Tuesday, 22 December 2009


Peregrine. Just about. We thought it was likely an adult male.

A suitably festive scene at Lowthorpe Church. Two Grey Squirrels darted out of the big Yew by the chuch door!

Sunday morning looking toward Lingholmes. Is this the most snow in Kelk in the Noughties?

I'm delighted with this shot. Not only lucky to get a picture of a Kingfisher but the composition is really pleasing.

Grey Wagtail feeding beside Kelk Beck - one of five or six seen over the weekend. The banks of the beck had pretty much the only greenery on show.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Life in the Festive Freezer

Brrrr. It was hard work tramping through the thick snow but completely worth all the effort, a lovely end to the year for me. My only regret being unable to hang around for another day or two. Booo!

Highlights this month include: a Merlin, 2 Peregrine, 2 Water Rail, c40 Snipe, 3 Kingfisher, a flock of 74 Skylark and 6 Grey Wagtail. With Merlin and Water Rail the number of recorded species in 2009 stands at 115 species - just two behind 2008 but above 2007 (109).

Saturday 19th December

About an inch of snow lay on the ground from Friday and hedge bottoms and shaded areas were still free. On most fields you could see crops poking above the snow so although difficult for birds many had not been forced out yet. However the keen frost over the latter part of the week had clearly pushed some birds closer to open or running water such as the beck.

We started as normal in the morning with the Harpham-Lowthorpe walk. The wild open area to the east of Lingholmes to the village was suitably productive with 2 Lapwing, 16 Stock Dove, 1 Meadow Pipit (unusual, probably a recent arrival), 1 Redwing, 4 Mistle Thrush, a Jay in the plantation, Bullfinch and 3 Yellowhammer.

A couple of Skylark headed over south - the first of 30 or so over the weekend visibly migrating away from the harsh conditions - and then before we got to the church a flock of 74 rose up from the next field. They came down again quickly but I would guess they moved off on Sunday following the heavy snow at night. A total surprise to find this many together.

To top it off an adult Peregrine was sat in a nearby tree - now known as the Peregrine tree since we had one in the same tree two years ago! It didn't seem like a big bird so was probably a male. I managed a photo which I will post later.

Moving along to New Road it was fairly quiet but still 8 Teal, 12 Lapwing heading south, a Snipe, a Woodcock, 19 Collared Dove in the farmyard, 2 Grey Wagtail, 1 Tree Sparrow and 5 Yellowhammer.

In Lowthorpe Church wood a pair of Moorhens were scratting around the edge of the frozen pond - I wonder how long they'll stick it out? A Woodcock flushed from the roadside and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was 'tchicking' away loudly. In the churchyard two Grey Squirrels came scampering out of one of the yew trees - there's definately more around in the last few years. I wonder if this is due to changes in 'keepering?

The remainder of the walk saw a Mute Swan, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, 3 Snipe, another Meadow Pipit, a Grey Wagtail on Lingholmes Beck, 6 Long-tailed Tit and 2 Bullfinch. In total I estimated that we'd seen 20+ Robins around Lowthorpe as well as at least 8 Song Thrush.

Short days. Bah. A quick shuffle around Gransmoor Lane and Barf Hill before dusk produced a single Greylag north, 4 Teal and 31 Mallard, 8 Grey Partridge, 3 Cormorant heading SE, 1 Buzzard being mobbed by crows, 3 Snipe, 27 Fieldfare and at least 16 Hare. A Tawny Owl hooted a couple of times just as I was taking my boots off back at base camp.

Sunday 20th December

Not long after sunset on Saturday it started snowing and continued until well into the night. By morning there were several inches of very powdery snow. It has been a while since there was this much across the area.

Heading off down Kelk Beck in the morning was a delight... but tough on the feet. One of the first sightings was a big Sparrowhawk making off with a Fieldfare - good to see at least one bird benefitting from the harsh weather.

Along the beck were 7 Mute Swan, 2 Gadwall, 8 Teal, 40+ Mallard, 1 Buzzard, 3 Kestrel, 2 Little Grebe, 4 Cormorant heading north, 3 Grey Heron, 2 Water Rail (1 swam across the beck toward us before vanishing into cover), 32 Lapwing heading south, 1 Redshank, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Grey Wagtail, c30 Tree Sparrow, 1 each of Bullfinch, Reed Bunting and Corn Bunting.

