Thursday, 11 December 2014

Because he was a fun guy

Selection of fungi/mushrooms from November. My knowledge is practically zero so I've no idea what any of them are (mental note: buy a field guide you ignorant fool!)

Picture doesn't quite do it justice but this one was a lovely blue. At the edge of a conifer plantation at Lowthorpe.

I've seen these before quite a bit... Ink cap? In hedgerow at Harpham.

In pasture by Harpham church.

Yewww, brains!!! On decaying fallen trunk in Lingholmes plantation, Kelk.

Tall and handsome. In pasture by Harpham church.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


The month when 3 year ticks came along at once. Jeebus that's an awful pun. Er, anyhoo... apart from the Dipper (see previous post), more of which later, it was a relatively uneventful monthly visit in October.

Hightlights were:

Wigeon - 2
Gadwall - 1
Teal - 180+
Shoveler - 1 female
Cormorant - 1
Little Egret - 1 at Kelk Beck
Grey Heron - 11
Sparrowhawk - 1
Buzzard - 12
Kestrel - 13
Golden Plover - 90+
Lapwing - 200+
Snipe - 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 2
Kingfisher - 1
Grey Wagtail - 1
Redwing - 46. Remarkably, this was a year tick!
Treecreeper - 1
Dipper - 1
Jay - 5 sightings of probably 5 different birds, but at least 3. A large influx!
Jackdaw - 600+
Rook - 1500+
Goldfinch - 70+
Bullfinch - 1

Shrooms by the bucket-load. No idea what these are.

Farm geese doing a very poor impression of wild Whooper Swans.

Little Egret at Kelk Beck - first ever October record.

More Dipper shots. What a cracker.

A better idea of the habitat/view.

Three year ticks:

103 - Redwing
104 - Jay
105 - Dipper

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Dipping sauce

Well this was out of the blue. Of all the birds I've seen around Kelk over the years, and it has to be said some oddities have crossed my path, this takes the biscuit.

A Dipper, of the race 'cinclus' (Scandinavia / northern Europe), known as 'Black-bellied Dipper'.

The British Birds Rarities Committee, which assess records of very rare birds seen in UK has the following to say about this subspecies:
"Dipper Cinclus cinclus cinclus‘Black-bellied Dipper’
BBRC has not previously assessed records of ‘Black-bellied Dippers’, but we aim to do so at least until status issues are further clarified. Only birds that completely lack any hint of chestnut on the breast are likely to be acceptable, although a limited/narrow brown band is not unusual in this race, while some nominate cinclus show a narrow chestnut band at the breast–belly interface. Birds showing chestnut on the underparts probably cannot be distinguished from darker individuals of the British forms C. c.gularis and C. c. hibernicus, or from C. c. aquaticus from central Europe, which has occasionally been suspected here. Informal reports of any unusually dark birds which seem to fall short of classic nominate cinclus are welcome, especially when accompanied by good photographs."

So, we're looking for a completely black belly without a hint of chestnut colour:

Looks good to me...

Yep, still convinced.

No doubt.

Google Image search for 'Dipper' gives a quick but useful idea of how chestnut-bellied UK birds are.

The bird was first seen on 19th October and these pictures are from 22nd November. More information soon, along with a review of both October and November visits.

If accepted it will be about the 15th occurrence in Yorkshire, the most recent was near Tophill Low in winter 2007/8. Nationally only one or two are recorded each year, though it is possible some go unnoticed in upland areas where resident Dippers are common.

Edit 26/03 - It's a male. Apparently it has been singing!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Bird Flu


BBC News: Bird flu confirmed at Yorkshire duck farm

DEFRA statement: Avian flu (bird flu) outbreak in duck breeding farm in Yorkshire

The site of the farm is along the track from Lowthorpe to Nafferton. There are duck farms at Kelk also. Fortunately it sounds under control and not a threat to wild birds.

In other 'news' I still haven't written up an October visit. Planning a visit this weekend so will probably combine it with that.

EDIT: here's a couple of the signs at Lowthorpe


Thursday, 16 October 2014


We are in proper autumn now. Staring winter in the face. But it was more tail-end-of-summer three weeks ago at the end of September.

It was on the face of it set up to be an unremarkable weekend but it was anything but. The weather conditions were just perfect for raptors to be in the air on Saturday - warm, sunny, slight breeze - and the timing perfect for post-breeding dispersal and passage migrants. As a result there were 57 birds of prey noted, of 6 species. Some double counting could have happened but I'm fairly confident that amount was very low. Unfortunately I only had 2-3 hours on Sunday, but the conditions had changed (cloudy) and it was obvious a repeat wasn't on the cards.

