Sunday, 10 January 2021

10th January 2021

A week of cold and snow in the parish…


And a walk along the river hoping for birds pushed off the frozen local stillwaters…

...in the end, apart from three Goosander, a Little Grebe and a handful of Snipe flushed from the edge, it was largely birdless. Instead the garden was the place to be with excellent numbers of birds feeding there. This included at one point (literally)  four and twenty Blackbirds feeding in our Siberian crab apple…

And regular sightings of Fieldfare…

But more unusually small numbers of Redwings, a normally very scarce visitor to our garden…




Other birds in the garden included Treecreeper (working up the ‘trunk’ of an old rose bush), Nuthatch, Mistle Thrush and Tree Sparrow as well as four corvid species and the usual tits, finches, Starlings and Woodpigeons.

There were also three Treecreepers in the Magic Garden this afternoon along with a Woodcock. A second Woodcock was flushed from the Lower Fields.

Sunday, 3 January 2021

3rd January 2021

My parish list for 2020 finished on 106 species, about average for recent years although I missed a couple of ‘easy’ species. First bird of 2021 was…Blackbird. Not surprising given we had a crowd of 20 feeding in our small garden, particularly attracted by the fallen Siberian crab apples. More surprisingly there were two Redwings with them, we rarely get this species in the garden. They are much the scarcer of the two winter thrushes in the parish but there have been reasonable numbers feeding in the fields this week…

We also had three Bullfinches in the garden…


And a couple of Fieldfares…

There have been some quite extensive floods around the village, this is one of my favourite views  

Probably a good representation of a typical winter view before the post war drainage. Unfortunately the water didn’t attract very much, with a pair of Wigeon amongst the Mallard flock and a couple of young Mute Swans the highlights. The floodwater then froze putting an end to hopes of a rarer duck although it didn’t put the gulls off…

And I also saw a Hare running across the frozen water. It made a fantastic sound on the ice, like a flock of Waxwings! Other mammal sightings included six Roe Deer on Langlands and a Weasel here. Although I see Stoats with some regularity I haven’t spotted their smaller cousin for three or four years. I first saw it climbing up the trunk of a tree but despite it constantly returning to look me over it was so active that I could only manage this one poor photo…

Finally a couple of walks along the river turned up two Little Egret,  a group of six Goosander, three Mute Swan, 30 Mallard and a single Wigeon. Three Oystercatchers and a group of 13 Golden Plover were the only waders and a single Grey Wagtail the only passerine of note...


Sunday, 20 December 2020

20th December

The recent rain has brought some local flooding so I went down to the river yesterday. There was a handful of Curlew, Little Egret, a dense flock of around 300 Fieldfares and now three Oystercatchers…


On the river itself a single Goosander, seven Mallard and a Little Grebe but as I scanned the further floodwater I picked up a different looking bird. It was an Egyptian Goose. My first sighting in the parish. Not a great picture at distance and in the early morning light but a nice pre-Christmas bonus… 


As I was watching this bird a flock of around 200 Lapwings flickered over, much the biggest flock I have seen in a very poor year for the species…


This morning I walked with Frank down past the flooded bottom fields and on to Langlands. Some quite extensive areas of floodwater…

but surprisingly quiet for birds with only a dozen Mallard together with a hundred+ gulls, mainly Black-headed and Herring but a little knot of about 20 Common Gulls amongst them. Pick of the birds though was a cracking Woodcock which flew over our heads and landed in a small shelter belt. Surprisingly this was my first sighting of the year. Also here we heard a distant (unseen) skein of Pinkfeet and saw four Roe Deer, a Fox and a couple of hares.  

I also received an email from a local who had seen a Great White Egret on floodwater near the Wiske. Unfortunately it was literally a few feet outside the village boundary so I can’t legitimately add it to the parish list but it’s surely only a matter of time…

Just a quick postscript, popped out just now to get a couple of logs for the fire and a loudly calling Wigeon flock, invisible in the dark, has just flown low over the garden. Presumably heading down on to the floods in the Bottom Fields.


Sunday, 29 November 2020

Swans dominated the sightings again this week. I had a working from home bonus of a skein of 12 Whoopers over the garden on Thursday (and a flock of 50 Golden Plover). Then walking down Potter Lane yesterday I saw a distant herd of swans in the mist. I assumed they were the Mutes from last week...

When I got closer they turned out to be mainly Whoopers with 21 counted, an excellent total for the parish. Less positively there were only two immature birds amongst them.  


