Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Gimme Shelter

Nowhere to hide for the birds at the moment. Having said that lots of them appear to have evacuated long ago - not a single Skylark, Lapwing or Fieldfare were seen and generally very few songbirds anywhere except around gardens. Despite this is was a reasonable weekend with one new for the year - 2 Whooper Swan, and a supporting cast of Water Rail, 11 Woodcock, Green Sandpiper, an unseasonal Lesser Black-backed Gull, and 2 Kingfisher.

Saturday 17th December

With so little daylight it's tough to know how to get the best out of a weekend in December. Worse when the birds aren't likely to be where they usually are. Decisions decisions. Anyway, a traditional Harpham-Lowthorpe walk always works so we spent most of the day on that.

3 Mute Swan, 2 Teal (plus several shot - see previous post 'Shoot!'), 20+ Mallard, 1 Little Grebe, 2 Sparrowhawk, 3 Buzzard, 3 Kestrel, 1 Water Rail, 2 Snipe, 8 Woodcock flushed by the shoot, 1 adult Lesser Black-backed Gull flying west, 20 Great Black-backed Gulls east, 14 Collared Dove, 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Redwing, 1 Goldcrest, 14 Long-tailed Tit, 1 Coal Tit, 3 Tree Sparrow and 1 Bullfinch.

That walk followed by lunch left us with only a couple of hours, which we used to have a look around Gransmoor Lane: 2 Greylag Goose, 1 Teal, 6 Gadwall flying NW, 17 Mallard, 7 Grey Partridge, 1 Buzzard, 2 Snipe, 2 Woodcock, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Kingfisher, 2 Yellowhammer.

Below is the Water Rail at Harpham, feeding alongside the beck. This was in exactly the same spot as the first Water Rail I ever saw locally back in the early 90s.

So good it deserves a second picture. What a beauty.

Long-tailed Tits are impossible to photograph, though it doesn't much help that I have no patience whatsoever. This is the best I could do - they just won't sit still!

Sunday 19th December

Bright sunshine on Saturday had led into overnight snow which continued through Sunday morning. We held off until late morning hoping it would give up, realising that a walk along Kelk Beck was going to be the limit today.

3 Mute Swan, 31 Teal, 7 Mallard, 9 Grey Partridge, 6 Little Grebe, 1 Cormorant flew over, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 4 Snipe, 1 Woodcock, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Great Black-backed Gull, 2 Barn Owls, 1 Kingfisher, 1 Bullfinch, 2 Yellowhammer, 1 Reed Bunting.

In addition to these slim pickings were 11 Roe Deer including a party of 9, at least 30 Hares easily visible in the fields, and two Foxes one of which had caught a rabbit and had a small gathering of attendant Corvids harassing it.

Below are 6 of the deer just visible through the snow!

Arty landscape shot along Kelk Beck... this was around midday and it looks dark!

The day was concluded by a quick dash to Kelk Lake. Completely frozen over with a layer of snow on top. Nothing to see here. Oh, except 35 Greylags flew north toward Burton Agnes. In the distance two ghostly white swans flying south, high up, eventually showing themselves to be Whooper Swans. A year tick with the final throw of the dice - nice!

So that brings the year total up one...

114 Whooper Swan

Monday, 20 December 2010


December visit done. Details later but first...

Bitterly cold it may be but that was never going to prevent the local shoot from one last outing. I usually try to avoid them but they arrived at Harpham at the same time we did so there was not much choice. Still one man's sport is another's opportunity so we thought we'd see what they flushed from the wood. Loads of Pheasants obviously, maybe 50+, but also 8 Woodcock and a few Teal (there's a drain runs through the wood). One of the Woodcock was killed it but the others got away.

Pheasant shooting is part of the landscape, they're farmed intensively, so you can't really grumble, but I'm not a fan of Woodcock or 'wild' game/wildfowl being shot. In such cold and difficult weather for birds didn't make it any easier to witness.

As you can see below a fair few Pheasants and Teal had already been bagged.

Eat lead, Pheasant!

One of the Woodcock that survived, and a rare (rubbish) photo opportunity without the benefit of a hide.

