Monday, 2 May 2011

Now where do we start?

Again, apologies for the lack of bloggage, we have been trying to get round to posting one, yet we have no excuse why we haven't posted one, so I digress.

We will start with our trip to Bempton cliffs.
Me and Sam decided we needed a few days away from things, as we can't really afford a 'proper' holiday, due to us saving up for the wedding. So Sam came up with the fab idea of a few days away on the east coast, stopping in Bridlington, in the same flaming hotel as Noddy Holder! I wanted him to shout "IIIITTTTSSS BRRREEEEAKKKFFAASST" but he looked to busy eating his fry up. Anyway back to the wildlife.

Bempton Cliffs is a amazing coastal RSPB reserve, with some amazing viewing points, and some good spring migrants to see, if you are as lucky as we were.

We ain't used to seabirds where we live, so it was something different, and something fantastic, to be truthful.

So Species which were abundant were RazorbillGuillemot, Kittiwake, and not to mention our personal loveable smelly rogue, Gannet.
They say over 200,000 birds congregate on the east coast cliffs, and they all fight for every little inch of cliff, nesting together, in some sort of harmony.

Walking back along the cliff towards the visitor centre, we saw a flash of Yellow fly past our eyes. We both picked out this stunning bird, sat aloft on some brush near the cliff side. It was a golden Oriole, yes, a GOLDEN ORIOLE! how we gasped.
We were about two seconds away from getting a photo, but sadly it flew off.
The RSPB warden we reported it to said it could have been a first for that site, so we class ourself as some some of godfathers for migrating birds, kind of?

So after that amazing viewing, which I am still shocked at now, within 30 minutes we then picked at hoopoe(me, Jam, its my favourite bird) THEN a red backed Shrike, THEN two grasshopper warblers.

Grasshopper Warblers are known for the noise they make, it is called "reeling". Have a listen on the RSPB website and you will soon hear why!

I am trying to make this blog shorter than originally planned, so I have still the close memories of what I will talk about in the next blog to hand!

SO I hope you enjoy the read
all the best
Jam and Sam x

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Over a month? it doesn't seem like that!

Afternoon all.
Firstly a quick apology, as the title says we can't believe it has been that bloody long!

So I am going to do two blogs in very quick succession, just to spread things out!

Both of us have started new jobs, so we have had little time to get out and about, and when we have had time, we haven't had the follow up time to write one of these little blighters!

This blog and the next one is going to be a mix of the things we have done since the last one, makes sense I guess doesn't it?

We don't half have some delights to share anyway...

Lets start with Worsborough/Wuzzbura.

taking our normal approach route to the reservoir, the first thing we could hear ( after Sam turned the radio 4 shipping forecast off in the car) was one of our favourites, the Great Spotted Woodpecker, always a lovely thing to hear, and if you are lucky very nice to see. If you look at some of our associated links on the right of the page,  British garden birds website, for example, you will be able to learn the calls, and help identify birds without even seeing them! clever ey?

Other than the normal Malard's Coot's and Canada geese, we spotted two sleeping beauties, and by that we mean two Pochard, blissfully tucking their heads in, staying just out of shot of a decent photograph!

Walking round the reservoir,  our favourite Cornish pasty pinchers, Gulls, were very abundant. You will see an awful lot more gulls inland at this time of year, roosting in HUGE numbers on lakes, You may even be lucky enough to see a Mediterranean Gull, a bird many bird watchers will get very smug about if they see one.

The walk around again was full of the usual suspects we see, members of the Tit family, Songbirds, sparrows and Great Crested Grebes....OH WAIT! We haven't mentioned these yet have we?

This was Sam's first time of seeing this bird, and even though I have seen them before, well I still get as giddy as the first time I saw them.
And not only did we see them, we actually saw them doing the 'dance'(link provided to what this is), a truly astonishing site, even documented in some very popular wildlife programs.
And to add to that, we saw them nest building too! think it was our lucky day wasn't it?
The Great Crested Grebe is the reason the RSPB started, back in the olden days, when they used old money and everyone called each other sir or madam, people used these birds for fashion, wearing FULL birds on hats and the like. One lady got a bit fed up of it, so set up the RSPB to protect these birds. For a more in-depth read on this, our friend wikipedia or the RSPB site will whet your appetite!

The biggest highlight of my day, Jam, had to be the staking out of a little furry critter, a Weasel.

