Friday, 29 May 2009

Clinging on in East Yorkshire

Tree Pipit
Record shot of Redstart (c) 2009 David Ware
Song Thrush
Marsh Orchid?
Today's morning trip was a catch-up session from a fortnight ago when we were rained off. David Ware, a new recruit, alerted me to the presence of a singing Redstart, and a mystery bird. I arrived early to check on the exact locality of the singing birds, and sure enough they were both in place. Actually, there were 2 male Redstarts holding territory in an area of the county where they are not officially recorded as breeding. This is a different site to the other nearly 20 miles away, where 2 birds were seen feeding chicks in 2007, and where a pair were seen holding territory last spring. It's great that this most brilliantly-coloured passerine is keeping a toehold in our area. Unfortunately, the actual bird today proved very elusive, and we only obtained fleeting views, but it continued to sing all morning. The mystery bird turned out to be a displaying Tree Pipit. This was more confiding and allowed us to get good views as it sang from a variety of hawthorn bushes & it performed its parachuting leg-dangling display flight. To see pictures of that I would recommend Graham Catley's pics of it performing in Lincolnshire:
The Redstart & Tree Pipit are often referred to a birds of Western Britain, and birds which are in steep decline throughout the UK, so it is very gratifying that they are still attempting to breed in East Yorkshire, although their breeding numbers are almost certainly precariously low. Also present: Bullfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Yellowhammer, Lapwing, Red Kite, Kestrel, Skylark and Red-legged Partridge.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Cliff Edge Stuff

Sand Martin
Cliff Scraping
Removing Sand
Clinging On
Everyone's at Home!
Nesting Material
Fly-past Squabble
Painted Lady
Had a day off today, so took off with Ben, my nephew, in the hope there may have been something interesting at Spurn. Apart from the 4 Lizards and several Painted Ladies outside the Canal Scrape hide there wasn't! Decided to drive up the coast to rendezvous with Sand Martins, which seemed a possible attractive subject to photograph. Stopped off at Roos, but there was no sign of the Spotted Flycatcher in the churchyard, just lots of blue weevils! Tried Hornsea Mere, but it was hopeless, unless you like lots of goslings & grockles. There appeared to be a Mallard/Wigeon hybrid, which was of passing interest, but otherwise not much worth looking at, and nothing worth photographing. Carried on to an area which seemed to have a suitable Sand Martin cliff, and there they were. Unfortunately, it was very dull while I was there, so although the ISO was cranked up fairly high, the aerial shots were very hit and miss, but it was possible with Ben holding my ankles for me to dangle over the cliff for over half-an-hour for me to get a few intimate shots of some really chirpy characters. I'd like to try again in better light to see how tricky it is to try & get them in mid-flight!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


Nightingale - a "lifer" for all pm class participants
Chimney Sweeper (c) 2009 Aileen Urquhart
Bee Species (c) 2009 Aileen Urquhart
Great Tit at nest hole!
Cardinal Beetle
Cuckoo spit - caused by Froghopper
Painted Lady
Marsh Orchids? (c) 2009 Aileen Urquhart
Marsh Orchid?
Drinker Moth Caterpillar
Common Blue Damselfly
After the failure of yesterday's 'Cloud-Cuckoo-Land Special' to locate a single Cuckoo, and this morning's Nightingale session to track down a Nightingale [apart from a brief, distant burst of song], I was ready to entitle this post "A Violation of the Trades' Description Act", but this afternoon we managed to track down the Holy Grail! A busy parent Nightingale with a mouth crammed with a wasp or bee species watched us from some thick vegetation. Then to the amazement of the session members it proceeeded to walk along the edge of the path with its tail cocked like a giant Wren. It stayed in the open long enough, even for the slowest class member to pick out its subtle plumage, its large eye, its pale eye-ring, its rusty tail and pale underparts. It strutted along the path to a chorus of "wows", and that was before they'd even heard it sing. It did start singing when we passed that way again later in the afternoon, but not with the power and virtuosity it diplayed a month ago. The fierce wind kept some of the smaller passerines in deep cover, but we did hear Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, and Blackcap; and we actually saw a pair of Bullfinch & a Great Tit feeding its family hidden in a railway-warning-notice pole. There were plenty of hirundines, Swifts, Common Terns, waders & wildfowl, and lots of interesting insects and flowers. The Dunnington contingent are pretty sure they identified a Mediterranean Gull during the lunch time, but I was unable to confirm their sighting in the afternoon. It was a new place for every visitor today, and I think they'll all be back next year when the Nightingales are more active, for a really special experience!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Out of the Frying Pan, into the Fridge!