Enough of guns, though. Here's some local Collared Doves doing their best against the weather, part of a loose flock of 14 at Harpham.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Butter wouldn't melt

Kelk has been under snow for three weeks and the birds will have been suffering, or the ones that haven't already shipped out will be. I haven't made a visit yet and the only news I've heard is of a Jack Snipe visiting an unfrozen drain/outflow on several days recently.

Brrr. As respite for the cold weather I have been looking at my butterfly records for 2010. I almost wished I hadn't as it was a pretty poor year - both a lack of butterflys and my timing mostly coincided with less than ideal weather for them. The light amongst them all was my first local record for Brown Argus.

Anyway, for what it's worth...

Small Skipper - 1 at Harpham on 8th August.

'Whites' - all three species noted occasionally but usually lumped together as just 'whites'. Common and widespread between April and September with a peak in August of "treble figures".

Orange Tip
- 13 at Harpham on 15th May. 8 at Harpham and 2 at Gembling on 5th June.

Small Copper - 10+ in one field at Harpham on 8th August. Not noted in 2009. Photo

Brown Argus - 4+ in same field at Harpham on 8th August. A new species for me locally!

Common Blue - 1 at Harpham on 18th September. Not noted in 2009. Photo

Holly Blue - 1 at Harpham on 15th May. 1 at Foston on 5th June. Photo

Red Admiral
- 5 noted in July. 1 at Harpham on 8th August. Very poor year!

Small Tortoiseshell - noted March-May, July and September. Peak count of 28 in April. Photo

Peacock - 5 noted in April and 12 in August. Photo

Speckled Wood - 1 at Kelk Beck on 16th May, 1 at Gembling on 5th June, 1 at Kelk on 8th August, and 10 across the area in September.

Wall - 3 noted in June and 12 in August. Photo

Meadow Brown - 13 noted in July, 1 at Harpham on 8th August. Photo

Ringlet - a very high count of 60+ in July plus 3 in August. Photo

So there were are, a grand total of 16 species. A few notable absences, most surprisingly not a single Painted Lady.

Sunday, 21 November 2010


Ok, third time lucky. Highlights were: the aforementioned ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD, a Goldeneye, 9 Cormorant (record count), 32 golden Plover, a Green Sandpiper, 2 Kingfisher, and 19 Siskin.

Saturday 13th November

Harpham-Lowthorpe (morning)... 5 Teal, 28 Mallard, 1 Little Grebe, 2 Grey Heron, 2 Sparrowhawk, 1 Common Buzzard, 32 Golden Plover, 22 Lapwing, 5 Snipe flying over together, 1 Green Sandpiper at New Road (not a typical place to see one), 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Kingfisher, 9 Skylark, 1 Grey Wagtail, 2 Goldcrest, 2 parties of Long-tailed Tits, 20 Linnet, 19 Siskin flying south and 1 Bullfinch.

Also a Grey Squirrel at Lowthorpe Church and a very late Common Darter at Lingholmes (picture here).

Gembling and Brigham Quarry (afternoon)... 27 Greylag, 7 Teal, 2 Gadwall, 9 Red-legged Partridge, 2 Little Grebe, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Barn Owl, and 2 Redwing.

Kelk Lake (dusk)... at least 7 Cormorants roosting in the trees again (see October writeup), 2 Mute Swan, 1 fem Goldeneye, 1 Sparrowhawk, 90 Lapwing in a nearby field and 80 Starling in a pre-roost display flight.

Sunday 14th November

Kelk Beck (morning)... 3 young Mute Swans flying overhead toward Wansford, 23 Greylags, 34 Mallard, 11 Grey Partridge, 9 Cormorant flying high up south along the beck together - a new record count, 2 Grey Heron, 1 Sparrohawk, the RL Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 2 Snipe, 4 Herring Gull, 1 Great Black-backed Gull, 12 Skylark, 2 Meadow Pipit, approx 60 Blackbirds in the hedgerows, 32 Fieldfare, 3 Redwing, 1 Mistle Thrush, 90 Starling, 1 Tree Sparrow, 30 Chaffinch, 15 Yellowhammer, 3 Reed Bunting. Also a Roe Deer racing across one of the fields.

