Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Spring Term Launched

The new term was launched on the outskirts of Beverley on Tuesday. It was a very windy cold morning, but conditions did improve as the morning went on. It was rather quiet on the bird front at first with no hirundines around the bridge, and no Mistle Thrushes or Pied Wagtails in the paddocks. However, a couple of rarities were still in evidence - a pair of House Sparrows. Then we reached the pastures and things changed a little. Almost immediately we found a Stock Dove on some wires. There were some Lapwings displaying in the distance, a few Shelduck on the distant water and some very smart Herring Gulls. A couple of large Greylag Geese were also in attendance. A Heron seemed to be taking shelter behind a Hawthorn bush, and later a Little Egret could also be seen. Then 3 Sand Martins were discovered overhead struggling against the wind.
All Photos (c) 2015 Maggie Bruce

Sand Martin
Male House Sparrow
 Sand Martin
 Sand Martin
We carried on fighting the head wind, which was supposed to be only 13mph, but this was way out. We could just make out the song of a Skylark, and a Meadow Pipit was heard twittering in the grass below the floodbank. On a distant solitary bush a bird was seen clinging precariously to the top twigs, and from its dark primary feathers and its beige upperparts it was identified as a Wheatear. We began to get closer to the water, and it was possible to discern small shapes. These eventually resolved into Teal (identified by Maggie), a Redshank, some Ruff and a displaying Ringed Plover. The telescope was shaking so much it wasn't possible to see much apart from the spangled back feathers of the Ruff and its pale orange legs. 
Distant Little Egret, Shelduck & Teal
 Black-headed Gulls, Teal & Redshank
 Shelduck & Ruff
As we neared the first industrial building we spotted 3 Swallows skimming over the grass. When we reached the building we found warmth for the first time. Although the construction is ugly, today it acted as a microclimate providing shelter for the Swallows, but also for a female Brimstone, a Peacock, 2 fighting Small Tortoiseshells, but the definite highlight was a gorgeous Holly Blue. A Greenfinch twittered away, and made its blackboard screeching "greeeeen" call, whilst a Chiffchaff stuttered out a few tentative notes. A pair of Long-tailed tits were busy in one of the hawthorns alongside the drain. Maggie stayed behind to attempt to photograph the butterflies. 
Long-tailed Tit
 Small Tortoiseshell
 Holly Blue
We had a look where a Kingfisher used to nest before the winter of 2010, but the area hadn't been recolonised. We walked north along the drain and saw a few Tree sparrows, but then distantly we caught the unmistakable cadence of a Willow Warbler, eventually we tracked down at least 3 individuals. We checked on the waders again, and even though they were more distant, the telescope was no longer shaking, so it was possible to see more detail on the Ruffs. Rose pointed out a much smaller Ringed Plover, again easier to see through the binoculars which were no longer shaking. 
Willow Warbler

We crossed the bridge and carried on towards the other industrial area. Suddenly we found three House Martins above our head, so we now had the full set of hirundines on our first morning back. A pair of Pied Wagtails flew past us. When we arrived at a tiny drain there didn't seem to be anything about, but then Steve and Mark saw a Fox. We all gathered around and the lovely ruddy colour could be seen as the Fox jumped from bank to bank before slinking away into the distance. 

As we neared the parking area we found that 7 Sand Martins had arrived, and then we spotted that a couple of them flew into a large drainage pipe in the decaying brick wall of the river bank. After a few minutes another one entered the pile too, and it was quite a while before the birds re-emerged. We left Maggie in position to attempt to obtain photos of the Martins around the pipe entrance.

In the end the the wildlife performed well for us, but we can only hope the weather becomes more springlike as the term continues.

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