Thursday, 22 April 2010

Red Alert

Right then, April.

Migrants had started to arrive including a Blackcap, 2 Yellow Wagtails and 1 White Wagtail, though only a few Swallows so far. Once again raptors were visible with the best two being an unseasonal Peregrine and a RED KITE. Also seen were 75 Golden Plover, 3 Green Sandpiper, and a Little Owl.

Good omen for the weekend was a Little Owl seen from the car on Friday evening at Harpham on the journey. A year tick before I'd even started!

Saturday 17th April

Much the better day for birding - light wind and sunshine. Around Harpham-Lowthorpe in the morning were 4 Greylags, 1 Little Grebe, 3 Sparrowhawk, 10 Lapwing, 6 Herring Gull, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Swallow, 2 Mistle Thrush, 1 Blackcap singing, 9 Chiffchaff, 2 Willow Warbler singing, 1 Goldcrest, 2 Long-tailed Tit, 2 Coal Tit singing, 1 Tree Sparrow, and 10 Linnet.

Bird of the morning was a Peregrine, a first locally for April. This appearance even more so than the in winter poses 'where from?' questions - was this a 'local' breeding bird, perhaps from the coastal cliffs?

A good morning was followed up with a better afternoon. Immediately. Stood outside the house I picked up a large raptor flapping lazily around. It was nothing less than a RED KITE. Slowly the bird gained height and drifted north-west and after 10 minutes was gone. Although hard to tell for sure it seemd rather less 'red' than a typical adult so could well have been an immature bird, which leads one to consider it as a Wolds-born non-breeding bird wandering around - there was a post-breeding population of around 30 birds in 2009:

Gembling was the next stop after all the excitement; 1 Greylag, 2 Gadwall, 2 Grey Partridge, 1 Grey Heron, 4 Coot, 2 Oystercatcher, 3 Green Sandpiper, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 8 Sand Martin, 1 Swallow, 2 Meadow Pipit, 1 Yellow Wagtail, 1 White Wagtail (photo in previous entry), 5 Tree Sparrow, and 2 Reed Bunting. There was still quite a lot of flood water on the fields, left over from the previous autumn - receeding but could still be there into May.

Moving on to Brigham Quarry; 1 Mute Swan, 6 Gadwall, male Pochard, 4 Tufted Duck, 6 Little Grebe, 8 Coot, 12 Stock Dove, 21 Sand Martin, and 6 late Fieldfare. The most unusual sighting was a male 'green' Pheasant, not a different race as such but a genetic variant sometimes bred and released by shooting estates. I have seen odd ones locally before but this is the first noted for a while.

Not wishing to let a good day end there I took an evening walk around Green Lane and Barf Hill which turned up a few more goodies; 7 Greylags, 1 Canada Goose, 2 Shelduck, 4 Teal, 1 Red-legged Partridge, 1 Cormorant flying SW, 3 Kestrel, 2 Oystercatcher, 14 Lapwing, 2 Swallow, 3 Chiffchaff, 2 Long-tailed Tit, 19 Chaffinch together in a freshly drilled corn field, and a Bullfinch.

The large flock of Golden Plover I wrote about last month was still present but has reduced ot 75 birds (photo to follow), though that's still a respectable number. My theory/guess is that these are Scandinavian birds which have wintered in the UK and are staging here before setting off for a direct flight to their breeding grounds. Many were parading their bright summer collection wardrobe.

Sunday 18th April

Inevitable really, but Sunday was an anti-climax. The weather took a turn for the colder and I had to spend the morning shifting furniture so didn't get going until lunchtime. Along Kelk Beck were 5 Mute Swan, 1 Canada Goose, 4 Gadwall, 16 Mallard, 3 Tufted Duck, 2 Little Grebe, 1 Cormorant (flying S), 3 Grey Heron, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Buzzard, 2 Coot, 1 Curlew flying west, 30 Sand Martin, 5 Swallow, 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 Yellow Wagtail, 3 Willow Warbler, 2 Long-tailed Tit, and 2 Reed Bunting.

To complete the weekend I had another go at Harpham-Lowthorpe but it was much less active though 2 Sparrowhawk, 3 Kestrel, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gull and 5 Herring Gull, 4 more Swallow, 4 long-tailed Tit and 2 more Coal Tits were noted.

Among all this, during the weekend also were 1 bat sp, 1 Water Vole, and the first few butterflies; 5 Peacock, c25 Small tortoiseshell, 1 'white' sp.

Seven additions for the year:

088 Little Owl
089 Blackcap
090 Willow Warbler
091 Red Kite
092 Yellow Wagtail
093 Shelduck
094 Curlew

Speaking of numbers the kite is the 130th species in the last 5 years.