Green Lane and Barf Hill (afternoon)... 15 Mallard, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Common Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 44 Stock Dove - highest count this year, 1 Tawny Owl, 5 Meadow Pipit, 15 Fieldfare, 2 Redwing, a party of Long-tailed Tit, 60+ Chaffinch in one flock, 2 Bullfinch (pair) and a flock of 40+ Yellowhammer - also the highest count of the year.

Good to see plenty of the typical farmland birds, esp Yellowhammers. Let's hope there's more through the winter.

Yearlist up one...

113 Rough-legged Buzzard

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Get flocked

Like I was saying, not a particularly eventful visit last weekend. But more of that later, instead here's a few more photos.

Greylags doing their best to look like wild geese. You're fooling no-one.

Now here's a surprise - a Common Darter. Don't think I've ever encountered one of these in November. This one was near Harpham, a good spot for this species.

A young Grey Heron standing horizontally into the wind. No doubt it'd have been blown into the next field if it had tried to adopt the typical vertical pose. Looks kinda weird, doesn't it?

Dunnock or what most folk still call Hedge Sparrow. Not a bird that many people spend time looking at but I think they're delightful. They're common enough but a bit skulky so not as obvious as other garden birds such as Blackbird. This particular one was being very territorial along Kelk Beck.

Bit of a common birds theme developing, here's some Starlings. I had toyed with the idea of Photoshopping this to spell out rude words but that would be childish. Another day perhaps. Starlings love these wires as they provide a view across many of the gardens in Little Kelk.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Rough times

Last weekend's visit was a game of two halves if ever there was one. For the most part distinctly ordinary and uneventful, with one major exception.

I'll review the remainder later but here's some detail on the biggie: a ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD. The bird was present in rough ground adjacent to Kelk Beck on Sunday morning - we watched it for around 20 minutes. In that time it only flew a couple of times spending most of the time on the ground, occasionally hopping about - perhaps looking for voles? Unlike most raptors this one did not seem at all bothered by our presence and at one point we were about 40-50m away.

This photo shows the characteristic underside pattern - dark 'elbows' and a solid dark belly against otherwise pale underparts - both features of a juvenile RLB. The white patches on the wings are also typical.

Wow - look at that tail. Although some Common Buzzards show white in the tail the band would not be this well defined especially combined with the features noted above. Solid band also indicates a juvenile bird, adults tend to show multiple bands.

On the ground the pale head was striking, even with the naked eye. You can make out the white tail band here. A pale Common Buzzard would not show such contrast between pale and the brown body.

Another shot on the ground. Again note the striking pale head, but also the pale throat and bib - another feature of juvenile birds.

Finally, this was actually the first shot I took, in a frantic attempt to get it on record in case it flew off immediately. It's harder to get an identification on this view as it's facing away, you can't see the tail and the head doesn't look so pale. What would raise the alarm for me in this photo is how uncommon it is to see Common Buzzards perched on the ground, especially at such close range. The bird had actually flown over us and landed here just before this shot was taken - I was already happy with the identification by the time the camera was ready, give or take shaking with excitement!

Rough-legged Buzzards are scarce visitors to the UK, with less than half a dozen in Yorkshire in a typical year - most of those either along the coast or in moorland. Two winters ago three birds were present in the dry valleys around Millington.

In 2010 a national influx (late October) has taken place with dozens of birds noted along the coast from Scotland to Kent. Locally birds have been seen at Barmston, Tophill Low, Leven and Hornsea Mere.

During summer these birds are in the Scandinavian arctic where they feed largely on lemmings. Winter forces them down into Europe but it takes extra pressure to push them across the North Sea - such as a lack of small mammals in southern Scandinavia.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


October briefly. It was the weekend of 23rd and 24th. Weather mostly rubbish. Highlights were few and far between. The first record of tree roosting Cormorant was to put it mildly, a surprise. On Sunday a Water Rail made bird-of-the-weekend with a supporting cast of Green Sandpiper, Kingfisher, and Grey Wagtail.

Saturday 23rd October

Lowthorpe-Harpham (am): 21 Mallard, 3 Common Buzzard, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Herring Gull, 1 Great Black-backed Gull, 6 Skylark, 2 Goldcrest and 40 Tree Sparrow (largest flock here for a long time).

