Monday, 31 August 2015

Two more....

Walking back from picking damsons at Langlands a small bird flashed across as I climbed the stile. It was a male Stonechat, only the second one I have seen in the parish. The picture was taken at distance in heavy rain but at least you can see what it is….

As I continued up the bank I spotted a pipit on the path ahead. It looked different from Meadow and with a different gait. It then took off and called. It was a Tree Pipit, my first record in the parish! I can only assume that it was the heavy rain brought down both of these birds within a few yards of each other.

Yesterday this little leveret ran madly around me, almost tripping over its feet, before disappearing through the hedge on Greenhills Lane.

Year List to end of August 106 species.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

What a difference a day makes...

Yesterday I walked around the Magic Garden on the slim hope that some of the hundreds of Pied Flycatchers which recently landed on the Yorkshire coast might have found their way inland. In fact it was rather depressingly quiet.
I popped down there again today and the place was heaving with birds. 20 odd Blackbirds were gorging on Rowan berries, phylloscs seemed to be in every bush…

half a dozen Spotted Flycatchers sallied out from high perches,

young Bullfinches were much in evidence...

along with Goldcrests, Blackcaps and the first Whitethroats I have seen this month. Overhead Buzzards, Kestrels and Sparrowhawks drifted south, the latter mobbed by large numbers of hirundines and my first Jay since the winter noisily proclaimed its presence.

To round off an enjoyable hour's birding I came home to find a Lesser Whitethroat in the neighbour's fruit bushes.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

26th August

A rather quiet walk along the river this evening included these Goosander in eclipse plumage with the right hand bird clearly showing the loss of flight feathers.

I also saw this interesting atmospheric display (which was rather more striking in real life than this photo shows) with the impression of sunbeams radiating up from the ground. The picture is facing east with the evening sun low behind me.

Yesterday a good series of Hobby sightings continued with a bird hunting over the Magic Garden and on the lake here there were a couple of Brown Hawkers and good numbers of these Common Darters

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Even cows can surprise you...

I was having yet another go for you know what. Again no luck with Goosander, Kingfisher, Little Egret and a couple of Wall butterflies the only sightings of note.

As I was scanning for birds a cow on the far (east) bank of the river started to bellow loudly. Most of the large herd of cows on my side of the river ignored it but three individuals started responding. The next thing one went charging down into the wet woodland here, I watched it move through the trees, crashing through branches and wading up to its stomach in the pools, a distinctly primeval vision!
I assumed it would stop when it got to the river but it simply continued and swam strongly across despite the high river levels and very strong current.

A couple of minutes later and the other two did the same with one almost getting swept away until it found its footing on some gravel and clambered out of the water.

I can only assume that some of the East Bank calves were those of the swimmers but why they responded to the adult cow’s calls and why none of the rest of the herd reacted I have no idea.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

22nd August

I made another unsuccessful attempt for Osprey today but it was fairly quiet. Two Mandarin were still present and I managed a marginally less bad picture

I also saw my first Snipe since the winter

Gull numbers continue to rise with upwards of 1000 birds present and other sightings included a flock of 75 Golden Plover, two Kingfishers, three Buzzards and a Little Egret.

Friday, 21 August 2015


Andy Johnston spotted an Osprey today. He picked it up near Scruton and watched it follow the river downstream over Morton bridge before it flushed the large gathering of gulls near Swalefields. There has been a bird at Nosterfield for the last couple of weeks and also reports of a bird near Great Langton so there is a reasonable chance of further sightings in the parish.

I had a quick look for it this evening, no luck but the three Mandarin were still present.  It was also the first time since early April that I didn’t see a single Swallow or martin along the river.

As there are no photos of birds today I thought I'd include a shot of Monday’s sunset. 

Thursday, 20 August 2015

The list grows...

A surprise find on the river this afternoon, three Mandarin Duck, a new species for the parish. I almost missed them, dismissing them as Mallards at distance, but fortunately I checked them again. They were very nervous and hence the very distant poor photos but at least you can see what they are.

