Sunday, 27 September 2015


One feature of the winter in the Magic Garden is a regular thrush roost. This is already forming, made up almost exclusively, at this stage, of male Blackbirds (like this young bird) with a smattering of Song Thrushes.

Later in the winter they are usually joined by good numbers of Redwings.
Last night there were around 40 birds in the roost at the time I left. Some individuals can be seen flying in high and dropping straight into the roost site on the main island in the lake but most tend to follow the same pattern ahead of going to roost – starting off in the small area of damp woodland by the ‘fen’, moving then into the tops of the trees on the small island before a final swift, discreet flight to the dense vegetation on the main island.

Other birds seen here last night included Little Owl, Kingfisher and a small group of Swallows.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

26th September

A quick pre-breakfast walk down the Magic Garden on a cool, grey morning. Almost the first bird I saw was a Grey Wagtail. Redpoll numbers have increased to four, a large mixed tit flock also included a couple of Reed Buntings and this Sparrowhawk attracted the attention of the local crows.

By the lake there are a couple of Alder trees which I have always assumed would be great for Siskin and Redpoll but have never seen birds on them until today when a group of five Siskin dropped in briefly to feed on the cones.
Around 30 Blackbirds were present around the rowans, feeding voraciously but very jumpy, behaving just like migrants on the coast so they may well be fresh arrivals.
I didn’t see or hear any Chiffchaffs or hirundines today but I did see a Blackcap. I don’t know if this was a tardy summer migrant or perhaps an early arriving winter visitor from central Europe?

I also spotted this rather worn Flounced Rustic doing a reasonable impression of a piece of reed head.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

A Quiet Weekend

It shouldn’t be difficult to find something to write about in September with migration theoretically in full swing but it has been a very quiet couple of days.
Yesterday’s sunny weather induced the remaining Chiffchaffs into song (including an exceptionally loud individual in the car park of the Dales School) and a handful of Buzzards drifted over Ainderby including these two interacting high over the village.

Dozens of Small Tortoiseshells were on the wing, along with Speckled Woods and this Wall

and in the Magic Garden virtually every fence post held a Common Darter.

Today there was a small movement of Skylarks over and I saw my first Corn Bunting since the summer. Siskin numbers on the river had risen to around 40 and a single Golden Plover flew low over the church.   

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Bird Sense contd.

I guess it was inevitable after yesterday’s post that the first bird I saw down the Magic Garden this evening was…a Redpoll! The first I’ve seen in the parish this year, reinforcing their reputation for uncanny appearances!
Other birds seen included Snipe, two Little Owls, a dozen Chiffchaff, Reed Bunting, Kingfisher, Sparrowhawk

and Great Spotted Woodpecker

Plenty of House Martins and Swallows were still feeding over the lake and the two young Little Grebe have survived to grow to the size of their parents.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Bird Sense

I haven’t fed the garden birds much over the summer but with the colder weather I have started putting food out again. Within a short time of filling the peanut feeder this Nuthatch arrived to feed.

I’m always amazed how quickly birds find this food source. The most striking example of this was a couple of Christmases ago. 
I had spent a large part of the holiday trying to add Redpoll to the village year list. I looked in all of the places I had seen them before and plenty of others but all to no avail and I would have put a substantial sum of money on there being none in the village.

One of my Christmas gifts happened to be a Nyger feeder, I hung this out and within twenty minutes there were two Redpoll on it! How on Earth does that happen? 

Monday, 14 September 2015

Moths continued...

When John was unpacking the traps at home, he discovered this moth which we had missed…

It is a Brindled Green, yet another new record for the parish and a rather uncommon Yorkshire species.
The other two new moths were this Orange Sallow - a very attractive autumn species

and this micro Acleris laterana

On the bird front there was still a Spotted Flycatcher by the river yesterday evening.

I hadn’t seen them along this stretch before so I assume this may be a migrant rather than a local bird? 

Sunday, 13 September 2015

National (no) Moth Night & Osprey at last...

John Edwards ran three traps in the Magic Garden last night as it was National Moth Night. Not exactly ideal conditions and it’s likely the low lying, damp ground here exaggerated the cold as it was a dreadful catch, only 23 moths of six species! However, it did include two new species for the parish (and indeed new for John’s British list) – Orange Sallow (a scarce and local species in Yorkshire) and a new micro Acleris laterana
The commonest species' caught were Brown-spot Pinion (of which there is only one previous parish record) and a number of these Rosy Rustics. Classic autumn moths.

