Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Wild at the park

Few trips to the park fail to produce an amazing sight that rivals any you could have got in remote 'wild' places. Today in East Park, clouds of little black flies, larger than midges, danced over the lake surface, presumably egg laying. Below them, an area of the lake water was spitting like it was raining, although the cause were tens of sticklebacks feeding on the eggs, or the flies, or both, occasionally jumping out. Near this spectacle, a pair of Great Crested grebes were fishing. Before diving, they lowered their face under the water surface, and moved their head looking around for the best prey (above, note the flies!). A food chain in action flies-to-fish-to-grebes. The kids loved it.
  Swallows were hunting over the grassy fields. A pair settled on the ground just after I had explained to my son that they only stopped on wires or high perches (ooops! nothing like the bare facts contradicting what I had just said). I was surprised, until I saw that both birds were collecting nest material. I never knew they bred in the heart of town.
 There was a veritable Greylag geese nursery on the grassy hill by the little zoo. The goslings had grown a lot since last month, some of them almost as large as their parents. They still walked by their parents, fluffy, and awkward. The adults are now moulting, synchronising their moult to the period of the year that they must protect their flightless young, and therefore, little flight is needed. A lone adult, with its charge of grown goslings, walked by a full family.
One o the Great Crested Grebes
Spitting water under flies
My attempt at photographing the cloud of flies
A curious group of coots approached me quite closely
Nearby, this pair of Barnacle geese were much more nervous and I couldn't get any closer.  It has been a while since I saw these species in East Park.
This was the only pair of Canada I saw around, with a single tiny gosling
Posing Greylag family.
A Lesser Black Backed on the jetty
Young gosling
Bird list
  1. Barnacle Goose        
  2.  Blackbird        
  3.  Blue Tit        
  4.  Canada Goose        
  5.  Carrion Crow        
  6.  Chaffinch        
  7.  Collared Dove        
  8.  Coot        
  9.  Dunnock        
  10.  Feral Pigeon        
  11.  Goldfinch        
  12.  Great Crested Grebe        
  13.  Great Spotted Woodpecker        
  14.  Great Tit        
  15.  Greylag Goose        
  16.  Herring Gull        
  17.  House Martin        
  18.  House Sparrow        
  19.  Lesser Black-backed Gull        
  20.  Magpie        
  21.  Mallard        
  22.  Pochard        
  23.  Sparrowhawk        
  24.  Starling        
  25.  Swallow        
  26.  Swift        
  27.  Tufted Duck        
  28.  Woodpigeon 

Monday, 20 May 2013

Foggy at the cliffs and a Razorbill adventure

Despite the not ideal weather forecast, I made a trip today to RSPB Bempton Cliffs. Although the sun shone before getting to Bridlington, a thick blanket of fog covered the Flamborough headland all the way to the reserve and beyond into the sea. The wardens in the visitor centre reassured me that birds were still visible at the cliffs. The foggy breeze was quite chilly and I was glad I took my raincoat and hat, but I would regret for more than one reason not to have taken my gloves as it will become clear later.
 Despite the dismal weather, the Skylarks sung more invisible than ever from high within the mist, and even the Whitethroats and Reed Buntings were actively singing. I took the Nature Trail to start with, but there was little to see, other than the half carcass of a Guillemot or Razorbill probably eaten by a fox.
 As I got to the cliffs the sea was not visible, and Guillemots and Razorbills could barely be told apart. I was cheered up by a couple of Puffins, and they were quite numerous at the cliffs today, I reckon I must have seen over 20.
 The fog lifted up a bit, and when I reached Jubilee Corner the birds were easier to see. I spent some time taking photos of Gannets collecting grass for their nests, and when I turned to carry on my way I was confronted by this incongruous image:
A Razorbill, looking straight at me from the middle of the path. It had probably flown over the cliff confused by the poor visibility and, despite its best efforts, it was unable to lift itself from the ground by just flapping its tiny wings while running. I have previously found a Kittiwake stranded in this way, which could fly perfectly once facing the breeze coming over the cliffs, so I decided to capture the Razorbill and release it from a high vantage point with a clear run down the cliff. Unfortunately, after I took this single shot the bird decided it didn't like me, turned on its heels and run/flapped away from me quite fast despite its poorly placed little legs. After some pathetic chasing along the path, I was able to corner it against some long grass and catch it. The Razorbill protested immediately and it was most uncooperative, pecking my wrist - fortunately, together with watch strap - fiercely, showing its beautiful yellow mouth. Unfortunately, at that point the path was quite sunk, so I had to carry on walking with the angry Razorbill goring my wrist and complaining. I had its wings well under my hands, but having quite small hands and nil experience in handling Razorbills, I was unable to keep its head pointing forward. Finally, I spotted a suitable point of release and placed the bird on top of a fence post with a clear fall to the sea. Within a couple of seconds, it flew away, leaving me quite relieved and scratched.
 Out of the eight species of marine birds that breed in the cliffs, I was able to see seven, missing only Shag.
A Swallow rests on top of the camera installed to be able to watch its nest from the visitor center.
Red Campion is at its best now in the reserve meadows.
The view toward the sea as I arrived at the cliffs
Herring gull
Kittiwake at nest
A pair of puffins.
Gannet collecting grass
Gannet in flight
Staple Newk
This grassy slope was favoured by a group of Gannets for collecting grass and other nesting material
Make some space, I'm landing!
More grass collecting
Displaying Gannet couple
The Gannet colony at Staple Newk
A close up of the tip of the Gannet colony. Not quite Bass Rock, but very impressive notwithstanding.
A squabble on the grass collecting slope
Grass collecting trip
This one found a feather
Spot the couple of puffins amongst the Guillemots
Tree sparrow

