Friday, 31 July 2009

Media Hype

Heron About to swallow a dead perch
Southern Hawker
Wasp Nest - 30 feet up a Larch
Comma - taken by 10-year-old Ben Coneyworth
Green-Veined White taken by 10-year-old Ben Coneyworth
Bloody Cranesbill - yes, really!
Knot - surrounded by Dunlin on beach at Spurn
Grey Plover, Dunlin, Knot & Turnstone
Knot & Dunlin
Whimbrel, Curlew & a Bar-tailed Godwit
Roe Deer
The above pics are a backwards compendium of the photos taken over the past week. Yesterday included a visit to Filey, pretty poor birdwise, but at least we missed the torrential downpour back at home. Stopped off at Tophill Low where we enjoyed a priviliged insight into unusal areas of the site. The wasp nest was particularly startling - very high in a tree. On Tuesday we tried a few butterfly venues, but most of the individuals were rather washed out. However, Ben got to try out his fledgling macro photography potential. On Monday morning I tried for the high tide wader roost at Spurn, but it was drizzling, so it was all rather dull. Arriving home, there was an urgent email waiting for me, asking me to ring a number at Yorkshire Water HQ. As Richard Hampshire, the Tophill warden had a day off, would I be prepared to be interviewed by a local TV programme about the Collared Pratincole at Tophill Low? After a bit of persuasion, I agreed & travelled for another 45 minutes to the reserve, where I was able to read up on the species before the arrival of the cameraman. The bird hadn't been seen since Saturday lunch time, but we lugged the heavy equipment to the correct hide, where he took pictures of Tufted Duck chicks, and roosting Common Terns. I was interviewed here and filmed bizarrely raising, panning and then removing my binoculars at nothing in particular. He needed more shots, so another hour and a half passed, as he filmed more ducks, a Comma butterfly and a Southern Hawker dragonfly. Finally, we returned to the car park where I had to walk up to the notice board, point at the entry for the Collared Pratincole, and then walk past the Tophill info boards. By this time is was 4.30, so he wasn't sure if he could get the interview back to the office for the evening bulletin. After he'd gone I had a text to say there had been an accident on the Dunswell road in Beverley, blocking both lanes, the very route he intended to take; but I was able to get home via the Beverley bypass. Of course, there was only a 30 second bulletin on the programme showing stills of the bird with commentary from the publicity handout. I had wasted a whole 2.5 hours for no attendant publicity for the course, but at least it was an insight into the prolonged process of filming for a 2-minute piece on local TV.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

2010 Yorkshire Wildlife Calendar Ready!

Now available for £7 (incl p & p) UK only
[£6 if postage is not involved!]

Below - front cover
[photos (c) 2009 Marcus Conway, Maurice Gordon & Michael Flowers]
Discover where & when to see specific species
24 colour photographs
Nearly 300 lines of information & suggestions

Now revamped to include wildlife and locations from each area of Yorkshire

[Below - pictures from June page (c) 2009 Martin Standley & Maurice Gordon]

[Below - pictures from March page (c) 2009 Marcus Conway & Michael Flowers]

To order, please either post next to this message or email me on:
PS: If any Yorkshire wildlife photographers are interested in contributing images to the 2011 calendar in return for 3 copies of the calendar, please contact me.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Successful Sigglesthorne Spots

All pics for this post (c) 2009 Anita & Peter Chicken
Spotted Flycatchers
It’s nice to know that some Spotted Flycatchers are still managing to hang on. This is a bird which used to visit our garden regularly in the 1980s, but apart from a passage migrant which stopped off in our apple tree one late summer afternoon a couple of years ago, it is now extinct as a breeding species in our immediate vicinity, and is not even seen here. Tophill Low had quite a bit of publicity earlier this month when their nest successfully fledged 5 young. Another nest among wisteria in a Sigglesthorne garden in East Yorkshire has also successfully fledged some young recently. This boringly-plumaged, yet charismatic-behaving species returns every year to Sigglesthorne, and included above are some pictures from an earlier year. These were taken through glass, which accounts for the discernible glare and reflections in some of them. Thanks to Anita & Peter Chicken for allowing me to share them with you. The plight of the Spotted Flycatcher is eloquently summarised in Michael McCarthy’s recent book Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo, which details the decline of this, and many another of our summer visiting migrants. This is highly recommended to anyone who may have noticed a worrying decline in the summer songsters belting out their songs in our local woodland, especially over that last couple of years. If we aren’t careful several species may go the way of the Wryneck and the Red-backed Shrike, and become extinct as British breeding birds – this mustn’t be allowed to happen!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

