Saturday, 31 March 2012


Hard to believe I'm sitting here with the heating on when a week ago I was roasting in the sunshine. But that's spring for you. Which brings me to, er, last weekend.

Highlights: Red Kite, Merlin, 2 Shoveler, 1 Redshank, 3 Sand Martin, and bazillions of singing Chiffchaffs. Two Woodcock were something of a surprise.

Saturday 24th March

Harpham - Lowthorpe: a foggy start but a fair bit to be seen with 18 Greylags, 6 Mallard, 2 Grey Partridge, Sparrowhawk, 2 Buzzard, 40+ Lapwing, 1 Woodcock, 4 Great Spotted Woodpecker including one drumming relentlessly, 1 Grey Wagtail, 9 Fieldfare, 14 Redwing - at least one in full song, 10 Chiffchaff singing, 4 Long-tailed Tit, 1 Coal Tit and 1 Bullfinch.

Also seen were 2 Small Tortoiseshell, 3 Squirrel, 1 Roe Deer and best of all a Stoat which ran along the the opposite edge of the beck to me, confiding enough for a photo opportunity - nice!

Gembling - Foston - Millingdale: the herd of Mute Swans at Wansford I mentioned in the last couple of months has grown further, now 42. I'm told these will mostly be young non-breeding birds which have the summer to do nothing much except perhaps form their lifelong partnerships. Other birds were 8 Greylags, 8 Teal, 2 Shoveler - very pleasing after missing out last year, 6 Tufted Duck, 4 Little Grebe, 11 Grey Heron around the heronry, 3 Buzzard, 9 Coot, 12 Lapwing displaying, 1 Redshank - another one I missed in 2011 and it was stood next to the Shovelers, and 8 Tree Sparrow.

At Kelk Lake toward dusk were 4 Greylags, 1 Teal, 7 Tufted Duck and 2 singing Chiffchaff.

Sunday 25th March

An even fogggier start.

Kelk Beck-Gransmoor Lane: 1 Mute Swan, 4 Greylags, 1 Shelduck, 15 Teal, 8 Mallard, 2 Tufted Duck, 3 Red-legged and 6 Grey Partridge, 1 Sparrowhawk, 9 Buzzard, 2 Kestrel, 3 Coot, 22 Lapwing, 1 Woodcock flushed from a hedgerow, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 16 Herring Gull, 3 Sand Martin at Gransmoor Quarry, 3 Meadow Pipit, 40 Fieldfare, 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Tree Sparrow, 12 Linnet, 6 Reed Bunting,

A quick repeat trip to Harpham found us looking at the Red Kite and Merlin 'identified' in the last blog post. Also noted were a Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Grey Wagtail, 14 Pied Wagtail, and 2 Chiffchaff. A couple more butterflies logged in for the year - a Peacock and a Comma.

Now, some photos.

Stoat by the beck at Harpham. Just seeing one is good, getting a photo felt like I was pushing my luck.

A pair of Moorhens being a bit lovey-dovey. Aww. This was taken from the bridge at Lowthorpe which is probably the easiest place in the area to see them.

Next up is a pair of Pied Wagtails together by the beck at Harpham. The male has the blacker back while the female looks rather less tidy.

Female Pied Wagtail.

Comma at Harpham. Always a welcome sight as they're quite unpredicatable in the area.

Here's hoping the spring continues in this manner, though some water wouldn't go amiss. A whopping 10 species were added to the year list including a Little Owl that my brother had seen earlier that week.

075 Little Owl
076 Chiffchaff
077 Oystercatcher
078 Shoveler
079 Redshank
080 Sand Martin
081 Shelduck
082 Lesser Black-backed Gull
083 Red Kite
084 Merlin

Monday, 26 March 2012

A Tale of Two Identities

Summer is here and I have a slightly pinkened forehead to prove it. Must remember to buy some new sunblock!

Just a side note today... proper write up later. The first migrants are back with at least 13 Chiffchaff heard over the weekend and 3 Sand Martins around Gransmoor Quarry.

They weren't the best birds of the weekend, though. That accolade falls to the Red Kite drifting north west and to the fine female Merlin near Harpham. In both cases I spectacularly misidentified them before realising what I was looking at - it struck me as rather amusing so here goes...