Great Kelk (pm): 1 Common Buzzard, 12 Fieldfare, and 3 Redwing.

Brigham Quarry (pm): 5 Teal, 3 Wigeon, 1 Tufted Duck, 1 Little Grebe, and 3 Coot.

Kelk Lake (eve): 2 Mute Swans, 5 Cormorant, 1 Grey Heron, 3 Common Buzzard, 60 Lapwing, and 16 Redwing

Approx 200 Black-headed and 800 Common Gull during the day.

Sunday 24th October

Kelk Beck (am): 5 Mute Swan, c50 Teal, c70 Mallard, 2 Cormorant, 2 Grey Heron, 1 Common Buzzard, 1 Water Rail - in the same spot as one last winter, 2 Golden Plover flying over, 1 Snipe, 1 Green Sandpiper, 5 Herring Gull, 1 Kingfisher, 18 Skylark in stubbles, 2 Meadow Pipit, 15 Redwing, 22 Long-tailed Tit, 20 Tree Sparrow, 1 Bullfinch, 12 Yellowhammer, 8 Reed Bunting.

Harpham (pm): not much new but 40+ Pheasant wandering around in one field, 1 Little Grebe on the beck, 1 Grey Heron, 4 Sparrowhawk, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Grey Wagtail, 3 Goldcrest, 15+ Long-tailed Tit, and 32 Linnet.

Green Lane (eve): 1 Greylag, 22 Mallard, 1 Grey Partridge, 8 Cormorant roosting in trees at Kelk Lake, and 1 Kestrel. A total of 33 Hares were in fields either side of the lane. Around 1100 Common Gull moved through to roost with c1500 Corvid going in the other direction to Lingholmes Plantation.

And finally a quick look at some deeply ropey photos.

A young Common Gull, born this summer, probably in Scotland or northern Europe. The intensive arable areas of Holderness and the Yorkshire Wolds are one of the most important regions in the UK for wintering Common Gulls.

Looks like a Marsh Harrier at first glance, but no, it's just a Common Buzzard caught in an odd pose.

Beware men with guns! They don't look well prepared for what is to come, do they?

Well would you have it - tree roosting Cormorants. A first for the area. I didn't make an evening visit in September and didn't see these earlier in the year. The photo above, taken at great distance, appears to shows a fair amount of poop on the branches so they've probably been doing this for a short while. My hastily put together but fairly obvious theory is that these birds are all using Kelk Beck to feed in during the day and have discovered a new place to roost much nicer than out to sea and closer than either Tophill or Hornsea Mere. To put this in context, the previous maximum day count in the area is 7.

Last but not least a composite study of two Reed Buntings. On the left a typical 'female' bird, though the amount of black suggests a young male. On the right a superficially similar bird but look closely and note the chestnut rather than black cap, likely indicative of a young female.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Rain or shine

No doubting autumn is here... Brrr!!

A full review of the weekend will appear later but in short there was not a great deal to report. The weather was downright silly, as can be seen in the photo. Most of Saturday was rained off, otherwise the wind just made it hard work. But then that is autumn, really.

Best bird was a Water Rail by Kelk Beck. An elusive species at the best of times but especially so this early in the winter. Also a Green Sandpiper, Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail.

Thrushes were notable by their absence, though a couple of small parties of Fieldfare and Redwing were tracked down, just. Local hedgerows can be weighed down by arriving Blackbirds at this time of year but they're either not here yet or have already moved on.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Blue, Brown, Pink

A few photos from the weekend. Too breezy, too rainy, not enough birds showing etc. But enough with the lousy excuses. ;0)

First up a Common Blue at Harpham. This is the first one in the last two years, clearly they're not finding much suitable habitat - such as unimproved grassland.

A female or young Kestrel in familiar hunting mode. You can't properly see here but it was hovering barely above head height.

Juvenile Great Crested Grebe at Kelk Lake. It had been actively feeding before I got my camera out, then decided to have a nap.

From biggest to smallest on the grebeometer - 3 Little Grebes together on Kelk Beck. Two or three pairs breed along the beck but it's not the easiest place to see them.

