Tuesday, 28 May 2013


Review for t'other weekend... I nearly forgot (excuses excuses).

Saturday 18th May

Harpham-Lowthorpe: 2 Red-legged Partridge, 1 Grey Partridge, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Common Buzzard, 10 Lapwing (looks like a poor spring locally), 8 Lesser Black-backed and 35 Herring Gulls, 6 Stock Dove, 1 Cuckoo, 120+ Swift, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 20+ House Martin, 'not many' Swallows, 1 Meadow Pipit, 4 Sedge Warbler, 1 Garden Warbler, 3 Whitethroat, 4 Bullfinch, and 1 Corn Bunting.

Kelk: 3 Shelduck, 2 Grey Partridge, 2 Sparrowhawk, 2 Oystercatcher, 10 Lapwing, 1 Cuckoo, 1 Barn Owl, 1 Tawny Owl, 4 Yellow Wagtail (including the Blue-headed bird reported in the previous post), 2 Reed Warbler, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Whitethroat.

Sunday 19th May

Gembling/Foston: 4 Mute Swan, 11 Greylags, 2 Gadwall, 2 Tufted Duck, 4 Little Grebe, 2 Heron, 1 Kestrel, 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Reed Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 5 Whitethroat.

Kelk Beck: 6 Gadwall, 2 Teal (unseasonal), 20+ Mallard, 6 Tufted Duck, 4 Grey Partridge, 3 Common Buzzard, 1 Hobby, 1 Cuckoo, 1 Meadow Pipit, 2 Yellow Wagtail, 10 Sedge Warbler, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 14 Whitethroat, 2 Corn Bunting singing.

Harpham, late afternoon: female Marsh Harrier, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Buzzard, 4 Lesser Black-backed and 90+ Herring Gull (following cultivation), 90+ Swift, 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, and 1 Goldcrest.

A very poor weekend for butterflies although the sunshine on Sunday did bring a few out: 1 Brimstone, 2 Orange Tip, 6 Peacock, 7 Small Tortoiseshell, 1 Speckled Wood, 18 'whites'.

For once I managed a few half-just-about-nearly-ok photos. First up the Marsh Harrier heading north from Kelk toward Harpham. Always a pleasure to see one of these beauties.

One of the Sedge Warblers along Kelk Beck. Numbers have been stable in recent years at 15-20 pairs across the area, but remain scarce away from the beck.

One of three Corn Buntings seen during the weekend. Remarkable considering there have been no more than two singers in any of the previous six years. A small upturn in fortunes?

Year tick! Red-legs have become much harder to find in recent years.

ASBO gulls loitering with intent. It's not every day you see them on poles around here.

Six additions to the year list brings us to a much healthier 98.

093 Swift
094 Garden Warbler
095 Red-legged Partridge
096 Reed Warbler
097 Hobby
098 Marsh Harrier

Monday, 20 May 2013

Kind of Blue

Very good weekend, just gone. More soon but here's pictures of the stand out bird - a male Blue-headed Wagtail. After the bumper last couple of springs for Yellow Wagtails the pasture in Little Kelk strikes again with one of the continental Blue-headed cousins. These replace the UK Yellow subspecies in France and north to southern Scandinavia.

In Yorkshire these 'flava' wagtails are passage migrants along the coast in small numbers especially in spring (harder to identify in autumn plumage!). Inland they're less common though well watched reserves like Tophill Low chalk up odd ones each year, indeed they have already had a couple this spring. Either way, I'm made up with this record - scarce AND totally gorgeous!

Identification: as Yellow Wagtail but slaty-blue head without any yellow except on the throat. Cheeks are slightly darker. Strong eye-stripe is distinctive. More discussion of identification here.

Pasture seems to be a favourite for wagtails on passage - breeding birds locally prefer corn fields.

The cows/sheep appear to attract insects for food and the natural pool was abuzz with flies.

Other birds this weekend included Marsh Harrier, Hobby, lots of Swifts, a Garden Warbler and a couple of Reed Warblers all new for the year list.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Wind and a Willow

Let me get the now obligatory moan about weather out of the way - too feckin windy!


