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December 2006

1st - A Treecreeper seen in the garden today.

3rd - A blustery start to the day with some gale force gusts.

North Cave Wetlands - Another average morning, on a blustery day which had begun quite wet and with gusts up to gale force. Gadwall still around in very good numbers, with about forty seen around the reserve, and Shelducks also seen in numbers with a total of at least 25 birds seen. Other notes this morning included numerous Greylag geese, 20 Canada Geese, 28 Pochards, 25 Redshanks, and lots of Goldfinches on the rough fields.

4th - Very mild today, up to 14 C.

7th - The Grey Squirrels are proving quite an annoyance at the moment, but more welcome are good numbers of titmice about, especially Blue tits. Also more larger gulls are about, with observations of Herrings, & Black backs, this probably due to  the recent stormy weather. Mistle thrushes still about the local area today.

10th - A grey, damp, and dull day, though mild at 13 C.

North Cave Wetlands & Deepdale (Calliswold) - Went out with Uncle David and June this morning, popping in at North Cave Wetlands briefly. Very quiet again, and with overcast skies and spits of rain it wasn’t the most attractive of days, and so we didn’t stop long. The few sightings we did make included Shovelers, Shelducks, Teal, Mallards, Great Crested Grebes, & Little Grebes. From North Cave we drove up to Calliswold above Millington, and went for a walk around Deepdale, the weather improving all the time. A few good observations made this morning too, including a Buzzard, Fieldfares, and a Bullfinch. A Roe deer was also seen in the valley. A jolly pleasant walk.

12th - A female Blackcap seen in the garden, and a male Great Spotted Woodpecker was also seen, the first male I’ve ever seen in the garden.

13th - Eleven Chaffinches seen feeding on the lawn today. Still very mild, and especially mild overnight with a low of just 9.4 C.

14th - Robins singing widely at dawn, and later a single Redwing was spotted in the Hawthorn. Observations of Redwings have been sparse so far this winter. Still remarkably mild (14 C).

15th - A Bat was seen along Long Lane this morning, very late and a testament to the recent unseasonable warmth. A male Blackcap was seen in the garden today, on what was a dull, and damp day. Also less mild than recently.

16th - In stark contrast to yesterday, today was a lovely sunny winters day.

17th - Another bright day with a frost overnight (-1.2 C).

North Duffield Carrs - Visited the reserve at North Duffield Carrs for the first time, which is a reserve which overlooks the Derwent floodplain between the villages of Bubwith and North Duffield. It is also just a few miles down river from Wheldrake Ings. It looks like a very good reserve and is particularly good for wildfowl with observations including twenty Mute Swans, Greylag & Canada Geese, abundant Wigeon & Teal, which together fill the area with their calls, a few Pochards & Shovelers, Golden Plovers, Redshanks, and Winter Thrushes. However the big highlights were a couple of Stonechats, and a lone Peregrine Falcon, the Stonechats seen just outside the hide while the Peregrine was seen distantly on the river bank. A good mornings birding with a total of thirty six species seen around the area.

18th - Very white and frosty this morning, especially down at Swinemoor where it was also a little misty. Down there a Barn Owl flew right over my head, and Golden Plovers were heard over the floods, and a few Teal were also seen in the smaller pools. Indeed there is quite a bit of water now on the common. In the garden the Blackbirds are starting to eat the Cotoneaster berries, and a Robin was singing throughout the day. Another frost overnight.

19th - Foggy this morning and quite chilly today, with a high of just 2.6 C. Overnight the temperature fell to -2.6 C.

20th - The Robin & Song Thrush continue to sing. Frost persisting in the shade all day today, with a high of 2 C. Overnight another frost with a low of -4 C.

21st - Very white and frosty this morning, like snow where it has accumulated over the past few days. The temperature only reaching 1.7 C today. Despite the wintry conditions two female Blackcaps were seen in the garden today, and about fifty Wood Pigeons were observed in the Sycamores in late afternoon. Becoming foggy in the afternoon, down to 120 metres around 3pm. Clearing in the evening with another frost overnight.

22nd - After a frosty start becoming milder today. Pressure at 1043 mbar at one point.

23rd - A Treecreeper seen in the garden today, and a female Blackcap was also seen.

24th, Tophill Low - A great morning here at this varied and large reserve, with the undoubted highlight my first ever wild Smew, which was additionally a drake rather than the usual ‘red-head’. It was actually seen on the Watton Lagoons, an area which often has the best sightings to be honest. Other good observations on this Christmas Eve morning including abundant Wigeon, many Gadwall, numerous Teal, many Tufted ducks & Goldeneyes, a few Ruddy duck, a Curlew, twelve Redshanks, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, many winter thrushes, a few Mistle Thrushes, a Treecreeper, and a couple of Yellowhammers. In total twelve species of wildfowl were recorded, and as we left the reserve there was a report of an American Wigeon, but we didn’t have time to go and check it out. A jolly fine winters day birding.

25th - A cloudy and grey Christmas day with a high of 6 C.

26th, Watton Lagoons - We visited the hide at Watton Lagoons for the first time, on a grey boxing day, hoping to get closer to the Smew we saw at Tophill Low on Christmas Eve. Thankfully the Smew was still present and indeed it showed itself well and both Dad and I were able to get good photos of this handsome and strikingly white small duck. There were other good observations too though, including a Grey Heron, many Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, Tufted ducks, a few Goldeneyes, a hunting Barn Owl, a couple of Kingfishers, and winter thrushes. A jolly pleasant way to spend the morning after yesterdays excesses.

27th - Six days without any sunshine now.

28th, Rutland Water - Dad and I travelled to Rutland today, to visit the man made area known as Rutland Water, a location which has become increasingly popular with birders over the years. There are two reserves at the reservoir, though as one of them was closed we visited the Anglian Water reserve at Egleton. The reserve was surprisingly quiet in terms of visitors, but the birdlife was far from it and we were impressed by the numbers and diversity of water birds. Indeed we even saw a Bittern, though the view was very distant and would have been easily overlooked without the help of a fellow birder.

Wildfowl was around in particularly good numbers, with fifteen species seen, including Pintails, Goldeneyes, Red breasted Mergansers, Goosanders, & Ruddy ducks. We also had a couple of views of Water Rail, the first just metres in front of us in the hide. You truly couldn’t hope for a better view of this shy and elusive reedbed bird. As the reserve is also quite wooded there were good numbers of passerines about, with twenty four species represented, including winter thrushes, Goldcrests, Bullfinches, a single wintering Chiffchaff, and most notably a little flock of Redpolls. A great day of birding, indeed the best day count I have yet had with sixty one species recorded. I’m sure we’ll return here again in the future, and it’ll be interesting to visit at a different time of year too.

29th - An unsettled day with blustery winds and heavy pulses of rain. Mild too (13C).

31st, North Cave Wetlands - Visited North Cave Wetlands for the 18th and last time this year, on a cloudy New Years Eve. Still quite quiet but plenty to see, with wildfowl remaining the main interest, with Greylag & Canada Geese, twenty five Shelducks, a lone Wigeon, many Gadwall, Teal, & Mallards, five Shovelers, a few Pochards, and good numbers of Tufted ducks. Other sightings included a few Golden Plovers which flew over head, Curlews, many Redshanks, and up to four Bullfinches, though only one of them was male. A nice end to a great and interesting year, and hopefully 2007 will be likewise full of fascinating and varied spectacles.

November 2006

1st - Heard a few Fieldfares in the area this morning. Much cooler today, the temperature remaining below 10 C for the first time this winter, and for the first time in nearly seven months. A grass frost overnight, the first of the winter.

2nd - Large Fieldfare passage around dawn, with groups of about twenty or so passing over the area and heading inland. Other thrushes amongst them too. In the garden a female Blackcap was seen in the Elder.

3rd - A male and female Blackcap seen feeding in the Yews today, on what was a gorgeous November day. A chilly night though, down to 1 C.