As well as this impressive tally were a Peregrine hunting pigeons, a Merlin - quite large/brown so probably female, Snipe all along the beck (31 noted but some double counting), 3 Kingfisher, and a good count of 24 Yellowhammer. I didn't get a good look at the Peregrine so couldn't age/sex it. I guess it could have been the same one as yesterday but what is more likely, a second bird or seeing the same one twice two miles apart?

On the way back 6 Greylags headed south and 8 Fieldfare and 2 Mistle Thrushes were around Lynesykes Lane. Very few gulls were seen over the weekend, the only large gulls were a single Herring Gull and 5 Great Black-backed Gulls, all adults all headed SW.

A set of Fox tracks went along the bank for several hundred yards and many Rabbit/Hare tracks were noted everywhere in the snow right across the area.

Snow set in again in the afternoon but I managed an hour or so to whizz by Kelk Lake. Very little on show, as expected, but 2 Gadwall, 4 Tufted Duck, 11 Coot, 4 Snipe. Also a Woodcock flushed from the roadside, a Grey Wagtail on the roof of the turkey farm, 18 Tree Sparrow and 2 Bullfinch. The Grey Wag was the sixth of the weekend, though could have been the one from Lingholmes Beck yesterday - either way a very high number locally and perhaps evidence of a hard weather influx.

Another year gone. Can't wait for January!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Dead or Alive

Views of Roe Deer are sometimes close and sometimes prolonged but rarely both at the same time. This one had appeared in view as we crossed a ridge and no sooner had I got the camera ready than it had popped through the hedge and gone. Actually there were two together but the first had moved before I was ready.

One of the local Sparrowhawks has been busy!

I don't know the first thing about mushrooms but - what a beauty!

Everyone's favourite garden bird, shame about the quality of the photo.

Opportunity knocks - not the easiest bird to photo without the benefit of a hide. This fine adult was in the beck just above Lowthorpe Bridge when we got to it. Just allowed enough time to get a few snaps before getting spooked. A Kingfisher also zipped past but I completely missed that.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Nearly December

Here comes the November report: RAIN, BRRR, WET, DARK. What little dry daylight hours there were did not reveal a great deal of birdy activity so this will be a shorter than usual report.

Highlights: 69 Pink-footed Goose, 1 Green Sandpiper, 31 Stock Dove, 1 Treecreeper, 28 Tree Sparrow. The 'creeper is not a scarcity, but this one was a year tick!

Saturday 28th November

Morning: Harpham and Lowthorpe. On the way to Harpham there were 10 Greylags over Kelk Lake, 3 Grey Partridge, 1 Cormorant south, 1 Sparrowhawk, 3 Common Buzzard, 2 Kestrel, 8 Golden Plover, 31 Stock Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, 8 Skylark, 3 Fieldfare, 2 Redwing. In Harpham just 12 Collared Dove and 23 House Sparrow. 2 Roe Deer were also seen, near Lingholmes.

At New Road not a great deal but still the highlight of the morning. 12 Teal, 1 Little Grebe, 2 Herring Gull south west, Grey Wagtail, 4 Goldcrest, 7 Long-tailed Tit, Treecreeper, and a lone Tree Sparrow. From here onward around Lowthorpe; 3 Grey Heron, Kingfisher, 6 Long-tailed Tit, 2 Bullfinch (pair).

A comment about herons - most of the ones we see in the Kelk area are young birds, presumably these ones have to disperse further than the adults. Though adults aren't particularly scarce in the area they seem to be seen less often around Harpham and Lowthorpe. One of the birds at Lowthorpe was an adult which gave good views from the road bridge.

Kelk Lake; just 2 Mute Swan and 6 Coot. Really depressing stuff, there should be Pochard, Goldeneye and other wildfowl at this time of year. What have they done?

Afternoon: Gembling and Foston. With only a couple of hours daylight by the time I'd set off after lunch it was always going to be a tall order to see much. However, at Gembling were 69 Pink-footed Goose flying south west, 340 Greylag Goose south toward Lisset, 2 Grey Heron, and a Barn Owl.

Foston was equally quiet; 1 Pochard and 4 Coot at Brigham Quarry, 1 Green Sandpiper and 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker near Cruckley. A Grey Squirrel was roadkill outside Cruckley.

