Monday, 26 July 2010

Our Swallows

Swallow eggshell after hatching
4 c.week-old Swallow chicks (can just see beak of one on right)
One on left not looking too healthy here!
Swallow chicks - just 10 days after previous pic
The first escapee
The same day, but this sibling prefers the shed!
The following day - 2 decide to guard my car!
A clumsy youngster lands on a wheelie bin, and a parent comes to check
Now parent watches, whilst clumsy younster (male?) attempts to fly up the shed wall
23rd July - this youngster on the shed roof allowed me to approach very close
In the week of the May half-term I went away for a few days to Worcestershire. Apparently, I'd only been gone a couple of hours when a pair of Swallows began to go under the shed where my car is parked. By the time I arrived back, less than a week later, the nest had almost been completed. We left some spare soil in an overturned dustbin lid, which we moistened, and it was this which the Swallows used to finish off their nest. I've had to cover my car with 2 sheets, as their nest is directly above my vehicle. It's a good job I did because the amount of filth they excreted over that month-long period takes some believing!
Now, we did have a pair of Swallows nesting in 2 consecutive years in the late 1980s, but we've never seen them since. I can only think that these Swallows returned to their usual nesting site as normal this year, but had to give up the attempt because it was so dry & they were unable to construct a nest without a convenient supply of mud. The Humber is only a few hundred yards from us, and this is probably what originally attracted the Swallows to the area, plus a suitable open-fronted building for them.
The first eggshell appeared on 29th June, so this is probably the day the first chicks hatched, but only one complete eggshell was found - half of which heads up this post. The 2nd & 3rd photos show how the chicks looked when they were nearly a fortnight old on 10th July. It was shortly after this that unfortunately one of the chicks fell out of the nest - it was latter entombed in Swallow dung!
2 chicks shown in the above pictures look almost ready for fledging on 19th July, but the first one wasn't spotted outside until the 21st, when it was seen perched on the wires of the prison floodlights. Meanwhile, the same day another was perched on the shelf next to my car, preventing me from going out that day - I didn't want to disturb it, because if it flew out into Hedon Road that would be the end of it! One was later seen trying to perch on the rear sloping roof of the rotting Allegro, but it slid right down & perched on a wheelie bin instead. It later tried to fly up the shed wall. For a young bird it had fairly long tail streamers, so it may be a male! The final image is of a confiding youngster perched on the shed roof, which allowed me to approach very close for the photograph. The Swallows have continued to roost in their nest every night since they fledged, but it's almost a week now, so we don't expect to see them much longer. In a way I'm hoping they don't decide to have a 2nd brood, because the sheets over the car really need a very good clean!

Friday, 16 July 2010

Spurn High Tides

All photos (c) 2010 Vince Cowell [named] or (c) 2010 Michael Flowers
Ringed Plover
Sandwich Tern [centre]
Left click on pic for larger image
Bar-tailed Godwit [centre]
Little Grebe [juvenile]
Common Seals
Small Copper
Brown-tail Moth - caterpillars cause all that bother
Black-headed Gull [juvenile]
This can be a good time of year for getting close views of really colourful waders at Spurn's early morning high tides. The secret is to get yourself a tide table book, or check on the internet and look for especially high tides of more than 6.5 metres, which coincide with a time between 6.30 & 9.30. The sun is behind you at this time, so lights up the waders much better than would be the case in the afternoon. Unfortunately, this week we've been hampered by overcast mornings followed by 2 almost gale force mornings. There are plenty of Knot with remnants of their red breeding plumage, but these remained distant at Chalk Bank, and didn't come close to either the hide or the road. There were several hundred Dunlin here, plus Ringed Plover, a few Bar-tailed Godwit, a Grey Plover, but more Redshank and Curlew. Only Dunlin, Turnstone, and Redshank fed along the shoreline in front of one of the hides when I was there, but Swallows also tried to enter - indicating that there probably was a nest inside. In the 2 mornings I was present quite a few Sandwich Terns flew past, plus a couple of Little Terns, and a single Common Tern. The really colourful waders will probably begun to appear at close quarters in the next few weeks.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Final Owl Round-up

