Monday, 20 April 2015

Bempton cliffs in April

A beautiful sunny, mild day with no wind, I headed up to Bempton Cliffs for my spring visit. It was my first after the new visitor centre opened a few weeks ago. The visitor centre is much more spacious, and prepared to receive many visitors. Indeed today it didn't feel it was a Monday, as it got very busy by mid morning. I walk around the car park and feeders. It is early and still quiet. A woodpigeon stretches sunnying itself on the ground. A male Pheasant runs to meet another male. In the feeders, Pheasant, many tree sparrows, Chaffinch, Robin, a Linnet a Stock Dove and Jackdaws. A female Kestrel is sitting on a bush, watching. Skylarks sung constantly. There are a few Swallows flying over the fields, Meadow Pipits and a pair of Pied Wagtails. Time to head for the cliffs.
 I heard the jingly song of a Corn Bunting. It took me a while to spot it was atop a concrete column, but I got no good shots. 
At some point my camera complained that it had no space in the memory card. I checked and I had taken more than 500 photos, so it was time for a sit down and some deleting. Must bring a spare next time!
I can't resist a sunbathing Woodpigeon.
A Linnet sitting atop a gorse bursting with flowers.  
Meadow Pipit
This pair of Razorbills were in the mood for mating...
...they groomed each other for a while, and the male had a couple of half-hearted attempts at mounting.
This was another pair of Razorbills mating.
A Guillemot and a Razorbill, posing for comparison.
There were a lot of Gannets in the reserve (the number of pairs in the reserve has increased substantially in the last few years and is now over 10,000!, see also this graph of the population increase). They seemed to be expanding into new nesting sites quite high up on the cliffs. Many sitting on nests, some at the top of the cliff seemed to be establishing new nesting sites, with a lot of squabbling, bill open, while calling loudly 'karra, karra, karra! (above).
Other pairs had secured a nest site, and they displayed to each other bill-rubbing and nodding.
After its partner left, this one re-arranged the nesting material.
This other one looked like it was nodding off, until it yawned. This black gape is the last thing its fish prey will see.
The nest series of photos are of the same individual (a male?), making an elaborate display atop the cliff, moving its feet slowly, opening its wings and jumping, pointing up, lifting its wings and tail. I wonder if this was directed to an individual out of view lower on the cliff.
Looking up.
Exaggerated walk
Wings open
About to jump.
Wings up, tail up.
The nicely, and densely, spaced Gannets at Staple Newk on their nests.
Pair courting, bill rubbing.
Kittiwakes were nest building:
Some were busy collecting nest material in favoured spots. Some were pulling grass, others had found a seeping area and were picking mud (above)...
...once at the nest, this Kittiwake was using a paddling technique with her feet to embed the mud and the grass together in the nest cup.
Guillemots were on the cliff faces.
This pair was mating, the female holding a fish (a present from her mate?).
Pair of Fulmar
Male Reed Bunting
It was low tide, showing the kelp bed a the base of the cliffs.
Male Linnet on the gorse.
Female Kestrel.
A view of the cliffs.
Bird list
  1. Blackbird
  2. Carrion Crow
  3. Chaffinch
  4. Collared Dove
  5. Corn Bunting
  6. Dunnock
  7. Feral Pigeon
  8. Fulmar
  9. Gannet
  10. Goldfinch
  11. Great Tit
  12. Greenfinch
  13. Guillemot
  14. Herring Gull
  15. Jackdaw
  16. Kestrel
  17. Kittiwake
  18. Linnet
  19. Mallard
  20. Meadow Pipit
  21. Pheasant
  22. Pied Wagtail (yarrellii)
  23. Razorbill
  24. Reed Bunting
  25. Robin
  26. Skylark
  27. Stock Dove
  28. Swallow
  29. Tree Sparrow
  30. Woodpigeon

