Introducing us

FeaturedIntroducing us

We are Alison and Lee, and we love bird watching around Retford and beyond.  We don’t have any fancy equipment: just binoculars and a basic 30x zoom camera.  We don’t boast any rare sightings or go chasing around the country to spot something unusual; rather, we delight in the ordinary – the birds you can spot every day if you go out walking around your locality.  We aim to encourage you to do just that.  Often it’s just being in the right place at the right time – like this kingfisher who just happened to sit there while we were walking past!  There’s so much amazing nature right on our doorsteps!

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A twite spot

A twite spot

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We spent the weekend at our caravan at Barmston beach, and found some more exciting birds!

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While we were walking across the seafront, a flock of birds kept landing on the beach, flying up to the fields and cliffs, and then settling on the beach again in front of us.

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At first we thought they were linnets, but on closer inspection we discovered they had a more tawny appearance with a buff-coloured head.

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We checked in our field guide when we got back to the caravan, and confirmed that they were in fact twites.  Twites are not very common, and are currently on the red list.  There are not many places where they can be seen, but one of those is the coastal fields of the east coast.

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We were delighted to see these birds, and in such a great number.  There must have been at least 20 of them.

We also found that the hooded crows were still there, and managed to get a little closer.

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Amazing!  We also saw some other lovely birds, which we’ll share with you shortly.

Swanning around

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During a recent visit to Hornsea Mere, we were delighted to find this beautiful swan, which stood out from the mute swans on the water.

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As its appearance suggests, it is a black-necked swan.

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It was strikingly different and a beautiful sight to see!

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In the above picture you can see it in comparison with the mute swans: it is a much smaller swan.

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In this picture it was having a swim alongside a couple of male tufted ducks: another very attractive bird.

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Black-necked swans are natives of South America, and we had never seen one outside of captivity before.

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It is likely that this one escaped from a local collection, but it seemed to be quite happy and getting along fine with the other swans on the water.

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However it got there, it was certainly a joy to see and Lee enjoyed taking pictures of this incredibly photogenic bird.

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And to finish, here’s a couple of very common black-headed gulls in winter plumage.  In the spring they will regain their beautiful chocolatey-brown heads – but we think they’re still very attractive as they are!

Hoodies!

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We spent last weekend at our second home at Barmston beach, and, despite the poor weather, enjoyed some interesting birding.

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One morning,  Lee had a walk across the beach and spotted some crows coming into land which looked very different from the usual ones we see there.

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As he approached, he could see that they were hooded crows, and there was a pair of them.

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You can see from the pictures that, instead of being black all over like our familiar carrion crows, they have grey backs.

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In the above picture, you can see one of the hooded crows with some oystercatchers.  Hooded crows are commonly found in Scotland, but they rarely come down as far as this. This made it a really exciting spot!  They hung around for a while and then flew off when some horses approached.

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We also saw a manx shearwater over the sea the following day, but didn’t manage to get a photograph as it was quite distant.

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We paid another visit to Bempton, and saw this beautiful chaffinch.

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Plus a super long-tailed tit – always a pleasure to see.

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Even in the colder weather, we love being at our seaside home, and are often surprised by the birds that turn up there.

Next time we’ll bring some more birds to you from nearby Hornsea Mere, where we met an exciting bird we’d not seen before!

 

Just a couple of blackbirds

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Today we’re looking at one of our most common garden birds: the blackbird.

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The first pictures are of a female blackbird Lee encountered in King’s Park in Retford.

As you can see, the female blackbird is brown rather than black, and is often speckled or streaky in appearance.

Blackbirds have a beautiful mellow song, which is always a pleasure to hear, particularly in the mornings and evenings.

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They eat insects, worms and berries, so these trees in the park make a good feeding area for them.

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Blackbirds are very territorial, and they will sometimes fight to defend their area.

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They will rear 2-3 broods in a year, and nest anywhere there is suitable cover.  In fact, this year one of them had several attempts to nest in the wheel arch of a car on our caravan site!

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And finally, not blackbirds but still black birds: these two jackdaws made a pretty picture sitting in the trees in the park!

Surprise surprise!

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Last weekend we were at our caravan on the east coast, when we heard that there had been sightings of a rare bird at our local reserve, Idle Valley.  It was a grey phalarope.