North Cave Wetlands - Went birding this evening on a fine and pleasant autumns day. The sunset was particularly fine and gave the whole trip a fantastic atmosphere and golden glow. Bird wise the highlight of the trip was a Whooper Swan, which dropped in shortly after we arrived. It swam about for a short while in the Village Lake but then flew off south towards the Humber, but it was nevertheless great to see one of these impressive birds for the first time this winter. There was also plenty else of interest, including twelve Wigeon, with three of them baring a golden crown, abundant Teal, 22 Shoveler, 20 Pochard, 250 Golden Plover, 20 Snipe, a Curlew, Redshanks, and five Fieldfares. The Golden Plovers were particularly good to watch, because as dusk fell the Plovers flew over the area in swirling flocks, and in the golden glow and the falling temperatures it was quite magical. Great stuff and reminds one why I love to be out in the fields of this jolly fine Isle of ours.

4th - A Treecreeper seen on the Swedish Whitebeam today, and a female Blackcap was again seen. The Great Spotted Woodpecker was also spotted on the peanut feeder.

Flamborough Head - Went to Flamborough Head this morning to see if we could catch up with some autumn migrants at this famous headland. The clear skies and westerly winds didn’t make for great conditions and we didn’t see anything particularly exciting either, though at Thornwick Bay there were a few Stonechats in the rough grassland. Three Rock Pipits also seen along our walk, and out on the coast a few Oystercatchers & Cormorants were observed. A pleasant morning by the sea.

7th - A foggy start to the day.

8th - Got within six feet of both Long tailed tits & Goldcrests today, one of the Goldcrests almost landing on my shoulder. A male Blackcap was also seen this morning.

9th - A late Red Admiral Butterfly was observed in the garden today. Overnight the temperature fell to -0.4 C, the first air frost of the winter.

11th - A windy afternoon, gusting up to 50 mph.

12th, Tophill Low - A great morning, possibly our best ever here at Tophill Low with good numbers of birds to be seen. Saw our first Goldeneyes of this winter, with about ten seen around the reserve, and wildfowl were generally around in good numbers, including numerous Wigeon, 20 Gadwall, many Teal, 5 Shovelers, 10 Pochards, numerous Tufted ducks & Mallards, and twenty Ruddy ducks. Of other interest included a Ruff, 12 Curlews, 15 Redshanks, three Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a few Redwings, and a single Bullfinch. The count of twenty Ruddy ducks represents the most I’ve ever seen together in one place. A fine mornings birding, with a total of 46 species seen around this varied reserve.

13th - A male Blackcap was seen today, and another late Red Admiral Butterfly was observed.

14th - A Redwing was seen in the Yews today.

15th - Noticeable leaf fall from the Beech tree today. A hedgehog was also seen this morning on the garden lawn.

16th - Yesterdays breeze brought down quite a few leaves, and you can now see through the Hawthorn tree as a result.

18th, Paull Holme Strays - Visited this new Humber reserve located to the east of the village of Paull. It looks a really good reserve, with waders the main theme, but also some good wildfowl too. It was easier to get to than expected, with a small car park located behind the sea wall, and from the top of the sea wall you can look across the brackish lagoons and inter-tidal mudflats. There was a strong and cold wind this morning but nevertheless it was a very enjoyable trip with highlights including a Little Egret, abundant Shelducks, many Wigeon, some Teal, one Avocet, abundant Golden Plovers, Knots, Dunlins, & Curlews, many Redshanks, and Meadow Pipits. However the sighting of the day was a hunting Merlin, a new species for me. A great morning, and it’s good to add a reserve of this type to our local portfolio.

20th - Leaves continue to come down, with all but the Beech & Sycamores now largely bare. The birds were very active today, and a Song thrush was singing in the garden.

21st - The Song Thrush continues to sing. During the night a flock of geese were heard passing overhead.

23rd - The Lime, Copper Beech, Crab Apple, & Swedish Whitebeam are now completely bare. The Sycamore and Beech have also lost about a half of their leaves too in the past week, as it has been quite breezy lately. Indeed pressure fell to 974 mbar today.

24th - A Hedgehog was seen on the lawn early in the morning.

26th - Cut the lawn for the last time this year.

North Cave Wetlands - An average sort of morning, though I did see my first Green Woodpecker for many years. It was seen along Dryham Lane and was flushed out of the grass verge as we drove down to the hide. There were other highlights too though, including up to fifty Gadwall, many Teal, a single Ruddy duck, a hunting Grey Heron, a Sparrowhawk, three Redshanks, and a couple of Redwings. Things do seem to be slowing down now as we move into December, customarily the quietest month of the year here locally.

27th - A windy morning with gusts of up to 50 mph. Very mild though, up to 14 C.

29th - A very late Small Tortoiseshell butterfly was seen in the garden today.

October 2006

1st - A Hedgehog was outside the front door this morning. A thundery shower in the afternoon.

Blacktoft Sands - A good morning at this Humber wetland. Not many species about but several were seen in abundance, including Shelduck, Teal, Shoveler, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Snipe, Black tailed Godwits, & Redshanks. Other good observations this morning included twenty Ruff, a Curlew, a couple of Kingfishers, ten Swallows, Tree Sparrows, and two Bearded tits. A bit busy though, as this reserve often is, but enjoyable nevertheless.

2nd - Skylarks heard for the first time in a few months out in the fields. Back in the garden six Mistle Thrushes were in the Sycamores, and on the Ivy up to eight Red Admirals were seen feeding on the flowers.

4th - The creeper in the Silver Birch is now wonderfully red.

5th - A fox seen near Old Hall Farm, and in the garden a female Blackcap was seen in the Elder, feeding on the berries.

8th, North Cave Wetlands - A great morning here at North Cave, as summer and winter visitors continue to overlap. Nearly fifty species seen, with the main highlights of the morning a skein of Pink footed Geese which passed over, and I also saw my first Redwing of this winter. Indeed it was the first seen on the reserve this winter too. Other good observations this morning included up to 16 Gadwall, loads of Teal & Tufted ducks, 20 Pochards, three Ruddy ducks, nine Ruff, a Dunlin, Snipe, a few Skylarks & Meadow Pipits, and Willow warblers. A pair of Kestrels also seen, and there were good numbers of Pied Wagtails in the nearby fields. An enjoyable mornings birding.

9th - A Chiffchaff heard and seen in the garden throughout the day.

10th - A Hedgehog outside the front door this morning.

11th - Three medium waders flew to the east at 9am, flying against a brisk south easterly breeze and under low and heavy clouds. Looked like Golden Plovers. A dull and grey day.

12th - Three Cormorants seen to the east of the house this morning, flying southwards. Other observations on my migration watch this morning included 35 Golden Plovers, thrushes, Skylarks, & Pipits. In the garden the Goldcrests were very active today, with a pair seen repeatedly chasing each other.

13th - A foggy start to the day but the rest of the day became sunny and pleasant.

14th - A Peacock butterfly seen in the garden, the first I’ve seen for a month. The Inkcap’s are emerging from the lawn. Thick fog this morning.

15th - The coldest day for four and a half months, with a high of 14.9 C, a testament to the mildness of this summer and autumn thus far.

17th - Skylarks heard passing over this morning, and up to four Mistle Thrushes were in the Sycamores at one point. The day had begun with dense fog, with visibility under 50 metres in the Parks area.

21st - A Brambling seen briefly in the garden during the afternoon. It had arrived with a party of other finches.

22nd - Twelve Goldfinches at the feeding station today.

North Cave Wetlands - I birded alone this morning, as Mum and Dad went to pick Add up. Lots to see this morning, with the first golden crowned Wigeon seen this winter, which was amongst a flock of five other Wigeon, as well as the return of Redshanks. Other good observations this morning included 12 Shoveler, many Pochards & Teal, a Buzzard, 15 Golden Plovers, two Ruff, a few Snipe, and a single Blackcap. There were also many Goldfinches flittering about in the surrounding fields, as well as Skylarks singing high above them. A fine morning with 43 species seen.

