Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Wryneck Bonanza

27 Wrynecks were reported from Spurn on Sunday, as long with a few other goodies.  Yesterday I took my nephew to see if we could see them.  As 3 Wrynecks were reported between posts 55 & 58 we thought this was the best place to start.  The first bird Ben spotted was a Whinchat, and then he saw an odd-looking bird on a post - sure enough it was a Wryneck.  It posed quite well, but the light was awkward for us.  We decided to connect with the high tide waders at Chalk Bank, and on the way we discovered another Wryneck in some bare dead tree stumps.  This one performed even better.  They are remarkably strange-looking birds, but it was great to capture all the amazing details of its plumage as it flew from one tree to another.
Wryneck - in repose
 Wryneck - nearly escaping from shot
 Wryneck - in torpedo mode!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Once in a Generation

In the summer, at about the turn of the new millennium I heard of a report of 500 Clouded Yellows at Brough Haven - a butterfly I'd never seen before.  Sure enough an hour or 2 later there were still a couple of hundred there nectaring on thistle plants.  There were several more sightings that summer and well into october, but I've only seen occasional single specimens since.    

Last week Maurice Gordon had a single pristine example at North Cave Wetlands.  However, yesterday morning I received a text reporting 42 on some waste land in Hull.  Unfortunately, I was at Fountains Abbey at the time.  I arrived at the Hull site at 4pm, but by then the sun had gone in, and my nephew and I failed to find a single specimen.

Here's hoping that this is the start of a special summer with plenty of sightings of this striking butterfly...

Clouded Yellow in the year 2000

Monday, 19 August 2013

The High Cost of Petrel

Last weekend a Wednesday morning stalwart took part in a vigil for Storm Petrels at Flambough Head.  Here's his version of events in his own words (almost):  
I went to Flamborough to the YWT new centre at South Landing where there was a joint YWT and RSPB event of which the hope of seeing a mist netted petrel was one of a number of events including a bat and night creature walk and a moth trap.
I was surprised that there were about 40 people including children.
A Barn Owl quartering the adjacent field was a good start and the walk was OK, but no bats on the one I did but later there were a few around. The moth attraction was good with a lot of different types although no hawk moths, but one was on display in a unit which had been brought in.
The Petrel netting was the final item which was down on the foreshore.  We were warned it may be unsuccessful and this looked to be the case.  The main ringer said he was disappointed as there were no birds at all around. I decided to hang on whilst he went for another check and fortunately at 5 past midnight he returned with a single storm petrel which the last 10 of us visitors had a good look at.  He believed it was an immature female which already had been ringed.

Then came the long drive home in the dark to Cottingham
I arrived home at 1.50!!

All record shots of Storm Petrels (c) 2013 Anthony Barron

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Operation Spot Fly

Less than three weeks ago a participant on Friday morning emailed to say she thought she had a Spotted Flycatcher nest in her garden, and would I like to come and check it out.  In the early 1980s I wouldn't have considered this as anything unusual, as at that time we had at least 2 pairs nesting in the cemetery every summer.  However, we never see them twisting after insects anymore from our headstones.  The other Autumn a couple passed through our garden on their migration to Africa, but they were only with us for a couple of hours.  Spotted Flycatchers aren't very colourful birds, but their confiding nature, and amazing hunting sorties as they twist and turn in flight after specific insect prey are marvellous to behold.  They may be LBJs (Little Brown Jobs), but they are incredibly charismatic.
Spotted Flycatcher - one of the parents
On 26th February I travelled to a beautiful garden setting near Patrington to have a look.  Sure enough there was a Spotted Flycatcher in the garden.  I waited until the adult flew well away from the nest, and had a quick look.  The chicks must have hatched only minutes earlier, as I could see at least 2 chicks both with eggshells still attached to their rear ends.

Recently-hatched chicks and eggshells
 Remosal of a faecal sack
Elizabeth had only ever spotted one adult at a time, but both came in and brought food for their nestlings.  On the final day of July I returned with my nephew, and the chicks had grown considerably, and this time it was clear that there were three inhabitants in the nest.  Both parents arrived with rather large insects in their bills, including green bottle flies, and Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies. 
Bringing in a Small Tortoiseshell
 2 Young Begging for Food - 4 days old
I was in the East Midlands the following Thursday, when I checked my emails at lunch time to see another message stating that the 3 chicks would be fledging very soon.  The following morning Elizabeth rang to say all three chicks had fledged, but I would be welcome to see if I could locate any fledglings in her garden. 
The Day Before fledgling (c) 2013 Elizabeth Woollias
Alert Adult - now the young have fledged
 About to Hunt
Ben and I travelled to Patrington again, and we were immediately met with an adult Spotted Flycatcher making a two-syllable   alarm call on next door's TV aerial.  The nest was clearly empty, and although single syllable calls could be heard from various areas of the gardens only the parents could be seen.  We waited patiently for a while, and the adults were seen catching insects, but there was no sign of the young.  Half an hour later I noticed a very spotty bundle of fluff in some clematis near the nest.  A chick had returned to its natal area, and was calling to be fed.  I quickly took a few pictures, and then retreated so its parents could locate the bird and continue to feed it.  There were plenty of White butterflies on the lavender, so I hope they discovered them to feed their hungry & growing youngsters.  
 Empty Nest Syndrome
Thanks very much to Elizabeth for permitting myself and Ben the privilege to watch these charismatic birds at close quarters.

