Car Share to the Northumberland Coast Tuesday 10th March 2015

Arriving at Seahouses just before 10am the visibility was crystal clear, with excellent views of the Farne Islands. We met up with Muff and Jack who were staying in the area, making eight in total. Low tide enabled us to scan the rocks for waders, revealing Purple Sandpipers, Dunlin, Ringed Plovers, Oystercatchers, Redshank, Curlews and Turnstones. Goldeneye and ‘Cuddy’ ducks were on the sea and in the harbour, both looking resplendent in the sunshine.

Male Eider

♂ Eider Peter Thomson

The Eider Ducks are locally named after St Cuthbert who established a chapel on Inner Farne 600 years ago. The weather was perfect for a trip to the Farne Islands, and unable to resist the chance to see them at close range, Colin went to enquire. He came back with the news that the ‘Glad Tidings’ was sailing at noon from Seahouses, passing the aforementioned St Cuthbert’s chapel, the cliff nesting sites, the seal colony as well as the Longstone Lighthouse of Grace Darling fame. The Fulmars, early nesters, had paired up and claimed their breeding sites, and Kittiwakes had also returned for the breeding season. Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Cormorants, Shags, Guillemots and a few Razorbills came close to the boat and we got a very satisfying view of the very first returning Puffins. There is a notable colony of about 6000 grey seals which includes 1000 pups born each autumn, and many were basking in the sunshine.

There were also spectacular views looking back at the coastline and our intended destinations once back on shore.

Female Eider

♀ Eider Peter Thomson

We drove to Budle Bay where the water was still low, but highlights included Red-breasted Mergansers, Wigeon and Little Egret.

Black-necked Grebe Peter Thomson

Black-necked Grebe Peter Thomson

The hide at Fenham-le-Moor gave views over to Lindisfarne and a relatively quiet estuary but a fleeting glimpse of Twite and Linnet made up for that. Stag Rocks, north of Bamburgh was our last stop and proved very rewarding, straightaway there was a pair of Long-tailed Ducks and a Black-necked Grebe was close in too. The light was stunning and a scan further north revealed at least 20 Slavonian Grebes amongst the Common Scoters. There were several Red-throated Divers to add to the list, smaller in size than the Black-throated Diver which had been seen flying earlier on in the day.

We drove home with long shadows enhancing the beautiful Northumberland scenery and Sue Harrison started the bird count, 68 species seen! Many thanks to Peter and Colin for driving and thanks also to Colin for leading what was an absolutely superb day out. This trip was definitely worth the travel time and the chance to see a good selection of grebes, sea ducks, waders, gulls and the Farne Islands at close range was not to be missed.


Sue Coldwell

Minibus Trip to Sizergh Castle – Saturday 28th February 2015

Looking for Hawfinches

Looking for Hawfinches – Will Rich

Hawfinches are best seen in winter when the trees shed their leaves, and can be seen in the high branches of the trees around the visitor centre at Sizergh. Disturbance from visitors can scare them off but we arrived early enough, even with a stopover at Hellifield Flash en route. 16 pairs of eyes scanned the Hornbeam trees, but it was Colin who heard and then spotted the first Hawfinch and got the telescope onto it. As we all gathered round, another flew over, which gave the rest of us a brief but good view. Target Species achieved once again! For anyone who missed this trip and would like to see a Hawfinch, visit sizergh@nationaltrust.org.uk for free Ranger events in March and April.

Foulshaw Moss

Foulshaw Moss Will Rich

There are many other woodland species to see, Nuthatch, Tits, Woodpeckers etc. but our trip continued to Foulshaw Moss, a 350 hectare raised mire SSSI, Cumbria Wildlife Trust site noted for its Harrier roost in winter and Ospreys, Adders, Green Hairstreak Butterfly and Emperor Moth in summer. This was a new site for many of us and one to note for future visits.


The next good sighting was a Peregrine Falcon at Warton Crag, sitting high on a ledge,


Peregrine Falcon Cynthia Chandler

spotted by Robert Chandler. We were also entertained by a Buzzard being mobbed by a Kestrel. This is a nationally important, Lancashire Wildlife Trust site of limestone crag, grassland and woodland.

The forecast had predicted rain for the afternoon but we arrived in the dry at the Allen Hide at Leighton Moss, prompted by Sue Harrison’s Bird Guide report of Eurasian White –fronted Geese. We got an excellent haul of waders there, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Avocet, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, etc., plus, the aforementioned geese were scoped on the grassland overlooking Morecambe Bay. Our duck tally, which started at Hellifield, increased.

Pintail pair Leighton Moss  Peter Thornton

Pintail pair, Peter Thomson

More Pintail, Shoveler, Goldeneye, Wigeon, Pochard etc and the last, but not least, bird of the day was a Marsh Harrier over the lagoons of the main reserve at Leighton Moss.

