Thursday, 24 December 2015

Mild December

Crazy weather, as ever. Temperatures in double digits, even after dark. The stiff wind wasn't very helpful for finding birds but it was an interesting weekend no less.

As posted yesterday, there has been an influx of Little Egrets and the Great White Egret discovered on 1st November has found a friend.

The first egrets noted were two flying south along the beck, followed by two standing in a field at Harpham. Naturally, at the time, I assumed they were the same two. Then we located one in trees by Lowthorpe bridge, and another standing in oilseed further down the beck. I make that 4... or 6... or 2. No idea.

Later another was found on the drain near Barf Hill (over a mile from the beck) - almost certainly a different bird. Is that 5 now?

On Sunday almost the first birds seen were four Little Egrets and a Great White Egret flying south along the beck. The group split up and odd ones were noted occasionally later on. The GWE appeared again in the company of two Grey Herons and a second GWE - see photos in the link.

Finally, on Monday, another was seen at Wansford, which I'm considering is likely to be a different bird. Clearly they are mobile but I think 6 is a fairly safe total.

Other highlights as follows...

Saturday 19th - Monday 21st December

Gadwall - 6
Teal - 120+
Shoveler - 4
Mallard - 150+
Little Grebe - 4
Cormorant - 11
Little Egret - 6
Great White Egret - 2
Grey Heron - 13
Sparrowhawk - 4
Buzzard - 11
Kestrel - 5
Lapwing - 56
Snipe - 9
Redshank - 1
Green Sandpiper - 5 an exceptional count for Dec
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 8 an unseasonal record
Herring Gull - 70+
Great Black-backed Gull - 2

Woodpigeon - 6000+ heading to roost at dusk. This is the largest single flock of any species I've recorded locally. It was several hundred metres long. Incredible sight. Less so if for farmers, though.

Barn Owl - 3
Little Owl - 1
Short-eared Owl - 2
Kingfisher - 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 3
Meadow Pipit - 1 at Harpham is unseasonal
Grey Wagtail - 3
Fieldfare - 28
Redwing - 1
Mistle Thrush - 8
Jay - 2 at Lowthorpe
Linnet - 80

Two additions to the year list bringing the total to 107. Despite some really good sightings this is my lowest ever.

106 Shoveler
107 Redshank


One of the Barn Owls. We watched this for about 10 minutes quartering a grass field at Lowthorpe. Occasionally it came very close but unfortunately always into direct sunlight.

Grey Wagtail. Always a favourite. Three in a winter weekend is very healthy. Perhaps a symptom of the mild weather.

Meadow Pipit in near darkness. Not at all an easy bird to find here in winter. Again, presumably weather related.

Mistle Thrush in a classic pose. For reasons unknown they have been very elusive in the last couple of years so it was pleasing to find eight over the weekend.

This Short-eared Owl was flushed by a low flying heron. It flew along the hedge line towards us before turning back briefly and then landing! This is almost the same spot where two were together in January. Could this be a returning bird or is it more likely just an attractive bit of habitat.

And that's a wrap, as they say. See you in 2016.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015


Strange times. In November a Great White Egret appeared in the area. Given the mild weather there was some hope that it might still be knocking around last weekend. Indeed it was. And it had been joined by another. Along with an influx of at least 6 Little Egret. I have never seen more than a single Little Egret at one time.

What is happening? Whatever it is, I like it.

Here's Great White number 1, seen flying along the beck on Sunday.

And here it is a couple of hours later having joined the second, and a Grey Heron for handy size comparison.

Now for some Little Egrets. Here's one enjoying a hedgerow.

Resting in a field of oil-seed.

And, a bit more like it, standing by some water.

Non-egret highlights to appear later...

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Great and the good

Nothing I say is quite going to compare with the Great White Egret but let's do this anyway...

Saturday 31st October / Sunday 1st November

Pink-footed Goose - skein of 100+ south on 1st
Greylag Goose - 3
Canada Goose - 2
Teal - 75
Mallard - 35
Red-legged Partridge - 4 at Kelk
Pheasant - 1 white bird at Harpham (photo below)
Little Grebe - 2
Cormorant - 3
Grey Heron - 4
GREAT WHITE EGRET - 1 at Kelk Beck
Sparrowhawk - 1
Buzzard - 4
Kestrel - 1
Golden Plover - 28
Lapwing - 2
Snipe - 3
Green Sandpiper - 1 at Kelk Beck
Short-eared Owl - 1 at Kelk Beck
Kingfisher - 3
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 2
Skylark - 45+
Meadow Pipit - 2
Grey Wagtail - 3
Fieldfare - 4
Redwing - 12 (flock of 11 + 1)
Goldcrest - 6 away from normal areas suggests influx of migrants
Brambling - 1 at Harpham with finches
Goldfinch - 2 flocks 20+40
Siskin - 11 at Harpham
Yellowhammer - 2 flocks 8+10

First up, another picture of the egret. Just how good? Even the Cormorant looks impressed.

