Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Tons of Buzzard... and a Robin

The birds didn't want to pose on Saturday and I didn't take my camera out on Sunday so not a lot to show for the weekend just gone.

First up - Buzzard montage. There's two birds in this picture. The one in the main part of the photo is quite a distinctive individual with a white vent.

Better than my previous attempt at Robin but still so-so.

Final year tick of the weekend - two Goldeneye with a drake Pochard at Kelk Lake.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Here we snow again

Third month in a row with snow. Once a year is about the going rate. I blame our kid for describing Saturday as 'the warmest day of the year'. Haha!

Winter has cleared out many birds but the LITTLE EGRET from January was seen again, with a Jack Snipe and Water Rail as supporting cast. Other hard to come by birds were - 2 Goldeneye a Woodcock and one each of Treecreeper and Coal Tit.

Saturday 20th February

In the morning Harpham and Lowthorpe were bathed in fine sunny weather. On the walk across the Harpham were 40 Lapwing, 5 Stock Dove, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming in Lingholmes, a Pied Wagtail, 2 Mistle Thrush and the Jay that has been around all winter.

New Road was fairly quiet but there were 10 Teal in the wood, a Kestrel, 3 Long-tailed Tit, 1 Linnet and 2 Yellowhammer. Over in Church Wood were a Goldcrest, 2 Long-tailed Tit, a Coal Tit and Treecreeper. Quite a relief to get the latter on the yearlist after taking until November last year - elusive little buggers! The little pond in the wood had 2 Teal on it, which as far as I can tell is the first time I've seen any there.

A Grey Heron flew north along the beck at Lowthorpe and 21 Moorhen were noted between Station Road and the railway. On the return leg a LITTLE EGRET was in a field drain in Little Kelk - presumably this is the same bird that was seen near Harpham last month

Just a couple of hours for an afternoon walk - around Gransmoor Lane. A Fieldfare, 12 Greenfinch and 7 Yellowhammer were along the main road in Kelk. Around Gransmoor Lane 2 Red-legged and 4 Grey Partridge, plus a Woodcock flushed from the roadside on the way back at dusk!

Near Barf Hill were 174 Greylag Goose, 9 Wigeon, 4 Teal, 37 Mallard, a Barn Owl, a small party of Long-tailed Tits heard, and a nice male Reed Bunting. An impressive total of 28 Hare were in the fields around Gransmoor Lane. Back in Little Kelk around 1500 Corvid flew in to roost after dusk and a Tawny Owl was calling.

Last word to the local Common Buzzards. Fine conditions on Saturday lunchtime kicked the otherwise lazy birds into action. It has always been a challenge to work out how many individuals there are, since they obviously move around a fair bit. Getting them in the air together makes it easier but it doesn't happen often. Today we had 7 together at one time but at least 8 birds were involved. Last year at least two pairs bred so it looks like the expansion is continuing.

Sunday 21st February

Opening the curtains to the first flakes of a morning of snow was not part of the script. Fearing a whole day without going outside my nerve broke at 11.30. It was very hard going and all the sensible birds were well under cover. Even so, on the beck were 4 Teal, 10 Mallard, 2 Red-legged and 4 Grey Partridge, 2 Grey Heron, a Water Rail in exactly the same spot as one in December, 2 Snipe and a flock of 130 Fieldfare overhead toward Great Kelk.

Cattleholmes was mostly frozen but there were 28 Mallard on the ice, 2 Coot, 9 Lapwing, 4 Snipe, and a Barn Owl looking very frosty hunting over the snow. At one point it flew past at about 10m range - and yes, I hadn't brought my camera out! Better still it flushed a Jack Snipe which flew over my head and landed on the edge of the beck. Crikey!

On the way back I could hear some Canada Geese in the distance, though it was hard to tell where they were or how many. Six Roe Deer were heading along a hedgerow near Lynesykes Lane.

Late afternoon was filled with a swift ride to Brigham Quarry - only 8 Teal and 10 Coot as the water was mostly frozen over. In Great Kelk gardens were 20+ Tree Sparrow, 12 Greenfinch and 18 Goldfinch.

