Friday, 27 February 2015

Winter at Kiplingcotes and Riffle Buts

The sky was bright and blue when we arrived at the car park on Hudson Way near Kiplingcotes (above), on Monday. We'd had a good start of the trip, with a Red Kite riding on the wind over the road to Goodmanham, and a Kestrel hovering on the hill top. As we got out of the car, Yellowhammer was in full song, while a pair of Red-legged partridges followed by two rabbits run for cover. Shortly after a red-partridge started calling. We walked on the path on the disused railway line over to the little nature reserve. The contrast with my last visit was stark, the grass dry and the hawthorns bare, although, on the ground, the variously shaped young shoots of the many plants in the reserve were starting to sprout.
 We investigated under blocks of chalk and flint on the scree, in search for invertebrates. There were many Pogonognathellus longicornis springtails, the largest UK species. Their antennae are longer than their body, and when slightly disturbed they coil them like springs. We also found some tiny snails clinging to the underside of several rocks, a red ant and a black and red beetle (later identified by Robert Jaques as Calathus melanocephalus). I found a lovely, velvety snail, but before I could look at it I awkwardly dropped it and lost it in the moss below, fortunately I had taken a photo of it before this.
 We climbed to the top of the site and there was an odd black shape on the hill below. Binoculars revealed a black rabbit, which was surprising. It appears that black rabbits are not unheard of in the area. Just after this, I saw a crow chasing another bird in the distance, it was a Red Kite, which came closer and slowly flew overhead.
 We then moved to the road crossing to Goodmanham, where there is a nice spring of clear water. there were many small birds about, then we found out they are being fed nearby. We walked to the small geological reserve, Riffle Butts, the area where it is located goes with the lovely name of Snever Dale. A Treecreeper, a Marsh tit and a shrew, which we saw for a second or two before it disappeared into the ground.
This rabbit was unfazed and carried on sunbathing.
A view of the reserve, with the nests of meadow ants on the foreground
 Pogonognathellus longicornis, the largest UK springtail, can reach 6 mm. It does look statuesque here.
The snail Vallonia costata in habitat.
Unidentified young snail on chalk
These tiny, but beautiful snails are Vallonia costata found under rocks, and Pupilla muscorum, kindly identified by Robert Jaques, the Moss Chrysalis Snail, found on moss.
Another view of Pupilla muscorum, the small tooth present in the opening of this species appears like a shadow. This appears to be an empty shell.
Likely Trochulus striolatus, live young individual.
Anthills of meadow ants, the one at the front was about half a metre tall
Black Rabbit with wild-type one.
Poor shot of a Red Kite.
A cluster of overwintering garden snails on a brick wall.

Bird list
  1. Blackbird
  2. Blue Tit
  3. Bullfinch
  4. Carrion Crow
  5. Chaffinch
  6. Common Gull
  7. Dunnock
  8. Fieldfare
  9. Goldfinch
  10. Great Tit
  11. Jackdaw
  12. Kestrel
  13. Marsh Tit
  14. Pheasant
  15. Red Kite
  16. Red-legged Partridge
  17. Redwing
  18. Robin
  19. Skylark
  20. Tree Sparrow
  21. Treecreeper
  22. Woodpigeon
  23. Wren
  24. Yellowhammer

Snail List

  1. Cepaea nemoralis, Brown Lipped snail, live
  2. Cepaea hortensis, White lipped snail, shells
  3. Cornu aspersum, Garden snail, live
  4. Monacha cantiana, Kentish snail, shells
  5. Cernuella virgata, shells
  6. Candidula intersecta, shells
  7. Pupilla muscorum, shell
  8. Vallonia costata, live, several
  9. Trochulus striolatus, live young and adult.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Bridlington and Sewerby beach

