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Friday, June 19, 2015

Early Summer snippets from North Yorkshire - Pied Flycatchers & Redstarts at Strid, Chimney Moths & Mandarin at Jefrey Bog plus lots of flowers!

Pied Flycatcher (male) pic courtesy of D.Cookson
Out with the lads at Strid Woods (nr Bolton Abbey) recently I was thrilled to see up to 15 or so Pied Flycatchers. One of my favourite 'small birds', they bring back happy memories of my first forays into birding during family holidays in the Lake District when used to wander off into the woods for hours on end and cause my parents much anxiety!

Smart birds, they seemed quite numerous back then and still hold their own there and in Wales but in common with so many insect eating birds habitat loss both here and in their sub Saharan wintering grounds due to de-forestation has seen their numbers decline by 25 - 50% in last few decades. To my knowledge, Strid Wood is about the only place in Yorkshire where they breed nowadays.

Redstart (male) Strid Wood. 8/06/15

To my chagrin I didn't manage a single decent shot.. poor light down I the gorge is barely half an excuse, but we all marvelled at their aerial prowess as they darted hither and thither over the river catching Damselflies. Plenty of Spotted Flycatchers there too along with Redstarts, Grey and Pied Wagtails all feasting on as many winged insects as I've seen this year so far.

Redstart (male) Strid Wood. 8/06/15

Strid Wood itself is a smashing and invigorating walk. The path meanders through the woods and along a section of the River Wharfe that has narrowed and deepened into some dramatic gorges, and eventually ends up at Bolton Abbey. The tea rooms at Strid and the usual tourist trappings of the Abbey have made it a popular place even on weekdays so my to would be to go early!

Strid Wood & River Wharfe

Dipper, Strid. 08/06/15

Kingfisher, Strid. 08/06/15

Meadow Crane's Bill, Strid, 08/06/15
The lads (Mikey & Nick), Strid. 08/06/15

At some point along the walk there's some stepping stones across the river to negotiate and I was devilishly looking forward to taking a pic of Mikey trying to cross with his dodgy knee but we took a detour so it never happened ... but this young Curlew with legs akimbo reminds me now of that missed photo op!

Curlew, Strid, 08/06/15


Same Mikey was after a Mandarin Duck for his UK list, and he got several, but he needn't have gone so far -  a couple of days later I spotted this female on the River Derwent at YWT reserve Jefrey Bog!

Yet another YWT reserve ticked off and visited (that's 62 out of 98 now).

A tranquil place this one and for once the sun shone and there was warmth. Should have brought the butterflies out but it was late in the day so I had to settle for some reasonable pics of Chimney Moths amongst the Ragged Robins, Yellow Flag Iris and Marsh Marigolds .....

Chimney Moth, Jefrey Bog, 09/06/15

Chimney Moth, Jefrey Bog, 09/06/15

Ragged Robin ... interestingly backlit, Jefrey Bog, 09/06/15

Marsh Marigold, Jefrey Bog, 09/06/15

 A few more early Summer snippets from round and about and in no particular order to round things off before the Solstice tomorrow - I'll be on Hatfield Moor again and praying for good light!

Red Campions, River Seven at Normanby, 20/05/15

Speedwell, River Seven at Normanby, 20/05/15
Dog Rose, Askham Bog, 14/06/15

Lastingham with the NY moors beyond, from Normaby, 20/05/15
Marsh Orchid, Askham Bog, 13/06/15

Marsh Thistle, Askham Bog, 13/06/15

Singing Yellowhammer, Wykeham, 10/06/15

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Chilling out on Hatfield Moor, a possible new breeder, dashing Hobbies and singing Tree Pipits.

Some more good news for Hatfield Moor / Humberhead Peatlands, a couple of Marsh Harriers look like they're going to breed there this year. Its likely that this is overspill from nearby Potteric Carr where there are at least 3 pairs or even Blacktoft Sands where they're also doing well. With so many of our native birds in decline its heartening to witness the continuing expansion of these graceful raptors and it surely can't be long before a pair nest in the Lower Derwent Valley.

Marsh Harrier, Hatfield Moor, 28/05/15

Not the best of pics because of the distance we were away from the nest site but I don't believe anyone else has managed to photographically record this success story and that was my mission on the day. This is the male, a very pale, relatively small individual that could almost be mistaken for a Montagues Harrier from a distance.

timbobagginsabroad, birds, raptors, breeding
Marsh Harrier, Hatfield Moor, 28/05/15

We'll have to wait and see if they breed successfully but the omens are good.

Hobby, Hatfield Moor, 28/05/15

Hobbies have been doing ok on Hatfield for some time now and along with nearby Thorne Moor, its one of the easiest of places to catch up with these dashing, colourful falcons. This one came out of nowhere as we were waiting for the Marsh Harrier to return, caught a dragonfly and in typical fashion ate it on the wing... all over in a flash and I had to be quick to get these pics!

timbobagginsabroad, raptor, falcon
Hobby devouring a dragonfly, Hatfield Moor, 28/05/15

Hobby, Hatfield Moor, 28/05/15

Hobby2, Hatfield Moor, 28/05/15

We caught up with another Hobby later in the day, just cruising around, easier to photograph and  perhaps a more 'typical' view but to my mind not as exciting a capture as the previous one trousers on view though!

