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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

In between the wind and the rain, a majestic Sparrowhawk and a hint of early Spring in North Yorks

Well I think we're all a bit sick to death of the wind and the rain that has swept across our country over these past few weeks. Up here in Yorkshire we've escaped the worst of the damage this extreme weather has wreaked in the southwest and I wish them all well with the clean up .... surely some telling solutions will now be arrived at given that this kind of weather looks like becoming the norm.

My only hardship, a few fence panels down and a bit of water through my windows .. oh and the lack of opportunities to get out! Up until the last few days there's been just 2 or 3 days in as many weeks when it hasn't been either raining or blowing a gale!

Aargh, who am I to complain, me who's just taken 6 weeks off in Spain .... wanna guess how many times I've wished I was back there in the past month? Plenty of times! Still, in all the time I was there I never got as good a shot at a Sparrowhawk as this unexpected opportunity along the Pocklington Canal today .....
Female Sparrowhawk1_Pocklington Canal

Female Sparrowhawk2_Pocklington Canal
Female Sparrowhawk2_Pocklington Canal


Talk about a welcome committee! This was the first bird I saw after I got out of the van .... I'd parked nr Melbourne and there's a steeply raised bridge over the canal there (Church Bridge), and there was this majestic female Spar perched right on top of the bridge wall ... I stood stock still and somehow manoeuvred the camera with amazing agility for a man of my age and got a few good shots off. Best perched Spar pics ever in fact.

and then she was off..... clocked me at last!
The Lower Derwent Valley was thronging as usual with assorted wildfowl ... with hundreds of Wigeon, Mallard, Teal, Gadwall, Pintail & Pochard. At Bubwith I counted at least 95 Whooper Swans (a dozen or so more than last year) and from Ellerton church there were 15 Shelduck standing on the bank - a sure sign of Spring. Also at Ellerton Churchyard I met the local grave digger who told me 2 interesting things (he was obviously a birder too)... he told me that the famous naturalist Peter Scott had once stood and marvelled at the vista of the valley from this very churchyard and that when he did (several decades ago) the Wigeon numbered about 40,000! Less than a quarter of that number now ... sobering thought.

So this was one of those 2 or 3 good weather days I was talking about earlier, a bright and breezy afternoon on Strensall Common, no bird action to speak of but just to be out under a blueish sky was good enough for me!
Strensall Common_Feb2014

Strensall Common_Feb2014

Male Bullfinch_askham bog

A rare moment of brightness on Askham Bog recently and this was one of nearly a dozen Bullfinches on the reserve.

Sunday was ok too and lets hope that's it for extreme weather for a while. I working at Moorlands, one of YWTs reserves nr York - famous for its rhododendrons and azalias, it also holds one of the few breeding Nuthatches in the area. These canny, busy little birds inhabit the same kind of places as Woodpeckers and Treecreepers .... tree trunks and branches in other words, and so busy are they that photographing is never easy. Luckily my post at Moorlands is very adjacent to a bird feeding station (which these birds love) and whilst normally avoiding anything that resembles a bag of nuts or a fatball anywhere near my lens, on this occasion I make an exception for one of these pics...

When food is plentiful, these birds are in the habit of secreting seeds & nuts away in the crevices on tree bark and I think this is what's going on in a couple of these pics. 

There was plenty of evidence of birds establishing territorial rights, birdsong and courtship behaviour, none less so than this Robin with an insanely red breast!


Singing Wren_moorlands

...... and never bet against one of our smallest birds in a full on singing contest!
mmmhh...... think this wee Wren needed a rest after that outburst!

Last weekend was when all the Snowdrops came up around here and what a welcome sight they were too ..... these look so fresh and new, especially with a bit of sun on their tops.


Crocus in local fields

...... and just today I noticed many Crocuses (or is that Crocii!?) in the fields near my house. So delicate and I think quite exotic, we would marvel at their beautiful colours if stumbled upon on a far flung foreign holiday wouldn't we?

Crocus in local fields
Crocus in fields

Enough of the bleak midwinter already ... the days are getting longer and at last there's more than flood water to photograph - not that I've recorded any footage, but with the often over the top sensation seeking news teams out on the case with their BBC issued wellies  - I think we get the picture!!



  1. Lovely photographs Tim, especially the Sparrowhawk. Great Blog! Jim

  2. Cheers Jim, glad you've enjoyed the blog. The Spar was just one of those rare lucky moments!

  3. Yet another excellent blog Tim. Cracking pictures all through!

  4. Cheers mikey, be good to get as good a shot of our local goshawks to go with the spar!