Leighton Moss Hide, Eric by Will Rich

Leighton Moss Hide, Eric by Will Rich

With the promised rain arriving too late to spoil anything, Colin started the long drive home and Sue Harrison recorded the 69 species seen. Many thanks to Colin and yet again to his Wingman, Will, for a really excellent days birding and tour of the area.


report : Sue Coldwell

HDNS Recording Area Walk – 27th January 2015

River Ure --Silver Birches --Gypsum outcrops

River Ure –Silver Birches –Gypsum outcrops Will Rich

Colin’s shaggy-dog stories came thick and fast as the fourteen of us walked from Ripon’s North Bridge up the River Ure on a dry and intermittently sunny morning. As usual Colin proved a canny observer when he rescued a torpid Great-crested Newt from a drain and deposited it in a place of safety.

Great Crested Newt Jack Upsall

Great Crested Newt Jack Upsall

HDNS Walk 001

HDNS Walk River Ure Will Rich


He next took us to the HBC nature reserve at Little Studley, where Teal and Mallard were seen but the Snipe for which the reserve is noted were unfortunately not in evidence. As we left, a passing Sparrowhawk elicited alarm calls from a number of small birds.

Colin showed us the ruins of some bathing cubicles on the riverbank but it was difficult to envisage on a cold winter’s day how anyone could ever have enjoyed taking a dip in the murky and fast flowing waters.

Our next port of call was the YWT reserve called The Loop, where the river takes a huge meander, threatening to break through and undergo yet another of its many historical changes of course. Reaching the reserve required climbing over several fences and gates, which proved a great trial for some of the old crocks amongst us. We ate our lunch seated rather uncomfortably on an old bowser then proceeded upriver, where the reluctant sun illuminated the Hazel catkins and Silver Birches in spectacular fashion.

Otter tracks  Sue Coldwell

Otter tracks Sue Coldwell

Whilst walking along the river, Colin found a muddy bank where he was able to show us the difference between footprints of Otter, Badger and Mink, all of which were imprinted in the same short stretch of mud.

Colin next pointed out the outcrops of gypsum (cause of many a house subsidence in Ripon) on the cliffs overhanging the Ure.   After further fence climbing we finally arrived at High Batts Nature Reserve, where carpets of Snowdrops were in full bloom and giving promise of spring.

Badger track Sue Coldwell

Badger track Sue Coldwell

Our walk had taken us through the Ripon Parks SSSI, an area of wet woodland and watery meadows bounded bythe spectacular River Ure and its floodplain. Highlights of the walk were two large flocks of Curlew, numbering perhaps 300 birds, several Buzzards and a Hare which sprang from its form in the grass at our feet.

Many thanks, Colin, for an entertaining and informative day.

Will Rich

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British Trust for Ornithology – conference

Once again the BTO are running a Birdwatchers’ Conference in Yorkshire, this time at a bigger venue, Askham Bryan Agricultural College, York. in 2012 we met at Weetwood Hall in Leeds with a maximum capacity of just over 100, this time we can accommodate 300.
Come and join us on Saturday 14th. March, just £20.00 per person, tea, coffee and a buffet lunch included. The Keynote Speaker is Sir John Lawton, plus Stephen Murphy (Natural England), Keith Clarkson (RSPB Bempton) and Gareth Jones (North Yorkshire Police). We will also have two presentations from BTO staff members.
Advanced booking only via Samantha Graham at BTO HQ, – samantha.graham@bto.org  – 01842 750050. The programme and a booking form are now available on the BTO website: www.bto.org click on “News and Events” and you will see the link

You do not need to be a BTO member, everybody is welcome!

Regards, Mike Brown,
BTO Regional Rep for Yorkshire-Central,
01423 567382
07900 301112

South Yorkshire Reserves – Tuesday 16th December 2014

South Yorkshire  Will Rich

South Yorkshire Will Rich

Wigeon ♂ Will Rich

Wigeon ♂ Will Rich

It was the week before Christmas and ten members took time off from festive preparations (?) to visit RSPB Old Moor and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Potteric Carr. The weather was more reminiscent of October than December, warm breeze and fantastic light.

We counted a total of 67 birds over the day.  In the morning at Old Moor the winter ducks and waders looked fantastic in the sunshine, every feather showing up, giving the ubiquitous Magpie a splendid appearance and the eponymous Golden Plover lived up to its name. Other waders included  Snipe, Dunlin, Redshank, Lapwing and Ruff.

Teal   Will Rich

Teal pair Will Rich

Gadwall pair  Will Rich

Gadwall pair Will Rich

The mixed tit flocks were foraging through the birch woodland duringour afternoon walk at Potteric Carr and as we approached the lagoons, four species of gull came in to roost, a Kingfisher played a cameo role across the front of the hide, and our first Great Crested Grebe of the day was seen.

 In fading light, there were distant views of a huge influx of Starlings.  The shortest day was only a few days away and we walked back to the car park with the beautiful light which had enchanted us all day going fast.

