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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Sing me a song

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Spring has definitely arrived, with our first swallow and sand martin sightings this week!

The birds are heralding spring’s arrival with their amazing songs: all the birds we’re featuring in this blog are beautiful singers, and were spotted at Idle Valley this week.

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Our very familiar song thrush has a beautiful song, and will characteristically repeat phrases.

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Lee managed to capture this one in full song on a trip to Idle Valley.

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The UK’s favourite bird – the robin – is also treating us to its full spring song at the moment, as it busily guards its territory or tries to attract a mate.

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If you see two of them together at this time, they’re probably a pair – unless they’re fighting of course!

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Another very familiar songbird is our lovely blackbird.  Blackbirds will fiercely defend their territories, particularly at this time of year.

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Their melodious song is beautiful to hear, particularly in the mornings and evenings.

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The chiffchaff pictured above is a summer visitor, and they have arrived in great numbers; at the moment you can hear their distinctive “chiff chaff” call almost everywhere!  They are one of the first of our summer migrants to arrive, and we always look forward to spotting the first.

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Finally, the beautiful blackcap.  Another summer visitor, we heard and saw our first one last Sunday, and Lee captured this one at Idle Valley this week.  Their song is a beautiful melodious warble, typically ending in a flourish.  It’s definitely the sound of summer!  We look forward to seeing and hearing more of our summer visitors arrive over the next few weeks.  We even spotted a solitary puffin on Flamborough cliffs last Sunday!

On home ground

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The last couple of blogs we’ve written have featured birds we’ve seen near our caravan on the east coast, so this time we thought we’d bring some local birds spotted in and around Retford, like the lovely wren above.

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All of these common birds were seen around King’s Park, Idle Valley or down the Chesterfield Canal where we regularly go bird spotting.  The dunnock (above) is one which often gets confused with sparrows, and is a common visitor to our parks and gardens.   Unlike sparrows, however, it has a melodious song and can be heard singing all year round.

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Another common visitor to parks and gardens is the lovely little blue tit (above). We’ve seen so many of them recently, around King’s Park and down the Chesterfield Canal, busy flitting around and can be quite difficult to capture.

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And of course, a favourite garden bird is the very familiar robin.  Lee has found one at King’s Park that appears from wherever it is hiding when it hears him rattle the packet of mealworms.  The robin is another bird which sings all year round, and can be seen in full song in the picture above.

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This beautiful starling looked absolutely fantastic with its iridescent plumage in the sunlight.  Again, another common bird but one we love.  They can still be seen murmurating in the evenings if you’re lucky enough to spot one.

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The nuthatch (above) is a fairly common bird which can be seen in the local park, but not quite so easily spotted as the other birds we’ve mentioned.  They are typically found on tree trunks and branches, and can even head downwards down a tree trunk.

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The two pictured above are the greenfinch (upper) and siskin. We’ve seen quite a lot of greenfinches lately, particularly down the Chesterfield Canal.  They sometimes visit gardens too!

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This delightful little goldcrest was spotted in King’s Park earlier today among the conifer trees.  They are quite difficult to capture as they flit around so quickly, but Lee managed to snap this one.

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The last two birds we’re featuring are both winter visitors, so won’t be around for too much longer.  The one above is a brambling, which we spotted down the Chestefield Canal.  They typically mix with chaffinches in flocks, and we’ve also seen them in the fields with fieldfares.

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Finally the redwing – this was seen in King’s Park.  They are members of the thrush family, with a distinctive eye stripe and red flank.  Beautiful!  Hope you manage to spot some of these lovely birds around our local area!

Birding firsts (2)

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Today we thought we’d share some more birding firsts we had over the New Year period.  After the excitement of the snow buntings at Filey, we didn’t think anything else would come close.

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However, the following day we decided to have a walk down Danes Dyke.

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As soon as we got down to the beach area, we noticed a bird flitting around on the stones in front of us.

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At first we thought it was a meadow pipit, but it didn’t look quite the same as the many meadow pipits we’ve seen.

