Tuesday, 20 September 2011


If you blink in September, as a birder, you miss the action. This weekend had that feel to it but with only two days to play with I had to grin and bear it. Ultimately however there was scant evidence of migrants but a couple of Hobbies, a Marsh Harrier, Spotted Flycatcher, and Corn Bunting were some reward. Two Swifts represent a late sighting and - hence the title - a new record area count of 11 Common Buzzards reflects their continuing success locally.

Saturday 17th September

Morning walk around Harpham and Lowthorpe: 17 Mallard, 11 Conmon Buzzard, 3 Sparrowhawk, 3 Kestrel, 2 Hobby, 3 Red-legged Partridge, 34 Herring Gull, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, lots of small gulls, 2 Swift, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, several Skylark, 3 Meadow Pipit, 1 Yellow Wagtail, plenty of Chiffchaff including 2 singing, several Willow Warbler, 1 Blackcap, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Coal Tit, 3 parties of Long-tailed Tit, 4 Siskin flew south, 38 goldfinch, 1 Bullfinch, 4 Yellowhammer.

Butterflies were out in the sheltered sunshine in small numbers; 16 Whites, 11 Small Tortoiseshell, 8 Red Admiral, 6 Speckled Wood. Also 6 Hawkers, presumably Migrant Hawker. A young Roe Deer was on its own in Lowthorpe Church wood and a small/young dead Grass Snake was by the roadside in Kelk.

Below is the Spotted flycatcher busy feeding in the shelter of Lowthorpe churchyard. I had one here last September as well as in previous years. Perfect habitat, but curiously no sign of them in mid-summer.

Many people struggle with Hobby identification - not least because they're tricky to study and become familiar with. In silhouette the shape is distinctive - thin rakish wings and a relatively short tail (cf Kestrel). In hunting flight their wings often appear pulled back and scythe or anchor like. Although you can't make it out from the photo this one is a juvenile - quite possibly raised locally. I'm just chuffed to get a photo at all!!

Fairly brief afternoon dash around Gembling and Foston followed by a dusk walk around Green Lane: 2 Mute Swan, 9 Teal, 24 Mallard, 2 Tufted Duck, 5 Red-legged Partridge, 2 Grey Partridge, 6 Little Grebe, 5 Grey Heron, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Kestrel, 3 Coot, 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 Tree Sparrow. Also noted a fox by Gransmoor Drain and a couple of bats hawking along hedgerows.

Wiley old fox, taken in fading light hence the blurry quality.

Sunday 18th September

Morning walk along Kelk Beck: 2 Mute Swan, 2 Greylag Goose, 50 Mallard, 34 Teal, 2 Common Buzzard, juvenile Marsh Harrier, 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrel, 280 Lapwing in two flocks, 2 Green Sandpiper, 2 Herring Gull, 2000+ small gulls, 1 Kingfisher, 5+ Skylark, 2 Meadow Pipit, 35+ Tree Sparrow, 53 Goldfinch (a very high count locally) and 20+ Linnet.

As yesterday small numbers of butterflies were out and about - 16 Small Tortoiseshell, 11 Whites, 5 Red Admiral, 3 Speckled Wood. A single Migrant Hawker was along Lynesykes.

Afternoon ride around Millingdale/Cattleholmes and Kelk Lake/Gransmoor: 2 Mute Swan, 10 Mallard, 9 Grey Partridge, 2 Common Buzzard, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Kestrel, 2 Coot, 50+ Lapwing, 8 Golden Plover, 5 Great Black-backed Gulls (adults at Gransmoor), 1 Little Owl (Millingdale), 120+ House Sparrow (50+ Kelk, 30+ Millingdale, 40+ Gransmoor), 160+ Linnet (Millingdale), and a Corn Bunting at Cattleholmes.

Juvenile Grey Herons were evident all weekend, perhaps a sign of a good breeding season. The adults, typically, were nowhere to be seen.

Of the three regular big gulls the Great Black-backed is the least encountered around Kelk. Mostly seen in winter a typical sighting would be a few individuals moving south-west in strong winds accompanying Herring Gulls perhaps to the roost at Tophill Low or even further crossing the Wolds to the Lower Derwent. What one doesn't expect is to see several on the ground together. This freshly drilled field at Gransmoor hosted five of the brutes.

Despite the lack of classic autumn birds it will come thick and fast from now on. Next month only stragglers from summer will be left and winter thrushes arriving en masse. Brrr!

The only year-tick of the weekend was the migrating Siskin. Still a way to go compared to the last couple of years.

109 Siskin