Saturday, 26 January 2019

Plenty, Despite the Weather

On Tuesday we were able to go to the wolds as planned, and we left  well before the snow which was forecast.  There was hardly any wind, so we found several Red Kites "marooned" in various trees.  A female Pheasant had recently been hit on the side of the road halfway up the hill, so this carrion became the focus of the raptors. We had various good views of Kites throughout the morning, and just the occasional Buzzard.  
Red Kites
 No.7 your time isn't up!
The bird above is over 15 years old and hadn't been spotted for a while until we saw it on Tuesday.  A female Pheasant had been knocked over by the side of the road.  When we returned an hour earlier considerable chunks of the Pheasant were missing.  This bird was sat in the nearest tree, and plunged into the air as we began to climb the hill.
Red Kite
In the village we went to the small nature reserve, and once again a grey/brown bundle was sat in a tree near a large growth of ivy - it was a Tawny Owl.  Steve brought his telescope, and after a lot of staring everyone was able to make out the owl.  We headed for the stream and a few trees, and we saw a great deal of wildlife there.  The first thing was a pair of unmentionables, but they swam towards a lovely Grey Wagtail on a branch caught in the stream.  We had been watching the wildlife here for well over 5 minutes when suddenly there was an explosion at the base of the tree we were standing adjacent to - it was a Woodcock.  It flew low and disappeared between two trees on the perimeter of the copse. Unfortunately, we weren't able to catch a glimpse of it again.  We were serenaded by a Treecreeper, and again it was Steve who spotted it.  
Grey Wagtail
 A very yellow back view
 Marsh Tit
 Bullfinches [far left & right]
The Tuesday morning group saw 11 species, bringing the total for 2019 to a pretty respectable 64 so far.
 Tree Sparrow
 Tree [left] & House [right] Sparrows
Snow had fallen on Tuesday night at home, but we went ahead with the LDV anyway.  There was no snow around North Cave, Howden or all the way to York.  However, there was a very severe frost, which got worst the further we journeyed inland.
Vast areas of floodwater had frozen over, so the reduced, but still plentiful wildfowl was confined to a relatively restricted area.  The Cormorants had departed, but they were still seen flying over from time to time.  The light from the first hide was quite difficult, as we were looking into the sun.  Flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover flew over us, and then directly out from the hide I spotted a raptor on the ice.  It proved to be a female Peregrine falcon. After a few minutes she took off alarming the Lapwings and some of the wildfowl. She only made a desultory attempt to take a prey item.
Bullfinch - eating Bramble remains 
Stonechat (c) 2019 Maggie Bruce
 Female Stonechat (c) 2019 Maggie Bruce
Male Stonechat 
We carried on to the other hides where the light was better for us.  Pintails were seen through Eric's scope, and a pair of Stonechats caught insects outside the hide.  On the return journey Brian spotted the Siberian (?) Chiffchaff, which was eventually seen by all the morning group.  The passerines had all gone by the afternoon, except the charms of Goldfinches.  However, the afternoon session saw at least 2 Marsh Harriers and two Buzzards.  From the middle hide we saw Tufted Duck, Wigeon & Teal.  There were a lot of Shelducks on the main area of water, and if you checked carefully there were a good number of Pintail.  Scanning into another area on the way back it was just possible to make out some Whooper Swans.
Siberian(?) Chiffchaff (c) 2019 Maggie Bruce
Feeding in undergrowth
 damn twigs!
 Look at those tertials (c) 2019 Maggie Bruce
 Preening (c) 2019 Maggie Bruce
 Record shot of Peregrine on the ice
 taking off
 Whooper Swans
 Mixed Duck flock - flushed by Marsh Harrier
The Wednesday afternoon group encountered 37 species, taking the 2019 tally to 59. 
One that got away, seen in between classes!
Barn Owl (c) 2019 Hugh Wood
Collared Dove - back at the centre
On Thursday we were able to visit East Park as planned.  However, the car parking area was surrounded with black ice, so leaving the cars was extremely hazardous.  There was no sign of the Jays again, but on reaching the first island with a little free water there was a male Kingfisher hidden in thick vegetation.  It was a lot closer than normal, but remained in place despite 10 peering faces, because elsewhere most of the lakes were iced up. In the afternoon the Kingfisher had gone, but a Little Grebe was seen in its place.  
Record Shot of Kingfisher
We carried on and the next area free from ice resulted in a few Goosanders.  The drakes remained behind the island, but a few females were visible in front.  A couple of Tufted Ducks showed well too. In the afternoon a  bright yellow Grey Wagtail flew overhead.  Two Pochard were visible either side of a young swan, but they were quite distant. Then we climbed a grassy bank covered in snow and were having a good look under the willows when Jan spotted a Sparrowhawk fly into the trees.  There was another less colourful, slightly larger bird in the same tree.  Rather surprisingly, two Woodpigeons remained unmoved by the near presence of the hawks. 
Drake Goosander
 Drake Goosander
 Immature Male Goosander?
Goosander (c) 2019 Margaret Richardson
Female Goosander (c) 2019 Nigel Kitchen
Tufted Duck
 Tufted Duck
Tufted Duck (c) 2019 Margaret Richardson
Tufted Duck (c) 2019 Nigel Kitchen
Male Sparrowhawk