I hope you don't mind repeats!
Whimbrel - as seen last September
Little Grebe - at the same location 2 weeks ago
Grey Plover - as seen a week ago
Remaining pics taken today (c) 2009 Jackie Dawson
Painted Lady - underside

I can't bring myself to label this pair!
It was almost sweltering at Tophill yesterday, but today at Spurn I had 6 layers on, and was still not particularly warm! Unfortunately, the ‘Cloud-Cuckoo-Land’ had to be abandoned because after years of an area of Spurn holding a concentration of Cuckoos there’s only one present at the moment, and it’s location cannot be guaranteed. We went to Sammy’s Point first, but the wind seemed almost galeforce. A Sedge Warbler serenaded us from the car park, and we were surrounded by low-flying Sand Martins, Swallows and the odd House Martin. The only bird of interest on the grass was a female Wheatear, but there was a breeding-plumaged Grey Plover on the mudflats, and 2 Whimbrel; whilst a Sandwich Tern flew overhead. The Whimbrels were a ‘lifer’ for everyone there, and they obligingly made their 7-note flight call; whilst the Grey Plover was also a new species for some. We shared cars to Canal Scrape and on the journey picked up a Yellowhammer; and when we got there we added Reed Bunting, and Little Grebe; whilst another Sedge Warbler was “giving it large” in the car park. We walked along Beacon Lane to get a very good view of a Linnet, but the strong winds seemed to be keeping most of the birds down. Surprisingly, in view of the weather conditions we sighted at least 3 Painted Ladies trying to shelter along Beacon Lane - there had been a major influx further south a few days ago. A Fox crossed our path in broad daylight, but managed to evade the cameras. The radio crackled details of at least 3 Hobbies & a male Hen Harrier, but we were in the wrong place, at the wrong time to catch up with any of those.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Tophill Open Day - 2009

Great Spotted Woodpecker - through glass!
Record shot with wings open
Spotted Flycatcher - through glass
Red-legged Partridge
Moorhen (juvenile)
Tufted Ducks
Grey Partridge - on the approach road
Before Tophill I went to Kiplingcotes where the following pictures where taken:
Record shot of a very distant Turtle Dove
Roe Deer (buck)
Roe Deer (buck)
Dingy Skipper
The Tophill Low open day was a great success with more than 150 people before noon, when I led a walk round the reserve. The visitors seemed to be most entranced by the Great Spotted Woodpeckers. There were babies with their heads sticking out of a nest hole, and they regularly visited the viewing hide in the visitor centre. Another unusual visitor these days was the Spotted Flycatcher, which landed directly in front of the plate glass windows. A tent had been erected in front of the visitor centre, and directly behind that was a pair of very confiding Red-legged Partridge. On the walk round the reserve we heard Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and John identified a Lesser Whitethroat's song with no prompting. The star birds on the walk were probably the pair of Kingfishers sat low on the island at Watton Borrow Pits. Thanks to the volunteer who had his telescope trained on them! We'd been told a Wood Warbler had been heard near the east hide along 'D' reservoir, but we were unable to track it down. Also present: Gadwall, Oystercatcher, Common Tern, Pochard, and plenty of other stuff, including some very noisy Marsh Frogs. The weather was actually hot.