Thursday, 20 February 2014

A Day of Two Halves

We arrived in the Sewerby car park on Wednesday morning, and as soon as we opened the car doors we could hear the distant song of a Mistle Thrush singing from the top of a tree. Later, it was seen fluttering over the car park, the silver under its wing catching the light. An even more distant Song Thrush could be heard, but it was outside the confines of the hall grounds, so we failed to see it. 
On entering the grounds we searched for the Treecreeper and Goldcrest around their normal haunts, but neither were at home. It is also striking that the Great Spotted Woodpeckers, which seemed to be ubiquitous in this area, now seem to have died out - this bucks the trend for the whole of the UK, including the recently colonised Ireland. 
 Courtship Begging
 We carried on to the feeding station, which at first was only frequented by Great Tits, Robins and a nervous Chaffinch, which almost came down to snatch a seed, but in the end its nerve failed. Just before we left the Blue Tits started to arrive, as did a small Grey Squirrel. The visit to the walled garden resulted in a parliament of more than 5 Magpies, and a few Jackdaws. We then tried to track down a Goldcrest in one of their other favoured locations. We managed to find one when suddenly I managed to spot through the thick conifer branches a familiar shape high above us, in an unusual location - a Red Kite. This was followed by 2 more, and the last was being mobbed by a pair of Jackdaws. I pointed out to the participants that this seemed a rather unusual record. I tried to take photos, but the many twigs & branches of the trees we were under frustrated my efforts until the birds had passed over & were heading inland.  
Final Red Kite with Mobbing Jackdaw
When we recovered from our amazement we continued looking for the Goldcrest, and we probably found at least 3 individuals, possibly several more. These were difficult to pin down, as we were invaded by screaming brats from all sides. In fact the whole of the grounds seemed to erupt with high pitched human calls, bringing the peaceful enjoyment of the scene to an abrupt halt. 
 To escape we made our way to the beach, noticing a few Redwings and passionate Stock Doves in the alpaca enclosure. Unlike the previous occasion the Sika deer were not cowering in the entrance of their shed, but were actually grazing in the open. 
Stock Dove
On the beach we saw plenty of Oystercatchers, a few Redshank, some Turnstones, and some swiftly so scuttering Sanderlings. The crows and a few gulls were busy flying high into the air and dropping mussels on the rocks below. There had been quite a few mudslides since my previous visit, and the beach had changed considerably - with a completely new area of sand, and vast new deposits of seaweed. 
Sika Deer [stag]
Climbing back up we noticed that the grounds were now heaving with push chairs in addition to the usual dog walkers, and it was clear the situation was going to deteriorate even further before the afternoon session began. As it was the ample car park was straining under the influx, and some of those on the pm session were finding it difficult locating a parking space. I therefore checked the car park for the early arrivals, and sent them off to RSPB Bempton. As there was an hour to go before the session started, I texted the rest to try and catch them before they arrived in Sewerby. I managed to catch the remainder shortly after they entered the car park. After the others had all been intercepted Ben and I had to wait for a whole hour for the Walkington inhabitant to direct him to Bempton. Unfortunately he'd decided not to turn up without letting me know, so we waited for 30 minutes after the last class member had set off in vain. We gave up at 1pm and dashed to Bempton to prevent the others waiting too long. 
 Winter Aconites
The afternoon members had assembled in the RSPB gift shop. While I popped to the lavatory, Ben made the mistake of entering the shop. The class members had been ignored by the new, largely youthful staff, but noticing Ben's relative callowness he was pounced upon concerning his membership of the organization. Thankfully he is a member of their youth branch. When I arrived we were informed that the Guillemots and Razorbills had only arrived the previous day, so that definitely enlivened the experience. We started off for Staple Newk. 
Gannets on Staple Newk
We hadn't been walking for long when we observed the odd Gannet against the grey sea, plus a few Fulmar, and the odd Herring Gull. It was also possible to see a few tiny Auk sp. flying back and forth. A pair of Meadow Pipits flew overhead and headed inland. We hadn't been going long when Doug and Ben simultaneously spotted an interesting raptor, which flew higher and started soaring before we lost sight of it. When we got to Staple Newk there were quite a few Gannets already in residence, indulging in sky-pointing, bill fencing and fighting. The back of the rock was covered with Guillemots and there a few on the top near the Gannets. Someone spotted a flock of 8 passerines flying across the fields. Most of these were Skylarks, but one of these landed on the fence, and David's telescope revealed it was a Corn Bunting - the first we had seen during the classes for a couple of years at least.  
 Gannet - Sky-pointing indicating its intention to take-off
 Same Gannet - airborne
We retraced out steps to the less muddy areas of the site. Whilst it had been quite windy on Sewerby beach in the morning, Bempton was amazing for the lack of wind, and in the warmth the cliff edge was absolutely swarming with little insects, at least one of which contrived to enter the depths of my ear - I'm not sure if it ever came out again! At the RSPB stands there were many Guillemots with only a few Razorbills to be seen, and a single Gannet. However, we did get a better view of a Rock Pipit here, which perched briefly on the fence. 
More Sky-pointing
 Herring Gull

Before we finished we decamped to the seating area at the feeding station. There were plenty of Tree Sparrows in the area, but the feeders remained completely unvisited while we were there. However, there was a healthy flock of Greenfinches, a single Goldfinch and a pair of Reed Buntings. There were no Corn Buntings or Yellowhammers during our visit, but a very bright male Chaffinch added a dash of colour.

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