Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Summer? Autumn? Impossible to tell with this weather

Funny weekend that. Friday was all about the rain, then I got sunburned on Saturday, then blown about by the wind on Sunday. But anyway... not a great deal going on, lots of families of birds around and early flocking among some species. No real scarce birds but Marsh Harrier, Hobby were seen again and Greenshank was added to the yearlist.

Friday 26th August

It stayed dry until late morning then belted it down until after dark. Luckily I managed to get one walk, though still got a soaking on the way home.

Kelk Beck: 16 Gadwall, 11 Mallard, 9 Teal, 4 Grey Partridge, 1 Cormorant, 1 juv Heron, 230 Golden Plover, 120 Lapwing, 2 Snipe, 4 Green Sandpiper, 1 Swift (flying south), 2 Kingfisher, 1 Yellow Wagtail, 3+ Sedge Warbler, several Blackcap, 12 Goldfinch, and 50 Linnet. Also a Water Vole briefly.

A family of four Marsh Harriers (male, female, 2 juveniles) were hunting the general area - perhaps they have bred nearby. More remarkably was a flock of 12 Greenshank that flew north along the beck. Suffice to say this is a record count for the area. But... to where were they headed? From where?

Saturday 27th August

A much better day weather-wise, but a comparatively slower day for birds.

Lowthorpe/Harpham: 4 Sparrowhawk, 1 Buzzard, 2 Hobby (possibly adult and juvenile but view too brief), 3 Green Sandpiper, 4 Stock Dove, 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 3 Yellow Wagtail, 1 Grey Wagtail, several Blackcap and Chiffchaff, 1 party of Willow Warbler, 8+ Goldcrest, 40+ Goldfinch. Also a Grey Squirrel was noted. Butterfly numbers were low due to cool cloud; 19 'whites', 3 Peacock, 1 Red Admiral, 7 Small Tortoiseshell, 2 Speckled Wood, 1 Small Copper.

Gembling/Foston: 4 Mallard, 2 Little Grebe, 2 Grey Heron, 1 Sparrowhawk, 3 Marsh Harrier (same as yestreday), 2 Kestrel, 5 Coot, 1 Little Owl, 1 Whitethroat, 110 Linnet at Foston Bridge, 410 Starling in one flock.

Green Lane / Barf Hill: 1 Red-legged Partridge, 17 Grey Partridge, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Buzzard, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, and 41 Pied Wagtails on the pasture.

Finally at dusk; 3 Mute Swan, 1 Hobby, 1 Coot, 1 Reed Warbler all at Kelk Lake. 800 Corvids flew to roost. A half hour watch for gulls moving east to roost was disappointing - a mere 900 birds. Consider that approx 2500 were loafing on a field at lunchtime. Maybe the conditions weren't quite right, or maybe most of them had already moved through. Either way I sense I still have a lot to learn about them. Bigger gulls were few and far between over the weekend; 26 Herring and 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Sunday 28th August

Wind took over from sunshine or rain today. Not great conditions for farmland birding. But needs must...

Lowthorpe/Harpham: 32 Mallard flying over, 6 Red-legged Partridge, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Hobby, 3 Buzzard, 1 juvenile Kestrel, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 90+ House Martin (an excellent local count), 3 Meadow Pipit (first ones since spring), and 1 Bullfinch.

Millingdale/Cattleholmes: 16 Mallard, 1 Marsh Harrier, 2 Yellow Wagtail, 8 Stock Dove.

Gransmoore Lane/Green Lane: 1 Buzzard, 1 Marsh Harrier, 17 Grey Partridge, 150+ Starling, 300+ Corvid.

Now for some photos...

Common Gulls are the most numerous species visiting the area, especially in autumn when vast flocks feeding on the Wolds move to roost in Bridlington Bay. Later in autumn the birds shift to roosting at Tophill Low and so their route doesn't pass over Kelk. That said, large flocks can be encountered anywhere in flocks from now until early Spring, especially during ploughing.

