Monday, 30 May 2011

Missing you already

Something a bit different. A recent conversation got me thinking about birds that have gone awol this year. The harsh winter had a definite impact on a number of species but it's not always obvious straight away what the effect is since some birds just move on. However this winter many had nowhere to move on to. Here's a quick summary of my thoughts:

Wildfowl, Waders and other water birds:
Most waterbirds simply moved on but generally there's been little obvious impact. That said I'm missing Shoveler for the year list though they are quite scarce and unreliable in their appearance locally. No sign of Great Crested Grebe either, though the poor form of Kelk Lake is the obvious reason. More inexplicable is the complete absence of Cormorant. Very odd indeed. As for waders the number of Lapwing is down with c40 birds in April and May. Snipe have been very hard to come by - just 4 records - but I think we will have to wait until autumn to get a better idea of the extent of any losses. No records of Redshank yet but Spring passage never produces many, autumn and winter are better.

Raptors and Owls:
No apparent impact. I am yet to see a Peregrine this year but it's doubtful that has anything to do with the freeze. Barn Owls seem to have clung on though a few have clearly gone missing. Hopefully a decent summer with good productivity can go some way to restore numbers. Other owls seem ok though they're so hard to locate it's tricky to be sure.

Few were using the area during the worst of the weather and it's been a slow spring but again I doubt that's due to the freeze.

Near Passerines (pigeons, kingfisher, woodpeckers):
Kingfisher is the biggest worry in freezing weather - they can find themselves with nowhere to go. Fortunately there have been three sightings so there's reason to be cheerful. Pigeons are as numerous as ever and Great Spotted Woodpeckers are as they were.

Selected Passerines:
Skylark - plenty singing around Kelk Beck and Harpham where you would expect them. Meadow Pipt - only one record of two birds in March, which is a very poor showing. Grey Wagtail - just one record, earlier in May, a relief but unprecedented in recent years to wait so long for the first of the year. Wren - while I haven't been counting the impression is there are significant losses. Blackbird - gardens seem to have theirs, a sure sign human intervention in terms of feeding is a life-saver, but away from there the woods and hedgerows seem emptier than usual. A good summer should sort that out. Tits - Blue and Great Tits emptied out of the woods and into gardens and the return has not been as strong. Long-tailed Tits are only marginally down. Finches - the garden feeding finches such as Goldfinch and Greenfinch appear ok but Linnet flocks are much reduced with only two counts over 40 so far. No sightings of Siskin or Brambling in the winter, they will be very welcome year ticks in late autumn.

Monday, 23 May 2011


3 COMMON CRANES were apparently seen in fields to the west of Kelk Beck on Sunday.

They're not a species I've yet encountered in the area but if I were drawing up a list of possible new birds they'd be on it. In East Yorkshire they're occasionally noted in ones and twos, indeed there have been several this year. Perhaps the biggest challenge is that they tend to be seen only in flight and less often on the ground so it's very much a case of right place right time.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Room 101

While April gets the juices going with new arrivals I prefer May. There are still birds arriving but everything is in full swing, the spring greenery turns lush, and there's always a hint of unpredictability. Unusual birds might just turn up.

Well it wasn't quite to be but finding a Grasshopper Warbler will do me. Supporting cast of Marsh Harrier and Hobby make it alright.

Friday 13th May

With long daylight hours I was able to squeeze in a couple of hours on Friday evening around Little Kelk. Among the birds seen were 31 Greylags, 2 Tufted Duck, 2 Grey Partridge, 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Little Ringed Plover, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Kingfisher, 1 Cuckoo, 19 Pied and 2 Yellow Wagtails feeding in the pasture, 1 Reed Warbler.

A couple of toads were walking across the wet road at dusk.

Saturday 14th May

Morning walk around Lowthorpe-Harpham produced: 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Buzzard, 2 Kestrel, 26 Lapwing, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 3 Herring Gull, 20 Stock Dove, 60+ Swift, 1 Kingfisher, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 20+ Sand Martin, 18+ House Martin, plenty of Swallows, 1 Sedge Warbler, several Blackcap, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Common Whitethroat, several Chiffchaff, 2 Willow Warbler, and 48 Linnet.

There would no doubt have been more warblers singing had it not been for the fairly strong wind keeping everything in the undergrowth.

