Monday, 19 February 2018

Great White Mystery

For big white birds egrets can't half be elusive. Er, assuming they're present, of course. Following the return of a Great White Egret in November it was disappointing there was no sign of it in either November or December.

Imagine my surprise when TWO were together between Kelk Beck and Wansford on Sunday. Note that two together is not unprecedented - November 2015 (photo).

It's interesting to speculate where these bird have been all winter.

Option 1: they've been here all the time but hidden. Entirely possible, given their habitat preference for drainage channels of which there are many out of sight across the area. That said, much like Little Egrets, they seem to move about a fair bit so I'm surprised I wouldn't have encountered one of them flying somewhere.

Option 2: they have been spending only some of the time here. There have been sightings earlier this month of single birds at Hornsea (8th) and Tophill (2nd), in addition to sightings at several places going back to autumn. That means there's either several locally or just a couple moving about. The latter seems the most feasible explanation. With sightings a little further away at North Cave Wetlands and Spurn it's possible they range very widely all winter (I'm not convinced) or there have been 3-5 birds in the county.

Option 3: there have been three birds passing through this winter, one on November and these two. This suggests either a) I have extraordinary good luck to pick the right days or b) many have passed through. I don't buy either reasoning!

Anyway, here they are. Very distant photos, but identifiable.

Bird 1 - flew with bird 2 but separated and carried on flying along a drain until out of sight.

Bird 2, dropped into this drainage channel but eventually waded around the corner out of sight.

A Little Egret appeared, conveniently demonstrating the size difference.

More from the weekend to follow...

Monday, 22 January 2018

Marsh Confusion

And we're off!

Snow held up play on Sunday and made for a slow start with 56 species noted over the weekend. The pick of the bunch was a female/imm Marsh Harrier along Kelk Beck on Sunday morning. Although regular in summer this is my first record during winter.

Conventional wisdom says they're summer migrants but in recent years more and more have been staying throughout. Blacktoft Sands is the most important site in Yorkshire (and in Northern England?) with a mightly impressive 30 roosting earlier this month. I remember seeing the first pair to return to breed in Yorkshire at Blacktoft in the early 1990s, having become extinct as a species in UK during the 19th century. I would not have imagined many years later I'd be seeing one floating around Kelk on a freezing January morning.

20th-21st January

Mute Swan - 2
Greylag Goose - 150
Wigeon - 200
Teal - 80
Mallard - 110
Grey Partridge - 19
Little Grebe - 1
Cormorant - 3
Little Egret - 5
Grey Heron - 3
Marsh Harrier - 1 'creamcrown'
Buzzard - 5
Kestrel - 4
Lapwing - 100
Snipe - 8
Woodcock - 1
Green Sandpiper - 2
Woodpigeon - flocks of 1800 & 400
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 3
Meadow Pipit - 1
Grey Wagtail - 1
Fieldfare - 130 in several flocks
Redwing - 1
Mistle Thrush - 3
Goldcrest - 1
Coal Tit - 4
Jay - 2 presumably birds from 2017
Carrion Crow - 30+ together
Tree Sparrow - 60 in one flock Kelk Beck
Bullfinch - 5
Yellowhammer - 12

Grey Squirrel - 2
Roe Deer - 16

One of the five Little Egrets. I'm slowly getting closer to a good photo.

Winter moon

Hibernating snails?

Trying and failing to squeeze a bit more birding out of the winter daylight.

Wigeon in a blizzard.


Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Annus Lowlistus

Hello 2018. The end of 2017 wasn't especially exciting and the species total of 106 was not improved on, so that's a new low marker. The years 2008-12 averaged 115 while the last 5 years it has dropped to 109. Three initial thoughts on what's contributed to the drop; 1) lack of weather/habitat for autumn wader passage, 2) lack of scarce ducks in winter, 3) decline toward local extinction of species such as Spotted Flycatcher and Turtle Dove.

Anyhoo, here's the final piece of 2017:

28-30th December.

Greylag Goose - 330
Canada Goose - 16
Wigeon - 230
Teal - 290
Mallard - 130
Tufted Duck - 10
Red-legged Partridge - 14
Grey Partridge - 18
Cormorant - 3
Little Egret - 7
Grey Heron - 5
Sparrowhawk - 2
Buzzard - 7
Kestrel - 11
Golden Plover - 24 is unusual for Dec
Lapwing - 40
Snipe - 1
Woodcock - 2
Green Sandpiper - 2
Barn Owl - 1
Kingfisher - 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 4
Meadow Pipit - 1
Grey Wagtail - 1
Fieldfare - 110
Redwing - 3
Mistle Thrush - 7
Coal Tit - 2
Treecreeper - 3
Jay - 3
Tree Sparrow - 20
Chaffinch - 30
Siskin - 6
Linnet - 40
Bullfinch - 1

Roe Deer - 16

Young Common Gull

Three Fieldfares. Not easy to get close to!

Dubious parentage alert (bird at front middle). Presumably Canada x Greylag Goose.

Mistle Thrush coming to seed put out on a shed roof.

A distinctively marked Pied Wagtail doing a good impression of continental White Wagtail.