Later this morning , driving back from seeing the Woodchat Shrike at Nosterfield, I spotted a large bird over towards the Swale. Screeching to a halt on the A684 (not really recommended) I jumped out (defintely not recommended) to see an Osprey drifting along the river towards Morton Bridge. A couple of crows were harrying it and it dipped out of sight. 
I drove on to the bridge car-park but there was no further sign although its progress could be gauged by the reactions of the local Lapwing flocks which shot up in panic as it headed back towards Scruton/Great Langton. 

Friday, 11 September 2015

Sun Dogs

I saw this double sun-dog tonight. My cheap camera couldn’t really cope with this difficult light but you can at least make them out – the bright spots to the left and right of the sun. They are always the same height and, when there is a pair, always equidistant from the sun.

The left hand dog is the stronger and you can see the colours better in this one

The effect is caused by sunlight reflecting off ice crystals. They are always red-coloured on the side facing the sun with the colours getting cooler the farther away they are.

In folklore they are often associated with a change in the weather so let’s see what happens over the weekend…

Thursday, 10 September 2015


One of my new year resolutions will be to learn more about fungus but in the meantime have a look at these two spectacular examples, photographed on the same Ash tree this evening.
The bracket fungus seems to have been well chewed by something, bird or mammal?

Close up the bracket fungus could be the surface of a planet and the other like something from a coral reef.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

9th September

A walk down the river this morning on an exceptionally calm, but cool, day. Yet another sighting of Hobby was the highlight  

It is one honestly....

but other birds included the first Meadow Pipits since the spring, around three weeks earlier than usual,

half a dozen Siskin (again well ahead of previous years), a Great Black-backed Gull amongst the other gulls and a Little Grebe on the river.
All of these strengthened the impression that autumn has arrived early this year. The one exception was Chiffchaff with virtually every bush seeming to still have a bird ‘hweeting’ and at least two birds in full song.

Talking of Chiffchaff, one of the birds caught in the Magic Garden on Sunday was a Chiffchaff which John had caught and ringed at Kiplin Hall in July! Interesting to think of the migration route these birds take, possibly moving between sites with water?

Sunday, 6 September 2015


Another ringing session in the Magic Garden with John, Beryl & Stuart. The early morning was surprisingly cold with a thick mist rising over The Bottoms.

Goldcrest was a new ringed species for the site with half a dozen birds caught in a new net by the conifers.

This is a male Blackcap having a ring fitted

Ringing was steady but reinforced the impression of few young birds and many summer migrants already departed. The exception was Chiffchaffs with good numbers caught and this is now by some way the most numerous species that John has ringed in the garden.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Hobbies & Hawkers

In the garden this afternoon staring up at a fantastic skyscape, I was fantasising as usual about the rare birds that might fly over when I spotted what I at first took to be a late Swift drifting west. In fact it was a Hobby and amazingly it was joined by a second bird. The pair then did some gentle aerobatics before one powered off to the north and the other stooped at tremendous speed until lost from sight behind the pub.  
As with so much in birding this was simply a case of being in the right place at the right time but it highlights too just how much must pass through unnoticed each year.

In the bottom fields the male Stonechat was still present, mainly around the Rich Ditch area.

At the lake this Southern Hawker was very active but then flew into the shade of the wood, hung from a branch and went into a kind of torpor allowing very close inspection of this striking dragonfly. Unfortunately the light conditions were not conducive to great photography but worth including anyway. 

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

2nd September

A definite sign of approaching Autumn late this evening in the shape of a Grey Wagtail going for a carousel ride at the sewage works, the first parish sighting since January. This is a little earlier than usual with birds typically turning up in late September or early October.  This coincides with the departure of Yellow Wagtails and before migration was fully understood it was believed Yellows became Grey Wagtails in winter.

A Common Sandpiper was still on the river this evening

And ahead of the rain clouds large numbers of House Martins dropped in with around 75 birds over Morton-on-Swale including a tight group of 40 feeding over the paddock by the railway. This arrival was replicated across the river in Scruton where Andy Johnston estimated well over 100 birds over the village.