24th - A Greylag goose passed over the house this morning, and at the feeding station three House Sparrows were seen. A beautiful Octobers day.

25th - Noticed that Orion is back in the morning sky. I also saw a SHOOTING STAR this morning, which was particularly bright and long. At 9am their was a Sun dog, and there was a hint of halo as Cirrostratus moved in. Heavy rain in the evening with a total of over an inch recorded.

26th - Six Grey Squirrels seen in the garden today.

28th - Saw my first Redwing of this winter in the garden.

29th, Deepdale (Calliswold) - Walked at Tropical Valley this morning, where the Beech trees are now going gold, and the Larches too are on the turn. A Bullfinch was also seen this morning, moving amongst a groups of finches which included Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, & Linnets. There were also a few Yellowhammers amongst them too. In the nearby fields a few Fieldfares were seen, as was a flock of Lapwings, and large numbers of Rooks & Starlings. There was also a great abundance of Wood Pigeons & Pheasants in the area this morning. A jolly fine walk.

30th - A Blue butterfly was observed in the garden today, very late for a Blue.

31st - Wind chill dropping to -3 C overnight.

September 2006

1st - House Martins & Swallows were feeding over the local area this afternoon.

2nd - Two Willow warblers were observed in the garden today.

3rd, North Cave Wetlands - On the quiet side this morning but not without interest, as highlights included a Buzzard, a Ruddy duck, 120 Greylag geese, 25 Canada geese, a Wigeon tagged with EB on its wing, 13 Gadwall, 4 Teal, 19 Pochard, many Tufted ducks, a Common Sandpiper, 8 Snipe, 3 Common Terns, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, and three Sand Martins. 37 species seen altogether.

4th - A single Willow warbler seen in the garden.

5th - Very warm today, up to 24 C.

10th - Warm sunshine again, with a high of 23 C.

11th - Very hot today, especially for mid September, with a day high of 26 C. Indeed in London it was the hottest September day for thirty years. The sun also brought out the butterflies, including four Comma’s, and a Speckled Wood.

12th - Remaining very warm (24 C).

13th - A Willow warbler and a Chiffchaff seen passing through the garden today. Very warm, and indeed muggy, today, with a high of 23 C and a dew point of 19 C.

14th - Another muggy and warm day (23 C).

16th - A female Blackcap seen in the garden Elder.

Skua & Shearwater Cruise - Went on a very enjoyable sea cruise this morning as Dad and I went out on one of the RSPB Pelagic trips. It was rather grey and cloudy but thankfully relatively calm with just a moderate swell at times. Infact we could have done with a bit more breeze really as it was quite foggy around Flamborough Head, and for most of the trip we couldn’t actually see land, even though we only a few miles offshore. Bird wise there was plenty to see, with highlights including Manx Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwaters, a species which were particularly prevalent and approached closer than the others, Arctic Skuas, Great Skuas, Red throated Divers, Shags, Fulmars, Little Gulls, Terns, a flock of Common Scoter, as well as other small flocks of Wigeon & Teal, and we even saw a Wheatear at one point, possibly arriving from lands to the north. After our cruise there were additional observations from the walls of Bridlington Harbour, including Redshanks, Turnstones, and migrating House Martins. A great day out.

17th, North Cave Wetlands - Lots of birds about today, as autumn now seems to be really getting going. The main highlight was the return of Golden Plovers, these mixed in with the abundant Lapwings on the reserve and in the nearby fields. Also notable today was the lack of summer visitors, with no warblers, and only a few Swallows. 15 Little Grebes were counted today too, and there were 4 Wigeon, 20 Pochard, 2 Ruddy ducks, 15 Snipe, and a couple of Kingfishers, which were seen chasing each other over the north west lagoon. Forty one species counted around the reserve this morning.

18th - A flock of nine Long tailed tits was seen in the Swedish Whitebeam.

19th - Autumn signs in the garden now with ripe berries on the Hawthorn, Cotoneasters, & Swedish Whitebeam. The Blackberries, Elderberries, & Yews are also still fruiting strongly, with the Thrushes beginning to eat the Yew berries. The Creeper which grows around the Silver Birch is also now turning red. On the Westwood the Conkers are also ready.

21st - 140 Lapwings, 60 Golden Plovers, and two Curlews seen out in the fields this morning. Very hot today, up to 27 C, with clear blue skies.

22nd - Golden Plovers & Lapwings were again seen this morning, though the Golden Plovers were at first just circling overhead but came down slowly with about 80 to 100 seen in total. Also seen in the fields were nine Yellow Wagtails, a mix of adults and juveniles. A very wet day with persistent and heavy rain. Over an inch recorded.

Wash & North West Norfolk Trip, 22nd to 23rd September
22nd - Dad and I travelled down to Long Sutton this afternoon, for a day of birding in the Wash area tomorrow. However on the way down we stopped off at Frampton Marsh, a few miles east of Boston, which is a vast area of salt marsh and tidal mudflats. These sort of reserves I find rather bleak, and the wildlife is usually hidden in the numerous creeks, or is seen far beyond on the distant shore. However we did see a few birds about, including Cormorants, Gulls, Redshanks, Mallard, Little Egrets, Linnets, and a single Barn Owl. Not a reserve to revisit though.

23rd - Woke up to thick fog at Long Sutton, as we set off at dawn for Titchwell, the always interesting RSPB reserve on the north west Norfolk coast. Thankfully the fog cleared by the time we reached Titchwell, and we were about the first to arrive for a bit of morning birding. This meant we could take our time, this no doubt contributing to fantastic views of Bearded tits, with about twelve seen, including a full plumaged male within just a few yards of us. It was in fact there ‘pinging’ calls which alerted us to their presence, and it was wonderful to watch them flying from reed to reed right in front of us. In the same area of the reedbed we also saw a few late Reed Warblers, and we also briefly spied a Kingfisher. Also on the reserve we saw a few Marsh Harriers, a fairly common bird in these parts now, and there was a good variety of waders & wildfowl on the lagoons, including Oystercatchers, Ringed Plovers, Dunlin, Snipe, Black tailed Godwits, Curlews, Spotted Redshanks, Common Redshanks, Sanderlings, and even a Whimbrel. No Brent Geese seen, perhaps still a little early, but out on the sea were Eiders, and a small number of Common Scoters. Also seen while sea watching were Gannets, and a Common Tern. In total forty eight species were seen, a great start to the day.

After finishing at Titchwell we made our way eastwards along the coast to Cley Marshes, though first we stopped by at Cley Spy. There both Dad and I acquired some ‘new’ second hand binoculars, mine are more compact 10 by 32’s and of porro-prism design, less than half the size and weight of my current Audubons. I would admit that they aren’t quite as good as my old things optically, but the benefits of their compact nature outweighs any concerns. They can also close focus to within a metre, a feature which will make them very useful for butterfly and insect observing. After this brief detour we went on to Cley Marshes, a reserve we have often driven by but until today hadn’t visited. We started first on the shore, walking along the shingle bank to a small hide. Along the walk we saw a few passerine passage migrants, including quite a few Wheatears, and a Whinchat. Over the sea we also saw quite a number of Gannets, & Common Terns passing by, and we also saw a lone Sandwich Tern too. At the hide, which overlooked an area of wetland, we observed Black tailed Godwits, Redshanks, Spotted Redshanks, Dunlin, Shelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler, & Teal, and hunting over the area were Marsh Harriers, Kestrels, and most notably a Hobby, a new personal species for me. Indeed this oft mentioned reserve didn’t disappoint and the variety of species was impressive. No doubt we will return one day.

After finishing up at Cley we began our journey home, but we had time to stop at the relatively new RSPB reserve at Frieston, just a little bit north east of Boston, and indeed just up the road from Frampton which we visited yesterday. I was most impressed with this relatively compact reserve, which is partly a freshwater lagoon, and beyond the sea wall a saltmarsh. There are also some nearby wet fields, which no doubt will attract winter wildfowl and waders. A circular walk takes you around the reserve, and along it we saw Ringed Plovers, Dunlin, Oystercatchers, Curlew, & Wigeon, and though this is far from an impressive list it was nevertheless a most enjoyable walk, made the better by the beautiful sunset which dominated the huge fenland sky. A great way to end our day of birding in this lovely and quiet corner of England.

