Thursday, 30 April 2015

A walk around farmland

I joined Robert Jaques for his early BBS survey on Monday. It is a square in the outskirts of Hull, all agricultural land. One of the fields appeared to have been left fallow, but in others, crops where growing and yet other fields had just been tilled. The field margins often included ditches - and some needed to be crossed, which made the trip a little bit adventurous. There were hedgerows with flowering gorse and hawthorn, and remnants of hedgerows here and there, a sprinkle of large trees in between and a couple of farm houses with yet more hedgerows. Skylarks provided a background noise pretty much throughout the survey, in fact, after Woodpigeons, they were the most numerous bird we encountered. A good show as well for Yellowhammers with several males guarding hedgerows.
 When arriving to the farmhouse we were greeted by House and Tree Sparrows (with a pair mating) and Swallows and a couple of House Martins. A Pied Wagtail sat atop one of the buildings.
Just after fishing the second transect a female Sparrowhawk appeared and flew over our heads, and Robert spotted what he thought was a Little Owl flying into a tree by the road. After some searching with the binoculars we found it, amongst the branches, staring back at us. Cyclists, cars and dog walkers passed by the tree, but the little owl took no notice. This was a great way to finish the visit, a pity that the two raptors won't be part of the survey transects.
Mammals abounded in the square. We found these Roe Deer hoofprints. We came across fox scat, molehills, many rabbits and Robert saw a vole.
Tramp slug (Deroceras)
Pied Wagtail on farm roof
Male House Sparrow
Swallow, showing that they can sit on trees, they just prefer wires.
Male Linnet on sprouting ash.
Red-legged partridges on a field.
Male Yellowhammer.
Another Yellowhammer.
Female Sparrowhawk patrolling territory.
Spot the Little Owl.
Pity about the branch across the eyes!
Hundreds of large tadpoles, and a newt in a ditch.

 Bird list

Monday, 27 April 2015

Migrants and residents (but no Mandarins) at East Park

This morning I headed to East Park with the hope to see the pair of drake Mandarin ducks that have been around for a while. I got there very early, but after three hours there I saw no Mandarins. I wasn't too disappointed though, as East Park is like a treasure trove, always something interesting going on.
 Soon after arriving I saw a Swallow, the first of many, skimming the lake. By the bridge, later, a swarm of Swallows, House Martins and a lone Sand Martin flew about over the lake with much chirruping.
 Coots were in various stages of breeding. A few pairs had chicks on nests, some had chicks already out of the nest, yet others were incubating and one pair, with a very exposed nest very close to the shore, were mating.
 I saw a Great Crested Grebe with a fish in its bill. It joined its partner, which was with a mid-sized chick. She offered the fish to the chick, but it was so heavy the chick could barely lift it, and dropped it. The adult showed the fish again, but the chick wasn't interested, so the adult swallowed it.
Shortly after, both adults started their mating dance. They mirrored each others head shakes and preening moves for quite a while. As they moved apart I stopped the video recording, only to realised I missed recording the finale, when they come together with some nest material and stand on the water chest to chest. Must pay more attention next time!

Near the splash boat, a male Blackcap sung loudly (top shot). There were several singing males around the park. A Chiffchaff also sang from the large island.
 The Greylags were gathered on the far side, with a number of families with chicks. One pair was leading 10 chicks, which looked about the same size, I wonder if they had adopted some of them. Males were quite aggressive, one chased and grabbed another individual and came back to his female wings spread, doing his noisy triumph ceremony, so I guess a particularly aggressive male could end up with somebody else's chicks. The three Pinkfoot geese were sitting amongst the snoozing, non-breeding greylag flock. 'Line' was attached to a Greylag, whereas the other two seem to be a well attached pair.
 The small rookery (5-6 nests?) had some activity. The arrival of partners with food was greeted noisily by the incubating females. One of the females appeared to sit by the rest rearranging the eggs or nest material.
 Despite it being sunny, it was quite chilly today, with a light frost early on, but all in all, despite the absence of the mandarins, a lovely day out in the park.
A coot preens while their chicks wait for the other parent to return with food.
Great Crested Grebe and chick by the large island.
Female pied wagtail. A pair were present on the grass by the playground.
'Line' with its oversized greylag partner.
Greylag 'creche'
Rook on nest
Swan 775 decided he didn't want anyone in his lake. He chased ducks, geese and even ducklings. At some point a mother duck confronted it, setting herself in between a duckling and the swan!
Sorry, again, I can't resist a sunbathing woodpigeon (or any other bird for that matter!), they look so relaxed. 
Mating coots on their nest. The female adopts a curious head-down position.
A starling in search of nest lining materials
Greylag family with 10 goslings.
Recently fledged woodpigeon. Note the lack of neck patch (both the white patch and the iridescent, striated area), its washed colour (partly due to overexposure!) and the dark eye.
My first Speckled Wood of the year. Two were fighting. A Holly Blue patrolled a large holly, but never settled.
I found this snail shell by the lake shore. Robert Jaques and Gui García Saúco kindly identified it as the Common River Snail Viviparus viviparus.