With just a little light left the last action of the weekend was a quick peek at Kelk Lake. It was much more frozen over than expected - only a small patch of open water left. I've still never seen it completely covered. Huddled together were 2 male Pochard, a female Tufted Duck, 2 fem / imm Goldeneye, 2 Little Grebe, 22 Coot. A Sparrowhawk went over and there was a Bullfinch in the hedge. There was only one record of Goldeneye last year so this is a welcome record.

January ended with a grand total of 71 and a further 9 were added in February, in order of appearance:

072 Pink-footed Goose
073 Cormorant
074 Treecreeper
075 Goldcrest
076 Coal Tit
077 Wigeon
078 Jack Snipe
079 Pochard
080 Goldeneye

Right then, hurry up, Spring!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Little Wag Piper

Little Grebes with a pair of Mallard (and a Moorhen hidden behind the female). Interestingly the Little Grebe on the left has moulted into summer plumage already.

Grey Wagtail by Lowthorpe Bridge, a fairly regular spot for this one this winter. They're one of my favourite birds and it's so pleasing they have been a regular sight in the area in recent years. Slight buff colouring around the neck suggests a young bird, from last summer.

Two Green Sandpipers together is pretty good in winter. This duo were probably taking a break from feeding on the drain nearby, and would probably feed around this pool were it not frozen. It's encouraging they've survived here this long.

A lovely trio of Roe Deer - a stag in the middle. I don't know much about deer but these ones look in good condition so have perhaps not suffered too much with the weather. When I took this shot I was stood in a gateway when they appeared about 10 yards along the hedgerow - of course I fumbled with the camera and they were half way across the field by then!

Ok, struggling for wildlife shots now. A big mo0o0o0ker. It almost had my camera off me. There isn't a great deal of cattle farming in the area, and as a result not a lot of grass fields - the two main block are at New Road, Harpham and between Kelk Lake and the houses in Little Kelk.

As you can see, I didn't have a lot of success with pictures this month. Not much change there then.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Herons: 3 for the price of 1

Wowser! What a corker of a weekend to open 2010 with. A personal first for the area in the form of a BITTERN, a second of LITTLE EGRET, plus a Great Crested Grebe, Merlin, Peregrine, Water Rail, 6 Woodcock, Redshank, 2 Green Sandpiper, 3 day-flying Barn Owl, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, a small flock of Siskin, and 3 Brambling.

It was a cold weekend with light north-west breeze and mostly bright sunshine. A half inch of snow on Friday night was a surprise and one which dominated the following days.

Saturday 30th January

Kelk Beck and Cattleholmes in the morning. 10 Mute Swan included the family of seven that bred last summer. Wildfowl and waders were otherwise mostly absent; 12 Mallard, 3 Little Grebe, 1 Coot, 4 Snipe and a Woodcock. Around the fields were 3 Grey Partridge, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Stock Dove, and a day flying Barn Owl. Song birds on the whole have cleared out (or died?) from the area but a few pockets of birds have stayed on; 46 Skylark, 1 Meadow Pipit, 83 Fieldfare, 1 Song Thrush, 3 Redwing, 3 Tree Sparrow, c20 Chaffinch, 42 Linnet, 3 Bullfinch, 11 Yellowhammer and 2 Reed Bunting. Best of the bunch were the 3 Brambling in the Chaffinch flock - a difficult year tick in the area - and a Merlin hunting near Cattleholmes was probably the same one seen in the same place in December. 5 Roe Deer were near Cattleholmes.

In the afternoon a walk around Green Lane, Barf Hill and Great Kelk proved fairly useful. Between Green Lane and Barf Hill were 26 Teal, 8 Lapwing, 2 Snipe, Kingfisher, 9 Yellowhammer, 4 Grey Partridge, a Buzzard (over Barf Hill), 3 Woodcock, a Redshank, 800 Woodpigeon and a Great Spotted Woodpecker (also Barf Hill). 6 Roe Deer and 9 Hare were around Gransmoor Lane. A remarkable flock of around 2000 Woodpigeon were up in the air distantly over the stud farm woods south of Burton Agnes.