Sunday 29th November

Water falling out of the sky was the theme for the day. We couldn't get out of the house until 11am and then only had two dry hours in the field for a brisk walk along Kelk Beck. Despite all this whinging we saw 11 Mute Swan (5+1 young), c90 Teal and c100 Mallard at Cattleholmes, a Cormorant, 2 Lapwing moving north, 2 Great Black-backed Gulls heading south west, a flock of 600 Woodpigeon, around 80 Blackbirds in the hedges (around half along Lynesykes), 20+ Fieldfare, 4 Redwing, 4 Mistle Thrush, 28 Tree Sparrow, 29 Linnet, 12 Yellowhammer and a Reed Bunting. Also seen were 4 Roe Deer moving arcoss toward Wansford and 10 Hare in one field in Kelk.

Half an hour before dusk without a downpour allowed for a quick scoot up to Green Lane - 200+ Common Gull on the grass fields, 1 Barn Owl and 4 Yellowhammer. And that was the end of the weekend.

Year list up one with Treecreeper, to 111 (plus the two recorded by others).

I'll throw a few dim and grainy pictures on later.

Bring on December!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Two for one offer

Autumn is progressing at a frightening rate. Only a month ago there were lingering signs of summer while this weekend showed just how far toward winter we really are. All day dampness underfoot is the order of the day and the nights drawing in way too early. Summer migrant birds feel long gone though we're still awaiting the downpour of thrushes that leave hedgerows dripping with Blackbirds, Fieldfares and Redwings.

Highlights: 2 Shoveler, 290 Golden Plover, 1 Green Sandpiper, 2 Stonechat, 1 Jay, 19 Siskin, 26 Tree Sparrow.

Saturday 24th October

Awful start to the weekend - low visibility and the heavy threat of rain all morning. Heading to Harpham the birds weren't having any sympathy with us either - just a Common Buzzard, a big female Sparrowhawk, 42 Lapwing, 400+ Woodpigeon, 2 Goldcrest and 31 Linnet.

New Road as ever the hotspot was the highlight of the morning - 22 Teal, 65 Mallard, 1 Sparrowhwak, 80+ Pheasant, 1 Cormorant off the beck, 1 Grey Wagtail, and a female Bullfinch. Best of the lot was the pair of Stonechat feeding along the fence bordering the cattle field and the rough ground.

Stonechat is still a very scarce bird locally - these are only the fourth and fifth ones and the first instance of two together. All have been in autumn and none have hung around. Maybe this pair will show more confidence in this beautiful spot! Here's a rubbish record shot of the male...

Lowthorpe was about as quiet as I can remember - my only note was 3 Moorhens together on the roadside pool in Church Wood. Around Station Road were 1 Little Grebe, 1 Goldcrest, 2 parties of Long-tailed Tit, and a Jay - as the second of the autumn represents a mini-influx.

The remaining journey was a case of rain stopped play, just a Common Buzzard over Kelk Lake and a Grey Heron off Kelk Beck.

In the afternoon with just an hour or so of daylight left the sun came out so a dash round the Gransmoor Lane area seemed appropriate - alas all we found was 11 Red-legged Partridge, 11 Collared Dove (Little Kelk), a party of Long-tailed Tit, 330 Starling, 4 Yellowhammer. In the fields on either side of Green Lane we counted a whopping 34 Hares - quite probably the most I've ever seen in such a small area. Noticeably I saw very few elsewhere all weekend.

Sunday 25th October

Early signs on Sunday weren't good (pah - who listens to the forecast anymore?!) but the rain stayed away only to be replaced by a strong wind to keep the birds in hiding. Saying that it was a pretty good day, but so it should be in late October!

Kelk Beck in the morning: 6 Mute Swan, 6 Greylags flying east, 4 different Cormorants, 1 imm Grey Heron, 2 Common Buzzards (1 each over Lingholmes and Kelk Lake), 1 Kestrel was the only one all weekend, 6 Lapwing, 2 Snipe, 1 Green Sandpiper, 2 Herring Gull, 1 Great Black-backed Gull, 1 Kingfisher, 20+ Skylark, 2 Meadow Pipit, 1 Grey Wagtail (scarce in this part of the area), 1 Fieldfare (the only one all weekend), 2 Mistle Thrush, a party of Long-tailed Tit, 160 Starling, 26 Tree Sparrow and 25 Linnet. Further along at Cattleholmes were 2 Wigeon (year tick!), 60+ Teal, 75+ Mallard, a pair of Shoveler, 19 Siskin flew west (first site record) and 2 Reed Bunting. A pretty good morning when all considered.

In the afternoon I had a quick look around Gembling and Brigham Quarry. Very quiet at Gembling with just 2 Meadow Pipit, 3 Redwing (the only ones of the weekend), a party of Long-tailed Tit, a flock of Tree Sparrows hiding in some bushes, and 1 Bullfinch. A Mute Swan and a party of Long-tailed Tits were near Foston Mill.

