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Monday, October 27, 2014

A rare twitch for me but worth it for some great pics of a Rough Legged Buzzard in the Yorkshire Wolds

I've said it before and doubtless I'll say it again, I'm not a great fan of 'twitching' (man I can't afford the fuel costs for one thing!) but if there's a good bird on my doorstep sure I'll make an effort and so it was the case today many thanks to Mikey for alerting me to this peach of a raptor that's been hanging around for the past few days on the Yorkshire Wolds nr Grindale, just outside of Bridlington ... a Rough Legged Buzzard.

Similar at first sight to our own Common Buzzard, one or two of these sub Arctic hawks over winter here nearly every year and East Yorkshire seems to be a favoured spot for them. They're longer winged than our own, paler with a distinctive white rump and they tend to hover a lot, pretty much like a Kestrel does, and on their breeding grounds further north Lemmings are what they're usually after. Not sure what this one was after but it sure was doing a lot of hovering and have to say it was a wowzer of a bird! Shame about the poor light but if it hangs around I might pop back on a better weather day.

Hovering like a Kestrel but so much bigger!

Nice profile!

From some distance but that white on the rump is so distinctive

Awesome head on view!

Nice in black and white!

Unfocussed I know but it was coming right at me!

Lemmings are in short supply in East Yorkshire but I bet he'd have been interested in this Stoat I spotted on my patch this morning!

Fascinating Fungi and a good find in the Yorkshire Wolds

I've always been semi fascinated by fungi but in common with 99% of us I know next to nothing about these curious fruiting bodies that appear in our woodlands and grasslands at this time of year. Steeped in folklore and for centuries believed to be of manifestations of evil, the truth is that without these fungal growths the majority of our trees and wild flowers could not thrive. So lets hear it for fascinating fungi!!

Here's a few I've seen recently at YWT reserve Moorlands and been confident enough to identify.....

Glistening Inkcaps, Moorlands

Fairy Inkcaps, Moorlands

Clavulina Rugosa (Wrinkled Cub), Moorlands
Ganoderma applanatum (Artists Fungi), Moorlands

When I was in France, where it has to be said fungi, mushrooms or 'fets' as they call them over there are much more obvious, I was equally fascinated at around this time of year and can remember taking absolutely loads of pics of these fleshy forms, some of the like I've never seen since and of course have never got around to identifying ... here's a small selection of these delightful fleshy French fancies!


Some mushrooms and associated fungi are edible, some are not and some are downright poisonous so if in doubt just leave well alone. To my knowledge you can't do it here, but in France its part of a chemist's role to help out mushroom foragers by identifying the ones you can eat ... sound idea.
Back to the UK and a great little spot I've found on the Yorkshire Wolds called Cot Nab, a couple of valleys away from Great Givendale. Impressive valleys and chalky hills are a feature of the Wolds but here there's also some decent and sizeable bits deciduous woodland that are otherwise in short supply.

Lots of Pheasants (and I mean 100s) exploding out of the grass which I don't always like to see, not just because they're obviously being reared so a bit unnatural, but also because they make such a racket and scare many other birds away! This one must have injured itself somehow because it was just flapping around on the grass ....I couldn't deal with it but I have at least one mate who would have had it dispatched, plucked and in the pot in no time!
Returning to Fungi and this splendid thing is a Shaggy Inkcap and was all alone at the bottom of the valley ... very impressive and dare I say 'shagtastic'!


This is probably a very fresh Bolbitius Titubans or Yellow Fieldcap ... very small and unusual in colour.
 ..... and these tightly packed fruiting bodies are perhaps Field Blewit?

As ever I welcome any comments so any fungi enthusiasts out there who want to put me right on any of my amateur identification skills are very welcome to tune in.



Thursday, October 16, 2014

Birds in the hand, birds in the bush, Owls in the air.... Autumn migration time again at Flamborough

Here's a 'quicky' from Flamborough and Buckton ....a day out birding yesterday with Rob to catch a bit of incoming migration. Given the north easterlie's and associated rain over the past couple of days I for one was expectant of squadrons of Redwings & Fieldfares advancing into the UK over the North sea and a bit of Autumn migration mayhem on the headland.

Didn't quite pan out as planned but hey it rarely does! Equally rarely is there never something a bit 'unexpected' turning up - that's the nature of birds on the move and although we dipped out on a Great Grey Shrike and by all accounts most of the winter thrushes made landfall in Norfolk, we had more than enough to keep us happy throughout the day.

2 caught & ringed Stonechats

You've heard the saying 'a bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush' .. of course you have, but what does mean? I should know but it's an easy google search so if you're bothered you'll know soon, but by way of a slightly clumsy link here's 2 birds in the hand and 1 in a bush!
1 of many Goldcrests on the headland
The Stonechats are male and female and both immature. They were both caught in mist nets at Buckton (nr Bempton) and then ringed so that we can learn more about their movements in the coming years. Its unlikely and rather a fanciful idea but maybe they're brother & sister from the same brood migrating together?! Like I say, a bit fanciful, but one thing we do know is that as with the vast majority of small birds on the headland they've recently flown across the North Sea from somewhere like Scandinavia.

