Friday, 8 December 2017

Because November obviously

Oops, nearly forgot about writing up my last visit. Here goes;

Saturday 4th - Monday 6th November

Mute Swan - 6
Pink-footed Goose - 1170 (940N + 95S +135 on ground)
Greylag Goose - 220 (100+120)
Wigeon - 100+
Gadwall - 3
Teal - 60
Cormorant - 5
Great White Egret - 1
Little Egret - min 8 but probably at least 12
Grey Heron - 14
Sparrowhawk - 2
Buzzard - 11
Kestrel - 11
Peregrine - 1
Golden Plover 510 (90+420) may be a record count!
Lapwing - 175+
Snipe - 1
Woodcock - 2
Green Sandpiper - 2
'small gulls' - 2000+ flying to roost in evening
Mediterranean Gull - 1 immature on field in Kelk
Woodpigeon - 1200+
Kingfisher - 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 4
Grey Wagtail - 2
Pied Wagtail - 47 (29+18)
Fieldfare - 32
Redwing - 4
Jay - 4
'corvids' - 3500+ mostly Rook
Starling - 550+ flying south at dusk
Brambling - 2
Siskin - 11
Linnet - 150 (70+50+30)
Bullfinch - 3
Yellowhammer - 10

Part of a relatively huge flock of 420 Goldies near Gransmoor. Conversely there were not many Lapwing about.

Green Sandpipers together. November birds are usually here for the winter rather than passing through.

One of God-knows-how-many Little Egrets. My guess would be about 12, which would be the first double figure count, but it's possible there was as few as 8. I 'counted' 16 but some of these were probably double counted on different days. They move about quite a lot!

Close up Pied Wagtail. I encountered two decent sized gatherings totalling 47 which is close to a record. November is a good time for seeing 'flocks', though.

Always a delight to see Siskin in the area. We don't have a lot of suitable habitat (they favour Alders) so they usually move on quite quickly.

Two additions to the year list. The 'worst' ever year was 107, with only December left to beat that now.

105 Brambling
106 Mediterranean Gull

Friday, 10 November 2017

Geese Aloud

It's clear there are unprecedented numbers of Pink-footed Goose in Yorkshire this autumn. This RSPB article gives a peak count of 27,000 roosting on the Humber last month, compared to around 1-2000 through most of the last four decades.

What is fascinating about this rise is that previously the birds fed almost exclusively to the south and generally avoided the north bank, whereas there have been frequent reports of 'thousands' flying to and from the Wolds. What's less clear is exactly where they are going to feed - stubbles seem to be the preferred habitat.

Anyway, I'm in danger of rambling here :)

Records of Pinkies in the Kelk area over the last decade have mostly involved skeins, typically 50-100, flying south in autumn, with a much lesser northerly movement in spring. Only a handful of birds have been seen on the ground, never more than 6 at once.

Fast forward to last weekend. A whopping 940 flew north over Kelk and into the distant Wolds on Saturday lunchtime. Easily the most I've seen in a day here. Then on Sunday we found a flock of 135 feeding on stubbles near the beck. A further 95 flew south mid-afternoon.

Is this the new normal? Oh I do hope so, they're such wonderful creatures!

There are a few stubble fields so I will be keeping an eye out.

They did a fly-past at one point but soon came down again.

Feel free to count them for yourself.

Summary of other stuff coming soon...

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Great Third

An old friend returns for its 3rd winter!

Here's the news of its arrival from 2015 and 2016.

More later...

Friday, 29 September 2017

September... take 2

Autumn can be very quiet if the birds aren't moving. And so it was to be. Plenty of resident birds about just nothing particularly notable. No additions to the year list.

Even so, a Hobby will be the last of summer while 3 Jays is perhaps a sign of a winter influx. The flock of Goldies mentioned previously was still about. Lots of gulls following local cultivation. A late singing Chiffchaff obviously thought it was summer but the hirundines have that 'we're off' look about them - Godspeed brave travellers!

As with the last couple of years, there's been a bumper sized release of gamebirds on the Agnes estate - there could easily be 1-2000 Pheasants in the area if 330+ were easily visible.