Red-legged Partridges at Harpham - presumably a family party. They have been quite scarce this year, only being noted at two sites. This track has been a regular place to see them recently.

A flock of over 400 Starlings on wires at Foston. At one stage they all got up together, circled, then landed back on the wires. When they did they whole length between poles bounced up and down.

Juvenile Swallows on wires at Lowthorpe. In a month they'll have headed off to Africa. If we didn't already know this through scientific study it would utterly defy belief.

Finally a Crow doing what Crows do best - looking evil and suspicious.

And so that's yer lot. One addition to the year list with Greenshank. A Red Kite was reported to me seen in Kelk a week ago, so that's now 108 now.

107 Red Kite
108 Greenshank

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Odd gulls

Summary for last weekend. I had a couple of extra days to play with so it was actually Thursday to Sunday. The weather was variable between heavy cloud (no rain) and burning sunshine with light breeze swinging between northerly to southerly. Harvest had started with most barley already in and oilseed dessicated but not yet harversted.

Thursday 28th July

Harpham/Lowthorpe: very quiet. 1 Little Grebe, 4 Buzzard, 1 Green Sandpiper, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 4 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 40+ Swift, plenty of warblers including singing Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff plus a Sedge Warbler at New Road. 1 Bullfinch at Lowthorpe.

Gembling/Foston: 2 Canada Goose, 1 Kestrel, 2 Grey Partridge, 1 juv Grey Heron, 1 Hobby at Foston, 1 Oystercatcher, 2 Herring Gull, 1 Spotted Flycatcher at Foston Mill.

Little Kelk: pair of Mute Swan with a cygnet at Kelk Lake, adult Cormorant, 3 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 50+ Lapwing, very few gulls moving to roost.

This is one of the Buzzards seen on Thursday. Birds of prey carefully stage their wing moult so they are always capable of hunting but this adult seems to have gone rather full-on!

Friday 29th July

Just a short walk in the morning.

Kelk Beck: 17 Mallard, 7 Lapwing, 1 Kestrel, 2 Grey Partridge, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Kingfisher, several Skylark, 5 Yellow Wagtail (2+ juveniles), 8 Pied Wagtail, adult and juvenile Lesser Whitethroat, family party of Common Whitethroat, and a flock of 90+ Linnet. A Water Vole gave reasonable views but not long enough to get 'papped'.

Saturday 30th July

Harpham: 6 Sparrowhawk in the air together (presumably some were juveniles?), 4 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 1 Hobby buzzing the Buzzards, 3 Herring Gull, 70+ Feral Pigeon, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker. A water vole briefly appeared at New Road.

A juvenile Peregrine flew through New Road causing an almighty fuss among the crows. Where it had come from one can only guess but it's the earliest I've seen one locally and surely must be a local post-breeding dispersal rather than a migrant.

Gembling/Foston: 6 Little Grebe, 1 juv Grey Heron, 10 Coot including young, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 9 Stock Dove, 13 Tree Sparrow, 1 Bullfinch.

Green Lane/Barf Hill: 56 Greylag Goose, 3 juvenile Grey Heron heading over (photo below), 1 Kestrel carrying food, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker at Barf Hill, c60 Sand Martin holes at Gransmoor Quarry (photo below), 2 Yellow Wagtail, 1 Mistle Thrush, 26+ Long-tailed Tit on Green Lane plus another family party at Barf Hill, a whopping 48 Tree Sparrow on Gransmoor Lane, 1 Bullfinch and a singing Corn Bunting. The latter is only the second of the year, and possible the same individual as the first.

An hour looking for the gull roost flight produced c420 small gulls, mostly Common, which is typical for the time of year. Also 2 Grey Partridge and 2 Yellow Wagtail. No sight nor sound of any Quail.

Believe it or not the photo below is the singing Corn Bunting. You'll just have to trust me ;-)

Three juvenile herons going about their business together. Evocative is the word you're looking for.