S Yorks Wildfowl 008

Stock Dove Will Rich

Thanks to Colin and Will for the organisation and leadership. We had a fantastic day and some of us didn’t have to break off from Christmas shopping, the well-stocked Old Moor shop was just too tempting, wasn’t it?

Sue Coldwell

Wildlife-Friendly Gardens Field Meeting November 15th 2014

Nine of the usual suspects met Colin at Ripley Car Park on a dank misty morning.

Sharing cars, we first visited Colin’s garden in Kirby Hill, near Boroughbridge, where he is creating a wildlife haven amidst an agro-industrial wasteland.  He has installed approximately 30 nestboxes, which have encouraged House and Tree Sparrows, Tits and Starlings to nest.  Swift nestboxes have unfortunately been taken over by the above more common species, but Colin was pleased to report that this summer Swallows have nested for the first time in his back porch.  Areas of grass in his lawn have been left to grow long to encourage the growth of wild flowers and to provide a refuge for small rodents.  In fact, recently a Harvest Mouse was found to have taken up residence.  We were all getting rather chilled after touring the garden, so a hot drink provided by Colin’s wife Claire was very welcome.

Our next visit was to HDBAG member Sandra Mason’s woodland garden at Sawley.  The principle behind the garden is to provide layers of vegetation ranging from treetop height to ground cover in order to attract the maximum number of invertebrates.  The garden, which is influenced by the woodland garden at Old Sleningford, is still in its early stages but is attracting large numbers of insects with its mixture of native and more exotic species.  Goldfinches fed in the nearby alders as Sandra explained how she established the garden in an area of rank grass using layers of old carpet and manure!

We next moved on to HDNS member Sue Harrison’s garden between Pateley Bridge and Wath.  Sue was unfortunately unable to be present, so Colin showed us around.  There was much activity, mainly Tits, at the ingenious squirrel-proof feeders and a Greater-Spotted Woodpecker was also present.  A pond containing Carp and Sturgeon is apparently a good breeding ground for various amphibians.  Spotted Flycatchers have nested in previous years and Tawny Owls are frequently seen.  Sue has tried to develop the surrounding fields, which she owns, for wildlife and has planted trees and erected an owl nestbox.

Many thanks to Colin, Claire, Sandra and Sue for an interesting and informative morning.


Will Rich

Field Trip to Hartlepool Headland and RSPB Saltholme 23rd September 2014

Ornithologically speaking, September on the north east coast is a good month for migrants and sea watching.  An easterly wind and a rough sea is ideal but when we arrived at the Headland the sea was flat calm and the wind which had been in the east for days had deserted us.

Little Egret

Little Egret

However there were waders and gulls on the shore to sift through and reports of Yellow-browed Warbler at the Borough Hall. There was plenty of choice for everyone and the party spread out depending on their interest.

A brief sea watch provided views of several Red-throated Divers flying south, also Gannets, Scoters, Kittiwakes, Guillemots and later a juvenile Pomerine Skua north.

Interest quickly concentrated in the Borough Hall for the Yellow-browed Warbler.  Still in full leaf, the trees provided this lovely little gem with plenty of cover, flitting Robins and Chiffchaffs keeping us on our toes. But persistence paid off and we had several excellent views eventually, complete with the eye stripe and wing bars.

A brief stop at the beach at Newburn was amazing for comparison views of three Tern species,  Sandwich, Arctic and Common standing among the Oystercatchers.  The white winged Mediterranean Gull among the smaller Black-headed Gulls provided another good comparison view.  Colin was eager to show us the recently drained Dorman’s Pool and new hide.  Waders were certainly gathered in numbers, mainly Dunlin, also Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Ruff and two Little Stints, one right in front of the hide. Rob Adams spotted a Whinchat and a pair of Stonechats around the fence posts.

Group of Watchers

“I spy a Great White Egret!”

Little Egrets are now almost ubiquitous in marshland habitat but it’s the Great White Egret which has the scarce but increasing status which the Little Egret had fifteen or twenty years ago. Colin’s pager flagged up that we were only a few wing flaps away as the Great White Egret flies, which had been seen around Cowpen Marsh recently.  Sure enough we located it quickly and saw it fly briefly. Their size makes them unmistakable, especially in flight.  All this and we hadn’t even been to RSPB Saltholme yet.

Hartlepool 003

Fox at Saltholme

The fox cubs seen earlier in the year at Saltholme are now fully grown and very evident, much to the delight of visitors and photographers.  The hides at Saltholme are roomy and well appointed, as is the coffee shop, and we finished our day equally divided amongst them.

Snipe Saltholme


Winter ducks are starting to assemble, Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Shoveler and a Red-crested Pochard in eclipse, just to test us! Waders included Golden Plover, Dunlin and Lapwings and Snipe but with fading light levels and the reserve about to close we headed off back to the minibus and home, pencils poised to tick our life or year lists.

Many thanks to Colin, the man with the plan and Will, the man not so much with the van, but a very nice new minibus actually.   A great day out!

 Sue Coldwell

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