Wednesday, 30 November 2016

November: Egrets

A lovely autumn weekend, just gone. Some good birds too. The highlight was the (presumed) returning Great White Egret along with several Little Egrets that looked to have settled on Kelk Beck, much like last winter.

Where exactly these egrets live in the summer is a mystery for now but given that very few spend the summer to the north then surely there is a northerly dimension to their winter 'migration' to Kelk. It's probably a safe guess that most are from colonies in the South East that disperse through autumn. There are around 1000 pairs breeding in UK. On the Humber estuary the peak counts for Little Egrets are typically in Aug-Sep. Perhaps 'ours' have spent time there recently. Some basic info here.

November 26th-27th

Mute Swan - 4
Pink-footed Goose - skein of 90 south
Wigeon - 410+ is the largest ever area count
Gadwall - 4
Teal - 200+
Mallard - 60+
Red-legged Partridge - 8
Grey Partridge - 11
Cormorant - 3
Little Egret - 6
Grey Heron - 7
Sparrowhawk - 1
Buzzard - 7
Kestrel - 5
Peregrine - 1
Golden Plover - 120 flying south
Lapwing - 75
Snipe - 12
Woodcock - 2
Green Sandpiper - 4 (2 Kelk, 2 Wansford)
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 4
Meadow Pipit - 4
Grey Wagtail - 2, possibly 3
Blackbird - 170+
Fieldfare - 360+
Song Thrush - 15+
Redwing - 130+
Mistle Thrush - 5
Coal Tit - 3
Jay - 2
Tree Sparrow - 30+
Brambling - 3
Reed Bunting - 11+

Here's another snap of the big egret. So much of them being only found in massive reedbed reserves and estuaries!

And one of the little uns. Five took up residence last winter and left in early March. Hopefully that will be repeated. It's still less than a decade since I saw my first one in the area.

Two year ticks...

108 Great White Egret
109 Brambling

Monday, 28 November 2016

Look who's back!

In November 2015 a Great White Egret was seen near Kelk Beck. If that wasn't enough of a surprise it was joined by a second bird in December, but neither were evident as 2016 rolled around.


This was almost the same spot as the two last December. Surely this can only be one of last year's birds, returning. Will the other one come back?

Update on the rest of the weekend to follow.

October: Osprey

Like busses, reviews come all at once. Here is a whizz through sightings from October. The unquestionable highlight, possibly bird of the year, was an Osprey drifting west - quite a late date for this species in Yorkshire.

8-9th October

Mute Swan - 21, incl. the Kelk Beck family with 5 young
Pink-footed Goose - 1 on stubbles at Wansford
Greylag Goose - 250+
Canada Goose - 41 is a record local count
Wigeon - 110
Teal - 4
Red-legged Partridge - 16 at Harpham, tame / released
Grey Partridge - 18
Cormorant - 6
Grey Heron - 14
Sparrowhawk - 3
Buzzard - 19
Kestrel - 9
Golden Plover - 300+
Lapwing - 260+
Snipe - 4
Green Sandpiper - 1
Barn Owl - 1
Kingfisher - 1
Skylark - 50+
House Martin - 20+
Swallow - none seen
Meadow Pipit - 10
Grey Wagtail - 1
Pied Wagtail - 15 together at Harpham
Stonechat - 1 at Kelk Beck
Fieldfare - 1
Redwing - 90
Blackcap - 1
Jay - 3
Goldfinch - 60+ flock

My third record of Osprey in the area, though my first in autumn. October is getting late for passing Ospreys so this one was either in no hurry due to the mild weather, or maybe from northern Europe and fresh in over the sea. Either way, an absolute beauty!

Two year ticks...

106 Stonechat
107 Osprey

September: Kite Flying

Not before time, a review for September. It wasn't a vintage month by any stretch of the imagination. Recent weather had been generous to migrants so it's hardly surprising most had left with barely any sign of birds getting a bit lost or early winter arrivals. The two most notable records were an exceptionally late Swift over Little Kelk and a Red Kite drifting north-west. Treecreeper was the sole year-tick.

