27th-28h February. Great White Bites Back

Friday was a complete washout and Saturday was going to be difficult for numerous reasons. A cunning plan involving ironing and general housewife duties was hatched in order to get across to Mirfield for the Ring-billed Gull. Thirty minutes into the ironing I sneaked a peak at RBA only to go into a headless chicken rare bird flap - "Great White Egret Thrybergh Tip flew south at 7:07" bugger south of Thrybergh is RV and other various suitable water bodies. With only 15 minutes having passed since its departure the Iron was switched off and Beth hurriedly dressed I headed to Blue-mans Bower, Catcliffe, Treeton and Orgreave all of which had no big white herons. It later transpired that the egret was found not by the regular watcher but by another with a less than perfect reputation. Fortunately for the latter he managed several photos removing any doubt over this record - which goes to prove that it's no always wise to bandy around the stringer label, because sometimes 'stringers' find rare birds!

Back at the ironing pile I managed to pull back enough brownie points to make a trip to the Ring-billed, which I managed to pick up after it had disappeared for a while. Still terribly rare in Yorkshire with only two twitchable and frustratingly absent from my RV list following a short staying adult in 96.

Despite the cold weather set back of last weekend some signs of spring are starting to appear for instance snow drops and singing Skylarks, but a more noticeable feature during the milder days has been the appearance of fruit on the Dog Shit Tree. These curious specimens began to appear around twelve years ago but have recently begun to occur more regularaly particularly around public parks and wooded areas.

Picking the fruit of the dog shit tree is not to be recommended

For the last couple of weeks.

Finally managed to get out with the new camera and take some photos, some bad and some not so bad. A small flock of Waxwings on the right side of Doncaster (though in another sense very much the wrong side) were too tempting though disappointingly chose to sit within a school compound making them almost impossible to photograph, though with double the resolution I did get a record shot.

A spot of hilarity mid-week with the report of a Black Woodpecker on the side of a telegraph pole in Cumbria. I greeted it with the usual chorus of "Bollocks that's a Green Woodpecker". Not surprisingly it then came out that the reported Black Woodpecker report was erroneous, which as we all know is political correctness for 'Bollocks'. What did have me rolling around the floor was that when the truth came out it turned out to be a plastic cut-out of a Black Woodpecker nailed to the telegraph pole in order to keep Great Spotted Woodpeckers off the poles! Why would UK Great Spot's even recognise Black Woodpecker? Wouldn't it be more productive to nail a stuffed cat to the post.

Some sun on the 19th meant I might be in for some photo fun, so we decided on a stroll around Clumber. No Hawfinches but plenty of these.

Saturday the 20th was a stupid day where most things went wrong. I fancied a bit of old school twitching, the kind that Rob and I used to enjoy back in the day when we were irresponsible youths with shit loads of time on our hands. Unfortunately my old mate was home on Shetland celebrating his 40th so I tempted Jo with such delights as Ring-necked Duck, Smew and Red-necked Grebe. Pugneys first where the Ring-necked Duck was showing well (depending on how you define showing well) at about 300 metres with its head firmly tucked in his wing. Following a trudge around the Calder Wetlands the drake Smew refused to show with the only consulation being some top fish and chips from the Wetherby Whaler. We were told that the Wintersett Red-necked Grebe was showing well, whatever showing well does mean it certainly doesn't cover not showing at all. I was feeling a bit despondent by now and couldn't be arsed to walk through the shitty path to the low res for a couple of Smew added to the fact that there was a gang of pikey looking youths fishing, that is hanging around dipping rods in to the res, whilst lighting fires, dumping rubbish smoking crack and planning to anally rape the next passing birder. I remembered just why I've only ever made two visits to Wintersett - it's horrible, cold and plagued by inbreds that make the Marshians of Killamarsh look normal!

Pissed off we headed for the Bewicks Swans that have been frequenting Mexborough since before Christmas. Surely we couldn't fail on these, even Jo had managed them on her lunch break! True to the days form we did.

Despite the run of failures a reported Red-necked Grebe at Langold was the final stop of the day, though I didn't give it much hope. Surprisingly it turned out to be gen and was well and truly showing well.

An unexpected dollop of Snow on Sunday left me filling in a Job application whilst getting distracted by the photogenic birds in the garden. But a Yellowhammer under the feeders proved to be the biggest adrenalin rush of the week being new for the garden. I have a soft spot for Yellowhammers, they were the first birds that caught my eye and completely responsible for my birding addiction and the subsequent troubles that they caused - but how could you ever hold that against them?

10th February. Bored

The two things that I love about February are that it's only 28 days long and it's next to March. The most frustrating thing is that it's just not light enough to go birding before work and just too dark to go after.

Birding during the last week consisted of just the Saturday morning around PHW, which was fairly quiet, dull and very wet under foot- just like your typical February day.

A text from Martin on Sunday afternoon alerted me to a Giant Canada Goose at RVCP. Now I don't much care for all this super species, sub-species, race stuff so I did a casual trawl of the net for an image or two. I must say I was a little disappointed and expected something with the name giant to look a little like this..

When this is actually what I found..

The diagnostic feature is clearly the hovering G.

There clearly needs to be a law introduced to stop the use of words such as giant when clearly they are not - they're just a bit bigger.

29th January. The Best Laid Plans

The best laid plans don't always go to plan and this weekend was no exception. In an attempt to get at least three species on the list I intended to put my day off on Friday to good use with a trip in to the peak. Unfortunately low cloud and general clag meant a change of plan. Instead I opted for a straying off the path visit to Orgreave. After trudging round for an hour or so I was covered in mud with the only reward being Peregrine. By now it had cleared up though it still looked black over Bill's so I made the decision to do the area around Spa Farm, Bole Hill and Blue Man's Bower, thinking that I might uncover some scarce bunting around the Farm. There was no scarce near the farm in fact there were no buntings of any description probably due to the hedge having a pretty severe flailing. In short the whole day was frustrating made even more so by a phone call from Andy informing me that two Golden Plovers were in a field at Leash Fen. With school collection duties to perform there was no way I that I would have made it there and back in time - so I went home and sulked!
Who'd have thought I could go an entire month without even a sniff of one of these

The remainder of the weekend was pretty much the same. I added no more species, walked five miles in a bird less Derwent Valley, got overtaken by Malc after I'd sent him the Barn Owl MP3 that almost certainly lead to my demise (penance for 'tape luring') and had another Peregrine, this time though grabbing a Collared Dove right above the garden which sort of made up for my failings elsewhere!

Back to more relaxed birding from now on with the first spring migrants just over a month away.