Fringe Box

Socialize

Twitter

Birdwatcher’s Diary No.113

Published on: 3 Jul, 2016
Updated on: 3 Jul, 2016

By Malcolm Fincham

A few days’ break gave me the opportunity, once again, to visit my daughter in York.

Officially being allowed to take my cameras on this occasion also gave me the chance of a few ventures.

Although my birdwatching opportunities were not as intensive as I personally prefer, it was accepted by my wife that I would be able to get a few pictures of the wildlife while taking in the beautiful vistas across the Yorkshire moors and dales, during our stay.

York Minster.

York Minster.

However, my first undertaking was to visit York Minster, as I did in my report in March this year. 

Can you spot the peregrine on the north-west tower?

Can you spot the peregrine on the north-west tower?

It was to see if I could relocate the peregrines there. However, they blend in so well with the architecture and York stonework, that it is not easy to get one’s ‘eye in’ and pick them out, as my daughter found to her frustration, as I tried to point out were I could see the female perched.

Female peregrine at York Minister.

Female peregrine at York Minister.

Eventually, with the aid of my binoculars, she was delighted to pick her out as it watched down upon us from a stone grotesque high up on at the north-west end of the minster.

It wasn’t long before the falcon started to let out her typical screeching sound. She had spotted her partner as he returned from a hunt carrying something in his talons.

Peregrine flies in with something in its talons.

Peregrine flies in with something in its talons.

It was immediately obvious to me that they hadn’t raised any young there this year, as I’m sure they would have been creating plenty of noise too at the sight of the adult tercel, returning with food.

A view across the Yorkshire Dales.

A view across the Yorkshire countryside.

Staying for a few days near the North York Moors was a lifetime first for me, revealing some delightful scenery.

And although unfamiliar with the area, it still gave me some good photo opportunities.

Curlew the moors.

Curlew on the moors.

Curlews, the largest of our British waders, could be seen in their breeding grounds on the surrounding moorland.

Curlew flies over.

Curlew flies over.

Occasionally taking flight and making their haunting call.

Lapwing.

Lapwing.

Lapwings could be seen, some now tending to their fluffy chicks.

Lapwing chick on the moors.

Lapwing chick on the moors.

Looking with keen eyes across the heather, I was also able to point out to my wife several red grouse, as their heads could be glimpsed above the heather.

Male and female red grouse.

Male and female red grouse.

Female red grouse.

Female red grouse.

It wasn’t long before she had started to get her eye in too, eventually pointing several out to me in return.

Common snipe on the moors.

Common snipe on the moors.

Common snipe can also be an elusive bird to spot as they blend in with their surroundings, so catching sight of one close by was a real bonus.

Male redstart takes up residence among the dry stone walls.

Male redstart takes up residence among the dry stone walls.

Among other birds seen in areas near the dry stone walls that enclosed the sheep roaming the dales were, redstarts finding crevices in the stonework to raise their young.

Yellowhammer.

Yellowhammer.

Yellowhammers could be heard in good numbers from the hedgerows along the country lanes as we drove along them with windows open.

Willow warbler.

Willow warbler.

Willow warblers also added to the pleasant sounds of the countryside there.

A hare pictured in Yorkshire.

A hare in the Yorkshire countryside.

Adding to my list of record shots were hares, seen feeding on grassland.

Swallow in flight.

Swallow in flight.

Swallows hawking low catching insects.

Trout jumping.

Trout jumping.

Along the streams and lakes, trout could be occasionally seen jumping for mayfly.

Pied wagtail catching a Mayfly.

Pied wagtail catching a Mayfly.

While pied wagtails joined  them as they flew out of reach for the trout.

House sparrow and grey wagtail competing for insects.

House sparrow and grey wagtail competing for insects.

And their cousins, the grey wagtails, competed with house sparrows along the riverbanks for bugs and insects.

House martin tending to its young.

House martin tending to its young.

House martins could be seen returning with food to their nest sites in the eaves of old buildings.

Bempton Cliffs.

Bempton Cliffs.

The highlight of the holiday, for me, had to be a visit to Bempton Cliffs, RSPB reserve.

I was immediately impressed on our arrival by the sight of tree sparrows. Although common in the area, they are a rare sight in Surrey these days.

If you live in North East England and eastern Scotland, tree sparrows may be more familiar to you than house sparrows.

If you live in North East England and eastern Scotland, tree sparrows may be more familiar to you than house sparrows.

Having not seen them myself for a good few years, I took advantage of overloading my camera (and adding a few extra ones to this report) with plenty of pictures of this gregarious and photogenic species as they feed and nested near to the visitor’s centre.

Tree sparrows have a warm red-brown crown, white patches to the side of the head and a small black cheek patch. Males and female look similar.

