January ramblings on crisp winter days

 A new year, fresh challenges and many promises to self - most of which I hope to achieve whilst realising that such is my want, many I wont! However and most importantly, I'm happy enough - still doing my usual thing (strolling around birding and taking pictures mainly!), and fit and healthy enough, although at 62, whilst I don't feel particularly old, becoming more and more aware that in the eyes of all the young bucks I am that grumpy old git walking around aimlessly with a pair of binoculars around his neck. It's a bit like the pandemic turning into an endemic - I must learn to live with it!

So last year I somehow manged to amass 207 bird species; very good for me, and nearly all in Yorkshire & North Lincs. Several 'twitches' in that lot of course and I fully intend to twitch again this year. So far I've managed to fail to see a Dusky Warbler at Wheldrake IngsBittern at North Cave Wetlands and Baikal Teal at Hornsea Mere, but success 2nd time around with the Great Grey Shrike at Wistow Clough and Richard's Pipit on Filey Brigg. I found a Water Pipit in the Lower Derwent Valley and whilst at Hornsea Mere got both Slavonian & Black Necked Grebe, a Long Tailed Duck and 4 Scaup.

Of that healthy bunch my stand out bird so far this January has been the Great Grey Shrike. I couldn't have picked a better day for my second attempt to track down this most impressive bird, cold yes, but one of those bright and sunny winter days without a breath of wind. I watched it for a good hour or so as it flew around hedges and perched up on favoured treetops. 

Great Grey Shrike, Wistow Clough
Great Grey Shrike, Wistow Clough, nr Cawood. 17/01/2022

Even with a telescope, the problem with spotting birds at Hornsea Mere is its sheer size. It's the largest freshwater lake in Yorkshire and invariably most of the good stuff will be on the opposite side! The 4 Scaup came closest but the Long Tailed Duck was just a dot but at least I managed a record shot. No chance with the Black Necked and Slavonian Grebe but at least I saw them both.

Long Tailed Duck, Hornsea Mere
Long Tailed Duck, Hornsea Mere. 10/01/2022


Scaup, Hornsea Mere
Scaup, Hornsea Mere. 10/01/2022

I knew about all of the above birds so it was just a case of going to find them but the thrill of finding your own good bird is something else, so I was a happy bunny indeed to find a Water Pipit on floodwater adjacent to the Pocklington Canal. 

Water Pipit, Pocklington Canal
Water Pipit, Pocklington Canal, 03/01/2022


Filey Brigg
Filey Brigg, 19/01/2022

Scarce as they are, especially around the York area, I suspect that more Water Pipits are missed than seen given the amount of favourable habitat throughout the Lower Derwent ValleyRichard's Pipits are even scarcer and although a photograph was never on the cards I was pleased to catch a brief glimpse of the elusive one that has been present at Filey for the past few weeks. No luck with Grey Phalarope though - been 2 reported from here recently, but 13 Purple Sandpiper was a first for the year and it was good to see a few other shorebirds in great light.

Oystercatcher, Filey Brigg
Oystercatcher, Filey Brigg, 19/01/2022


Shag, Filey Brigg

Shag, prattling about on the sea, Filey Brigg, 19/01/2022


Sanderling, Filey Brigg
Sanderling, Filey Brigg, 19/01/2022


Out and about elsewhere so far this January, I've got around some of my familiar haunts around the Lower Derwent ValleyNorth Cave Wetlands and York, plus a couple of visits to the hills of North Yorkshire. 

A walk from Cockmoor Hall to the Wykeham raptor viewpoint was undertaken in the hope of seeing a Goshawk. It was another crisp sunny day, perfect I thought for raptors, and having seen nothing of note on the walk I was still hopeful .. certainly looked promising.


Raptor viewpoint, Wykeham
Approaching the Raptor viewpoint, Wykeham, 14/01/2022


Cheeky Robin, Wykeham
Robin, Filey Wykeham, 14/01/2022

Not a sausage, not even a Buzzard! I gave it an hour, photographed a cheeky Robin that was after scraps from my lunch, then gave up and not for the first time I left Wykeham 'hawkless'. Lovely walk though and I was happily compensated by some great views of 3 Crossbills 'gipp gipping' away in the top of a fir tree and coming down to drink from a thawed out pond in a timber yard.

