Thursday, 31 May 2012

A Logical Viewpoint

All pictures (c) 2012 Richard Whateley
Thursday morning was our final visit to an urban nature reserve.  Everyone but the lady from Castle Howard seemed to find it OK, but she probably isn’t used to real urban driving!  The car park was quieter in the gentle drizzle, but we did see a few Linnets, a House Sparrow and low-flying Swifts and House Martins.  I left my camera at home because my previous one ‘died’ in heavy rain, and downpours were forecast.  Richard was braver, so I’m completely reliant on him to illustrate this blog.  On the playing field there were 2 Lesser-Black Backed Gulls for the first time, and the Starlings, Rooks, Carrion Crows, Magpies and Jackdaws were still present.  A male Bullfinch flew from left to right just at the beginning of the walk but it couldn’t be relocated.  There were actually more birds singing on the walk up the hill in today’s bad weather than the 2 gorgeous days we visited last week.    
Water Vole

For the second Thursday am running we heard a Cuckoo, but this time despite several apparently close encounters we failed to see it.  The Warblers were harder to see this time, though we did have an early Chiffchaff near the beginning and then a definite Willow Warbler at the end.  The Lesser Whitethroat had gone silent again, and we only heard a couple of Whitethroats this time.  A Chiffchaff was heard, but it was harder to locate this time.  There were a few Blackcaps singing from deep cover on the path parallel to the Poplar Avenue, but apart from one brief flyover, again these remained concealed from sight. 
 We waited for a time on the bridge but there were fewer things to see round here too.  2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers flew from a young Ash tree on the bank & headed into the reserve towards some large Willow trees.  The adult soon flew off, but a fledgling remained for several minutes.  I don’t think everyone managed to lock onto it in time, but those that did were able to watch trying to peck at the bark for and climb the tree.  People were discussing this sighting when Phil G spotted something swimming across the drain.  Everyone spun round and got a great view of a Water Vole.  It was then busy for a few minutes on our side of the bank, because we could see the ripples spreading out from our side, but the vegetation screened it from any further views.  
Immature Great Spotted Woodpecker
We popped into the reserve again, but took a different circular path, which took us past a Willow Warbler and the den area, which was recently featured in the local press.  There were fewer butterflies and other insects to see because of the drizzle, but we were climbing the steps out of the reserve when the Cuckoo stared calling again nearby.  Unfortunately, a Search & Rescue helicopter then flew low over us, and we weren’t able to track it down.  The final sight of the morning was provided by a Greenfinch, which at first twittered & wheezed in the car park before embarking on its slow-motion butterfly courtship flight.  A nice way to bring these urban visits to an end.
 Willow Warbler

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Diamond Tail Jubilee

Turtle Dove Spreading its 'Diamond' Tail
Wednesday was a rerun of May 15th, but the weather was a lot milder today:
The strong winds were gone, but if anything it was actually too hot, even first thing in the morning.  Before we set off we saw Whitethroat, Yellowhammer and Blue Tit.  Not long out of the car park and we had a Willow Warbler and a Tree Sparrow.  We had 4 Long-tailed Tits and another Willow Warbler just before the stud farm, and then under the trees which always used to hold a Garden Warbler I was surprised to first hear & then see a single Yellow Wagtail flew over.  Later, at lunch time the 2 Davids & Barbara had 3 Yellow Wagtails in the car park.  These are fairly unusual sightings as there is no water anywhere in the vicinity, although there is an oilseed rape field fairly nearby.  A Song Thrush, and a Chiffchaff were singing in the general area, but there wasn’t a single whimper from the Turtle Doves.  

