Monday, 17 December 2012

Winter wetlands

I had a walk around the perimeter of North Cave Wetlands this morning. It was mostly cloudy, with a few brief sunny spells, and much milder than last week, although there was thin ice near the shore of some of the lakes.
 Things were quieter than usual by Village Lake, there were many Teal, some Wigeon and a flock of Lapwings. A Snipe fed on the island and there were also some Coots and a Redshank.
 I move to Turret Hide and I spotted a flock of Greylags in a field at the north of the reserve. An very large flock of what appear to be Woodpigeon flies in the hills over the trees. I watched the Teals displaying.
 I couldn't miss a Mute swan fight going on in Reed Bed for quite some time, there were two immatures and at least three adults involved, and the fight seemed to involve possibly two pairs. There was actually one on one close contact by the reed beds and repeated chases with noisy wing beats and half flying as they run over the water. Likely a resident pair was chasing an intruder pair away. The individuals chasing adopted the typical Mute Swan threatening posture with raised wings and curved neck called 'busking' as it approached the other.
 All this was very interesting, but I was distracted by the call of a water rail from the reeds, and, as I was quite keen to try and spot it, I stopped watching the swans, although I ended up not seeing the rail either.

 No grebes - Little or Great Crested - to be seen at Main Lake. The flock of Greylags had by then moved onto the Main Lake and I counted them there, all more than 200 of them, with a few Gadwalls, Common Pochards and Tufted ducks. On the shore, more Teals and a dozen Redshanks.
 A late reward for a final look by the entrance fence was a male Siskin in an Alder.
Another great winter walk in the wetlands.

By the access path to Turret hide, a small party of Lesser Redpolls fed on some dry seedheads ( I don't know what they are, some sort of sorrel?
Field at the north of the reserve, with a flock of Greylags in the distance
 Very obvious Goldfinches today, feeding on dry seed heads, can you spot one on this sea of Teasel seedheads?
Goldfinch and Teasel
Mute Swan Chase
I disturbed a Green Woodpecker on the north perimeter path, and it called with its 'kia kah!' alarm call as it flew ahead of me. It lated alighted on a tree trunk
Immature Male Tufted Duck

Bird List

  1. Black-headed Gull
  2.  Blackbird
  3.  Blue Tit
  4.  Carrion Crow
  5.  Chaffinch
  6.  Common Gull
  7.  Coot
  8.  Dunnock
  9.  Feral Pigeon
  10.  Fieldfare
  11.  Gadwall
  12.  Goldfinch
  13.  Great Tit
  14.  Green Woodpecker
  15.  Greenfinch
  16.  Greylag Goose
  17.  House Sparrow
  18.  Jackdaw
  19.  Kestrel
  20.  Lapwing
  21.  Lesser Redpoll
  22.  Long-tailed Tit
  23.  Magpie
  24.  Mallard
  25.  Moorhen
  26.  Mute Swan
  27.  Pheasant
  28.  Pochard
  29.  Redshank
  30.  Redwing
  31.  Reed Bunting
  32.  Robin
  33.  Rook
  34.  Shoveler
  35.  Siskin
  36.  Snipe
  37.  Song Thrush
  38.  Starling
  39.  Teal
  40.  Tree Sparrow
  41.  Tufted Duck
  42.  Water Rail
  43.  Wigeon
  44.  Woodpigeon
  45.  Wren

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Old trees in the cemetery

The trees are now bare and the ground vegetation much reduced. A background carpet of shrivelled leaves and the soft winter light makes it is easier to admire the size of trees in my local cemetery. Although some are ornamental varieties, such as flowering cherries and horse chestnuts, several of the larges trees are native species. Beech, Lime, Oak and Ash, Yew, Alder and Holly: many likely to have been planted, or self seeded over 150 years ago.
One of the reasons behind the abundance of woodland birds in the cemetery is the age of these trees and the reduced management. There are hollows in trunks, broken branches, fallen trunks. It is not a tidy garden, instead, it looks like wildlife is taking over. The following are just a few of the ones that took my eye in my walk today.
 I have been submitting individual trees of the cemetery to the Woodland Trust's Ancient Tree Hunt for verification. This project allows members of the public to find and catalogue ancient and notable trees throughout the British Isles. Worth having a look, as it is surprising how many ancient trees might be found near where you live.
A pair of Alders
Lime tree