27-28 September

Mute Swan - 5 cygnets with a pair at Harpham
Pink-footed Goose - 210 flying south in two skeins (90+120)
Teal - 10
Mallard - 70+
Tufted Duck - 5
Red-legged Partridge - 15
Grey Partridge - 14
Pheasant - 130+ around Harpham (presumably many many more not seen)
Cormorant - 14 (an exceptional count for the area)
Grey Heron - 6
Honey Buzzard - 1 south on 27th
Marsh Harrier - 1
Sparrowhawk - 6
Common Buzzard - 28
Kestrel - 19
Peregrine - 2
Golden Plover - 370 (record area count)
Lapwing - 80
Snipe - 1
Curlew - 1
Green Sandpiper - 1
Kingfisher - 4
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 4
Swallow - 6
House Martin - 2+
Meadow Pipit - 5
Grey Wagtail - 1
Chiffchaff - 1 singing at Kelk Beck
Long-tailed Tit - several flock including one of 30+ birds.
Goldfinch - 26

Despite so many raptors I didn't get a single picture of one. Always too distant. Here's some alternatives instead.

Golden Plover. Autumn is the best time for these, or at least the most reliable time. Spring can see large flocks stopping off (the previous record count is from March) but they are unpredictable. Overwintering is almost unheard of here.

This family of swans at Harpham could be the ones that bred at the southern end of Kelk Beck. That pair disappeared in summer and I wasn't aware of a pair anywhere near Harpham. It would be the first recorded breeding at Harpham if there has been, though.

Spare adult. Very tame.

Pheasants everywhere. Hundreds of them. There will be less around soon.

Pinkies going south. Always a complete delight to see.

Just the funky buzzard added to the year list. It doesn't look like we're going to hit 110, which is currently the lowest total from recent years.

102 Honey Buzzard.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Catch up

Whirlwind summary of weekend Aug 31st - Sep 1st. Only a month or so late...

Teal - 9
Little Grebe - 4
Cormorant - 2
Little Egret - 1 between Kelk & Harpham.
Marsh Harrier - 1
Sparrowhawk - 2
Buzzard - 6
Kestrel - 4
Golden Plover - 4
Green Sandpiper - 1
Barn Owl - 1
Little Owl - 1 at Harpham
Tawny Owl - 3 heard
Kingfisher - 3
Meadow Pipit - 1
Yellow Wagtail - 4
Pied Wagtail - 16
Corvid roost - 1600, roughly 1200 Rook + 400 Jackdaw
Starling - 220+
Linnet - 80+

Here's some Starlings doing their best to bring the power lines down. We don't get massive flocks out here, anything beyond a couple of hundred is good going.

The only new species for the year was:

101 Golden Plover.

I also made a visit on 27th Sep and will put up a separate review of that shortly.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

August of wind

The rain was more annoying. Lost most of Sunday to it. But the wind was pretty irritating too. Sounds like a typical summer weekend in Britain.

Here's a summary from the weekend of 9-10th August.

Greylag Goose - 190+ in stubbles near Gembling
Canada Goose - 14 with Greylags
Gadwall - 3
Teal - 1
Mallard - 90+
Shoveler - 3
Grey Heron - 18 including 6 together
Marsh Harrier - 2 seen, a female and a fresh juvenile.
Buzzard - 11
Kestrel - 9+
Hobby - 3 including 2 together
Peregrine - 1 juvenile
Lapwing - 35+
Greenshank - 1 at Gembling
Green Sandpiper - 1 at Lowthorpe bridge
Common Sandpiper - 1 at Gembling
Cuckoo - 1 juvenile at Harpham
Swift - 3
Kingfisher - 2
House Martin - 300+ at Harpham, an exceptional count for the area.
Swallow - 100+ with martins at Harpham
Yellow Wagtail - 4
Warblers - still quite a lot around but very quiet
Coal Tit - 1
Greenfinch - 50+ at Kelk Beck, may be a record area count.
Linnet - 70+

And now for some images.

Little Grebe at Gembling. Since the loss of the Kelk Lake 'colony' to disturbance there has only been a few regular pairs scattered across the area. This is the first year they've attempted to breed at Gembling, though the water level has been high all summer, which has presumably helped.

Grey Heron. They're normally very shy but this one came out from behind the patch of rough vegetation and walked straight past me - either not noticing me or just ignoring me.

A gathering of young House Martins at Harpham. There was an exceptional build up of 300+ shading by the wood from the strong wind.

A wintery scene... goose, goose,... wait, what's that at the back? PEREGRINE!

Trio of Shoveler. Quite scarce locally. Is this a family? Locally bred? Looks like a male in the middle and the other two either female or juvenile.

Excellent stuff, considering the weather. Very much a raptor weekend, with multiple Hobby and Marsh Harrier sightings plus lots of Kestrel and Buzzards. The Peregrine was a year tick and there were two more ticks, bringing the total to 100 (still falling short of previous years).

