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Friday, December 19, 2014

Winter begins around the Yorkshire Wolds... tricky thrushes, cunning hawks and peckers out of the window!

 At last a taste of real Winter .... early morning frosts, crisp sunshine and biting winds. I don't mind the first two bits of weather and just as well there hasn't been too much of the latter, I don't do wind of any sort!

Stoat_Cot Nab


So, with a road trip to Spain almost upon me, Otters in my back yard (so to speak) and some recording studio work to complete I've stayed very local and just tried to get a feel for December around my bit of the Yorkshire Wolds.

Scanning the beck at Fangfoss nearly every day in the hope of seeing those Otters again has proved predictably fruitless but I did get another mammalian shot recently - a nice Stoat during a splendid morning walk around Cot Nab and Swingling Moor.

Swingling Moor
Swingling Moor


I don't think I'm alone in finding both of our most attractive winter thrushes, Redwings and Fieldfares, seriously tricky to photograph. It was the same last year and I recall getting quite frustrated by their tendency to perch nicely but always just beyond reach of the lens!

Faired a bit better this year I think, mainly because they're all over the hedgerows here at Fangfoss so you can't miss them. Don't make em any easier though! This is a reasonable handful out of more than a hundred discards...



Redwings seem to be even skittier, the slightest movement of lens towards the bird and they're off!

This little bunch are all distance shots, and to my mind might as well have been digi scoped such is the poor quality, but at least the light was good on all 3

Redwing_Little Beck Woods


Seriously need to consider upgrading or getting a second hand 'full frame' camera with a faster shutter speed to stand me a better chance of sharper images when birds are in flight. Too many of my 'bird flying' pics have those annoying blurry wing tips goddammit!
No wing tip movement from this startlingly good looking male Yellowhammer I managed to get the other day though....


What a beauty!

Not as immediately striking perhaps but smart nonetheless, closely related Reed Buntings are relatively scarce around here but there are quite a few around the numerous becks that run through many of the Wold valleys, this was one of several hanging around the natural springs near Bishop Wilton.

 Reed Bunting_Whitekeld Dyke
 Not a winter visitor as such but our UK numbers of Reed Buntings are swelled by continental birds at this time of the year. Golden Plovers are a totally different type of bird and one I always associate with cold weather days. These 'plump' waders form vast flocks across our remaining grasslands as they move in for the Winter. Although they do breed in upland areas of the UK (including the Yorkshire Dales and Moors) many more come here from the Arctic tundra and the way this smallish flock (there were 65 in total) flew in from a north easterly direction and settled in a winter wheat field on the highest point of the Wolds, maybe that's just where they'd come from ... they did look knackered!
 Golden Plover_Bishop Wilton Wold (Garrowby Top)

 Golden Plover_Bishop Wilton Wold (Garrowby Top)
 Common Buzzard_Fangfoss

My local Buzzards are looking as menacing as ever.... commonly photographed by all and sundry these days they still have the power to thrill me and always provide a challenge in terms of that perfect 'hawk shot'. This isn't it by any stretch of imagination but I decided to track this one and my patience was rewarded with a nice stoop shot .......
..........and some unusual images of the same bird hunting low down behind trees. Suitably 'menacing' I thought.

Back at the ranch and preparing lunch one day I got my first good pics using the Van as a hide. I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker calling, one of a pair that hang around the site but right at the top of the trees behind my van. So these are out of my back window ...  
Great Spotted Woodpecker_Fangfoss Park

On the up apparently are GSPeckers, not sure why but any increase in woodpecker numbers is jolly good order and I just love that splash of red ... always reminds me of a coat I bought for a girlfriend many years ago in exactly the same shade of red!

 Great Spotted Woodpecker_Fangfoss Park

Ok! So that's my brief little round up of Winter fare around these parts, nothing out of the ordinary perhaps but I've really appreciated this corner of rural East Yorks, its wonderful wildlife and landscapes, and having this fabulous caravan site ( Fangfoss Caravan Park) as a base for the past 3 months has been a real bonus.... that's gotta be worth £50 off my ground rent for next year Simon!

So now its Spain a go go! I'm all ready, have everything I need and want for the trip except, bizarrely, my passport...don't ask, its a long story and it involves overblown bureaucracy, so very boring and it wont stop me ... Southwards here we go! Oh and Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Otter Surprise!

Apparently Otters are now present on the water courses of every county in the UK and back to something like their historic numbers before river pollution and agricultural pesticides in the post war years nearly wiped them out. Now, thanks to steady and sustained improvements in water quality and the use of less harmful pesticides over the past couple of decades, the chances of coming across these charming and iconic creatures on our waterways have vastly improved.

On the Western coasts of Scotland they have adapted to become semi marine and are relatively easy to see on the rocky beaches and secluded inlets up there, but in the rest of the UK, although more numerous, they remain elusive and its a real treat when you come across one. Well was I treated a couple of mornings ago or what! On my local patch here at Fangfoss Park on the Spittal Beck I'd just grabbed a new bird for the site, a Kingfisher darting down the beck, and then some dark shapes in the water caught my eye. For the next 20 minutes I was utterly transfixed, treated and smiled upon by the photographic gods as 2 Otters (cubs I think) played around on the beckside and swam in the water directly in front of me!

Less nattering from me, here's the pics more or less in sequence. My only slight regret is that I didn't get more of the 2 of them together but hey I won't see these delightful animals again at such close quarters for a very long time, so I have to be very satisfied with these images.

I'd welcome any suggestions about age/ sex but I'm guessing that these are relatively young cubs exploring. They're sighted often on both the Pocklington Canal and the River Derwent both of which this beck connects to in a roundabout sort of way, so maybe they've come upstream looking for potential breeding grounds?

Been down several times since in the hope of catching them again and every time the beck is 'utterly Otterless' and I tell myself  'wow you were lucky there Timbo!' .... right time, right place and I don't expect to see them again any time soon!

Want some great places to see Otters? Locally Tophill Low, Wheldrake Ings, Staveley and the aforementioned Pocklington Canal are all worth watching as well as these national sites - Great places to see Otters