Wednesday, 20 September 2017

River Hull. Stage 14. Skerne Wetlands

It was a warm day, still and with light cloud, with a very autumnal feel. Robert Jaques joined me in a walk around Skerne Wetlands, meandering around the river Hull. The area is a very new Yorkshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve, still undergoing restoration work to convert a former trout fishery into a more natural and biodiverse wetland as an integral part of the River Hull floodplain.
 This upstream stretch of the river, which is a chalk stream, is called the West Beck. It is narrower and deep, its waters transparent, its banks lower and clothed in vegetation and willows. A kingfisher flies off from near the bridge over the river. Pools and ditches sandwich the river. Some of the pools where fish were reared are now fringed by reeds, and short after our arrival a Marsh Harried flew off. The squeals or Water Rails could be heard from the reeds.
 We walk south towards Corpslanding on the east bank of the river, the path covered on long wet grass (note to self: must bring wellies next time). We alert three Roe Deer, which were resting and feeding on the bank, and they slowly move away behind some trees. We turn round to walk upstream from there. We flush a Kingfisher twice more. The stage finishes when we hit a non entry barrier by the weir opposite Copper Hall. The north side of the reserve is accessed more easily through Wansford and Snakeholm pastures, which will be the next river stage.
Information panel by the car park.
Reed beds by the river, looking SW.

The River Hull or West Beck from the bridge, looking downstream.
Little Egrets.
Roe Deer.
A family of Mute Swans, with five young of the year. 
The meandering river looking upstream.

More Information
Skerne Wetlands. YWT website here.

Monday, 18 September 2017

A three flycatcher day at Spurn Head

A forecast of Northerly wind and sunny skies quickly convinced me Spurn was the place to head to. The northerlies were relentless, but it was a very bright day with sunny spells. The tide was quite low as I arrived in the Blue Bell car park. I noticed that the recent rain had made some impact on the crumbling cliff, with deep cracks on the boulder clay as I followed the path north to the Warren. At the warren a Yellow-browed Warbler was flitting on some sycamores. The light was not great and I only had fleeting views. I walked around the beach before turning round towards the Blue Bell. There were plenty of birdwatchers about today, even an organised group. As I was arriving to the Blue Bell, a bird flew into the hedge. A robin chased it and the bird showed: I thought it was a pied flycatcher, until I saw the plain brown wings and the white side patches on its short tail: a Red-breasted Flycatcher, a lifer! I beckoned a birder who was coming down the road, it was also a lifer for him. I starting drawing a sketch of the bird, thinking it wouldn't appear again, but it did, and I was able to take a few shots. After a little while with no more appearances I left the scene. By then, a small crowd had formed looking for the bird and I later found out that a few others saw it. 
 After a celebratory expresso in the Blue Bell, I headed to the churchyard, where a Pied Flycatcher had been seen. I had some fleeting views and a poor record shot. I moved onto the Crown and Anchor and just opposite a Spotted Flycatcher gave very good views as it sat on the sun occasionally darting after an insect, the third flycatcher species of the day.
 Despite the mild temperature and sunny spells, the wind made it a hard day for insects. In a few sheltered spots there were Migrant Hawkers and Common Darter dragonflies. A Silver Y fed on Red Clover in Beacon Lane. The best insect by far was a nesting aggregation of Sea Aster mining bees, very close to the visitor centre under construction.
 As I returned from the salt marsh, a Swift passed over, lingering overhead as it flew against the wind for a while. I hope is not the last one I see this year. 
Low tide.
Common Gulls resting on the beach.
Meadow Pipit.
Silver Y feeding on red clover.
Spotted Flycatcher.
Curlew.