There was nothing to see near the splashboat, as this area was completely covered in ice.  After a toilet stop we circumnavigated the final two islands.  A sunbathing male Sparrowhawk was seen, but it wasn’t clear if this was the same bird which we saw earlier.  New in this area were a pair of Greenfinches, and a little later a Mistle Thrush.  

Stock Dove
On the return journey our search for a Goldcrest was successful.  The afternoon class ventured into a new area and were rewarded with a probable Treecreeper roosting site, which also had a pair of Goldcrests in the same tree.  
Treecreeper (c) 2019 Margaret Richardson
 Little Grebe [right]
Little Grebe (c) 2019 Nigel Kitchen
Mistle Thrush
 Black-headed Gulls
 Common Gull
 Herring Gull
Herring Gull (c) 2019 Nigel Kitchen
 Canada Geese
On Friday we were able to go to Ness End as planned.  We started in the little copse across the road where a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming with another answering in the distance.  There were Bullfinches along the hedgerow and Reed Buntings eatings seeds among the Willowherb.  However, the rudest man we've ever encountered previously was there before us, so we went anti-clockwise round the reserve to avoid him as much as possible. We saw Little Grebe, Shoveler, a female Pochard and could hear the squealing Water Rails, although we didn't catch a glimpse of them.  When we eventually arrived at Ness Hide we were lucky enough to get the most prolonged view of a Bittern in flight it was possible to get.  At one point it was joined in the air by a Heron, so a direct size comparison was possible.   
Bittern (c) 2019 Jane Robinson
 Heron [left & Bittern]
Dabchick (c) 2019 Mike Woods
In the afternoon we were able to resume our normal clockwise route.  Unfortunately, we didn't see a Bittern, but a Fieldfare tried to compensate for the deficiency.   In the morning at least three skeins of Pink-footed Geese, but these dried up completely by the afternoon.  Luckily, the male Great Spotted Woodpecker started drumming especially for the afternoon class.  
 Redshank (c) 2019 Mike Woods
Pink-footed Geese
Pinkies (c) 2019 Jane Robinson
Both Friday groups encountered 37 species.  
Male Reed Bunting
 Female Reed Bunting
Great Spotted Woodpecker (c) 2019 Mike Woods

One morning participant tried out a new reserve quite close to home and had an intimate encounter with a male Kestrel.  If you are of a nervous disposition you may want to look away!
Male Kestrel (c) 2019 Dave Hill
Meanwhile, another morning participant spent some time near Jervaulx Abbey over the past week, and she was lucky enough to encounter a pair of courting Dippers.
Dipper (c) 2019 Jane Robinson
 Courting Dippers (c) 2019 Jane Robinson
 Dipper flying to another (c) 2019 Jane Robinson
Meanwhile, back in Ossett a male Sparrowhawk has been keeping an eye on the small birds visiting a certain garden...
Male Sparrowhawk (c) 2019 Mike Woods
 Hiding away