Monday, 10 December 2012

Wintry Hornsea Mere

Despite the forecast of northerly wind and showers, I decided to try Hornsea Mere this morning. On the way near Tickton, the river Hull loomed high, contained by its banks, over the low lying fields.
The water level in the Mere was the highest I have ever seen. The boathouse was partially flooded, and the jetties mostly submerged. First, I watched the assorted wildfowl from the car. A large group of Coots fed on the grass, some of them from a sitting position. There were just a handful of Greylags, mostly of hybrid and semi-domestic ancestry, but no Canada Geese. Mallards, Mute Swans, Black headed gulls and Jackdaws were also present.
 On the little bay north of Kirkholme, I had great views of a few Goldeneyes - including a female that seemed to have survived a predator attack - with a Great Crested Grebe, Gadwalls, Tufted ducks and Pochards, including a couple of females all feeding in the deep water.
 As I went for a walk around the point, I came across the remains of a Swan's chest and wing, with little meat left on the bone.
 A Great Spotted Woodpecker called loudly from a large willow, while pecking at the trunk, and in the hedges House Sparrows, and a Tree Sparrow chirped.
 I stopped by the promenade in Hornsea before heading back home. The sea was rough and I enjoyed a sunny spell before a large stormy cloud rapidly approached and the rain started.
Somebody had Swan for dinner
Great Crested Grebe
The semiflooded boathouse
A view of the jetty, with a flock of Black Headed Gulls
This Goldeneye looked injured, it had many feathers missing from its head and dragged a wing
Male Goldeneye
A threatening cloud coming from the north toward Hornsea Beach
Bird list

  1. Black-headed Gull
  2.  Blackbird
  3.  Blue Tit
  4.  Carrion Crow
  5.  Chaffinch
  6.  Common Gull
  7.  Coot
  8.  Dunnock
  9.  Gadwall
  10.  Goldeneye
  11.  Great Black-backed Gull
  12.  Great Crested Grebe
  13.  Great Spotted Woodpecker
  14.  Greylag Goose
  15.  Herring Gull
  16.  House Sparrow
  17.  Jackdaw
  18.  Long-tailed Tit
  19.  Mallard
  20.  Moorhen
  21.  Mute Swan
  22.  Pochard
  23.  Robin
  24.  Tree Sparrow
  25.  Tufted Duck
  26.  Wigeon
  27.  Woodpigeon

Friday, 30 November 2012

Flamborough South Landing

I would find it difficult to decide on my favourite place in East Yorkshire, but South Landing would come close to the top. This little corner of Flamborough Head combines a diversity of habitats: a creek with a wooded valley, stony and sandy beach, cliffs and a rocky spit with rock pools. Together with its rare and wonderful south aspect, which shelters the little bay from chilly northerly winds, it is hard to beat as a great place for wildlife, especially at this time of year.
 This is the site where the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has planned its Living Seas Centre (above), which is bound to open in the spring. There are several marked trails, peppered with picnic benches, sculptures and even a 'dinosaur's nest' for the little ones. There is a bird feeding station with a screen, but today it didn't appear to have been stocked.
 The sky was clear and the breeze northerly, so the landing was quite balmy considering the widespread frost. It took me some time to leave the carpark, as it was teeming with birds, Yellowhammers, Tree Sparrows, Song Thrushes and Bullfinches to name a few.
 I descend into the sheltered little bay, accompanied by the bubbling noise of the running creek. It was low tide and a wide beach opened ahead of me, backed by the clay and chalk cliffs. The top of the beach, under the seaweed covered tide like is made of white chalk boulders, but then there is a strip of sand. Instead of the planned walk to Danes Dyke, I walk right and then left and generally hang out with the beach birds, which appear unusually tame.
Pied Wagtail
Rock Pipit
Carrion Crow and Turnstone
Carrion Crow
A pair of Carrion Crows are busy turning the seaweed in search of food with some Turnstones. A Pied Wagtail goes back and forth by the creek pouring into the beach. There are Rock pipits and Turnstones everywhere.
A group of Turnstones climb onto the cliff and proceed to dig the clay out - maybe they should have been called the Cliff-Diggers (above). The Rock pipits seem interested in this activity too.
Later, I see what I initially take by a pair of albino Turnstones amongst normal looking ones, but when I look closer they turn out to be some lovely Sanderlings.