Saltmarsh with the spit and lighthouse in the distance.
Aster bee, Colletes helophilus coming out of her nest.
Sea Aster mining bee, Colletes helophilus
A nesting aggregation of Sea Aster mining bees on a sandy beach by the saltmarsh, near the new visitor centre.
Sea Aster mining bee feeding on Sea Aster.
Male Common Darter.
Pair of crows dropping shells. I went where they were afterwards, but couldn't find what they were dropping and eating on the shingle spit.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

River Hull. Stage 13. Brigham and North Frodingham Beck

A warm day with light cloud and a soft breeze, I get up early to take on the next stage of the river Hull. River bank between the metal footbridge at Emmotland and Corpslanding bridge is not a public right of way, although the river itself is accessible by boat. I had tried to hire a boat from North Frodingham, but in the end it wasn't to be. Plan b was to walk along the footpath by the main tributary of the Hull, Frodingham Beck and the stretch of Driffield canal from Brigham. I added also a walk from Brigham to Corpslanding, which allowed me at least to look at the river from the bridge.
 I start on the swing bridge over Driffield canal at Brigham. Driffield canal is navigable, but I only see a couple of canoes all day. There are also a few sailing boats moored on the canal. The area being flat and exposed despite being inland makes it possible to sail. Other than following a straight course the canal looks very wild, with plenty of marginal vegetation, including Reed sweet-grass, Marsh woundwort and some Himalayan balsam.
Driffield Canal.
Carder bee feeding on Marsh Woundwort
Driffield canal with Brigham in the background, perched atop a mighty of 20 m of altitude.
I was expecting a wet walk on long grass, but the farmer had some cows feeding on the bank, so it ended up being easier until Emmotland.
An ichneumon wasp, Pimpla sp.
The area is prone to flooding, and is crisscrossed by wide ditches. The cows are on the background on bank of the river Hull.
Wheatear.
I look longingly at the grazing cows, who can walk on the Hull riverbank where I'm not allowed.
Emmotland farm on the left, and the metal bridge on the junction between Frodingham Beck and the river Hull.
Water Forget-me-not.
On the way upstream the sun shone in brief sunny spells and several butterflies, especially Red Admirals, came out to feed on a patch of creeping thistles. I flushed a pair of Snipe from a wet patch on a field.
Small Tortoiseshell.
This is the point where Frodingham beck joins Driffield canal.
Frodingham Beck with North Frodingham in the distance.
There are a couple of ponds in the fields, one of them is surrounded by trees and this Grey Heron sat on one.
Steps on the gate welcoming the walker.
Common Darter.
I get back to Brigham and take on the next stage of today's trip, Corpslanding bridge. A Mistle Thrush rattles flying away onto a tree. Flocks of loafing gulls, including many Great Black-backed gulls rest on the ploughed fields. The walk is over a small rise in the land. In the distance, I see a ribbon of trees flanking the river, the closest to a gallery forest I've seen by the river.
A bridleway cuts across a wheat field towards the river.
As I get close to the river, I walk by a flowing, clear water stream that runs parallel to it. I flush the fleeting turquoise arrow of a Kingfisher, and a little later, two Wood Sandpipers, which fly away alarm calling.
Flowing stream by the river Hull.
A lone Swift feeds over the white poplars and willows
Corpslanding bridge, made of railway sleepers.
This is the view of the river upstream from the bridge.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Bridlington Harbour

A trip to Bridlington with the kids today, a hot summer day with long sunny spells and barely any breeze. We had a plan to join the 2.5 h Yorkshire Belle trip to Bempton, but finally gave up on it and had a wander in town, around the harbour and on south beach. It was high tide.
Kittiwakes are expanding their breeding locations around town. These regularly spaced nests with young on some of them were on the corner of a slate roof. 
Turnstones wait for low tide on the harbour wall.
Kittiwakes on the outer harbour wall. 
Another urban kittiwake location. 
Starling singing on aerial. 
The resident barnacle goose. 

Long-calling Great black-backed gull. 
More roosting Turnstones. 
Common Gull juvenile on the beach. 
The Yorkshire Belle returning from her trip to Bempton...
...and entering the harbour. 
A view of the popular South Beach. 
The harbour wall with plenty of people crabbing. 
Herring Gull. 
This cormorant caught an eel on the harbour. The eel squirmed and young herring gulls pestered the cormorant, who dived with its prey. When the cormorant emerged again there was no eel. It looked like a prey hard to subdue.
Cormorant trying to balance on a rope. 
A Great Black-backed gull dwarfing a herring gull (also top shot).