Brigham Quarry seemed quiet but there were 9 Wigeon, 5 Teal, 1 pochard, 1 Tufted Duck, 2 Little Grebe, 1 Grey Heron, 3 Coot, 1 Collared Dove, 1 Kingfisher. A couple of fields away toward Wansford were 80 Lapwing and 290 Golden Plover. Final word goes to one of the few non-bird sightings of the weekend - a Migrant Hawker dragonfly whizzing up and down the hedgerow of the quarry, a late individual.

Yearlist update: 112 recorded, 110 seen by myself.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Badger Badger Mushroom!

In all the excitement I forgot to put these Badger pics up. Doh!

This was the anxious first shot - if it scuttled away at least I'd have one ropy shot. Not too bad considering. Spot the Woodpigeon.

Several minutes later...

And now some at full zoom, featuring Woodpigeon... again.

Hardly any of the shots show the head, since it was snuffling along the ground the whole time.

One more just for good measure :-)

News just in: c250 Pink-feet over Kelk on Monday in two skeins plus a few Swallows still about. Oh, if you're wondering what mushrooms have to do with anything then you need this http://www.weebls-stuff.com/toons/badgers/ (don't ask!)

Friday, 2 October 2009

Random stuff that doesn't fly

Autumn is a such great time for colours in the countryside so I'm not surprised I got a bit carried away on my last visit. Wel at least plants stay still.

Hawthorn is the most common hedgerow trees in the area - this one along Lynesykes Lane is typical of this time of year. In another month Blackbirds will be all over them!

Here are some Sloe berries, from another locally common hedgerow tree. These aren't so popular with the birds but everything has its value.

Not many Grey Squirrels are resident in the area and they can be devilishly hard to locate but the woods around Harpham and Lowthorpe do hold a few.

Ha! Not even plants or animals now... a massive piece of cheese instead!

Ok, we've had the moon, how about some landscapes. This was the view west from Harpham Moor on Saturday evening about half an hour before sunset. The whole sky went a weird pinky-orange, not the greatest conditions for birdwatching but a pretty picture no less.

And this was the last gasp of the sunset over Harpham village and the Wolds in the distance. Behold the orangey goodness.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Yet. More. Butterflies.

Comma feeding on Ivy flowers in a hedgerow in Little Kelk - there were four of these along the same hedge, the only site where this species was located during the September visit.

Painted Lady in the same hedge as the Comma. Not a very bright individual but still in quite good condition. It's been an incredible year for this species following the influx in May.

Red Admiral underwing - while the upperwings are more orange the little flash of proper red on the underwing justifies the name. Guess which hedge this was in? Correct.

Red Admiral again, same hedge - there were 12 in total. The little iridescent blue spots at the tail end of the wings are easy to miss but really complete the look for me.

Speckled Wood. Not in the ivy hedge. This fairly worn individual was along Station Road, Harpham which has been one of the better spots for butterflies in the area this year.

Photos... of birds this time

The Mute Swan family on Kelk Beck - all eight first seen as small cygnets in summer are still going strong.

Half of a skein of Pink-footed Geese which flew south on Saturday morning. Presumably these ones were enroute from Scotland to Norfolk.

Part of a flock of 31 Tree Sparrows at Gembling. An excellent count of a species that can be quite tricky to study in the area.

This Common Buzzard landed about 30 feet below me at Brigham Quarry and allowed one photo before whizzing off. But oh what a shot!

Cormorant flying overhead. Not everyone's cuppa but no doubting they look kinda kooky. Although more than three in a day is unusual they appear to be more regular than during the 1990s.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Come in number nine

My September visit took place last weekend. I took a flyer from work on Friday afternoon and managed to get out in the field for a couple of hours. The weekend was generally quiet with nice warm weather but at least that made it good for walking about in.

That said I added two species to the year list; a Northern Wheatear in Little Kelk on Friday and a Jay at Lowthorpe on Sunday. Other goodies were a skein of 26 Pink-footed Geese heading south, a Marsh Harrier, a Peregrine, six Common Buzzards, 260 Golden Plover and a few late migrants in the shape of single Sand Martin, Yellow Wagtail, Blackcap and Willow Warbler.