Now the gory stuff!
The remains of a frog by the pond at the Nature trail. I could hear some croaking.
The remains of a guillemot/razorbill
The state of my right wrist after the Razorbill incident. I would proudly carry Razorbill scars, but I think it won't be.

Bird list

  1. Blackbird        
  2. Carrion Crow        
  3. Chaffinch        
  4. Collared Dove        
  5. Dunnock        
  6. Feral Pigeon        
  7. Fulmar        
  8. Gannet        
  9. Goldfinch        
  10. Greenfinch        
  11. Guillemot        
  12. Herring Gull        
  13. Jackdaw        
  14. Kittiwake        
  15. Linnet        
  16. Pheasant       
  17. Pied Wagtail
  18. Puffin        
  19. Razorbill        
  20. Reed Bunting        
  21. Robin        
  22. Skylark        
  23. Swallow        
  24. Tree Sparrow        
  25. Whitethroat        
  26. Woodpigeon        
  27. Wren

Friday, 17 May 2013

Warbles and butterflies at Noddle Hill

I went to Noddle Hill for a walk this morning. It was a long time I hadn't visited this reserve, and the weather was quite pleasant, turning warm when the sun shone in the middle of the day. The diversity of habitats in the reserve: wooded areas, scrub, lake with reeds, ditches, and many well vegetated ponds translates into a diversity of birds. Today it was warbler day: Whitethroat, Willow warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Reed, Sedge Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat were all singing. I thought I heard Garden Warbler too, but was unable to see it, and I am not very familiar with its song to rely only on that, so it didn't count. I spent quite some time trying to see the Lesser Whitethroat, but it defeated me. It was singing within a large scrubby patch of Hawthorn, Nettles and Brambles, almost impossible to enter without a machete!
 By the lake, I watched the Reed Warblers singing. The reeds are quite low for this time of year and don't offer as much shelter so it was relatively easy to spot them, but hard to focus with the camera for any pictures.
A number of active butterflies were on the wing:
Peacock, Holy Blue, Speckled Wood, Green-veined white, Orange tip, Large White and Brimstone.
St Mark's flies (Bibio marci) were everywhere, and a group of Swifts flew quite low over the vegetation, presumably feasting on them.
I also saw a damselfly, pale brown, but it settled too high in a tree and at an odd angle for ID.
 The council has installed a composting toilet at the entrance of the reserve. It would be good to see some action regarding the clumps of japanese knotweed.
Cows and Magpie
Collared dove
Hovering kestrel
My best shot of a Swift  
Speckled Wood
Greylag family
Holly blue
Mating St Mark's flies
Orange Tip
Reed Bunting singing its 'cheese-on-toast'
Green Veined White. A female was seen laying eggs.

 Bird list

  1. Blackbird        
  2. Blackcap        
  3. Bullfinch        
  4. Carrion Crow        
  5. Chaffinch        
  6. Chiffchaff        
  7. Collared Dove        
  8. Coot        
  9. Dunnock        
  10. Feral Pigeon        
  11. Goldfinch        
  12. Greenfinch        
  13. Greylag Goose        
  14. House Martin        
  15. Jackdaw        
  16. Kestrel        
  17. Lesser Black-backed Gull        
  18. Lesser Whitethroat        
  19. Linnet        
  20. Magpie        
  21. Mallard        
  22. Moorhen        
  23. Pheasant        
  24. Reed Bunting        
  25. Reed Warbler        
  26. Robin        
  27. Sedge Warbler        
  28. Skylark        
  29. Song Thrush        
  30. Swallow        
  31. Swift        
  32. Tufted duck
  33. Whitethroat        
  34. Willow Warbler        
  35. Woodpigeon        
  36. Wren