Unexpected goose action! Four grounded Pink-footed Geese in Little Kelk. A few migrating skeins of pink-feet will move through in the next couple of months but very few birds will touch down. I think these are the earliest I've seen in Kelk.

And there we have it. Summer moves into autumn. Bring on October!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Long time no see

A tale of two halves. Summer. Autumn. Saturday was good, Sunday spoilt by constant rain. Highlights were a first LONG-EARED OWL for nearly two decades, a Great Black-backed Gull was new for the year. Also rans; 40+ Pink-footed Geese, a Great Crested Grebe, a Yellow Wagtail, a Coal Tit and a Spotted Flycatcher.

Saturday 18th September


Breezy but quite warm and sunny. A good show of birds in the Harpham/Lowthorpe area - 26 Mallard, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Sparrowhwak, 6 Buzzard, 2 Kestrel, 290 Lapwing plus c300 distantly toward Burton Agnes, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Herring Gull, 9 Stock Dove, 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Meadow Pipit, 1 male Yellow Wagtail (a late bird, probably a migrant), 7 Song Thrush, 2 Mistle Thrush, a Chiffchaff, 3 Goldcrest, 1 Spotted Flycatcher at Lowthorpe Church - latest record for area, 1 Coal Tit, 1 Tree Sparrow and 1 Bullfinch.

Surprise of the morning, weekend, and pretty much the whole year so far was a LONG-EARED OWL in Lingholmes Plantation. The bird was flushed at the edge of the wood and flew into the thicket, just enough to get a positive ID but not enough to really enjoy such an elusive bird. Significantly this is only the second or third one I've seen in the area - several sightings in winter 1991/2 were thought to be two different birds but could have been just one. September seems a very early time for a migrant but the alternative, a local resident bird, seems equally unlikely. Could the location be a clue - roosting next to a path - to it being new to the area?


Gembling / Foston / Brigham Quarry was disappointingly quiet with just 1 Red-legged Partridge, 3 Little Grebe, 2 Grey Heron, 8 Coot, 90 Feral Pigeon, and 40 Linnets. A consolation appeared in the form of an adult Great Black-backed Gull heading toward Tophill Low - a year tick, no less.

Kelk Lake - male Pochard, 7 Tufted Duck, 1 juvenile Great Crested Grebe, 1 Cormorant. A loose flock of 8 Pied Wagtails were feeding on the pasture by the Turkey Farm.

A Common Buzzard was hunting around Green Lane about 6.30pm. Later were c40 Pink-footed Geese flying south along Kelk Beck at dusk while approx 300 Rook and 600 Jackdaw went to roost. A Tawny Owl was heard after dark.

Not many Swallows around, perhaps high double figures over the day, I guess many moved out in the last week or so. No Sand Martins seen all weekend and only a handful of House Martins.

Sunday 19th September

Nothing doing in the morning due to other commitments and the afternoon was almost rained off. However I braved Kelk Beck and managed to find; 4 Mute Swan, 65 Teal and 75 Mallard at Cattleholmes, 3 Little Grebe, 3 Cormorant, 7 Grey Heron, 1 Common Buzzard, 62 Lapwing, 1 Snipe, 4 Green Sandpiper, 3 Meadow Pipit, 1 Grey Wagtail (first since last winter!), 21 Long-tailed Tit, 20 Chaffinch, 30 Goldfinch and 2 Reed Bunting.

Last throw of the dice was a quick scan over the grass fields in Little Kelk. Nothing except more rain. Oh, wait, hang on, there's 4 Pink-footed Geese in among the sheep. Huh? One can only guess they were decked by the rain. Photo to follow.

Aside from birds there's very little to report except a Squirrel at Lingholmes, 2 Roe Deer. Butterflies were only seen on Saturday and little variety to note, just 10 Speckled Wood, 3 Small Tortoiseshell, and 'low double figures' of Whites. There was one big surprise though - a Common Blue at Harpham - the first of the year (none seen last year).


111 Long-eared Owl
112 Great Black-backed Gull

Friday, 13 August 2010

Flycatcher, spotted

Righty ho, as you were...

