Sunday, 26 March 2017

26th March

Heavy rain this week has led to the first extensive flooding of the winter…


The water receded exceptionally quickly though and by the afternoon had changed from this extensive lake to isolated pools.

Pick of the birds for me (which shows how low inland birders set their sights!) were two Coot on the open water. Doubling the number of records in the parish!


A single Redshank was my first of the year…


The floods also held seven Shelduck, as usual very aggressive toward each other…


Plus seven Grey Herons, ten Snipe, a handful of Lapwing, a pair of Oystercatchers and two Green Sandpipers..

Good numbers of gulls too with a couple of hundred Black-headed and a few dozen Lesser Black-backed, Herring and Common Gulls. Almost 100 Black-headed gulls were also circling high over our garden yesterday - presumably catching flying insects.

Signs of spring are everywhere now with a loud chorus of amphibians and masses of Frog spawn…


But underwater toads too…


And their more delicate spawn you can just see in the centre of the picture…



Monday, 20 March 2017

20th March

A long walk around the southern side of the parish this morning and then back up along the river. A total of 58 species seen. Highlight was the first Sand Martin of the year over the river…


(it is one honestly!)

And I also added Corn Bunting (three singing birds) and Canada Goose to the year list. The latter were a group of 11 birds on the Magic Garden lake including this push-me/pull-me bird…


I totted up a reassuring total of 18 singing Skylarks, there were also three pairs of Grey Partridge seen (including one pair feeding on the mud at the edge of the river), five pairs of Lapwing and three displaying Curlew.
Other birds included a single Golden Plover (flying over the top fields) and very large numbers of winter thrushes, mainly Fieldfares, with upwards of a 1000 birds seen in two main feeding areas. This is a small part of one flock flushed by a Sparrowhawk….


I also saw this Roe Deer nibbling the fresh shoots of hawthorn..


And this striking fungus Phellinus igniarius - The Willow Bracket…



Less happily the lovely little flash near Greenhills Farm (which has held breeding Yellow Wagtail, Shelduck and Little ringed Plover as well as passage waders) has been drained. A depressing loss and presumably subsidised by our taxes…


The fantastic ‘Rich Ditch’ with its excellent mix of aquatic plants has also been  hit hard with heavy dredging and flailing of the ditchside plants…


Sunday, 12 March 2017

12th March

Spring is definitely here! Four Chiffchaff singing in the village this morning…


Fantastic chorus of frogs in the Magic Garden lake (with a heron standing on the path hoovering up any that came out of the water) and an early Comma butterfly…


I don’t need much excuse to mention Waxwings again. No more in the village this week but good numbers at work peaking with a flock of over 100 on Friday.




Otherwise it has been a rather quiet few days. Pick of the sightings was a distant view of a possible Goshawk on the Scruton side of the river. Unfortunately instead of watching it I tried (but failed) to take a photo of it so it remains only a possible. There have been odd reports of Gos about this time of year before so may be birds dispersing to breeding sites?
Also on the same side of the river Andy Johnston had a probable male Ring Ouzel on Thursday. This is a bird I’ve often anticipated for the village so maybe this will be the year?
A walk down to the river yesterday only turned up 20 Teal on the Ox-bow, five Goosander, Little Egret and two pairs of Oystercatchers along the river. Chris Knight had a flock of 12 Siskin but they were just north of my patch boundary.  

Walking down Greenhills Lane today I had my first Red-legged Partridge for the year, there was a nice flock of around 35 Stock Doves, a ‘kettle’ of five buzzards and on the flash here there were 20 Lapwing and seven Shelduck.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

26th February

I was just about to take my eldest to his Saturday job yesterday when I heard the unmistakeable call of Waxwings. Around a dozen birds flew in over the rooftops and dropped into the trees around the small green in Ainderby.  I couldn’t stop to look at them but texted Jim in the village to keep a look out but they had gone by the time I got back.

Along the river yesterday I added Green Sandpiper and (two) Little Egret to my year list. The Oystercatchers here are taking up territories…


A single Grey Wagtail was on vegetation in the river and up to eight Goosander were also seen.


Heavy erosion of the banks here continues and more trees have gone in to the river over the last couple of days…



This morning I walked down Greenhills Lane. The Curlew flock is slowly building up with 26 birds there today although still a long way off the record flock I had of 200 birds a few years ago. Good numbers of winter thrushes are gathering too, with very large flocks of Fieldfares in the muddy open fields along the Lane.


Numbers of Redwings are smaller and, in contrast, they are mainly concentrated up in the paddocks and pasture near the village.

On the flash there were 65 Greylags, 35 Lapwings, two Oystercatchers and four Shelduck…


Also Good numbers of Reed Buntings which have outnumbered the Yellowhammers this winter.


An old ash tree in the Magic Garden has become a regular loafing site for Cormorants now.


This bird is probably of the ‘British’ form (carbo) distinguished by the smaller angle between the back of the orange gular patch and the bill...


