Thursday, 31 December 2015

New Year's Eve

A final walk around the parish to try and add any last species to the year list. No luck but glorious winter light this morning.

Interesting light effect over Richmond too:  

Highlights were a couple of Grey Wagtails on Morton water works

A nice, if distant, flock of around 50 Lesser Redpoll near the school,

three Great Spotted Woodpeckers, on the floods a Little Egret, half a dozen Wigeon, 300 odd Greylags and a Great Black-backed Gull (only my second of the year). Less happily found this shot Snipe washed up on the edge of the floods.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

27th December

Lying in bed last night I could heard large numbers of duck on the floodwater, even through the double glazing, but there were only around a dozen Mallard and a single Cormorant on the bottom fields this morning. A single Redshank flew over and as I approached Langlands I could hear Whooper Swans calling but couldn’t see them. They may have been flying along the river as sound carried well in the exceptionally calm conditions….

The floods on Langlands too were quiet with only a handful of Teal but the Greylag flock by the How Beck had grown to over 400 birds.

Last winter there were record numbers of buntings in the arable fields at the south end of Langlands. So far the mild weather has meant they haven’t gathered in large numbers but there were around 40 Yellowhammers there today.

This Kestrel, perched in the same bush as the Yellowhammers, seemed more interested in earthworms than birds and was able to spot them at surprisingly long distances…

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

23rd December

A quick look in at the floods in the bottom fields but there were only around 20 Mallard on here. I walked down Greenhills Lane but again it was quiet with 20 Teal and 42 Greylags on the remnant floodwater here, a Treecreeper and 35 Long-tailed Tits in the oak ‘avenue’ and a Little Owl roosting in the ruined farm buildings where it had nested in the summer.

On the way home I decided to go back in to the Magic Garden for another look at the floods. No Mallard on here now, instead a small group of ducks which included 10 Teal, a drake Gadwall and a pair of Shoveler, another new bird for the parish! I had scanned the water pretty comprehensively before so it seems likely these were fresh arrivals. How much most go unrecorded each year?

Also seen here were Lesser Redpoll, Sparrowhawk, two ‘singing’ Little Grebes and at least a dozen Snipe flushed up from this area of the floods.  

Sunday, 20 December 2015

20th December

The floods have receded very quickly. This was the view on Langlands last week…..

And this is today.

The bottom fields have held on to more water but it is much shallower now and is obviously ideal for Teal with 232 counted there this morning, a new parish record.

These fields also held 35 Mallard, 11 Wigeon and 65 Curlew and around 150 Greylags flew over.

Back at home I watched Coal Tits taking sunflower seeds and ‘caching’ them in various parts of the garden. I hadn’t realised they did this but it is actually a well-known feature of the species. Apparently they don’t have fantastic memories though so I am anticipating some unexpected sproutings in the spring! 

Friday, 11 December 2015

Greenshank & Geese

Even more extensive flooding today...

On here there were 40 Mallard and half a dozen Wigeon and Teal. Over on Langlands it looked very quiet but as I approached one area of floods I flushed a Greenshank from the edge of the water. This species is a rare spring visitor to the parish but this is the first winter record. Only small numbers of Greenshank overwinter in Britain, and most of these are concentrated on the south and west coasts so this was an excellent sighting. I didn’t manage a picture of the bird but this is where it was!

I could hear good numbers of Greylags here, around 300 birds were in the fields on the far side of How Beck but a nice skein came flying over. I picked out some higher pitched voices amongst the deeper calls of the Greylags and on the edge of the skein were six Pinkfeet. They broke off from the main flock and I lost sight of them over the far fields. I didn’t manage a picture of them either but these are some of the Greylags they were with!

The walk was rounded off with a nice flock of Fieldfares dropping in to the hawthorn and crab apple trees on the farm.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Bad Choice...

The river rose very strongly last night and Morton Bridge was closed from late afternoon. It’s still closed today although a couple of brave/foolhardy souls attempted to drive through…

It doesn’t look as though the water could get much higher but this is still a couple of metres below the highest level recorded at this spot (in September 2012).

Saturday, 5 December 2015

5th December

Extensive flooding again this weekend. These were the bottom fields yesterday morning.

83 Mallard on here (a very good count for the parish) plus 12 Wigeon and a single distant ‘Scaup-faced’ Tufted Duck.

Good numbers of Curlew were also around along with 100+ Lapwing. Four swans flying over here turned out to be a family party of Mutes.

Somewhat different weather today! Most birds had cleared out in the very blustery conditions and the Langlands floods were completely empty but the bottom fields still held 20 Mallard and a handful of Wigeon but they had been joined now by half a dozen Teal and a single Gadwall. Yet another new bird for the year and only the second record for the parish.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Winter torpor

It’s exceptionally quiet at the moment. On the river a single Mute Swan has taken up residence again. As it’s on exactly the same stretch of the river I assume this is the bird which spent the late winter/spring here.

Four Goosander, two Buzzards, a small flock of Siskin and a single Little Egret were the only other sightings of note.

The local egrets now gather to roost at Bolton-on-Swale lakes and this week there were a remarkable 22 birds there (along with 88 Cormorants). It would be interesting to know how wide an area the egrets fly in from as there are never reports of more than the odd one or two birds on the local rivers. It’s also an amazing change of status for a species that I travelled all the way down to Somerset to twitch only a relatively short time ago!

Sunday, 22 November 2015

What a Difference a Day Makes...

A surprisingly sharp frost last night meant the floods were virtually all frozen.

A group of 15 Mallard huddled in the one piece of open water and another 20 were on the lake itself but all the other duck had moved off. A dozen Curlew were left feeding on the odd unfrozen margin.