Tree sparrows have a warm red-brown crown, white patches to the side of the head and a small black cheek patch. Males and female look similar.

Tree sparrows are typically found in lowland countryside preferring land suitable for growing crops. If you live in North East England and eastern Scotland, tree sparrows may be more familiar to you than house sparrows, which have undergone significant losses in South East England.

Tree sparrows are similar to house sparrows and were not officially differentiated in England until 1720.

Tree sparrows are similar to house sparrows and were not officially differentiated in England until 1720.

Their decline is associated with a number of circumstances including: intensive agriculture, hedgerow clearance, loss of old trees, conversion of farm buildings to residences, and more efficient farming techniques.

House sparrow catches a bug.

House sparrow catches a bug.

Their cousins, the house sparrow, has historically dominated urban areas, but have also decreased recently, estimated as dropping by 71% between 1977 and 2008.

Bempton Cliffs, safely fenced off for family viewing.

Bempton Cliffs, safely fenced off for family viewing.

With improving weather and the sun attempting to break though, my prospects of getting some reasonable photos continued to improve at the cliff face.

A small squadron of gannets drift by.

A small squadron of gannets drift by.

My first notable sightings were squadrons of gannets, majestically drifting past at eye level.

A colony of gannets nesting on the cliff face. (1280x724)Looking down from the security of the viewing platforms, colonies of gannets could be seen precariously resting along the cliff-face.

Gannets with one on a nest.

Gannets with one on a nest.

On closer inspection and surprise, some were actually raising young, while tightly hugging the precipice.

Guillemots at Bempton Cliffs RSPB.

Guillemots at Bempton Cliffs RSPB.

Guillemots also jostled for positions along the narrow ledges.

Guillemots at Bempton Cliffs RSPB. with chick. (1280x961)

Guillemots at Bempton Cliffs RSPB. with chick.

With some also raising young.

Guillemots and razorbills at Bempton Cliffs RSPB.

Guillemots and razorbills at Bempton Cliffs RSPB.

The closer I looked, I realised the cliff resembled a large layer-cake lined with various species.

Razorbills. (3) (1280x775)

Razorbills

These included razorbills with their thick black beaks which are deep and blunt, unlike the thinner bill of the similar guillemot.

Guillemots could be seen mainly on a separate layer, although some were happy to share ledges with their ‘auk’ relatives.

Kittiwakes. (2) (1280x826)

Kittiwakes.

Kittiwakes are a gentle looking gull with a small yellow bill and a grey back. Their legs are short and black. In flight the black wing-tips show no white, unlike other gulls, and look as if they have been ‘dipped in ink’.

Along with fulmars, these birds look superficially like gulls but are unrelated, and are in fact petrels.

Fulmars also breed on cliffs.

Fulmars also breed on cliffs.

Fulmars are readily distinguished by their flight on stiff wings, and their tube noses.

With all the activity to watch, it took a while to pick out what many (including myself) would consider the star species there.

Puffins at Bempton Cliffs RSPB.

Puffins at Bempton Cliffs RSPB.

Puffins are sometimes dubbed ‘sea parrots’ as well as ‘clowns of the sea’.

Puffins at Bempton Cliffs RSPB.

Puffins at Bempton Cliffs RSPB.

Atlantic puffins sport large, brightly-coloured beaks on their substantially-sized heads. Crisp black and white markings on their plumage, as well as superior diving capabilities, have led people to compare the northern sea birds to penguins.

Puffins are specially adapted to living on the open sea.

Puffins are specially adapted to living on the open sea.

However, Atlantic puffins are actually not related to penguins at all. They are in fact small sea birds that belong to the auk family.

Puffins are sometimes dubbed 'clowns of the sea'.

Puffins are sometimes dubbed ‘clowns of the sea’.

Puffins are specially adapted to living on the open sea. Waterproof feathers allow them stay warm as they float at the ocean’s surface or swim underwater.

Puffin takes a dive at Bempton Cliffs RSPB.

Puffin takes a dive at Bempton Cliffs RSPB.

Atlantic puffins are also excellent fliers. Flapping their wings at up to 400 beats per minute, puffins can reach speeds of 55mph.

Prising myself from such views is never an easy task. As usual it took a familiar voice at the other end of my mobile phone, telling me my time was up, telling me it was time to make my way back to the visitor centre.

The painted lady is an irruptive migrant, meaning it’s a species that migrates independent of any seasonal or geographic patterns.

The painted lady is an irruptive migrant, meaning it’s a species that migrates independent of any seasonal or geographic patterns.

But not without spotting four painted lady butterflies.

Skylark hovers over the fields singing at Bempton Cliffs.

Skylark hovers over the fields while singing at Bempton Cliffs.

And a skylark sang overhead as I ambled slowly back, like a child being called in from play.

Share This Post

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.