28 October 2009

A Yorkshire break (and a 'bogey bird' breakthrough)

Our latest family weekend in Yorkshire afforded an unusually high number of birding opportunities i.e. more than none.

The first of these unexpected opportunities was at Hellifield Flashes, a typical moorland wetland not half an hour from where we were staying. Having persuaded a reluctant child that a short walk might be in order, I was able to enjoy the spectacle of hundreds of birds gathered round this modest pool - plenty of wigeon, teal, pochards, lapwing, common and black-headed gulls and greylag geese, and then, with closer inspection, a group of nearly 50 snipe, easily the largest flock I've ever found.

That was pretty good, but the next evening I was even more excited as I first heard, and then saw, a tawny owl dashing through the woods as I stood contemplating the night sky. Embarrassing though this is after so many years of birdwatching, I had never until that moment clapped eyes on a wild tawny owl (heard plenty of course). So although it was a pretty sketchy view in the dark, that has to go down as a lifer, and one more of my embarrassing bogey birds dealt with.

Finally we dropped into Brandon Marsh on our way home - nothing spectacular, but a really good volume of waterfowl, including notable numbers of shovellers. A couple of kingfishers flashed past and my weekend was complete (unless you count waking up on Monday morning to find a great spotted woodpecker on my neighbour's feeders, that was a nice start to the week).

Bird of the day: Tawny Owl (Strix aluco), a fairly common resident bird which is made somewhat harder to see by its pretty much totally nocturnal habits. Your only chance of finding one in daylight is to find it roosting, and in many years of birding I've not managed that yet. A shadowy glimpse with two calls to verify will have to do for now. Photo courtesy of ClifB on Flickr -

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