Kes and co.

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Last weekend we had a visit to Tophill Low nature reserve, on the recommendation of a couple of other birders.

No sooner had we got in the reserve, than this kestrel greeted us sitting on top of the roof.

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As we approached, we expected it to fly away, but it didn’t.  It sat and posed while Lee took some photographs.

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It was the closest we’d ever been to a kestrel in the wild, and it gave us a chance to see its beautiful colours.

Walking further round the reserve, we came to the hides on the marshland, and spotted several little egrets.

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There must have been around 20 of them, and one kindly posed on a log fairly close by, enabling Lee to take these lovely pictures.

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Little egrets are becoming more widespread in the UK.  They spend a lot of time standing still or wading in shallow water, looking for food.

These were an amazing sight, but the star of the show was a bird we’ve never seen before: the black-tailed godwit.

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One of our larger waders, the black-tailed godwit is very handsome, particularly in its coppery-red summer plumage.

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There must have been at least 20 of these stunning birds.

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It breeds in wet meadow land, and is not as widespread as the bar-tailed godwit.  We were so happy to see so many of them and be able to watch them for quite some time!

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There was also a common tern on the post, and plenty of lapwings.

Tophill Low is definitely worth a visit!

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And to finish, a beautiful herring gull sitting on Barmston beach.

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More babies!

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We made another visit to Bempton Cliffs and Flamborough over the weekend, and were delighted to find that many of the nesting seabirds now have chicks.

These adorable kittiwake chicks were everywhere!

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Kittiwakes typically lay 2 eggs, and their young, as you can see above, are grey and black.  Like many of the seabirds here, their nests are balanced quite precariously on the cliffs, and you often wonder how they don’t fall off!

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Several of the gannets also had chicks – hope you can spot some of them in the above and below photographs.  They lay only one egg, which is incubated under their large webbed feet.  They stay on the cliff side for around 13 weeks, after which they jump off the cliffs and into the sea below.

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The young birds take around 4 years to get their full adult plumage of white with black outer wings.

We couldn’t have a visit to Bempton without including a couple of pictures of puffins!

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We saw quite a few of them around the cliffs – their orange feet made them stand out from the other birds.

We didn’t get a glimpse of any young puffins, or pufflings as they are known, as they are usually kept well hidden within the burrows and holes in the cliffs.  After the young have fledged, they will make the leap into the sea, usually at night to avoid being predated.

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They will then spend the winter out at sea, before returning to the cliffs in spring to begin all over again.

Sunny afternoons

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We’ve been enjoying the beautiful weather recently, and it appears our birds have too!  Lee found this baby robin in King’s Park in Retford.  As you can see, they don’t have the red breasts of the adult birds, and are often not recognised as robins.

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Their mottled brown feathers will eventually turn to red on the front, and at this point they’ll have to find their own territories away from their parents.

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We saw this adult robin in Sherwood Forest, where we spent a pleasant Sunday afternoon this week.

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We also found this beautiful blackbird posing on an old tree stump – one of many spectacular old trees in the forest.  Blackbirds are probably one of our commonest birds and frequent visitors to our gardens.

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We also saw a family of young blackcaps hiding in the trees.  There were both males with the black caps, and females with the brown caps.

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This treecreeper was climbing up the bark of another old tree.  Its camouflaged plumage meant it took us a while to spot it!

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The young long tailed tit looks quite different from its parents, as it has more black around its eye, but this one has already got its long tail which gives it its name.

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And finally – dustbathing house sparrows!  In the dry weather, house sparrows love to bathe in the dust, and these seem to be enjoying themselves!

 

 

Baby birds

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They’re everywhere!  This week we’re sharing some photos of the many baby birds we’ve seen around recently.  The photos were taken on the local River Idle, Hallcroft Lakes, Chesterfield Canal, and in Hornsea.

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Today we found this moorhen feeding her young on the Chesterfield Canal.  Moorhens make their nests on floating heaps of vegetation or in trees and bushes beside water.  This one had 3 chicks (that we saw), but they will typically lay between 5 and 11 eggs.  The young follow their parents around, but can also be fed by siblings from an earlier brood.

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Canada geese are another very prolific breeder in the UK, and can be seen in great number around our lakes, reservoirs, and nearby meadows.  They lay around 5 or 6 eggs in March or April.

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The mallard is our most widespread duck, and is a familiar sight anywhere near water.  We’ve seen lots of mallard chicks, and have had to stop the car for a line of them to cross the road on more than one occasion!  They often lay a large number of eggs – I think the largest brood we’ve seen this year is around 15 – and they will have more than one brood.