Afternoon cycle around Gembling-Foston produced: 26 Greylags, 2 Canada Goose, 1 Gadwall, 4 Grey Partridge, 3 Little Grebe, 4 Grey Heron, a female Marsh Harrier at Brigham Quarry (photo below), 1 Oystercatcher, 1 Common Sandpiper, 30+ Sand Martin, 3 Yellow Wagtail, female Wheatear at Gembling (possibly a 'Greenland' type), 1 Sedge Warbler, 3 Common Whitethroat, and a Tree Sparrow.

In the evening I took a look around Little Kelk again and found: 4 Grey Partridge, 1 Oystercatcher, 2 Little Ringed Plover (same as Friday), 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 40+ Sand Martin near Gransmoor Quarry (presumably still nesting there?), 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 8 Common Whitethroat, and 150+ Corvid feeding in a fresh cut silage field.

Sunday 15th May

Morning walk along Kelk Beck and around Great Kelk showed up: 4 Greylags, 4 Canada Goose, 4 Gadwall, 9 Tufted Duck, 2 Grey Partridge, 1 Little Grebe, female Marsh Harrier (same as Saturday), 1 Hobby briefly, 14 Lapwing, 2 Black-headed Gulls (scarce in May!!), 2 Herring Gull, 3 Yellow Wagtail, 6 Sedge Warbler, 1 Grasshopper Warbler, 5 Blackcap, 3 Lesser Whitethroat, 6 Common Whitethroat, and 2 Reed Bunting.

A second lacklustre attempt at Harpham in the afternoon didn't see many new birds except 1 Mute Swan, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Kestrel, 1 Little Grebe, and a male Grey Wagtail at New Road - a long awaited year tick!

Despite the wind a few butterflies were noted over the weekend

'Whites' - 36
Orange Tip - 15
Red Admiral - 5
Wall - 2
Small Copper - 2
Speckled Wood - 1

Some photos. I put a photo of a single Stock Dove up last month but couldn't resist this one of a pair at Harpham. Just lovely.

A pair of Yellow Wagtails at Foston, neatly showing the difference between male (left) and female. Birds were seen at six sites over the weekend, an encouraging number.

Little waders can be a nightmare for the uninitiated. Small and brown and usually a long way away. If you squint you can make out a Common Sandpiper. Those colours aren't an accident.

Oh no, more tiny waders. These are the two Little Ringed Plovers at Little Kelk - the yellow eye ring is diagnostic in separating them from the slightly larger Ringed Plover.

Saving the worst of the best till last. Undoubtedly the most hopeless picture of a Marsh Harrier you'll see this spring. But it's still a photo of one. And I'm chuffed with it even if no one else is.


The year list is a 'ton up', actually 101. Additions were:

094 - Swift
095 - Reed Warbler
096 - Garden Warbler
097 - Common Sandpiper
098 - Marsh Harrier
099 - Hobby
100 - Grasshopper Warbler
101 - Grey Wagtail

And that's it. June and July will be slow for birds but plenty of butterflies and there should be some drangonflies to look at.

Ah, Grasshopper

Despite battling the wind all weekend I have reached the 100 species milestone for the year. One more in fact. Highlights were a Marsh Harrier, a Hobby, 2 Little Ringed Plover (presumed same as in April), 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Cuckoo, 1 Grasshopper Warbler, 1 Garden Warbler.

The Grasshopper Warbler was the personal highlight despite, typically, not being seen. Just a few bursts of song in the morning.

Enough. A few non-birdy photos for amusement before I get the rest of the details ready.

Not an everyday sight - a steam engine. This one is owned by a local steam enthusiast. Occasionally they get them out in the fields in autumn to do a bit of ploughing, which involves one engine at each side of the field pulling the plough on a wire back and forth.

An Orange Tip butterfly. Damn difficult things to photo, or at least for someone with my pitiful patience. When they do rest they usually do so with closed wings. Double bonus!

Small Copper walking on bird poo. Erm. Delightful little butterflies, and not at all common locally. This one was in a spot I've never seen them in before near the houses in Little Kelk.

Not the most popular farmland mammal but aaah you have to admire their cuteness. These two were happily hopping around in a gateway at Foston.


More later...