Friday, 8 February 2019

Halfway Through the Winter Term

On Tuesday we were able to visit the southern Wolds for the first time this year.  When we arrived we were pleased to find that there was no fog, although the Scarborough couple had driven through a lot of it.  However, there had been a very severe frost.  We had only just emerged from  the cars when the laughing peal of a Green Woodpecker rang out, and one was seen bounding up from the nearby field.  We hadn't gone very far when an immature Whooper Swan was spotted with a couple of Mute Swans.  Three Little Grebes were also on the same small section of water.  
Whooper Swan [right]
We carried on and spotted both Mistle and Song Thrushes.  There were plenty of Great and Blue Tits, a Coal Tit and a few Tree Sparrows.  When we reached the buildings at least 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen, and possibly a third.  They sounded as if they were getting over excited.  There were also Greenfinches and a few Chaffinches and some Goldfinches.  Unfortunately, the habitual Marsh Tit was absent, and rather surprisingly so too were the Long-tailed Tits.   
Red Kite
We went to the bridge over a disused railway line and were  rewarded with a close encounter with a male Treecreeper.  We went to the weir and had a brief view of a Grey Wagtail before it flew away.  It did fly along above us on our return journey.  However, two Friday morning attendees made the same walk 1.5 hours after us, and did see a Grey Wagtail on a roof in the sunshine.  There was a Kestrel halfway up the hillside which seemed to be feeding on worms, and a pair of Mistle Thrush were a little bit higher up the hillside.  The top of the hill gave us a good view of a perched Red Kite.  We carried on along the pedestrian way, and it stayed perched for a long longer than anticipated.  However, it did make off on its languorous way with a few rather laboured flaps eventually.  
 Grey Wagtail (c) 2019 Jane Robinson 
 Red Kite
We watched the birds swirling about and soaring once the thermals began to take effect.  4 of us did catch a glimpse of one of our principal quarries.  This part of the walk was punctuated again by the joker in the pack, but we couldn't see him this time.  On the return journey the best bird was probably a Yellowhammer high in an Ash Tree.  As we neared the parked cars several Fieldfare flew into a small tree, and caused a little confusion for some participants as their breast colouration seemed to vary a lot from bird to bird.
Female Yellowhammer (c) 2019 Jane Robinson 

The Tuesday group tried looking for Marsh Tits in all the usual areas without success, but the two truants from Friday morning were more successful!
Marsh Tit (c) 2019 Jane Robinson 

The Tuesday group saw 37 species at this location.  6 birds were new for the term, bringing the overall tally for 2019 to 77 species.  I popped into Saltmarshe Delph hide on Monday afternoon and heard at least 3 different Water Rails, but only one was slow enough to have its picture taken.
Water Rail
After Tuesday's class my sister spotted a Hen Harrier at Stone Creek, but these photos are no more than record shots taken on a very dull afternoon. 
Distant Hen Harrier
On Wednesday we returned to the northern Wolds.  In the car park we had Red Kite, Long-tailed Tits, Tree Sparrows, and Great & Blue Tits.  On the drive before we left the village a Collared Dove landed on a roof ahead of us.
Buzzard (c) 2019 Aileen Urquhart
It was quite a change from last week, as all the picturesque hoar frost had gone to be replaced by the usual view.  It was quite still, so although there were few Red Kites about, we could hear them making their wild whistling calls.  A few Buzzards were in the area too.  Some Stock Doves flew over as well as the more numerous Woodpigeons.  A male Bullfinch flew across with the fantastic view as a backdrop behind it.
Marsh Tit
There was less to see as we walked down the hill, but the laugh of a Green Woodpecker appeared to be fairly close.  As we reached the village a female Bullfinch flew along the hedgeline never to be seen again! A Marsh Tit showed well in the hedge, whilst the afternoon group had a good view overlooking the site of the former nunnery.   Unlike last week the Tawny Owl was visible, although most people could only make it out through Eric’s scope. When David carried the scope after lunch some people saw their first ever Tawny Owl, as they’d only ever heard them before.  A Goldcrest flitted about near the bridge in the am, but my camera wouldn’t focus on it.  The afternoon session caught up with it in the garden on the opposite side of the road.  From the rockery none of last week’s birds were seen, so that was a bit of a disappointment.
Goldcrest (c) 2019 Aileen Urquhart
Tawny Owl - am
 Tawny Owl - pm (one eye open)
Great Spotted Woodpecker
A walk back up the hill beyond the cars brought first a Red-legged Partridge, and then a more longed-for Nuthatch.  Everyone heard it, but I believe only myself and Eric could actually see it.  In the afternoon one was seen from the attractive rockery.  A few Red Kites and Buzzards flew over us, but most of last week’s small birds had disappeared from the woodland which skirts the road up the hill.  
Nuthatch - am
Nuthatch - pm
Female Kestrel
 Tree Sparrows
The Wednesday morning group managed 33 species, which took the tally for 2019 to 78.  Meanwhile, 32 species were seen by the afternoon group bringing their annual total to 76 so far.  Some of the morning group went on to Toiphill Low, but a confiding Barn Owl was reputedly the only bird of interest.
Barn Owl (c) 2019 Tony Robinson
 Greenfinch (c) 2019 Tony Robinson
On Thursday we revisited the LDV after over a week of going elsewhere.  This seems to be somewhere the fates conspire to try and have us arriving late there with either lorries breaking down on the A63 or directions being difficult to follow.