Saturday 7th August

One of the highlights of the weekend was the two Spotted Flycatchers, at Lowthorpe. I'm not 100% but I'm fairly sure one was a young bird. However the other bird performed marvelously while I was sheltering from a shower.

This was on the Saturday afternoon. Other sightings around Harpham-Lowthorpe on the same walk were; 1 Gadwall, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Hobby, 1 Kestrel, 30+ Common Gull, 20+ Black-headed Gull, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 28 Skylark in one loose flock, 1 Goldcrest, 2 Long-tailed Tit, 3 Coal Tit.

Also a Grey Squirrel in Lowthorpe Church Wood - my first one of the year.

In the afternoon I headed around Gembling and Foston, which was rather productive. In the Gembling area were 3 Teal, 1 Grey Heron, 7 Grey Partridge, 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Common Buzzard, 8 Snipe, 7 Green Sandpiper, 1 Yellow Wagtail, 1 Bullfinch and a Reed Bunting.

At Brigham Quarry, 3 Gadwall, 2 Pochard, 1 Tufted Duck, 13 Little Grebe, 10+ Coot (4 pairs), 4 Lapwing, 2 Snipe, 17 Stock Dove and 12 Swift.

On the way back 50+ House Sparrow were noted in Great Kelk. Finally in the evening, 22 Greylags were in Little Kelk plus 25 Mallard, 1 Little Grebe and 2 Kingfisher at Kelk Lake. A Grey Heron flew over and a small flock of Golden Plover were calling in a field - I couldn't see them but it sounded like only a few.

Sunday 8th August

Morning - Harpham and Lowthorpe: 2 Red-legged Partridge, 1 Little Grebe, 2 Sparrowhawk, 7 Common Buzzard (see photo in previous post), 1 Hobby, 75 Swift, 2 Kingfisher, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Willow Warbler singing, 8 Tree Sparrow.

Late afternoon - Kelk Beck and Cattleholmes: 1 Mute Swan, 1 Teal, 1 Tufted Duck, 3 Green Sandpiper, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gull and 2 Herring Gulls (adults moving SW), 1 Kingfisher, 2 Yellow Wagtail, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, two parties of Long-tailed Tit. Also a Water Vole in Kelk Beck.

With no new bird species for the year, that leaves the year list on 110. Now just time for some smaller flying creatures.


Not a great weekend in terms of numnbers but a few gooides. Totals were; 1 Meadow Brown, 12 Peacock, 1 Red Admiral, 3 Ringlet, 1 Small Skipper, 2 Speckled Wood, 12 Wall, 'three figures' of Whites. However the best bay far was on Sunday when we found 10+ Small Copper and 4 Brown Agrus at Harpham. The latter a new species for me within the area.

Also several noted dragonflies noted; 6+ Common Blue Damselfly, 2 Ruddy Darter, 4 Common Darter, 3 Migrant Hawker.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Call the coppers

Is it late summer or early autumn? August is such a transitional month it's hard to know from one day to the next. When it's sunny it's definitely summer... and then the clouds gather and suddenly it's back-end-ish.

My August visit took place at the weekend and on balance it was more summer than autumn. Harvest has been slow to start which is one point for summer, but migrants have started to move through; one point for autumn.

Highlights from the weekend were; 7 Common Buzzard together (photo below), Hobby, 10 Green Sandpipers, 5 Kingfisher, Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Spotted Flycatcher, 3 Coal Tit. Butterflys were not especially active but three species for the year were added; Small Skipper, Small Copper and Brown Argus - the latter I have never seen in the area before. Excellent!

Anyway, until I get chance to write a review here's a few pictures.

Small Copper at Harpham. I didn't find any of these last year but on Sunday found 10+ in a small area of flowers along a hedgerow.

A lovely fresh Peackock, in the same area as the copper.

A Common Blue Damselfly. These delightful little critters are surprisingly local within the area, almost more so than the bigger Darters and Hawkers. Brigham Quarry was the hotspot at the weekend, where this one was snapped.

One of the three Coal Tits seen together at Lowthorpe. Although not rare they can be damned elusive in the area, and it's a while since I've seen any juveniles - two were noted.