Tale 1 - Red Kite

A Common Buzzard appeared, circling in the warm afternoon air on Sunday. I'm so used to seeing them now that a second glance is rarely needed though they're such a joy to watch I often track them for a while. In this case I was stood in the middle of the road and a car came along so had to move sharpish. The car pulled to a halt, it was someone we knew. In the middle of last week, the driver told us, a bird much like a kite had drifted overhead while he was working outside. Very possible, said we, pondering the description of a large bird of prey with a forked red tail.

Anyway, when we'd said goodbye I returned to looking at the buzzard only to find it had morphed into a Red Kite. Eh? Unpossible. So the lesson is - beware buzzards becoming common, for you may be fooled into not looking at them. In my defence, it was quite distant at first and the light was not... oh who am I kidding :)

Tale 2 - Merlin

This one is even worse, though again I got there in the end. We were walking back from Harpham and I was looking at a Kestrel perched on a fence post. The light was perfect and the rufous tones were positively on fire. Beautiful. Further in the distance was a Stock Dove perched in a lone tree. Having helpfully pointed it out it suddenly occured to me this was not a dove at all. It looked more like a falcon the way it was perched. Certainly not a Kestrel as it was too dark. Not a Peregrine, too small. Sparrowhawk? Definitely not.

I was stumped for a moment, a moment during which it suddently took flight. Merlin! Doh! I'm not even sure what the lesson is here other than look at everything again. And then once more.

Finally, something rather more serious. The water levels are so low it's making me fearful for the summer. I've never seen the beck so low at this time of year, but I realise I've been saying that all winter. The photo below is at Lowthorpe bridge - surely it can't dry out?

Edit: this story on the BBC (28/03/12) notes "rainfall figures suggested the Hull and Don catchment areas had had the second driest year on record since 1910"

Saturday, 10 March 2012


Sharp-eyed readers may have noticed a lack of February action here. Well, I did make a visit but I've had so little spare time I'd kinda forgotten to write it up. But here we are!

Highlights: 190 Pink-footed Goose, 7 Goldeneye, Peregrine, Water Rail, Green Sandpiper, and a very large flock of 85 Yellowhammer.

Saturday 18th February

Harpham-Lowthorpe: 190 Pink-footed Geese flew north, 10 Greylags, 2 Grey Partridge, 4 Buzzard, 2 Kestrel, a Peregrine took a swipe at a Lapwing flock (90), a Water Rail in a small ditch at Lowthorpe, Green Sandpiper in one of the regular winter spots, 50+ Herring Gulls over, 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Goldcrest, a large flock of Long-tailed Tit. And a Grey Squirrel.

Little Kelk: 3 Teal, 2 Grey Partridge, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 60 Lapwing, 1 Woodcock, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 90 Fieldfare, 60 Linnet, and 85 Yellowhammer - the largest flock noted locally in the last 5 years. This and the Linnet flock have been around all winter on what must be a seed filled stubble field.

Kelk Lake: 8 Gadwall, 9 Mallard, 11 Pochard, 41 Tufted Duck, 7 Goldeneye, 2 Little Grebe, 8 Coot, 1 Woodcock. A very impressive showing compared to recent times.

Sunday 19th February

Kelk Beck: 2 Mute Swan, 10 Greylag Goose, 14 Teal, 30 Mallard, 2 Red-legged Partridge, 8 Grey Partridge, 8 Grey Heron, 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 30 Lapwing, 8 Stock Dove, 12 Skylark, 1 Fieldfare. Also noted were 10 Roe Deer - a most impressive count!

Gembling-Foston: 8 Greylags, 1 Wigeon, 17 Teal, 20 Mallard, 2 Little Grebe, 3 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 6 Coot, 120 Lapwing, and a Mistle Thrush. The herd of Mute Swans at Wansford had grown to 37 - I haven't been studying these birds but I wonder, what is the typical winter peak?

Obligatory photos...

Fieldfare flock all in one ash tree on Gransmoor Lane.

Mad Feb Hare. There doesn't seem to be as many as in recent years but they're still common.

Kelk Beck looking fine in late winter. This is from the footpath upstream of the bridge. 

Roe Deer are fairly common but it's unusual to see more than three or four together. Lovely.

Last but not least a pair of Goldeneye at Kelk Lake. They're one of my favourite ducks, and although regular it's usually the odd female with the males only occasional.

There were 5 additions to the yearlist bringing the total after two visits to 74.

070 Pink-footed Goose
071 Peregrine
072 Water Rail
073 Green Sandpiper
074 Goldeneye

All things being equal I should have the March report before summer arrives. Ahem.