A Tawny Owl Chick from a few weeks back (c) 2010 Phil Todd
Mistle Thrush (c) 2010 Alistair Wilson
Tawny Owl (c) 2010 David Ware
All remaining pics (c) 2010 John Northrop
Tawny Owl

Tawny Owl
Tawny Owl
Tawny Owl
Last Saturday night was the final Robert Fuller Owl Safari. Most of the birds were the same as previous excursions. The main differences were that the Little Owls were moving further away from their nesting tree, and the non-appearance of a Barn Owl for the first time - although i did see one shortly after leaving thixendale on the way home! However, one new bird was a Mistle Thrush, which amazingly, for this wary bird, landed right next to the group. Unfortunately, my camera was in the car. Thanks to all participants of the safaris who supplied pictures to illustrate this final Owl Safari blog entry. Again, the safaris proved hugely popular, and Robert may be tempted to offer them again next year!

Monday, 5 July 2010

Owls of Delight

All pics with this post (c) 2010 Vince Cowell
Female Barn Owl
Barn Owl Barn Owl
Peek-a-boo Tawny Owl
Tawny Owl [female]
Tawny Owl [female]
Tawny Owl [youngster]
Tawny Owl [youngster]
Tawny Owl [youngster]
Little Owl
Hare [youngster]
Hare [youngster having a stretch]
King Alfred's Cakes
I had sinking feelings about yesterday's 2nd Owl Safari because of the almost gale force winds, which had been with us all day. If I had been in charge I may even have postponed the event, which would have been a mistake. By the time of the climax, the winds had dropped considerably, so my fears were ill-founded. The Kestel failed to perform again in the car park, but at least 4 Tawny Owls were located in the sycamore during daylight - some of them showed really well. A Wych Elm was admired, and the participants will now be able to ID this species of tree. Hopefully, in the next fortnight on windless, sunny days they will check their local one for White-Letter hairstreak butterflies!
We travelled down to the Little Owl area. A young Hare was present on our arrival, and seemed completely oblivious of our presence for several minutes. Robert could hear a Little Owl chick hissing, but it remained concealed. However, 2 adults performed well, and their differences were easily discernible - one was considerably darker than the other. Some King Alfred's Cakes were pointed out to the group, but no one attempted to take them home for later consumption! We saw several Kestrel in the area, and heard & saw Linnets & Yellowhammers, and just as we were getting in our cars Robert heard the alarm call of a Redstart.
Back at the farm the Tawny Owls did show, but they failed to appear en masse in quite the same manner as last week, and seemed a little unsettled. The reason for this became more obvious later on when a female Barn Owl appeared. Although the larger Tawny Owl will often overpower Barn Owls in territorial conflicts, on this occasion they backed down & failed to appear whilst the Barn Owl was tucking in to its evening meal. Once the Barn Owl had swallowed enough food after 11 pm the group set off for home, and it was after midnight when I hit the sack. Please note all of Vince's images were taken in conditions of very limited available light, so their quality is remarkable in the circumstances.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Butterfly Walk

Female Dark Green Fritillary
[The dark green is on the underside of the wing!]

The remaining pics are: Marbled White x2, Ringlet, Large Skipper with mites, Kestrel chicks, Poppy, Clustered Bellflower & Scarlet Pimpernel
Today was the first scheduled walk to 'Search for Marbled Whites', and we did find some, but it was a swift-moving fairly large orange butterfly, which stole the show. It was certainly a fritillary, and is most probably a Dark Green Fritillary, but I'm just waiting for an expert to confirm ID. Breaking news - The expert has come back to me to confirm it is indeed a female Dark Green Fritillary, and is only the 2nd one recorded in our Vice-County (VC61) & the first to be photographed. he asked if it was laying eggs on violets, but I'm afraid I couldn't confirm that. The reason this find is so exciting is that there aren't supposed to be any species of Fritillary in this particular area. Other butterfly highlights were: a single Red Admiral, a couple of Small Tortoiseshells, plenty of Ringlets with fewer Meadow Browns, Small Heaths and both Large & Small Skippers. The birds we saw included 2 Little Owls, Kestrels with 2 chicks, Willow Warblers, Meadow Pipits, Yellowhammers, Linnets & Goldfinches. It's another Owl Safari tomorrow night, so I hope the Tawny Owls play ball - they were noticeable by their absence today.