24-25th September

Mute Swan - 16
Greylag Goose - 70
Canada Goose - 2
Teal - 50+
Mallard - 85+
Little Grebe - 2
Grey Heron - 14
Red Kite - 1 NW over Kelk Lake
Marsh Harrier - 1 female at Kelk Beck
Sparrowhawk - 6
Buzzard - 24
Kestrel - 11
Hobby - 1
Lapwing - 32
'small gulls' - approx 3000 flying E to roost
Swift - 1 on 24th is the latest record for the area
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 1
House Martin - 50+ at Harpham
Swallow - 'several'
Meadow Pipit - 6
Mistle Thrush - 19 is an excellent count
Chiffchaff - still 2 in song!
Treecreeper - 1
Rook/Jackdaw - 1800 pre-roost gathering
Goldfinch - 60+ flock
Bullfinch - 1

It was that time of year again, tame Pheasants everywhere, recently released from their pens in the woods at Harpham/Lowthorpe.

Just the one year tick...

105 Treecreeper

Friday, 30 September 2016

Sunflowers and Rainbows

Crossover weather at the moment, for sure. It must be time to recap from my August visit!

Saturday 20th - Sunday 21st August

Greylag Goose - 330 at Gembling. The only large count so far this year.
Canada Goose - 2
Gadwall - 3
Teal - 48
Mallard - 140
Pochard - 3
Tufted Duck - 3
Grey Heron - 10
Sparrowhawk - 2
Buzzard - 16
Kestrel - 11
Hobby - 2
Peregrine - 1 juvenile
Golden Plover - 30
Lapwing - 6 (yes, that was all)
Green Sandpiper - 2
Turtle Dove - 1 at Millingdale
Warblers - still quite a few about
Jay - 2

No new species for the year so the total stays at 104 for now.

Also nothing much to show for it in terms of photos. Weather, as per.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Soaring Summer

Review for my most recent visit. Raptors was the theme, including lots of Buzzards, Marsh Harrier finally making an appearance and a surprise young Merlin! The backup cast included several Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, and a couple of Hobbies.

Friday 29th July - Monday 1st August

Mute Swan - the pair still have 6 cygnets, now half-grown
Greylag Goose - 38
Gadwall - 2
Mallard - 70+
Tufted Duck - 3
Red-legged Partridge - 2
Grey Partridge - 34 including two large family parties
Little Grebe - 8
Grey Heron - 3
Marsh Harrier - female hunting around Kelk Beck
Sparrowhawk - 6 sightings
Buzzard - 30+ including at least 7 juvs (possibly double)
Kestrel - 10
Merlin - 1 probably juvenile near Kelk Beck
Hobby - 4 sightings prob 2 birds
Lapwing - 230+ including flocks of 150 and 70
Green Sandpiper - 1
'small gulls' - 500+ attending stubble cultivation
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 6
Herring Gull - 160+ attending stubble cultivation
Yellow-legged Gull - 1 adult with other gulls
Swift - 460+ incl. flock of 400+ feeding over Kelk Beck
Kingfisher - 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 1
Sand Martin - 100+ around colony
House Martin - 80+ at Harpham
Meadow Pipit - 2 together in Kelk, possible breeding
Yellow Wagtail - 5
Mistle Thrush - 2
Sedge Warbler - 6
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Jay - 1 is first July record for over a decade
Bullfinch - 1
Corn Bunting - 1 singing

Buzzards everywhere enjoying the lovely weather. This adult is in the middle of wing moult - the uneven wing feathers are at different growth stages and the outermost feather on both wings are half-grown.

Merlin, if you squint a bit. Not an easy bird to see at any time of year in the area and most unexpected in July. I think it was a juvenile but wasn't 100% sure.

Female Marsh Harrier on partol. Surprisingly this was my first sighting this year.