 Long-tailed Tits
 Long-tailed Tits
When we set off again there was a different family of Long-tailed Tits and among a group of young Rabbits was a melanistic, (black) one!  At the edge of the reserve a Linnet & a Pied Wagtail flew over, and a Marsh Tit flew into the reserve.  Butterflies seen on the journey include: Speckled Wood, plenty of Orange-Tips, and a single Comma.  There were a pair of Linnets on the escarpment, and Miles found a Froghopper, which disappeared before its picture could be taken.  We were a bit luckier with Maxine’s ‘soldier beetle’.  A male Pheasant was spooked from under our feet, which then went on to spook a pair of Red-legged Partridges.
A pair of Treecreepers in the reserve were calling vociferously, but they were very difficult to spot hiding in Hawthorn bushes.  There were quite a few butterflies in the reserve including: Common Blues, Dingy Skippers, an alleged Brown Argus, and a Small Heath.  Not long after we left the reserve a Hobby flew West right through the valley.  We didn’t see a great deal on the return journey, but a pair of Blackcaps under the brick viaduct were a late highlight.  A clucking Red-legged Partridge was another new bird for this particular area. 
Speckled Wood
Soldier Beetle sp Cantharis rustica (Thanks to Barry Warrington)
 Common Blue
 Common Blue [male]
 Dingy Skipper
Record shot of Hobby (c) 2012 Tony Robinson
There are no House Martins among the car park buildings this year – too dry?, but a tree Sparrow was using a nest under the eaves in the artist’s studio.  I decided to take the afternoon session East, as the West side had been relatively disappointing.  Straight away a Green Woodpecker was sighted shortly after leaving the parking area followed by a family of Long-tailed Tits and a Willow Warbler.  When we left the trees and we could see through a gap between the Hawthorn hedge we were just able to discern a Red-legged Partridge along a fence line.  We carried on for a bit and not long after we passed a jerk who doesn’t clean up after his dog.  Soon after we arrived at Yellowhammer central, which is an escarpment open to northerly winds – today the breeze was welcome.  Suddenly some Rooks went up into the sky making a lot of noise, and we could see 2 Red Kites overhead, which eventually drifted north east.  A Red-legged Partridge flew onto the top of a distant post, but nevertheless gave decent views. 
We then entered an area with steep banks on either side, and covered with Hawthorn, Dog Rose, Wild Strawberry and various species of emerging vegetation.  We were watching a very bright male Bullfinch in the centre of the path when most of us saw a Stoat running behind the Bullfinch carrying a small Rabbit.  We were heading towards the small bridge when we heard the unmistakable purring of a Turtle Dove.  It displayed over our heads a few times, but also continued to purr from one of several Ash trees along that section of the track.  We stayed still for 10 minutes or so, but only got sight of it fanning its diamond shaped tail as it swept by us.  It was seen perched in a distant Ash, but the views weren’t terribly good.   
Turtle Dove
 Record Shot of Green Woodpecker
 Willow Warbler
 Jerk who Lets his Dog Foul a Nature reserve
 This Dog Cannot Read...
 ...This Sign
On the East side of the small bridge a Song Thrush was singing, but there were fewer birds in this area.  Another Yellowhammer, and a flying Kestrel were in the area of the final bridge.  On the return journey a large pale Buzzard looked as though it was about to land in the steep-banked area, but it saw us and veered away sharply, and then was lost to sight.  The Green Woodpecker and Willow Warblers were again near the quarry area, but this time they were also joined by a Great Spotted Woodpecker.  There were fewer butterflies in the afternoon because it had clouded up considerably and it almost seemed as though it was about to rain. There were a few drops as we reached the cars, but it was so warm we weren’t even dampened by the time we returned.  Only a couple of years ago there were 3 singing Turtle Doves either side of the car park, but today only one could be tracked down - that represents a loss of 5 singing males!  There was also less wildlife on the Westward trip, despite this being a morning trip.  On future visits we will always be heading Eastward Ho. 

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

2 Lifers for the Majority

Temminck's Stint (c) 2012 Martin Standley
Taken at the same location a few years ago
 Wood Sandpiper - taken at Spurn a couple of years ago
Today was a rerun of the same location as 5th of May:  
 Pied Wagtail

Standing on the bridge yielded House Martin, House Sparrow, Starlings and Goldfinches feeding young.  There were also Swifts, Carrion Crows and a Magpie.  Immediately we went through the gate was a Reed Warbler on Cow Parsley, which then began to sing in a beech tree in someone’s garden.   A Sparrowhawk went over the gate being chased by 2 Magpies.  A Pied Wagtail was singing on a post near a paddock, but the usual Mistle Thrush was absent.

Record shot of Reed Warbler

Along the river bank there had been a big influx of Reed Warblers since the last visit, but there were few Sedge Warblers in full song – but we did obtain good views of both (not Sedge in the pm).  A Lesser-Black backed Gull flew overhead.  There were Swallows perched on some of the ‘jetties’, and the Reed Bunting chicks, proved something of a novelty.  Meadow Pipits and Skylarks seemed down in number but they may have been on chick-feeding duties.  We met a couple who’d been out birding much earlier & they had seen an Osprey directly overhead at 9am, flying north along the River Hull heading towards Pulfin Bog.  I’m sure the class gave a collective gasp or it could have been a groan at this point.  In the afternoon we saw a pair of Buzzards over a small copse being mobbed by crows.  
 Record shot of Meadow Pipit
 Growth on a Feral Goose
Reed Bunting Fledgling (above)
Waders seen included plenty of Lapwings, a few Oystercatchers, Redshank with at least 2 chicks, and then a strange bird was seen through Liz’s scope – a Wood Sandpiper.   There was a group of 8 Ringed Plovers at one point flying around, which came down to land, which the students thought just disappeared into the mud.  Another bird flying around was a single Snipe which performed its magnificent display, although we couldn't hear it from the distance we were from it. After a lot of searching in vain and head scratching Steve picked out a tiny bird by the side of a pool.  All the other sightings seemed to be of Pied Wagtails, but this one proved to be a nicely-marked Temminck’s Stint.  In the afternoon we just about managed to see (badly) the Wood Sandpiper through the bins, but the Temminck’s Stint was virtually impossible.  Luckily, a very patient West Yorkshire couple took their time with the whole group to ensure that everyone saw it.  The Wood Sandpiper was a lifer for all but one more experienced birder, while the Temminck's Stint was a lifer for all but the tutor.

