Last Thursday and this Wednesday we had one off special visits to Sultry Strensall Common. We met near the level crossing. There was plenty of bird activity around the cottages on both visits, but mainly Swallows and Tree Sparrows. Just after leaving the houses there was more bird activity from different species. There was a Treecreeper last week, and Robins, and Long-tailed Tits on both visits. Hoof Fungus and Birch Polypore 'adorned' the Silver Birches. There was quite a lot of flora to see including Hedge Woundwort, Figwort, Nettles, Buttercups, dying Greater Stitchwort, and various Umbellifer species including Hogweed and Queen Anne's Lace.
We walked along the edge of the heath among floral lanes. We searched the fields at the back, where there was one Curlew, which flew off towards Sherrif Hutton and a large mixed flock of Lesser Black Backed gulls with a few Black headed Gulls. The walk in the birch wood brought us a pair of Bullfinches on the first visit, and a Reed Warbler near the pond, but this area, was much quieter a week later.
On the first heath area Carrion Crows were present both times, but there were many more Swallows and Long-tailed Tits on the first visit. On both occasions we had glimpses on the other side of the heath of a pale brown bird flying erratically and then bounding away in an undulating flight. This had the look of a Spotted Flycatcher, but wasn't seen at all clearly last week. However, this Wednesday we also saw it perched. We didn't have a telescope, so all we could see was a pale greyish brown bird, which certainly recalled the look and jizz of a Spotted Flycatcher. However, the case had to remain unproven.
We walked along the edge of the heath among floral lanes. We searched the fields at the back, where there was one Curlew, which flew off towards Sherrif Hutton and a large mixed flock of Lesser Black Backed gulls with a few Black headed Gulls. Last week along the final lane the best sighting was a Painted Lady, whilst this week it was a female Whitethroat with a bill full of food, and some House Martins hawking for insects.
Stinkhorn (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce
On the way back this week the best sighting was spotted by Eileen who noticed a movement of a bird among some brushwood. This and its partner went on to put on a fine display as they hunted after several insects and then took them to their chicks hidden in a crack of a Silver Birch tree. These were the first decent views of Spotted Flycatchers we have seen in the whole of 2013. We had been in this area last week but didn't notice anything, perhaps the eggs hadn't hatched last week.
Walking back along the road on the way to the cars last week we came across a discarded parcel shelf from a car. Lifting it revealed a small lizard-like creature, which on closer inspection proved to be a small newt. Unfortunately, there was nothing under it last week. Last week the large heath was swarming with Swifts, this week there were just a few Swallows. We were eating our sandwiches last week when a hawk-like bird flew swiftly past us, it was a Cuckoo and headed towards some distant pine trees. Once it landed some bubbling could be heard, so it was a female. This week we heard a Goldcrest, but also had a brief glimpse of a tiny bird disappearing over the cottages.
Eileen used to specialise in spotting Robins, but there was no doubt her Spotted Flycatchers were the birds of the day!