North Cave Wetlands Open Day

The North Cave Wetlands Green Woodpecker - the one that got away!
(c) 2009 Tony Robinson
Sand Martin
Black-tailed Skimmer
Small Copper
Painted Lady
I was asked at short notice if I could lead a bird walk around North Cave Wetlands to coincide with an open day operated by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. I should have been leading a walk around nearby Bunny Hill, but luckily for the YWT, there were not enough takers for it to run, so I was glad to help. The walk was planned for 1pm, so I arrived just after 12 to give me time to have a sausage sarnie c/o Angela at the Wild Bird Cafe. Apparently, a lot of people who were present in the morning may have been interested in the walk, but they couldn't hang around until 1pm. The sky looked a bit threatening at times, so we popped from hide-to-hide in case the heavens opened - they didn't! An afternoon in late-July is not the ideal time for a bird walk, but we also stopped off to identify butterflies, dragonflies, flowers and trees. From East hide we saw Oystercatchers, and Sand Martins; but we were a few seconds too late for the Green Woodpecker, and the Common Tern raft was empty. Between East Hide & Turret hide we saw the majority of butterflies, including: Painted Ladies, Meadow Browns, Small & Large Whites and Gatekeepers; whilst sharp-eyed Sam spotted a Small Copper. During this walk we were serenaded by several grasshoppers - non of them as bright as Mondays at another YWT reserve! From Turret Hide we saw plenty of Lapwings, Black-headed Gulls, a Little Grebe on at least 5 eggs, a Tufted Duck with 10 or so chicks, and plenty of rabbits. As we left Turret Hide a Black-tailed Skimmer posed for a fairly lengthy time on the wooden screens. We walked round to South Hide where we were able to see the extent of the latest excavations to the south of the car parking. There were many Lapwings in this area. From South Hide we saw a Moorhen on its nest on the raft, plus several more Oystercatchers. A Common Sandpiper flew round and round the lake unable to decide on a safe place to land. There were a pair of Great Crested Grebes, and 2 Pochards were having a bath, whilst another preened itself on the bank. Another Black-tailed Skimmer landed under the hide, but there were no Kingfishers on the perches! We were able to fill the 90 minutes with plenty of sightings, but we would have seen a lot more birds if the walk had taken place in the Autumn, in Spring or even in Winter. You don't really see North Cave Wetlands at it's species-density-best in late July!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Ruddy Duck & Bull

Emperor Dragonfly - how it would have looked, if it had landed!
(c) 2009 Maurice Gordon
Ruddy Duck Tufted Duck Little Grebe
Brimstone Moth
Painted Lady
Small Tortoiseshell
The Ravenous Bull braved by the afternoon group - twice!