Until next time

Friday, 8 December 2017

Because November obviously

Oops, nearly forgot about writing up my last visit. Here goes;

Saturday 4th - Monday 6th November

Mute Swan - 6
Pink-footed Goose - 1170 (940N + 95S +135 on ground)
Greylag Goose - 220 (100+120)
Wigeon - 100+
Gadwall - 3
Teal - 60
Cormorant - 5
Great White Egret - 1
Little Egret - min 8 but probably at least 12
Grey Heron - 14
Sparrowhawk - 2
Buzzard - 11
Kestrel - 11
Peregrine - 1
Golden Plover 510 (90+420) may be a record count!
Lapwing - 175+
Snipe - 1
Woodcock - 2
Green Sandpiper - 2
'small gulls' - 2000+ flying to roost in evening
Mediterranean Gull - 1 immature on field in Kelk
Woodpigeon - 1200+
Kingfisher - 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 4
Grey Wagtail - 2
Pied Wagtail - 47 (29+18)
Fieldfare - 32
Redwing - 4
Jay - 4
'corvids' - 3500+ mostly Rook
Starling - 550+ flying south at dusk
Brambling - 2
Siskin - 11
Linnet - 150 (70+50+30)
Bullfinch - 3
Yellowhammer - 10

Part of a relatively huge flock of 420 Goldies near Gransmoor. Conversely there were not many Lapwing about.

Green Sandpipers together. November birds are usually here for the winter rather than passing through.

One of God-knows-how-many Little Egrets. My guess would be about 12, which would be the first double figure count, but it's possible there was as few as 8. I 'counted' 16 but some of these were probably double counted on different days. They move about quite a lot!

Close up Pied Wagtail. I encountered two decent sized gatherings totalling 47 which is close to a record. November is a good time for seeing 'flocks', though.

Always a delight to see Siskin in the area. We don't have a lot of suitable habitat (they favour Alders) so they usually move on quite quickly.

Two additions to the year list. The 'worst' ever year was 107, with only December left to beat that now.

105 Brambling
106 Mediterranean Gull

Friday, 10 November 2017

Geese Aloud

It's clear there are unprecedented numbers of Pink-footed Goose in Yorkshire this autumn. This RSPB article gives a peak count of 27,000 roosting on the Humber last month, compared to around 1-2000 through most of the last four decades.

What is fascinating about this rise is that previously the birds fed almost exclusively to the south and generally avoided the north bank, whereas there have been frequent reports of 'thousands' flying to and from the Wolds. What's less clear is exactly where they are going to feed - stubbles seem to be the preferred habitat.

Anyway, I'm in danger of rambling here :)

Records of Pinkies in the Kelk area over the last decade have mostly involved skeins, typically 50-100, flying south in autumn, with a much lesser northerly movement in spring. Only a handful of birds have been seen on the ground, never more than 6 at once.

Fast forward to last weekend. A whopping 940 flew north over Kelk and into the distant Wolds on Saturday lunchtime. Easily the most I've seen in a day here. Then on Sunday we found a flock of 135 feeding on stubbles near the beck. A further 95 flew south mid-afternoon.

Is this the new normal? Oh I do hope so, they're such wonderful creatures!

There are a few stubble fields so I will be keeping an eye out.

They did a fly-past at one point but soon came down again.

Feel free to count them for yourself.

Summary of other stuff coming soon...

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Great Third

An old friend returns for its 3rd winter!

Here's the news of its arrival from 2015 and 2016.

More later...

Friday, 29 September 2017

September... take 2

Autumn can be very quiet if the birds aren't moving. And so it was to be. Plenty of resident birds about just nothing particularly notable. No additions to the year list.

Even so, a Hobby will be the last of summer while 3 Jays is perhaps a sign of a winter influx. The flock of Goldies mentioned previously was still about. Lots of gulls following local cultivation. A late singing Chiffchaff obviously thought it was summer but the hirundines have that 'we're off' look about them - Godspeed brave travellers!

As with the last couple of years, there's been a bumper sized release of gamebirds on the Agnes estate - there could easily be 1-2000 Pheasants in the area if 330+ were easily visible.

23rd & 24th September 

Mute Swan - 5
Greylag Goose - 20+
Canada Goose - 1
Wigeon - 1
Teal - 40+
Mallard - 60+
Red-legged Partridge - 43 (tame birds from releases)
Grey Partridge - 18 in two parties
Pheasant - 330+ birds from local releases feeding in fields
Little Grebe - 1
Cormorant - 2
Heron - 24
Marsh Harrier - 1
Sparrowhawk - 2
Buzzard - 10
Kestrel - 13
Hobby - 1
Golden Plover - 150+ presumed same flock as early Sep
Lapwing - 3
Snipe - 1
Green Sandpiper - 1
'small gulls' - 3000+ following plough Harpham
Herring Gull - 250+ at Harpham
Great Black-backed Gull - 14 is a good count for early autumn
Kingfisher - 3
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 6
Swallow - 60+
House Martin - 100+
Meadow Pipit - 9
Grey Wagtail - 1
Mistle Thrush - 9
Chiffchaff - 1 singing, plus several others noted
Coal Tit - 1
Jay - 3
Corvids - 1000+ to roost, mostly Rook, some Jackdaws
Goldfinch - 38
Bullfinch - 1 is only the 4th record of the year!
Yellowhammer - flock of 10

Great Black-backed Gulls have been scarce recently. I'll have to check back but this is probably the largest groups I've seen (14, not all in photo) over the last decade.

House Sparrows. Kelk seems to be a good area for them. Between Little & Great Kelk there's probably 100-200 birds this autumn. I'm a big fan.

Local gamebird releases are a feature of September. After many years of not releasing Red-legs the estate has got back in to the idea. At least 43 were noted.

Robin, despite it not being Christmas.

No additions to the year list (104). Getting to the benchmark of 110 could be tricky.