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The ones in the picture above were swimming down the River Idle, disturbing Lee’s fishing trip!  As you can see, the young birds look like the females, and lack the familiar bright green head of the male.

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This young pied wagtail looks to be taking walking lessons from its parent!

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And as you can see, the young magpie has a much shorter tail than the adult birds.

As you go out and about, keep your eyes and ears open for baby birds – they are quite easy to spot and can sometimes let you approach them fairly closely – but watch out for protective parents like these hissing geese!

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Wading in

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You might have noticed we’ve been spending quite a bit of time at the coast recently!  We’ve spotted some interesting wading birds on the East Yorkshire coast, and thought we’d share them with you for our blog this week.

We’ve been delighted to watch a family of ringed plovers hatch their young, and watch the parents anxiously protecting their chicks.

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This pair successfully raised three chicks.  As you can see, they are really well camouflaged on the beach, and it was only when they moved that we were able to spot them.

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The ringed plover is a widespread wading bird, breeding on sandy and shingle beaches.  It can be found throughout the year, and nests in a shallow scrape in sand or stones.  We were surprised at how exposed their nest seemed to be: had we not spotted it, it would have been easily trodden on.

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They feed on the ground, picking up small insects and worms.

Another common wading bird we found on the beach is the dunlin:

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On one of our many walks across the beach, we found a number of wading birds feeding in a puddle which had formed on the sand.

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They can typically be found in groups, probing in the mud along the shore, where they pick up insects, worms and molluscs.

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If you get a chance to visit our coastline, have a look out for these charming birds!

Spring songsters

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Everywhere we go recently, we are treated to a cacophony of bird song!  Spring is a lovely time of year for birders, and we always enjoy seeing and hearing the birds defend their territories and raise their young.

This yellowhammer (above and below) was seen near the woods at Ordsall, and treated us to its “little bit of bread and no chee-ee-eese!” song – a real sign that spring is here.

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Other birds we are hearing everywhere at the moment are the lovely blackcap, whitethroat, willow warbler, chiffchaff and garden warbler.  We were even amazed to hear a grasshopper warbler recently, although we never actually saw it.

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We’ve looked at chiffchaffs and willow warblers before, and the best way to tell them apart is by their song, with the chiffchaff continually repeating its name, and the willow warbler displaying a descending scale finishing on a flourish.

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The linnet is another beautiful bird which always delights us with its chattering song in the spring and summer.  The male shows a brighter pink breast during the breeding season.

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The whitethroat has a more ‘scratchy’ sound, and will often fly up and down from one bush to another while singing.  They’re often quite difficult to capture as they are continually flitting about.

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The garden warbler’s song is similar to the blackcap’s: melodious, mellow and beautiful to hear.  It took us quite a while to differentiate between the two, but the garden warbler has a typically longer phrase.

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The blackcap’s song has a characteristic whistling crescendo at the end, and it is this feature that helps us tell it apart from the garden warbler’s song.

It’s fascinating to learn different birds’ songs and to know what is around you without actually seeing any birds.  If you fancy giving it a go, visit the RSPB website, where you will find examples of each bird and their song (for example, the blackcap can be found here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/blackcap/).

Happy listening!

Little rays of sunshine

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On Sunday we drove down Chainbridge Lane to park up near some of the lakes around Lound. I remarked as Lee drove down (very slowly down the bumpy road!) that last time we came down here in the summer we saw a yellow wagtail.

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No sooner had I said it than a little yellow wagtail appeared on the road in front of us! Lee stopped the car and quickly grabbed his camera from the back seat to capture this delightful little bird.

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It moved very quickly but allowed us to get fairly close before flying off over the fields. We spotted quite a few more birds that afternoon, including some families with their young, like these coots below.

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The following day Lee had a walk down the golf course and was fortunate enough to spot another yellow wagtail!

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The sunshine brought out the beautiful bright yellow colour, reflected in the water in the picture above.

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You can also make out a lovely linnet in the photograph above, and both birds are reflected in the water, where the wagtail was exploring, picking out food.

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Along with the yellowhammer, this bird is our brightest yellow-coloured bird, and certainly seemed to shine in the beautiful sun we’ve had for the past few days.

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The yellow wagtail is a summer visitor to the UK, and winters in West Africa. Unfortunately, it has declined in number over the past few years, and is nowhere near as common as the grey and pied wagtails we are more familiar with. It can be distinguished from the grey wagtail by its yellow head and brightly coloured plumage.

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This wagtail breeds in short, damp grassland, and prefers to be close to water. Its call is a loud “tsweep”, and its song repeats 2-3 notes: “tsree-ree”.

We were so pleased to see this bird again after not having seen one for a while – they definitely are little rays of sunshine!