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At the first opportunity after we got back home, Lee visited the reserve to see if he could spot it.

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He was greeted by lots of twitchers with telescopes and cameras, all clamouring for a view of this rarity for the UK.  At first it was out of sight round the rushes, but then it appeared and was in full view for a while.

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Lee was then able to get a view of the bird and take some photographs.

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These birds breed in the Arctic, and occasionally are blown off course onto our coastline.  However, they rarely appear at inland wetlands such as Idle Valley, making it even more special.  Unusually for most birds, the female is more colourful than the male, and the male incubates the eggs.  They are known as red phalaropes in North America, as they have an orangey-red plumage during the breeding season.

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An amazing spot for us on our local territory – Lee was delighted to be able to capture this beautiful bird.

And to finish, these house martins were popping out of the nest in Retford town centre, being fed by parents!

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They’ll be off soon but it’s good to still have them around.

 

 

Summer of love…for the birds

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We haven’t posted for a while as we’ve spent most of the summer at our caravan on the East Yorkshire coast without a reliable internet connection!  This post sums up some of our favourite birding moments of the summer.

The gannets were taken at Bempton Cliffs, where we saw young ones still on the nest right through to the fully mature adults (almost completely white).  It takes them 5 years to lose the black feathers and gain their full adult plumage.

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The picture above shows a young bird still with black feathers on its wings.  They are lovely birds to photograph – very dramatic, and they stay around on the cliffs long after others have gone (until around October).

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Over the summer we’ve tried to get to know waders a little better.  They can be very difficult to identify, particularly when you don’t see them very often and their plumage changes through the seasons.  The above is a black-tailed godwit.

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We saw these birds in a few different locations: Filey Dams, Tophill Low and Kilnsea Wetlands.

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They have very long bills for probing in the mud and shallow water.  We were treated to a really close-up view of them at Kilnsea – amazing!

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This common sandpiper was also a first for us – spotted at Filey Dams.

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The redshank (above) is quite easy to distinguish due to its red legs, and we saw these in many different locations – even Bridlington harbour.

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This lovely pheasant was peering at us through the viewing slot in the hide at Filey Dams – don’t think we’ve ever been so close to one!

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We’ve seen quite a few meadow pipits too – this one was on the beach at Spurn Point.  Spurn is an incredible place and well worth a visit.  It was amazing to experience the dramatic coastline and be almost completely surrounded by water.  In fact, following a storm surge a few years ago, Spurn is now the UK’s newest tidal island.  Here’s a few more pictures of that beautiful place…

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Probably our most exciting spot of the summer was the wheatear.  We’ve never seen one before and saw one by the caravan site on Barmston beach, and one posed for us on the beach and signpost at Spurn.

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It hung around quite a while, and we spotted it again on the way back to the car.

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And finally, not birds but a few more pictures from the beautiful East Riding of Yorkshire.  This sheep was enjoying a good scratch at Kilnsea Wetlands!

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Flamborough

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Sunset at Barmston

Well, what an amazing summer!  The weather has been fantastic, and it’s great to be able to tick a few more birds off the list.

Now we have the autumn migration to look out for – I wonder what we’ll see?

Back to the sea

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Over the weekend we paid another visit to Bempton Cliffs to see how the sea birds were getting on with their young.

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The gannets were still there in plentiful numbers, with their young.  Some of the young had almost got their adult plumage and were flying with the adults, but some were still being fed in the nests.

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This parent was giving the young one a good grooming.

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Other birds still there in plentiful numbers were the kittiwakes.

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We thought the young birds were really pretty with their black markings.

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Most of the guillemots and razorbills were back out at sea, but we did see one or two families with young still on the cliffs.

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And some more delightful puffins.

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Away from the cliffs, this swallow was sitting on her second brood.

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The beautiful tree sparrows also put in an appearance.

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Back at Barmston Beach, Lee found some birds we hadn’t seen before: sandwich terns.

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His walk in the rain was rewarded!

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There are a couple of sand martin colonies on the beach, and we noticed that the birds were still flying in and out of the holes in the sand banks.

On the below photograph, you can just about make out the chicks peeping out of the nest in the bottom left corner.

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You can see why we like being at the seaside!