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No wildlife sightings including Roe Deer, Fox, Hare or Badger will be mentioned on this blog throughout the year due to the rising influx of poaching, long dogging and lamping by sick individuals. BS.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

An Icy Fly Flatts. a.m.

                    Icy conditions
                                   Iced up floating jetty

                       Good winter for Great Black Backed gulls

A white scene at Queensbury this morning with a covering of snow frozen over and icy roads.
Strangely as I got out of Queensbury everywhere else was clear and even Fly Flatts had no sign of snow making a pleasant but cold morning with a strong NW>5 and a temp of minus 1 degrees with clear blue skies and sunshine.
                                             A real eye waterer walking along the west bank but worth a check in good Bunting/Lark conditions but not to be. The water was void of birds with all the edges frozen keeping the Mallards down in Dean Head.
                                                My expectation of Pinkies moving never materialized but Great Black Backed gulls started moving over mid watch very high and mainly distant over the moor with a count of 11 >NE before I left.
Its looking like its going to be a re run of last winter with Pink Footed Geese moving mostly after dark and unseen but time will tell. At least GBBs are putting in a good show this winter. A single distant Buzzard and 2 Raven were the only other birds present along with a few Red Grouse.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Fly Flatts p.m. and a history lesson.

An improvement in the weather late afternoon at Fly Flatts with an icy cold WNW>5 with 50 % cloud cover and some sunshine briefly. As I was leaving at 1600 hrs a heavy rain cloud had come over.
      Very little doing today although the sky looked ideal for Pink Footed geese on the move but only what I believe to be 4 way over towards Stoodley Pike heading >NW. Impossible to say for certain at that distance but they had the jizz of Pinkies.
       The SEO made a brief appearance as well as a single Buzzard over the moor whilst the water held 6 Mallard and 2 Teal in the NE corner.
A good forecast for tomorrow with clear skies and a NW>4 which Pinkies like to fly into so we may have a move on before the wind turns to the south then east for the weekend.
History Lesson time.....            After putting my blog out yesterday for Slaughter Gap I got several e mails and text messages asking if I knew if there had been some gruesome happening in the area due to the name of Slaughter Gap so I promised that I,d put it on tonights blog briefly without boring anyone.
             January 4th 1644 during the civil war Parliamentarian Captain Farrer and his cavalry became separated from his regiment after chasing and capturing several Royalists. Unable to get back through Kings Cross and Sowerby Bridge to his regiment because of Royalist strongholds , and probably traffic jams, no one can get through Sowerby Bridge at tea time, he decided to lead his men across Ovenden Wood aiming to cross Luddenden Dean and cross the moors to Heptonstall.
                                                        They were stopped part way up Hunter Hill by Royalists and force into a battle where Captain Farrer and his 9 remaining men surrendered.
                                                       The steep part of Hunter Hill leading up to Slaughter Gap is also known as Bloody Field or Bloody Hill, which is still called by this name today every time DJS and me have to walk up it after looking for Ring Ouzel.
                                                     The area was thought to go back to Roman days but an organized dig in 1951 found prehistoric pottery taking it back to the iron age.
                                                      So there you have it, Slaughter Gap, just one of many local places named from battles during the civil war. Here at Queensbury we have Scarlet Heights because the fields were said to have turned scarlet with the blood spilt during a battle there.
                                                       Sleep well, dont have nightmares!!

Elland Gravel Pits. am

                                         1m 2f Goosander on the canal

                                        Plenty Bullfinch along the canal side

With fog, heavy drizzle and a howling SW>5 up on the tops first light I headed down to the southern tip of my area, Elland Gravel Pits. The weather down there was mild and dry but very dark, a real none photography morning deteriorating with rain and drizzle by the time I left at 1030 hrs.
                                                                    I managed to get straight onto the Siskin/ Redpoll flock in Alders along the canal side with a flock of around 30, these being mainly Siskin but too dark to go through the Redpoll for Mealys.  A Buzzard was over the ski lake as well as a Sparrowhawk whilst a GBB gull headed >NE. No Dipper today but 2 Little Grebe still on the river.

30 + Siskin/ Redpoll flock,  75% Siskin
sev Bullfinch
2f 1m Goosander
1 Sparrowhawk
1  Buzzard
1 GBB gull >NE
sev small gulls
2 Cormorant
2 Little Grebe
+ usual sp.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Slaughter Gap. p.m.