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On closer inspection, we discovered it was a rock pipit, a bird we’d never seen before. Another one appeared and they hopped around on the stones, sometimes flying up to the rocks on the cliff edge.

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We also noticed that one of them had got rings on both its legs.

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Rock pipits are similar to meadow pipits, but are slightly darker in appearance and have dark coloured legs, whereas the meadow pipit’s are pink.

We were delighted to spot a new bird on New Year’s Day!

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As the sun was setting, Lee took this picture of the view from the beach across the coast.  What an amazing day!

Birding firsts

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We’ve had an exciting start to the new year!  Actually it began on the last day of 2018, when we visited Filey Brigg.

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We’d heard that there were snow buntings on the path above the cliffs, so, while we were staying at our caravan on the east coast, we decided to pay a visit and see if we could spot them.

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We thought they might have been difficult to find, but no sooner had we set foot on the path than three of them flew up in front of us, one landing on the signpost.

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Of course, we were delighted!

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They continued to pose for us for quite some time, flying only short distances, for example, in the above picture they went to the cliff edge.

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Most of the time they just sat on the path in front of us, and even allowed us to record a short video clip.

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Snow buntings visit the UK in the winter from the Arctic region, and are not too commonly seen on our shores.  They have been on our wishlist for a sighting for years!

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They are large buntings, with plumage camouflaged for the snow.  Their mainly white plumage is quite striking.  They really were beautiful birds, and so obliging to photograph!

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Next time we will bring more birding firsts – what a great start to the year!

Egrets, I’ve had a few…

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In our last post we mentioned we’d seen a bird we had never spotted in King’s Park, Retford, before.  Here it is!

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We’ve featured the little egret before (in a previous post: The egrets have landed), but it was a complete surprise when this one turned up on our doorstep in the local park.

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Little egrets are a small, heron-like bird becoming increasingly more widespread in the UK, but still a relative rarity.

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This one was happily strolling along the grass in the park among the crows, jackdaws and other birds which make the park their home.

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In the above picture you can make out the little egret’s yellow feet: a distinctive feature which sets them apart from other egrets.

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There are other species of egret now appearing in the UK, such as the great white egret.  We saw one of these recently at Hornsea Mere, but it was too far away to get a decent photograph.  These have also been spotted at Idle Valley nature reserve.

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Yesterday morning (Boxing Day) I was walking the dog down the River Idle close to home, when I spotted the little egret in the field near the river.  Lee confirmed it had moved from the park, so we could assume it was the same one.  I was able to get quite close to it, but unfortunately didn’t have a camera with me.  It was amazing to stand and watch it up so close – a real Boxing Day treat!

We hope all our readers had a good Christmas and would like to wish you a very Happy New Year.

 

Merry Christmas!

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Today we’re bringing a variety of birds we’ve seen around our local Retford area and a few from Filey from a couple of weeks ago.

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This beautiful song thrush was among the berries at King’s Park, and we think made a lovely winter picture.

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Lee also spotted the slightly larger mistle thrush, but didn’t get a picture of this one.

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Another member of the thrush family, the blackbird, was having a rummage among the ground.

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The great tit below was in Lee’s garden, eating the food he puts out for the birds regularly.

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The remainder of the birds in today’s post were seen around Filey, mainly at Filey Dams nature reserve.

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We’ll be paying Filey another visit soon, when we visit our caravan during the winter break.

As soon as we got to the reserve, we spied a great spotted woodpecker, who hung around for a while letting us get some pictures.

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At the nature reserve there was a juvenile whooper swan all on its own.

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These swans are winter visitors, and are not as common as our more familiar mute swans.

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We also saw lots of wigeon: a beautiful duck which visits the UK in the winter.

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They make an amazing whistling noise, which is unmistakable.

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Next time we’re going to bring to you another exciting bird Lee spotted in King’s Park – we’ve never seen one there before!

We would like to wish all our readers a very Happy Christmas and New Year, and, of course, Happy Birding!

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.