The weather wasn't too promising today with a very strong wind, and the wildlife fell in line with this originally, but it did improve later. I popped into Tophill Low first, for my closest ever view of a male Ruddy Duck. There were several Tufted Ducks with young broods, and there appeared to be seven immature Common Terns on their island of shale. The other birds of note were Grey Wagtails feeding their young around the complex of buildings near the entrance. Also in this area were plenty of Linnets & Swallows going in-and-out of the deserted buildings. It was 11.30 so time to set off for the afternoon venue, but I was amazed to see a continuous line of traffic on the other side of the carriageway, presumably stretching from Driffield all the way to Leconfield. Driffield Show would have to be pretty good to make such a long wait in the car worthwhile. I was surprised no one seemed to do a u-turn. Anyway, on to a Brandesburton public footpath were one of the first sightings was a fleeting glimpse of an Owl, which disappeared into an upper Barn window. It was dark-plumaged and looked too large for a Little Owl, so was probably a juvenile Tawny Owl. The pair of Great Crested Grebes still had their entire brood of four intact. The strong winds ensured there was no sign of last week's Kingfisher or the 2 juvenile Willow Warblers. The class bravely ventured across a field containing an irate bull, and shortly afterwards we had to retrace our steps, by which time the bull had become even more steaming mad. We outfaced him & although he made a move towards us, we squeezed past without incident. As a reward we encountered a very close-flying Emperor Dragonfly, which seemed to have difficulty finding somewhere sheltered for it to enjoy its meal of a white butterfly. Unbelieveably another white butterfly divebombed the dragonfly until it dropped its catch - less of an emperor, or a dragon, and more of a wimp! Shortly afterwards a Brown Hawker appeared, and these 2 odonata had a skirmish, before the Brown Hawker returned. We were almost back to the beginning of the walk when we had another brief sighting of the owl - again it seemed to be a juvenile Tawny. May be worth checking up on this on my own. On the quiet road outside was a large flock of young Sparrows, but one of the fathers had met its fate under the tyre of a car. It had even spat out its last meal of grain. A fitting symbol of what has been a quite tricky term. Here's hoping for more reliable weather when the wader specials in August take place, and of course the Autumn Term in September.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Collared a Prat(incole)

Collared Pratincole (c) 2009 John Sadler
The weather forecast was abysmal for today, so the butterfly visit to Barlow Common was regretfully cancelled. In the event the day was overcast, but nothing like as wet as the forecast and could probably have gone ahead. However, the butterfly numbers would probably have been rather low. The Collared Pratincole reported last night from Pulfin Bog reappeared, so I texted John to see if he had abandoned his decorating to see it. He hadn’t, so we decided to go together. This was John’s first visit to this site, and he was struck by the long walk to the actual site. It would certainly keep someone fit, if they wished to visit it regularly as their local patch. On reaching the open lake area we carried straight on to a small group of birders with their scopes trained on a slim spit of land. It wasn’t until John moved away to a different vantage point that I could even see the bird. The above photo gives a very accurate sighting of the bird, but to see it in all its glory I would recommend you look at David Hobson’s remarkable photo taken in better light yesterday evening.
It is a stunning bird on that site & in all the reference books. Also present: Goldeneye, Wigeon, Common Tern, Little Egret, Kingfisher, Swifts, Sand Martins (all heading south), Swallow, and plenty of common stuff. On the way back we spotted a couple of Common Sandpipers on the mud along the river Hull. A lot better day than the forecasters would have had us believe! Again!!!!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Whistlestop Tour

Common Green Grasshopper (Purple Morph) [Thanks to Paul Ashton, Chris Cox & Ben M]
Juvenile Swallows

Puffin - one for you, Ben!
Juvenile Kittiwakes
Painted Lady
Small Skipper
Small Skipper
Caterpillar of Peacock Butterfly
Clustered Bellflower
Where can you go to enjoy wildlife, but also to keep your 10-year-old nephew quiet? Started off in Hornsea to see the clouds of waders reported recently. Unfortunately, there were only a couple of Dunlin and Lapwing, and several wagtails. We couldn't stay there too long as he was too cold, so more waders may have materialised if we'd been able to remain. I hope Ben hasn't started a year list yet, but I began to wonder when he said he wanted to see some Puffins, as he hadn't seen any this year yet! I warned him that late July isn't the best time, but we set off for Flamborough anyway. Although there appeared to be only one Razorbill, and a single Guillemot still protecting its chick, there were still plenty of Puffins to be seen, so he was well satisfied. Also present: Fulmar, flypast Gannets, a juvenile Peregrine, Kestrel, 20+ Shag, Meadow Pipits and Linnets. The Skylarks appear to have vanished along with the vast numbers of Razorbills & Guillemots. There were no waders on the marshy area. We then headed off to an inland butterfly site. The numbers of Marbled Whites are starting to dwindle, but there were still plenty of Small Heath, Small Skippers, Meadow Browns, and Ringlets. However, the creature of the day was the astonishingly-coloured grasshopper at the top of this blog entry. Only need to try & discover which species this is. None of the UK grasshoppers in my books are anywhere as colourful as the photo shows!