Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Thrushes in the snow

Sunday saw a morning of snow. Several hours of light stuff which was enough to cover over the ice and make it decidedly slippery in places.

Trundled out along the Hudson Way on the north side of Beverley in search of anything and ended up trying to find posing Redwings. They seem to be rather good at sitting behind twigs in the Hawthorns rather than clearly in the open!

And just for practice, Blackbirds in action!

The Bullfinch seem to number just two birds around the footbridge and car park near the Hayride pub, rather than the flock of 20 or so that was present when the weather got cold late last month, and neither seemed to want to sit around long enough for a photo.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Birding in the freezer

Following the relative warm relief of a week ago, temperatures have plunged once again.

Today, Saturday, was delightfully sunny, but I have to admit I'm getting rather fed up with these sub-zero temperatures. With the mercury rising to a maximum of zero degrees Celsius, it was rather cold at Tophill Low NR.

The approach road is still an interesting drive... D reservoir is still iced up but looks very pretty, and the north end was still open for the Coot spotters among us!

Looking south from middle hide hence no Coots!

I walked as far as North Marsh which was well frozen (above) and spent late-morning til dusk watching, listening and FREEZING!!!

Sitting still and shivering does have its rewards though with sightings including a female Merlin that headed east over D Wood and onwards over the carr lands to the east of the River Hull, 2 Buzzards to the east of the site and a mobile flock of Siskins bouncing backwards and forwards across the river. A Woodcock briefly wandered along the old North Marsh path during one of my warm up breaks from the hide, and a probable Marsh Tit, still a Tophill rare, was calling in D Wood, though some over excited Pheasants that have survived recent shoots decided, as the probable Marsh Tit called, to make a right racket in celebration of still being alive!

Mid-afternoon, this Bittern flew in high from the direction of Brandesburton ponds and headed south along the river.

Numerous footprints can be seen over the frozen North Marsh. This Fox trotted down the marsh giving me an icy stare when the shutter clicked.

Taking advantage of the cold was a Wood Mouse. Leaving the relative safety of D Wood to explore, it spent several hours under some reed stems on the island in front of the hide, occasionally providing fleeting glimpses in the open...

before taking the opportunity to head further east to the river bank... perhaps hoping to tick the River Hull!

Wood Mouse over the ice at pace... despite the danger of freezing it's nuts off!

Despite the weather, this Yellow Stagshorn was found at the north end of the site. Yet another addition to the site fungi list and credit to Doug Fairweather for wanting to explore... a great way of keeping warm!

But as I curse the cold, it makes me look forward to once again encountering my old foe Chrysops relictus

It will soon be Spring...

Sunday, 12 December 2010

The final beetle of the year?

Some pictures from North Yorkshire of Rhagium bifasciatum - Two-banded Longhorn.

A colony was discovered in a pile of larch logs recently. However, the log pile has now been dismantled and the colony is now gone. Shame really because it looks like a smart looking beast.

Pictures from Doug Fairweather

Frosty time

With fungi finding a little difficult in recent times due to the snow, here is the latest species Doug Fairweather has been able to add to the Tophill Low NR fungi list at the back end of November - Frosty Funnel.

However, it doesn't appear to show well in the snow!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

All iced up

With the temperatures rising from -14C earlier in the week to an astonishing +7C I took the opportunity to head to Tophill Low. Despite the road still being rather fun to drive along and the majority of the site remaining iced, there was still the odd thing to brighten the afternoon.

Spent most of the visit sat in North Marsh hide with Tony McLean who seems able to sit there for hours despite the chilly weather taking nice photos. Click here to see more. A couple of Buzzards, numerous Siskins and the odd Brambling calling from the north end kept the morale going and 3 Goosanders flew south along the river at dusk. A fox trundled over the frozen water giving an icy stare when the shutters clattered as it struck a pose!

Most of D res is frozen, though a small open area on the west side held a small selection of birds. The highlight was a Ruddy Shelduck, of unknown origin but the first I've ever seen - I might tick it! A drake Pintail stood out on the ice despite being distant and the rest was made up of assorted Coots (one sporting a red colour ring on its left leg), Greylags and the odd Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard and Goldeneye.

Ruddy Shelduck, asleep and showing distantly under the V

More of Tophill's winter pictures can be seen here on the warden's blog.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Big freeze birding

Currently I'm semi-confined to the house, well I can't use the car... getting to the road from the drive will require some hope that I can create enough momentum to take me through the foot of snow that I dare not move on the path/road edge for fear someone will slip on the nice clean 'snow free bit' once it freezes... and actually driving on the road will require me to have the combined driving skills of Messers Hamilton, Button, Vettel and Alonso... though they don't like the wet so they sure wouldn't like the several inches of ice that will take me half a mile, with a slight downhill dip into oncoming traffic, to something looking like tarmac!

So I'm stuck with 'on the foot birding'.

A tour of the old patch, the area I did as kid, which is the old Beverley to York railway, now known as the Hudson Way, yielded 34 species during the afternoon. The Bullfinch numbers had declined to just 6, no sign of any colour-ringed birds, but they included a Northern Bullfinch opposite the Hayride Pub and a flock of 23 Waxwings, made up of mostly drab 1st winter birds but one cracking probable adult male stood out well despite the grey skies and rain as the light dwindled. Other unexpected sightings included 2-3 Snipe and a Redshank, species obviously looking for some suitable habitat.

Hope for a little sun tomorrow and some Waxwing pics!

The big icicle!