I have only seen one of these in the wild before, and to manage to get a photo(on the new camera we have as  play thing!) was such a joy. I was actually pinching myself when I looked back at the photo!

and we thought that was it......

Just as we were trudging towards the carp park, a lovely male Barn Owl was hunting in the fields beside us, all we needed was a lottery win, or a Sheffield Wednesday win to make the day perfect!

Over and out for the time being.

Hope you enjoy the read
Jam and Sam x

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Worsborough, Wuzzbura, erm, that place near Barnsley!

Hello again all, today's blog is a round up of our day out at Worsborough Country Park, and my word what a day it was!
We all pronounce things different, so I am sticking with the Wuzzbura one on this! 3 big walks in 3 days have made me very lazy, even with words.

We were stuck between going to our good friend the RSPB's site Old Moor at Dearne Valley, or Worsborough, we decided to go for the latter, I think we decided by toss of a coin, but the coin landed on the  floor, and came back mossy side up. It was a weird coin.
We both had a few reservations about this country park, basically we knew there were species here, but didn't expect to see much.
What we found were more species in a day than you could see if we walked from here to Shrewsbury and back with another 30 pairs of eyes!

Anyway here we go, we won't go into as much detail about each species as there were so many to see, but as ever the links on the left hand side will provide you with more information, if that floats your boat.

So as it stands our total of species seen each for the past couple of years stand like this-

Sam did go to America for a month and cheat with the totals *cough*.
Anyway Arthur, back to Worsborough-

The place itself revolves around a very large resevoir, with open footpath all the way around, making it quite easy to stroll, even for the local Grandad types we saw on our way around.

So our species list, I will try to do it in alphabetical order, as basically that is how it is saved on our identification application(got an app for that!)

We had the lovely charm of seeing a single Blackcap, a bird that is obviously named, for appearing to wear a er, well a black cap!
Before I go on, I will just throw in that the lake is full of Mallards, watching a lovely gentlemen and his Sonny feeding them was like a scene from Oliver, who would have thought a greedy Mallard would come back for more? Oh wait, all of us!
The area is not just abundant with different species, but it is quite prolific with the amount of numbers of some species there.
We spotted over 20 Blue Tits, not far off the same amount of Great Tits, 30+ Canada Geese (they may be nasty at times but they have a mean laugh).
Again we were blessed with a bird that is fast becoming our favourite bird, the Goosander. We managed to spot 8 Redheads(female) and two Drakes(male). There is something about these water dwelling birds that is loveable, yet quite comical with the long chiselled beak, and the juddering neck/head movement (see photo below).

Back to the Tit family. We saw another 5 Coal Tit's, 3 Willow Tit, 1 Marsh Tit, and over 10 Long-Tailed Tit's. So all in all the Tit's were spread out, but we managed to cover most of them in the area!

And here's for something completely different. Well for what we see around where we live daily anyway!

In one day we managed to get the big 3! And when I say that I mean the Great Spotted Woodpecker, The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, and the Green Woodpecker. The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, or LSW if you want to be called, was only heard, but that is normally the case with these elusive birds. To be quite honest, we still can't get over seeing/hearing all three of these in one day!

Other species we don't normally see in our back garden that we saw on this walk include the lovely Wren, which may or may not have been looking out for an old Blue Tit nestbox to relax in, which is something that is well heard of around the whole of the country. We also can't forget the graceful Grey Heron we saw, though not sure if we wanted to see it doing its toilet business! A massive spot for me (Jam) was a solo Treecreeper, and my word you can tell why they get their name.
Our best supporting cast awards would go to the lovely speckled Mike the Mistle Thrush, Russy brighter than rust Bullfinch and Larry, Moe and Curly the lovely 3 Linnets we saw!

Another couple of amazing spots we don't want to forget [but possibly one of the two would want to forget if the other clapped eyes on it!] is the wonderful Peregrine Falcon and the hard to spot Water Vole. Peregrines seem to take third place out of birds of prey sightings around where we live, following behind the Sparrowhawk and the well recognised Kestrel which we see in abundance. And to see a Water vole, especially due to the predation it suffers from other British Mammals, let alone the hunting by invasive species such as the Mink, well it is always nice to see!

Before I finish I want to give a little nod to a couple more species we saw there. Two Golden Plover, and one Lapwing.Both amazing visitors through autumn and winter, and it was even more lovely to see them back on our resevoirs after the winter cold snap, which reduced an awful lot of their places of interest to sheer ice. So hats off to the lovely species.

