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!
We’ve had an exciting start to the new year! Actually it began on the last day of 2018, when we visited Filey Brigg.
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.
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.
Of course, we were delighted!
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.
Most of the time they just sat on the path in front of us, and even allowed us to record a short video clip.
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!
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!
Next time we will bring more birding firsts – what a great start to the year!
In our last post we mentioned we’d seen a bird we had never spotted in King’s Park, Retford, before. Here it is!
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.
Little egrets are a small, heron-like bird becoming increasingly more widespread in the UK, but still a relative rarity.
This one was happily strolling along the grass in the park among the crows, jackdaws and other birds which make the park their home.
In the above picture you can make out the little egret’s yellow feet: a distinctive feature which sets them apart from other egrets.
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.
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.
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.
This beautiful song thrush was among the berries at King’s Park, and we think made a lovely winter picture.
Lee also spotted the slightly larger mistle thrush, but didn’t get a picture of this one.
Another member of the thrush family, the blackbird, was having a rummage among the ground.
The great tit below was in Lee’s garden, eating the food he puts out for the birds regularly.
The remainder of the birds in today’s post were seen around Filey, mainly at Filey Dams nature reserve.
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.
At the nature reserve there was a juvenile whooper swan all on its own.
These swans are winter visitors, and are not as common as our more familiar mute swans.
We also saw lots of wigeon: a beautiful duck which visits the UK in the winter.
They make an amazing whistling noise, which is unmistakable.
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!
We spent the weekend at our caravan at Barmston beach, and found some more exciting birds!
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.
At first we thought they were linnets, but on closer inspection we discovered they had a more tawny appearance with a buff-coloured head.
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.
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.
Amazing! We also saw some other lovely birds, which we’ll share with you shortly.
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.
As its appearance suggests, it is a black-necked swan.
It was strikingly different and a beautiful sight to see!
In the above picture you can see it in comparison with the mute swans: it is a much smaller swan.
In this picture it was having a swim alongside a couple of male tufted ducks: another very attractive bird.
Black-necked swans are natives of South America, and we had never seen one outside of captivity before.
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.
However it got there, it was certainly a joy to see and Lee enjoyed taking pictures of this incredibly photogenic bird.
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!
We spent last weekend at our second home at Barmston beach, and, despite the poor weather, enjoyed some interesting birding.
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.
As he approached, he could see that they were hooded crows, and there was a pair of them.
You can see from the pictures that, instead of being black all over like our familiar carrion crows, they have grey backs.
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.
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.
We paid another visit to Bempton, and saw this beautiful chaffinch.
Plus a super long-tailed tit – always a pleasure to see.
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!
Today we’re looking at one of our most common garden birds: the blackbird.
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.
They eat insects, worms and berries, so these trees in the park make a good feeding area for them.
Blackbirds are very territorial, and they will sometimes fight to defend their area.
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!
And finally, not blackbirds but still black birds: these two jackdaws made a pretty picture sitting in the trees in the park!