As a constant weather watcher, I was rather impressed by the icicle held by BBC weather presenter Tomasz Schafernaker somewhere up North during the BBC News one afternoon this week... it looked like fencing sword, maybe a metre long. And the fact he held it so long in his glove without it melting and snapping showed just how cold the temperature was where he stood.

As the bad weather continues, I was intrigued this morning by icicle growth! During the cold period earlier in the year, I measured a few that hung down from the roof and noted some that reached lengths of 50cms or so. Impressive pieces of nature. However, the one I noticed today was bigger... and better. Mid-morning it measured a mighty 70.2cms, growing to 71.5cms just after 11am, and to an astonishing 73.2cms by 11.20am. Just shows how cold the temperature was despite the constant 'drip drip' as a slight thaw began.

It was noticeable by early afternoon that temperatures had increased, with the icicle measuring around 63cms when this photo (below) was taken. The tape doesn't show up so well but the red blob near the bottom of the icicle is 24 inches!

Unfortunately, a small avalanche from the conservatory roof ended the life of the icicle... best look tomorrow for something to maybe reach 80cms or beyond!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Colour-ringed Bullfinch

With the side roads resembling a skating rink after the nights 'delightful' snow, I decided to avoid driving and walk a few miles of the old Beverley to York disused railway path. Without getting to far from the estates, I stumbled upon a flock of Bullfinch, maybe 20 in all, and accidently ended up taking pictures of this colour-ringed bird.

Not much else to see, but the highlight of the walk was c21 Lesser Redpolls near the bridge where the Cherry Burton-Leconfield backroad crosses.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Sagres raptor migration October 2010 part three - when the birds got boring!

So having blogged the birds, here are some of the other things to see when the searching the Sagres skies for birds of prey gets a little tedious.

One of the more striking things to notice is the huge numbers of Sympetrum moving north. Like an army on the move, they swarm past as far as the eye can see. With a little study, and some rough calculations of the viewing area, some days during the period saw counts of up to 359,000 passing at ground level – wonder how many passed higher up? However, it is rather scary to note that numbers appeared down compared to my trip two years ago when maybe a million passed by on some days – and having a window open while driving from Lagos to Sagres could see you ending up with a car full of dragonflies!!!

The majority of this Sympetrum army appear to be Red-veined and Common Darter, though they are regularly punctuated by the odd Anax spp – either an Emperor, Lesser Emperor or Vagrant Emperor.

Also more frequent in number during this trip were Migrant Hawkers. Many more than previous years, particularly in the Sagres area.

Away from Sagres, plenty of dragonflies are easily seen in the Boca Do Rio, three species of Emperor, hawkers and plenty of darters.

Mothing wise it was pretty quiet this time around. The only one of note was a Crimson Speckled out mid-afternoon during heavy rain in the Boca Do Rio, while Hummingbird Hawk-moths appeared to be present in good number from Lagos west to Sagres.

With few flowers out, butterfly numbers weren’t huge but Small Copper, Painted Lady, Peacock and Red Admiral were seen each day.

Only regular, albeit beautiful, Swallowtail were seen and a few Long-tailed Blue were on the wing.

And if that wasn’t enough to fill the time, there was always the impressive looking longhorn Monochamus galloprovincialis to watch… not many on 'the hill' in Sagres but still seen most days.

Grasshoppers were plentiful, albeit species variety didn’t seem that diverse!

Blue-winged Grasshopper Oedipoda caerulescens (above), and 'Red-winged' Grasshopper Oedipoda germanica (below), look pretty dull on the deck... but when they fly they are stunning.

Searching around the pines I noticed this Graphosoma lineatum – a rather striking little bug.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Affected by climate change? Maybe birders should migrate south!

A couple of pictures showing the recent change in climate I'm enduring...

Feeling warm at home watching the wildfowl heading south over Yorkshire...

And enjoying the chilly breeze in Sagres, southwest Portugal, as the temperatures start to drop!

I know where I'd rather watch viz mig!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

From earlier in the season

From the start of the summer, which seems a long time ago now as the temperature starts to plummet, this little bug was noted at Tophill Low NR. Not sure what instar it is, but it appears to be a first for the site - Troilus luridus.

Fungi list passes 250!

Parrot Wax Cap - the slimey greenish cap and dark location made taking good pictures very difficult

As ever, as well as the birding it always pays to be looking for new things to brighten the day.

Unfortunately I walked passed this one, and fortunately my feet didn't find it, and following behind was the sharp-eyed Doug Fairweather who was able to add Parrot Wax Cap to the Tophill Low NR fungi list.

The species Trechispora mollusca was also added to the list.

And one that caused a little bit of bafflement, but we got there eventually with this probable Gymnopilus hybridus.

Acrobats of the Alders

Despite the recent winds, the Siskin flocks still manage to get hidden in the tops of the Alders and there are still too many leaves on the surrounding trees to get clear shots of them. This selection was from a group of c15-20 birds in D Wood at Tophill Low NR in the late-afternoon sunshine on Saturday.

Also present, and showing badly, was this Lesser Redpoll which briefly emerged from behind the leaves.

And the mixed flock also included a few Goldfinch while a Brambling was calling in the vicinty but not sure if was just a flyover.

The other birdy highlights included a Buzzard, a Pink-footed Goose and a 2nd winter Mediterranean Gull in the evening roost.

As the weather cools, still 3 Common Darter were found on the wing, Doug Fairweather catching this ageing individual on camera.