25th - Up to three Chiffchaffs seen in the hedge at Old Hall Farm this morning.

26th - A Chiffchaff seen again at Old Hall Farm, and near Black House Farm up to ten Golden Plovers were seen in nearby fields. Mushrooms also seen in the local fields.

27th - Two Roe deer seen in the Millennium Orchard, and a Chiffchaff was also seen. A Grey Heron also passed over the fields this morning. In the afternoon five Sand Martins were seen passing over the house.

28th - A fox seen out in the fields this morning, and as it didn’t see me I was able to watch it for some time. A Chiffchaff again heard in the area.

29th - Two Roe deer watched chasing each other this morning out in the fields, with one of them with medium sized antlers. The Chiffchaff still about in that area. A spell of thundery rain in early afternoon, with nearly 20 mm’s recorded in about four hours.

August 2006

1st - A Kingfisher seen along the River Hull this morning, and there was further movements of gulls heading northwards too. Thundery showers in the late afternoon and evening.

2nd - A juvenile Goldcrest seen in the garden. A cool day with heavy rain in the afternoon, peaking at 28 mm/h.

3rd - Six Curlews seen flying northwards over Swinemoor this morning, and gull movements continue, with species seen including Black heads, Commons, Herrings, & Black backs. A Grey Heron also seen. Cool again today.

4th - 200 to 300 Gulls seen in the harvested pea field this morning. A mixture of the species seen yesterday, with the most prevalent in this order, Commons, Black backs, Black heads, & Herrings. Also at least a hundred finches were seen, with species including Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, & Linnets. A Willow warbler was seen too, and in another local field there was a small flock of Stock doves.

5th - A hot day with a high of 25 C.

6th - The Barley is now largely all in, and the Wheat is almost ready. Very hot and sunny again today, up to 27 C.

Nunburnholmewold - A good walk in this fine area on the western edge of the Wolds, with a few good observations too, including a Treecreeper seen in the wood opposite Nunburnholmewold Farm, and a Willow warbler was also heard. In the wood the Rosebay Willowherb is now going to seed, and the Barley is now largely in.

7th - Four Whitethroats were observed at Keldmarsh, and there were also mixed flocks of finches in the local fields. A Great spotted Woodpecker was also seen this morning.

9th - Heard a Grasshopper Warbler reeling along the riverbank at Figham/Weel, on what was a fine summers morning. I couldn’t see it though and pinpointing its exact position was very difficult. However a good new species for the Borough. Also heard were Willow warblers, many calling from the Hawthorn scrub on Figham, and on the small pool just south of Weel, five Coots were seen, including one juvenile.

10th - The thick hedgerow to the south of Old Hall Farm was very productive this morning, with Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Whitethroats, & Willow warblers, most probably migrants passing through. In the local fields 300 Common Gulls were seen, and 50 Black headed Gulls, and the odd Black backed Gulls were amongst them. In the local hedgerows Elderberries are now beginning to ripen, and in the garden so are the first Haws, & Cotoneaster’s.

11th - Blackcaps, Whitethroats & Chiffchaffs were seen in the Millennium Orchard this morning, and in the local fields up to 15 Mistle Thrushes were seen feeding.

12th - Two Sand Martins seen over Swinemoor. Cool today.

13th - A Green Sandpiper was seen outside the front of the house very briefly this morning. A very surprising observation, and no doubt associated with the heavy rain and blustery winds this morning. A great tick for the garden.

Tophill Low - Visited our nearest reserve on a grey, damp, and breezy morning, indeed the rain was quite heavy at first. The main highlight of the morning was some fantastic sightings of a Kingfisher, which repeatedly hunted from a number of perches right in front of our hide. We watched for about quarter of an hour and at times the bird perched within ten yards of us. You couldn’t really hope for a better view. Other interesting observations this morning included a few Green Sandpipers, two Dunlin, hirundines, Sedge Warblers, Reed Warblers, Whitethroats, & Willow warblers. A great morning with 35 species seen in total.

15th - Two Barn Owls seen over Swinemoor this morning. Back home a dozen House Martins were flying around the house, and in the garden there was a Willow warbler, and up to eight Goldfinches. In the afternoon 80 Common Gulls were hovering above the town.

16th - A Cormorant seen flying over the River Hull this morning, and later I saw one in the river itself at Hull Bridge.

17th - All the cereal crops now harvested in the Parks. This still attracting large numbers of gulls. Berries increasingly ripening, with much of the Elderberries now hanging heavily in black bunches along the regions hedgerows. These joining the already ripe Blackberries & Rosehips. Incidentally the blackberries seem quite juicy this year. In the garden the Yew berries are now quite apparent. A moderate thundery shower in late afternoon.

18th - The garden birds very active this morning, despite the rain.

20th, North Cave Wetlands - Went a little earlier this morning, arriving just before 7am. A good variety of species seen, as summer visitors, winter visitors, and autumn migrants all over lap. This includes Green Sandpipers, Common Sandpipers, Snipe, one Wigeon, thirteen Pochard, a Ruddy duck, an Oystercatcher, seven Common Terns, Hirundines, Whitethroats, Blackcaps, & Willow warblers. A Peregrine Falcon was also seen, a new species for me at this reserve. A jolly fine bit of early morning birding.

21st - A Whitethroat seen in the garden, a new species for the garden list. Probably a passage migrant. A hedgehog seen feeding on the garden lawn at 10am.

23rd - A hedgehog seen again today in the garden. In the evening there was a heavy and thundery shower.

24th - A Whitethroat seen at the Hawthorn at 9am, and the Hedgehog was seen twice today, firstly in mid morning and again in the evening.

25th - A hedgehog again seen.

26th - The hedgehog was yet again seen today.

27th, Tophill Low - A quieter morning at our nearest reserve, though there were plenty of interesting observations, including up to four hundred Tufted ducks, as well as sixty Pochards, a Ruddy duck, three Green Sandpipers, many Swallows, Willow warblers, & Linnets. 30 species seen in total.

29th - Thundery showers in the afternoon.

30th - A Chiffchaff heard singing along the Beck this morning, and other birds in the area included Willow warblers, and mixed flocks of tits. In the garden another Willow warbler was spotted.

31st - Three Whitethroats, a female Blackcap, and a Willow warbler were seen in the Millennium Orchard this morning, and in the local fields there were eighty Starlings, five Lapwings, and all the common Gulls.

July 2006

1st - A very hot start to the month with a high of 27 C.

Bempton Cliffs - Set off early again to these wonderful sea cliffs, arriving at around 7 am. It was again hot and sunny, the temperature would reach 27 C in Beverley, and we had to be careful not to get burnt again. Young birds widely in evidence, though all at different stages of development. The Gannet chicks are now as big as their parents, or at least they look like they are in their fluffy feathers. However though most Kittiwakes now have young, there are still a few which are on eggs. Razorbills & Guillemots also seen with good numbers of young. A couple of Shags also seen, along with several Fulmars & Puffins. A pleasant mornings birding by the sea on a hot and sunny mid summer day.

2nd - A male Bullfinch was seen in the Buddleia today, on what was another hot and sunny day.

3rd - Down by the river Hull I had a fantastic view of a Kingfisher this morning, and infact earlier I had also spotted one in the Beverley-Barmston Drain. It was very pleasant indeed sitting by the river this morning, as the sunny and hot weather continues, and other observations from the area included a couple of Willow warblers, a Lesser Whitethroat, the first I’ve seen in Beverley Borough, many Reed & Sedge Warblers, Reed Buntings, a pair of Snipe, a very bright and vivid Linnet, and a hunting Barn Owl. A scruffy looking Black headed Gull was also seen flying northwards up the river, the first gull seen since Spring.

