Sunday, 22 February 2009


Wow, this weekend couldn't have been much different to the previous visit. Lovely warm sunshine with a bit of a breeze, though more cloud today. Lots of birds now in song, but otherwise it's still winter.

Saturday 21st February

Lovely morning for a walk today - light breeze, bright sun. At Kelk Lake 22 Greylags flew north, 24 Pochard, 23 Tufted Duck, 4 Goldeneye (incl. 2 fine drakes!), 3 Little Grebe, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Kestrel, 20+ Coot, and a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker in the wood.

Nearby we watched 5 Common Buzzards, possibly more. This is a personal a local record count, though I reckoned 4-6 were present throughout 2008. Today birds were on show almost constantly between 10-11.30am. While watching for buzzards I noticed the pigeons and corvids taking flight suddenly over the farm, then on cue an immature Peregrine whizzing across toward Harpham. My third of the year!

Following this Harpham-Lowthorpe was calling. Despite a promising start to the day the remainder of the walk was very quiet indeed. A flock of 58 Lapwing were still on their traditional fields near Harpham, 2 Little Grebe at New Road, 2 more Kestrels and Sparrowhawks, 8 Skylark (several singing), 1 Grey Wagtail, 56 Fieldfare, 8 Redwing, Goldcrest, and 2 Bullfinch were about yer lot.

In the afternoon I went for a quick look around Gransmoor Lane and Barf Hill Wood. A Shelduck was in the same field as the one last month. Very odd. A couple of Grey Partridge near Barf Hill and a large flock of 272 Fieldfare went over toward the village.

Sunday 22nd February

Down Kelk Beck and Cattleholmes in the morning; 6 Mute Swan, 31 Greylags, 5 Pink-footed Goose feeding on the potatoes, 30+ Teal, 5 Tufted Duck, 2 Little Grebe, a female Sparrowhawk, 55 Golden Plover flying west high, 9 Snipe, 1 Woodcock, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull (scarce in winter) and 29 Herring Gull flying south, a day flying Barn Owl, 12+ Skylark, 18 Yellowhammer and 8 Reed Bunting (only 1 male). Something spooked the birds at the heronry wood in the distance, and we counted 19 Grey Herons in the air at once, usually they're hard to see. The surprise of the morning was once again seeing the 3 EGYPTIAN GOOSE - presumably they've been there all month. On the way back a Buzzard was over Barf Hill and another over Little Kelk, plus two Red-legged Partridge by Lynesykes.

My afternoon consisted of a gentle bike ride to Gembling and Brigham Quarry. Not a lot along the lanes but 2 Grey Heron, 1 Common Buzzard, 90+ Fieldfare, 6 Tree Sparrow were at Gembling. Also here an excellent gathering of 9 Roe Deer.

Work has been taking place at Brigham Quarry to landscape the site ready for a possible leisure development (not sure of the details), but they've left the lakes in tact. A good tally of wildfowl were there today; 1 Mute Swan, 34 Greylags, 16 Gadwall, 23 Tufted Duck, 4 Little Grebe and 12 Coot.

Finally, another check on Kelk Lake (nothing new) and Burton Agnes pond where there were 60+ Greylags, 70+ Mallard and 12 Tufted Duck. Finally, finally, finally on the way back home I watched a 'dark' Barn Owl hunting over rough ground near Kelk Lake. I saw a 'dark' bird near Harpham a year ago but today's was seen in much better light (4.15pm) and looked much more likely for guttata, but still not as dark as the guides would have you believe. Some notes will appear soon.

So, what about the year list? Two months in and I'm up at the lofty heights of 77 species (74 at the same stage last year). Oh for the spring proper!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Black and White Unite

This shouldn't excite me but for some reason it does - our kid saw a Blackbird with several white tail feathers in Kelk a couple of days ago. Haven't seen one of those locally for many years.

Blackbirds are relatively prone to albinism - here's a short article from BTO.

No other news except the Grey Wag is still around Kelk, and a few daytime sightings of Barn Owls at various places this week.

Oh, and all the turbines are fully in place now, the first couple have started turning.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Roe roe roe your boat

An impressive sight of 10 Roe Deer were seen walking as a group across fields by Kelk Beck yesterday morning.

Oooh me is verr jealous!!

Monday, 2 February 2009

Brrrrr... and so 2009 begins

Oh sweet Lord that was a cold weekend. The snow held off until Sunday afternoon but the wind was bitter all weekend making it hard work in the exposed parts of the area (i.e. most of it!).

