Sunday, 12 May 2019

12th May

I took a foray out of the parish today to go and look for a couple of Yorkshire rarities. I very rarely go twitching these days but I do keep my Yorkshire bird list active so the chance of adding species number 359 and 360 to my county list was too tempting. These should have been a Brown Shrike and a Collared Flycatcher which were both seen on the Holderness coast yesterday. So an early start with Frank and we were over on Cowden Ranges by 7am but to cut a long story short the birds had flown. In fact every rare/scarce bird on the east coast seemed to have cleared out overnight!
A fruitless search did at least turn up a Barn Owl which flew right over our heads, a Cuckoo and an astonishing density of singing warblers including half a dozen Cetti’s and huge numbers of Whitethroats…


Later, back home I went with my botanist friend Helen to look for Green-winged Orchids at a lovely site near Leyburn….


Beautiful plants…



Particularly this single white-variant we found…


Monday, 6 May 2019

6th May


A cold, breezy weekend was not conducive to birds (or birding) but today dawned a little calmer and I went down to the river. Starting off on the Thrintoft path, no real signs of migrants on the move although there were definitely more Whitethroats singing.
As I headed back up towards Morton a big female Sparrowhawk drifted across carrying a prey item and then moments later a superb Hobby flashed in. It landed briefly in a distant tree where I took this awful picture in very low light…


And it then powered off over towards the river. Very unusual here to tick off Hobby ahead of swift.
On the river itself there were three Little Egrets, three Mute Swans, two Yellow Wagtails and amongst the dozens of Sand Martins (including these immediately using a fresh area of erosion)…


were my first House Martins of the year…


Any chance of discreet birding ended when I became the Pied Piper of Hamelin (Lamblin?)!


Earlier in the week a sunny evening gave me a chance to catch up with one or two butterflies In the Magic Garden…
Comma, Orange Tip and Speckled Wood…




Year list to end of April: 88 Species

Sunday, 28 April 2019

28th April


Chris rang yesterday to say he had seen a drake Mandarin on the river near Thrintoft and it had then flown downstream. Torn between listening to Rovers critical survival game against Fleetwood or looking for this bird I opted for the latter. Unfortunately there was no further sign (but Rovers did manage a draw, guaranteeing League One football next year!) but I did see my first Common Sandpiper of the year…


And a nice bonus in the form of a (rather distant) Little Ringed Plover. It has been three or four years since the last LRP in the parish…


This morning I walked along the river downstream of Morton bridge. Disappointingly quiet but I did see my first Yellow Wagtails with a pair on the fence near Swalefields. Other birds included a pair of Shelduck on the river, three Grey Partridge, a Green Sandpiper, one Little Egret and a total of around 20 Goosander in small (non-breeding?) groups. The first Greylag goslings have also hatched…


I also watched this Pike in ambush mode…



Poor picture given the light and no polarising filter but interesting to watch its technique, it faced upstream with just enough movement from its tail to hold its position. It didn’t catch anything whilst I watched but a huge Barbel, bigger than the Pike, swam very close to it at one point.  

Sunday, 21 April 2019

21st April


My mothing friend John has happily recovered from his back injury so we had the first village mothing session for over 18 months last night. As usual we set the traps in the Magic Garden. April is still early so we weren’t expecting a bumper catch, and so it proved with only 40 moths of eight species caught. However, this did include two new species for the parish, Red Chestnut and this rather handsome Early Tooth-striped…


Commonest species was Hebrew Character…


But also had five of these Powdered Quakers …


Generally it’s been a good weekend for insects with the unseasonably warm weather. Butterflies were prominent with at least six Speckled Woods in the Magic Garden yesterday…


Plus ten Orange-tip, two Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstone and my first Comma of the year.
I also photographed this rather striking Dark-edged Bee Fly (see the long proboscis)…


And a reminder how little I know about beetles!


Birdwise the highlight was my first Whitethroat of the year singing near our house this morning, three Lesser Whitethroat along Greenhills Lane and another flock of summer-plumaged Golden Plover with 250 near the river on Friday evening. 

Incidentally I was speculating in my blog of 30th March about whether the flock which behaved differently was composed of two different populations of Goldies. I recently had an email from a researcher who has written a paper on moult in Golden Plover and she confirmed that both ‘local’ and Icelandic birds would be moving through our area at this time of year so that may explain the difference between the two groups.  Otherwise it’s been pretty quiet although migrants are drifting in and nesting is in full swing…



The Treecreeper was collecting sheep wool from the barbed wire fences.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

14th April


The most intriguing sighting this weekend was a pipit seen very briefly flying over the river yesterday, it seemed to have plain underparts and my first thought was Water Pipit but despite searching by Chris and I the bird wasn’t seen again.
Although the weekend was generally sunny it was distinctly cold and this seems to have slowed migration so it was a pretty quiet period. Only one more Swallow record this week; a single over the church seen by Andy J as he came out of the pub. Sand Martins are well established back now…


With around a dozen Chiffchaff in total seen/heard...


A couple more Blackcaps were singing near the river and I had my first Willow Warbler yesterday with a second bird singing behind our house this afternoon.

Winter thrushes were still around with a flock of 50+ Fieldfares by the river on Friday and small numbers feeding in the fields on the Thrintoft path yesterday…


More surprising were three Redwing seen over Ainderby today, the first sightings for almost a month.

