28th February. In From The Cold

Over the last couple of days you'd be forgiven for thinking that spring had arrived, even the locals were taking their first dip in the lake this afternoon!

Duck numbers (most noticeably Pochard) have reduced drastically over the last few days, the Oystercatchers are back and Ringed Plovers are almost daily.  The gull roost has become rather insignificant over the last couple of nights - though I did finally pull an Iceland Gull out of the bag on Saturday.  A combination of poor light, shaking from the cold and crap technique resulted in some truly awful images of this juv/1st winter/2nd calendar year bird - it was a lot easier when we just called them immatures.
It was still there at first light the following morning and dropped in the dark on Sunday evening. A reminder that there's still plenty to go at this winter. 

19th February. Yellowthroat and a Knackered Battery

In 1997 I snubbed the Scillies Yellowthroat - simply because earlier in the year I had been to Ontario (Point Pelee etc.) and seen hundreds to the point where I was quite bored of them. When news broke on Thursday of one near Newport, Gwent the feeling that came over me was reminiscent of that of October 1997. However by Saturday night I had come to my senses and stopped being daft.
Sunday morning and 180 or so miles later we were faced with this vision of lemony loveliness - the likes that I had not seen (in Britain) since the Yellow-throated Vireo at Kenidjack in 1990 (I thought I'd throw that in for you smug lot that keep saying I saw the Scillies Yellowthroat in 1997 blah blah blah). Despite being brighter than a fluorescent jacket it kept itself well hidden and crawled around the long grass and brambles in a Radde's Warbler like manner.

Continuing the recent theme of un-prepared camera equipment I reached for the SLR only to discover that the battery was flat (probably due to being left overnight in the car). I managed to revive it enough for a few pics by keeping it in a warm place. I would like to point out to anyone who saw me with my hands down my pants, whilst watching the bird, that I was merely retreaving my battery. Anyhow I managed a dozen or so shots but inevitably they were all crap and the battery ran out - though I did attempt a few more warm ups! Apologies to the media friendly twitcher who shook my hand just after I'd put my battery 'on charge'!

One of the few (very poor) SLR shots

Marginally better digiscoped

Cracking HD video of a dead branch and half a Yellowthroat

An attempt to see the Bonaparte's Gull at Cardiff Bay Water Treatment Works,ended in abject failure when we couldn't find it - the water works that is!

17th February. Nuns on the Run

The recent freezing conditions brought an influx of Smew to the bottom half of England, so it was no surprise that once a thaw set in they would start to move. Sure enough, this morning, I stumbled into a stunning male on the smaller of the two Orgreave lakes. Typically I had left the SLR in the boot and worse still the Coolpix' memory card in the laptop. Fortunately the latter does have enough memory to take a handful of shots, so all was not lost.

The euphoria - of finding the Smew - was short-lived when I came across this news item http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-17072533 However, unlike Pit-house West this site was reclaimed with the intention of creating a large industrial development and eventually housing and consequently proper jobs. So unlike the Chinese fantasy shite I am not at all upset by this. I understand that the Rolls Royce site will sit at the northern most edge so, given the size of the site, will hopefully have little affect on the site. The development at Orgreave is a 25 year plan - so I'll be drawing my pension (if there's any money left) by the time the last brick is laid.

5th February. Lapping It Up

Having had a fairly fruitless trip to the patch this morning, and coupled with the throng of sledge's I was reluctant to go back down for the gull roost and had decided that the Bitterns at Pit-house West might be a better idea. After a session with the iron Jo decided that she wasn't bothered about going back out, and to be honest neither was I. However faced with almost two hours of Jamie Oliver (I didn't have the remote) I got back into my thermals and settled on the Orgreave gull roost.

There was already a good number of gulls on the ice with plenty more dropping in. The roost continued to build, but with the exception of a colour-ringed GBB Gull, nothing of interest. Irritable, I played about with the cameras video setting for a bit before I noticed a flock of Skylarks feeding around the path some 100 metres away. Scanning them with the scope, and hoping for a Shorelark (a real local mega) I was more than pleased when a Lapland Bunting hopped into my field of view. The flock seemed settled so I walked nearer, unfortunately before I could get the camera on it another sledging party flushed the whole flock! I expect that this bird might stick around until the skylarks move on, at least 60 birds have been hanging around the big hill for the last couple of days.

The tundra type habitat has clearly proven attractive this weekend.

4th February. What's going on?

A brief Knot this morning continued the last few days unprecedented wader influx - waders in winter are rare here. Better still was a male Merlin on the 'plain' perched on posts and then hunting Meadow Pipits, only the second record here.

Unusually for the time of year I managed a couple of mid-weeks visits this week. Too nice a morning yesterday to resist a visit, so taking advantage of some flexi-time I had a couple of hours on the patch scoring a useful year tick in the form of a Grey Plover.

I snook off early on Wednesday to take in the gull roost and refound the Caspian Gull , though frustratingly (again) I failed to get any decent images.