23rd & 24th September 

Mute Swan - 5
Greylag Goose - 20+
Canada Goose - 1
Wigeon - 1
Teal - 40+
Mallard - 60+
Red-legged Partridge - 43 (tame birds from releases)
Grey Partridge - 18 in two parties
Pheasant - 330+ birds from local releases feeding in fields
Little Grebe - 1
Cormorant - 2
Heron - 24
Marsh Harrier - 1
Sparrowhawk - 2
Buzzard - 10
Kestrel - 13
Hobby - 1
Golden Plover - 150+ presumed same flock as early Sep
Lapwing - 3
Snipe - 1
Green Sandpiper - 1
'small gulls' - 3000+ following plough Harpham
Herring Gull - 250+ at Harpham
Great Black-backed Gull - 14 is a good count for early autumn
Kingfisher - 3
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 6
Swallow - 60+
House Martin - 100+
Meadow Pipit - 9
Grey Wagtail - 1
Mistle Thrush - 9
Chiffchaff - 1 singing, plus several others noted
Coal Tit - 1
Jay - 3
Corvids - 1000+ to roost, mostly Rook, some Jackdaws
Goldfinch - 38
Bullfinch - 1 is only the 4th record of the year!
Yellowhammer - flock of 10

Great Black-backed Gulls have been scarce recently. I'll have to check back but this is probably the largest groups I've seen (14, not all in photo) over the last decade.

House Sparrows. Kelk seems to be a good area for them. Between Little & Great Kelk there's probably 100-200 birds this autumn. I'm a big fan.

Local gamebird releases are a feature of September. After many years of not releasing Red-legs the estate has got back in to the idea. At least 43 were noted.

Robin, despite it not being Christmas.

No additions to the year list (104). Getting to the benchmark of 110 could be tricky.

September... take 1

Unable to make a visit in August I tried to compensate with two weekend during September - here's a summary of the first. Lots of birds about, though only Curlew was a year tick!

2nd-3rd September

Mute Swan - 13
Wigeon - 2 at Wansford
Gadwall - 2
Teal - 4
Mallard - 70+
Tufted Duck - 1
Grey Partridge - 31
Little Grebe - 9
Cormorant - 1
Little Egret - 1
Heron - 11
Marsh Harrier - 2
Sparrowhawk - 5
Buzzard - 23
Kestrel - 15
Hobby - 3
Golden Plover - 170+
Lapwing - 1 (just the one!)
Curlew - 1 flew W
Green Sandpiper - 1
'small gulls' - 3000+ together
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 10
Herring Gull - 150+
Great Black-backed Gull - 6
Feral Pigeon - 220+ at Gembling
Barn Owl - 1
Tawny Owl - 1
Swift - 1
Kingfisher - 3
Swallow - 100+
House Martin - 30+
Meadow Pipit - 3
Yellow Wagtail - 2
Grey Wagtail - 1 at Kelk
Mistle Thrush - 33 is the largest flock for years
Goldfinch - 50+

Collared Doves on wires. Less common than they once were but still a very familiar sight wherever there are houses and gardens.

Part of a flock of 3000+ mixed gulls following cultivation. East Yorkshire is very important for gulls in autumn with Common Gulls in particular occurring in vast numbers compared to most other regions.

Kestrel on electricity pole. Seems to have been a good year for them.

Red Admiral. I haven't been keeping a close eye on butterflies recently but it seems to have been a poor year.

Another year another successful swan family on the beck. Five cygnets is a decent result.

So, just the one addition...

104 Curlew

Friday, 4 August 2017


I wasn't able to visit in June due to work, but I just squeezed in a July visit last weekend. July can be a frustrating month for birding. Breeding is mostly over and birds generally go quiet and/or hide in the excessive undergrowth. Birds find little need to fly about much and flocking behaviour hasn't really kicked in.

Still, it was nice to be back and there were a few highlights - a calling Quail in Kelk on Sunday evening, my first Hobby of the year, and a surprise 4 Little Egrets. Three in a field at Gransmoor and one at Wansford. I commented in May it was the first for that month so this presumably being the same bird and present throughout would be the first to spend the summer here. Also this is the first time I've seen more than one in a day outside of winter. Rapid change!

29th-30th July

Mute Swan - 6
Greylag Goose - 120+
Canada Goose - 18 
Shoveler - 2
Grey Partridge - 10 a family party
Quail - 1 calling at dusk
Little Grebe - 3
Cormorant - 12
Little Egret - 4
Grey Heron - 27
Sparrowhawk - 4
Buzzard - 20+
Kestrel - 8
Hobby - 1
Lapwing - 170+
Green Sandpiper - 2
Great Black-backed Gull - 1
Swift - 150+
Kingfisher - 1
Yellow Wagtail - 2

British summer weather. Bright sunshine followed by black clouds.

Two year list additions...

102 Hobby
103 Quail

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Cetti Inevitable

Until a few years ago Cetti's Warbler were rare visitors to Yorkshire. They first bred in the UK as recently as the early-70s and have slowly spread north ever since. If I remember correctly the first Yorkshire breeding record was at Tophill Low in the last decade.

