Sunday, 26 June 2022

Svalbard

A bit different posting this time as I have just returned from a fantastic trip to the Arctic. It was a visit planned some time ago but a combination of the pandemic, flight cancellations and a late Covid testing scare meant I never really believed it would happen until we actually landed in Longyearbyen.

Here is my son breaking the law as you are not allowed to pass these signs on the edge of the town without an armed guard!

The town itself gave a chance for early contact with the typical birds of the archipelago with Snow Buntings everywhere…

And Arctic Skua…

And Eider nesting right next to the paths…

Incidentally these are of the ‘borealis’ race, a rare, but probably overlooked, visitor to the UK with yellow tones in the bill and little ‘sails’ on the males back…

It was then on to our boat, the Sea Spirit, for a trip up to northern Spitsbergen. I won’t bore everyone with all the details but a fantastic combination of amazing landscapes…




Some great birds including all four skuas, groups of King Eider, both Ivory and Sabine’s Gull (none of which I managed a good photo of!!)...


Arctic Terns

Brunnich's Guillemot


'Blue' Fulmars


Glaucous Gull


Ptarmigan

Purple Sandpiper

Iconic mammals, with four Polar Bears (including a well fed mother with two cubs)...



Walrus


Bearded Seal


Svalbard Reindeer (shorter legged than the mainland form as they don't have to outrun wolves!) 

The only disappointment is that we were a little too early for whales with multiple sightings of Minke (including my son spotting a full breaching animal) the only cetacean records.


There were even a few flowers…


A great selection of Moss Campion, Whitlow Grass and saxifrages in a tiny sheltered rock cleft


Mountain Avens in Isfjorden

A genuine once in a lifetime experience…

Sunday, 5 June 2022

5th June 2022

Another quiet period in what has been a very poor spring locally. Numbers of even common migrants remain low. Swallows are missing from a number of regular nesting spots…

I haven’t found a single House Martin in Ainderby and only one or two pairs in Morton. Swift numbers are much lower and most warblers seem particularly scarce. This is particularly marked with Lesser Whitethroat. There are usually six to eight pairs in the parish but I have had only a single singing bird this year. The only species bucking this trend is Garden Warbler with the species outnumbering Blackcap this year…

One notable sighting was this Goosander with seven young. This is the first ducklings I have seen this far down the Swale…

On the plant front I found this very strange Dandelion (literally a spring plant!)…

It’s not clear what caused this but I suspect it is agricultural herbicide which doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence!

There is also this superb area of Kidney Vetch restricted to just one small site…

This is the only place I ever see Burnet Moths and it is alive with bees like this Common Carder…

I’ll also mention an excellent weekend away in Suffolk, a bit of culture, a bit of good food and a few new species including White Helleborine…

Pasqueflower…

And Adonis Blue…

Sunday, 15 May 2022

15th May 2022

The slow trickle of migration continues with the first Swift seen over Ainderby on 7th May but the first significant arrival from 10th

They actually beat House Martins back this year with the first pair of martins over Morton on 11th. This latter species has really declined in the parish in recent years and only the odd pair still nest in Ainderby itself.  

Garden warblers seem to have arrived in good numbers, at least in comparison with recent years, but Lesser Whitethroats are exceptionally scarce with only one singing bird noted so far.  Yellow Wagtails have so far been restricted to the meadows along the river but there look to be three pairs along the river between Morton bridge and the spinney...

The most interesting migrant records though fell to other villagers with Tracey hearing Cuckoo down Greenhills Lane yesterday and Andy having excellent views of Osprey moving south along the Swale today (including at least one fishing attempt in the river).

John did a ringing session in the Magic Garden last week but it was worryingly poor, some of that reflected the late/non arrival of migrants but even resident birds seemed in very short supply. Most interesting bird was this Willow Warbler…

It was a re-trap of a bird John had ringed in the same place almost four years ago to the day. It was an adult then, so this little bird has made at least ten journeys to and from southern Africa.  

