Fledglings, festivals and the Tour de France

Hello birdwatchers

I’m feeling slightly embarrassed at not keeping up to my blog as often as I used to although I have been spending a lot of time posting news on my Facebook page. I hope you’ve had a chance to see it. If not then please click on the Start Birding Facebook link.

It has been a truly marvellous spring and summer in the UK and the majority of my classes have been held in warm sunshine.

The last few weeks have been spent rearing a brood of blackbirds and photographing the first young swifts from a new colony in Gledhow. The smallest blackbird didn’t make it but I’m hoping that the remaining blackbird, and the swift fledglings will survive the hazards of autumn and winter and eventually rear their own young.

our baby blackbirds (two out of 3 successfully fledged)
A young swift at a new colony in Gledhow, Leeds

young swift watching an adult go by

Also new in Leeds was the brand new, and very successful , artificial sand martin bank at Rodley Nature Reserve. Visitors to the reserve have been able to watch adults feeding chicks, for the first time, right the way through the spring and summer.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve spent a great deal of time at RSPB St Aidan’s, varying the trips by taking different routes into the reserve. Astley Lane has given us the opportunity to look for little owl; the Mickletown Ings route provided sedge and reed warbler at close quarters and the Swillington route took us through dense scrub to look Sylvia and Phyloscopus warblers. Each time we’ve made it to the eastern reedbed we’ve seen black-necked grebe with chicks. It has been a good year to compare grebe chicks of different species and varying degrees of ‘humbug’ stripes.


Black-necked grebe with chick
great crested grebe with chicks

Little grebe chicks

The other most memorable trips were to Upper Teesdale, Bolton Abbey, YWT Staveley, YWT North Cave, Alkborough Flats, YWT Spurn Point, Rutland Water and RSPB Bempton Cliffs.

Our trip to Alkborough in July

It has been a summer of celebrations with the RSPB Leeds Group celebrating its 40th anniversary; two members of my (still running) ‘2005’ class jointly celebrating their 60th birthdays and my dad enjoying his 80th year with a visit to Upper Teesdale.

RSPB Leeds Local Group celebrate their 40th anniversary at Rodley Nature Reserve

I took part in this year’s Burley Festival at Burley-in-Wharfedale and really enjoyed myself teaching a 3 hour class. It was great meeting everyone and I hope to see you all again in the near future.

Teaching at the Burley Festival

Now I’m understanding why I’ve felt so busy! On top of all this the first Hen Harrier Day was organised to coincide with the start of the not so ‘glorious 12th’ grouse shooting season. It was a shame the weather was so bad but many people turned up to events across the country.

I, and thousands of other people, attended the 26th annual Birdfair at Rutland Water in August and took a day out to do some birding on this vast reserve then, a couple of weeks ago, it was the Spurn Migration Festival. Take a look at this film to give you a flavour of the Migfest – I’ll look forward to seeing you there next year.

It has been wonderful to be in Yorkshire over the summer with the Grand Depart of the Tour de France taking place in Leeds and Leeds Rhinos winning the Challenge Cup for the first time since 1999. September is already in full swing and I’m already writing my next blog featuring migrating birds. 

Happy birding!

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