Addittion: Cuckoo heard in Kelk on Wednesday morning - a very early bird.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Wagtail lessons

Visit for April done and dusted. More of that later, but as a stopgap here are some wagtail photos.

To start with a sparkling male Yellow Wagtail at Gembling. This species is a summer migrant that typically arrives at the front of the first big wave of migrants. Unfortunately they have undergone a serious decline in recent decades though we still get a few pairs in the Kelk area.

Same bird agian. Crikey, just how yellow are they?

This next fella was also at Gembling - it's a White Wagtail, the continental race or subspecies of the more familiar resident Pied Wagtail. In East Yorkshire these are uncommon passage migrants mostly in Spring. Not rare but always a bonus.

Another view of the bird. Features to note; pale clean grey back and clear dividing line with the black cap, rump same colour as back, and distinct white dividing line between the bib and back. They're a fairly classic identification problem for novice birders, personally I feel they're one of those "you know when you've seen one" birds. If it doesn't quite look right it's probably Pied not White.

Here's a female Pied Wagtail for comparison; note the grey back is similar but slightly blotchy and messily extends into the cap, and there is no clear white line between the bib and back. You can't see it here but the rump is darker than the back.

More pictures and a report from the weekend to follow...

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Eagle Eye

A couple of bits of news: first a WHITE-TAILED EAGLE that was seen a Bempton and Flamborough earlier in the week had made it's way to Tophill Low this morning... Kelk lies roughly in a line between the two!

Report here:

Oh boy, that would have been a wee bit special.

More mundane, a couple of Swallows were in Kelk yesterday, including one at a farmyard looking more like a local bird than an earlier migrant moving through.

Ok, an excuse for some piccies. These three were from the last visit. First up a male Tufted Duck from Burton Agnes pond. Unlike most birds these are an easy target, they come for bread with the Mallards.

Next, a nice pair of Red-legged Partridge at Harpham. Contrary to the above picture, these birds are not at all easy birds to see well so I'm quite happy with this murky shot.

Finally this is part of the record breaking flock of 480 Golden Plover at Kelk.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Swallow not Summer

Better late than never. A quick round up of my March visit, 27th-30th. Saturday and Sunday were mostly sunny but very breezy while Monday and Tuesday were mostly wet. The highlights were an OSPREY heading north, 2 Woodcock, three Green Sandpiper, a new record count of 480 Golden Plover, the first Sand Martins and a lone Swallow, the first I've seen locally in March.

Saturday 27th March

Around Harpham were 12 Mallard, 14 Greylags, 3 Grey Heron, 2 Little grebe, 6 Moorhen, 2 Woodcock, a Green Sandpiper, 6 Stock Dove, 200+ Woodpigeon, 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Sand Martin flying purposefully north, 3 Meadow Pipit, 1 Grey Wagtail, 2 Mistle Thrush, 3 Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrest, 4 Long-tailed Tit, 1 Coal Tit, 40 Linnet, 1 Bullfinch.

One of the stranger bird sightings was a female Tufted Duck on the pond in Lowthorpe Church Wood - a new one for me!

The breeze and sunshine brought the raptors out in the late morning - once again there were at least 8 Common Buzzards, plus 4 Sparrowhawks and 4 Kestrel. Two of these buzzards circled up high to join a passing OSPREY, my second record after the first last April. What a piece of luck, I wouldn't have caught it had it not been for the buzzards.

In the late afternoon a trip around Green Lane and Barf Hill was rather productive; 12 Greylags, 2 Canada Goose, 3 Gadwall, 8 Mallard, 4 Red-legged and 2 Grey Partridge, 1 Common Buzzard over Gembling, 2 Snipe, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Barn Owl, 2 Mistle Thrush.

Surprise of the afternoon was a large flock of 480 Golden Plover on one of the fields by Green Lane. I say surprise but in fact Spring is the best time to see flocks of goldies in the area as it is unusual for birds to overwinter and they are regular but unpredictable on autumn passage. What was surprising was the number - treble figures is notable and the previous highest was around 350. The flock were still there on Tuesday though I was too distant to count them.

Sunday 28th March

Kelk Beck and Cattleholmes; 5 Mute Swan, 1 Canada Goose, 1 Gadwall, 9 Teal, 10 Mallard, 6 Tufted Duck, 2 Little Grebe, 2 Grey Heron, 1 Common Buzzard, 2 Coot, 5 Meadow Pipit, and a Reed Bunting.

