Tuesday, 25 March 2014

A spot of patch birding

A sunny, mild afternoon, we go to the park after the school run. While the kids play with a ball, I watch and photograph the park birds. A lone Canada Goose, who damaged its wing earlier in the year, is bound to stay in the park now year round, her companions, which only winter in the park have left already for their breeding grounds. Three greylags keep her company, for now.
 Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, Chaffinch and Stock Dove sing and a Carrion Crow calls, making gargle-like calls from a tree.
 Mallards are mostly resting, most females paired with two males, as the sex ratio is very unbalanced in the park.
 A Mistle Thrush feeds on the grass, oblivious to the hustle and bustle of people in the park. I get 5 m away from it and sit on a bench to take some photos. Tilting its head looking and listening for worms, and occasionally keeping an eye for aerial predators.

 Common Gulls won't stay in the park for much longer, soon, they will migrate to their summer grounds for breeding. Already the winter flock, usually 100 strong, has dwindled and is dominated by young immature birds. These squabble for some rice crispies.
This one posed nicely for me.
  The larger Herring Gulls are resident in town, they winter here and breed on roofs, safely concealed from view. Today an adult pair and five immatures hanging out together, behaving like a family group.  Three are 1st winter immatures, and 2 of them are 2nd winter. Gulls are long-lived birds and I wonder if young stay around their parents territory until they are fully adult.
One of the adults in summer plumage, drinking. The red spot on the bill very bright and no trace of winter speckling on the head.
An adult, 1st winter and 2nd winter.
A 1st winter individual, with no grey on the mantle and speckled brown all over.
The 2nd winter looks paler, with almost white head, and has silver feathers on the mantle.
Moorhen. I wonder if its partner is already incubating.
Feral pigeon males dance and twirl round to impress females. One handsome male, after courting a female (its mate?) and receiving an annoyed peck in return, gets on with finding suitable sticks for nest building.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Back to the cliffs

Spring was well ahead in Bempton Cliffs today. Despite the chilly breeze and foggy start at Hull, the sun shone all day by the coast.
 By the visitor centre, large flocks of Tree Sparrows chirped from the roof or fed on the feeders. Jackdaws, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Pheasant and Great Tits were also present.
 By the grasslands on the way to the cliffs Skylarks sung and we flushed a few Meadow Pipits. We also witnessed a funny squabble between two male Pied Wagtails on the path, jumping and chasing each other with a bouncy flight.
 The cliffs were buzzing with all the classic Bempton species already paired-up, squabbling for the best positions on the cliff shelves.We quickly spotted the first Puffins. I have never seen so many, some of them quite close to the viewing points (above). We watch mating Guillemots and Gannets, and Razorbills grooming each other. A Gannet flew over bringing some nest material.
 I briefly spot a porpoise diving and we can't see it resurfacing again.
After a chilly picnic by the visitor centre we head towards the southern half of the reserve. Staple Newk is covered on Gannets, with the side shelfs holding a few Puffins and Guillemots. To top it all, as we watch from the viewing point, a Peregrine appears flying and circles a few times over our heads. My best view ever and a great end for a day on the cliffs.
Tree Sparrow on the tiled roof of the visitor centre
Meadow Pipit
Herring Gulls calling
Sleepy Kittiwake
Razorbill pair preening
Another cosy Razorbill pair
A pair of Guillemots. One of them is from the bridled form.
Guillemot dispute. No vacancies!

Pied Wagtails
Gannet calling showing its black mouth
More preening couples
Rock Doves. All the pigeons we saw were of the beautiful wild-type plumage
Kittiwake complaining to an usurper
Staple Newk
Peregrine Falcon circling over our heads

Monday, 17 March 2014

Redpolls and Chiffchaffs at Noddle Hill Nature Reserve

A dull, cloudy, breezy day, I headed to Noddle Hill for an early spring walk. The sallows and willows are in full bloom, and, despite the cloud, there were a number of active Buff-tailed bumblebees about.
As soon as I start the woodland walk, I hear the song of a Chiffchaff. Soon, other replies and I manage some shots. A pair of Bullfinches feeds on buds, and Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Goldfinch are singing. As I enter the open scrub northern side of the reserve, I hear some chirps, they come from a few Tree Sparrows, the first time I see them on the reserve. There are also many Linnets about.
 Near the pumping station, a couple of Carrion Crows mob a Buzzard (a first for the reserve). The wind makes it almost impossible to take shots, unfortunately.
 I peek into the drain hoping for a Kingfisher, but I spook a couple of Teal (also a first for the reserve), mallard and a Moorhen instead.
 I walk along the criss-crossing paths. The hoof prints of Roe Deer are marked on many of them. There are 20+ Greylags on the fishing lake, but little else. Just as I was going to leave, I see some birds on the alders by the pond. They are Lesser Redpolls. Some look wet, like they just had a bath. They appear to be feeding alder buds and, when they fly to a tree nearby I see the flock is about 15 strong. They come back to the alder and carry on feeding, doing acrobatics like tits and keeping quiet.
 Skylarks are singing around the reserve. On a ploughed field by the entrance, a large Starling flock feeds with Carrion Crows, Woodpigeons and a pair of Stock Dove.
Singing Chiffchaff
Male Bullfinch
Tree sparrow
A view of the reserve
Lesser Redpoll
Lesser Redpoll
Male Lesser Redpoll looking wet.

Singing Skylark
Bird List
  1. Black-headed Gull
  2. Blackbird
  3. Blue Tit
  4. Bullfinch
  5. Buzzard
  6. Carrion Crow
  7. Chaffinch
  8. Chiffchaff
  9. Collared Dove
  10. Dunnock
  11. Feral Pigeon
  12. Goldfinch
  13. Great Tit
  14. Greenfinch
  15. Greylag Goose
  16. Lesser Redpoll
  17. Linnet
  18. Magpie
  19. Mallard
  20. Moorhen
  21. Pheasant
  22. Reed Bunting
  23. Robin
  24. Skylark
  25. Starling
  26. Stock Dove
  27. Teal
  28. Tree Sparrow
  29. Woodpigeon
  30. Wren

Friday, 14 March 2014

Allerthorpe Common

The weather was promising to spot basking adders so we headed off to Allerthorpe Common with some mist. This was my first visit to the site, a mix of scots pine plantation and heath. On arrival we heard Chiffchaff singing and saw Marsh, Blue and Great tit. Later, we caught up with a more interesting array of birds, including Siskin, Yellowhammer, Treecreeper, a pair of Jays and Mistle Thrushes.
 We saw a pair of Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk being mobbed by a Carrion Crow.
 On the sandy path by the little nature reserve a bunch of the early mining bee Andrena clarkella. Males checked exit holes for females and two males tried to mate with a female at the same time.
 No adders appears to be basking, although James found one under a piece of felt. This was my first ever British snake! Some members of the party also saw lizards, not me unfortunately, although, to compensate we came across this toad, who patiently sat for a lengthy photographic session, as corresponds to the first toad of the year.
Common Toad
Andrena clarkella mating ball
 one male leaves
the bedraggled female after the males left
 a view of the wide woodand ride with glassland and heath
reed bunting
Another Yellowhammer
The bumblebee mimic Tachina ursina, thanks to Richard Comont for the identification and to Robert Jaques for suggesting Bear Fly as a common name for the species.
One of two male Brimstones we saw
Pair of Buzzards