Since there was a little daylight left we walked to Great Kelk to have a bit of a poke around the back of the village; 11 Red-legged Partridge, 5 Grey Partridge, Kestrel, Snipe, Barn Owl, Pied Wagtail, c50 Blackbirds in village gardens, 3 Fieldfare, 19 Redwing, 1 Tree Sparrow, and 5 Greenfinch. Not a bad haul!

Undoubtedly the surprise of the weekend, the year, and decade was a sighting of a BITTERN in a tiny patch of reeds by a small patch of water at a private site near Kelk away from public view. I thought I spotted something in the reeds from about 60-70m away but couldn't be sure. After a few minutes a Pheasant moved close by and as if by magic the reeds shuffled and for a couple of brief seconds the shape and colours of a Bittern were evident. And then it vanished behind some other vegetation and didn't come out the other side. We waited a few minutes but nothing, and there was no way I was going to get closer and risk disturbing it just for a better look. Like with the Osprey last year, the views weren't great, but - wow - what a massive buzz.

Given the cold weather this bird is likely to have arrived during January and is likely to have fled frozen habitat in northern Europe (Germany, Poland, Denmark etc). More than usual have been reported across Britain and it is not entirely unexpected for them to turn up in apparently unsuitable locations at such times. Even so. And once again - wow!

There is one 'possible' record from the early 1990s - a dog walker gave me a fairly convincing description of one flushed by their dog from the side of the beck at Harpham, also during January. But here it is, definitely on the local avifauna. No doubt it'll be another 20 years wait for another!

Sunday 31st January

Still very cold but sunny again though and extra spring in the step from yesterday's events. Around Harpham in the morning produced several Teal, 2 Red-legged Partridge, 2 Little Grebe, 5 Buzzard in the air together, 2 Kestrel, a Peregrine heading east toward Burton Agnes, a Water Rail on Lingholmes Beck, 2 Green Sandpiper also on Lingholmes Beck, 9 Black-headed Gull (often scarce in January), a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Grey Wagtail, 2 Mistle Thrush, 10 Long-tailed Tit in three small flocks - their numbers have evidently taken a hit in the cold snap, a Jay was heard in Lingholmes Plantation, 4 Tree Sparrow, 16 Goldfinch, a party of Siskin heard calling in Lingholmes. Six Hares and 3 Roe Deer were seen from Station Road.

The surprise of the day, and under normal circumstances would have been the surprise of the year, came when watching the deer cross the fields. A large white bird caught my eye in the distance toward Harpham. It was obviously not a small or large gull, the flight was all wrong. As it flew across it became apparent it was a LITTLE EGRET - only my second record for the area, the previous being in July 2007 at Kelk Lake. Eventually the bird came down on the bank of a field drain. Incredible.

Although this species is nationally increasing, becoming more regular in Yorkshire (the first breeding was lat year), they are still fairly unusual in the local region. Perhaps this one had moved away from it's usual winter area due to the weather, but it's possible it has been in the area all winter - they can be shockingly elusive for a large bright white bird.

Gembling and Brigham Quarry were the targets for the afternoon. Quiet in comparison to the rest of the weekend: 3 Grey Partridge, a Grey Heron, 70 Common Gull, 10 Fieldfare, 4 Redwing, 2 Mistle Thrush, and a flock of Tree Sparrow heard in gardens.

A diversion on the way back to take in Barf Hill, Gransmoor, and Kelk Lake produced 2 Mute Swans, a Barn Owl and 3 Long-tailed tit at Barf Hill. A flock of 165 Greylag and 16 Canada Geese were heading over Gembling.

At Kelk Lake; 7 Tufted, a Great-crested Grebe, a Kestrel, 21 Coot, 2 Woodcock, 50 Feral Pigeon, 5 Fieldfare and 4 Long-tailed Tit. 19 Hare were in fields on Harpham Moor.

Yearlist: 71 - a mighty start.