 At the bridge in the afternoon we had a singing Blackcap, and a Wren almost went between someone’s legs, whilst a Greenfinch wheezed at the top of a recently-opened Ash tree, whilst in the morning we were merely scolded by a pair of Blue Tits and a singing Chiffchaff.  On the am return journey we took the path along Barmston Drain and added Yellowhammer, Linnet, Whitethroat, & Shoveler.  As we were leaving the site before lunch a Grey Partridge called behind us just after a hedge screened our view.  The pm session was much quieter in this area.  Both groups gawped at the 'submarine', whilst the cygnets were spotted in the afternoon.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Purring & Chafing with Pleasure

Sunday is usually a quiet day off avoiding crowded birding sites, but today I was leading a rambling group around a gem of a local wildlife site.  12 people were booked, but only 9 were able to make it on the actual morning.  It’s a shame the single afternoon participant wasn’t offered one of the available spaces, as I could have gone home for my Sunday roast!  
We began at the top of the site – the usual car park Meadow Pipits were only present in the afternoon, and neither session had the previously standard Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat or Linnets.   We made our way down the tarmac road past the first lake.  Here everyone managed to see a Wren belting out its strident song from the top of a Hawthorn bush.  There was a pair of Tufted Ducks on the lake itself with some Mallard, and a singing Blackcap and a purring Turtle Dove could be heard in the distance.  

Turtle Dove
We walked up the first hill surrounded by silence – the normal singing Reed Warblers were absent – probably because the reedbeds have completely dried out – the first time this has happened since I’ve been visiting the site.  At the top of the hill the purring Turtle Doves became louder and we had occasional glimpses of them flying past us.  Also around the peak were a family of Long-tailed Tits, a Blackcap, a Whitethroat, & a Chiffchaff.  The first Orange-tips were also flittering past us, never seeming to come to rest.  However, the best sighting was something really unexpected first spotted by Dave and something I’d never seen before – a Cockchafer.  It seemed very clumsy in flight, and the enormous fan-like antennae made it look extraordinary as it bumbled among the hawthorn sprays.   
At the bottom of the hill Pauline spotted a Kestrel, and this time the bushes were not completely silent because a Lesser Whitethroat was rattling away.  It did perch in the open briefly, but not everyone was able to get their binoculars on it in time.  However, they did manage to see it with their naked eyes as it circled us, flying swiftly from bush-to-bush.  We made our way along the main path separating different kinds of habitat where we saw a Sedge Warbler perching briefly in the open, before it began to hide at the bottom of a hawthorn bush in a reedbed.  We climbed a small mound and from here a Sparrowhawk was seen carrying its prey to the next-door site.  We also saw a Meadow Pipit performing its parachuting song-flight much to the delight of the attendees.   
Lesser Whitethroat
 Distant shot of Heron Chicks in Nest
Willow Warbler
On the climb up to the next hill a pair of Bullfinches were semi-concealed in a willow tree covered in fluffy seed heads, but most people got to see them.  In an open area a Willow Warbler impressed everyone with its silvery cadences, and another Turtle Dove purred loudly before flying around us & fanning out its tail as it performed a showy display flight.  On our way down to the water’s edge we came across a family of Long-tailed Tits, whilst in the afternoon a Reed Warbler was singing concealed in a hawthorn, rather than in the fringe of reeds.  A warbler landed in the reeds briefly.  I assumed it would be a Reed Warbler but didn’t have time to raise my binoculars, so was surprised to see it was a Blackcap when I checked the photos.  A Stock Dove was calling in this area in the afternoon, but the Turtle Doves were generally quieter than during the morning.  From the lake we could see at least 2 Heron chicks in the nest, but one participant was able to see at least 3 – they seemed unperturbed when another Kestrel flew over the nest.  Directly under the Herons, 2 Great Crested Grebes appeared to be in the area of their nest.  A Chiffchaff sang nearby, but it remained hidden from view. 
Record Shot of Red Kite
 Rudd [left] with Perch to the left
 Long-tailed Tit
 Common Whitethroat
Climbing back up to the open area the Willow Warbler was still singing, then Jo spotted a large bird of prey soaring in the direction of Keyingham.  I was expecting it to be a Buzzard, so was rather surprised to discover a Red Kite.  It then drifted to the North West.  At this point the morning session finished at the catering ‘truck’, but the 1-2-1 afternoon group had bypassed the first lake, so had some time in hand.  We therefore walked along the  second lake where a Whitethroat showed very well.  At the drain we saw a pair of Grey Partridges fly into a field of oilseed rape, heard a Reed Warbler near the drain, but a highlight here was a hunting Barn Owl over the land-fill area.  After enjoying this afternoon white phantom we walked along the old railway line, but this area was very quiet, but we saw our third Holy Blue, a few orange-tips and our first Small Copper & Speckled Wood butterflies.  A few minutes later I observed a Turtle Dove on the wires.  We were able to sidle along quietly on the grassy verges until we were almost underneath it. This was the best view I’ve enjoyed for quite some time, whilst it was a ‘lifer’ for Pam.  It knew we were there, and was a little nervous, but it even preened its rear quarters before flying away into dense cover.  It was a fitting finale to a scorching afternoon. 
Small Copper
 Turtle Dove