1430 hrs and a look at Fly Flatts found an increase in wind from this morning up to near gale W>7 with dark clouds and quiet skies and water. A decision to check the west bank was soon decided for me with a dog walker with 2 off the lead dogs charging about along the banking making it pointless me walking on checking for Larks and Buntings so after a quick check of the boatyard I up stumps and headed for the shelter of Slaughter Gap.
                                                            The wind was almost as bad at this location with the west wind funneling down the track but at least it was dry and undisturbed.
Slaughter Gap may seem a strange venue for this time of year as it is a Wheatear, Ring Ouzel hotspot in the spring but its a good vantage point for sky watching in case Pinkies were on the move and I thought I may find out where some of the local Meadow pipits are over wintering as this is the first year I,ve had none, as well as Skylarks, at Fly Flatts since the late autumn.
                                                           Surprisingly no Golden Plover were found but 2 flocks of Fieldfare were flushed from a field by a passing quarry wagon thundering along the road , with a count of 28 and 35.
 A charm of Goldfinch were active on thistle tops with around 40 in the flock working their way around the field edges.
                                   Kestrels never seem to bother about the wind with 2 up over the quarry whilst a distant Buzzard was high up between Mixenden Reservoir and the golf course where a Short Eared Owl was quartering the top end of the course despite several golfers on the greens.
                                   Several Common and Black Headed gulls were coming up from Cold Edge Dams and stopping off in the fields for a last pre roost feed but no sign of big gulls and certainly no Meadow Pipits.
                       Strong SW winds and rain forecast for the morning so I may be in for the first soaking of the year which does,nt matter as long as it brings some birds along with it.
                        A shopping trip early p.m.firstly to Sainsburys and then The Range found plenty Redwings and Blackbirds at each location and still plenty berries left but no signs of the elusive Waxwing flock. My last Waxwing sighting was 18th December on Pellon Lane with none seen since although I have,nt been looking for them other than the shopping trips.

Fly Flatts a.m.

A very dark start to the morning with light drizzle making a low cloud base and mist over the moor even though the wind was a howling W>5. On of those mornings where you think do I really want to get out of the car and walk the west bank, even the dogs did,nt look too excited about it.
                                                          As always, once you,re geared up and on your way it never seems as bad ,and to be fair it cleared up considerably as the morning went on.
                                                         Just as light was breaking, as much as it did, 2 Raven flew over towards the Flat moor followed by 2 Carrion Crow. Shortly afterward a Great Black Backed gull came over the water and off >NE. I got a few shots in the dull light thinking they would be passable but back on the computer I had to class them as unfit for human consumption. I,ve had more GBBs this winter than ever before.
                                           Next treat was a Peregrine low and fast over the moor towards Nab Water Lane briefly tussling with a Buzzard well to the north of the water. This is the first Pere I,ve seen up here since the autumn.
                                  On the way home another Buzzard was high above the Crossroads Inn drifting >N, thats the second time in a week I,ve had one in this area.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Raptor Day. Fly Flatts.

Short Eared Owls staying back late whilst there are still voles

    All taken 960mm Exp 1000 @ F6.3  but up at 4000 ISO to get light.

A shopping trip to Brighouse this afternoon found 2 Buzzards soaring over the main street
whilst on the way back a Buzzard was over the Shelf Moor trailer park field which held 138 Lapwing.
              Back up at Fly Flatts conditions were better than this morning with the sun blanked out with 90 % cloud cover and a light NW>4. Nearing the end of the watch large black clouds came over the moor bringing heavy rain and drizzle followed by mist but by that time my job was done.
                                                         Walking the west banking  a single Buzzard, closely followed by another 3, came over the moor very high and at distance from the SE soaring but keeping moving finally disappearing over the western ridge and away to the >NW. These birds looked like movers rather than locals judging by the height they were at  and keeping going as they did.
                                                             Two Kestrels were over the moor mobbing a Merlin that flew fast and low towards the Fill Belly Flat, a bird that looks like its going to over winter here unless conditions get too bad.
A single Raven was over the Nab whilst 11 Lapwing and 9 Golden Plover dropped in to roost at Slade.
           A final check of the boatyard came across Short Eared Owl quartering the hillside before heading off towards Oxenhope.
At last, some life at Fly Flatts.

Fly Flatts a.m.

A bright and breezy morning at Fly Flatts with a moderate NW>5 but clear blue skies , 50% cloud cover and visibility good apart from the blinding low sun.
                                                     The job started off well with 4 Pink Footed Geese over >W before I,d chance to get out of the car as I arrived but after that it was a steady quiet morning.
A walk of the west bank produced 2 distant and flighty Stonechat with just a single Canada goose on the water and the only sky movement was gulls but mainly Black Headed with a few Lesser Black Backed all NE but non dropping onto the water.
                                                    I expected a Pinkie move today but nothing transpired whilst I was up there.
Welcome aboard to another birder Dan Rooke who has just joined the Calderdale grapevine making the members up to 48.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Teatime match abandoned and the Calderdale Grapevine.