In the last couple of breeding seasons there appears to have been a mini-explosion in E.Yorks with multiple singing birds at Hornsea Mere and around Tophill Low plus sites along the Humber. The other Yorkshire 'zone' is the established wetland reserves in West/South Yorkshire.To the north they are still rare.

Cetti's Warblers are notoriously hard to see but fortunately their call is loud and distinctive. Here's a YouTube video of one at Tophill Low last year.

Their habitat choice appears to be similar to Sedge/Reed Warbler and as such most of the reports come from reserves with abundance of this restricted habitat, and where birders hang about most often. While early colonisers are likely to find the best habitat on such reserves as they spread it's inevitable they will find smaller chunks of habitat to their liking.

With a small number of Sedge Warbler, mostly along Kelk Beck, and a smaller number of Reed Warblers, it has been on my mind to listen out for Cetti's for a while now.


Sure enough a Cetti's Warbler singing on my patch this month! To be honest I thought it would take a few more years but I'm not complaining! Sadly, yet equally inevitable, I failed to actually see the bird, only to hear its song.

And on that note, here's a summary of what was otherwise a relatively unremarkable May weekend.

Saturday 20th & Sunday 21st May

Mute Swan - 6 adults incl. pair with 4 cygnets
Canada Goose - 4 adults incl. pair with 3 goslings
Gadwall - 8
Tufted Duck - 12
Little Grebe - 2
Little Egret - 1 at Wansford
Heron - 7
Buzzard - 12
Kestrel - 2
Oystercatcher - 3
Lapwing - 18
Common Gull - 120+
Lesser Black-backed Gull -5
Cuckoo - 3 calling males
Swift - 30+
'Hirundines' - still more to come
Meadow Pipit - 3
Yellow Wagtail - 5
CETTI'S WARBLER - 1 in song
Sedge Warbler - 9
Reed Warbler - 2
Garden Warbler - 2
Lesser Whitethroat - 4
Whitethroat - 21
Bullfinch - 2 males

A couple of photos. This Little Egret was at Wansford. I had my first April record last year, and this one represents my first May record. How times change!

Sedge Warbler being relatively showy, helped by the low level of plant growth. They get a lot harder to see from now on.

Year list additions...

096 Cuckoo
097 Swift
098 Garden Warbler
099 Reed Warbler
100 Tawny Owl
101 Cetti's Warbler

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

April belatedly

Saturday 22nd & Sunday 23rd April

A whizz of a summary before my upcoming visit for May. While there had been a modest arrival of spring migrants, there was a long way to go.

Gadwall - 10
Teal - 1
Tufted Duck - 4
Marsh Harrier - 1 'creamcrown'
Buzzard - 20+
Kestrel - 7
Water Rail - 1 is the latest spring record

Oystercatcher - 2
Little Ringed Plover - 1 is the first for 5 years!

Snipe - 1
Common Gull - 740 flying to roost
Little Owl - 1
Kingfisher - 1
Sand Martin - 30+
Swallow - 40+

House Martin - 20+
Yellow Wagtail - 3
Wheatear - 1
Sedge Warbler - 2
Blackcap - 17
Lesser Whitethroat - 2
Whitethroat - 1
Chiffchaff - 20+
Willow Warbler - 14
Linnet - 80+

Also a few butterflies

Peacock - 10+
Small Tort - 20+
White sp. - 4
Holly Blue - 1. These are fairly uncommon locally.

Here's the Little Ringed Plover. The dry winter left almost no wet patches in the fields. This remnant being the most likely to hold a spring wader... and sure enough.

A good few additions to the year list (90 at the same stage last year):

083 Swallow
084 Yellow Wagtail
085 Blackcap
086 Willow Warbler
087 House Martin
088 Little Owl
089 Sand Martin
090 Marsh Harrier
091 Little Ringed Plover
092 Sedge Warbler
093 Lesser Whitethroat
094 Whitethroat
095 Wheatear

Thursday, 27 April 2017

March Catch-up

April is nearly over. There's a cold northerly wind and hail. Sounds about right. But before I gather notes from last weekend and dream of nice weather, I should write up March's visit.

