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Monday, March 24, 2014

The first few days of Spring - first returning Chiff Chaffs, Sandmartins and well turned out drakes!

Off birding this week for a few days in the Humber Head levels and then hopefully across to the coast  - maybe Gibralter Point or Spurn.... such an exciting time of the year I think; there's already a handful of migrant species knocking about and I aim to photograph every one and stick them on here as I see 'em (Turtle Dove is gonna be a real challenge!)....... so, in anticipation of a shed-load of images next week here's a photo round up of the past couple of weeks as we crossed from Winter to Spring ....

Lapwing, Idle Valley

March 7th and very gratifying to see so many Lapwings in the fields looking resplendent as ever, especially when the sun catches the green in their wing feathers. Many northern Lapwings winter here in the UK and now most of them have dispersed and are looking for fields to breed in.

Likewise birds like Shelduck and Curlew leave our sheltered and food rich estuaries and move inland to breed.

Little Ringed Plover, Idle Valley

Always good to see any waders around Hatfield
and I guess you could call this a migrant - a lone Ringed Plover which we took to be its closely related Little Ringed Plover. Almost more interesting in a way to see these normally tidal waders crop up amongst the crops in flooded fields in South Yorkshire.

Male Kestrel, Idle Valley

Not a migrant of course but looking resplendently lovely - albeit at some distance away, here's a male Kestrel looking to attract some female attention.

.... and can anyone enlighten me with the name of this shrub / plant? Stacks of it coming up in Barrowhills Wood ( Nth Notts) like some kind of asteroid borne Triffid!

What is this stuff?

Ok, this is no migrant, its a resident tit but he (or she) is in the mood for something .... tricky from such an angle I know but I reckon this is a Willow Tit rather than the commoner Marsh Tit and he (or she) was hammering and pecking away at this bit of branch for a full 5 mins just above my Yorkshire Wildlife recruiting spot at Askham Bog .... food source? nesting material? Or just a tit doing a woodpecker impression? Either way .... marsh or willow, nesting or feeding ... there was a descent of tiny wood shavings for a moment there!
Willow Tit, Askham Bog

Willow Tit, Askham Bog
Singing Wren, Askham Bog

No debate about the nature of this pic ... my Askham Bog Wrens are just sooo chirpy!!

Great aspect and always good to get a good singing shot.

First Sand Martin, Tophill Low - 21/3/14

So I've photographed my first Little Ringed Plover (tick!) and moving swiftly on to last Friday - the 21st March here's a record pic of my first Sand Martin, one of 11 at Tophill Low nature reserve nr Beverley, East Yorks.

Another true migrant and always a magic moment ... like your first Swallow, first Cuckoo, first Swift, its like a welcome back and these days more than any other I'm just glad to see things returning numbers.

Yeah I know, Chiff Chaff's have been back for a couple of weeks now and I've heard 'em around (my first was at Wheldrake Ings on the 15th March) but my first sighting was today and a good 100 metres away so  I wasn't gonna snap that! Here's a good un from Spain last December ... who knows, this may have been one of Yorkshire's first back!

Back at Tophill Low and migrant wise there were at least 5 Chiff Chaffs there plus 4 Little Egrets (not sure if these can be counted as migrants ... once rare they're almost common UK residents now!), precious few other waders though - 1 Curlew, 1 Redshank and 2 Oystercatchers to be precise!

The morning light was superb, crisp, clear and great reflective light off the water
Lagoon side reeds, Tophill Low

.....and for me its only the light that makes this Pheasant pic so stunning.
Pheasant on the reservoir wall, Tophill

Sun dazzled Little Grebe, Tophill
.....too bright here though for this Little Grebe but ok with a bit of 'doctoring'

Little Grebe, Tophill

One of the great things about this time of year for me is seeing the many thousands of birds that have wintered here gradually acquire their breeding 'costumes' as they begin to depart ... Tophill is famed for it's winter duck population and there's nowhere better in my book for photographing one of my favourites - Goldeneyes

Here's a couple of my first efforts from one of the hides looking out onto the mighgty 'O' reservoir
Drake Goldeneye, Tophill
Drake Goldeneye, Tophill

.... not bad, I really wanted to capture that greenish sheen on their heads when in breeding plumage. Later on from the wall on 'D res' I got some sharper images. The brisk wind that sprung up in the afternoon was producing a sizeable swell out there, creating a mini seascape on which the Goldeneye were happily bobbing up and down on. Quite like the slightly bizarre head & neck shot ... up periscope!

Drake Goldeneye, Tophill Low

Head Shot!! Drake Goldeneye, Tophill Low
Impressive head gear! Male Tufted Duck, Tophill

There were maybe 150 Goldeneyes on both reservoirs ... impressive numbers, can't remember the last time I saw so many. Sticking with the duck theme and sharing the same water there were even more Tufted Ducks and some of the head plumes on the males were verging on flamboyant!

...... bit distant and a tad 'glary' but thought I'd capture these 3 male Shovellers charging about together, surely some kind of territorial / display type behaviour and something I'd never seen before.
Shovellers charging about, Tophill.

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