Monday, 3 May 2021

3rd May 2021

I suffer from an affliction which is a major handicap for a birdwatcher – laziness. I am not good at early morning starts but today I walked down to the riverbank for 5.30 to see…very little. (although this heron wasn’t expecting anyone this early)

But there was some compensation in the form of my first Common Sandpiper of the year…


Although they breed just upstream of the parish they are surprisingly scarce here.

A similar walk along the river on Saturday turned up my first Lesser Whitethroat, singing in the willows by the bridge, and a marked movement of Swallows. More than 50 were counted moving low along the course of the river. Obviously migrants, not feeding but heading relentless north.

Also along here was a notable arrival of Yellow Wagtails with at least seven birds present (all males)…


And two Wheatears...



As well as six singing Corn Buntings…

And my first Kingfisher of the year. They had recovered numbers really well but have become inexplicably scarce again in the last couple of years.

On one bend of the river there was a tight gathering of five Little Egrets, three Grey Herons, two Shelduck and seven Goosander (all males). I assume the low waters levels had concentrated prey species. It was a real snowstorm when they all took off.

I have also had some outstanding views of hares over the last few days, including a few boxing and ‘meerkatting’…

Year list to end of April - 90 species.

Sunday, 25 April 2021

25th April 2021

I mentioned in an earlier post the list of target birds I had drawn up Last year and another unexpectedly got ticked off yesterday. I went to a neighbour’s garden to help set up a moth trap last night. I noticed a movement in a whitebeam and there was a superb male Pied Flycatcher!  It proved quite elusive in the shadows of evening but I managed a couple of shots…


I assumed if I was ever to catch up with this species in the parish that it would be some briefly glimpsed autumn migrant along the river but to find it a few yards from home and a spring male…A cracking bird!!

The mothing was less successful with only two Hebrew Characters caught!

Summer migrants continue to dribble only slowly in, I still haven’t seen House Martin and I only saw my first Whitethroat today. Swallows are slightly more frequent but none of the main village nesting sites are yet occupied. As if to emphasise it I saw a flock of around 120 Fieldfare still feeding in the pasture near Far Fairholme today. One of the latest flocks I have ever seen in the village. They were typically flighty so only a poor distant photo but they look very striking in full breeding dress…

Yesterday along the river I found five singing Corn Bunting and my first (three) Wheatear of the year...

Elsewhere, I had my first odonata of the year yesterday with a Large Red Damselfly in the Magic Garden…

And it seems to have been a good year for Bee Flies…

This is Dark-bordered Bee Fly, the only species we currently get in the village.

Sunday, 18 April 2021

18th April 2021

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted but this has been a reflection of a very quiet period. The (at times bitterly) cold weather has slowed Spring down dramatically. With the exception of Chiffchaffs and Sand Martins, spring migrants are virtually non-existent. I had my first Swallow on 4th  but have hardly seen a bird since, and certainly none of the usual nesting places are occupied. A Blackcap was singing along the railway on 4th but I have only had one other bird since and similarly my first Willow Warbler was on 10th

but I have only heard a single singing bird since. A Yellow Wagtail flew over Greenhills yesterday.

Most interesting, but sad, find was a freshly dead Long-eared Owl  at the end of Langlands. It’s not clear what killed it but looked to be natural rather than shot. We have sent the body to the Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme for analysis so hopefully might find out.


There has been the odd bird reported to me over the years including one by the river in January and a bird photographed on Ladyfield a couple of years ago. I have also just heard of a local farmer who took down a conifer for Christmas and three Long-eared Owls flew out so it may even be a regular wintering species but  I still haven’t caught up with one in Ainderby.  

The only other bird records of note were a flock of 48 Golden Plover in superb breeding dress.

Poor photos in the gloom of dusk but this is the third year in a row that I have had a flock in the same field in mid-April so it seems to be a regular stopping off point.

Three Whooper Swans flew over Langlands on 2nd April...

and four Snipe were flushed here on 11th. Another Snipe was on this lovely flood pool past Greenhills…

But despite looking superb for birds the only other sighting here was a pair of Shelduck. It’s likely it will have dried up before the delayed wader migration really gets going.

Away from birds I added a new bee species to the parish list, Gooden’s Nomad Bee…

A relatively common species but with a distinctly southerly distribution.

Sunday, 28 March 2021

28th March 2021

Siskin are surprisingly scarce in the village but about this time each year I nearly always get the odd bird dropping into the garden. This year was no exception…

And as usual it was there for a few minutes and then not seen again. I also added Red-legged Partridge to the year list with a bird flying into the solar farm.

In terms of summer migrants Chiffchaffs have arrived in some numbers with at least 11 singing birds counted this weekend…

And Chris had a single Sand Martin on the river. 

Otherwise it has been exceptionally  quiet although I did have a mouse’s-eye view of this Kestrel…

On the botany front I have added a couple of plants to the parish list. The first was Siberian Bugloss (or Great Forget-me-not) found on a roadside bank.

This is a naturalised garden plant. This might also be the case with the second find, some large drifts of Sweet Violet…

But given the setting I think it is as likely they are genuinely wild plants. Today I found a colony of the white-flowered form of the same species…


I'll finish with the only other flying thing of note, this massive Globemaster doing (very!) low circuits over the village this week...


Sunday, 21 March 2021

21st March 2021

There has been a fantastic movement of Whooper Swans through northern England over the last couple of days. Most of it has been to the west of us but I went out yesterday morning hoping to join in and fortunately had a cracking flock of 52 birds over Morton.

The wild calls of Whoopers are definitely one of my favourite sounds of nature. I think this is the largest skein I have seen in the parish.

Further signs of spring as well with two singing Chiffchaffs in Ainderby and another by Morton bridge.