Bird list
  1. Blackbird
  2. Blackcap
  3. Blue Tit
  4. Canada Goose
  5. Carrion Crow
  6. Chaffinch
  7. Chiffchaff
  8. Collared Dove
  9. Coot
  10. Dunnock
  11. Feral Pigeon
  12. Goldfinch
  13. Great Crested Grebe
  14. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  15. Great Tit
  16. Greenfinch
  17. Greylag Goose
  18. Herring Gull
  19. House Martin
  20. House Sparrow
  21. Jackdaw
  22. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  23. Long-tailed Tit
  24. Magpie
  25. Mallard
  26. Moorhen
  27. Mute Swan
  28. Pied Wagtail (yarrellii)
  29. Pink-footed Goose
  30. Robin
  31. Rook
  32. Sand Martin
  33. Sparrowhawk
  34. Starling
  35. Stock Dove
  36. Swallow
  37. Tufted Duck
  38. Woodpigeon
  39. Wren 

Monday, 20 April 2015

Bempton cliffs in April

A beautiful sunny, mild day with no wind, I headed up to Bempton Cliffs for my spring visit. It was my first after the new visitor centre opened a few weeks ago. The visitor centre is much more spacious, and prepared to receive many visitors. Indeed today it didn't feel it was a Monday, as it got very busy by mid morning. I walk around the car park and feeders. It is early and still quiet. A woodpigeon stretches sunnying itself on the ground. A male Pheasant runs to meet another male. In the feeders, Pheasant, many tree sparrows, Chaffinch, Robin, a Linnet a Stock Dove and Jackdaws. A female Kestrel is sitting on a bush, watching. Skylarks sung constantly. There are a few Swallows flying over the fields, Meadow Pipits and a pair of Pied Wagtails. Time to head for the cliffs.
 I heard the jingly song of a Corn Bunting. It took me a while to spot it was atop a concrete column, but I got no good shots. 
At some point my camera complained that it had no space in the memory card. I checked and I had taken more than 500 photos, so it was time for a sit down and some deleting. Must bring a spare next time!
I can't resist a sunbathing Woodpigeon.
A Linnet sitting atop a gorse bursting with flowers.  
Meadow Pipit
This pair of Razorbills were in the mood for mating...
...they groomed each other for a while, and the male had a couple of half-hearted attempts at mounting.
This was another pair of Razorbills mating.
A Guillemot and a Razorbill, posing for comparison.
There were a lot of Gannets in the reserve (the number of pairs in the reserve has increased substantially in the last few years and is now over 10,000!, see also this graph of the population increase). They seemed to be expanding into new nesting sites quite high up on the cliffs. Many sitting on nests, some at the top of the cliff seemed to be establishing new nesting sites, with a lot of squabbling, bill open, while calling loudly 'karra, karra, karra! (above).
Other pairs had secured a nest site, and they displayed to each other bill-rubbing and nodding.
After its partner left, this one re-arranged the nesting material.
This other one looked like it was nodding off, until it yawned. This black gape is the last thing its fish prey will see.
The nest series of photos are of the same individual (a male?), making an elaborate display atop the cliff, moving its feet slowly, opening its wings and jumping, pointing up, lifting its wings and tail. I wonder if this was directed to an individual out of view lower on the cliff.
Looking up.
Exaggerated walk
Wings open
About to jump.
Wings up, tail up.
The nicely, and densely, spaced Gannets at Staple Newk on their nests.
Pair courting, bill rubbing.
Kittiwakes were nest building:
Some were busy collecting nest material in favoured spots. Some were pulling grass, others had found a seeping area and were picking mud (above)...
...once at the nest, this Kittiwake was using a paddling technique with her feet to embed the mud and the grass together in the nest cup.
Guillemots were on the cliff faces.
This pair was mating, the female holding a fish (a present from her mate?).
Pair of Fulmar
Male Reed Bunting
It was low tide, showing the kelp bed a the base of the cliffs.
Male Linnet on the gorse.
Female Kestrel.
A view of the cliffs.
Bird list
  1. Blackbird
  2. Carrion Crow
  3. Chaffinch
  4. Collared Dove
  5. Corn Bunting
  6. Dunnock
  7. Feral Pigeon
  8. Fulmar
  9. Gannet
  10. Goldfinch
  11. Great Tit
  12. Greenfinch
  13. Guillemot
  14. Herring Gull
  15. Jackdaw
  16. Kestrel
  17. Kittiwake
  18. Linnet
  19. Mallard
  20. Meadow Pipit
  21. Pheasant
  22. Pied Wagtail (yarrellii)
  23. Razorbill
  24. Reed Bunting
  25. Robin
  26. Skylark
  27. Stock Dove
  28. Swallow
  29. Tree Sparrow
  30. Woodpigeon