Saturday 25th & Sunday 26th March

Mute Swan - 40 incl 26 together at Foston
Greylag Goose - 72 in several groups
Canada Goose - 4
Wigeon - 90+
Gadwall - 8
Teal - 20
Mallard - 30+
Shoveler - 6
Red-legged Partridge - 4
Grey Partridge - 7
Cormorant - 5
Little Egret - 1 at Wansford
Grey Heron - 25
Sparrowhawk - 2
Buzzard - 35+ easily the highest spring count
Kestrel - 10
Peregrine - 1 probably an immature bird
Oystercatcher - 4
Golden Plover - 140 near Harpham
Snipe - 10+
Redshank - 1 at Wansford
Green Sandpiper - 2 both wintering birds still present
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 1
Kingfisher - 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 3
Fieldfare - 280 in one flock in Kelk
Redwing - 14
Chiffchaff - 24
Jay - 1

First butterflies of the year - 17 Small Tortoiseshells.

This Oystercatcher has ring on its leg. It's always interesting to speculate where visiting birds have come from. My bet would be this bird was born in Holderness, perhaps here even, and wintered on the Humber or Wash, and that that's where it was ringed. Prove me wrong!

Frog spawn in a woodland pool.

Four further March additions to the yearlist...

079 Chiffchaff
080 Oystercatcher
081 Lesser Black-backed Gull
082 Peregrine

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Mini March Update

A pair of Shelduck together in a field (11th March) and a Red Kite drifted over Kelk (14th March). I will tot up the number of kite sightings but it must be getting close to double figures now. The split is roughly 2/3 spring and 1/3 autumn. None in winter...yet.

Along with the Whoopers mentioned in the previous post that's 3 new birds for the year.

076 Whooper Swan
077 Shelduck
078 Red Kite

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Whoop North

A neat line of 20 Whooper Swan flew north last Friday (3rd Mar). That's the biggest flock I've recorded for the area, though the timing is entirely typical.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017


Unseasonably warmth. 12 whopping degrees C of it. Shame about the stiff breeze. But I digress, as usual.

My February visit was pretty successful. A couple of Redshank at Wansford were the highlight. Having failed to find a single one through 2016 this was both a surprise and a relief. Egrets are still seemingly everywhere but will likely depart in March.

18th - 19th February

Mute Swan - 14
Pink-footed Goose - 1
Greylag - 220; flocks of 160 at Wansford and 60 at Kelk
Canada Goose - 6
Wigeon - 160+
Gadwall - 2
Teal - 48
Mallard - 40+
Shoveler - 3 males at Wansford
Tufted Duck - 32
Red-legged Partridge - 4
Grey Partridge - 8
Little Grebe - 4
Cormorant - 5
Little Egret - at least 6, but possibly 8
Great White Egret - 1 still present
Grey Heron - 16
Sparrowhawk - 1
Buzzard - 30+ perhaps as many as 35 individuals!
Kestrel - 5
Golden Plover - 50 at Harpham
Lapwing - 140 in three flocks
Snipe - 3
Woodcock - 1
Redshank - 2 at Wansford
Green Sandpiper - 3
Kingfisher - 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 3
Meadow Pipit - 4
Grey Wagtail - 2
Fieldfare - 70 in two flocks
Redwing - 12
Mistle Thrush - 6
Coal Tit - 1
Treecreeper - 1
Jay - 1
Linnet - 56 in two flocks

And now, some photos...

A Buzzard on the deck. I don't see them standing around very often though it's by no means an unusual behaviour. The warm sunny weather encouraged our Buzzards to make territorial displays on Sunday when they seemed to be everywhere.

Greylag flock at Wansford. There's two 'farmyard' white birds among them.

You've always wondered how big a Little Egret is compared to a Common Gull, right? The answer is  'about the same size'.

The water table is low at the moment and virtually no fields have wet patches - this one at Millingdale being an exception to the rule. Clearly the drains must be blocked as the channel is in fine condition. A Green Sandpiper had flushed just before I took this photo.

Lone Pink-foot. Unusual to see them on the ground. They're usually such sociable birds I can't help thinking this chap must be either lost or poorly.

The rather high January total of 69 species meant there wasn't to be a dramatic rise this month, just six.

070 Treecreeper
071 Gadwall
072 Kingfisher
073 Redshank
074 Pink-footed Goose
075 Golden Plover

Friday, 3 February 2017

Take 2017... Camera... Action!

Up and running with 2017. Year eleven of my monthly survey 'experiment'.

Without further ado...

