24th August. Moves Like Jaeger

Lots of talk during the week about how good the East Coast was going to be over the coming weekend, with some predicting classic fall conditions it seemed that even the hardiest patch workers would up sticks and make for the likes of Spurn and Flamborough. I on the other hand, having just returned from a short break on Anglesey and North Wales couldn't wait to get back to the patch.

Waking at 5am and eventually, after several spells of nodding back off, getting out at 6:30 the conditions looked the stuff of birding dreams - at least they would at one of the East Coast spots; low cloud, rain and a light easterly wind.

No birders present with just a dog walker for company (more on him later) I picked up 3 Common Scoters (2 drakes and a female type) immediately - things were looking promising. I walked along the eastern edge that still, despite the previous nights torrential rain, had a decent muddy edge. As usual I'd opted to leave the scope in the car, I find without it I look more intensely, and scanned through the ducks and gulls.  A small arrival of Teal and 4 Wigeon were another indication that things were moving and as I scanned the southern section of the largest lake I picked up a small dark "gull" sat on the water away from the other gulls.  A voice in my head said "shit Skua!" whilst another said "don't be daft." Fortunately I listened to the former and made my way closer.
This was pretty much what my initial view looked like.

Obviously a small dark skua I managed to get closer. The bird, a juv, sat there not doing much at all and it was at this point that it dawned on me that this was just as likely to be a Long-tailed as an Arctic.  The sudden panic in me brought on a feeling of nausea and turned my brain to mush whereupon any i.d features that I did know vacated the space between my ears.

Calls to Roy and Andy were greeted by answerphone messages and I settled on getting as many photos, albeit very shakey, as I could.  Fortunately Andy called me back and gave me a few pointers. At this point the Skua started preening revealing the lovely black and white barred undertail coverts of a Long-tailed Skua, I was, by now, 95% certain that that was what this was. Unfortunately for Andy and anyone else wanting to see it the aforementioned dog walker appeared at the waters edge with a bloody great stick. As he raised the stick the gulls on the shoreline got up and took the skua with them. As it drifted south out of site the sickening feeling came over me that I might have to let this one go, though thankfully I'd managed a handful of flight shots that fortunately helped clinch the identification.  Being the techno geek that I am I managed to transfer the shots to my tablet and post them on Twitter and await the response - and more importantly see if I'd cocked up or not. Thankfully Andy sent me a screenshot from the Collins guide which confirmed my suspicions and the rest just like the bird is history..

Note twat with dog and stick

It probably took me an hour or so to calm down after this and with the conditions still good I set about doing another circuit which sure enough paid off with Turnstone, Grey Plover and Whinchat and later Greenshank and a Little Egret.

Another truly spectacular patch day and a species that I never imagined seeing locally. Many thanks to Andy for his assistance at the other end of the phone.

A couple of Clouded Yellows whilst failing to find any scarce passerines.

12th August. Inglorious Bastards

Why the world awaits confirmation that an endangered species, held in a British zoo, might have been successfully artificially impregnated by the hands of man another story at the opposite end of the spectrum slipped by almost unnoticed and certainly without any amount of cooing and awes.

At the hands of a small number of individuals, supported by greedy unscrupulous Grouse Moor managers and owners and helped by short-sighted ignorant politicians the Hen Harrier is now extinct as a breeding English bird. This post from Raptor Persecution Scotland sums up the situation in its succinct title.

There's nothing glorious about the 12th August when the true cost of these 'managed' moors is revealed. The 12th should from now on be a date to celebrate the magnificence of the Hen Harrier. Perhaps with enough pressure we may live to see them grace our moors again, though whilst the likes of senior royals get away with destroying them I won't hold my breath.

31st July. Catch Up.

Not enough time or inclination for blogging over the last few weeks, so a (lazy) run down of what I've been up to, as though anyone actually cared.
Trapped some moths including this smart Canary-shouldered Thorn

Little Gull amongst the Black-heads

Dark variant Peppered Moth
Watched some Dragonflies at Treeton. Fairly certain this is a Ruddy Darter (note the black legs) 
Red-eyed Damselfly

Twitched the Caspian Tern 

A visit to the Doctors revealed high cholesterol levels and we all know what that means :-(

4th August. A Few Good Days

Sooner or later the doldrums of summer would finally break and things would start to happen, or at least that's what I hoped as we said good bye to July and a very fond hello to August and the start (hopefully) of some proper migration.

First in a run of awful photos
There's generally very little of interest during the walk from the bus to the small lake and my main focus is usually to avoid getting mauled by the early morning dog walkers or their dogs! My first scan of the small lake revealed a small duck, among the Gadwall, with what appeared to be a supercilium - interesting.  Indeed it was interesting as it turned out to be the first record of Garganey (a drab female) on the patch earning itself the dubious title as the 170th species recorded here. Only the second addition to the list this year, the first being Jack Snipe.

Thursday had reverted back to stupidly warm and fearing a plague of morons I avoided a return visit in the evening.  Having had a poor nights sleep and waking with a sore throat I was almost tempted to give it a miss and head straight off to work. Fortunately I saw sense and headed out patch bound.  The Garganey had cleared off and generally there was a feeling of nothingness, after a lap of the small lake and a good scan of the large - no Med' Gull among the Black-heads and no sign of a much overdue Little Egret - or was there? I decided rather than do a circular route I'd retrace my tracks and have the benefit of the sun behind me. As I strolled along the causeway - contemplating whether to quit and get an earlier bus - I caught a glimpse of an obvious Egret coming low from the Treeton Dyke side. As I raised my bins it was immediately obvious that this was no little, this was a monstrous Great White, huge bowed wings, Toilet Duck like bend in the neck, long black legs and dangerous looking horn-coloured bill I reached for my camera and nailed some all important record shots as it headed off north, clearly unimpressed with what was on offer.

Unfortunately the camera was on the wrong setting and therefore the shots were even worse than would normally have been.

A Crop of the above shot.

This egret drifted north and an hour or so later turned up (not surprisingly) in the Dearne Valley at Adwick Washlands where it spent the morning.  

With a bit of time before the next bus I walked up the small mound and so I could scan the site and perhaps even pick the egret back up if it changed it's mind. Almost immediately I picked up not one but two egrets coming in from the north. Both obvious Little Egrets they briefly dropped onto the small lake before heading towards Rother Valley. 
Egrets of any species are still scarce around Sheffield - the Dearne Valley getting more than it's fair share - and to my mind this might be the first time that more than one species has occured at the same site on the same day

It has been suggested to me that the YNU (Yorkshire Naturalists Union) might not accept the Great White on the above images - surely you've got to be kidding? 
Little and Great White Egrets as different as Harpic and Toilet Duck