As I walked down towards the floods I heard what I thought was a woodpecker but it turned out to be a Carrion Crow hacking at the ice, presumably to get at something it could see under the surface.

Around 100 Greylags flew over the house this lunchtime and, not surprisingly, the colder weather brought a flood of birds to the garden feeders including the first Nuthatch for a few weeks and up to five Wrens.

This one definitely living up to its old North Riding dialect name of Stoompy Tahl…

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Floods again...

"All those lost-named meadows
Unkempt under summer plovers
Or pewtered by winter floods…"

A definite change in the weather this morning with snow lying on the ridge of Pen Hill and a scattering on the Hambletons. A sharp northerly wind too and it seemed to have shifted the birds. As I walked down Warlaby Lane six Wigeon flew over, the 110th species to have been spotted in the parish this year.

On the floods in the bottom fields there were another 13 Wigeon, 30 Curlew, two Snipe, Cormorant,  around 40 Mallard and more surprisingly six Goldeneye. There have only been two previous sightings of Goldeneye in the parish and they were both of single birds so this has quadrupled the records!

I later walked over to scan the floodwater at Langlands but numbers were significantly down with only around 45 Curlew now, a single Greylag and a couple of hundred Black-headed Gull although the Teal flock was still present along with yet another (drake) Goldeneye. 

Monday, 16 November 2015

15th November

There was a similar mix of birds on the floods today but the Greylags were joined by 26 Canada Geese, a good sized flock for the parish and the first seen since early Summer.

Curlew numbers had increased to around 200 birds (and Andy Johnston reported another 100 on floodwater near Scruton). Two Goosander were also on the floods at Langlands.

At Morton bridge the river was incredibly high and almost over-topped the railway bridge. However, apart from three Cormorant and a pair of Buzzards, it was quiet birdwise although I did see a large, distant flock of duck, probably Wigeon, drop onto flooded fields near Scruton.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Whoopers, Whaups & Water

It has to be said this was not the best week to have our roof replaced! But looking on the bright side the rain has flooded the lower fields and they look very promising.

John and Ann at Langlands had rung yesterday to say there were half a dozen Whooper Swans on their fields near How Beck. No sign today but the floods there were thick with birds with around 100 Curlew, a cracking flock of 70 Teal...

Scores of Lapwing, 20 Golden Plover, 80 Greylags...

As well as hundreds of gulls and 300+ Fieldfares.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Fungi & Sprawks

I’ve noticed a few of these little fungi, the Yellow Fieldcap, recently. I photographed this example yesterday.

A very striking species almost buttercup yellow and with a glossy coating. But this only lasts a short while and I went back and re-photographed it today and already nearly all the colour has gone.

At the lake this afternoon a Sparrowhawk shot low over my head, followed a few moments later by a second bird. They then proceeded to climb, dive, tumble and chase each other for some minutes. 
If it had been spring I might have thought this was some form of display (other than the fact they appeared to be the same sex). Perhaps they were siblings and just enjoying the feeling of flying in the wild winds?

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Late Colour

In the Magic Garden there is a small patch of boggy ground which I always thought looked great for Jack Snipe and Water Rail. I managed to find the latter this winter, the first record for the parish, but Jack Snipe continues to elude me. The dry weather this summer means much of it got clogged with vegetation but the recent rains have re-flooded it  and I’m still hopeful I might tick off minimus one of these days.
In the same patch these flowers have given a late burst of colour. I think these are Celery-leaved Buttercup (Ranunculus sceleratus)

and Lesser Spearwort (Ranunculus flammula).

There appeared to be a good movement of Redwings last night and standing in our garden you could hear the evocative ‘tseep’ calls as they flew over, invisible in the thick fog.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

1st November & Ladybird books

Thick fog hung around all day so birding was limited, two Kingfishers were on the lake along with the first Teal since early April. A Buzzard foolishly flew over the village resulting in dozens of Rooks driving it off. Two Jays were still present in the Magic Garden along with a Cormorant and good numbers of Fieldfares. This is typically what happens in the parish with an early influx of Redwings which move on usually leaving the Fieldfare as the commonest winter thrush.

Whenever the conditions are like this it always reminds me of the classic Ladybird book “What to Look for in Autumn” and Tunnicliffe’s fabulous, nostalgic illustrations….

The four seasonal “What to Look For…” books are certainly one of the things which got me interested in natural history as a child and I would recommend every family trying to get hold of them. They have definitely become more collectable in recent years but I still occasionally see them in charity shops and there are usually plenty of copies on Ebay.

Parish year list to end of October - 109 species

Friday, 30 October 2015


I haven't posted for a week having had a half-term break in Goswick in north Northumberland. A marvellous spot near the shore although it was fairly quiet on the birding front. Highlights were a mass arrival of winter thrushes, three Black Redstarts together just by our holiday home…

And each evening this wonderful sight and sound as the Pinkfeet flew in to roost on the mud flats around Lindisfarne....

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Patchwork Challenge & Wonder of the Day

John Edwards had planned another mothing session in the Magic Garden last weekend but in the end couldn’t make it. We were especially interested in any migrant or late autumn moths as no-one had trapped in the parish at this time of year. My particular target was Merveille du Jour (or Wonder of the Day). John did manage to catch one of these in his garden this week so I can’t resist including his photo of this stunning moth.

I’ve mentioned the Patchwork Challenge before - a national competition to encourage people to really watch their own local patch. Thanks to September’s Osprey and Redpoll I’ve crept into first place in the Inland North mini-league, a fraction of a % ahead of another North Yorkshire birder, Steve Ward. Will the Pinkfeet and Peregrine I’ve added in October be enough to hold on to top spot?