Last but not least, a group of seven buzzards soaring overhead. We think there were two family parties; three birds (probably one juvenile) were joined by the other four (probably two juveniles).

Thursday, 29 July 2010

A Tale of Two Hobbys

Three days of July about to whizz past... don't blink!

Friday 16th July

Cattleholmes: 6 Canada Goose (4 young), 4 Gadwall, 7 Mallard, 2 Tufted Duck (female and duckling), 1 Green Sandpiper, 2 Reed Bunting.

Harpham: 1 Red-legged Partridge, 2 Kestrel (1 juvenile?), 8 Lapwing, 2 Barn Owl, 80 Swift, 1 Common Whitethroat, c500 Corvids.

Kelk: 32 Greylag Goose, 1 Barn Owl, 60 Swift, 1 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Common Whitethroat, 1 singing Chiffchaff, 1 Bullfinch.

Saturday 17th July

Gembling: 4 Teal, 5 Little Grebe, 1 Gembling, 1 Hobby, 1 Curlew (flying west), 4 Green Sandpiper. Teal in July is rather unusual anywhere in the area.

Brigham Quarry: 1 Pochard (female), 13 Coot, 6 Lapwing.

Foston Mill: 2 Blackcap (female/juvs), 1 Spotted Flycatcher. The flycatcher is a year tick, and at the same site where one was seen two summers ago.

Kelk: 1 Grey Partridge, 1 Sparrowhawk, 300 Swift moving south away from rain, 1 Yellow Wagtail, 8 Long-tailed Tit.

Kelk Lake: 3 Little Grebe, 5 Coot (1 brood of 3), 2 Reed Warbler.

Harpham: 1 Sparrowhawk, 3 Common Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 1 Hobby, 5 Stock Dove, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Tree Sparrow.

Sunday 18th July

Kelk Beck: 2 Mute Swan, 300 Swift moving south away from weather, 1 Kingfisher, 1 Reed Bunting. A nice though brief view of a Stoat was one of the highlights of the weekend along Lynesykes Lane - my first of the year!

Gembling: 15 Canada Goose, 2 Shelduck, 2 Grey Partridge, 170 Feral Pigeon.

Kelk: 1 Buzzard, 3 Kestrel (1 juvenile), 1 Kingfisher, 1 Yellow Wagtail.

Harpham: 1 Kingfisher, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker.

You wait for months for a Kingfisher and three come along at once. Really, they're my first sightings since the winter and I was getting most concerned they'd been wiped out by the freeze.


Small numbers of gulls were moving around all weekend, mostly flying rather purposefully south-west. It was too early for any serious numbers of small gulls as breeding birds would still have been at their colonies and there was no ploughing activity to draw them in. By the end of July, i.e. when I'm writing this, the situation will be changing quickly.

Totals for the weekend: 26 Black-headed Gull, 15 Common Gull, 11 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 28 Herring Gull. The vast majority were adults.

I only noticed when writing this post that I still haven't seen a Great Black-backed Gull this year. A most unusual situation, though no panic, the best months for these beasts are Oct-Dec.


Poor conditions for butterflies; mostly windy, cloudy or drizzly. Most obvious were 'whites' and Ringlet were very widespread along hedgerows.

Totals for the whole weekend across the area are: 13 Meadow Brown, 5 Red Admiral, 58+ Ringlet, 8 Small Tortoiseshell, c100 'white' sp. All this brings the total species for the year to a disappointing 11.

Also noted were a 'blue' damselfly and a Common Darter at New Road.

And the two Hobbies tale?

Having missed out on Hobby in May and June I was determined to track one down in July - hardly the best month but needs must. The plan was simple; spend loads of time around Harpham where birds were seen last year. Friday drew a complete blank despite regularly scanning the skyline during 4 hours. Saturday morning looked more promising but after 2 hours we were still empty handed.

Quite suddenly large numbers of Swift began to move through at the front of a wave of rain cloud, about 300 inm total. Despite all the fast food going by, not a sniff of a Hobby. Five minutes later the distinct scything sillhouette of my favourite falcon whizzed across the top of the treeline and dipped behind. It had gone as quickly as it had appeared - absolutely typical. Never mind, I was still delighted. I'm glad I have enough experience with these falcons to be sure of the ID! Grief though, six hours in the field and barely as many seconds of action.