Compare the angle with this continental race bird (sinensis) which is almost a right-angle from bill to back of the gular patch



Sunday, 19 February 2017

19th February

At last! I was sure I was going to miss out on Waxwings in the parish despite birds appearing all around (including seeing three separate flocks at work) but as I was driving back from picking up my mother-in-law this morning I spotted a couple in a tree in Morton. I drove home, grabbed my camera and shot back. Unfortunately the light was not brilliant but that didn’t take away from seeing a flock of at least 80 birds.
It may have been more as this group was in one of the trees and represented only about half the birds…


Talking to local residents they estimated there were over 200 here on Thursday.


This one unfortunately isn’t sharp but it’s still a nice image…





Yesterday a walk along Greenhills Lane turned up a flock of 147 Greylags, two Oystercatchers  and my first Shelduck of the year.


Another three Shelduck were with 20 Curlew in the Bottom Fields and two more were on the wader pools. They had all gone by today.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

12th February

Most exciting news this week was the addition of Common Crane to the village bird list, just on the far eastern edge of the parish. It was spotted by Arnold Robson, an experienced local naturalist, as he drove from Yafforth to Warlaby crossroads.  He rang me when he got home but it was already dark by then and a search the next morning on the way to work was unsuccessful. However, yesterday the bird was seen again near Lovesome Hill (north of Northallerton) so might just head back this way at some point. James Robson had a Crane at North Kilvington in late December so it’s possible this bird has overwintered in the area.
Otherwise on a cold and gloomy weekend, only brightened by a nice showing of aconites…


...there wasn’t a great deal about although I did see my first Treecreeper of the year and the Water Rail is still in the Magic Garden, better views this time but still too brief for photographs. The Greylag flock in the Bottom Fields has grown to 41 and they were joined by 15 Curlews. The only other sighting of note was a small southerly movement of Stock Doves over the village with 19 seen in half an hour.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

5th February

This Pinkfoot was with the small Greylag flock in the Bottom Fields on Friday but had gone by the next day. Although Pinks are occasionally seen flying over the parish this is actually the first I’ve ever seen on the ground in the village…


Along the river I had my first Oystercatcher of the year…


These are usually the earliest harbinger of spring in the parish although there were other reminders of the coming season with the first Skylarks singing today and half a dozen woodpeckers drumming.

I also spent a good half hour trying to catch up with a bunting I flushed from the river bank. It was creeping  through the short turf here and I had thoughts of Lapland (or rarer!) but it was just this female Reed…


Along Greenhills Lane this morning I added a pair of Grey Partridge and a small flock of Linnet to my year list. A group of 40+ Tree Sparrows were in the ‘Avenue’ and I would have had a rather nice portrait of one of them if it hadn’t turned its head at the last minute!


In the medievally muddy sheep fields near the ruined barn…


there were small numbers of Greylags…


…along with 100 Black-headed Gulls, 30 Lapwing, a couple of dozen Pied Wagtails and a handful of Meadow Pipits and Reed Buntings. Thrush flocks also seem to be building up again with around 150 Fieldfare and 50 odd Redwings…


Other sightings over the last week included Barn Owl and two Little Owls on the Thrintoft road. I was really pleased to see the Barn Owl as they have been disturbingly scarce this winter after the bumper crop last year.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

29th January

It’s been another quiet period but Waxwings have taunted all month, turning up in all the neighbouring villages but somehow missing out Ainderby. I even had great views (in beautiful light) of a flock of 20 at work but typically I didn’t have a camera. So the best I managed were relatively distant shots of a flock  in Romanby in distinctly murky conditions. To compensate here are a couple of cracking shots of local birds taken by Gareth Atkinson…



Best sighting in the parish was a Water Rail seen yesterday in the Magic Garden, only the third village record and all of them seen in this same boggy area…


A Woodcock was also in the garden. I have seen more Woodcock in the last couple of years than the previous twenty. I’m not sure why although the woodland/scrub area of the Magic Garden is distinctly wetter recently so may just represent optimum habitat.
The conditions were surprisingly cold this morning with the Mallard and Teal walking on the ice and two Kingfishers forced off the lake and into the field ditches. Good numbers of geese were around with a nice skein of Pinks last weekend and plenty of Greylags moving over as well as a flock in the bottom fields

At the waterworks there were small numbers of wagtails but how come the Pied sit up and pose beautifully…


but the scarcer Grey’s always seem to lurk about in the shadows. I still haven’t had a good shot of Grey in the parish…  


This morning I saw two Rooks in a really vicious fight, presumably this was a function of the cold weather as aggression does seem to rise when feeding conditions are harder. They were in a field full of other Rooks. The latter birds all took off when I approached but the duelling pair carried on regardless. It only broke up when a Carrion Crow intervened, almost like a ref stepping in to stop a boxing match!   

Monday, 2 January 2017

2nd January

Happy New Year!
It was my first proper chance to get out today on a glorious winter’s morning…


Pick of the birds was undoubtedly a nice skein of 60 Pinkfooted Geese flying west along the river




Another group of Pinks flew over the house this evening.
The river itself was quiet with this Little Grebe the only bird other than the usual Moorhens and Mallard...


In the Magic Garden there were two Kingfishers, small numbers of Reed Buntings…


And it reaffirmed its place as the best site for Bullfinches in the parish..


In all today I recorded 51 species , not a bad start to the year. Talking of which I finished last year on 112 species, exactly the same as 2015.