28th & 29th January

Mute Swan - 6
Greylag Goose - 20
Canada Goose - 12
Wigeon - 200+
Teal - 80+
Mallard - 30+
Shoeveler - 4 at Wansford, unusual in winter
Red-legged Partridge - 2
Grey Partridge - 12
Little Grebe - 1
Cormorant - 4
Little Egret - 7 or 8, hard to say, they're very mobile
Great White Egret - 1 at Lowthorpe
Grey Heron - 28 incl. 23 together nr heronry
Sparrowhawk - 1
Buzzard - 20+ incl. 10 in the air together!
Kestrel - 8
Water Rail - 1 still at Kelk Lake
Lapwing - 112 in two flocks, 90+22
Snipe - 13
Woodcock - 5
Green Sandpiper - 2
Great Black-backed Gull - 1
Collared Dove - 24 at Harpham
Barn Owl - 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 3 incl. one 'drumming'
Meadow Pipit - 1
Grey Wagtail - 5 is an exceptional number in winter
Fieldfare - 6
Redwing - 20
Mistle Thrush - 4
Coal Tit - 1
Jay - 1
Siskin - 45, most welcome after a total absence in 2016!
Linnet - 70+
Bullfinch - 1
Yellowhammer - 90+ is the highest count this century
Reed Bunting - 15+, together, is a very good count

Comparison shot of Great Black-backed Gull and Cormorant at Wansford. GBBs have become surprisingly irregular over recent years, in contrast to Herring Gulls.

Grey Heron at dusk at Lowthorpe. At this time of year the adults are entering peak breeding condition which is reflected in pristine plumage and brighter beak.

Overhead formation flypast of Little Egrets. The novelty of these birds still hasn't worn off.

Shoveler near Wansford. Rather scarce at any time of the year, especially winter.

Criminally overlooked, Sparrows are wonderful little birds that are almost uniquely adapted to live around humans. They still thrive in Kelk but the numbers aren't what they once were.

So there you have it. The year list is reset and the first monthly total stands at 69. Not quite the best (71 in 2009) but a long way from being the worst (51 in 2014).

Tuesday, 31 January 2017


My 2017 got off to a flying start - 68 species. The Great White Egret is still knocking about along with several Little Egrets dotted across the area. I will gather notes and write something soon.

For now though, just a note to say how good it is to see the Chestnut Horse pub in Kelk is back open again after a short spell in darkness. When you hear about the number of pubs, especially rural ones, that have closed over the years, you fear for the worst.

A proper country local. The new owners are still finding their feet but on Saturday the beer was good as was the food. I wish them the best of luck.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Here Wax

My monthly visits survey has reached 10 years, having started in January 2007. It feels like a significant moment which I wasn't sure I'd achieve when I began. I will write up some posts to reflect on that later but for the time being here's the final piece of that jigsaw.

29th-30th December.

Mute Swan - 10
Pink-footed Goose - c100 flying south AM 29th.
Wigeon - 380+ at Wansford
Teal - 60+
Pochard - 2
Red-legged Patridge - 11
Grey Partridge - 10
Great White Egret - 1
Little Egret - 4
Grey Heron - 9
Sparrowhawk - 1
Buzzard - 11+
Kestrel - 8
Water Rail - 2
Moorhen - 16 together at Lowthorpe
Golden Plover - 180+ is exceptional for December
Lapwing - 50
Snipe - 4
Woodcock - 2
Green Sandpipier - 2
Stock Dove - 32 in one flock is a good record
Little Owl - 1
Tawny Owl - 1
Kingfisher - 1
Fieldfare - 110+
Redwing - 7
Waxwing - 2 at Wansford
Jay - 1
Tree Sparrow - 30+
Bullfinch - 4
Yellowhammer - 25+ is a very good recent count
Reed Bunting - 5

Little Egret at Lowthorpe. There appear to be four birds in the area though it could be as many as six. I still haven't worked out their movements, it's normal to see some together and then find the odd one somwhere else later. But four is a minimum because I've seen them at the same time!

Old Big E is still hanging around. What a beast!

Normally seen hovering over fields it was nice to get relatively close to this Kestrel.

Useful comparison of Mistle Thrush with a female Blackbird. The poses are typical of both species.

A 'Green' Pheasant. I'm not sure what the status of these birds is. There is a similar species Japanese Green Pheasant (Phasianus versicolor) but the green ones in UK are presumed hybrid and/or variant bred birds, so called 'tenebrosus' . I've heard it suggested they're released by keepers as 'markers', e.g. if you release 10 birds from 1000 on the estate and you only see 3 regularly in  January then around 700 birds have been shot. You can see the logic, though I'd be surprised if it worked well in practice. Another likely and much more simple explanation is the estates just like the look of variant colour phases.

Edit: I came across another suggestion for releasing them - their behaviour is slightly different to 'normal' Pheasants and therefore offer a different 'sport' to guns.

The final species tally went up by two, to 111, which is higher than 2015 but slightly lower than average over the ten years.

110 Water Rail
111 Waxwing