Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Butterfly beginnings

I talked myself into studying Butterflys, and if possible Dragonflys, in the area this year. My knowledge is vague - both for identification and distribution - so it's going to be a learning curve but hopefully some useful data can be gathered for building on in future.

On Sunday 19th April the following were noted:

Peacock - Great Kelk (1), Little Kelk (1).
Small Tortoiseshell - Great Kelk (1), Little Kelk (2)
Green-veined White - Great Kelk (1), Station Road (7)

I'm fairly sure the whites were all Green-veined but most of them weren't seen well enough for me to be sure! I guess this is lesson one in recording butterflys :-)

So there you have it - the Kelk butterfly list is now... 3

Monday, 20 April 2009

Osprey, finally!

It's been a long time coming but finally an OSPREY has crossed my path over Kelk. Just to add to the drama it was also practically the last bird I saw all weekend.

Er, so, yeah, my April visit then. With the recent warm weather and favourable winds it wasn't surprising to find that plenty of hirundines and some of the warblers had arrived including earliest records for both Sedge Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat.

Saturday 18th April

The weekend got off to a predictable start with 20 Swallows hawking around the cattle near Kelk Lake. At the lake 1 adult Mute Swan, 1 Canada Goose, 2 Little Grebe, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Common Buzzard over the wood, 4 Coot, 6 Stock Dove, 30 Sand Martin, and 1 each singing Blackcap and Willow Warbler.

Heading across to Harpham was less summery with a Goldcrest in the pines, 16 Lapwing, a surprise flock of 21 Fieldfare, and 50 Linnet bounding about over the as yet uncultivated stubbles.

The New Road area was as productive as ever; 2 Gadwall, Little Grebe, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel (the only one seen all weekend!) , 3 Grey Wagtails together - a female and two males, 25 Swallow, 11 House Martin and a male Reed Bunting.

Church Wood was rather devoid of warblers with just a couple of Chiffchaff and Willow Warblers though one-two Goldcrest could be heard in the pines.

I stood and watched a female Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming away near the church for a few minutes before a male appeared in the nearby trees. Across the area there are perhaps 5 pairs, give or take one-two each year, but these ones in Lowthorpe have been the easiest to see this winter as they often fly down to the gardens to visit feeders.

A single Tree Sparrow was at the feeders in the village but there may have been more hidden in the gardens.

Two Grey Wagtails, a pair, were together at Lowthorpe Bridge. Assuming the 3 at New Road were different birds that makes a new high day count of 5. No breeding has been proven in the area before but single birds were seen in May and July 2008 so these will be ones to watch. Alternatively they could just as well be migrants.

On the route back from Lowthorpe a Barn Owl was seen sitting in a tree near New Road at about midday.

During the whole morning I tallied up 7 Chiffchaff and 4 Willow Warbler. Not bad but not great.

After lunch it was time to get the bike out to take in Gembling and Brigham Quarry. A flock of 13 Yellowhammer at the south end of Kelk were the first notable sight.

At Gembling were 2 Gadwall, 6 Teal, 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Buzzard soaring together over the wood to the south, 1 Snipe, 12 Stock Dove, 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 Blackcap, 2 Bullfinch represents an excellent result for this small area.

A singing Corn Bunting at Gembling School is the only one I've heard in song locally this year.

Next stop Brigham Quarry: 8 Gadwall, a male Pochard, 11 Tufted Duck, 7 Little Grebe, 8 Coot, and a pair of Oystercatcher. Still nothing special here but consistently interesting and one day something good is going to drop in.

There was enough time for a walk around Gransmoor Lane at the end of the afternoon, though it was rather quiet. 5 Teal, 10 Lapwing and 1 Redshank were near Green Lane. A Barn Owl was hunting in Barf Hill wood (!?!) with another toward Gransmoor. Also at the wood a Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Blackcap and 1 Willow Warbler. A bare field of spring corn was hosting 24 Pheasant with the males all in full-on macho mood - very amusing to watch.

About 30 Sand Martins were whizzing about over the quarry. Surprise of the evening was 3 Shoveler (2 male, 1 female) flying around nearby - after missing out in 2008 and only seeing one in 2007, also in April, this could prove to be a very useful year tick.