Sand Martin colony at Gransmoor Quarry. Normally the nesting banks are hidden from the road so this is unusual. I suspect there might be more holes out of view but it looks like about 60 holes here.

Sunday 31st July

Harpham: 14 Grey Partridge (3 adults, 11 young), 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 3 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 20+ Long-tailed Tit, 1 Bullfinch.

Kelk Beck: female Tufted Duck, 1 juv Grey Heron, 1 Marsh Harrier (see previous post here), 1 Sparrowhwak, 2 Coot, 18 Golden Plover - nice and early for them, 26 Lapwing, and 16 Goldfinch.

The field south of Millingdale was being cultivated and hundreds of gulls were in attendance. What was surprising was the number of large gulls present and this demanded a closer look. There were c700 gulls present with approx 450 Common and 50 Black-headed, 160+ Herring Gull, 17 Lesser Black-backed Gull and amazingly 2 Yellow-legged Gull (adult and 4cy).

Although large gulls are regularly seen flying over in summer it is exceptional to see large numbers and they don't tend to gather on cultivated fields in this way. Seventeen is a very high count for Lesser Black-backed Gull locally and 160+ Herring Gull is a new record count. Perhaps the Yellow-legged Gulls offer a clue - these two are only the 3rd and 4th I have seen locally, so presumably there is a post-breeding movement occuring at the moment. When coming and going birds were mostly heading east. This is also unsual since large gulls tend to move south-west during afternoons.

Photo below is a Yellow Wagtail. This pair both have a preference for perching trees. Most other Yellow Wagtails seem to spend little or no time doing this. Odd.

So that's it. The year list goes up three to 106.

104 Spotted Flycatcher
105 Peregrine
106 Yellow-legged Gull

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Argus Catalogue

Killing time while putting together my bird notes. Butterflies are easier and quicker to account for. Apart from the whites there was a general lack in numbers but a reasonable spread of species, summarised as:

Small Skipper - 2
White sp.  - 160+
Small Copper - 1
Brown Argus - 4
Holly Blue - 1
Red Admiral - 23
Small Tortoiseshell - 8
Peacock - 16
Speckled Wood - 8
Wall - 1
Meadow Brown - 13
Ringlet - 7

First up, a fine Brown Argus by Kelk Beck. I had never seen one before last August so discovering one at another site was a surprise. They are expanding their range in Yorkshire so presumably more should follow.

Below is the same individual showing the pretty underwing pattern.

A Small Skipper at Harpham. Easily confused as a moth on first glance, even in flight.

Holly Blue on ivy in Kelk. I only see odd ones in the area but they've been around since the 90s.

Definitely not a butterfly, this one. Twelve Hares had been forced out into the open in this cut grass field. This one let me approach closer than usual.

Birds up next...

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Raptorial summer delights

Blimey, is it really eight weeks?

July can be hard work birdwatching - breeding activity has died down and the crops and general undergrowth hide so much. Last weekend was typical with seemingly little on show. On reflection it was actually pretty good. Highlights were a male Marsh Harrier, 2 Hobby, juvenile Peregrine, 2 Yellow-legged Gulls, Spotted Flycatcher, and a singing Corn Bunting. Also a nice supporting cast of butterflies including Small Copper and Brown Argus.

Six species of raptor in any weekend is good, in July it's a wee bit special. I even managed a few distant record shots of the harrier.

Adult males are the easiest to identify, having a brown body, silver wings with black primaries.

The bird was slowly quartering it's way around field edges near Kelk Beck late afternoon Sunday.

Occasionally the bird would adopt a hovering pose but they don't really do much of that, it's more a 'pause' than anything.

Twenty years ago Marsh Harriers were more likely to be seen locally than Buzzard, but now the latter is the easiest of all raptors to see. If you saw the bird below in silhouette you should immediately think 'harrier' - Buzzards are rarely seen flying low down around here.

One last view - more typical quartering flight, low along a field drain or rough patch. 

Report on the rest of the weekend later...