In terms of butterflies I saw my first Common Blue this week and my first Wall of the year…

This is a declining species so it’s good it is still hanging on in Ainderby (although numbers are small). I also photographed this rather nice female Orange Tip on bluebells...

Finally, I had another Otter on the river. Some way from my last sighting so possibly a second holt here?

Monday, 2 May 2022

2nd May 2022

John came to do some bird ringing in the wild garden at Ladyfield on Friday. A total of 27 birds ringed which was ok considering there was so little sign of movement. A pair of Blackcap, a Willow Warbler and five Chiffchaff were the only summer migrants… 



Other birds caught included Treecreeper, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting and a couple of Goldcrests, including this male…

Yesterday I walked down from Ainderby to the river and then along to Morton bridge. My first Lesser Whitethroat was singing on Langlands and there were now good numbers of Common Whitethroats seen along the route. Six singing Corn Buntings (depressingly outnumbering Yellowhammers now), three pairs of Grey Partridge, three Yellow Wagtails, Kingfisher, three Cormorants…

...Five Oystercatchers, Green Sandpiper, four Little Egrets and good numbers of Sand Martins…  

More surprisingly there was still a small flock of Fieldfare feeding on the pasture at Langlands. The latest I have ever seen them in the parish.

In my last post I was bemoaning the scarcity of Hares in recent months but today I saw at least eight individuals. Fantastic animals…

Less positively this Mink was hunting along the river bank. The first I’ve seen for many months...

Sunday, 24 April 2022

24th April 2022

Although it has been a week of sunshine it’s also seen surprisingly cold winds. Despite this I have notched up 12 species of butterfly in the village this week including probably my first April record of Painted Lady…

And always nice to see Holly Blue (appropriately enough in the holly hedge along Manor Lane) although much more difficult to photograph!

Bird migrants on the other hand definitely seem to have been impacted by the cool winds with little sign of passage although I did spot my first Wheatear of the year, even nicer it was only a two-minute walk from my front door…

And I also saw my first Whitethroat and Yellow Wagtails this week…

Sand Martins seemed to have arrived in big numbers last week and the main colony in the parish was alive with activity but when I visited this weekend there wasn’t a single bird there. Have they abandoned it or is this just a temporary pause until the weather warms up?

Other sightings included a low flying Osprey seen by our neighbour Tom and along the river, four Little Egret, four Teal, eight Goosander, Green Sandpiper, five singing Corn Bunting and eight Buzzards including this one under assault from a Carrion Crow.

As you can see it went in feet first and at one point landed on the Buzzard’s back.

I also added a new plant species for the parish list, Marsh Marigold… 

A relatively common plant so I was surprised that I hadn’t recorded it until this weekend. 

Sunday, 17 April 2022

17th April 2022

Summer migrants have continued to come in but generally in dribbles rather than floods with only a single Blackcap so far and one sighting of Swallow - three birds by the river in Morton. There are plenty of Chiffchaffs though… 


and Sand Martins are back in some numbers now…


The first Willow Warbler was in the Magic Garden on the 13th with a marked influx the following day with at least a dozen birds singing around the village…

The warm weather has brought the butterflies out too with Speckled Wood, Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Peacock, Orange Tip and this, rather battered, Comma all seen this week…

The (Dark-bordered) Bee-flys are also out…

One species that has been notable by its absence this year is the Brown Hare. I had a long walk today right through the heart of the best locations and only saw a single animal. I hope this isn’t as worrying as it appears…

Bird sightings today were also distinctly thin but included three displaying Curlews, a vanishingly rare sight in many lowland areas these days, and still small numbers of Fieldfares waiting to leave for their summer quarters.

I’ll finish with this…

It’s the ‘hand’ of a Mole. Dead of course (in all my years I have yet to see a live one), and vaguely unsettling. You wouldn’t be entirely surprised to see this reaching round the bedroom door in an M.R. James story…