Thursday, 22 February 2018

Yorkshire Arboretum

A cold, sunny day for my first visit to this large site, with the promise of some Hawfinches, which have been resident in the area since their irruption last October. The Hawfinches did not disappoint, about a dozen flew over before we left the visitor centre and they show a few more times about the place, mostly atop trees, but also one feeding on the ground, with a mixed flock of Greenfinches, Redwings, Brambling and Chaffinches. Finches are indeed plentiful in the site, particularly Greenfinches and Chaffinches, probably taking advantage of the abundance of tree seeds on the ground. Two Buzzards called, soaring above the trees.
The arboretum occupies 120 acres on the grounds of the Castle Howard Estate, and is now managed as a charity together with Kew Gardens and comprise over a large collection of trees from several regions of the world, many mature, which started growing since the late 1970s. The trees are well labelled, with a card attached to a branch in the tree. The grounds also have ancient trees, especially oaks. Some of them are now kitted with owl nests on the top. The landscape is undulating and with wooded areas and extensive meadows, allowing for expansive views. Some areas are quite wet and there are ponds and a lake recently restored. There are two marked walks on the map provided at the visitor centre.
The visitor centre has a small shop and a cafe and there is outdoor sitting space right next to well topped bird feeders. Something to take into account is that dogs are allowed on site, on leads nearer the visitor centre.
 I will definitely visit again, even if the Hawfiches leave.
Jackdaw. Many pairs investigating the holes in the old oaks.
Winter Aconite.
This and the following two photos are the usual, distant treetop views of the retiring Hawfinches.

Goat willow buds.
Ancient oak with owl box.
A Hawfinch feeding on the ground.
Tame Chaffinch by the visitor centre.
Mash Tit.
Sunbathing Kestrel.
Another ancient oak.

Monday, 19 February 2018

A foggy spring tide and feeding frenzy at South Landing

A grey and wet day at Hull, I headed towards Flamborough, which was forecasted to be dryer. The drizzle and rain had all but stopped as I arrived on South Landing, but there was a thick fog. On arrival the tide was almost out and it was a spring tide exposing an expansive sandy and rocky beach where a dozen Oystercatchers few with a few Turnstones and a Curlew fed. The poor weather meant there were far fewer dog walkers than usual on the beach.
 I walked towards Danes Dyke and watched seven Fulmars doing their usual circling and noisy cackling around their future nest sites. A trio of Stock Doves were also guarding a couple of caves on the top of the cliff.
A different sound called my attention: gannets! I had never seen Gannets from South Landing, but peering through the thick fog I could make their shapes, diving in drifts into water that appeared to be bubbling. Rafts of Guillemots and Razorbills were also feeding with the Gannets. Some Herring gulls watched attentively. There appeared to be a large school of fish near the shore. It appeared to be moving quickly as the auks flew ahead to follow the fish. The fog lifted somewhat and I could take some very poor shots of the action.
 To top the visit, a pair of Red-throated Divers spent some time preening just offshore.
The creek that runs through south Landing

Rock Pipit.
Cormorants and Great Black-backed gull.
Common Scoter.
This poor shot gives some idea of the action.

Five Great Crested Grebes.
Fulmar pair calling.

Stock Doves.
Fog towards Danes Dyke.
Red Throated divers.
A Great Crested Grebe with fish.
A Great Black-backed gull got a large flat, a dab maybe?
Roe Deer in the woodland.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Walking the Humber. Stage 6. Green Port

I randomly checked the tide times this afternoon and realised it was 15 minutes to low tide, so I decided to walk around the Green Port to take advantage of the exposed mudflats in the two points of the stage that allowed estuary views. Alexandra Dock used to have a Public Right of Way by the shore, but this was closed a couple of years ago, when the Siemens wind turbine blade factory was built, and the path is now re-routed inland around the dock. I start at the end of Corinthians Way on Victoria Dock Village, where there is a car park by the foreshore. A Redshank and a few Black-headed Gulls feed by the tide line. I start the walk proper, on a wide, paved footpath and cycle lane around industrial depots. The massive turbine blades lay in rows. By the path there is landscaping and gardening and despite the path running besides the A63 the noise level is tolerable. I arrive at Holderness Drain, which drains the waters of the low lying areas, formerly carrs, at the east of the river Hull. The drain has very steep sides and there is no public access alongside it. The last part of the stage involved a straight walk parallel to the drain but away from it. On arriving to the view point by the estuary, there is a beautiful reclaimed metal sculpture 'Rebar Godwit'. I watched from the edge of the sea wall, with an expansive view of the mudflats and across the Humber. Three Curlews fed at different points. Two Mallards walked on the mud to the fresh water of the Holderness drain. There was another bird, a Black-tailed Godwit, which put a lovely end for the stage.
Black-tailed Godwit catching food by the tide line.

Featured Bird: Black-tailed Godwit
I felt very lucky to find a Black-tailed Godwit today in such urban and industrial surroundings today. This elegant wader is at home in wet wetlands and estuary mudflats, feeding on invertebrates such as worms, crabs and small clams, which it can pick up from deep in the mud with its long straight bill. The Humber is of international importance as passage and wintering area for this red listed species. The birds migrating through and wintering in the UK mainly come from Iceland and Scandinavia. Although worldwide declines have been reported due to changing agricultural practices, the Black-tailed Godwit has actually increased in the Humber in the last 20 years. Important roosting and post-breeding moult sites include Paull Holme Strays, Kilingholme Quarry, and Alkborough Flats.
Sea Aster.
Wind turbine blade.
Lined blades on the Siemens grounds.
Flowering Gorse.
Old berries on a Sea Buckthorn.
Holderness Drain looking north.
Holderness Drain looking south.
A colourful map with the main public rights of way across Hull.
Curlew feeding on the mudflats by Alexandra Dock.
Trucks loading into the Rotterdam Ferry.
The expansive mudflats by the end of Holderness Drain. Lincolnshire on the horizon.
A metal godwit sculpture.
The silhouetted metal sculpture.
Today's stage. 2.8 km each way.