Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Leap Day at East Park

I feel one has to do something unusual in a Leap Day. As the weather was promising, I took the bus to East Park. It involves a couple of buses, but I was there in an hour. I had just taken my camera and binoculars out of my bag when I heard an unusual song. First I thought it was a Blue Tit, but it was a Treecreeper, low on the first Horse Chestnut on the main avenue. It crept up the main trunk, feeding by checking all the cracks in the bark and briefly stopping to sing.
Treecreeper singing

Just after, a Jay crossed the lawn and sat on a distant tree by the road. It then did something strange, like it was chasing something flying at full speed inside the tree, but I couldn't see what it was. Then, it disappeared into some trees at the edge of the park. What a good start for the day. I hadn't seen the Jay for a while, assuming it is the same individual I saw in November 2014.
A distant Jay
 I hobbled along the chestnut avenue and heard a Mistle Thrush and Song Thrush, soon joined by a Stock dove.
 At the lake, a group of Tufted ducks, males and females appeared to be courting, making a funny bubbling call. By the large central island, a single female Goosander and five Pochard drakes sleeping.
I decided to stop at the cafe and on my way there I heard some hammering noises on the trees. A male Great Spotted Woodpecker was chiselling into a hole on the main trunk of an Ash tree already covered in woodpecker holes. There were many Siskins about on the trees around.
 After the coffee break, I headed to the eastern part of the lake. This crow, with his head and chest feathers all fluffed up looked quite magnificent.
 This is the same crow, now with feathers smoothed.
 It was nice to see a young swan feeding on the lake. I wonder if it will attract a partner and they'll settle to breed. The lone, aggressive male has been absent now for a while.
The mute swan using its up-ending feeding technique:
 Nearby a pair of Great Crested Grebes feeding amongst the tree roots in a small island that looks like a mangrove swamp.
The long walk alongside the north shore didn't add much new. I had a picnic on a bench, surrounded by Black-headed gulls that thought I might have something for them. All along my walk, I had been finding groups of Siskins feeding in the birches, alders and other trees, they are very noticeable as they are often chattering and singing. Later, on a small group of birches and alder I found a large flock, and on the ground, some of them fed on fallen seeds. I couldn't get all in the photo. It has been a very good winter for Siskins, an irruption year for them.
I got a total of 41 species, my largest tally for the park.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

A day at Fairburn Ings

In a wonderful spring-like day I take part in the monthly meeting of Hull Natural History Society to Fairburn Ings. I had last been in 1997, so it was good to return to this large and growing RSPB nature reserve. Coal mining was very important in the area, and the subsidence resulting from coal extraction favours the development of lakes, ponds and marshy areas by the river. The river bank is a massive coal spoil tip, now restored with birch woodland. We parked in the village and walked alongside Riverbank Trail, which meanders alongside the River Ayre, atop the coal spoil heap, now covered on birch wood. Soon we had a quick view of a Kingfisher flying away. From Charlie's Hide we watched a pair of Great Crested Grebes courting.

Robert spotted a Snipe, later we found out five of them, amazingly well camouflaged on the short growing vegetation.
 In the main lake, there is a flock of Goosanders, and also Goldeneye, Tufted Duck and Gadwall. We meet the river and watch a flock of Pink-footed geese in migration.
 By Big Hole, we watch first three Buzzards soaring, and then a flock of Whooper Swans flying over. Andrew points to a female Stonechat feeding by the marginal reedbed.
 We had lunch in the visitor centre, with busy bird feeders. After lunch we did the Discovery Trail. From Pickup Hide we watch the feeders, and also a Jay that goes back and forth across the pond. In the distance, a tree is heavy with Cormorants, some sitting on nests.
 We then moved to Lin Dyke and walk to Spoonbill Flash. After a while, we managed to spot the Smew, a drake and two redheads. Quite long views, but exciting to see my first drake. There are three Little Egrets and a Grey Heron about.
Overall, a most pleasant walk for late February, gloves barely needed. The reserve is large and diverse in habitats, and we didn't even see it all in an all day trip, so I hope to return in the near future.
Pink-footed geese flying North
River Ayre
Buzzard soaring over Big Hole.
Birch fungi
Female Stonechat by the reedbeds of Big Hole.
A male Reed Bunting by the feeders.
Cormorant Tree, some cormorants on nests.
Tree Sparrow by the feeders
Greenfinch by the feeders.
Little Egret, one of three around Spoonbill Flash.
Record shot of drake Smew, my first ever!
record shot of female Smew.
A Grey Heron near the hide at Spoonbill Flash.
Close encounter between Grey Heron and Little Egret. The Little Egret kept its distance.