We both hope you have enjoyed our blog again, and whatever you do don't forget to do the RSPB's big garden birdwatch next weekend, if you have the time.

All the best, and happy wildlife hunting.
Sam & Jam x

Friday, 21 January 2011

A library, some swings, and the odd Goosander!


Tuesdays stroll took us to our local park at Hillsborough. Hillsborough Park was created in 1897 by the Dixon Family, who built Hillsborough Hall. It is now owned by Sheffield City Council and the hall is used as a library. Although in the centre of a suburban area and overlooked by The Sheffield Wednesday Football Ground, Hillsborough Park has hidden areas where wildlife is abundant such as the fishing lake and a walled garden next to the library with plenty of trees and bushes for small birds to feed on and a small wildlife pond.
After seeing on the Sheffield Bird Study Group [] that several female Goosanders, known as Redheads due to their appearance and a Goosander drake had been spotted on the pond we decided to have a look!
We took the dog along for the ride hoping that she wouldn't scare the ducks too much...or them scare her! We started off walking around the path around the large grassed area in the park and soon spotted a pied wagtail in a muddy area looking for a snack! As we approached the pond we could see the usual suspects such as Mallards, Canada Geese, Moorhens and Coots and two of the unusual looking Muscovy Ducks.

Muscovies are the only domestic ducks that are not derived from mallard stock. Wild muscovies coloration is black and white, but domestication has produced many different colours. They also have a bright red crest around their eyes and above the beak.
As we circled the pond we spotted what we had hoped for, Goosanders. Nestled next to one of the islands in the pond we saw seven Redheads and the one drake. They seemed very comfy by the island so unfortunately we didn't get to see them too close up but were more than pleased with our sighting.
We also managed to spot two female and one male Tufted Duck. Tufted Ducks are a bird that are normally pigeon-holed as a different coloured Mallard to the casual dog walker, however on close inspection, you can see why they have the name 'Tufted' Duck. Like a slicked back 1980's hairstyle, the tuft is very easilly seen on the heads of  both male and females, with the males showing off with the longer tuft to accompany its blazen white side panels compared to  the more dull light brown colour of the female.

After our walk with the waterfowl we ventured to the walled gardens which were the secret garden style private gardens of the Dixon Family at Hillsborough Hall in the 1800's. As we walked towards the wildlife pond where newts can be spotted we heard a very territorial grey squirrel shouting at another in the next tree! It was either territorial, or rabid, either way we didn't want to get any closer to it!
Ever present Blue Tits and Blackbirds were fluttering about either above us in the trees, or scavenging around the floor. 
Then to our surprise(Especially me, Sam, as it was my first sighting!) a Waxwing flew over our heads towards a part of the garden that was even more secret, basically it was locked so we couldn't get in!
With our necks still transfixed backwards looking to the sky, we were lucky to see a graceful Grey Heron fly above, no doubt back to its tree to roost for the night, either that or it fancied a game of crown green bowling on the lawns bang behind where we were. 

It just goes to show that even the more run of the mill places, like a local park can be ram packed with wildlife. You just have to squint that little bit more!

As always any new species that we have mentioned in this blog will be detailed at the left hand side of the page, just click on the name and you will be able to find out all the information you want, well apart from what their favourite film is, or shirt collar size. 

All the best, and happy wildlife watching
Sam & Jam x 

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Post-Festive Greetings!

First of all we both hope you have had a lovely Christmas and New Year, and you have managed to shake the cobwebs off by now!
We have been a little quiet with the blog the past few weeks, but I am sure you can all understand the shopping trips, family visits, numerous turkey sandwiches and hazy headed mornings take up a fair bit of time.

This blog is going to be more about the birds we see in our urban areas, so in our gardens and streets. And we have a couple of website links that you could join in with to help out in certain areas of bird monitoring.