Even easier was this nice Tree Pipit, one of several singing birds on the moor. To the untrained eye its just another small brown bird; not as exciting as a dashing Hobby or as colourful as say a Redstart but hey they're just as fascinating. They too migrate 1000s of miles from Africa to breed here and they sing better than Hobbies! Holding their own here I'd say but getting scarcer around my vicinity in the Vale of York.

timbobagginsabroad, pipits, south yorks
Singing Tree Pipit, Hatfield Moor, 28/05/15

Tree Pipit, Hatfield Moor, 28/05/15
Bright, warm sunshiny days have been few and far between this May in the UK and this wasn't one of them but biking around Hatfield with me old mucker Mark was as enjoyable as ever .. we got the record shots of a potentially new breeding bird for the reserve (mission accomplished), got plenty of other stuff too - disturbed a few Adders, heard a couple of Garden Warblers and many Cuckoos, and just chilled!

Chilled out on Hatfield
Hatfield Moor

Hatfield Moor

Check out the blog for recent sightings here - Hatfield Moor Blog Red Necked Phalarope over this past w/e ..where was my lens!

Monday, May 18, 2015

A good wood found, wild flowers in profusion at last, Snipe a drumming, a wet Moors day and a successful Heron watch event

Its been a tricky old merry month of May for me. Just like the UK spring this year - stumbling and stuttering into some kind of recognisable swing, I've struggled a bit to get into the rhythms of the season. Some kind of 'hangover' effect maybe from so many unfettered, uncluttered days in Spain maybe, who knows .. I'll not dwell, its not very interesting!

Water Avens, Pocklington Wood, 15/05/15

I found a new wood just outside Pocklington the other day and these lovely Water Avens growing in profusion certainly were of interest as they're relatively uncommon in East Yorks.

Also known as 'drooping' or 'nodding' avens this native wild flower often finds it way into garden borders because of its attractive pinky red blooms and distinctive shape and I must say it photographs really well!

Its got history, like most wild flowers, ...said to be an excellent natural remedy for diarrhoea this one!

Water Avens, Pocklington Wood, 15/05/15

Water Avens, Pocklington Wood, 15/05/15

No need to look up the medicinal and culinary properties of this next wild flower that is currently scenting many of our woodland glades at the moment ... Wild Garlic!

Wild Garlic, Pocklington Wood, 15/05/15
It grows well in the right conditions .. dampish woodland and there were massive carpets of the stuff here, competing for space with equally impressive stands of Bluebells, and in many ways more attractive to my mind ... certainly photographs better!

Wild Garlic, Pocklington Wood, 15/05/15

For the record here's some of the Bluebells, kind of 'de rigueur' to post a pic of the old 'Calverkeys' at this time of year and catch them while you can.... for they'll be gone in a week or so.
Bluebells, Pocklington Wood, 15/05/15

We're coming up the best time of year for the vast majority of wild flowers and shrubs now and I'm looking forward to the various Orchid species that should be in flower next month. For now though here's another couple of common but attractive flowers currently in bloom ...

Common Bugle, Pocklington Wood, 15/05/15

Herb Robert, Pocklington Wood, 15/05/15

  Pretty sure I heard a Spotted Flycatcher here and possibly a distant Stonechat perched in the middle of a rape seed field but nothing conclusive either way. Another nice Common Whitethroat pic managed though and there were maybe 4 pairs in the general vicinity.

Common Whitethroat, Pocklington Wood, 15/05/15

Earlier in the month during a brief visit to Strensall Common, just outside York I came across a couple of Northern Wheatears on passage. A good record for the site. and always a treat to see these chaps on their way through. Here's a nice pic of the male perched on top of the firing range there.

Northern Wheatear, Strensall Common, 01/05/15

Apologies by the way for the uniform 'centering' of text and pics in this post. Another bug in the  BlogSpot site or maybe my limited html skills? Nothing I seem to be able to do about it except stick to the centre ground ... with hindsight something maybe Ed Milliband might have considered? Oooh er -  a bit of politics on timbobagginsabroad! A definite non starter.
 A planned trip up to the North Yorks Moors last weekend in the great company of messrs Robin Marrs and Mark Paine was blighted somewhat by the weather but hey we chilled well and explored many moorland nooks, valleys and car parks. Although the light was dismal nearly all day, 2 Fulmars gliding inland over Gorse bushes at Ravenscar, briefly illuminated as they were by watery late afternoon sunshine, has my vote as the best picture I never took this month award. Live long in the memory though!
A few nice captures of Sand Martins, maybe 60 or so, feeding across a nearby cliff top pond partially made up for that however. This is the best of the crop

 with this one a distant 2nd ....such a shame the weather gods didn't shine on us that day.
 ..... a cheeky Nuthatch at Forge Valley that has probably been photographed thousands of times and from a thousand better angles was my only other half decent pic of the day.