More information
RSPB Fairburn Ings website.
RSPB Fairburn Ings map.

Location Map

Monday, 14 December 2015

South Landing in December

The forecast was dark cloud, but still so I headed to the brightest place in East Yorkshire, the south facing chalk cliffs brighten even the dullest December day. It was relatively mild, a light southerly breeze brought dark, misty clouds. As I got out of the car a Woodcock flew overhead. The tide was low and a flock of Redshank, Turnstone and a few Oystercatchers fed on the exposed bladderwrack and kelp beds. Towards Danes Dyke, on a stretch of coast that gets little disturbance, a line of line of Cormorants or Shags with a large mixed gull flock, including Great Black Backed gulls and Herring gulls.
  I walked East on the exposed sand between the chalk boulders. At some point I was startled by some harsh calls from the cliffs. It was a pair of Fulmars sitting on a ledge of the cliff, chattering to each other, and watching intently every time another individual passed overhead in that merry-go-round game that Fulmars do.
 After lunch I walked on the paths on the top of the reserve, by the woodland and then the cliff tops, where the kestrel was still hovering.
Herring Gull watching intently.
A group of cormorants loafing on the rocks.
There were many Rock Pipits busy about the seaweed too, and a Grey Wagtail.
It took a while, but I managed a focused shot of this Rock Pipit on the kelp.
A small Linnet flock settled on the side of the cliff to feed.
The silouette of the Kestrel hovering over the cliffs followed me in my walk. At some point the kestrel stooped down and got something small, but I couldn't make out what it was.
A shiny flat periwinkle, Littorina obtusata 
Limpets, with the marks on the rock left by individuals gone.
Rock Pipit on stranded net ropes.
The Fulmar pair calling together.

Two Common Scoters were bobbing up and down on the surf.
Fungus to ID.
South Landing from the cliff top.
Grey Heron fishing, and being watched by Herring Gull.
Some Gorse bushes were flowering profusely.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Foggy Far Ings

An early morning trip to Far Ings with Robert Jaques. There was thick fog, over the Humber Bridge the visibility was really poor, but there were some views to be had out of the hides at Far Ings. Gadwall, Coots and Great Crested Grebes fed in front of the hide. Shortly after arriving a Cetti's warbler announced its presence with a loud, staccato call from the reed beds close to the hide. Another one replied shortly after from the other side of Ness Pit. Despite the proximity of the song, and us looking intently at the reeds, the cetti's remained invisible (at least five individuals sung around the reserve). While we watched, a Migrant Hawker flew for a few seconds and quickly settled on the reeds, this was the only invertebrate seen in the trip.
 We walked to Target Lake, where we briefly glimpsed a Kingfisher hovering over the water in search of fish before it disappeared from sight. A Little Egret landed then on the shore of the island and started circling it. It caught a little fish and spent quite a while handling it, spitting it on to the water and picking it again. A few photos revealed that it was a Three-spined Stickleback, its pelvic and dorsal spines erect, which the egret obviously couldn't easily swallow. After a little more handling, the fish was finally dispatched. The egret got another stickleback and the same lenghth process was repeated (You can watch a short clip, here).
 We carried on and stopped on the high hide at the N side of Ness Pit. Other than a cormorant on the water, the place was quiet and deserted. Then there were some 'pings' in the distance and a flock of Bearded Tits flew low over the reed bed and landed relatively close to the hide.
A couple of drake Gadwall preening on the shore.
Spider web heavy with dew
Little Egret handling stickleback.
More spider webs on the fog.