Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Blue Sky Birding


Today was a bit of a shock to the system, because it was our first decent day since March.  We met in a village “almost as nice as Surrey.”  There were a few Swifts around the green, but not screaming as usual.  The most noticeable sound was a Goldcrest singing from a nearby garden.  Everyone arrived in good time & we shared cars to nearer our eventual location.  At first the lane was very quiet, apart from an initial Skylark & a Blackcap.  The usual Whitethroat & Sedge Warbler were absent, but we took the first left turn, and immediately I could hear a ‘singing’ Yellow Wagtail.  One disadvantage of the bright sun was that it was very difficult to see.  We weren’t able to get too close before it flew off across a field.  However, only a few minutes later we had great views of a Yellowhammer, and a more elusive Whitethroat.  Other birds seen round here included Wren, Chaffinch & both Great & Blue Tits.  Not everyone managed to get a view of the Yellow Wagtail, but a Yellowhammer did the honours perching right in front of us & giving every single participant great views.   We carried on to where last year there had been an industrial car park, today it was deserted and already going back to nature.  A Marsh Harrier was being mobbed by a crow towards the river.  Orange tips began to appear & Peacock butterflies started chasing each other.  The Harrier had been replaced in the afternoon by a baby Linnet being fed in an emerging Ash tree.  The afternoon group were also able to study their first female Orange-tip as we retraced our steps down this first lane.  They also had a bold male chaffinch which was determined to have a bathe, no matter how many humans peered down on it from the fence across the little bridge.  
 Orange-Tip [female]

One we reached the original junction we carried on down the main road towards the river. At this point we were passed by a bughunter extraordinaire from the Hull Valley Group.  He was looking for some Shield bugs, which he first discovered at this venue a couple of weeks ago.  This is only the 3rd site for this particular species in Yorkshire.  After he left us 3 Tufted Ducks flew towards the marsh in the am, and the first distant Reed Warbler & Reed Bunting could now be heard from the Angling complex.  We caught up with Barry Warrington here & he was able to point out everyone’s first Woundwort Shield Bugs.  Claude got her eye in first and was able to point out several more – many of which seemed to be mating. I must admit I’d never even heard of this species before.  They are smaller than most other Shield Bugs I’d previously seen, but almost look metallic in some bright sunlight.  When we returned in the afternoon some large caterpillar tracks had destroyed the first 3 feet of verge in some places, but we were still able to find some mating shield bugs, so hopefully they will survive.
Woundwort Shield Bug (c) 2012 Barry Warrington
 Woundwort Shield Bugs
 Holly Blue

A single Holly Blue flew over while we were looking at the bugs in the morning, while in the afternoon a Holly Blue landed the other side of the bridge with the bathing Chaffinch.  There were also several Blue-tailed Damselflies in the area, and what looked like an Azure damselfly.  As we came back along this hedgerow later in the morning we came across a large Hawker Dragonfly drying off on an umbellifer stalk.  
Hairy Dragonfly
 Large Red Damselfly
 Blue-tailed Damselfly
 Fenmale Azure Damselfly (Thanks to P. Ashton)
 Flies above Di's Head
 Further down the lane we hear our first Chiffchaff, and a Willow Warbler in the afternoon, which made its typical Willow Warbler song, but which also made the sound 3 times of a speeded up Chiffchaff song – not a phenomenon of which I’ve previously been aware.  The old Cormorant tree had been cut down – probably instigated by anglers.  There were no Cormorants round here anymore, but we did flush a Heron.  An Oystercatcher was heard calling, probably over the river & there was a single Great Crested Grebe & a Mute Swan on the main lake.  While we were scanning the lake a couple of Common Terns went over us, but there was very little else to see here.  As we continued a Lesser Black-Backed Gull flew over & there was a Black-headed Gull over the river.  At the end of the lake the searching for Reed Warblers was hampered by 3 noisy dogs splashing in the water.  

As we looked out across the river a Cormorant flew across to the south bank in the morning, whilst in the afternoon about 6 were sitting on a sandbank now that their tree had been denied to them.  On the return journey a Blackcap sang clearly quite close to an abandoned garden, whilst in the afternoon a couple of Bullfinches were heard near here.  Finally, a new butterfly species was a Comma which landed on a stump of a tree for a few minutes.  The afternoon group especially, seemed quite dehydrated & at least 3 of them repaired to the local hostelry for a refreshing cool drink.
After the morning session David & Steve moved on to another site where Steve noticed a Spotted Flycatcher!
 Spotted Flycatcher (c) 2012 David Tasker

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