4th - A few Whitethroats were seen on Keldmarsh this morning. In the drain I briefly saw what looked like a Water Vole. Hot and sunny again today.

5th - A Grey Heron was seen along the river this morning, and I also observed my first juvenile Sedge Warblers of the year. Indeed they were very confident and approached within yards of me.

6th - A very hot and humid day with a high of 27 C. A moderate thundery shower in the afternoon.

9th, Huggatewold Wood & Millingtondale - A wet morning in the Wolds at first but becoming drier later. Many Meadow Pipits displaying in the valley grasslands, and I saw my first Marbled White butterflies of the year, along with other butterflies such as Gatekeepers, Skippers, & Meadow Browns, the last of these particularly numerous along the bottom of Millingtondale. Two Toads were also seen in the same area. However the most exciting observation was an almost certain Redstart seen near the head of the dale, but as I had no optics I was not able to confirm this brief sighting. However I’m fairly certain it was a Redstart and represents a new species for my Wold list. An interesting morning.

10th - Froglings were seen crossing the road at Hull Bridge this morning. There were also lots of flies around the river too, and it was quite unpleasant cycling through them all.

12th - The beginnings of flocking was in evidence this morning, with over sixty House Sparrows seen along Shepherds Lane, while up on the Westwood a mixed flock of about a hundred finches was seen. Amongst them were a few juvenile Goldfinches. In the Parks the Oilseed Rape has now been cut, and the Pea’s have been harvested, whereas in the garden during the afternoon the Chiffchaff was seen taking a bath, and there is now a family of Great tits visiting the feeding station. Hot and sunny today, the temperature exceeding 25 C for the sixth time this month and the average daytime temperature for the month thus far is 24.5 C. The average sunshine duration this month is also in excess of 8 hours.

13th - The first field of Barley cut in the Parks, and in the hedgerows and on the scrublands the Rosebay Willowherb is now in flower. In the recently harvested pea field I spotted a Grey Partridge this morning too, a new personal species for me.

14th - Over ten Reed Buntings seen in the Weel area this morning, and a juvenile Reed Warbler was also seen along the river. 17 Black headed Gulls passed by too, and a Grey Heron was seen on the riverbank. In the garden a Chiffchaff was observed in the bird bath again today.

15th - Not a cloud to be seen today and this summer is truly proving to be a classic with an average daytime temperature of 22.6 C and just 13.5 mm’s of rain from the beginning of June, and during this month the sunshine duration is averaging in excess of nine hours.

16th, North Cave Wetlands - Quite a few changes in the past month at our favourite local reserve, with the Avocets & Plovers (except Lapwings, which are incidentally abundant) having now left, with variable breeding success. Apparently the Black headed Gulls ruined the Ringed & Little Ringed Plovers breeding attempts, and though the early Avocets were able to raise chicks, the later ones again suffered from the attentions of the Gulls, as well as the local foxes. Other birds which have now reduced recently include Sand Martins. However Little Grebes are doing well with about fourteen observed, and the Great Crested Grebe young are now quite large. A Ruddy duck was also seen today, as was a passing Common Sandpiper. The Common Terns are still here too, with eight seen, that including young, and young Sedge warblers were also seen in the reeds. A good morning with 42 species observed in total.

17th - A juvenile Marsh Harrier was seen over the Parks this morning, hunting in the fields around Black House Stables. It eventually headed back towards the River Hull after finding nothing of interest. A new species for the Borough. Also seen this morning were five Lapwings, some very bright Linnets, and juvenile Goldfinches. Today was also incredibly hot, reaching 30 C for the first time on my records.

18th - Sunny and hot again, up to 28 C.

19th - A Grey Heron was seen over Swinemoor this morning, along with a juvenile Barn Owl, and two dozen or so House Martins. Sunny and hot again, and indeed inland it was the hottest ever July day in some parts of the UK. Here we have also entered into a Partial Drought, as the last 29 days have brought just 3.7 mm’s of rain at an average of just 0.13 mm’s a day. Indeed the lawn is looking at its driest since 1995.

20th - Low cloud this morning but clearing in the afternoon and becoming hot and sunny again.

Bempton Cliffs, Filey Dams, & Watton area - Visited Bempton Cliffs again to see how all the birds were doing. Unfortunately there was a harr and visibility was no more than a hundred metres, but nevertheless we still had some decent observations, including some Kittiwake fledglings, whereas the Guillemots seem to have now gone. All the other birds still there, though just the one Puffin was seen. Along the footpath a Sedge warbler was seen.

After finishing here we decided to go up and visit the Filey Dams reserve for the first time, which wasn’t easy to find as it’s located on the edge of a large housing estate. It’s a nice little reserve, though a bit on the quiet side, though admittedly that could be just the time of year. There were some good observations though, including four Ruddy ducks, and good numbers of hirundines & Swifts.

On the way back we called at Wilfholme Landing and made our way to the Watton Nature Reserve, located on the edge of Tophill Low. It’s a lovely little area, quiet and peaceful with the broad slow flowing river Hull the focal point of the area. Reminds me a bit of Welches Dam abit, one of my favourite places. We only stopped briefly, in part due to approaching heavy rain, but birds seen were Grey Heron, Hirundines, Willow warblers, & Linnets. An enjoyable and variable day.

21st - After morning cloud it became sunny and very hot in the afternoon, with a high of 28 C.

22nd - A moderate thundery shower in the morning, with a more noteworthy thunderstorm in late afternoon, the rain peaking at 52 mm/h. Still reaching 26 C again despite the unsettled weather.

23rd, Nettledale - Walked at Nettledale this morning, one of my favourite dales which despite it’s compact size always provides plenty of interest. Today there were lots of butterflies about, as this Dale is particularly good for them, and amongst the observations there were Ringlets, Meadow Browns, Blues, Marbled Whites, Small Tortoiseshells, Whites, Red Admirals, & Skippers. They were all remarkably approachable this morning too, this probably due to the cloudy conditions. Birds seen or heard included Willow warblers, Chiffchaffs, Whitethroats, Meadow Pipits, & Yellowhammers. A fine summers morning out in the Wolds.

24th - Wall to wall sunshine today with a high of 27 C.

25th - A pair of Common Terns seen along the river Hull. Very hot yet again, being the 10th day in succession to have exceeded 25 C.

26th - Very hot, just half a degree shy of 30 C, and very muggy too. Thunderstorms developing by the end of the afternoon, some accompanied by hail. Further storms overnight, most brushing by, but nevertheless some impressive and frequent lightning. 21 mm’s of rain recorded through the day.

27th - The stalks of the Elderberries are now turning red, and Blackberries are also ripening. I have noticed that our local Chiffchaff has stopped singing in the past week. Despite the storms yesterday it remains very hot (28 C), and there was a further thundery shower this evening.

28th - A couple of Chiffchaffs seen on the Tickton Carrs plantation, and over a hundred Swallows were observed this morning. Sunny and hot again (27 C).

29th - After a foggy start it became hot and sunny again. Indeed this made it a good afternoon for butterflies, with the following species seen in the garden, Peacock, Large White, Small White, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma, & Blue. Particularly good numbers of Peacocks & Red Admirals, but the Painted Lady’s are also quite plentiful this year.

30th - The fortnight run of days above 25 C ended today, with a high of just 24 C.

Blacktoft Sands - A good mornings birding, with the undoubted highlight being two Spoonbills, which were almost right in front of us for about five minutes. They are particularly attractive and impressive birds and it’s a great new addition to my personal list. Infact there was a good number of interesting species this morning, with eleven Little Egrets, a Ruddy duck, an Avocet, five Ruff, up to seven Spotted Redshanks, two Greenshanks, and three Green Sandpipers. This reserve is always good for waders and so it proved today. 30 species seen.

31st - About twenty five Lapwings were seen in the harvested Pea field this morning, where they were also joined by Black headed Gulls & Common Gulls. In the garden a Goldcrest was briefly seen, the first one seen this summer. A thundery shower in the afternoon.