Buzzard keeping an eye on proceedings. Quite a pale bird.

Grey Wagtail perching in a tree, which they don't usually do.

All-white Pheasant at Harpham. Been a long time since I saw one of these.

Short-eared Owl... about to be harassed by a gang of crows.

Three additions to the year list

103 Brambling
104 Great White Egret
105 Siskin

Monday, 2 November 2015

Great Day


Great White Egret at Kelk

The larger relative of Little Egret, these birds have become increasingly regular in Britain over the last couple of decades as their natural range spreads west across Europe. Just a few decades ago their range in Europe was around the Danube delta, but now there are significant numbers as close as Netherlands and France. In England a single pair bred in Somerset in 2012, surely the first of many.

In Yorkshire there has been a very slow increase with only a handful being recorded before the end of the 1990s, while in the last decade there have been around 5 per year. Most of the well known local reserves have been visited by this magnificent and elegant species, including Tophill Low and Hornsea Mere. Indeed two different birds have been seen at Tophill Low on and off through October, and presumably the Kelk bird is one of these, wandering.

Weekend write-up to follow. Egret aside it wasn't too exciting, perhaps in part due to the unseasonably warm weather.

Friday, 30 October 2015

September Rememberings

Just time to get this in before November arrives...

19th-20th and 26th September

Mute Swan - Pair with 6 young
Red-legged Partridge - 45+ at Harpham (released)
Pheasant - 290+ at Harpham
Little Grebe - 9
Cormorant - 12 including flock of 8 together.
Grey Heron - 19
Marsh Harrier - 2, possibly 3
Sparrowhawk - 4
Common Buzzard - 23+
Kestrel - 5
Hobby - 1 chasing martins at Little Kelk on 19th
Golden Plover - 19
Lapwing - modest flocks 36 + 80
Snipe - 1
Greenshank - 2 at Gembling
Green Sandpiper - 1
Great Black-backed Gull - 4
Stock Dove - 36 at Harpham
Kingfisher - 4
Skylark - flock of 80+ Kelk Beck
Swallow - only 7 left by 26th
Meadow Pipit - 19
Grey Wagtail - 1
Mistle Thrush - 16 (otherwise scarce recently)
Jay - 1 at Kelk on 26th
Linnet - largest flock 75 at Gransmoor
Bullfinch - pair with 2 juveniles at Harpham

No new species so the year list is stuck at 102.

Juvenile Buzzard sitting on freshly cut wheat straw. Plenty of them about in September.

Great Black-backed Gull. Their appearances in the area have been less frequent and predictable in recent years. Most are flying through so it's nice to see one on the deck.

Grey Wagtail doing what they love best, feeding from water vegetation.

That's my Christmas cards sorted.

Lots of these about in September. Mostly tame released birds.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Late late Cuckoo

Any date in September would be notable to see a Cuckoo in UK, 26th September is exceptional. This youngster flew into a window in Kelk and became the other kind of 'late'. Even that seems a very strange occurrence. Poor thing!

One wonders if it was a local bird that had been hanging around longer than normal, or from much further away and had got a bit lost finding Africa.

A round up of my September visit is on its way...

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

August Two

This'll have to be quick...

August 15-16th

Greylag Goose - 240 near Gransmoor
Gadwall - 10
Teal - 3
Red-legged Partridge - 2
Little Grebe - 8
Cormorant - 2
Grey Heron - 21 including 15 together (see photo)
Buzzard - up to 20
Kestrel - 6
Hobby - 2
Golden Plover - flock of 30
Lapwing - flock of 120
Greenshank - 1 at Gembling
Green Sandpiper - 3
Stock Dove - flock of 12
Turtle Dove - 1 at Foston is the first since 2010
Swift - 17
Yellow Wagtail - 2 juveniles along Kelk Beck
Mistle Thrush - 8 near Wansford
'warblers' - noticeably few (poor season? left already?)
Long-tailed Tit - 50+ in two flocks
Jay - 1 at Harpham was an early autumn surprise
House Sparrow - flock of 90+ Little Kelk

Greenshank - just scarce enough to be a treat but just about regular enough to appear every year.

Greylag Geese overhead. Once again a post-breeding flock has been using fields near Gransmoor.

What's the group name for herons? I dunno, maybe a 'conference of herons'. An odd sight, though.

Two new for the year list...

101 Greenshank
102 Turtle Dove

Monday, 7 September 2015

August One

Slacking off again... we're well in to September and I haven't mentioned August yet. Here's a few non-birdy pictures while I get myself together.

#1 - Gatekeeper. Not particularly common but probably overlooked.