Also here were around 60 Greylags and four Shelduck and a skein of Pinkfeet flew north over the field.

To show how quickly things turn over, Andy walked down here today and there were only five Whoopers (three adults and two youngsters) but there was a single Pinkfoot now feeding with the geese.

To round it off I had five Whoopers flying out of the mist low over Morton this afternoon.

Yesterday’s low temperatures brought ten Teal on to the river and in the frozen ground the good old steaming muck heap here was a real focus for birds with a very nice flock of 60+ Tree Sparrows…

A few hundred Starlings, half a dozen Pied Wagtails and a smart Grey Wagtail…


Talking of muckheaps this is a phenomenon I have seen a number of times in the village…

I assume it’s spiders webs but I must try and find out what causes it.

Finally I had brief views of a Chiffchaff by the railway in Morton this afternoon. It gave a distinctly different call but unfortunately I lost it in the misty conditions. Hopefully it might hang around for closer scrutiny.  

Sunday, 22 November 2020

22nd November

I walked down Potter’s Lane and along the Swale yesterday. The water was high and apart from two Little Egrets and a Sparrowhawk it was very quiet on the river itself. One distant field held a small flock of swans. Hoping for Whoopers it turned out it was a flock of ten Mutes, two adults and eight young birds. Unusual and the biggest count of Mute swans I’ve ever had in the parish.

As I walked closer I flushed a nice covey of twenty Grey Partridges and then spotted a black and white bird in the field. My over optimistic brain starting thinking of Avocet but it was, of course, a Shelduck, a quick sweep found a further four birds grazing in the stubble field. Again very unusual as I can’t recall a previous Shelduck sighting this late.

I had to walk around a ploughed field to get closer to the swans and in there was a huge flock of Starling, I would conservatively estimate 6000 birds in a restless blanket of feeding birds. Finally I got a little nearer to the swans and did a quick recount, there were now 12 and the reason was two cracking adult Whooper Swans had joined the flock…


Shortly after this some horse riders inadvertently flushed the birds but what were presumably the same two Whoopers were later seen briefly by Chris on the little flood pool between Ainderby and Thrintoft.

This morning I walked down to see if they had returned to the fields by the river. A covey of 12 Grey Partridge on Langlands continued a good set of records this year. The birds were back but this time there were thirteen, and no Whoopers.

Three more juvenile Mutes had joined the flock. I have never seen more than two or three swans on this stretch of the river so I’ve no idea how these birds find each other.

Sunday, 15 November 2020

15th November

It’s been a little while since I last posted. This week has seen good numbers of Curlews feeding around the village both on the flood meadows and on the cropped potato fields. It’s hard to get a full count as they are spread widely but these photos show some of a flock of 200+ that was on the remnant flood pools by the railway bridge…


Two Oystercatchers in the mist were the only other waders of note and continue a recent series of winter records of Oycs

This pool also attracted a few duck with half a dozen Teal and seven Wigeon…

A few Whoopers have been noted this month, I had a skein of 18 over Morton-on-Swale, a dozen were seen over Warlaby and Andy had a superb flock of 40 which flew in and landed on the floodwater along Potter’s Lane (not entirely fair given how many times I walk along there!).

Other sightings of note since I last posted include a Stonechat found by Chris on the path to Thrintoft and Tracy had a very close encounter with a Barn Owl at the end of Greenhills Lane. My wife had excellent views of a Peregrine half-heartedly stooping at Woodpigeons along Manor Lane and Chris found a very late Common Sandpiper on the river. When I went (unsuccessfully) looking for this bird I found six Grey Wagtails roosting together by the river bank. 

Sunday, 11 October 2020

11th October

I went down to where the railway crosses the river this morning and it was clear that there was a major movement of winter thrushes under way. Redwing ‘seep’ calls were everywhere and flocks were coming out of every bush. they were joined by at least 50 Blackbirds and small numbers of my first Fieldfares of the autumn all in a small patch of hawthorn and ivy. In around half an hour I had seen at least 600 Redwings.

These movements were reported from Nosterfield and Richmond too but the heaviest passage there was much earlier in the day and as I was late out this morning I almost certainly missed the main movement so the total numbers involved must have been huge.

There were also finches moving through with the thrushes including my first Siskin of the year…

It’s interesting that these birds seemed to be moving along the railway rather than the river and I have seen this before with birds apparently following the line of the tracks.

