Thursday, 29 September 2011

Golden Arrivals

We had 2 consecutive days on the bank of the Humber in glorious sunshine, and the bigger surprise - no unpleasant winds. Yesterday morning group saw 38 species - which doesn't include the dead Guillemot! The waders were better in the morning just after the tide went out. There were at least 28 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Knot, some Dunlin & Ringed Plover. There was a large flock of 1000+ Golden Plover with a Sprinkling of Grey Plovers, whilst the noisiest birds were the bubbling Curlews, and one Whimbrel. More Golden Plovers seemed to be arriving from higher ground during the late morning. More unusual were 2 immature Gannets heading east along the river in the afternoon. The only raptor was a Kestrel. The Wheatears & Yellow Wagtails from last week had moved on. This venue is a lot better for birds in late October, so we'll have to change back to that time next year, plus visit at a time of high tide for maximum impact!
Golden Plovers
Golden Plovers
Golden Plovers
Sea Aster

Monday, 26 September 2011


Today I was invited to a local Buddhist retreat, originally to see if I could take on the task of erecting, maintaining and cleaning out the nest boxes, but also to see if this was a suitable venue to take my classes. The answer to this came almost immediately, as I opened the door of my car to be confronted with the call of a Nuthatch - a locally scarce bird. In quick succession I also heard Marsh Tits sneezing, the high-pitched call of a Treecreeper, the ugly screech of a Jay, and the flight call of a Green Woodpecker.

A walk round the site included patches of woodland, a walled garden, a couple of lakes, capacious lawns and rough grassland. There were other birds, including Siskins, Redpolls & Skylarks, but these were all heard rather than seen. There is a cafe, which is open Wednesdays to Sundays, a toilet, and a big enough car park, so this venue should have great potential for a spring visit to take advantage of the birdsong. Next a meeting with the owners is to be arranged to ensure that future visits may take place, but the prospects look very promising indeed.

Back at the car park many Hornets were flying around in the warm morning sunshine, whilst Red Admirals, Speckled Woods and Migrant Hawkers were on the wing - with only a Comma basking in the warmth.

More Stars than Hollywood

Local naturalist Barry Warrington has made yet another interesting find, and yesterday he offered to show me the results. I made the trip to the lonely wilds of East Yorkshire & we popped into some scraps of woodland behind a tacky supermarket to see the stars in all their glory. Last week Barry counted at least 93 of them, and they were still present in all different stages of development. I came across a few of these at Spurn several years ago, and I've shown my groups a handful at Potteric Carr, but I'd never seen such fine examples, or so many. There were also some Fly Agarics, some Blushers, Birch Polypores, Hoof Fungus, Common Earthball, some puffball, some Candle-Snuff, and several species to which it wasn't possible to put a name. It's amazing that such an apparently uninspiring scrap of woodland could hold so many interesting species of fungi.

Collared Earth-Star at Full Magnitude
Collared Earth-Star - on the wane
Collared Earth-Star - one just opening up
The Blusher
Another Earth-Star Species at Potteric Carr
Unidentified Fungi Species
Shaggy Parasol
Common Earthball

Sunday, 25 September 2011

2012 Calendar Competition: Week 1

The May 2012 Calendar picture

There's always a little healthy competitive rivalry between my different classes. Sometimes an afternoon person will ask if the am group saw as wonderful a species as they'd just identified, or an am pupil will enquire if last week's afternoon's session was as good as the morning had been. In this spirit of friendly rivalry, here's the calendar sales results after the 1st full week of sales.
1. Wednesday morning - 11
2. Tuesday morning - 8
3. Thursday morning & Friday afternoon - 7
5. Friday morning - 6
6. Wednesday afternoon - 5
7. Tuesday afternoon & Thursday afternoon - 0
Grand Total - 44
So, if that sample is representative, it seems that the calendars are more popular with morning attendees, than afternoons. In fairness it should be pointed out that quite a lot of afternoon folks were on holiday last week, and there's plenty of time for them to catch-up!

More details of the calendar can be read by clicking on the picture in the top right-hand section of the blog

Friday, 23 September 2011

Dancing with the Devil

Today we visited the venue which often seems the windiest place in the county. The forecast said the winds wouldn't exceed 12 mph, but in the morning it felt a lot stronger than that! There weren't any fishermen to guard the cars, so to avoid a repeat of the attempted break-in of last week we shifted to the reserve car park. It's not a great site for getting close-up photographs of most of the wildlife, so the Turnstone (pm), Ringed Plover, Meadow Pipits, Golden Plovers, Dunlin, Shelduck, Curlew, Gannets & most other wildlife remained un-photographed. One of the highlights of the morning were 7 Yellow Wagtails and a Wheatear on a grassy car park. These were harder to see in the afternoon as the car park was a lot busier & the birds were disturbed by a slow walking obese couple who refused to pay the entrance costs of the 'attraction' they had come to visit.

The tide didn't reach the high tide mark before the conclusion of the afternoon class, so most of the waders remained distant, although a pretty reliable stream of Golden Plovers swept over our heads on & off during the day, with an occasional flock of Dunlin or Ringed Plovers. I'm going to have to ensure that next year we visit on a day when the high tide is around lunch tiome, so both am & pm classes can benefit from the birds brought in by higher water levels.

The find of the day was probably the Devil's Coach-Horse, which was new to every morning participant, although most reference works describe it as common. We saw 2 of these at Tophill Low last week, but no one had a camera on that particular occasion. When the 'Cocktail' originally raised its tail it had a white substance either side of the underside of the tail, but this doesn't appear in any of the photographs taken - maybe next time!

Devil's Coach-Horse
Sometimes called Cocktail for some reason!
Devil's Coach-Horse
Record Shot of Wheatear
Yellow Wagtail
Bar-tailed Godwits

The Eyes Have It

Yesterday didn't begin very promisingly with major path construction work underway, plus several of the pools completely devoid of standing water. Some of the Usual Suspects were still present, but many of the waders which were there a fortnight ago had departed. The reserve is now awaiting the high tides at the end of this month to see if flood waters will replenish the water supply. Despite this we did see: 4 Curlew Sandpipers, 3 Greenshank, a handful of Black-tailed Godwits, Redshank, Snipe, Little Egret, Heron, Shelduck, Shoveler, Teal & Mallard. About 6 different individual Marsh Harriers were seen, and a Kestrel being mobbed by a crow, but the highlight of the afternoon was provided by a common or garden Sparrowhawk. I pointed it out to my 'pupils' having a drink but a photographer with a much longer lens managed to get on to it & fire off the impressive shots below. Thanks to Ray Schofield for sending his pictures. The path construction work was completed, so visitors to the reserve today shouldn't encounter the same problems
Sparrowhawk (c) 2011 Ray Schofield
Sparrowhawk (c) 2011 Ray Schofield
Sparrowhawk (c) 2011 Ray Schofield
Below - the best I could manage of the same bird!

Heron (c) 2011 Ray Schofield
Little Egret
Marsh Harrier
Record Shot of Greenshank
Red Underwing
Blow-fly sp