#2 - Painted Lady. I haven't seen one of these locally for 2-3 years.

#3 - Small Skipper. Fairly common in the area.

#4 - Migrant Hawker. If you see a big dragonfly in the area it's most likely one of these.

#5 - Puffball mushroom. Size of a football!!!

Back soon...

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Jun Jul

Two for the price of one!

Summary of visits 27-28 June and 18-19 July. Not a great deal to report as is normal for summer but here we go anyway.


Greylag - 20+
Mallard - 40+
Marsh Harrier - 1 female
Sparrowhawk - 2
Buzzard - 6
Kestrel - 6
Hobby - 2
Oystercatcher - 2
Lapwing - 3
Curlew - 3 including 1 flying W and 2 feeding among cut grass
Green Sandpiper - 1, first recent record for June
Little Owl - 2
Kingfisher - 1
Yellow Wagtail - 3
Reed Warbler - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - 4, brings total 'locations' to 7 this year.
Common Whitethroat - 20+ males
Bullfinch - 2


Teal - 1
Cormorant - 2, not regularly seen in summer
Marsh Harrier - 1 female
Sparrowhawk - 2
Buzzard - 10+
Kestrel - 6
Hobby - 1
Oystercatcher - 1 juvenile seen!
Lapwing - 2
Barn Owl - 1
Little Owl - 1
Kingfisher - 1
Yellow Wagtail - 5
Bullfinch - 1
Corn Bunting - 1 singing male

A few photos...

1. Two Cormorants together. Looks like an adult and one of last year's young. Closer inspection suggests they're both of the Atlantic subspecies 'carbo' rather than the Continental 'sinensis' [link]. This is the expected situation for Kelk, indeed all except one that I've looked at closely have appeared to be carbo. I'm sure that sinensis birds pass through occasionally but the 'resident' visitors I'm sure are entirely carbo. The situation might change as their respective populations change.

Green Sandpiper with a Woodpigeon, for comparison. Even though it was in June this bird was most likely a return migrant that had failed to breed this year - I think this is my first recent record for June, so clearly not a typical sighting.

Now this is normal. Normal for any time of the year. A hovering Kestrel. Their numbers seem to be quite healthy at the moment, but let's see how many young birds are about in autumn before getting too excited.

Can you guess what it is? Not a common sight at all. It's a baby Oystercatcher, albeit distantly. Although there's one or two pairs each year it can be tricky to find evidence of success. Seeing an unfledged chick is most unusual.

Rook, posing.

A slight miscalculation with the year list - should have been 97 not 96 after May - means we've reached the 100 mark.

098 Reed Warbler
099 Curlew
100 Corn Bunting

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Kites in May

The final two days of May saw a passing Red Kite, and a most welcome return for Spotted Flycatcher after two years absence. Summary as follows:

Mute Swan - pair with 4 cygnets
Red-legged Partridge - 4
Grey Partridge - 2
Red Kite - 1 drifting over Harpham/Lowthorpe
Marsh Harrier - female
Sparrowhawk - 3
Buzzard - 10
Kestrel - 4
Oystercatcher - 2
Lapwing - 10 pairs
Stock Dove - 10
Cuckoo - 1
Little Owl - 1
Swift - widespread, 40+ at Harpham
Kingfisher - 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 3
Sand Martin - 80+
Yellow Wagtail - 5
Grey Wagtail - 1
Spotted Flycatcher - 1 at Lowthorpe
Starling - juveniles everywhere!
Bullfinch - 3

Warblers were not singing much due to the poor weather, e.g. only 2 Willow and 3 Sedge Warblers noted all weekend.

Some photos:

How confusing, a dead tree that isn't a dead tree. This pole is next to a garden and I think the 'pecker was using it to spy on a bird table.

Lapwing, less shy for being territorial.

Photos can be deceptive... I've shown this to four people and they've all got it dramatically wrong, including one who thought it was the Red Kite. The fairly even-length primary wing feathers give a strange proportion and make it seem large winged, I presume. But no, it's most definitely a Skylark!

Mute Swan family. They have been roaming the length of the beck up to 2 miles from the nest site!

Tree Sparrow at dusk. There are a few small 'colonies' across the area, mostly associated with gardens. Occasionally double figure flocks can form in the fields in autumn/winter, especially around winter stubbles, though I didn't note any this last winter.

There were 3 new for the year

094 Swift
095 Red Kite
096 Spotted Flycatcher

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

April showers

Typical spring weather. Half a day was rained off and too cold yet I managed to get sunburn in the heat on Sunday. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get much time in the southern part of the area around Gembling, but that can wait until next time.

As reported yesterday the major highlight was the first MANDARIN for the area, on the beck at Harpham. Mostly it was a weekend of catching up with old friends; summer migrants such as warblers and martins.