I think these are eclipse drakes given the reddish tones on the bill but I’m not a great expert on the species. Interesting to speculate on where these have come from with the nearest birds I’m aware of on the Ure near Masham. 

Monday, 17 August 2015

Barn Owls

Walking yesterday evening I was surprised to have a close encounter with this Barn Owl, I only had time to get one shot off and it’s not completely sharp but worth including anyway.

I’ve already referred to the good news about Barn Owls in the local area with many farmers now reporting them present on their land. With the discovery of the pair near the river that probably implies four pairs nesting in the parish.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Summer's end

This already feels the season of gatherings, the Swallows are making musical scores of the telegraph wires, Rooks and Jackdaws are swirling around in ever larger groups before flying off to roost and flocks of Starlings are buzzing over west to their evening haunts.
The first big numbers of Lapwing were also present today, with one flock totalling around 250 birds.

Gulls too are gathering in impressive numbers with more than 500 in one field by the river including this interesting individual.

Along the Swale this evening I spotted two Little Egrets, two Kingfishers, a Common Sandpiper and a second family of Spotted Flycatchers.

As I watched these birds a mixed flock of 100 Sand Martins and Swallows flew in to feed voraciously on the gnats and midges. As the air cooled they were joined by half a dozen Swifts scything through the flock like fighter planes. I suspect these will be the last we’ll see in the parish this year.

Friday, 14 August 2015


I walked along the river yesterday evening on the hunt for Common Sandpiper for the year list. These waders are seen in the parish most years, usually in late summer, but spotting one is down to pot luck. No sign and it was generally quiet other than a Kingfisher and an unidentified wader calling as it flew high overhead.

As I walked back I spotted a falcon, it was a superb Hobby which flashed past before turning and powering low over a freshly turned field.

Hobby (or possibly speck on camera lens...)
It appeared to land near an old field barn and as I headed over two Barn Owls flew out. One of these glided over the river bank flushing…a Common Sandpiper!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Ton Up

The Parish year list has reached 100 species with the trapping and ringing of this young Reed Warbler in the Magic Garden.

This is only the second modern record of reedie in the village and follows a bird seen around the same date last year. These are presumably migrants but there must be a chance of nesting soon given the establishment of good breeding populations at the local reserves? 

A Garden Warbler in our neighbour’s garden this morning was a surprise particularly as they have been rather scarce in the parish this year.

A less welcome visitor was a Mink seen swimming in the Magic Garden lake last evening. This presumably accounts for the disappearance of the Moorhen chicks and Tufted Ducklings although the three young Little Grebes have survived so far.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

A Hebridean Interlude

I haven’t posted anything for the last fortnight having been on holiday with the family to the Outer Hebrides. Our first visit to these magical islands. At 70 species the bird list was relatively short but made up for it in quality with all three divers, Corncrake, Red-necked Phalarope, breeding Whooper Swan, both petrels, Twite in the garden, Peregrine on the neighbour’s roof and daily sightings of eagles including this White-tailed from the kitchen window and my best ever views of Golden Eagle.


Add in dolphins, orchids, Otters catching Salmon on the beach near our holiday cottage, a Red Deer stag racing the car, beautiful beaches and stunning views and it was really hard to beat.
But the highlight was a trip to St Kilda which has been high on my bucket list for many years. I defy anyone not to want to visit who has read about the lifestyle of the St Kildans’ and their poignant evacuation to a new and alien life on the mainland.

And for birders of course it has the added bonus of the famous St Kildan Wren, a sub-species unique to the archipelago.

But what I hadn’t been prepared for was the sheer spectacle of the place  with the highest sea cliffs in Britain and towering sea stacks iced with tens of thousands of seabirds. One stack alone is estimated to hold 60,000 pairs of Gannets. Photos don’t do it any sort of justice so I would heartily encourage you all to visit yourselves.




All in all well worth the nine hours of  bouncing on the Atlantic in a little boat…