A Robin squabbles with a Stonechat for a favourite perch, possibly attracted by the similarly coloured chest. I see the Stonechat again later by the clay cliff vegetation.
A large flock of unidentified finches flies back and forth by the cliff tops.
Great Black-Backed Gull and Oystercatcher
By the water edge there are Great Black-Backed and Herring gulls, with a couple of Curlew, a Ringed Plover, Oystercatchers and Redshank.
Ringed Plover
  Further still in the water, I distinguish the silhouette of a diver, this one honouring its name, diving repeatedly. The frontal light and lack of a telescope makes it hard to distinguish any features, so I cannot identify it.
Looking towards the headland by a rock pool
  Before leaving, I climb to the cliff top and follow the trail by the ravine. There are several blooming gorse bushes and then the trail becomes more wooded, with some mature trees and younger ones. I spot   a Treecreeper and a Chiffchaff, and later, a bunch of Long Tailed Tits.
The headland is as interesting and fascinating in winter as it is in spring and summer, when the cliffs are busy with breeding seabirds. I can't wait to be back.
The 'dinosaur nest' on the nature trail
More Information
Flamborough Bird Observatory.

Yorkshire Wildlife trust.

Location map

View Larger Map

Bird list

  1. Blackbird   
  2. Bullfinch 4  
  3. Carrion Crow, a recently fledged young begging to its parents in the car park
  4. Chaffinch   
  5. Chiffchaff 1  
  6. Curlew   
  7. Dunnock   
  8. Goldfinch   
  9. Great Black-backed Gull   
  10. Great Tit   
  11. Greenfinch   
  12. Herring Gull   
  13. Long-tailed Tit 6  
  14. Oystercatcher   
  15. Pied Wagtail  
  16. Redshank   
  17. Ringed Plover 1  
  18. Robin 
  19. Rock Pipit 10 C 
  20. Sanderling 2  
  21. Song Thrush 2  
  22. Stonechat
  23. Tree Sparrow   
  24. Treecreeper
  25. Turnstone, about 20
  26. Woodpigeon   
  27. Wren, singing male
  28. Yellowhammer 2  
  29. unidentified diver

Monday, 26 November 2012

Rain on D res

 My plans to go to Flamborough were thwarted by persistent rain today. So, I decided to pop into Tophill Low instead, and wait in a hide to see if the rain stopped by midday. Many fields were flooded and there was lots of water on the road. Water levels were also quite high on the Beverley and Barmston Drain. Flocks of Blackbirds and Redwings flew away from the car from the berry-laden hedgerows, and Pheasants fed on the edges of the large puddles with corvids and seagulls.
 I waited in the car for a while once in the car park, which is often quite productive, and then moved onto the hide overlooking the D reservoir.
 Water birds do not seem to mind the rain and carry on feeding as normal, and on the plus side it was quite calm so wildfowl were quite visible due to the stillness of the water despite the gloomy clouds. A loose group of Great Black Backed gulls, made of separate pairs, decided to take is as a cue to have a thorough wash and they splashed about on the water.
 There were many duck species, both diving and dabbling - a flotilla of Gadwalls above - plus Coots, and Great Crested Grebe. The unique tinge of a lone male Goosander's body, white with a orangey-pink glow being very distinctive despite the distance.
 A few females and a male Goldeneye were also present.
Given the size of the reservoir and how distant some of the birds are, this is a good site to practice identifying duck species by their general colour combination, like useful 'flags' to tell what country a boat is from.
 A soaking wet Grey Squirrel fed by the walls of the reservoir.
By midday, the rain kept coming, if anything, stronger than before. It was obvious the weather wasn't going to change any time soon, so that ended today's trip. Despite the weather, sitting on the hide birdwatching with a nice cup of thermos coffee was great.