With gales and heavy drizzle continuing throughout the day up here in hill billy country I just took a drive to Fly Flatts late p.m. to check the water from the top road just in case anything exotic had been blown in. The wind was averaging gale force 8 westerly blowing at 41 m.p.h. with low cloud and drizzle driving over the water. Nothing was seen on the water but the height of the waves and the foam and white horses powering across the reservoir would have made it impossible to see a Kittiwake sized bird .
      With a better forecast for tomorrow I should be able to get back up there and give it a coat of looking at.
Welcome to birder Roy Horrobin who has just joined the Calderdale grapevine making 47 members, just 3 more to join and its up to the magical figure of 50.
                                                  A big thank you and well done to Dave Sutcliffe for setting up and organizing the group which is going from strength to strength and at the start of another year I,m sure its provided several birders with sightings they would normally have missed , me included, by getting on the spot text messages, the Sainsbury Halifax Waxwings for a perfect example.
                                                  Of course the system would,nt work if it was,nt for members getting their sightings straight in so a special thank you to each and every one of you, keep up the good work.

Beating the weather. Elland Gravel Pits

       Dippers have used these same stones for over 40 yrs

        All taken in the dark at 10,000 ISO

 With strong westerly gales, fog and heavy drizzle I headed down to my old stomping ground of Elland Gravel Pits to walk along the canal and check out the river. The weather down there was like a different world with little wind but dark clouds and some light drizzle.
                                                                   Amazingly , looking over the bridge to the river a Dipper was at one side whilst 2 Little Grebes were at the other, exactly the same spot as they always used to be when I down there every Sunday morning over 40 years ago.
                                                                       A good year for Bullfinch with a minimum of 9 males and 3 females counted along the canal bank but no sign of Siskin or Redpoll flocks although it was too dark to scan the Alders.
2 male Goosander were on the ski lake but otherwise it was down to the usual species. A pleasant walk away from the upland weather and the dogs enjoyed it too although it was hard keeping Bobby away from the canal, he could,nt understand why Mallards could go on the water and not him.
                                          Plenty Redwings on the 2 large Rowans at Lane End above Brighouse but no Waxwings.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Mixenden Reservoir. pm

                                              Goldeneyes in the murk.

1445 hrs and the miserable weather continuing throughout the day with winds near to gale force and heavy drizzle up here in the heights of Queensbury.
                                                            Mixenden was just below the cloud base and slightly sheltered from the strong westerly but very dark with heavy drizzle.
A walk through the west bank trees failed to find any passerines but the water held 1 female Goosander, 2 Moorhen, 5 Mallard and a pair of Goldeneye with around 50 small gulls.
                                                          The Goldeneye were very flighty keeping a good distance away and frequently flying from one end of the water to the other even though I was hidden in the trees making it impossible to get a decent photo. It must be to do with where they come from and if they are used to people as I,ve had Goldeneye at Ogden coming right into the duck feeding area but the birds at Mixenden seem like true wild birds being very unapproachable.
                                                            With stronger winds still tomorrow and more cloud and rain forecast its not looking like a good birding weekend at all.

Ogden reservoir.

                           1 Herring gull present

      Goldcrest. Definitely not a morning for photography

      Black Headed gull with right leg steel ring
                                Left leg plastic ring missing.

With strong W>5 blowing, horizontal drizzle and mist I reluctantly headed for Ogden which was out of the wind but very dark and drizzly and even so early on a bad morning was very busy with the public. Ogden is like the Queensbury branch of the lonely hearts club where everyone wants to stop and talk to you, or maybe its me thats anti social.
                                                No sign of the Redpoll flock although I only checked the west bank as far as the Alders plus a scan of the water, 1 hour is more than enough for me at Ogden but I did get a nice little collection of bird that I rarely see  being an uplands watcher.
As I came away mid morning the car park was heaving with tempers flaring .

Black Headed gull with silver leg ring but plastic ring missing
1 Herring gull
sev small gulls
Treecreeper     x3
Goldcrest        x6
Long Tailed Tits  x6
Bullfinch        x3
+ usual sp.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Fly Flatts /Mixenden Reservoir.

            Something to keep me occupied at Fly Flatts .SEO

Mid afternoon and with the nasty rain and mist clouds moved over it was a quick check at Mixenden Reservoir before moving on to Fly Flatts.
With the dogs with me I could only peer over the wall at Mixenden but soon picked out :-
2 Moorhen
1f Goosander
1m 2f Goldeneye
Several small gulls plus 1 Herring gull

Driving down the track at Fly Flatts I came face to face with a Short Eared Owl sat on the fence post very close to me. I anchored on and threw myself out of the car grabbing the camera as I went just as the bird was taking off. Why does the camera strap always wrap around the gear lever when you,re in a panic trying to get out fast which yanks you back in the car cracking your head on the door frame?
                                                          Luckily the bird flew a circuit around me before it headed off over the moor but with no time to check the settings I had to make do with what came out on a slow exposure of 800 and ISO the same.  At one point the bird flew so close over me I could,nt get it in the frame or get a focus on it. All this happened in about 2 minutes and then is was gone.
                                                             All was quiet down by the water and after a walk of the west bank I went back up the track to where the owl had been, setting up the tripod and camera at the ready but of course the owl never re appeared. After another 15 minutes watching the horizon beyond the western ridge for any signs of skeins of Pink Footed geese moving, which should be happening anytime now, I headed for home.