So to start off, our garden feeders have been very busy over the festive period, full of birds we have mentioned before, and a few new ones for you have a gander at (sorry for the pun, I can promise you we haven't had any geese in our gardens, well, not that we have seen).
Every morning when we open the kitchen door, we are met by a wall of sound that an awful lot of you will recognise, the sound of the House Sparrow. There's plenty of them around, and we even have a particular feeder out just for sparrows, so the Wood Pigeons and Collared Doves don't devour everything, or knock it onto the floor like they are quite skilled at!People may have got Wood Pigeons mixed up with Collared Doves in the past, or vice versa, but the Collared Dove is smaller, and has quite a distinctive black mark around the back of its neck. So the next time you think you see a run of the mill Wood Pigeon, have a better look, as you could be looking at something different!
Other notable visitors to our garden include the Pied Wagtail, Blackbird, Greenfinch, Great tit, Blue Tit and the Starling.
As a side note before I go on, this is the best time of year to watch large flocks or 'murmurations' of starlings before they roost for the night. They can number upto a million, and are an extravaganza in itself to watch.
The BBC nature website has a good write up about this, and also a video to go along with it, heres the link- .

This Autumn and Winter has had a very large influx of a very attractive looking bird, with a hairstyle most American soldiers still sport now I think, that bird would be he Waxwing. The appearance of the birds feathers help you realise why they get their name. You may have seen these in your garden, stripping berries from trees, then moving onto the next tree, then the next, then the next, like a avian version of a locust colony you could say! see picture below:

Another lovely surprise was the appearance of two little Sparrow sized birds, called Reed Bunting's. I have never seen them in my garden before, but many reports have been made that they have started to venture into peoples gardens a lot more, and I was very lucky to have two of the little blighters! They are similar to a sparrow, as you will be able to tell if you click on the link provided on the species list at the side.

Anyhows, now is time for you to get involved, if you see fit too!

For over a 30 years the RSPB have been doing a big garden birdwatch, where you guys spend an hour of your day on either the last Saturday or the last Sunday of this month, identifying and counting all the feathered friends you see in your own garden. It is a very good initiative all around, as it's fun for you to do, and its also very helpful for the RSPB, knowing what sort of birds, how many they are in certain gardens, in certain areas of the UK! SO here is the link, hope you have fun doing it!

For any of you wanting to help out on a more long term basis, the BTO do certain surveys and bird counting programmes you can do all year round, if you have a look at their website at .

That is all for the time being folks other than advising you to check out the link on the right hand side for the British garden birds website so you can help identify some of the other birds you may see!

 so we hope all of you have had as good a start to 2011 as we have.

Sam and Jam x

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Cold Snap Part Deux - Loxley Valley

Today's blog is about our second snowy walk this week on Weds 1st December in the beautiful Loxley Valley. Our walk began as it did the day before at Malin Bridge and follows the River Loxley.

 The River Loxley is a river in the City of Sheffield South Yorkshire, England. Its source is a series of streams which rise some 10 miles (16 km) to the north-west of Sheffield on Bradfield Moors, and converge at Low Bradfield. It flows easterly through Damflask Reservoir and is joined by Storrs Brook at Storrs, near Stannington, and the River Rivelin at Malin Bridge, before flowing into the River Don at Owlerton, in Hillsborough. The Loxley valley provided the initial course of the Great Sheffield Flood, which happened after the Dale Dyke Dam collapsed shortly before its completion in March 1864.The river has played an important part in the industrial history of Sheffield, as it descends through 280 feet (85 m) in the 6 miles (9.7 km) between Low Bradfield and the Don, and this has enabled many mills, forges and cutlers wheels to be powered by its waters.
 [Thankyou to the wonderful world of Wikepedia for that haha]

Our first spot as we were heading towards the start of our trail were two Grey Heron following the river towards Rivelin where we had been the day before. We have spotted them many times near the first Dam at Rivelin but they were obviously now on a little mission to find lunch slightly further afield with their regular watering hole being iced over. 
Almost as soon as we got onto the footpath we were following, we saw a Great Tit perching on a barren autumnal tree branch which was easilly spotted with its black cap and yellow underparts a bright contrast to the snowy white surroundings.
Our next spot was one of my favourites of the walk...we were lucky enough to see two Kingfishers! It was totally by chance that we saw the usually solitary birds together. We were looking out across the river at the banks with their  overhanging greenery at some amazing icicles that were hanging down. As I was getting my camera out to talk a picture of them, One of the icicle's actually fell and in a quick flash, two beautiful Kingfishers flew out from the undergrowth on the banking! Kingfishers are extremely vulnerable in freezing conditions and many don't survive our harsh Winters so we assume that with the extreme weather of the last week that the pair were nesting together for extra warmth as we humans do!
Next we walked on past Carrs Dam [as we know it] with nothing much to spot than the regular Mallards but the Dam looked wonderful frozen over, much to the ducks annoyance.