Friday 25th September

I decided to try to count the gull roost movement, having not had chance in good conditions for a couple of years (good light & light breeze in early autumn). On the way the grass fields in Little Kelk held a single Northern Wheatear with a massive count of 64 Pied Wagtail. This is by some distance the largest count made in the area and from what I could make out of the nearer ones they were all British 'yarrellii' wagtails, as opposed to continental 'alba' subspecies.

Also seen were a few Swallows, 2 House Martin, 4 Mistle Thrush and a pre-roost gathering of several hundred Corvids. 40 Greylags flew over toward Kelk Lake with a single Canada Goose tagging along. 21 Long-tailed Tits were in the hedge near Little Kelk Farm, a reasonable autumn count. 3 Tufted Duck and 1 Little Grebe was all that could be seen on the lake, now that a large fence has been constructed to block off the main viewpoints!!

After passing Kelk Lake I started watching for gulls but it seemed that relatively few were moving through and I got a bit bored after 30 minutes so decided to call it a day. A few hundred gulls had passed over but no big groups - a sure sign that either it wasn't going to be one of those days or they had already mostly passed through.

Around 2,000 Corvids went to roost as I was heading home - noisy buggers.

Saturday 26th September

Kelk Beck and Cattleholmes in the morning; the Mute Swan family still number 10 birds, a magnificent achievement for the parents especialy so given the previous lack of success. Along or around the beck were 4 Little Grebe (together), 3 Cormorant (1 on the beck, 2 flying north), 2 Common Buzzards over Lingholmes, 1 Kestrel, 180 Lapwing, 1 Kingfisher, 8 Skylark around Lynesykes, 3 Meadow Pipits, 110 Linnet, and a Reed Bunting. At Cattleholmes not a lot going on but 1 Gadwall, 38 Teal, 12 Mallard, a Marsh Harrier, a Grey Heron and 2 Coot were noted.

A skein of 26 Pink-footed Geese flew south at 10.30am. These birds probably set off from Scotland the previous evening and will have been in Iceland or the Arctic a week or two ago. Migration in action - always magnificent to witness.

Gembling and Foston in the afternoon; 95 Lapwing, 1 Green Sandpiper, 31 Tree Sparrow and 35 Linnet were around Gembling. It is noticeable that the previous weeks have been unusually dry, there was practically no water in the flood areas.

At Brigham Quarry were 7 Red-legged Partridges, 2 Little Grebe, 1 Common Buzzard, 1 juv Herring Gull over. The Buzzard came in low and didn't see me at first. It perched on the ground only 30 feet away and I managed to get a single shot off the camera before it flew. Possibly the best view I've had of one in the area, and coincidentally the first Buzzard at this site - they really are getting everywhere these days!

A single Grey Wagtail was at Foston Mill. On the way home a flock of 260 Golden Plover had gathered on a field in Little Kelk, a very good count for the area.

Determined to count some gulls (stop laughing!) I made my way around to Harpham Moor again, and this time it was much better - about 9,000 passed through in about an hour. The light was not great with an orange/pink haze and I found it difficult to guage the ratio of Common to Black-headed Gulls but it's typically between 20-40% Black-headed. Also seen were a Kestrel (looked like a young bird), 9 Collared Dove, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Sand Martin with 60+ Swallow at Little Kelk. The most remarkable sight was a Peregrine silhouette which zipped through heading south bang on sunset - it continued over Harpham Moor, Kelk Lake and into the distance. The fifth for me this year, considering how rare they used to be where do these recent ones come from?

Two Tawny Owls were heard on the way back from the pub!

Sunday 27th September

Harpham and Lowthorpe in the morning; 13 Skylark, 1 Blackcap, 1 very late Willow Warbler and 1 Coal Tit around Lingholmes. At New Road 11 Teal, 28 Mallard, 2 Little Grebe, 2 Cormorant, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Kestrel, 1 Grey Wagtail and 2 Chiffchaff (song heard briefly at one point). At Lowthorpe were 3 Goldcrest and a year tick in the form of a Jay - something of a surprise!

Green Lane and Barf Hill in the afternoon; 7 Red-legged Partridge, 2 Grey Partridge, 3 Cormorant over, 1 Sparrowhawk, 6 Common Buzzard (5 over Kelk Lake, 1 over Lingholmes), 2 Kestrel, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull and 8 Herring Gull flying South-west, 1 Great Black-backed Gull in a field toward Gransmoor/Lisset. The best bird was a late Yellow Wagtail near Barf Hill (a new late record, I think). Finally a family of Long-tailed Tits were near Centre Farm - this species seemed rather elusive all weekend, though maybe I wasn't paying attention.