Finally a Twany Owl was hooting like crazy when we stumbled back from the pub late-on.

Sunday 19th April

Gloomy clouds persisted in the morning but that was probably perfect for a walk along the back. One of the first birds to be seen was a Yellow Wagtail heading SW. A good start! At the beck 2 Gadwall, 4 Tufted Duck, 12 Lapwing and 4 Willow Warbler were all noted.

Five different Cormorants were seen during the morning - including an adult in slick breeding plumage fishing in the beck while we were stood a few metres away. Then it spotted us and flapped furiously with damp wings dragging itself slowly skywards. Not everyone's cuppa, I know, but I can't recall ever seeing one so close up within the area.

A pair of Mute Swan has started building a nest near the beck. As far as I can tell this is the first such attempt in at least 20 summers, despite an almost constant presence of adult birds during all those years. Why haven't they bothered before? And will it work out ok this time? Watch this space!

Cattleholmes supplied more good birds as it always seems to; 1 Canada Goose, 5 Gadwall, 1 male Teal, 12 Tufted Duck, 5 Coot, 1 very pale Barn Owl hunting, 1 Curlew - another very welcome difficult year tick, 1 Sedge Warbler (earliest local arrival date), 2 Meadow Pipits included one in song flight, and 2 Reed Bunting.

For most people Meadow Pipits are hardly worth a mention but they are in fact very scarce breeders in the Kelk area. Cattleholmes is perhaps the most reliable spot for them and apart from the one at Gembling these the two here were the only ones of the weekend.

We diverted via Great Kelk on the way back, a luxury we don't normally afford on the Kelk Beck route to our shame. 3 Buzzards were soaring over Barf Hill, 1 Snipe was flushed from a field drain, 6 Lapwing, 2 Long-tailed Tit and 5 Tree Sparrows noted.

It was noticeable that pairs or singing Linnets and Chaffinches seemed to be in every headgerow, with chaffs very numerous. Being a bit lazy of course I wasn't keeping count. Doh!

Closing the weekend before heading away until May there was enough time for another quick walk around Harpham. The sun had come out after lunch and it was warm and not ideal. Even so we added 3 Grey Partridge, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Buzzard, 1 Lesser Whitethroat (earliest date by 9 days!), and 1 Long-tailed tit - very elusive this weekend.

With only a brief weekend to get around the whole patch at the end of each visit my instinct kicks in to keep searching as long as possible. However futile it can seem, you never know what might appear. Really. This weekend proved the theory conclusively. Instead of heading straight back down the road I took a quick detour to Kelk Lake, just to pop my head around. Cos you never know. As I was saying.

4 Tufted Duck and a Common Sandpiper had arrived since yesterday and 2 Redwing in the horse paddock were a nice surprise (latest spring date). Another Cormorant flew over, the 6th for the day.

Ready to go and with the last throw of the dice I was scanning the view toward the village when I picked up a large raptor heading toward the lake. It wasn't a Buzzard. Oh wow. Within a minute it had moved close enough to see it was an OSPREY. I watched it heading purposefully north, marvelling at the distinctive and effortless flight action, for 2-3 minutes before it disappeared from view behind the tree line. An unforgettable experience, one you live for as a birder.

My yearlist is now 89; plus the SEO reported makes 90 recorded for the area. The 2008 total of 117 still looks a long long way off.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

'ear me now

A local famer saw what was most probably a Short-eared Owl while working on Sunday, to the east of Kelk village.

It was 'big, brown above, pale underneath, long-winged and flew quite like an owl' (my para-phrasing).

Although not sure what it was he sees the commoner three owls regularly so I think SEO must be the runaway candidate. Oh, it wasn't a Buzzard either, I thought of that :)

Although moderately frequent along the Humber and apparently also in the dry valleys of the Wolds, they're very hard to come by in the rest of our region.

I'm green with envy - very much a bird I'd like to see again locally as my last one at Kelk was in the mid '90s!

Sunday, 5 April 2009

A summer not quite made

Swallow over Lowthorpe this afternoon. Summer's coming!