A rather splendid weekend when all said and done. Yet another April Red Kite (3rd in recent years) and a local mega in the form of a superbly out-of-the-blue WILLOW TIT. Plenty of spring migrants but few species in large numbers just yet. Wheatear and Corn Bunting were the best of the rest.

Saturday 27th April

Harpham/Lowthorpe: 2 Greylag, 3 Buzzard, 2 Kestrel, 2 Oystercatcher, 16 Lapwing, 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker, several Sand Martin, 20+ Swallow and 5+ House Martin. Other migrants included 3 Meadow Pipit, 3 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Blackcap, 6 Chiffchaff, and 5 Willow Warbler, but to be fair most birds weren't singing so there could easily have been lots more. Also seen were 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Coal Tit, 1 Bullfinch, and 2 very late Siskin (pair) feeding in larches.

Bird of the day was undoubtedly the WILLOW TIT seen in a hedgerow near Lingholmes plantation. It moved quickly along the hedgerow in the direction of Kelk Lake. A fairly brief but definite identification (including call), the similar Marsh Tit would actually be less likely here. I had a small number of sightings in the 1990s but nothing since. The species has become regionally scarce with only a few sites in East Yorkshire supporting them and nationally they are in heavy decline: BTO & BBC

Kelk: 2 Shelduck, 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Buzzard, 2 Kestrel, 18 Lapwing, 1 Cuckoo, 1 Tawny Owl, 8 Yellow Wagtails, 15+ Pied Wagtail, a Wheatear, 2 Blackcap, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Whitethroat, 4 Chiffchaff, 1 Willow Warbler, 20+ Linnet (a year tick!), and best of the afternoon a singing Corn Bunting near Gransmoor Quarry.

2 Mute Swan at Kelk Lake have built a nest but the only other water-bird was a single Coot. 500+ Common Gull flew east to roost at dusk, presumably all immature birds in no hurry to migrate while all the adults should have moved back to the breeding grounds in Scotland and northern Europe by now.

Sunday 28th April

Kelk Beck: 2 Mute Swan, 2 Greylag, 2 Gadwall, 1 late Teal, 18 Mallard, 2 Tufted Duck, 2 Grey Partridge, 1 Little Grebe, 3 Heron, 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Buzzard, 1 Coot, 18 Lapwing, 1 Snipe, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Great Black-backed Gull (unseasonal), 20+ Sand Martin, 1 Meadow Pipit, 4 Yellow Wagtail, 1 Sedge Warbler, 4 Willow Warbler, 30+ Linnet, and 2 Reed Bunting.

Gembling/Foston/Millingdale: 2 Mute Swan, 22 Greylag, 4 Gadwall, 8 Mallard, 5 Tufted Duck, 4 Little Grebe, 1 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 8 Coot, 3 Yellow Wagtail, 1 Blackcap, 1 Whitethroat, and 4 Willow Warbler.

I'm doing this back-to-front but the best bird of the day was one of the first in the morning - a Red Kite flying west over Little Kelk. This establishes a pattern where 3 of the last 4 have been in April. I wonder if these are young Yorkshire raised birds roaming the countryside for possible territory.

The only butterflies seen all weekend were 1 'white' and 2 Peacock. Clearly not quite spring enough for them!

And now a few half-baked attempts at photos.

Starling singing from the rooftops in Little Kelk. They thrive in the gardens around the village.

Roe Deer road kill at Harpham. Looked pretty fresh - bet that made a dent in someone's wing! 

Female Yellow Wagtail. The males are so attention grabbing it's easy to overlook the delightfully lemony females, definitely worth a second look.

And let's not forget Pied Wagtails. A spring male of the British subspecies is a masterclass in the use of black - fashionistas take note.

Last but not least is an admittedly lousy record shot of one of the Siskins at Harpham on Saturday. A very late record for the area of what is a tricky bird to track down locally.

A whopping 18 additions to the yearlist:

075 Curlew
076 Cuckoo
077 Yellow Wagtail
078 Swallow
079 Willow Tit
080 Meadow Pipit
081 Willow Warbler
082 House Martin
083 Sand Martin
084 Blackcap
085 Shelduck
086 Wheatear
087 Corn Bunting
088 Linnet
089 Whitethroat
090 Lesser Whitethroat
091 Red Kite
092 Sedge Warbler

Now that's looking a bit more like it - bring it on!