Meadow Pipits probably bred this year. Two birds were being very territorial. Despite being very common in other parts of the country they are really only passage migrants here, with breeding happening only irregularly.

The swan family. This is from Lowthorpe road bridge, over a mile from the nest.

Along with the Quail mentioned in a previous post the year list is now up to a respectable 104 and a final total of between 110-115 seems likely.

100 Quail
101 Corn Bunting
102 Merlin
103 Yellow-legged Gull
104 Marsh Harrier

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

An 'all-dark' Grey Heron

The heronry contained a very unusual 'all dark' bird in June. I thought it was worth making a separate note out of this oddity rather than include it in the June summary.

Birds at the heronry were not especially visible during my visit, with about 12 counted. While I was there the completely dark bird (a juvenile? weird plumages often seem to be) flew in from the north and landed in one of the trees, close to a typical adult.

It wasn't black as such, but a weird super deep blue/purple. As far as I could tell it's whole plumage was uniform.

A really rubbish photo below. Birds are distant so it's the best I could do!

And again with the addition of pointers...

Very strange. I've certainly never seen a heron like this before. Hopfully it will survive a while and hang around the beck so I can get a better look at it / photo.


Another brief summary, of June. As you would expect for summer there was not a lot going on. The highlight was probably two sightings of Hobby hunting (my hunch is two birds rather than one but who knows) after missing out in May.

25th & 26th June

Mute Swan - pair on Kelk Beck with 6 small cygnets.
Red-legged Partridge - 4
Sparrowhawk - 2
Buzzard - 10
Kestrel - 5
Hobby - 2
Oystercatcher - 2
Lapwing - 70 incl. a post-breeding flock of 40
Meadow Pipit - 1
Yellow Wagtail - 4
Mistle Thrush - 12. An unusual summer gathering!
Whitethroat - 21
Bullfinch - 2

As much as summer is about new life coming in to the world, for birds of prey that means taking the lives of other animals. In this case presumably a Woodpigeon making a big meal for a Sparrowhawk.

Only one addition to the yearlist.

099 Hobby


Briefly account for May. It mostly involved catching up with spring migrants, the highlight being a Turtle Dove for the second year in a row.

28th and 29th May.

Mute Swan - pair with nest near Kelk Beck
Shelduck - 1
Gadwall - 7
Pochard - 1
Sparrowhawk - 2
Buzzard - 12+
Kestrel - 2
Oystercatcher - 3 'pairs'
Stock Dove - flock of 13
Turtle Dove - 1 at Foston
Cuckoo - 1
Swift - 160+
Kingfisher - 2
Yellow Wagtail - 5
Sedge Warbler - 7
Reed Warbler - 4+
Garden Warbler - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - 3
Whitethroat - 14
Willow Warber - 10

Two Woodpigeons lazing around.

Additions to the years list as follows:

091 House Martin
092 Yellow Wagtail
093 Sedge Warbler
094 Reed Warbler
095 Lesser Whitethroat
096 Whitethroat
097 Turtle Dove
098 Garden Warbler

Friday, 15 July 2016

Q Tip

A Quail was calling from a wheat field in Kelk for over a week in early July. This is a typical time of year for them.

Also, it's species number 100 for the year. Yaaay!

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Summer break

Behind on my paperwork, as usual.

There's two visits for May and June respectively to write up when I get some time. Nothing major to report but the year list has reached 99.

In the meantime and in the spirit of the recent referendum debate here's some handy Kelk facts.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Cuckoo & Swift

A Cuckoo has been calling in the village since end of April and Swifts returned to nest sites around the end of the first week of May, a typical kind of date.

Which neatly brings the yearlist to 90 before my next visit. It feels like months ago!

089 Cuckoo
090 Swift

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Arrivals / Departures

Review for the recent weekend. An eventful weekend with a fair few summer arrivals but a few notable birds departing including Fieldfares and a small party of Whooper Swan.

Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th April

Mute Swan - 19
Whooper Swan - 4 (3 adult, 1 young) at Wansford
Shelduck - 4
Wigeon - 2
Gadwall - 25
Teal - 26
Pochard - 2
Tufted Duck - 16
Little Egret - 1 at least, possibly 2
Heron - 20+
Red Kite - 1 over Great Kelk
Sparrowhawk - 4
Buzzard - 20+
Kestrel - 4
Oystercatcher - 6
Golden Plover - 70+
Lapwing - 22 (a poor total for April)
Green Sandpiper - 1
Common Gull - 700+ flying E to roost in evening
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 2
Herring Gull - 300+ on ploughed field
Barn Owl - 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 6
Sand Martin - 17
Swallow - 6
Meadow Pipit - 15
Grey Wagtail - 2
Pied Wagtail - 14 together on ploughed field (no 'Whites')
Fieldfare - 17 in three flocks
Redwing - 2
Blackcap - 2
Chiffchaff - 22
Willow Warbler - 2
Bullfinch - 2 (a year tick!)

Also noted were a dozen or so butterflies including a Brimstone.

Year list...

078 Curlew
079 Red Kite
080 Swallow
081 Chiffchaff
082 Blackcap
083 Bullfinch
084 Sand Martin
085 Whooper Swan
086 Shelduck
087 Willow Warbler
088 Golden Plover


About 30 big gull including two LBBs. The following day there were 300+ Herring Gulls present. Although spring is favourable for Herring Gulls in Kelk such numbers are off-the-scale. What is happening?

A pair of Oystercatchers on a roadside pool.

Weirdly-coloured Pheasant (rubbish photo doesn't do it justice)

Pair of Pochard. This species has been quite hard to find in the last few years.

Whoopers! Proving that you don't need big wetland nature reserves to find big birds. This is just a wet patch on a poorly drained field.


Monday, 14 March 2016

Obligatory use of "Spring" in title

Lovely weather, eh?

A pretty good weekend with the added bonus of nice weather. There are still four Little Egrets hanging around although they spent most of the weekend invisible and only seen together at dusk on Sunday. Presumably a different bird was at Wansford.

It was still too early for 'proper' summer migrants but both Oystercatcher (5 noted) and Lesser Black-backed Gull (2) are technically migrants, to Kelk at least.

Two drake Shoveler together was a surprise - spring is the best time for them but no location has a particularly good track record over recent years. There's still 210+ Teal and 160+ Wigeon in the area and 14 Gadwall is a good spring total.

Bird of the weekend was a Jack Snipe, flushed from the edge of Kelk Beck, before characteristically dropping straight back into the rough. This is the first one recorded for about five years, though no doubt they are present every winter.

Song bursting out everywhere was a theme for the weekend but in terms of sightings 80 Fieldfare is a good return by recent standards, a pair of Grey Wagtail at Harpham raises hopes, and a Jay fills a gap in the year list that is never simple.

Saturday 12th & Sunday 13th March

Mute Swan - 3 on Kelk Beck, 18 at Wansford
Greylag Goose - 60
Wigeon - 160+
Teal - 210+
Shoveler - 2 males
Tufted Duck - 18
Red-legged Partridge - 3
Grey Partridge - 6
Little Grebe - 4
Cormorant - 5
Little Egret - 4 Lowthorpe, 1 Wansford
Grey Heron - 17+
Buzzard - 16
Oystercatcher - 5
Jack Snipe - 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 2 adults
Barn Owl - 2
Meadow Pipit - 5
Grey Wagtail - 2 (pair together)
Fieldfare - 80
Redwing - 2
Coal Tit - 2
Jay - 1

Lesser Black-backed Gulls. This is presumably a pair heading north for the summer. Although they have been seen in every month the majority occur between March and September. It is not often you see this species touch down in the area.

Yet another Grey Wagtail photo. Ah, yes, but this one is a male in summer plumage!

One of the Lowthorpe egrets. Just recently they have changed behaviour and are regularly seen in this wheat field. My theory is they're finding toads and frogs migrating to their spawning ponds, but that's a wild guess.