And that was that, until October.

Oh hang on, what about non-birds?

Butterflies: noticeably few with most being either 'whites' (I think mostly Large White?) or Small Tortoiseshell - low double figures of each. The only other species were 5 Painted Lady, 2 Speckled Wood (Harpham), plus 4 Comma & 12 Red Admiral (all in the same hedgerow in Little Kelk).

Dragonflies: only one noted, a Migrant Hawker near the bridge at Foston Beck.

Mammals: 4 Grey Squirrels - 1 collecting conkers at Foston, 2 collecting pine cones in Lingholmes and 1 along Station Road, Harpham. My Dad saw 5 Roe Deer near Kelk Beck on Monday morning. The true star of the weekend was the astonishing sighting of a Badger crossing a stubble field on Sunday afternoon. We watched it for about 10 minutes as it snuffled along no more than 100 yards in front of us. No other words for it, just, Wow!

Birding year-list is now 108 species (+2 seen by others).

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

August, let's try again

So anyway what was I saying? Ah yes, my August visit.

Saturday 22nd August

Two visits to Kelk Lake. Once in the morning and then at dusk to attempt to count gulls moving to roost in the bay. 2 Mute Swan, 22 Mallard, 1 Red-legged Partridge (calling at dusk), 2 Little Grebe, 1 Cormorant (SW), 1 Grey Heron, 3 Common Buzzard, 5 Coot, 3 Green Sandpiper (at dusk, flying over), 2 Common Sandpiper, 1 Tawny Owl seen well sitting in one of the Ash trees, 1 Kingfisher, 8 Yellow Wagtail (on the raft at dusk - a record count here, see also below), 1 Reed Warbler, 500+ Corvids gathering around Little Kelk Farm pre-roost. 15 Mistle Thrush flying from Lingholmes on my way back at dusk was a decent local count, but to be expected at this time of year.

The gull roost flight was very disappointing - in better years there would be a few thousand flying through by late August. Today only 400+. Peak movements occur during the peak ploughing period, and it is late this year, almost none so far, so I guess that's the explanation. The only big gulls of the weekend were 3 Lesser Black-backed and 24 Herring Gulls (mostly flying SW).

Harpham and Lowthorpe late morning. 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Common Buzzard, 2 Kestrel, 2 Stock Dove, 1 Swift with the local hurindines, 1 Kingfisher near Lowthorpe Bridge was the first I've seen there for a while, 1 Grey Wagtail at New Road, 1 Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaff, 3 Willow Warbler, a family of Long-tailed Tit, 18 Linnet.

In the afternoon I visited Gembling and Brigham Quarry. For once Gembling was well worth the ride out with some real goodies. 1 Gadwall, 8 Teal, 26 Mallard, 1 Shoveler (eclipse drake), 1 Kestrel, juvenile Peregrine, 2 Ruff, 3 Common Snipe, 1 Greenshank, 3 Green Sandpiper, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Common Whitethroat, 21 Goldfinch.

Further on at Brigham Quarry - 1 Mute Swan, 3 Pochard, 3 Tufted Duck, 9 Little Grebe, 1 Grey Heron, 11 Coot, around 700 Common Gulls in two nearby fields.

One the way back 3 Golden Plover flew east over Kelk and 7 Yellow Wagtail were near Barf Hill. Together with the 8 at Kelk Lake later on this is the largest day count for the area.

Biggest surprise of the day was actually right at the beginning. Shortly after leaving the house in the morning I picked up a Hobby whizzing about over Kelk Beck. I was able to watch it for several minutes - itself unusual - including some acrobatics with a Kestrel for comparison (they are sooo different when seen together). Then it moved off toward north at which point another one appeared with it. And then another one. And, whoa, a fourth one. All together. Wow. Alas they were a bit distant to age but a sensible assumption would be this was one-two adults plus two-three juveniles. The timing is about right for young to have recently fledged and they would still be dependent on the adults suggesting they won't have come far. Interestingly both the earlier sightings this year were in the same area. Strong evidence for local breeding.

Sunday 23rd August

A much quieter day not helped by a strong breeze. Along Kelk Beck to Cattleholmes in the morning were 1 Mute Swan, 5 Teal, 60+ Mallard, 2 Tufted Duck, 4 Little Grebe, 2 Grey Heron, 1 Marsh Harrier, 1 Kestrel, 1 Hobby (same place as yesterday but only a more typical glimpse this time), 5 Coot, 3 Swift flying south, 5+ Sand Martin, 1 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Yellowhammer, 1 Reed Bunting.