098 Greenshank
099 Common Sandpiper
100 Peregrine

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

June again

Now the excitement of Lancasters and Barn Owls is subsiding, here's a review from the weekend.

Saturday 28th / Sunday 29th June

Mute Swan - still sitting on nest at Kelk Beck.
Gadwall - 21 in two groups (10+11). A very large number for summer.
Mallard - 60+ including several broods.
Pochard - drake at Gembling
Tufted Duck - 5
Quail - 1 near Kelk calling at 10.30pm (no sign during daylight on Sunday)
Grey Heron - 4 including 2 juveniles at Gembling
Sparrowhawk - 2
Buzzard - 6+
Kestrel - 5
Oystercatcher - 2
Lapwing - 5
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 4
Herring Gull - 45+
Feral Pigeon - 320+ at Harpham is an exceptional area count
Cuckoo - 1 male still calling
Barn Owl - 3
Little Owl - 2
Tawny Owl - 1
Swift - 130+ together over Kelk Lake
Yellow Wagtail - 3
Grey Wagtail - 1 juvenile at Harpham was a surprise as I have only one record from there this year, back in January.
Wablers - quiet now but occasional singing from most species.
Corn Bunting - 1 singing at regular site.

Only a few butterflies were on the wing. Ringlet being the most numerous with 40+ counted.

The Quail was the only addition to the year list:

097 Quail.

And now a few photos. First, a recently fledged Blue Tit at Lowthorpe. Young songbirds are everywhere at the moment, but often hard to see with vegetation being at its peak.

Another shot of the Barn Owl. This was incoming before the real action.

Grey Wagtail. This species suffered greatly from the harsh winters but are beginning to bounce back. However this is the first mid-summer record for a few years and, given that it's a juvenile, presumably a local breeding record.

House Martin at Lowthorpe. Rubbish photography, I know. I was playing about just trying to get one in shot, let alone in focus. On that basis I'm telling myself this is actually not too bad.

Mallard family, also at Lowthorpe bridge. To me these look very fresh out of the nest. There were another 3 ducklings just out of shot.

Until next time...

Monday, 30 June 2014

Barn Owl vs Prey vs Bob

East Yorkshire is an important area for Barn Owls and I've seen a lot of them over the years around Kelk. They're delightful to see and capture the romantic view of nature perfectly. Mostly you'll see one quartering along a hedgerow/verge or over a rough field. If you stand still you might be lucky to get a close fly past (though being in a car is perhaps more of a guarantee).

What you don't expect is what happened on mid-afternoon Saturday in the blazing sunshine - for one to land on a post just a few yards away and proceed to locate its prey, catch said prey and return to the post. All in all about 4-5 minutes of HOT BARN OWL ACTION!

Good job I had my camera.

I was watching it fly across some rough ground, assuming it would turn away when it got close. Instead it flew right at me to within six feet then banked right and dropped down on to the post next to me.

It didn't seem bothered by my presence at all. It looked at me a few times and only reacted if I made a sound, while my movement generally was ignored (I tried to be quiet / still !!!)

After a minute or so I realised it was actually hunting as it started to stare at the grass below.

Still looking...

And suddenly, BAM, it dropped down and disappeared into the vegetation. I missed the photo! About 20 seconds later it flew straight back up to the post.

After doing a little readjusting it flew off with it, presumably to a nest full of hungry mouths somewhere nearby.

Wow. Just wow.

Lancaster, Spitfire, Hurricane

Something a bit different today.

On Saturday there was a fly past of a Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane as part of "The Lord Mayor's Centenary Celebration" in Hull. Somewhat unexpectedly they headed north over Kelk late morning... as the snaps below demonstrate!

There are of course several WW2 airfields in East Yorkshire including the nearby Lisset Airfield (wikipedia entry) which appears to have hosted Halifax bombers rather than Lancasters.

If you've never seen the seen the memorial it's worth a look - here's a YouTube vid "Lissett Airfield Memorial to Raf 158 Squadron pt. 1: Propellers at Lissett by Novera Energy 2009".

Lancaster over Kelk 28/6/2014

Spitfire over Kelk 28/6/2014

Hurricane over Kelk 28/6/2014

I'll be back with some birdy stuff soon...

Monday, 2 June 2014

Brief encounter

I had the opportunity to pay a brief visit this weekend while on other business. As delightful as it was the relative blazing heat/sun in the afternoon on Sunday didn't inspire much confidence for seeing many birds but a 3 hour look around Kelk and Gembling netted a handful of decent records.