Crossbill, Wykeham
Crossbill, Wykeham, 14/01/2022


Crossbill, Wykeham
Crossbill, Wykeham, 14/01/2022

The sun was shining again when I decided to do a 5 mile circular walk in the Howardian Hills around Terrington and the Wiganthorpe estate. I've been transferring all of my old bird records from notebooks onto a database recently, and bearing in mind we're talking records from nearly half a century ago (now I really do feel old!), it's triggered many a memory. Back in the 80s Terrington Pond was a regular 'pop in' when out birding in these beautiful hills that I still explore today, but to my utter astonishment I realised that I hadn't gazed upon this particular spot for decades! So it was nostalgia that prompted this walk as it passed right by the place. Stupidly forgot to take a picture but it was looking good - mainly frozen over but 33 Teal hugging the thawed out margins were nice to see, as where 2 Marsh Tits by the side of Rose Cottage Farm. I broke out the packed lunch at the top a hill near Swinsy Carr with great views of Slingsby Heights and Thurtle Wood to the east, and disturbed 2 Buzzards that flapped around quite close giving me some great pics of our most common raptor.

Looking east from Wiganthorpe towards Slingsby Heights, 13/01/2022


Common Buzzard, Wiganthorpe, 13/01/2022

A further trip up to the Howardian Hills, this time around Scackleton, Grimston and Yearsley Moors later on this month was marred by a group of rowdy pheasant shooters around Oulston Reservoir, but Brambling, Goldcrest, Redpoll and Nuthatch were welcome additions to the year list. Lots of Fieldfares about (including a flock of about 320 in one field alone), 2 Marsh Tits and a single Willow Tit taking bird seed from one of the entrances to Yearsley Moor the other highlights.

Willow Tit, Yearsley Moor, 26/01/2022


Elsewhere, both North Cave Wetlands and Wheldrake Ings have been superb this month for massed flocks of thousands of ducks, geese and other over-wintering birds such as Golden Plover of which I approximated about 850 on one my visits to Wheldrake. 

Golden Plover, Wheldrake Ings, 07/01/2022


Wintering ducks, mainly Wigeon & Teal, Wheldrake Ings, 07/01/2022


Lapwings, North Cave Wetlands, 11/01/2022

As far as smaller birds are concerned I've had some impressive counts of Fieldfares in various fields round and about including appx 440 nr Terrington on the 13th and have been thoroughly entertained by a regular flock of anywhere between 50 & 100 Siskins at Askham Bog whilst out recruiting for YWT. 

Siskin, Askham Bog, 26/01/2022


Siskin, Askham Bog, 26/01/2022


Fieldfare, Wheldrake Ings, 07/01/2022


It hasn't been a particularly harsh winter so far this year but there have been some impressively frosty mornings around my way and as I've alluded to above, a fair few bright and sunny days to gladden the heart and I can sense the first stirrings of spring. Hazel Catkins have begun to appear and I had my first snatch of  Chaffinch song on the 23rd January at my campsite at Fangfoss. Yesterday at Askham Bog one of several Coal Tits was singing too and presented nicely for the camera. I don't think I've fully appreciated the subtleties of this tiny tit's colouring before - look at that gorgeous sandy orange on its flanks!

Coal Tit, Askham Bog, 26/01/2022

Today during a walk around Strensall Common that yielded no real surprises I saw this Great Spotted Woodpecker busily pecking away at a dead silver birch and it reminded of 2 I heard 'drumming' in the grounds of Sledmere House last week. Both in the same general vicinity and I was struck by the different timbre of each - that's how I knew there were two, probably my earliest record of this early sign of spring.

Great Spotted Woodpecker, Strensall Common 27/01/2022


I'm still finding that my smartphone is more than adequate for landscapes (as long as I don't zoom in too much) and though not ready to give up on my shorter lens SLR set up just yet , I remain very impressed with my S10e's picture quality - and so lightweight! Here's a few from my January ramblings - 

Sunset over North Cave Wetlands, 11/01/2022


Spittal Beck, Nr Fangfoss, 18/01/2022



Pocklington Canal at Storwood, 03/01/2022


Yearsley Moor, 26/01/2022


Oulston Reservoir, 26/01/2022


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