I joined Hull Natural History Society for the monthly walk today at Bridlington with Robert Jaques, Jess Stokes and Gui Garcia-Sauco. It was quite cold, mainly due to the strong wind and dark and grey, but, fortunately, the rain held on until lunch time. We started in the harbour car park and explored the south beach from the harbour wall. An assortment of waders, including Purple Sandpipers, Sanderlings, Redshank, Dunlin, Oystercatchers and Turnstones, with the usual Herring and Great Black-backed gulls. The tide was on its way out, and the birds concentrated on the exposed base of the wall and on the tide line on the beach. As we walked along the wall, several very tame Turnstones were running around amongst the workers moving crates of bait, in search of tidbits.
 We then headed north to the main harbour, where we descended onto the beach now at low tide, exposing the steps and the platform at the base of the wall. On the distance over the sea, a whirlwind of birds fed, including a few Gannets and Cormorants and many gulls.
 More Oystercatchers and Black-headed gulls fed on the beach itself. We reached the beach-huts and the cliff. The wet clay dripped over the chalk cliff onto the beach in small avalanches (top photo).
 We climbed the stairs becoming more exposed to the icy wind, and were relieved when we were inside a restaurant in town, enjoying a well deserved fish and chips and a hot drink.
This was my best Purple Sandpiper shot, there were at least three of them, but the strong wind made it difficult to focus.
Two Redshank
Three Dunlin (I think) on the harbour mud, the one at the back looks massive, also a Dunlin?
Turnstone on a boat
A view of the south beach with the receding tide line.
This Oystercatcher found something to eat...
...and it carried it away.
A 3rd winter Great Black-backed gull dwarfing Herring Gulls.
The timing was just right to go down to the north beach from the harbour.
Mussels, Limpets and barnacles on sea wall.
And a just exposed Rough periwinkle.
A 4th winter Great Black-backed gull and 1st and 2nd winter Herring gulls
Turnstone on the beach
Lonely donkeys today
A Scurvygrass, Cochlearia sp. (kindly identified by Phil Gates at Twitter) on the clay cliff.
Panel showing the small marine 'no-take-zone' between Danes Dyke and Sewerby.
Oystercatcher feeding on the grassy clifftop.
Now is the turn of a Herring Gull to dwarf a Sanderling. This sanderling was unafraid of the gull, running around as the do close to it.

Bird List
1.   Barnacle Goose
2. Carrion Crow
3. Feral Pigeon
4. Great Black-backed Gull
5. House Sparrow
6. Mallard
7. Pied Wagtail
8. Redshank
9. Starling
10. Woodpigeon
11. Black-headed Gull
12. Dunlin
13. Gannet
14. Herring Gull
15. Knot
16. Oystercatcher
17. Purple Sandpiper
18. Sanderling
19. Turnstone
20. Rock Pipit

The wintering Greylag flock

The Greylag flock at Pearson Park has been up to 94 strong this winter. The flock size varies, though, some days, there are just one or two individuals, others many more. I believe groups move between East Park and Pearson Park, as I have seen some distinctive individuals, which I call 'White Head' and 'White Chest' in both places, sometimes on the same day. As spring approaches, males become more aggressive toward other geese and the flock splits up into pairs which will settle in suitable breeding areas. Greylags are found year round at East Park, but they don't breed at Pearson Park so they only turn up occasionally in the summer.
During February, I have photographed the flock in all weathers, so I thought I'd share a selection of photos.
There was snow on the 4th and the geese moved to under the trees to feed on the grass. A kind lady with a well behaved dog threw some seed at them, but the Common Gulls descended 'en masse' to grab it before the geese had the chance to register what was going on (above)
Foraging on the snowed grass.
If you look a geese for a while, it doesn't take long to realise that individuals are attached to each other. There are pairs and families which include the pair and the young produced the previous year. The group above, probably a family, marched nervously towards the water close to each other as a large dog on the loose approached. 
This inquisitive individual was part of a family of seven, who took full possession of the bread we were delivering and didn't let any other goose approach. This is a young one, still not quite one year old, note the greyish tip of the bill, or nail, which is still black in some young ones.
Families are quite successful fending off pairs. Several individuals in this family had very orange legs, which I wonder if it is a sign of being healthy.
The young one was quite chuffed of having fended off the pair at the background.
Came back in an aggressive posturing.

This individual has a distinctive flap on his belly.
Does anybody want some seeds?
Sometimes even geese need some peace and quiet. This one sat on the grass while the whole flock was some distance away being feed by people.
It is not too difficult to tell male and female geese apart. Males are heavier, taller and they have a more robust head. However, females can suffer higher mortality during incubation, and if the sex ratio is male bias male-male pairs are not unusual.
On the 10th of February we had thick fog. I counted 94 goose early in the morning grazing on the grass.
 This year the flock often includes a Canada goose, which I call 'Confused' who was probably brought up by Greylags, as it is attached to them...
...and 'White Head'
Here is 'Confused' again. He seems attached to three individuals. The source of this interspecific attachment may originate from her being adopted as a very young gosling by a pair of greylag defending their own young from her Canada parents and the gosling becoming imprinted to the greylag family. Canada seem to have longer term family attachment than Greylag, so she might still travel with their adoptive parents.