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).