Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Migration time at Hedon Haven

A not so good forecast for the morning did not bode well for a trip to Hedon Haven, in the outskirts of Hull with Rob Jaques. It was drizzly, visibility was poor and the tide was almost at its highest point, so waders were almost either non-existent or non-visible. A flock of Swallows sat on a ploughed field awaiting better weather conditions. There were also many Meadow Pipits, and a few Yellow wagtails on the grassy bank path. The usual cormorants perched on the wooden posts on the Humber. we reached the haven itself. The drizzle quietly stopped and it warmed up. The swallows took flight and started to feed high as soon as the clouds lifted. The white retreats of Furrow spiders (Larinioides cornutus), glistening with dropplets of water, not all of them occupied, stood out from the dried seed-heads of docks.
 We walked up Hedon Haven following the tide. Just a few mallard on the water and two teal. Robert spotted a Little Egret upstream (above shot), which was nice. We disturbed a young Roe Deer at the other side of the fence of the Salt End chemical works.
 We crossed the haven and walked downstream. On the brownfield and concreted areas of the works, we spotted two Pied Wagtails and a Grey Wagtail. 
 On the way back a Wheatear fed on the field with Linnets and Meadow Pipits. A Flock of Golden Plover circled over, seemingly looking for the mud to reappear with the retreating tide.
 While we had a bite by the little beach in Paull, a Sparrowhawk flew low over the bank and over the estuary, turning a corner over the ruined barges. It looked like it was a circuit it had practised before to surprise birds feeding on the shore.
Larinioides cornutus on dock seed head
Young Cormorant, with the Salt End chemical plant in the background
Young Roe Deer
One of the two Devil's Coach Horse beetle we saw, displaying its weapons. 
Another shot of the Devil's Coach Horse in defensive posture, a large beetle, at almost 3 cm long
Golden Plover flock
Swallow flock flying very low in circles over the grassy bank

Bird list
  1. Black-headed Gull
  2. Blackbird
  3. Blue Tit
  4. Carrion Crow
  5. Chaffinch
  6. Cormorant
  7. Curlew
  8. Golden Plover
  9. Goldfinch
  10. Great Tit
  11. Grey Wagtail
  12. House Martin
  13. House Sparrow
  14. Kestrel
  15. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  16. Linnet
  17. Little Egret
  18. Long-tailed Tit
  19. Mallard
  20. Meadow Pipit
  21. Pheasant
  22. Pied/White Wagtail
  23. (Pied Wagtail (yarrellii))
  24. Robin
  25. Rock Dove
  26. (Feral Pigeon)
  27. Rook
  28. Sand Martin
  29. Shelduck
  30. Sparrowhawk
  31. Starling
  32. Swallow
  33. Teal
  34. Wheatear
  35. Woodpigeon
  36. Wren
  37. Yellow Wagtail

Monday, 8 September 2014

Post Migration Festival at Spurn Head

Having missed the Migration Festival this weekend, and given the pleasant weather, I decided to head to Spurn this morning. There were many Swallows and House Martins over the Blue Bell, and a Pied Wagtail and a flock of Linnets on the car park. A couple of goldfinches fed on the seeds of haws on the hedge, handling them with their feet.
  I walked over the seaside cliff towards the Warren. The sea has eroded the cliff quite a bit since my last visit and sand and dune vegetation is invading the path. Yellow wagtails fed by the cows. In the next field there were many Whinchats and Meadow Pipits, and a Kestrel hovering near the Warren.
 I hadn't visited since the storms that cut off the peninsula and I decided to reach the breached area. It is now a low lying beach, which looks like it is still often breached, with the road now gone. A couple of Little Egrets fed on the saltmarsh, taking advantage of the pools cut off by the low tide. A Wheatear sat on a rock. I walked back on the estuary side, but the path disappeared at some point, so I had to go back onto the road. Shelduck and redshank fed on the saltmarsh, but, with no telescope, could see little else, as many birds where distant with the low tide. I took Canal Scrape. A buck Roe Deer fed on the long grass on a field, raising his head every now and then. At some point it walked to the middle of the field and sat down, only its antlers sticking out from the grass.
 A photographer revealed the position of a Pied Flycatcher. A female Redstart in another garden was a nice surprise.
 Several birdwatchers I met mentioned the Wryneck in Beacon Lane, so I headed towards it. No trace of it. I had a light lunch on the dunes and before leaving I decided to walk on Beacon Lane again, just in case. Then the Wryneck landed in front of me, on a gate, not four meters away from me. I could take several shots of it on the gate and then on a tree. I got to see another Pied Flycatcher in a garden by the Blue Bell, where a Spotted Flycatcher disputed the best positions in the garden with it, and with this it was time to go back home, with a feeling that I hadn't quite missed the weekend party. What a great way to end the trip. 
young linnet?
Yellow wagtail right by the cow's head
Flock of Whinchats
Sea Aster
Meadow Pipits
Male Swallow
A view towards the lighthouse
The breached part of the spit where the old road was, looking towards Spurn (island!?). The lighthouse on the far right
Little Egret
Little Egret
A small bee likely Colletes halophilus, a species that is strongly associated to Sea Aster and nests in stabilised dunes (thanks to Ian Beavis for the likely ID).
Shelduck and Redshank
A very approachable buck roe deer
He sat down after feeding, only the tips of its antlers visible amongst the grass.
Sunbathing woodpigeon
Pied Flycatcher
Pied Flycatcher
Female Redstart
Young Starlings
Spotted Flycatcher