It’s always nice too to photograph your first butterfly of the year…

Little else of note although singing Corn Bunting numbers are slowly rising…

And this dead tree held a nice little colony of Tree Sparrows...




I’ll finish with the least convincing camouflage of the day…


Sunday, 14 March 2021

14th March 2021

Chris texted me last week to say there was a Shoveler on the little flood pools between Ainderby and Thrintoft. I was just replying to say how productive those pools were when he rang, four Avocets just dropped in! I grabbed my bins and camera and started to jog (well, fast walk) there. I had barely crossed the village green when the dreaded call came in, they had flown off high north never to be seen again…so personally disappointing but another great addition to the parish list.

At the beginning of last year I jotted down half a dozen species that I thought were possible additions to the bird list (Dusky Warbler was not one of them!!). So we’ve now ticked off Egyptian Goose and Avocet and a Great White Egret was seen literally feet outside of the parish boundary. That leaves White-fronted Goose, Ring Ouzel and Pied Flycatcher still to get….

Otherwise it has been a rather quiet period although the first summer migrants arrived yesterday with a Chiffchaff by the railway and Chris had another by the waterworks. There have been a smattering of them arriving at local sites over the last couple of days so I assume these are spring arrivals rather than wintering birds.

Winter thrush numbers have fallen sharply with Redwings particularly scarce now although a handful joined a mixed thrush and starling flock in Thompson’s fields…


And surprisingly February’s leucistic fieldfare was seen again in the same area (but unfortunately the photos are no better!)

Talking of thrushes there seems to have been a bit of a resurgence in Song Thrush numbers this year after very sharp declines but it remained the scarcest of the five regular thushes in the garden this winter…

New birds for the year included the first singing Corn Bunting along Potter’s Lane and a calling Tawny Owl in the hall grounds.

Finally,  this moth, found on the side of the road, is a Dotted Border

This is actually a new species for the village (although reflecting a lack of moth trapping at this time of the year rather than rarity)   



Sunday, 28 February 2021

28th February 2021

Spring has definitely felt just around the corner this weekend with my first butterfly, a Small Tortoiseshell, and early signs of migration with a cracking skein of 113 Pinkfooted Geese flying north…


A skein of 113 were noted flying over just north of York earlier in the morning so I assumed it would be the same birds but the distance and timings would indicate an average speed of 16 mph which is very low for migrating geese so may just be a coincidence.

These birds were high, and noisy, enough that both Chris in Thrintoft and Andy in Scruton also picked them up. Chris also had 20 Whoopers north along the river.

Elsewhere it was the floods in the village fields which were the focus of the best sightings. Pick of these were seven Gadwall on the Bottom Fields in Ainderby on the 25th.

This was The largest flock I have ever seen in the parish. The next day this had risen to ten and on the 27th, despite the floods receding significantly, there were 15.

Considering I have only seen Gadwall on half a dozen occasions in all the years I have lived here it does imply birds are regularly passing over but not usually landing.  

Other sightings since my last post include a Peregrine terrifying the Lapwings on Langlands, 130 Curlew and 120 Golden Plover on the floods, my first Redpoll and Coot for the year and this rather striking leucistic Fieldfare. A very poor picture but a definite heart stopper when you’re scanning through the thrush flocks!!

Parish year list to end of Feb: 75 species

Sunday, 14 February 2021

The Big One...

One of the few upsides of lockdown has been the chance to look out over the garden whilst working. I haven’t seen much to be honest (although the first village Marsh Harrier since the war was a bonus last autumn) but that all changed on Wednesday.

The cold weather and putting out food had brought really good numbers of birds to the garden. At the back of the crab apple tree I noticed one small, active bird which then hopped into sight. It was an obvious phylloscopus warbler but unlike the occasional wintering Chiffchaffs we get in the garden this was a noticeably dark, drab brown bird. There was no sign of green or yellow and then I saw the head pattern: A striking well-defined whitish supercilium, emphasised by a dark line through the eye,  ****! DUSKY WARBLER!!

This was all with the naked eye but I had binoculars close at hand and was able to confirm the ID including seeing the shortish wings (which the bird flicked regularly), pinkish brown legs and a relatively fine Chiffchaff like bill. It was also noticeable that the pale throat and upper chest contrasted quite strongly with the rest of the underparts (in fact this was what I first noticed about the bird when it was partly obscured) but I don’t recall hearing this as a particular feature of Dusky.

The only frustration, and a major one, was when I returned from fetching my camera there was no sign of the bird and despite searching in potential areas over the subsequent days no further sightings.  

This will be the first record for North-west Yorkshire and, unsurprisingly, easily the best bird I have seen in the village in more than thirty years of watching.   

Otherwise it has been a quiet week. A walk along the river yesterday produced two Buzzard, five Snipe, three Oystercatchers and a Redshank...


A Sparrowhawk was hunkered down on the riverbank and there were at least four Cormorants including this one which, unusually, didn’t immediately fly away when it saw me…

And as there was so little to photograph this week I’ll finish with this winter-lit Wren from the garden…

Sunday, 31 January 2021

31st January 2021

Not a lot to report this week despite continuing areas of floodwater…

Although it has remained frozen for much of it…

Although this didn’t put off the Black-headed Gulls or the Pied Wagtails with a dozen of the latter feeding on one ice-covered pool …

The only addition to the year list was a pair of Wigeon on the floods at Langlands and there were also six Shelduck here together with around 35 Curlew. The flock of Golden Plover has increased to 110…

with an estimated 200 Lapwing still present but that was about it.

I’ll finish with a Greenfinch taken today in the trees in the Old Rectory garden…

A common species but one that has declined dramatically in the village over the last few years presumably due to the impact of the trichomonosis disease which has hit this species particularly hard. There are some signs of recovery though and I have seen noticeably more this winter than for a number of years.