European Robin
It was good to catch up with Mark Thomas again (the Buckton Birder) - he was the one doing all the ringing and a mighty fine job he does too. The Goldcrest above had evaded his nets for the time being - it was one of about 10 we flushed from a cliff side ravine in which we also disturbed a roosting Barn Owl, but he'd already ringed plenty and there were maybe upwards of 100 that we recorded in the general vicinity. Although we didn't see them, he'd also ringed Whitethroat and Garden Warbler (both very late migrants). The most obvious passage migrants around were of course Robins and I'd guess he must have ringed scores of them as they were everywhere!

Short Eared Owl, Buckton

Little chance of this getting caught up in the mist nets though, a superb Short Eared Owl we watched in off the sea and then get predictably harassed by corvids!

Yeah the light wasn't the greatest!

Back at Flamborough and doing a stint of sea watching from the lighthouse these were a pair of unexpected ducks - Velvet Scoter. Much rarer than the most often seen Common Scoter they're a treat to see so close to coastline. Mainly coastal in their wintering grounds south of the Arctic circle, they're more associated with boulder strewn lakes and wooded shorelines in their breeding grounds of Northernmost Europe

We also had a few Red Throated Divers on the sea here, plus some Common Scoter and someone had recently spotted a Grey Phalarope and a Little Auk on the sea earlier in the morning. The only other thing we saw on the sea were this pair of frolicking Seals ... looked like they were having fun in the warm and mild conditions.

Other birds of note both here and at Buckton were some impressive numbers of passing Skylarks (200ish), a Wheatear, about 20 Song Thrushes and 200+ Blackbirds, 30 Meadow Pipits, 1 Brambling, 1 Siskin, 10ish Chiff Chaffs and 10ish Blackcaps (one of which, a female with the wind blowing its red cap into a plume I thought for a second was a Waxwing.... one of those slightly embarrassing id moments!) Oh and we did see a few Redwings (about 15) and 2 Fieldfares eventually.

We might not have had the numbers of migrating birds, the weather was maybe too quiet, but always good to be out and about when any birds are coming in from distant lands and moving through in front of you. That Short Eared Owl was the highlight for me ...a good bird to have anywhere.

And you just can't leave the cliffs at Buckton without photographing at least 1 Gannet and hoping that it comes out like one of Steve Race's!

Buckton Gannet

......maybe next time!!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Welcome to Fangfoss! Buzzard county, Owls a plenty and the natives friendly.

All sorted, house sold and me and the van have landed at a treasure of a site called Fangfoss Park.. just outside of York. The site lies adjacent to the old York - Hull railway line and the owners house and site office is the old station masters house. Really nice, easy going and friendly owners they are too, the showers are hot and the local wildlife seems promising. Seriously doubt I'll find anywhere better so this will be my home until December and possibly when I get back from Spain next year.

Here's a pic I've copied courtesy of Robert Ore because it shows the exact location of my current pitch on the site, right next to the old disused railway line and that fab old telephone box!

My current pitch on the site

There's a couple of good bridle paths just off the site (one of which is the disused railway line) with some impressive looking hedges and the fields around and about are not too intensively farmed either. As a local patch its shaping up and already I've had 58 bird species plus a fox, stoat, several deer, lots of rabbits and hares and evidence of badger activity.

Most obvious I guess are the local Buzzards, at least 3 pairs and they're always getting mobbed by Rooks. No sooner do they land and they're set upon by marauders from above!

Like most birds of prey, its an occupational hazard being mobbed in this way. Although it's very rare for Common Buzzards to predate other birds, their main prey being rabbits and other small mammals, but they will take chicks out of nests and most rookeries are accessible so hence the aggro!

With the UK population of Common Buzzards now approaching 70,000 pairs (BTO, 2009) we're all getting used to seeing them glide around the countryside like these, my local ones  ....

Nice overhead shot ... looks almost unreal!

.... and I'm sure they're much happier drifting about the skies unfettered, but before long the Rooks are on the case and this same individual was soon surrounded by winged shapes, like a squadron of black mobsters!

With what appears to be an unusually high but very welcome number of traditional farmland birds such as Yellowhammers, Tree Sparrows and Skylarks in the area at the moment I'm not surprised to be seeing a rather well fed Sparrowhawk which I see nearly everyday but not yet managed to capture. There's also a pair of Kestrels that hunt across the local fields.

Common Kestrel
Little Owl

There's both Tawny and Barn Owls around here (I've heard both) but anywhere you see a Little Owl is reflective of traditionally managed farmland, and I've found one here. Not sure if its one of a pair or just a  youngster seeking a territory but here he (or she) is, typically posed amid a tangle of twigs .. took me ages to relocate after flushing it from raggle taggle field full of rusty old farm machinery ... just the place for one!

Here's a few random shots of my new patch!

Fangfoss Beck... with the Yorkshire Wolds in the background

Green lane out of the campsite

Spittal Beck again

Apple tree .... one of several 'non' crab apple types
Crab Apples

I had one of those apples and it was bloomin good! Here's the commoner and altogether less tasty Crab Apples that seem bountiful this year.

.... and with Autumn already upon us and fungi beginning to emerge, I'm eagerly awaiting the first falls of Redwings and Fieldfares, both of which will soon be feasting upon all this fruit.

Pleated Inkcap

Willow Warbler
Nice 'shroom that, and as often happens, on the morning I took that pic (October 3rd it was) and feeling the seasons collide as leaves were falling in unseasonally warm sunshine, I had 2 Swallows race over my head due south and then this slender green warbler flitting about in a bush right next to me.

Sure there'll be a few more Chiff Chaffs about into October but this will be last Willow Warbler I see for a while.