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!


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.


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


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.


And some more delightful puffins.


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


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!


The grebe family

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Yesterday we had a walk down the River Trent and spotted this family of great-crested grebes.

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The adult birds have beautiful plumage in the breeding season – as you can see from the one adult bird on the left in the above pictures.

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In winter the adult is generally greyer, with only a slight crest, very similar to the young birds in the pictures.

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However, in spring and summer, the adult plumage is stunning.  It is grey-brown above and white below, with a white neck and conspicuous crests, giving the bird its name.  These birds are our largest grebes, and are very common and widespread, so they are quite easy to spot.

We watched these birds swim down the river and got fairly close.


We saw quite a few other young birds too, including these goldfinches:

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We also spent some time down the Chesterfield Canal this week, and spotted a tree sparrow sitting on the roof of a house.

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And a beautiful greenfinch:


Summer can be a fairly quiet time for birds, as they are ending the breeding season and stocking up on their fat reserves.  But it’s also a great time to spot young birds, and this can be a challenge as they are often different from the adults and make a variety of confusing sounds!  Happy bird spotting!

Kes and co.


Last weekend we had a visit to Tophill Low nature reserve, on the recommendation of a couple of other birders.

No sooner had we got in the reserve, than this kestrel greeted us sitting on top of the roof.

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As we approached, we expected it to fly away, but it didn’t.  It sat and posed while Lee took some photographs.

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It was the closest we’d ever been to a kestrel in the wild, and it gave us a chance to see its beautiful colours.

Walking further round the reserve, we came to the hides on the marshland, and spotted several little egrets.

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There must have been around 20 of them, and one kindly posed on a log fairly close by, enabling Lee to take these lovely pictures.

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Little egrets are becoming more widespread in the UK.  They spend a lot of time standing still or wading in shallow water, looking for food.

These were an amazing sight, but the star of the show was a bird we’ve never seen before: the black-tailed godwit.

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One of our larger waders, the black-tailed godwit is very handsome, particularly in its coppery-red summer plumage.

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There must have been at least 20 of these stunning birds.

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It breeds in wet meadow land, and is not as widespread as the bar-tailed godwit.  We were so happy to see so many of them and be able to watch them for quite some time!

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There was also a common tern on the post, and plenty of lapwings.

Tophill Low is definitely worth a visit!

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And to finish, a beautiful herring gull sitting on Barmston beach.

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More babies!


We made another visit to Bempton Cliffs and Flamborough over the weekend, and were delighted to find that many of the nesting seabirds now have chicks.

These adorable kittiwake chicks were everywhere!


Kittiwakes typically lay 2 eggs, and their young, as you can see above, are grey and black.  Like many of the seabirds here, their nests are balanced quite precariously on the cliffs, and you often wonder how they don’t fall off!


Several of the gannets also had chicks – hope you can spot some of them in the above and below photographs.  They lay only one egg, which is incubated under their large webbed feet.  They stay on the cliff side for around 13 weeks, after which they jump off the cliffs and into the sea below.


The young birds take around 4 years to get their full adult plumage of white with black outer wings.

We couldn’t have a visit to Bempton without including a couple of pictures of puffins!


We saw quite a few of them around the cliffs – their orange feet made them stand out from the other birds.

We didn’t get a glimpse of any young puffins, or pufflings as they are known, as they are usually kept well hidden within the burrows and holes in the cliffs.  After the young have fledged, they will make the leap into the sea, usually at night to avoid being predated.


They will then spend the winter out at sea, before returning to the cliffs in spring to begin all over again.

Sunny afternoons


We’ve been enjoying the beautiful weather recently, and it appears our birds have too!  Lee found this baby robin in King’s Park in Retford.  As you can see, they don’t have the red breasts of the adult birds, and are often not recognised as robins.


Their mottled brown feathers will eventually turn to red on the front, and at this point they’ll have to find their own territories away from their parents.


We saw this adult robin in Sherwood Forest, where we spent a pleasant Sunday afternoon this week.


We also found this beautiful blackbird posing on an old tree stump – one of many spectacular old trees in the forest.  Blackbirds are probably one of our commonest birds and frequent visitors to our gardens.


We also saw a family of young blackcaps hiding in the trees.  There were both males with the black caps, and females with the brown caps.


This treecreeper was climbing up the bark of another old tree.  Its camouflaged plumage meant it took us a while to spot it!


The young long tailed tit looks quite different from its parents, as it has more black around its eye, but this one has already got its long tail which gives it its name.


And finally – dustbathing house sparrows!  In the dry weather, house sparrows love to bathe in the dust, and these seem to be enjoying themselves!



Baby birds


They’re everywhere!  This week we’re sharing some photos of the many baby birds we’ve seen around recently.  The photos were taken on the local River Idle, Hallcroft Lakes, Chesterfield Canal, and in Hornsea.


Today we found this moorhen feeding her young on the Chesterfield Canal.  Moorhens make their nests on floating heaps of vegetation or in trees and bushes beside water.  This one had 3 chicks (that we saw), but they will typically lay between 5 and 11 eggs.  The young follow their parents around, but can also be fed by siblings from an earlier brood.


Canada geese are another very prolific breeder in the UK, and can be seen in great number around our lakes, reservoirs, and nearby meadows.  They lay around 5 or 6 eggs in March or April.


The mallard is our most widespread duck, and is a familiar sight anywhere near water.  We’ve seen lots of mallard chicks, and have had to stop the car for a line of them to cross the road on more than one occasion!  They often lay a large number of eggs – I think the largest brood we’ve seen this year is around 15 – and they will have more than one brood.


The ones in the picture above were swimming down the River Idle, disturbing Lee’s fishing trip!  As you can see, the young birds look like the females, and lack the familiar bright green head of the male.


This young pied wagtail looks to be taking walking lessons from its parent!


And as you can see, the young magpie has a much shorter tail than the adult birds.

As you go out and about, keep your eyes and ears open for baby birds – they are quite easy to spot and can sometimes let you approach them fairly closely – but watch out for protective parents like these hissing geese!


Wading in


You might have noticed we’ve been spending quite a bit of time at the coast recently!  We’ve spotted some interesting wading birds on the East Yorkshire coast, and thought we’d share them with you for our blog this week.

We’ve been delighted to watch a family of ringed plovers hatch their young, and watch the parents anxiously protecting their chicks.


This pair successfully raised three chicks.  As you can see, they are really well camouflaged on the beach, and it was only when they moved that we were able to spot them.


The ringed plover is a widespread wading bird, breeding on sandy and shingle beaches.  It can be found throughout the year, and nests in a shallow scrape in sand or stones.  We were surprised at how exposed their nest seemed to be: had we not spotted it, it would have been easily trodden on.


They feed on the ground, picking up small insects and worms.

Another common wading bird we found on the beach is the dunlin:


On one of our many walks across the beach, we found a number of wading birds feeding in a puddle which had formed on the sand.


They can typically be found in groups, probing in the mud along the shore, where they pick up insects, worms and molluscs.


If you get a chance to visit our coastline, have a look out for these charming birds!