The only other sightings of note were six Snipe on the oxbow and a pair of Teal, six Goosander, two Little Egret and a flock of around 75 Golden Plover on the river by Swalefields.

I also photographed this Goldcrest in the Magic Garden, a relatively common bird but for once showing relatively well as it tried to out-sing a rival…



Sunday, 7 April 2019

7th April


A relatively quiet weekend but I did visit the river north of the bridge yesterday. This is one of the best parts of the patch with willow and hawthorn near the water (affectionately known as Warbler Corner) and a small oxbow pool.
I saw my first Blackcap of the year along the old railway line but as I tried to photograph it there was a temporary distraction…


Lots of Chiffchaffs were singing, a Grey Wagtail was near the waterworks along with the first Marsh Tit that I've seen for two or three years. As I approached the oxbow I flushed two pairs of Teal and a Green Sandpiper. Over the river there were good numbers of Sand Martins but feeding very high, on the water itself around 100 large gulls (mainly Herring), two pairs of Oystercatchers, three Little Egret and two pairs of Goosander…


I met Andy J down here and he had had two Swallows around Morton Bridge earlier. No sign as we walked back but as I was about to leave a single bird flew in to feed around the old barn, always one of the highlights of spring.

Year list to end of March: 78 species       

Saturday, 30 March 2019

30th March


All of the floods have drained now but on a gloriously sunny day yesterday I walked along the river anyway. Pick of the birds were my first Sand Martins of the year with a couple of dozen seen in total. This is early for significant numbers to arrive and Chris Knight also reported around 40 birds excavating at the big river colony near Thrintoft.
In a large ploughed field near Swalefields I saw a small group of Golden Plover drop in, as I walked up to the field there were obviously bigger numbers there and I tallied up almost 350 birds, a really good count for the parish…




Quite a few were in near full summer plumage. It was interesting when they were flushed later around 300 flew off but a group of 50 remained on the ground. This latter flock had a much higher proportion of summer-plumaged birds. Was this group from a separate population with different moult timing? Perhaps from further north with less contact with humans hence their relative ‘tameness’?

Also along the river were three Little Egrets (which now outnumber Grey Heron sightings on the patch) and two Green Sandpipers…



I photographed this tiny bee (together with around 20 others) on a small bank along the river. It’s a species of Miner Bee and it could be seen excavating small holes in the bank. Unfortunately there are 67 species of miner bee in Britain so identification is not easy but I think its appearance (and the fact it has emerged in March) point to it being a Gwynne’s Mining Bee, one of the commoner species…


Not surprisingly given the sunshine and warmth there were some early butterflies around with a smart Brimstone in Ainderby, Peacock and also at least half a dozen Small Tortoiseshells…


Sunday, 24 March 2019

24th March


Visiting birders found four Garganey (two drakes) on the floodwater north of Morton Bridge this morning. Unfortunately the birds were flushed and flew off north. I assumed this would be ‘my’ pair plus another but when I walked along the original two birds were still on the floodwater south of the bridge this morning. Slightly better light but still ridiculously distant…

Amazing that three quarters of the Garganey reported in the whole of north-east England were attracted to this short stretch of the Swale!

The flood pools also held four Mute Swans, four Gadwall, 31 Shelduck, 150+ Herring Gulls and 45 Lesser Black-backeds. Along the river I saw two Little Egrets, four Goosander, three pairs of Oystercatcher and a Grey Wagtail. More Chiffchaffs in too, with four singing birds today.

Friday, 22 March 2019

22nd March


A day off today so a quick walk downstream along the river. Twenty five Redwings were the first I’ve seen for a couple of weeks and a Grey Wagtail on the first bend was a pleasant surprise…


Otherwise it was decidedly quiet until I got to a spot where floodwater from last weekend was still lying on the far bank. I could see dozens of gulls but also some whiter shapes. They were Shelduck and as I searched through I tallied up 23, the largest count I have had.
Birds were very distant but I could see a couple of darker shapes. There were three Gadwall, my first of the year, but the bird behind it was a superb drake Garganey! A new bird for the parish. (Terrible photo but it was very gloomy and very far…)


When I checked my other photos later it actually showed there was a pair present.

As I walked back up Potter Lane I had two more Corn Buntings (making a total of seven singing birds) and a flock of 59 Golden Plover drifted over...


I finished off by checking the river north of the road. Three Little Egrets here (none of them ringed) plus a Green Sandpiper and four Goosander. A good morning's birding.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

20th March


Just about to set off for work this morning when I spotted a cracking skein of Whooper Swans. They flew straight over the house. By the time I’d grabbed the camera and shot out of the front door they were already well past…


I took some poor pictures but it did mean I could count the flock. There were 38 birds, probably the largest group I have had in the parish. They were also the first I have had over the garden. Normally Whoopers follow the line of the Swale. Someone tweeted me to say they had had a skein of 38 over Whitburn about an hour later. If it was the same birds they would have been travelling at an average of about 45 miles per hour.
Otherwise it has been a pretty quiet period. Floods at the weekend raised hopes…


But apart from a dozen Teal and 16 Curlew in the Bottom Fields they mainly attracted gulls although this included my first Lesser Black-backs of the year.
A Chiffchaff was singing on Monday and a single Little Egret was on the river. Unfortunately I flushed it before I realised it was carrying rings...