But hey, who lets a little inclement weather get in the way of their birding, hmm?

Friday 30th January

First up, Kelk Beck, highlights were c40 Teal, 2 Pintail (pair - a good local record, perhaps the same male was seen in December), 2 Kestrel, 2 Sparrowhawk, 62 Lapwing, 1 Meadow Pipit (scarce/elusive in winter), 41 Linnet and a remarkable 31 Corn Bunting.

Bird of the morning was an imm Peregrine - first seen on the ground in the middle of a field it eventually got up and started hunting, coming right over my head seemingly oblivious to me. After circling for a while it stooped at the ground and tried to grab a weasel (which I wouldn't have spotted otherwise!) several times before realising it wasn't going to fly away and make easy prey. Then it had a bit of a battle with a Kestrel before drifting off toward Foston. Incredible stuff - and still a notable bird for the area. I found out later that a local farmer had seen the bird earlier in the week, so it could well be wintering locally. It didn't seem to be a large bird so I'm guessing it was a male.

I had a walk along Green Lane on the way back not expecting much yet surprisingly picked up 1 Shelduck (huh? wha?), 8 Grey Partridge, 2 Great Black-backed Gull, 20 Fieldfare, 175 Redwing.

A couple of hours in the afternoon was filled with a trip around Gembling and Foston; 4 Gadwall, 4 Teal and 2 pochard at Brigham Quarry. 18 Herons were distantly visible over the heronry, something had clearly spooked them. Clifford Watt's are working the quarry again after leaving it undisturbed for more 15 years. They have been moving/levelling earth but as yet don't seem to have got to the water areas. I can't help wondering what's going on and if I'm honest, have a bad feeling about it. It would be a shame to lose it as it's a useful little oasis (though it hasn't really turned up much of note).

Elsewhere 2 Redshank, 1 Common Buzzard, 25 Redwing and 1 Bullfinch at Gembling. 75 Linnet were on the field between Foston Bridge and Carr House Farm - an excellent count for January.

Finally, with the last bit of daylight I had a quick look by Kelk Lake... seemed to be about 28 Tufted Duck and maybe 20+ Coot but counting not easy. A Barn Owl was hunting around Little Kelk Farm.

Saturday 31st January

My favourite local walk in the last couple of years has been to take in Harpham and Lowthorpe, it always seems to throw up a surprise - today was no exception. Some highlights were 10 Grey Partridge, 3 Common Buzzard, 52 Lapwing, 3 Woodcock (incl 2 together), 41 Herring Gull, 21 Collared Dove together at Harpham, 1 GS Woodpecker, 1 Grey Wagtail, 160 Fieldfare, 1 Goldcrest, 23 Long-tailed Tit, 3 Coal Tit, 2 Siskin, 60 Chaffinch (good count locally) and 3 Bullfinch. But what was the surprise? Another Peregrine, this one was mobbing a Common Buzzard at New Road before flying off south along the beck. Two in two days, whatever next?

A walk up Gransmoor Lane to Barf Hill before dusk added a Kingfisher off Gransmoor Drain and 3 Roe Deer moving from the wood toward Kelk. Not a lot else going on and really my heart just wasn't in it.

Sunday 1st February

Another crack at Kelk Beck seemed to be the order of the day, though staying under the duvet could have been a better option. Hard work and few birds to see. However... 82 Greylags flew N from Cattleholmes, 1 Jack Snipe flushed from the path and dropped on to the other side of the beck - nice!, 1 Green Sandpiper seen flying east over Little Kelk (1 seen nearby in November), a few big gulls moving S, 18 Stock Dove, 1 Barn Owl, 6 Skylark, c100 Fieldfare, 3 long-tailed Tit, 150 Starling, 42 Chaffinch.

Just like Friday, the area threw up something a little special - 3 EGYPTIAN GOOSE stood in the middle of the field south of Lynesykes. A new bird for me locally. It would seem these birds had been seen nearby at Barmston on Thursday. A small feral population exists in Norfolk, mostly, and officially they're Category C on the British List (= non-native but sustaining population, like Canada Goose). With the howling easterly wind and snow starting combined with the location they looked hopelessly lost - undoubtedly the weirdest sighting from the last 3 years!

The weekend was rounded off with a quick second look at Kelk Lake - with rapidly diminishing feeling left in my limbs - 21 Pochard (where were they on Friday?), 13 Tufties, 27 Coot, and 21 Stock Dove.

A grand total of 71 species, slightly up on the start of 2008. Lookin' good!