There were Tree Sparrows, Great Tits and Blue Tits, and Bullfinches at the feeders, but we didn’t have time to linger.  As we walked along the new gravel path to the first hide I could see that there was a lot more water since my last visit, and we could spot a flock of Lapwing strung-out over the hide in a long uneven line.  
When we reached the hide there was a variety of ducks present, including a good number of Pintail, Wigeon, Shoveler and Teal.  Elaine was able to see through her scope that there were also some Ruff among the Lapwing.  On the walk we kept interrupting small charms of Goldfinches which were feeding on the burdock seed heads.  In the afternoon a large flock of waders had landed fairly close to the hide.  Most of these were Lapwings and Golden Plovers, but we could also discern a few Ruff.  The highly-strung waders kept taking to the air, and we enjoyed some spectacular “murmurations” by the Golden Plovers.  The photos show that at least one Dunlin was present. 
Ruff & Lapwings
 Golden Plovers plus Dunlin - can you see it Ken?
We carried on to the far hide, and saw a good group of smart Goldeneye.  A Buzzard flew over, and then away to the south a Marsh Harrier disturbed a flock of Curlew.  Most of the birds seen from the far hide were the same as the first, but some of them were a little nearer, and the light was slightly better.  We were also able to see Gadwall, which had been hidden among the more flamboyant ducks from the earlier hide.  
We popped into the middle hide on the return journey, but felt guilty disturbing the work people who were strengthening the screens around the hide.  We had better views of the Goldeneye and Tufted Ducks from here, and we saw our first Pochard of the day.  A soaring Sparrowhawk enlivened our visit, and shortly afterwards one flew slowly in front of the hide and landed in a willow to our left.  It was a very smart individual, but it didn’t remain perched for long before it flew off heading north west.  In the afternoon we enjoyed fairly close views of several Goldeneye, and some of these began to display.
 Displaying Goldeneye
On Friday a day of strong winds and rain had been forecast, so we had to abandon East Park for North Cave Wetlands.  It's true the wind was stronger than normal, but we had absolutely zero rain.  Who is responsible for these appallingly inaccurate forecasts?  Some people didn't travel because of the forecast, but they would have encountered 47 species so would have been fine!
Mike found a Black-tailed Godwit from the viewing platform, so unusually we started there.  There were many Teal, Wigeon and other ducks and a couple of Redshanks, but we did not notice the Ruff if it was present at that time. In the afternoon the Ruff had replaced the Godwit.
Black-tailed Godwit
 Record Shot of Ruff
 Curlew - only present after lunch
 A drake Goosander flew past and returned both am & pm - record shot
Both classes went round in a clock-wise direction.  We saw plenty from South Hide including Pochard, and most of the ducks found around the viewing platform.  There were some Long-tailed Tits around the feeders in the afternoon, and both sessions had Tree Sparrows.  Crossland Hide brought Shoveler and Common Gulls, with Wigeon, Lapwings, and in the afternoon 3 Oystercatchers.  Reedbed Lake wasn't much better than Carp Lake, but we did see a pair of Rooks around the main feeders.  In  general birdwatchers  tend to ignore corvids including Rooks, but the sheen on them is always impressive, and would have been almost spectacular if the sun had come out.   The small birds were absent at first, but later Tree Sparrows, Chaffinches, and Great & Blue Tits appeared.  However, the hoped-for Brambling failed to materialise.  
 Rook (c) 2019 Jane Robinson
In the morning Skylarks sang from the stubble in Northfield, and a  decent-sized flock of Yellowhammers appeared briefly before disappearing screened by the stubble.  In the afternoon we only saw Fieldfare in this area.
Turret Hide was more interesting than when it was surrounded by ice, but less so than usual.  Mike spotted a Buzzard in the distance, and this was still present after lunch, when it seemed to be feeding on worms.  A Little Egret appeared to be roosting by early afternoon, and two Herons were seen standing alongside the pool on the top of the plateau.  
At lunch time I visited North Cliffe Wood to photograph the Woodcock which had been seen in the same place twice, and nearby on a third occasion.  Of course it was absent because I was ready with my camera!

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