Bird list

  1. Blackbird    
  2. Blue Tit    
  3. Carrion Crow    
  4. Chaffinch    
  5. Coal Tit    
  6. Collared Dove    
  7. Coot    
  8. Gadwall    
  9. Goldeneye    
  10. Goldfinch    
  11. Goosander    
  12. Great Black-backed Gull    
  13. Great Crested Grebe    
  14. Great Spotted Woodpecker    
  15. Great Tit
  16. Greylag Goose    
  17. Herring Gull    
  18. Magpie    
  19. Mistle Thrush    
  20. Moorhen    
  21. Pheasant    
  22. Pochard    
  23. Robin    
  24. Shoveler    
  25. Tufted Duck    
  26. Wigeon    
  27. Woodpigeon

Saturday, 24 November 2012

November Wetlands

A circular walk at North Cave Wetlands this morning. Bright blue skies and just a mild breeze - what a contrast to yesterday blustery day. I start to walk around the perimeter path counterclockwise. Despite getting there at 9:30 the place is deserted. In Dryham lane I spot a Fieldfare on the Hawthorns, and just before getting to East Hide I surprise a Stoat crossing the path, but I can't relocate it again.
  The background sound of the day are Teal peeps - I carry on hearing them even when I get home. I wonder if you can tell what month you are in by the background calls of dominant birds. There are large Teal flocks in Village lake and Island lake. Not many Lapwing or Greylag. The water levels are very high and there are not many islands left in Island Lake. From Turret hide, I get great views of preening Shelducks (above).
There are enormous flocks of Woodpigeons on the fields and hedgerows, with blackbirds and redwings.
A mixed flock of Siskins and Lesser Redpolls quietly feeding in alders suddenly takes to the air calling nervously. While I was watching them, I could only spotted a few, but the flock is over 50 strong, it is surprising how discreet they are while they feed. Later I see a male Sparrowhawk having a bath on the shore of the closest lake to the elders, maybe it is what caused the commotion. The Sparrowhawk flies high later, causing more alarm calls by small birds by South Hide.
 As I come out to Dryham Lane, a steam train-like sound makes me look up just in time to watch three Mute Swans flying over. Everybody should experience Mute Swans flying overhead, the sound of their wings is loud and quite unexpected. Awesome.
A shiny male Goldeneye is present in South hide, and thanks to two kind birders I am able to see a Jack Snipe, bobbing gently up and down on the shore. There are also many Common Snipe. Pochards, Tufted Ducks, Coots and a pair of Little Grebes feed about.
 I think this is the first time this year that I see 50 bird species in a day trip. North Cave Wetlands never disappoints.
A curious Starling by the Wild Bird Cafe

Bird list
  1. Black-headed Gull    
  2.  Blackbird    
  3.  Blue Tit    
  4.  Carrion Crow    
  5.  Chaffinch    
  6.  Common Gull
  7.  Coot    
  8.  Dunnock
  9.  Feral Pigeon    
  10.  Fieldfare    
  11.  Gadwall    
  12.  Goldeneye    
  13.  Goldfinch    
  14.  Great Black-backed Gull    
  15.  Great Crested Grebe    
  16.  Great Tit    
  17.  Greylag Goose    
  18.  House Sparrow    
  19.  Jack Snipe    
  20.  Jackdaw    
  21.  Kestrel    
  22.  Lapwing    
  23.  Lesser Redpoll    
  24.  Little Grebe    
  25.  Long-tailed Tit    
  26.  Magpie    
  27.  Mallard    
  28.  Moorhen    
  29.  Mute Swan    
  30.  Pheasant    
  31.  Pochard    
  32.  Redshank    
  33.  Redwing    
  34.  Reed Bunting    
  35.  Robin    
  36.  Rook    
  37.  Shelduck    
  38.  Shoveler    
  39.  Siskin    
  40.  Skylark    
  41.  Snipe    
  42.  Song Thrush    
  43.  Sparrowhawk    
  44.  Starling    
  45.  Teal    
  46.  Tree Sparrow    
  47.  Tufted Duck    
  48.  Wigeon    
  49.  Woodpigeon    
  50.  Wren