Two drake Shoveler. Not an easy species to see in the area but spring is the most likely time.

Moody or what! This was dusk on Sunday, all day had been quite murky but by the end of the day the light was really strange.

A whopping ten additions to the year list

068 Jay
069 Great Spotted Woodpecker
070 Mistle Thrush
071 Meadow Pipit
072 Oystercatcher
073 Shoveler
074 Canada Goose
075 Lesser Black-backed Gull
076 Jack Snipe
077 Red-legged Partridge

Monday, 15 February 2016

Red Herrings

From a week ago when it was very windy. And totally rubbish. Bah.

Saturday 6th & Sunday 7th February

Mute Swan - 6
Teal - 45
Mallard - 70+
Pochard - 1
Cormorant - 1
Little Egret - still 4 hanging around Kelk Beck / Lowthorpe
Heron - 6
Buzzard - 7
Lapwing - two flocks 32+125
Great Black-backed Gull - 4
Kingfisher - 1
Redwing - 52
Coal Tit - 1

Strangest by far was the build-up of Herring Gulls on Saturday. Around 170 were in a field at Harpham and another 250 near Kelk Lake, an incredible 420+ in total. Not a single 'black-back' among them and almost entirely adult birds.

In winter almost all big gulls are seen flying SW / S, only occasionally on the ground. The largest winter count in a day is around 120, with some larger counts up to 180 later in spring.

On Sunday 48 were noted flying through during the day, a relatively normal situation.

A mystery why so many should suddenly appear, but I bet the wind had something to do with it.

Anyway, here's some snowdrops.

Just one year list addition

067 Coal Tit

Thursday, 4 February 2016


A rather late start to 2016 for me, but a start no less.

Highlights included 4 Little Egrets remaining at Lowthorpe (since at least December), an adult Peregrine, 4 different Green Sandpipers, 3 hunting Barn Owls and a Short-eared Owl. Not much action in terms of songbirds, mostly due to the windy weather making it hard work.

The absolute star was my first ever Nuthatch for the area, present between Lowthorpe and Harpham on Monday 1st February. I have long thought this would be a likely addition. In April 2015 one visited a bird table at Harpham but it didn't cross my path. It is entirely possible it is the same bird - they are very sedentary - that's been hiding away all that time. Indeed a second bird within the space of a year seems somehow less likely to me.

The new year list reaches 66 at the kickoff.

January 30th - February 1st

Mute Swan - 6 Kelk Beck, 20 Wansford
Wigeon - 100
Gadwall - 1
Teal - 90
Mallard - 120
Pochard - 1
Tufted Duck - 10
Little Grebe - 4
Cormorant - 5
Little Egret - 4 at Lowthorpe
Heron - 10
Sparrowhawk - 1
Buzzard - 9
Kestrel - 4
Peregrine - adult, probably male
Lapwing - two flocks 43 + 280 is high for Jan
Woodcock - 1
Green Sandpiper - 2 Kelk, 2 Wansford
Great Black-backed Gull - 2
Stock Dove - 21
Barn Owl - 3 hunting in daytime
Little Owl - 1
Tawny Owl - 1
Short-eared Owl - 1
Kingfisher - 3
Grey Wagtail - 1
Fieldfare - 120
Redwing - 32
NUTHATCH - 1 at Lowthorpe
Long-tailed Tit - six parties noted
Linnet - 50+

One of the Little Egrets at Lowthorpe. It's less than 10 years since the first one appeared (Kelk Lake) and I'm almost expecting to see them now. Amazing.

Badger paw prints.

One of the daytime hunting Barn Owls, this one at Millingdale. I suspect they'd struggled to hunt during the windy weather but Sunday was quite calm, so 'make hay...' as they say.

Seven deer. The one on the right has an unusual neck pattern.

I've included several Grey Wagtail photos recently, but why the hell not they're fantastic birds.