Just a couple of hours spare after lunch filled with a gentle stroll around Harpham. Little to add to yesterday except 2 Goldcret and 26 Linnet along Station Road. Not for the first time this year the best bird of the weekend was practically the last to be seen - namely the Osprey in April. Today it was the single male Quail flushed from the path between Harpham and Lingholmes. For a split second it looked like a wader rising up out of the wheat but once I'd woke up it was blindingly obvious, and nothing at all like the 'baby Partridge' phantom quail novice birders can get fooled by. Only my second 'sighting' of a bird in the area - I was, still am, chuffed to bits!

With this, the Ruff and Greenshank my year list moves up to 104, plus two other species seen by others gives 106 recorded. Slightly down on the two previous years but the 110 goal still looks do-able.

On the butterfly front - no new species but plenty of Small Tortoiseshells, many Whites, 8+ Peackock, 8+ Speckled Wood, 5 Painted Lady and 15+ Wall. A few dragonflies included 5+ Migrant Hawker, 4 Common Darter and 1 probable Ruddy Darter (see pic in previous post).

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Lips Wetted!

A reasonable weekend just gone - Hobby, Peregrine, Marsh Harrier, Greenshank, Ruff and Green Sandpiper... plus a single Quail seen well. Like I say, not at all bad!

Very busy at work this week so no time to properly update blog but here some photos... notice how there are less and less birds with each entry... (damn things won't come close enough etc). Will edit this post later.

Migrant Hawker

Ruddy Darter (I think?)

Common Darter

Small Tortoiseshell


Thursday, 20 August 2009

Wet lips?

A few bits and bobs of news have reached me over the last week.

Two (probable) Quail were flushed by a combine today, seen by the farmer. Evidence in favour - he knows what Quail look like. Evidence against - baby partridges can look like Quail... though no other birds flushed with them and you'd expect such to be closer to fully grown by now.

Numbers of Quail vary from year to year nationwide but this summer seems to have been a good one. I have two Kelk records for Quail in two previous years but not since 90s so I'd love to catch up with these!

A Marsh Harrier was seen indepently by two different observers earlier this week. There's been very few (er, two) noted this year so this is encouraging.

A large-ish wader, probably a Greenshank, in Great Kelk last Thursday (13th) and a Green Sandpiper on off Kelk Beck on at least two days this week.

I will be visiting this weekend and have fingers crossed for some of these or better!

Wednesday, 29 July 2009


The highlight of the weekend was this juvenile Cuckoo by Kelk Beck - but you'll have to trust me on this picture - actually you can just make out the white spot on the nape. The bird flew off seconds after this shot.

Ah, that's better, definitely a juvenile Cuckoo, looking very rusty brown. Hard to believe it's the same bird as the one above. Anyway, a very very good find and a special encounter.

Juvenile Pied Wagtail - this one landed a few feet away and stood motionless with its beak open and eyes closed for a while until its Mum's alarm calls persuaded it to fly back up to the rooftop.

Canadas and Greylags getting on like a house on fire - no one told them they're supposed to bicker! And what are they doing on the beck, they never do that??

A couple of Hares which had just scarpered across the field - could have had a nice close up but spooked them getting my camera out. Doh!

Comma near gardens in Great Kelk - a really lovely eye catching butterfly.

Meadow Brown - loads of these about at the moment esp along hedgerows, many in looking even more worn than this one.

After the invasion of Painted Ladies in May there are now fresh looking individuals. This one was pristine and so bright it hurts!

Speckled Wood at Barf Hill. Not a common butterfly but fairly widespread. Looking good, er, apart from missing part of the right forewing!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The Young Ones

July being quiet is beyond cliche - but you if you don't look etc. Last weekend was my monthly visit to Kelk, and, yes, it was rather uneventful. A few highlights to keep the enthusiasm ticking, the main interest seemed to be catching sight of juvenile birds. Otherwise I spent my time chasing, literally, butterflies, trying to take pictures of critters that wouldn't stay still. I have a lot to learn!

Top billing was a juvenile Cuckoo, my first locally for a long time. Also two juvenile Kingfishers, two families of Kestrel and Tufted Duck, one brood each of Grey and Red-legged Partridge. Also, a Hobby, some wader passage and a few notable passerine flocks.