Less seasonally I heard Swallow this morning with both Andy and Chris also seeing birds today, in the case of Andy’s they were flying north-west over Scruton! I have also had both Blackcap and Chiffchaff today but still haven’t stumbled across a Yellow-browed Warbler…

The ivy at the railway bridge site was still alive with insects in the morning sunshine including a very smart Comma (probably the latest date I have seen one in the parish)…

And also this interesting wasp…

I don’t think the white is pollen but is maybe a fungal infection or possibly an example of leucism?  

Other sightings since I last wrote have included male Merlin over the village; Dunlin, Snipe, Green Sandpiper and a pair of Little Grebe on the river; nine Golden Plover along Greenhills Lane and some nice coveys of Grey Partridge. These included a group of 24, the largest for many years.  It does seem 2020 has been a relatively good year for Grey, presumably linked to the fact that no Red-legs have been released this year?

I’ll finish with this Robin’s Pincushion…

also known as a Bedeguar Gall, they grow on the stems of dog roses and are caused by the larvae of a tiny wasp.

Sunday, 20 September 2020

20th September

One excellent bird sighting this week, a Marsh Harrier which flew relatively low over our garden. I was on a zoom call with work when I saw it and should have muted it before I swore! I managed to run out and watch it fly away south west. This is only the second record for Ainderby with the last found by an army officer visiting the village in 1943!

Probably contemporary with that sighting (and another garden 'tick') was this Hurricane yesterday evening...

Other sightings this week included a covey of 14 Grey Partridge, two Little Egrets. Grey Wagtail and two Kingfisher by the river. Swallows and House Martins were still present in good numbers as were Chiffchaffs, including up to six singing birds around the village (I’m still not clear why birds sing on migration?). On Thursday there were also two Blackcap down Station Lane, one of them doing its quiet ‘sub-song’. Chris had two flocks of Siskin by Warbler Corner yesterday.

Apart from the multiple sightings of Broad-bodied Chaser it has been a rather poor year for dragonflies and I only saw my first Migrant Hawker today. Otherwise it has been only Southern Hawkers…


and Common Darters providing the sightings...


On the plant front, pick of the finds was this Skullcap, one of my favourite plants. I thought we had lost it from the village but I re-found a small remnant patch in the Magic Garden…



Sunday, 13 September 2020

13th September

Our garden was the best place for birds this week with warblers present most days, these included up to four Chiffchaffs at a time (including one singing) and a female Blackcap. Today there were two late Swifts over the garden with a mixed flock of around 80 hirundines, a Grey Wagtail fly over and best of all superb views of a Hobby low over our heads as we celebrated my mother in law’s birthday!

I tried my first ‘solo’ moth trapping on Friday night in Jim and Sue’s garden. In the end it was a relatively cold and windy night but still managed 73 moths of 15 species. These included two new species for the parish, Autumnal  Rustic…


And Lunar Underwing…

As well as these smart Beaded Chestnuts


And Angle Shades...

Another new species, botanical this time, was Common Toadflax which I found down Waterworks Lane. Not a rare plant but still good to find and along a lane I have walked literally hundreds of times.


I'll finish with a picture of the Magic Garden looking...magical



Sunday, 6 September 2020

6th September

I finally managed to top my 100 bird species for the year this week with a Common Sandpiper along the river. I then added a surprise 101st with at least two Spotted Flycatchers near Warbler Corner found by Chris

After failing to nest this year I thought my chances of ticking off this species were very slim. Chris also found another(?) male Redstart here. I only had fairly brief views but Chris managed this lovely photo…

Other signs of autumn this week were the early return of Meadow Pipits, a good fortnight earlier than usual and probably symptomatic of the distinctly chill air. Another local feature of the turning of the seasons is the movement of Greylag geese. Although there is a large resident feral population in the area there are always (local?) movements of Greylags at this time of year…

Other bird sightings included five Little Egrets on the river, Kingfishers at Warbler Corner and in the Magic Garden and my first Goosander since early Summer…

After the incredible numbers of 2019 I spotted my only Painted Lady of the year this week…

On the same day along about a quarter of a mile of sheep-grazed river bank Frank and I tallied up 94 Small Tortoiseshell and 51 Silver-Y moths.

The other butterfly sighting  of note was my second Brown Argus of the year, a female near the railway line…

And I also added a new village moth species, a Nettle Tap (seen here on Hemp Agrimony)…