June 2006

2nd - The Hawthorn blossom in now wonderful on the Westwood, including some Red Hawthorn. In the garden a Chiffchaff was seen. It was very warm today with a high over 21 C, the first time the temperature has exceeded 20 C since the 12th of May.

3rd - Loads of Starlings now on the Westwood, and Meadow Pipits were also displaying. Quite a few Linnets in the area too, and some juvenile Pied Wagtails were seen in the vicinity of the golf course. Today was an almost 100% sunny day with temperatures around 20 C.

Flamborough Head Cruise - Went on one of the RSPB sea cruises this morning, leaving from Bridlington and going round to Flamborough Head and Bempton. Loads of seabirds were seen and being under the cliffs was an impressive spectacle, with a wall of chalk rising up above us. Along with all the usual auks, Kittiwakes & Gannets which flew around the boat, we also saw a lone Great Skua, admittedly distantly but nevertheless a great sighting and quite unseasonable. It was a great day and very enjoyable with Mum, Dad, and myself having a great time.

4th - A foggy start to the day. A male Bullfinch was seen outside the lounge in the evening.

Nunburnholmewold - A pleasant mornings walk on this fine area on the edge of the Wolds. Unusually for this area we saw no raptors, but it was a good butterfly day, including Orange Tips, & Walls. An enjoyable walk through the early summer wood.

5th - Eight Mistle Thrushes were seen on the high Westwood, with Linnets also seen amongst all the gorse, and there was a beautiful singing Blackcap in the woods. In the garden I heard a Bullfinch today, and I also had a number of good sightings of the local Chiffchaff through the day. Another interesting observation was a Song Thrush feeding a fledgling.

6th - A Kingfisher was seen in the Barmston drain this morning, and along the river there were good numbers of Sedge & Reed Warblers. However the big highlight of the morning was a displaying Snipe over the Pastures, the first time I have ever seen a ‘drumming’ Snipe. In the garden I also observed that the House Sparrows are nesting amongst the North Wall Ivy this year.

7th - A lone Shelduck seen on Swinemoor this morning.

Pulfin Bog & High Eske - Visited the reserve at Pulfin Bog and High Eske for the first time this year, a wetland reserve with reedbeds and a large lagoon. The area is just a few miles north of Swinemoor and I left early (at 4.30 am) to avoid the dog walkers from Tickton and Hull Bridge. It was a gorgeous morning with a red sun and a low mist over the local fields. Twenty nine Lapwings were seen, 8 Mute Swans, 15 Tufted ducks, 50 or so Greylag geese, 20 Coots, 8 Great Crested Grebes, including two pairs on nest, 1 Shoveler, 1 Teal, 2 Treecreepers, 2 Little Ringed Plovers, 2 Oystercatchers, and a lone Shelduck, but the main highlight was a Cuckoo, the first I’ve ever heard in East Yorkshire. A wonderful morning and this reserve is certainly worth visiting again.

8th - A foggy start to the day. Meadow Pipits displaying widely on Swinemoor this morning, and on the Westwood too. A Barn Owl was seen near Weel, and I saw my first House Martins of the year, remarkably late.

9th - A foggy start again, but the temperature would eventually rise to 25 C. Near Swinemoor this morning I briefly saw a Yellow Wagtail, and in the garden I saw a Bullfinch, as well as a Chaffinch fledgling.

10th - Down on Swinemoor this morning I saw two Snipe, a Redshank, a Barn Owl, seven Reed Warblers, six Meadow Pipits, eleven Lapwings, and a lone Shelduck. The sun rose wonderfully red this morning, and the day was beautiful and warm. A Bullfinch seen in the garden again.

11th - Very hot today with a maximum of 28 C. It remained hot overnight.

12th - Hot and sticky today. Thunderstorms developing in the afternoon.

13th - More House Martins seen in the Keldmarsh area this morning. In the local area the foxgloves are now out.

15th - Ten House Martins over Keldmarsh today.

16th - While outside this morning a Bullfinch landed within two feet of me, and I’m not sure who was more surprised as we both noticed each others presence. Along Long Lane I saw a Barn Owl this morning.

17th, Bempton Cliffs - Set off to Bempton early this morning, arriving at the reserve at 7 am. It was a gorgeous day after early cloud cleared, and the sun was incredibly strong even before 9am and we had to be careful not to get burnt. The seabirds are all doing very well, with most with chicks now, though some of the Kittiwakes, Fulmars, & Guillemots still have just eggs. In the skies above Swallows & Swifts were about, and in the grass there were Meadow Pipits, Linnets, & Reed Buntings. A fantastic morning in fantastic weather, with the cliff top flowers also looking quite wonderful now, especially on a day like and the temperature falling no lower than 15 C overnight.

18th, North Cave Wetlands - Another great morning of birding, making for a great weekend after the fantastic trip to Bempton yesterday. Lots of chicks and juveniles now about, and most are seemingly doing well. Those species with young included Great Crested Grebes, Mute Swans, Greylag geese, Canada geese, Shelducks, Avocets, Black headed Gulls, Common Terns, & Pied Wagtails, with the four Great Crested Grebes my particular favourite with their humbug head stripes. Plenty of other highlights this morning, including Ruddy ducks, a single Wigeon which had a wing tag with ‘CB’ written upon it, Ringed Plovers, Little Ringed Plovers, Swifts, abundant Sand Martins, a few House Martins, the first I’ve seen here this year, Sedge Warblers, Whitethroats, Willow warblers, and over a hundred Starlings. A great morning on a lovely warm and sunny morning, with at least forty five species seen in total.

22nd - Quite cool today with a high of just 16.1 C.

24th - A Chiffchaff in the garden.

25th - The Chiffchaff was seen in the bird bath today, and at the feeding station young Blue & Coal Tits were seen. In the late afternoon a Mallard flew over the house.

26th - A cool day with a high of just 15 C, and a moderate north easterly breeze.

28th - A Roe deer seen along Shepherds Lane this morning, and along Long Lane I observed the Little Owl, a bird I have not seen for a while.

30th - A Chiffchaff seen at the bird bath again, and it was also seen on the lawn too while it waited for a Blackbird to finish bathing. Up to 25 C today.

May 2006

1st, North Cave Wetlands - A really good morning at our local reserve with a great variety of species, with waders particularly well represented. Amongst these were Oystercatchers, Avocets, Little Ringed Plovers, Ringed Plovers, Lapwings, Snipe, Black tailed Godwits, Redshanks, Common Sandpipers, & Ruffs. The Avocets are now nesting, and the Black tailed Godwits were in summer plumage, a sight I’ve never really seen before. The Pink footed Geese were still amongst the Greylags, and there are still some Ruddy ducks on the lagoons. The Sand Martins were like flies in front of the hide today, and amongst them there were Swallows, and a Swift was also seen, the first of the year here. A Willow warbler was heard on the reserve too. A fantastic and interesting morning with forty three species seen.

2nd - Got within fifteen yards of a fox this morning along Shepherds Lane. It was completely unaware of my presence as it trotted out of the Oilseed field and into the lane. However a car came along and scared it off. The Oilseed Rape is now in full flower, and looks lovely in the increasingly strengthening sun. The Cowslips are now out in the garden, and the Ash is also in flower at the moment. The garden Tulips are at their best.

3rd - Saw my first Swift of the year over the town. In the afternoon a few Swallows were squabbling around the house. Indeed it was quite warm today with a high of 19.8 C.

4th - A fair number of Swifts were hunting in the skies today, screeching loudly as they did, a real sound of summer. The Crab Apple blossom is now fully out. A thundery shower in the morning, but the sun had risen Indian red at dawn.

5th - A Whitethroat seen along Long Lane, the first of the year. In the wonderful sun this afternoon, which saw temperatures up to 21 C, the Crab Apple blossom looked magnificent, and in the garden the Broom is now out.

