stuck.

1st winter male redstart.

The Crown and Anchor at Kilnsea.

From about noon onwards the clouds broke and it was a glorious sunny afternoon, no wind and warm enough to walk around without a coat. Not bad for the east coast in mid-October!

Thursday, 13 October 2016

In the rings of willow, Houghton Green Pool

The yellow-browed warbler showed exceptionally well today in the willow scrub at the south west corner of the pool near Cloverdell. It called persistanly for about 5 minutes, and seemed very inquisitive, coming to within about 3m of where I was standing. It still proved difficult to photograph, constantly on the move and with twigs, branches and leaves in the way which the camera preferred to focus on rather than the bird, but at least the light was better here and the bird was much closer than it was when in the sycamore canopy the other day. Then it stopped calling and I didn't see it again all morning. That's the way it is with this bird I'm afraid. Also on the pool this morning, green sandpiper still, 16 wigeon, 8 teal with 5 swallows over.

I'm actually feeling quite positive about the place at the moment, it seem to be developing quite nicely. The willow scrub around the pool goes around it in about 6 parallel, almost impenetrable rows with grassy / scrubby gaps in between, which form quite a good barrier and screen, and there's only really one way down to the pool. It's clear to see that each ring was formed as the water level receded, and indeed there are currently willow saplings right down at the waters edge starting to form the next ring.

Clearly over the years the water level has not gone down gradually. It must have dropped and then stayed at that level for a while allowing a ring to form before dropping again, then stopping and allowing another ring to form, and so on. Hopefully though it won't drop any further. 

There are a lot of small birds feeding in the willow scrub, including at the moment the yellow-browed warbler, and the grassy areas in between have proven good for inverts this year. Hopefully if the scrub is allowed to continue to grow and the place is allowed to develop, though it may never get back to what it was, in a year or two it could still be a top local site again.

While I was walking around today I decided to have a look at the composition of the scrub, just to see which trees are taking hold. The yellow-browed warbler above was photographed in grey willow Salix cinerea, but this isn't the only willow species present, in fact it's just one of several.

There are at least three species of willow in this photo, osier S. viminalis, goat willow S. caprea and grey willow.

Goat willow.

 Grey willow


Eared willow S. aurita.

White willow S. alba.

White willow.

In amongst the higher more established rings there is also quite a lot of birch, including silver birch Betula pendula.

Also white poplar Populus alba is growing in the higher ring.

It's not just pioneer trees though which are at the pool, in the drier areas there are already a few saplings of other trees such as this sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus. In time these trees are likely to take over if the place is left undisturbed. This photo also shows the typical composition of the grassy areas in between the rings, which includes various rushes, grasses and forbs dominated by willowherbs Epilobium sp., ragwort Senecio jacobaea and gypsywort Lycopus europaeus.


I was pleased to find a couple of small patches of this sedge, Galingale Cyperus longus, it's a species I have never seen in the northwest previously.


There's a nice area of oak woodland to the north of the pool. It would be even nicer if it didn't have the constant noise of the M6 as a backdrop.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Like London buses, Yellow-browed warbler at Houghton Green Pool

A week ago I bemoaned the fact that I never have any luck with yellow-browed warblers, I think the words I used were "they avoid me or I'm doing it wrong". In the space of the past five days I've now seen a total of six yellow-broweds, two of which I've found for myself and both were first records for the sites involved! Just goes to show, perseverance pays off.

This morning I walked down the tall hedge towards Cloverdell and found a long-tailed tit flock around the sycamores next to the buildings. Almost immediately I noticed a small warbler with the flock and I suspected it might be yellow-browed, but it took me a while to get a good look at it to confirm the identification.

For such a reputably vocal species, both birds I have found recently called very little. Certainly the Pennington Flash bird did call at first, in fact that's how I located it, but most of that afternoon it didn't call. Likewise todays bird didn't call once in the two hours or so that I was within earshot. The flock moved between the hedge and the willow scrub around the pool, and the easiest way to keep up with the warbler was actually to listen for the calls of long-tailed tits. They seemed to roam quite a distance, but always returned to their favoured corner.

I put the news out but as far as I know only Austin Morley came to have a look, probably partly due to it being a midweek bird, but also perhaps a sign of how many yellow-broweds there have been in the country this autumn. Fortunately Austin connected with the bird and took some excellent photos, including the two below. You can see more photos on his blog here.

I returned in the afternoon and spent two or three hours walking around the pool, and when I left at 15:45 the bird was still present with the long-tailed tits in the corner.

I've had a few year ticks recently and my year list now stands at: 248 (Yellow-browed warbler, brambling and bean goose are the recent additions).

Thanks to Austin for allowing me to use the above two photos. The following photos are mine (obviouly!).

Spot the birdy! It's right in the centre of the photo, they don't call them leaf warblers for no reason.

Join the dots! About 800 pink-footed geese flew over in three flocks.

There were also 14 wigeon, 70 lapwings, 100 black-headed gulls and 80 mallard on the pool, plus a late swallow flew over this morning.


Harlequin ladybird.

This is a Cheilosia hoverfly. I think its large size, abdomen shape and leg pattern and leg colouration make it C. vulpina, which would be a new species for me, but the experts on the Facebook group UK Hoverflies insist that I would need a specimin to confirm the id., so it remains an unofficial identification!