Monday, 13 April 2015

Honeysuckle farm

The kids requested a visit to the farm for their last day of Easter holidays and I was only too happy to oblige. The day was sunny and mild, and while they played endlessly on the hay bales, I had a few walks around the farm, enjoying the spring weather. There was a blackthorn covered in blossom and droneflies and other flies, a few active bumblebees and a Comma were feeding and hovering by it. I heard a Chiffchaff singing and getting closer and soon he was also feeding on the blackthorn flies.
 I also heard a Willow Warbler and managed to locate it, but it was in the young woodland area and stayed in areas of thick cover so I couldn't get any decent shots. A male Blackcap sung, and a female was nearby.
 I was very pleased to find a number of Tree Sparrows near nest boxes. One of them was being chased by a Blue Tit, maybe competing for a box? Unfortunately, there was no trace of Yellowhammers in the farm.§
 The highlight of the day for me was finding a number of Dark-edged Bee-Flies, Bombylius major. One fed on primroses and then sunbathed for a while. Others were egg laying on colonies of mining bee (Andrena sp.). They were most fascinating to watch. They hovered near the ground, and either stopped to rest or laid eggs, by swaying their body towards the bees nest holes.
Male Chaffinch
Singing Chiffchaff
The flowering blackthorn.
Goldfinch collecting pigeon feathers for nest lining.
Sunbathing peacock.
Moorhen chicks. I counted seven.
Parent feeds the chicks.
Moorhen and chicks
Bullfinches were very visible today. I counted four at the same time. This male feeds on buds.
Tree Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
Comma on the flowering blackthorn.
Sunbathing Bee-fly
This, like the one at the top of the post shows the egg laying process, as the fly drops eggs on the soil by nest entrances.
A quick bask on the soil
This is one of the females of the large Mining bee, Andrena nigroaenea (many thanks to Ian Beavis for ID) that nested on the soil heaped up after digging ponds.
Bee-Fly feeding on primroses.
Bird list
  1. Blackbird
  2. Blackcap
  3. Blue Tit 
  4. Bullfinch
  5. Buzzard
  6. Carrion Crow
  7. Chaffinch 
  8. Chiffchaff 
  9. Coal Tit 
  10. Collared Dove 
  11. Dunnock 
  12. Feral Pigeon 
  13. Goldfinch
  14. Great Tit 
  15. Greenfinch 
  16. House Sparrow 
  17. Jackdaw 
  18. Kestrel
  19. Long-tailed Tit 
  20. Mallard
  21. Moorhen
  22. Mute Swan 
  23. Pheasant
  24. Pied Wagtail
  25. Robin 
  26. Rook
  27. Skylark
  28. Tree Sparrow
  29. Willow Warbler
  30. Woodpigeon
  31. Wren

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Migrants at North Cave Wetlands

I had an early morning trip to North Cave wetlands. It was overcast, breezy, and quite cold compared to earlier in the week, not ideal for photography, but there was plenty to see. From the viewing area I watched a pair of Shoveler preening, it is the furthest I have seen this species from water. A male Reed bunting fed on the ground for a while, and a pair of Swallows passed by. I carried on to East Hide. The raft was teeming with feisty Black-headed gulls courting, mating and fighting. A Greylag sat on her nest, closely guarded by her mate. The noise was deafening at Turret hide, with more Black-headed gull action. A pair of avocets fed near the hide.
 More migrants at the end of the north path: a group of chirruping Sand Martins with a few Swallows amongst them flew low over Reedbed Lake and Far Lake. A Blackcap and a Chiffchaff sung around the western path. I arrived at Crosslands, where there were three Yellow Wagtails, a large flock of Avocets, Little Ringed Plovers and a Ruff, a bird that I hadn't seen in a long time.
 A total of 51 bird species altogether.
Drake Shoveler
Male Reed Bunting
Black-headed gulls mating. They take their time, the male sitting atop the female for minutes, which makes it easier to photograph.
Greylags on nest
Black-headed gull city
Avocet feeding
Displaying Black-headed gull
Marsh Marigold by the dragonfly ponds
Coot nest building
Lapwing and black-headed gulls on a sandy field.
Ruff feeding
Little Ringed Plover
A pair of Mediterranean gulls in the main lake, displaying together, amongst the hundreds of Black-headed gulls.
Male Reed Bunting