Later in the day when at Gembling I had just sat down for a breather when a group of Swallows began shreiking... hello, what's going on here... wowser, a Hobby flew right over my head and I was able to watch it move away for 20-30 seconds. Possibly the closest view I've had of one in the area, certainly the most satisfying.

The lesson? You need to try really hard to see a Hobby here but you just might get lucky.

So, with this and Spotted Flycatcher my yearlist moves to 109. A Turtle Dove was seen in Kelk in May so the recorded total reaches 110.

108 Turtle Dove
109 Hobby
110 Spotted Flycatcher

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


Here a few bird photos from the weekend. Nothing special just a few ropey shots including species I've not snapped before. Better than a kick in the proverbials, so to speak.

Why did the Collared Dove cross the road? So I could get a better picture, obviously.

Two Goldfinches at Harpham, doing what they do best - demolishing seed heads.

Three Green Sandpipers at Gembling. Out of shot on the left was a fourth bird, not a bad local gathering for late summer.

A Sedge Warbler out in the open by Kelk Beck, having a burst of morning song. They're usually moderately elusive so I'm actually quite pleased to get this shot without having to stake it out.

Male Reed Bunting by Kelk Beck, perched on oilseed. There are not many of these lovely buntings in the area and they are pretty unassuming so it's lovely to get any photo.

Last but not least a juvenile Swallow. Adult Swallows are quite obviously spectacular birds, no doubting that, but I have a real soft spot for the young birds.

Weekend report to follow...

Monday, 19 July 2010


My attempt at a lazy summer weekend was thwarted by strong winds for most of the weekend. Despite that a few goodies were seen including 2 Hobbys, 4 Green Sandpiper, 3 Kingfisher, and 1 Spotted Flycatcher. More of that later with some birdy pics in the meantime here's some photos not of birds.

Ringlet. This rather tatty one has a huge split in the wing.

Another Ringlet, showing the underside pattern, and more tatty wings.

Meadow Brown, showing the leaf-like underwing pattern. Normally the outer wings are visible and they show an 'eye' on an orange background.

A very very scruffy Small Tortoiseshell. Not much longer left for this individual.

Finally, not a butterfly but a tame Hare which allowed me to approach to a few metres. There were three others, presumably a family, close by.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

All quiet

Slight time delay getting this short review up... ok, two weeks to be precise. As you'd expect there's not a great deal happening in June, though birdwatching is still a joy while the vegetation is at peak lush.

There was only one day to play with this month as I was busy elsewhere on Sunday morning and it rained for the rest of the day. Never mind though...

Saturday 5th June

Morning around Harpham; 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 2 Oystercatcher, 5 Great Spotted Woodpecker (4 together at New Road - presumably 2/3 juveniles), 1 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Sedge Warbler, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Goldcrest, and at least 30 Long-tailed Tits in one loose flock.

Arfernoon around Gembling and Brigham Quarry; 2 Grey Partridge, 4 Little Grebe, 2 Grey Heron, 1 Kestrel, 11 Coot plus 5 young at Brigham Quarry, 1 Oystercatcher, 1 Barn Owl, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Yellow Wagtail, 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 5 Common Whitethroat, 2 Tree Sparrow, 1 Reed Bunting and 1 Corn Bunting (Foston bridge - as in May). Approx 30 Sand Martin holes at Brigham Quarry, though it's not obvious how many are in use.

Evening around Lowthorpe; 8 Mallard ducklings, 1 adult Lesser Black-backed Gull heading north east, 1 Cuckoo, 1 Barn Owl, 2 Reed Warbler (Kelk Lake), 1 Whitethroat, 11 Long-tailed Tit, 60 Starling on fresh cut silage.

Not many butterflies on the wing, a little disappointing - 1 Holly Blue (Foston), 10 Orange Tip, 1 Speckled Wood and 3 Wall.

This pair of Tree Sparrows have been using that old woodpecker hole - and for whatever reason I'd never noticed this hole before... doh!

Nice male Swallow on wires.

Wall buttrerfly at Foston.