Saturday 25th July

Morning: Kelk Lake - a ghost town apart from a pair of Mute Swans, 2 Mallard, 1 Little grebe, 1 Common Buzzard over the wood was the only one seen all weekend, 9 Coot (2 broods = 5 young), 1 Kingfisher, and 3+ Reed Warblers heard. 6 Mistle Thrush were in the grass field by the turkey farm.

Onward to Harpham via Lingholmes - 1 Hobby over the wood briefly, 1 female Sparrowhawk and a Bullfinch. At Harpham 3 Kestrels around New Road including a female encouraging a young bird to try hovering. Also 1 Lapwing, 300+ Common Gulls and a few Black-headed Gulls including at least two juveniles, plus 2 Mallard. Really, that was the most bird-free morning out I've had in a long time!

Afternoon: somewhat better. At Gembling 2 Kestrel, 8 Lapwing, 95 Feral Pigeon, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, and a Sedge Warbler. Encouraginly there is still some trace of wet patches adjacent to the drain so perhaps some small floods will form through autumn and winter.

Brigham Quarry - 2 mallard, 3 young Pochard but no sign of the adults, a female Tufted Duck with 5 young ducklings, 6 adults plus 4 broods of Little Grebe totalling 13 (5+3+3+2) or 19 birds, is very pleasing indeed. Also 17 Coot (3 broods, 7 young), 400+ Common Gull with a small number of Black-headed Gulls nearby, and an exceptional count of 390+ Swift between Cruckley and Carr Farms (largest count for me this decade).

On the return through Great Kelk two flocks of House Sparrows totalling 70+ birds and a Great Spotted Woodpecker heard in a garden. Around Gransmoor Lane were 2 Mallard, 3 Kestrel (probably 2 juveniles and a female) together near Barf Hill, and an adult Great Black-backed Gull, an odd sight in summer. 13 Canada Goose were noted flying over toward Kelk Lake.

I took another quick look at Kelk Lake but the only addition was a flyover Grey Heron (heading east). No sign of the canadas.

Sunday 26th July

Morning: a moderately eventful stroll along Kelk Beck - 2 Greylags and 3 Canada Goose together on the beck was most unusual and will prove it with a picture later, 8 Grey Partrige (6 chicks), 1 young Coot, 370 Lapwing on a freshly cut pea field is a good count for July, 1 Snipe off the beckside, 130 Wood Pigeon in one flock, 2 Skylark, 1 Meadow Pipit, 3 Yellow Wagtail, also on the pea field 250+ Rook, 110+ Jackdaw and 80+ Starling. Elsewhere 96 Linnet in two flocks.

However the highlight was the juvenile Cuckoo that showed well on the ground, perched, and in flight. A long time since I managed to pin one of these down - fairly unfamiliar to many birdwatchers. It was supported by the sight of three Kingfishers one straight after the other south along the beck - wow! - looked like two juveniles and an adult but the view was typically brief.

Further along around Cattleholmes were 2 Mallard, 1 female Tufted Duck with one young, 6 Coot (3 young), 1 Green Sandpiper, 2 Golden Plover, and 2 Reed Bunting. A Water Vole crossed the beck. On the way back in Little Kelk - 8 Tree Sparrow and 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Not a lot of time for birding in the afternoon, plus rain stopped play. Anyway, 8 Hares were in the grass field off Green Lane, a Grey Heron off Gransmoor Drain and two lots of Red-legged Partridge totalled 19 including 13 young - there are some grain feeding stations nearby so these birds may have been introduced. A Sedge Warbler singing along the drain near Barf Hill.

And that was that. No additions to the year list this time.

Oh wait, butterflies... most numerous by a long way were 'Whites', loads everywhere, the majority were probably Large Whites but some Green-veined and I think a few Small Whites. Meadow Browns were widespread some hedgerows held lots, e.g. 20+ along half of Green Lane.

Also several each of Ringlet, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Painted Lady, plus 2 Red Admiral, 2 Specklked Wood, 1 Small Skipper, 1 Comma. That's three year ticks and a total of 14 species.

A dragonfly was whizzing up and down Lingholmes and there were two at Brigham Quarry - I'm not sure what they were but presumably Southern and/or Migrant Hawker.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

June photos part deux

Here's a handful of photos from the previous weekend (20/21 June). As you'd expect, most birds were being rather skulking, tending to their families under cover of the lush vegetation.

This vivid rainbow appeared suddenly over the wind farm (looking from Foston). I managed to get home just before it started absolutely tipping it down!

Lapwing on maize field

Pochard female with five ducklings

Yellowhammer on wires

Grey Wagtail juveniles

And one on it's own...