A flock of Crossbills at Ellerburn Bank were my first in years and rumours of  Hen Harriers speculating and making the odd appearance again over the heather all added to a memorable Moors experience.
A few more random pictures from my May so far. The Spring courtship flight and sound of displaying Common Snipe is as unique as it gets in the bird world... the strange, eerie and sometimes nocturnal 'drumming' sound and whirring flight of these game birds has even led some folk to believe that it is the sound of alien spacecraft about to land!
Broad daylight on Thornton Ings in the Lower Derwent Valley and here is proof that these noises are earthbound birds with vibrating tails! Not a particularly clear shot but you can clearly see the detached outer tail feathers that act like wind vanes and produce that totally weird sound as they career up, down and around in the skies above their breeding sites.
Snipe a drumming, Thornton Ings, 13/05/15
Even more random .... here's a rare bird. Me working! This was at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (Bretton Lakes) and the annual Heron Watch event where more than 600 passers by had the opportunity to watch nesting Grey Herons. All pics courtesy of Carole Tidball. Great event, lots of interest (surprising how many people didn't even realise that herons nest in trees!), and 11 sign ups for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust by yours truly - some effort in just 5 hrs!


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

My second Spring, out and about in the Wolds, North Cave Wetlands, atmospheric Barnies and Common Cranes in Yorkshire!

Ist Swallow, Thornton Ings, 5apr2015
Back from my Iberian travels and straight back into a typical stop start UK Spring - not too dissimilar from Spain really... blowing hot & cold! Great to be back into the swing of things with YWT but ain't there a lot to do when you return from a long trip! Almost feel as if the Spring is passing me by such have been the twin demands of work, catching up with folk and a distinct lack of 'get up and go' after so many foreign and exotic adventures. I've had a few trips out though and had some good moments in my 2nd Spring!

Barn Swallow, Wheldrake Ings, 20apr2015
Swallows were back in my neck of the woods first week of April and who knows, some of them might have flown past me when I was in Spain - highly unlikely but a nice thought!

Snakes Head Fritillary, Wheldrake, 20apr2015
Spring flowers are popping up everywhere with these Snakes Head Fritillaries on the sheep field at Wheldrake being my favourites of the month

Snakes Head Fritillary, Wheldrake, 20apr2015

Closely followed by these gorgeous Primroses high up on the Yorkshire Wolds nr Bishop Wilton

Primroses, Bishop Wilton, 10apr2015

Lovely indeed but the morning I took these was the day a shed load of poor air drifted in from the continent on SE winds and that wasn't so lovely!

Poor air quality over Bishop Wilton, 10apr2015

I had my first Willow Warblers singing on the 15th and a rare treat of a passage Ring Ouzel close to my local patch on the top of Garrowby Hill on the 10th, a full on male, but frustratingly shrouded in twigs till it flew off north.

Yellowhammer (male), Fangfoss, 5apr2015

My local birds are looking resplendently colourful and there are singing Linnets, Yellowhammers, Greenfinches, Skylarks and Thrushes down my back lane here at Fangfoss and both Sparrowhawks and Common Buzzards have been performing their aerial courtship displays with gusto!

Common Buzzard, Fangfoss, 5thapr2015

Talking of raptors, there's a prospective pair of Peregrines on York Minster. I hope they breed and with luck I'll get some pics. They seem to be doing alright and this is one of several in the Lower Derwent Valley where they nest in the big electricity pylons there ...

Peregrine Falcon, LDV, 17apr2015

After a superbly successful breeding season last year and a relatively mild winter I'm pleased to see so many Barn Owls on the wing. I've struggled to get a 'gripper' pic but its always an atmospheric moment when you watch a 'ghost bird' hunting and I'm well pleased with the artsy feel of these...

Barn Owl, Wheldrake, 20apr2015

Barn Owl, Millington, 6apr2015

Barn Owl, Wheldrake, 20apr2015

Got my first Swift yesterday (28/4) at North Cave Wetlands, along with Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Common Tern and Yellow Wagtail (all first for the year). Failed to get decent pics of any of them but the Avocets were easier ... I so hope the Black Headed Gulls don't take all the young this year as they have done in previous years.

Avocet, North Cave, 28apr2015

Avocet, North Cave, 28apr2015

I didn't see a single Common Whitethroat all the time I was in Spain, couple of weeks too early, but pleased to see and hear so many in the hedgerows again ....

Singing Common Whitethroat, North Cave, 28apr2015

I've saved my best birds till last and hopefully you've scrolled down this far. I've had more than my fill of Common Cranes in France and Spain over the years but not seen many in the UK, so to see a small bunch turn up in a field in Yorkshire recently was a bonus. Not entirely surprising as they're expanding as a breeding bird with small but successful numbers of breeding birds in Norfolk and Somerset. For obvious reasons I can't reveal the location and don't bother asking, just enjoy the pics ...

Common Cranes, Yorkshire, Spring 2015

Common Cranes, Yorkshire, Spring 2015

Common Cranes, Yorkshire, Spring 2015

More than a little hint of courtship going on so hope they're successful.