7th, North Cave Wetlands - A great mornings birding, despite heavy rain at first. A total of forty eight species were seen with waders again well represented with Oystercatcher, Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Ruff, & Redshank. Other interesting observations included the first Common Terns of the year, and I also saw my first Whitethroat of the year. The wildfowl have continued to reduce, with no Teal or Pink footed Geese. The Sand Martins were like flies again around the main hide, and a dozen Swifts were also seen, particularly over the north west of the reserve. A pair of Great Crested Grebes were also seen nesting on one of the islands. An enjoyable morning, despite the rain.

8th - A Sedge warbler seen in the drain alongside Shepherds Lane this morning. Two Whitethroats were also noted along Long Lane.

9th - Two Shelducks seen on Swinemoor, and along the river area we saw Sedge Warblers, Blackcaps, Willow warblers, & Reed Buntings. I also spotted a Roe deer out in the local fields. In the garden there was a female Blackcap in the morning, and then later in the afternoon I saw both a male and female together, hopefully this means we may well have a breeding pair in our area.

10th - A Fox was seen at the top of Shepherds Lane this morning, and also seen in the Parks area this morning were many Willow warblers, as well as the lone Sedge Warbler again. Yellowhammer’s also in good song. In the garden a male and female pair of Blackcaps were seen again. The weather was beautiful today with wall to wall sunshine and pleasant temperatures.

11th - Cow Parsley just starting to come out along the local lanes, and the Horse Chestnut is also beginning to blossom. In the fields the Barley is just starting to develop whiskers. The Oilseed Rape is also still looking wonderful, and along the unsprayed field edges the wildflowers are now thriving.

12th-21st, Orkney Trip
12th - Began our holiday to Orkney today, setting off at 6am and reaching Inverness by 4pm. We passed through the central Highlands on the way, though the weather was largely grey, and indeed was quite damp for a time. Along our journey we saw lots of Oystercatchers out in the fields from Northumberland northwards, and in the Border region we saw quite a few Grey Herons. Lots of gorse was seen along our journey too, particularly wonderful in Fife as it was a bit brighter in that area. We stayed at a Travelodge on the edge of Inverness, and enjoyed a good rest after a long day of journeying. Looking forward to reaching Orkney tomorrow.

13th - Onto Orkney today, travelling up to Thurso to catch the ferry at noon. We had time to visit John O’Groats, and also Dunnet Head from where we had a fantastic view of the Pentland Firth and the Orkney Isles across the way. The journey from Inverness was most pleasant too, with some snow patches still on the highest mountains, and quite a few Buzzards were seen along the route. The crossing to Stromness was OK, though I did feel a bit queasy due to quite a swell. I felt better by the time we reached Hoy though, and we had a view of the Old Man as we sailed by. Birds seen along the journey included most auks, and gannets too. After arriving in Orkney we quickly made our way up to our holiday cottage, passing by Stenness, and the Ring of Brodgar on the way.

The cottage, called Skesquoy, is absolutely perfect and is wonderfully located between the Loch of Hundland to the west and Birsay moors to the north and east. There is nothing but the sound of Curlews, Geese, Oystercatchers, Pipits, and the wind, and the nearest house is at least half a mile away. After settling down we drove up to the Broch at Burness, crossing over Birsay moors where we saw Stonechats, Wheatears, abundant Curlews (which are everywhere on the island), and numerous Oystercatchers. The Broch was in a beautiful location, looking over to Rousay across the Eynhallow strait, and it was a fine evening, if admittedly a bit on the chilly side. On the sea near the Broch a couple of Eiders were seen, as were three Red breasted Mergansers, and on the wing good numbers of Fulmars were seen passing by.

After returning back to the cottage Dad and I went for a walk down to the Loch in front of the property, where we saw a Sedge Warbler, and a Reed Bunting in the marshy areas. The marshy areas themselves are covered in Marsh Marigolds, and on the peripheries there are Primroses, a flower which is surprisingly abundant on the island. Out on the loch we spotted Tufted ducks, Greylag geese, Redshanks, and a Cormorant. It really is one of the most beautiful and peaceful spots that I have ever visited.

14th - We went to the Kitchener Memorial on Marwick Head this morning, where the cliffs are an RSPB reserve. The weather was perfect and indeed surprisingly warm, with very little breeze above the cliffs themselves. Birdlife was abundant with all the usual seabirds nesting on the sheer and impressive cliffs, but there also species about which we aren’t so used too, including Great Skuas, Arctic Skuas, and a lone Raven, which was on top of the actual memorial. However as with any seabird colony it is not only the sights that are impressive, but also the sounds and indeed smell which combine to make it an always memorable experience. The wildflowers were also very nice along the cliff tops and it was a joy to sit and watch the spectacle on such a beautiful day.

However we had more to do this day so we had to eventually depart, and we went down the coast to visit the famous historical sight of Skara Brae. It was quite busy, as you would expect at one of Orkney’s most famous sights, but it was nevertheless very interesting and was located in a beautiful location beside a long golden beach and a tropical looking sea. We also visited the nearby house, home of the local laird, which contained some good information and pictures of the local wildlife, particularly the wildfowl. After finishing off here we headed back to Skesquoy for a bit of lunch, and then enjoyed a quiet afternoon, learning more about this beautiful island and soaking in the surprisingly warm sunshine.

In the evening Dad and I went down to visit the relatively nearby RSPB reserve of the Loons, an inland wetland reserve with some areas of reedbed. It was a nice little spot, the hide located right by the road, and it gave a good view over the small area of wetland which has an impressive species list despite its small size. No doubt winter is the peak season for this reserve, but nevertheless we did see a good number and diversity of species, including a Short eared Owl, a new species for me. Indeed when we returned to the cottage we were treated to another sight of one of these large and impressive hunters. A fantastic day.

15th - Went south to South Ronaldsay today, visiting the Tomb of the Eagles almost at the most southern tip of the Orkney Isles. Loads of interesting artefacts, with a very informative talk given by one of the owners of the site. We then were able to go out to the tomb itself, access to which was by a sort of roller board which you had to lay flat on and pull yourself in by a rope. A memorable experience, and the tomb itself was located right by the sea, which down in this part of the isles is more rugged and wild. However the wildflowers were again beautiful, with Primroses and many others. Bird life too was good with Eiders, along with quite a number of Shags, but most notable were the sightings of a few Black Guillemots, a new personal species for me.

After finishing off here we went up to visit Kirkwall, the capital and main settlement of the Isles. A nice place with an interesting, if not particularly handsome cathedral, and there was also a very interesting museum on the history of Orkney and its peoples. We then headed home, the weather becoming increasingly dull and damp, but at home we were treated to a fantastic view of a Hen Harrier in the back garden of the cottage, a species of raptor which I was hoping to see on our trip. To see it so close to our holiday cottage was fantastic, and this is truly a place I could remain for a long time and never grow tired of. These Orkney Isles are no doubt one of the best kept secrets in Britain and indeed Europe.

16th - Archaeology and history again today, taking in Mae’s Howe, the Stones of Stennes, and the Ring of Brodgar, these three fascinating sites located within a very compact area just north of Stromness. Mae’s Howe was very interesting and we were allowed in and given a small lecture about its history and purposes. Apparently the door way is aligned with the rising sun on the summer solstice. Outside the structure I noted a Redpoll, a new species for me, and it seemed quite tame considering all the people that were around. The Ring of Brodgar and Stones of Stennes are surrounded by lochs and both are very impressive, the Ring of Brodgar particularly so due to its much larger size and slightly move elevated position. In the lochs there were some interesting birds to be seen as well, including Red breasted Mergansers, Common Terns, Ringed Plovers, and most notable of all, a lone Red throated Diver, the number one species I had hoped to see on this trip. They are very handsome and neat birds and hopefully we’ll see more again on this trip.