A detour on the way back around Great Kelk and Green Lane landed 2 Teal on a field flood patch, 2 Oystercatcher off Green Lane, 2 Mistle Thrush, 20 Tree Sparrow in the village plus 7 in Little Kelk, 2 Bullfinch and 2 Yellowhammer.

After lunch a bike ride around Gembling and Foston was unexceptional but still, at Gembling were 1 male Wigeon, 4 Gadwall, 2 Grey Partridge, 4 Moorhen, 6 Coot, 2 Oystercatcher, 1 Green Sandpiper, 35 Starling. At Brigham Quarry 14 Gadwall, 12 Tufted Duck, 2 Little Grebe, 10 Coot and 2 Bullfinches nearby at Foston bridge.

There was still time for a sneaky peek at Kelk Lake where there was a Mute Swan, a young Cormorant on the water, 12 Coot, a very early Swallow flying around over the water, a Chiffchaff and 80 Jackdaw over the farm (a long-standing colony based there).

Monday 29th & Tuesday 30th March

My plan for a long weekend to mop up as much birding as possible hit a snag on Monday and Tuesday - awful weather. Even so it did allow me to get around a few far flung places I don't normally manage and a chance to revist a couple. Highlights as follows...

Gransmoor to Burton Agnes; 46 Greylags, 40 Mallard, 11 Tufted Duck, 2 Grey Partridge, 4 Coot, 4 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 4 Chiffchaff, 3 Goldcrest, 3 Long-tailed Tit, c50 nests in the Rookery near the railway, and a Bullfinch. The return journey via Harpham and Lowthorpe added a few birds to the weekend; 2 Red-legged Partridge, 4 Chiffchaff, 1 Tree Sparrow and 14 Yellowhammer.

In the afternoon rain I battled around the backroads around Nafferton and Wansford, mainly to take a distant look at the heronry. Not a lot to see but there were at least 15 nests visible and 11 herons around the wood. Other birds were 1 Black-headed Gull and 7 Reed Buntings together around a manure heap near Cattleholmes.

On Tuesday a return trip to Gembling and Brigham Quarry added a few birds. At Gembling 2 Tufted Duck, 1 Cormorant, 3 Grey Heron, 1 Common Buzzard, 6 Redwing, 1 Bullfinch, and 1 Reed Bunting. At Brigham Quarry a Mute Swan, 2 Greylags, 2 Teal, 7 Little Grebe, 3 Oystercatcher, and 2 Sand Martins whizzing around.

Final throw of the dice was another attempt at Lowthorpe-Harpham but it rained most of the time and we got soaked. 2 Grey partridge, a Cormorant heading NE, a Grey Heron... was about yer lot. Bah.

A few other odds and sods to note.

1. Lapwings: perhaps they are late back on territory this year but it was noticeable how few there were - 16 'pairs' seen is around half expected.

2. Gulls: not many about though the first Lesser Black-backs were drifting through, 8 in total. Herring Gulls were also moving though, 18 in total. Common and Black-headed Gulls were virtually absent with only 8 and 1 respectively until I encountered a single flock of 120 Common and 4 Black-headed in Little Kelk right at the last bell on Tuesday.

3. Non-birds: plenty of Hares across the area plus 3 sightings of single Roe Deer. As seen in the pictures from the previous post we found a mass of frog spawn at Lowthorpe and a few toads were noted and several were road kill following the rain. Just two butterflies noted, both Small Tortoiseshell, one each at Lingholmes and Great Kelk.

Yearlist additions, in order of appearance (all were on Saturday!)

081 Sand Martin
082 Osprey
083 Lesser Black-backed Gull
084 Chiffchaff
085 Golden Plover
086 Oystercatcher
087 Swallow

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Love is in the air

Spring arrived last week, and then duly stormed off again. I was in Kelk for four days and will post a summary soon as I'm not so busy. In the meantime here are some pictures of horny amphibians, a hare, and some wood/heath to be getting on with.

Two amorous toads, for those who like the larger lady. And why not. This embracing couple were by Kelk Beck. Lord knows how far she'd had to carry the randy little sod!

If warty toads aren't your thing then how about some smooth frog love action? This motley crew were in my Dad's tiny garden pond (approx 6x6 ft). They've been coming back every year for the best part of two decades now.

And this is what happens when frogs don't practice safe sex. Thousands and thousands of not-yet-frog blobs. These were in a pond at Lowthorpe.

Right then, enough sexytime. Here's a lone Mad March Hare.

Ok, here's some curious former woodland near Gransmoor. It has the appearance of lowland heathland. It's at the edge of my area and I haven't been paying it much attention but it looks like just the spot for something unusual - maybe a passing Woodlark or Tree Pipit?