Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Beginning of the Return

Yesterday was my first day off for a while and I needed to get out, so as it was warm and sunny, I popped over to Tophill to see what was about. I was going to say that it was all very quiet, but actually that wasn’t the case at all. It was true that most of the waterfowl seem to have left for their summer climes, but the air was full of birdsong.

I have always struggled to get decent shots of Goldcrests, and yesterday was no different. Like many others of the “small brown” species, they had all moved to the tops of the trees with the males full of song in their attempts to attract mates. Lots of birds to see, but in the confines of the woods there was not much to photograph but their unattractive undersides.
However, that was not true of the Chiffchaffs. I counted at least four around the site, with one at the Watton end of the site giving the best views. It is good to see the first of the summer arrivals. I can’t wait till the Blackcaps and other warblers return.

My first Chiffchaff of the year

Chiffchaff - note yellowish armpits

Chiffchaff - in fully song
I am also anticipating the arrival of the swallows and martins, hoping that Richard’s work on a potential new sand martin colony pays off.

The warm weather, however, seems to be confusing the butterflies. I saw plenty of Tortoiseshells and Peacocks, but the Brimstones and Orange Tips seem to be wiser and staying asleep. I was surprised to come across a Comma though.

Comma from Watton hide

A new resident on the pond by D North hide

Keeping an eye on the neighbours

It was noticeable how many Treecreepers there are around "D" Woods, and heartening that so many have survived the winter. Interestingly, I noticed a couple taking an interest in a bat box. Whether that was in an attempt to find a tasty morsel or two, or in the search for a nesting site, I don't know. I will keep an eye on it for future photo opportunities.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

We all have our favourite places. One of mine is only a few miles away from home and offers a variety of different species at different times throughout the year. The winter brings large flocks of Fieldfare and Redwing, as well as mixed flocks of finches; spring brings Lapwings, Golden Plover, and Meadow Pipits; summer see the arrival of more migrants, including Redstart and Pied Flycatcher; while autumn see overflying geese and the arrival of winter visitors. Throughout there are always predators, and earlier this week I came across a great selection of raptors – some expected, a couple of surprises, and one definitely unwanted visitor!

The expected sightings were of Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, and Peregrine – the latter newly returned from their coastal / lowland winter quarters.



Peregrine Falcon
The Peregrine were especially entertaining, with a male and female re-establishing both their territory and relationship. Indeed, their site was briefly visited by a second male before he was quickly seen off by the incumbent. Once driven off our male reinforced his position with unbridled views of peregrine sex – much to the noisy complaints of his partner! Let’s hope they are successful again.

The new sightings included singleton Red Kite and Hen Harrier. With so much of this part of the Wolds given over to rough pasture and cover for game birds, both species appeared to be in their element as they quartered fields in their search for a meal. Both birds were seen a number of times through the week, but I am expecting the Harrier to move north in the coming weeks as spring really arrives.

Hen Harrier

Red Kite
The unwanted visitors are linked to the Olympics. The area is being used by the RAF to practice how to deal with flying terrorist bombs (in the form of a light aircraft). The tactics appear to be initial challenges from chasing Lynx helicopters, and if this is not enough, then the escorting Typhoon jets can shoot it down. However, the Typhoons need to fly almost at a stall in order to fly slow enough, meaning that the noise has been quite incredible and would be enough to drive any sane person nuts. Hopefully, they will have practiced enough soon and will leave us in peace again.

Man-made raptor

Friday, 2 March 2012

Vibrancy on an overcast day

I had hoped that today was going to be a repeat of yesterday’s lovely spring day, but it was colder and mistier. Nevertheless, and in the expectation that the day would improve, I drove south to see if I could get some better views of Red Kites. Unfortunately by the time I arrived at the venue, most of the Kites had dispersed across the countryside on the lookout for food. There were a couple, but they seemed happy to stay close to their roost.

Red Kite
A pair of Buzzards gave some distant views as they soared on what thermals they could find, calling to each other as they rose in the air.  Whether this calling is a prelude to pairing up or just regular Buzzard-talk I’m not sure, but the sound was so evocative of the wild as it echoed around the dale and the surrounding woodland.

Common Buzzard
Another strong voice could be heard from the top of a tall beech tree a few hundred yards away. A male Song Thrush gave it his all, proclaiming his territory and advertising for a mate. He was by far the loudest in the dale, even above the persistence of the local Great Tits and Jackdaws. Only the local tractor managed to drown him out.

Further along the road where it drops downhill, there were a pair of Green Woodpeckers, both female given the black patch under the eyes. One watched from the safety of a fence post while the other probed the anthills and grass tussocks for a snack. Given that only one bird entered the field, I would hazard a guess that there is a territorial issue at play. When the feeding bird left the field, the other made a beeline for it, followed by a mid-air scrap before escaping to the woods. The Green Woodpecker has always been one of my favourites; a terrific red cap, green back, and yellow tail, it really is a sight to behold. The only down side is its call which always makes me think it is laughing at me. Never mind, they are always a very welcome sight.

Green Woodpecker

Green Woodpecker (male)

Grren Woodpecker

Green Woodpecker