Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Back to front

No news for the last week or so, must be time for me to write up my visit earlier in the month.

Despite a north easterly breeze it was quite mild all weekend, though distinctly autumnal, with plenty of thrushes, wildfowl and other migrants fresh in.

Saturday 1st

Kelk Lake; 3 Mute Swan, 5 Coot and a couple of Little Grebe. It's such a shame what has happened here, but I'll talk about that another time. In the adjacent area 3 Cormorant flying east, a pair of Kestrel, 45 Golden Plover, 6 Lapwing, 1 Meadow Pipit, and 6 Redwing.

From Kelk Lake to Harpham; 1 male Teal, 120+ Feral Pigeon, 8 Stock Dove, 250+ Woodpigeon, 1 Fieldfare. Five Common Buzzard sightings was likely 4 different individuals and judging on location probably all resident birds. Two pairs seem to have held terriroty this year but the success is unknown. Buzzards first bred in 2005 before which they were a scarce autumn/winter visitor. Despite now having several resident birds they are still a scarce sight away from the wooded areas around Harpham.

From Harpham to Lowthorpe; 2 Red-legged Partridge - very elusive this year, 2 Sparrowhawk together, 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker around Lowthorpe Church, 1 female Grey Wagtail watched at close range at New Road, 1 Fieldfare, 3 Mistle Thrush, 3 Goldcrest, 2 Coal Tit - only the third record of the year, and 5 long-tailed Tit.

From Lowthorpe back to Little Kelk; 1 Woodcock on Station Road, as in on the road, and another in Little Kelk, 190+ Fieldfare near the railway crossing, 2+ Bullfinch, and an early candidate for bird of the weekend - a female Brambling flew out of one of the railway cottage gardens up into the poplars allowing a close inspection. Far from an easy species to observe in the area - the only other record this year was another female at Burton Agnes pond in February.

From Little Kelk to Gransmoor around dusk; 35+ Pheasant wandering around a freshly seed timed field by the plantation off Gransmoor Lane. You know it's autumn when the toy game birds gather in such numbers! Also 2 Grey Heron, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Snipe, 1 Redshank over the quarry, 1 Barn Owl, 2 Tawny Owl calling from the pines behind Centre Farm, 6 Redwing, 31 Fieldfare, and 1000+ Rook going to roost toward Kelk Lake.

Also noted through the day 19 Herring and 7 Great Black-backed Gull flying NE, and around 6 Skylarks in total.

Sunday 2nd

Little Kelk to Kelk Beck and Cattleholmes; 5 Mute Swan, 300+ Greylags around Cattleholmes farm was unusual. Since vacating Kelk Lake the flock seems to move around so presumably these are the same still trying to settle into a pattern - it would be interesting to know if they're flying to Tophill to roost. 154 Teal is a record count for this part of the area, and refects a good previous winter as well as the significantly higher water table than normal. 90+ Mallard were the only other wildfowl. Other birds in the area were 7 Grey Partridge, 4 Little grebe, 2 Cormorant, 3 Grey Heron, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Kestrel, 300+ Golden Plover - a very good count for the area, 220+ Lapwing, 42 Snipe (33 off a small wet patch in a field) - another exceptional count, 600+ Woodpigeon, 2 Kingfisher, 1 Meadow Pipit, 5 Skylark, 1 Grey Wagtail, 13 Fieldfare, 20 Redwing, 5 Long-tailed Tit, 25 Chaffinch, 12 Yellowhammer, 2 Reed Bunting. Today's candidates for bird of the weekend were an 1st year Kittiwake flying east purposefully low across fields and 2 Jack Snipe with their larger cousins on the wet patch. A very enjoyable walk.

Little Kelk around green lane at dusk; 17 Teal, 8 Grey Partridge, 1 Grey Heron, 2 Green Sandpipers from one of the wet patches in the cow fields - hopefully around for the winter, 800+ Woodpigeons toward Kelk Lake, 1 Meadow Pipit, 30+ Blackbird, 140 Fieldfare, 10 Redwing and a large but invisible family of Long-tailed Tit calling from in the pines near Centre Farm.

Another 5 Herring and 3 Great Black-backed Gulls flying NE today (into the wind, typical behaviour at this time of year)

Monday 3rd

Not a lot of time for birding today as I had to travel but the morning was spent on the push bike doing a loop around Great Kelk - Gembling - Foston - Brigham - Wansford - Millingdales - Little Kelk;

Great Kelk - 1 Kestrel, 11 Yellowhammer and 2 Corn Bunting near the old turkey farm.

Gembling - 8 Skylark, 60 Fieldfare, 2 Bullfinch.

Brigham Quarry - 9 Wigeon, 10 Gadwall, 12 Teal, 1 Sparrowhawk, 6 Coot.

Wansford - 9 Mute Swan, 8 Grey Heron, 2 Grey Wagtail.

Millingdale - 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Kestrel, 14 Golden Plover, 310 Lapwing - a respectable local count, 120+ Fieldfare, 800+ Starling, 2 Tree Sparrow, and 90 Linnet feeding with the plovers.

Little Kelk - 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Kestrel, 1 Common Buzzard all over Lingholmes Plantation. 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Goldcrest and 1 Coal Tit at the railway crossing. Finally 240+ Fieldfare in two flocks around the village.

Friday, 14 November 2008


Two groups of Pink-footed Geese flying south this week (thanks Andy), presumably from Scotland to Norfolk.

c30 on Tuesday morning (11 Nov)
c50 on Thursday afternoon (13 Nov)

Give or take the odd one joining the Greylags for a short while you really need a bit of luck to see Pink-feet over the Kelk area.

Friday, 7 November 2008


A regular flock of Collared Doves is apparently gathering daily at the south end of Great Kelk village - 48 were counted on Thursday (6th Nov), the highest number since the early 1990s when Lowthorpe and Little Kelk both had high double figure winter roosts.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


Some basic background...

Kelk sits in the north west corner of Holderness, East Yorkshire, a flat and heavily drained arable region that is perhaps best known for having one of Europe's fastest eroding coastlines!

Most birders will know Holderness because of Spurn, Hornsea Mere, Tophill Low, and the bordering cliffs at Flamborough and Bempton. Decent enough neighbours to have. To the west the skyline is dominated by the Yorkshire Wolds, a gentle ridge characterised by vast arable fields and curious dry valleys.

Generally the whole region is sparsely populated and has a limited road system so it is easy to get a feeling of remoteness. The nearest towns are Driffield and Bridlington.

The area around Kelk is predominantly flat arable land (see 18E) with small pockets of woodland, gardens, grassland, open and running water. Kelk Beck runs north-south and is England's most northerly chalk stream and forms part of the Hull Headwaters SSSI.

The area I call my patch is pretty much everything between Harpham and Lowthorpe in the north, Gransmoor in the east, Gembling and Foston-on-the-Wolds in the south, and in the west by Nafferton and Wansford, though I spend most of my time walking around Kelk, Lowthorpe and Harpham. Google map for Kelk.


Have been spending one weekend a month this year getting my birding fix around Kelk. With a mix of luck and effort I've managed to run up a yearlist of 117 species.

November report to follow...