Friday, 9 August 2013

An Estuarine Odyssey

On Tuesday I took my nephew to RSPB Blacktoft Sands to try & make the most of the early returning waders in remnants of breeding plumage.  Unfortunately, the web had given us the wrong time for high tide, so I should have consulted my booklet instead.  Although we missed the high tide, we saw a couple of distant waders at Marshland hide.  We also heard Bearded Tits and saw the movements of young Sedge Warblers and Reed Warblers.  We'd been there for quite some time when very luckily two Wood Sandpipers alighted directly under the hide, and we were able to observe all the details of their delicate plumage.  Once they'd moved out of sight, this seemed the perfect time to leave, as we wouldn't strike that lucky in that hide for probably hours to come!

Wood Sandpiper
 Wood Sandpipers
 Wood Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper

Sedge Warbler between Visitor centre & Xerox
 Snipe from Townend
 Green Sandpiper at Singleton
 Little Egrets & Herons at Singleton
 Spotted Redshanks & Ruff
 Record Shot of Distant Ruff
 Berries at Saltmarshe
 Comma & Wasp at Saltmarshe
 Comma at Saltmarshe
 Great Crested Grebes at Eastrington
 Great Crested Grebes at Eastrington
 Great Crested Grebes at Eastrington
 Car Swarming with Wasps at North Cave

Monday, 5 August 2013

Thriving with Life & Colour

On the first Saturday of every month Richard Hampshire leads a warden's walk around Tophill Low to make the most of the wildlife currently on display.  

At other times of the year there are plenty of birds to be seen, but early August isn't the peak time for masses of interesting birds.  I promised Ben Grass Snakes, but continual unbearable heat means that the conditions this weekend weren't the best to see those either.   At the moment it is quite warm enough for them not to need to bask in the warming rays of the sun.  

Despite these setbacks there were plenty of colourful flowers and butterflies to see.  To make the most of the available wildlife Richard decided on a southerly route.
Someone spotted a hairy caterpillar attempting to cross the road near South Lagoon, so Richard rescued it, and placed it out of harm's way among the vegetation.  The closest match in my caterpillar book seems to be Water Ermine, but it is not supposed to be found this far north!  Perhaps a White Ermine is more likely?
Water/White? Ermine Moth Caterpillar
 Water/White? Ermine Moth Caterpillar
There was a riot of colour around O Reservoir with Fleabane, various umbellifers, including Yarrow, and a couple of species of Knapweed and Thistles.  The Burdock was also coming into flower.  All these flowers attracted the nectarine insects, which included Soldier Beetles, Small Skippers, Meadow Browns, Large Whites, and a few Damselflies and Dragonflies.  A few Silver-Y Moths, always on the move were also to be found in the long grass.
Cinnabar Moth Caterpillar [aka Hull City Supporter]
 Silver-Y Moth
We were nearly halfway round the reservoir when I spotted 3 waders dropping into South Marsh West.  I also just managed to catch the calls, which indicated we may have had 3 Black-tailed Godwits.  Sure enough when we reached the L-shaped hide 3 of these waders could be seen attempting to feed among the lethargic ducks in eclipse.

The other highlight in this hide was a large dragonfly, which eventually settled on some greener directly under one of the windows - it may have been a Southern Hawker. 
Black-tailed Godwit
 Southern Hawker?
 Meadow Brown
 Meadow Brown
 Small Skipper
 Burnet Moth
 Large White
We continued to see more and more insects as we travelled round the southern part of the site which reached its apotheosis among South Scrub, which was a blaze of colour and insect activity.   There were a few birds to see on Watton Borrow Pits, but no new waders.  We carried on round O reservoir, but then Ben and I had to leave, as we had toe back in Hull for 12.45, or we'd be for the high jump.  Of course the others had time to visit D Reservoir and observe 2 Black-necked Grebes.  This would have been a new bird for Ben!