Sunday 1st June

Gadwall - 1
Tufted Duck - 2
Heron - 3
Marsh Harrier - 1
Buzzard - 2
Sparrowhawk - 1
Kestrel - 1
Oystercatcher - 3 including a 'new' bird at Gembling.
Yellow Wagtail - 2
Garden Warbler - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - another new singing male
(at least 13 this spring, way more than any previous year)


Brimstone - 2 at Gembling (moderately scarce locally)
Roe Deer - 1 at Kelk (not easy to see in summer!)

I was surprised to see standing water at Gembling. It got me thinking - would it be too much to ask for a few spots of decent wader habitat this autumn?

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Unexpected Wigeon in the birding area

It's not always obvious what season you're in. Especially when you're staring at a Wigeon at the end of May. But that is indeed what just happened. Summer is definitely here, it's just a little shy.

Summary for 24-26 May

Mute Swan nest at Kelk Beck
Wigeon - male at Gembling on 24th. Most unseasonal.
Gadwall - 4
Tufted Duck - 2
Red-legged Partridge - 2
Grey Partridge - 19
Heron - 15+ at heronry
Marsh Harrier - 1 female
Sparrowhawk - 3
Buzzard - 6
Kestrel - 3
Hobby - 1 at Harpham on 26th
Oystercatcher - 5
Common Gull - 2 immatures
Herring Gull - 59+
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 9+
Cuckoo - 2 different males calling
Barn Owl - 1 food carrying to nest
Swift - 140+
Yellow Wagtail - 6
Sedge Warbler - 8+
Reed Warbler - 2
Garden Warbler - 2
Lesser Whitethroat - 3 males at new locations (9 in Apr)
Whitethroat - 20+
Corn Bunting - 2 males singing (in locations occupied last year)

A few butterflies:

Orange Tip - 7
Peacock - 2
Small Tortoiseshell - 3
White sp. - 11

A few photos:

1. Buzzard trying to look super important. 

2. Cuckoo, doing what they do best, cuckoo-ing while sitting on an exposed perch.

3. Mute Swan nest. I swear it wasn't there last month!

4. Helpful comparison of House Sparrow and Tree Sparrow.

5. Unexpected drake Wigeon. This one must be pretty lost, they're supposed to have left during April.

As a bonus the Wigeon was also a year tick. Nice!

092 Swift
093 Reed Warbler
094 Wigeon
095 Garden Warbler
096 Hobby

Friday, 9 May 2014

Late, Spring

An update for April - weekend of 26th & 27th.

Very much a transitional month. Lots of migrants had arrived but many more are still to come. The weather wasn't brilliant, grey skies mostly, but at least it stayed dry. Highlights were a Marsh Harrier, a Curlew (hard to find in recent years), 4 White Wagtails (only one recent record), 6 Wheatear (normally the odd one or two each year), 9 Lesser Whitethroat (possibly a record number) and 2 singing Corn Buntings.

Canada Goose - a pair with 4 goslings
Shelduck - 2
Gadwall - 10
Marsh Harrier - female along Kelk Beck on 27th.
Kestrel - 5
Oystercatcher - 3
Lapwing - 60+
Snipe - 1
Curlew - 1 over Harpham on 26th
Cuckoo - 1 calling in several locations (prob only 1 bird)
Sand Martin - 20+ mostly around Lowthorpe and Gransmoor Quarry
Swallow - 30+ widespread
House Martin - 10+ at Lowthorpe only
Yellow Wagtail - 4
White Wagtails - 4 at Harpham with 9 Pied Wagtails.
Wheatear - 2 together at Harpham and 4 together at Kelk
Sedge Warbler - 5 at Kelk Beck
Blackcap - 10+
Lesser Whitethroat - 9 males singing
Whitethroat - 11 singing
Chiffchaff - 20+
Willow Warbler - 14
Treecreeper - 1 at Harpham
Corn Bunting - 2 singing males at locations occupied last year

Some photos:

First up is one of the Corn Buntings in typical singing pose. One day I'll get a decent shot of one.

Orange Tip butterfly. Not at all easy to photo!

Oystercatcher. They've been present annually for over two decades now, though the success is pretty low and with little sign of numbers increasing (max 2 pairs in any one year). I guess Kelk must be at the limit of breeding habitat.

Ropey record shot of two of the White Wagtails. These photos aren't entirely convincing but enough was seen of the pale rumps to confirm as White rather than Pied. All four were females (the males are much easier to ID).

Yellow Wagtail hanging around with other wagtails. Always a special spring moment when I see my first one.

Additions to year list (in order of appearance):

078 Shelduck - first seen March but missed off previous update
079 Swallow
080 Cuckoo
081 Sand Martin
082 House Martin
083 Blackcap
084 Lesser Whitethroat
085 Curlew
086 Yellow Wagtail
087 Whitethroat
088 Willow Warbler
089 Wheatear
090 Sedge Warbler
091 Marsh Harrier