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.