We only had to walk on a few hundred yards to spot our next feathered friend, a Grey Wagtail. He was flitting above the water and followed us a fair way up the river until we approached a waterfall and then after several unsuccessful attempts at catching him on camera, he flew away.
We carried on trudging through the snow in the winter wonderland taking in the beautiful snow covered woodland passing a local farm where we normally catch a glimpse of rabbits bobbing around and stop to feed the horses. Just as we were approaching the horses, there is a little grassed clearing with a few shrubs dotted around and a shallow pool where newts can often be spotted. Well on this walk, this clearing was buzzing with activity! We saw at least 6 Chaffinch, 2 Goldfinch, 2 Linnets, 1 Yellowhammer and a Siskin, which by all accounts is a massive treat for a days birding, especially the site of the Siskin who I'm sure we will see more of as we get deeper into Winter. 
Throughout the walk we saw and certainly heard many Robins and as we approached the horses we managed to catch one perched on the gate to the horses field.

Also not far away from the horses, we spotted another Grey Wagtail perched in a tree looking for his lunch, closely followed by a single Wren, well camouflaged in the wintery scenery.

We hope Cold Snap Part Two has been an enjoyable read. Look out for our next blog which could be a little different location wise, weather permitting.

Thanks for reading, Sam & Jam.

Friday, 3 December 2010

The Cold Snap Day One(or at least the first day we could get out!)

So we entered the biggest cold snap in this calendar month for around 20 years, and my word has it been cold?

The cold snap comes with mixed emotions for us humans, can't move the car off the drive, can't get to work( double edged sword I guess), and don't forget the panic buying in shops of such absurd things as cauliflower, and beetroot, PANIC BUYING BEETROOT YOU SAY? Complete madness.
On the plus side, the younger ones, and some of us older ones can go out sledging, snowman making, or just appreciate the lovely scenery that this type of weather brings...This is where there is a problem though. 

However easy it is for us to turn the central heating up, or put on an extra coat or some long johns, many of our native wildlife species suffer, with large numbers being wiped out unfortunately. I won't go into too much detail, but I would advise you to have a read of this link, which was brought to us by the amazing people over at Autumnwatch and produced a bit earlier this year. 

Anyway, this is what we have been upto- starting Tuesday 30th November!

Our First day out was taking on the Rivelin valley which is covered in woodland, with a winding river that starts right up in the Peak District, and numerous ponds and damns, not to mention one of the largest continuous rows of Lime trees in Europe. Anyway, I will stop babbling, so, we started at Malin Bridge, and took the route straight up past Mousehole Forge, and carrying on up the valley. Here is what we saw-

Before we even got on the trail we saw a pair of Pied Wagtail's looping through the air towards the river, Singing away in their quite distinctive bird call. 
Plenty of our red breasted friend, the Robin were too be seen, being even more vocal than other times of the year, claiming as much territory as possible! You actually think they are following you as you can hear them at every single step of the trail. 

A little further up the trail we caught something following us up stream, which was the unmistakable White Throated Dipper- White Throat by name, Dipper by nature! Eraticlly bobbing above the surface of the water while it feeds. 
While the Dipper thought it was leading the up river race (we had no chance of catching him up with how deep the snow was. That's our excuse and we are sticking to it!) along came a challenger in the name of the beautiful more streamline, Grey wagtail. Bobbing up and down from rock to rock, easily recognisable with its Yellow under part and darker grey upper-parts, and its stand out long tail, which is around the same size as the whole of the rest of the birds body! 
We briefly saw two species of the tit family, but we will touch on these in our part two blog!

Our mammalian friends are quite hard to find in these snow covered lands, but we managed to catch a quite chubby looking Grey Squirrel, munching its way through some Holly berries while sheltering from the snow. 

One of the strangest things on our day out on the walk was a paramedics car parked in the lower ponds car park, but is it strange? Sadly not. 
The reason it was there was due to the pond being iced over, and sadly we see this in the news all too often, of children, even adults thinking they will be safe, but they don't know what they are getting themselves into. 
Luckily over the past few days there has been no reported accidents around this area involving frozen ponds, and thats how we all would like it to stay!
Your own safety is paramount whilst out walking and wildlife spotting, whether it be snowy, icy, windy or boiling hot! So always take precautions.

We hope you have enjoyed our read, and look our for The Cold Snap part two coming very very soon!

all the best
Sam and Jam