Mute Swan - pair with nest
Greylag Goose - several pairs including one with 3 very small goslings
Canada Goose - 1
Gadwall - 7
Teal - 3
Tufted Duck - 6
Little Grebe - 2
Buzzard - 8
Kestrel - 4
Hobby - 1 at Harpham is the earliest area record, I think
Oystercatcher - 2
Lapwing - 30
Snipe - 2 is very late for the area
Green Sandpiper - 1 possibly 2 (different days but 1/2 mile apart)
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 1
Cuckoo - 1 calling (apparently arrived on Friday 24th)
Little Owl - 2
Kingfisher - 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 2
Skylark - *seemed* to be more than normal singing
Sand Martin - 10+
Swallow - 30+ only modest numbers so far
House Martin - 60+ at Harpham
Yellow Wagtail - 1 male
Sedge Warbler - 5
Blackcap - 14+
Garden Warbler - 1 is an early record
Lesser Whitethroat - 5
Common Whitethroat - 2
Chiffchaff - 16+
Willow Warbler - 2 is a worryingly low count for the date
Linnet - 110+

Some photos...

Cowslip at Lingholmes wood.

Primroses - loads in full bloom in Lingholmes wood.

Roe Deer listening carefully

Swallow. It appears to have a silver ring on the left leg.

Reed Bunting. Unlike most other crops they seem to quite like oilseed rape.

Additions to the yearlist bring the total to 93, just up on 91 at this point last year and 92 the year before!

080 Swallow
081 Lesser Whitethroat
082 Jay
083 Sand Martin
084 Blackcap
085 House Martin
086 Willow Warbler
087 Mandarin
088 Hobby
089 Garden Warbler
090 Yellow Wagtail
091 Sedge Warbler
092 Common Whitethroat
093 Cuckoo

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Darin' Man

It's like the buses... you wait ages and several come along in a row. Another new bird species recorded for the area. A fabulous drake MANDARIN was present at Harpham on Saturday, but there was no sign when I looked again on Sunday afternoon so perhaps it had been disturbed by dog walkers.

Mandarin's are slowly increasing in Yorkshire, roughly as follows: before 1990s scarce, 1990s-2000s regular in small numbers with occasional breeding, 2010s several established local breeding populations in the 10s and odd birds expected almost anywhere. Having said that a cursory glance at recent Yorkshire Bird Reports suggests they are still very much a scarcity in East Yorkshire with typically 2-3 per year mostly at either Hornsea Mere or Tophill Low.

For an introduced species I'm unnaturally chuffed with this sighting. Hard to say no to one so handsome, I guess.

Some info:

Wikipedia: Mandarin_duck
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust: Mandarin-duck
Wharfedale Naturalists Society: Mandarins in Wharfedale
BTO BirdTrack: Mandarin - Aix galericulata
YouTube: Mandarins in Regent's Park, London

Here's three record shots.

This one shows the habitat.

A slightly better side-on shot.

Write up of the weekend coming soon...

Monday, 23 March 2015

Frog's p0rn

Despite a bit of sun yesterday I'm less than convinced spring is in full swing. It is, obviously, but it could have tried a bit harder!

At least the frogs seem to have got the memo. I'm sure there must be garden ponds throughout the area to regularly host them but this is the only 'wild' pond I see frogspawn at regularly.

And now a round up of the birdies...

Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd March

Gadwall - 9
Teal - 36
Pochard - 1 male
Tufted Duck - 11
Little Grebe - 9
Cormorant - 1
Grey Heron - some activity around the heronry
Little Egret - 1 on field drain at Millingdale
Marsh Harrier - female hunting Kelk Beck. Very early for area.
Sparrowhawk - 2
Buzzard - 12
Kestrel - 3
Oystercatcher - 2 pairs. There's been 2-3 pairs annually recently.
Lapwing - 120+
Woodcock - 1
Green Sandpiper - 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 1 was the first of the year.
Barn Owl - 1
Kingfisher - 2
Grey Wagtail - 1
Redwing - 3. First ones of the year!!!
Chiffchaff - just 1 singing, at Foston. A poor show.
Dipper - still present on Saturday.
Starling - 400+ is a big flock for time of year.
Linnet - flock of 90+


Little Egret up a tree. For such a normally smart looking bird this one had obviously been over-reaching itself in the drains as it had a lot of muck on it's plumage.

Little Egret flying away from tree. Observe its yellow feet.

What on earth is this Mallard cross-bred with? I'm not even sure whether it is male or female.

Male Reed Bunting now into fresh breeding plumage. For such a distinctive bird they are very unassuming.

There were seven additions to the year list.

072 Lesser Black-backed Gull
073 Oystercatcher
074 Redwing
075 Marsh Harrier
076 Canada Goose
077 Chiffchaff
078 Wigeon
079 Little Egret