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Faxfleet and Whitton Sands

Faxfleet is a little village sited on fenland where the rivers Ouse and Trent meet to form the Humber. From the path on the bank, there are sweeping views to the Wolds (above), and across to RSPB Blacktoft Sands nature reserve, Alkborough Flats and the largest sand bank in the Humber, Whitton Sands. I was looking forward to the visit today, as last time I saw Bearded Tits and heard a Cuckoo. I had an early morning visit with Robert Jaques, high fluffy clouds and a little bit of a breeze, cool, but warming up towards the end, when the sun shone a bit more. The small car park by Faxfleet was busy with Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Reed Buntings, Tree Sparrows, Great and Blue Tits and a bright, very yellow Willow Warbler, which were either feeding on the ground or on the trees. Swallows circled around. We walked west towards the ponds, in which we watched a family of Coots, a Moorhen and a Little Grebe with a young one in tow.
We turned our sights over the reedbeds across the estuary. Flocks of Greylag sat on the mudflats of Blacktoft Sands, with some Shelduck, Lapwings and Black-Headed gulls. Robert noticed a couple of large white birds, with dark legs, resting with their heads under their wings amongst the Greylags. We concluded they should be Spoonbills, a lifer for me. It would have been a bit disappointing to meet the Spoonbill and not see its 'spoon', so we hung around wishing for them to wake up from their slumber. Fortunately, a quartering Marsh Harrier caused a bit of a commotion on ducks and gulls, and finally, the mystery birds woke up, confirming that they were indeed Spoonbills. They preened a bit and walked about and, satisfied with this, we turned east toward Whitton Sands. In the way, we tried to make sense of a strange assemblage of warblers: Reed, Whitethroat and a Blackcap on a hawthorn hedge.
 Along the bank we were nicely surprised by three Yellow Wagtails. We made a stop by a drinking trough, by a bit of a spit, where the reedbed was narrower, allowing us to watch Whitton Sands. The sandbank is covered on an extensive reedbed, matching the one by Faxfleet foreshore, but there was a grassy bank on the east end, exposed during high tide. Two young Grey Herons, each sat by its muddy gully. A Marsh Harrier made a brief appearance. Greylags and Canada Geese sat on the grass.
 On the way back the clouds parted a bit and a few invertebrates were evident. Common Carder bees fed on the Red Clover, a Small Tortoiseshell was about and a Furrow Spider, Larinioides cornutus, hid in her silky retreat.
Distant shot of the slumbering Spoonbills
One woke up...
...and joined the other one for a little preen
Reed Warbler preening
A strange, grey-headed young Goldfinch
Pair of Reed Buntings on the car park
Yellow Wagtail
A view of the Humber with Whitton Sands on the background
Geese on Whitton Sands, with the Wolds on the background
Small White
Larinioides cornutus

Bird list
  1. Black-headed Gull
  2. Blackbird
  3. Blackcap
  4. Blue Tit
  5. Canada Goose
  6. Carrion Crow
  7. Collared Dove
  8. Coot
  9. Cormorant
  10. Dunnock
  11. Feral Pigeon
  12. Goldfinch
  13. Great Black-backed Gull
  14. Great Tit
  15. Greenfinch
  16. Grey Heron
  17. Greylag Goose
  18. House Martin
  19. Jackdaw
  20. Linnet
  21. Little Grebe
  22. Magpie
  23. Marsh Harrier
  24. Moorhen
  25. Pheasant
  26. Reed Bunting
  27. Reed Warbler
  28. Robin
  29. Shelduck
  30. Song Thrush
  31. Spoonbill
  32. Starling
  33. Swallow
  34. Tree Sparrow
  35. Whitethroat
  36. Willow Warbler
  37. Woodpigeon
  38. Wren
  39. Yellow Wagtail

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Dusk at Noddle Hill

Having experienced a dawn chorus at Noddle Hill, I looked forward to the field visit with Hull Natural History Society to this gem in the Hull City outskirts. An early walk around the lake failed to yield Water Voles, and was accompanied by the persistent calls of possibly Chiffchaffs, or maybe Willow Warblers. As the small group gathered and enthusiastically discussed the likely ID of a dead cricket, I watched the poplars by the entrance and saw a small bird fly between trees. It turned out to be a Treecreeper, which was my first and others for the reserve, a good start for the trip. The clouds had cleared a bit after a gloomy day with a couple of showers, and the light levels were good in comparison with previous trips.
 We ticked a few mollusks and as Dick showed us a horseradish plant - much loved by snails - I looked around for a Four-spotted orb spider, Araneus quadratus, which I have found near this plant in a few occasions. Soon, I spotted an old web ending in a curled leaf and looked underneath: there it was, a fattening spider, which was briefly relocated to the bug pot for a record shot.
 As we moved around the reserve in a clock-wise fashion groups of swallows flied over us. It appeared that they were gathering for their night roost, but their wandering movements did not reveal where this might be.
 We saw at least three Roe Deer and Robert pointed at a fox by the drain, which you might find in a photo below if you squint.
 In the distant pylons, with the background of an atmospheric sunset, a large roost of orderly corvids, likely rooks, was assembling.
Bat o'clock came and went with no trace of flying bats, despite the still, clear, if chilli, night. I had brought a bat detector, and I made a token effort of pointing it out to the lake, with no success.
 Just before getting back in the car park, a Tawny owl hooted a couple of times, putting an end to the trip.
Araneus quadratus
Gipsywort, Lycopus europaeus, by the fishing lake
Pylon roost
Male roe deer
Silhouette of a Kestrel

Bird list
  1. Black-headed Gull
  2. Blackbird
  3. Carrion Crow
  4. Chaffinch
  5. Chiffchaff
  6. Collared Dove
  7. Goldfinch
  8. Kestrel
  9. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  10. Linnet
  11. Magpie
  12. Mallard
  13. Moorhen
  14. Reed Bunting
  15. Robin
  16. Rook
  17. Swallow
  18. Tawny Owl
  19. Treecreeper
  20. Woodpigeon
  21. Wren