In the afternoon we went up to Birsay bay and crossed over to the island at low tide. In the rock pools I found two Hermit Crabs, and out on the rocks we saw many Seals, probably about two dozen. On the island Wheatears, & Rock Pipits were hopping about, and other observations include Great Skua, Arctic Skua, Eider, Fulmars, Auks, Shags, & Ringed Plovers. Plenty to see, as so often there is in these Orkney bays, and you could spend all day watching the comings and goings of the abundant wildlife. On the way back we popped up to Burgar Hill, which is approached by a steep and quite rough road. The small hilltop lochan is dominated by three giant wind turbines, but on the lochan itself we were treated to the fantastic spectacle of five Red throated Divers. They were asleep at first, but when a Oystercatcher flew low over them, it startled them and they gave the famous call that they are well know for. A strange sound and one not forgotten. Also up here on this windswept hill, which has a fantastic view of the Eynhallow strait, were Ringed Plovers, Oystercatchers, Curlews, Lapwings, & Tufted ducks. A great end to another terrific day.

17th - We went over to the Isle of Rousay today, taking the small ferry from Tingwall. The little island, just to the north of the Orkney mainland, is a beautiful place and full of interesting birdlife and wildlife. It also contains many historical sights, with Brochs and Howes, particularly on the south coast of the isle which has lovely quiet beaches and great views across to Eynhallow. We stopped to have a look at Mid Howe, which was quite a walk from the car park, and in the same area is an abandoned modern settlement, including a small church. It was a lovely spot, and I would have been happy to have spent the whole day in this little area. The shoreline was abundant in wildlife, and amongst the observations were Eiders, Great Skuas, Arctic Skuas, Black Guillemots, Shags, Dunlin, Ringed Plovers, and Grey Seals. From Mid Howe we went around the island, and had a short picnic and walk on the North East corner of the isle. On the walk we passed near an Arctic Skua, though they didn’t seem particularly aggressive yet. On the ferry back to the mainland I saw a Great Northern Diver out on the sea, a fine sighting to end another enjoyable day.

18th - Went to explore Stromness this morning, a nice little fishing and tourism town, and more appealing than Kirkwall. Lots of quiet and narrow streets, with tight alleyways, some of them running down to the bustling little harbour. After picking up our morning shopping, we went to a little farming museum at Kirbuster, which was very interesting and set in a beautiful area of the island. The museum contained displays on the farming history of the island, and out in the sheds were some antique pieces of old farm equipment. At the museum we also enjoyed some Orkney Ice Cream, without doubt the best ice cream I have ever tasted.

After popping back to Skesquoy for lunch, we went birding in the afternoon, paying repeat visits to Brodgar, the Loons, and Burgar Hill. At Brodgar we saw Red breasted Mergansers, and a Red throated Diver again, along with Eiders, Tufted ducks, Shelducks, Lapwings, Curlews, Oystercatchers, Redshanks, Great Skuas, & Common Terns. At the Loons we saw Shovelers, Mallards, Gadwall, common waders, a Pheasant, and a Sedge Warbler. Finally at Burgar Hill we saw the Red throated Divers again, along with good species such as Wigeon, Tufted duck, Ringed Plover, other common waders, an Arctic Skua, Wheatears, and Swallows. On the way back we saw a few Short eared Owls, and from the cottage a Hen Harrier was seen at the back of the house again. A jolly pleasant and interesting day.

19th - We went over to Hoy today, catching the first ferry of the day. We drove across the island, which is far wilder and rugged compared to the other islands we have visited, with high hills, and deep valleys which have a Highland Glen type appearance. There are also some larger areas of woodland, mostly plantations admittedly, and little lochans are often seen out on the moors. In one such lochan we saw a lone Red throated Diver. Eventually we arrived on the far west coast of the island, and from the small settlement found there, Dad and I set out on the walk to see the Old Man of Hoy, the famous stack. The walk was very enjoyable but when we arrived at the Old Man we found it obscured by thick fog. Though this was disappointing at first, it actually added to the drama of the scene as the stack slowly became visible as the fog cleared. Eventually it became quite clear and the Stack was revealed to us, a fantastic sight which didn’t disappoint. However if anything the cliffs in the area are just as impressive, amongst the highest I’ve seen, and with fog covering the very tops it was incredibly dramatic, almost like the pictures you see of the Cape in South Africa. On the updrafts coming up the cliffs the Fulmars were gliding within touching distance at times, and other birds seen included Auks, Arctic Skuas, Great Skuas, Stonechats, and Wheatears. Indeed we came very close to a Great Skua on our return walk.

On the drive back to the ferry we saw a Hen Harrier hunting, and as we had time before the ferry arrived we paid a visit to a local military museum. Very interesting with a variety of war time equipment and displays on the long naval history of Scapa Flow. Once we arrived back on the mainland we went home for a bit of tea, and then in the evening we went for a drive around the north west of the island, enjoying our last night on this beautiful island. We stopped off at Birsay, where the Seals were seen again, and birds spotted included Eiders, Fulmars, Shags, and even a few Black Guillemots. We also paid a brief visit to the Loons again, where sightings included Teal, and also a Snipe. Our fantastic holiday to Orkney is now almost complete, and it has been a very enjoyable and most contented trip. Usually I’m happy to be returning home, but this time there is a real sense of sadness of leaving this beautiful island, and only holidays to north west Norfolk have had the same effect upon me. Still I look forward to seeing little Billy again.

20th - Began the journey home. The ferry crossing was much better this time as there was a much smaller swell, and there were also more birds about, in particular quite a number of Puffins, as well as other auks, Gannets, & Fulmars. Once back on the Scottish mainland we made our journey back through the Flow Country, a vast area of peat bog which is an internationally important area. Indeed we weren’t all that far away from Lochdhu. Continuing our journey southwards we stopped at the RSPB reserve at Loch Garten, near Abernethy. There we saw the famous Ospreys, both with our eyes and through the cameras that televise the daily goings at the large Visitor centre. Quite busy though, and coming as a shock after a week on Orkney. Other birds seen or heard around the reserve included Common Sandpiper, Goldeneye, Cuckoo, Siskin, & Willow warbler. We also saw quite a few Red Squirrels around the forest, and indeed they were quite tame. Much smaller than our Greys, and indeed far more appealing in most regards. After concluding our brief stop here we continued our journey south, eventually calling it a day at Dunfermline.

21st - Arrived back from Orkney to find everything remarkably greened up since last week. The Hawthorns are now in blossom, though the garden Tulips have now finished. The Spanish Bluebells are still going well, and the Clematis is now out, the hedge next door quite magnificent. The Westwood buttercups are also now in flower.

22nd - A Great Spotted Woodpecker was twice seen on the peanut feeders today. A flock of Swifts were darting around the Sycamores in early afternoon, quite low for this particular species. In the afternoon there were spells of thundery rain.

23rd - The river levels are now quite high after recent rains, with the River Hull higher than it had been at any point last winter. Indeed the ground is so wet at the moment that Beverley Races was called off.

24th - Heavy, thundery, hail showers in the late afternoon.

26th - A female Blackcap was seen in the bird bath, and in the area I also saw juvenile Magpies & Starlings.

28th, North Cave Wetlands - A good morning again, with waders continuing to be the main highlights, with a single Turnstone the main highlight. Chicks are also beginning to appear now, including species such as Black headed Gull, Coot, Ringed Plover, Avocet, Canada Goose, Greylag goose, & Lapwings. A few butterflies were also seen today, including a few Wall Browns. A fine morning.

29th, Spurn Head - Went down to Spurn this morning, an area we under visit, though it is quite difficult to reach as the roads are slow and narrow. Out on Kilnsea flats we saw a single dark bellied Brent Goose, and there were also good waders, including Oystercatchers, Ringed Plovers, Little Ringed Plovers, Dunlin, Sanderlings, Knot, and Grey Plover, and along the beach we saw both Common Terns, but also saw Little Terns, a new species for me. In the scrub were Whitethroats, Linnets, Sedge Warblers, & Meadow Pipits. The tide was in when we arrived and this had forced the waders closer to the shore. A good morning in this famous migration hotspot.

30th - Spotted a Kestrel over the town this afternoon.

31st - A Chiffchaff was heard locally, the first heard since the start of the month.