There’s a nip in the air!

Hello birdwatchers

We’re already 3 weeks into my new programme and on the last couple of trips there has been an autumnal nip in the air. The gloves have been on this month already!

My new group of birdwatchers are meeting at Hollybush Conservation Centre on Monday evenings and, so far, have been learning how to use their binoculars effectively; how to choose a good fieldguide; note taking and sketching and bird identification.

My Wednesday evening birdwatching group are in their second year at Hollybush Conservation Centre and are now learning about different bird families, individual species and birds song.

Outdoor classes are still taking place on Tuesday mornings, Saturdays and some Sundays. So far, the Tuesday birdwatchers have visited Golden AcreAdel Dam, Breary Marsh and Paul’s Pond.

a heron at Adel Dam

On this morning’s visit to Breary Marsh and Paul’s Pond we looked at differences between adult rooks and crows and how immature birds can cause confusion. We also watched house martins, sand martins and swallows feeding up to increase their weight before their outward migration. A single female wigeon on Paul’s Pond could have come from as far away as Arctic Russia to spend the winter in the UK.

female wigeon on Paul’s Pond

We were fortunate on our planned trip to Druridge Bay in Northumberland that an American bird, a white-rumped sandpiper, was showing well at East Chevington Nature Reserve managed by Northumberland Wildlife Trust so, after first visiting another one of their reserves, Cresswell Ponds, we dropped in to have a look at this little wader. We also managed to see the swooping accelerated bursts of black tern flight and a couple of Sandwich terns could be heard calling from the lagoon. At Cresswell, we’d been watching a few snipe close to the hide with redshank, ruff and greenshank.

Rafts of common scoter fed on the sea close to the shoreline at Duridge Pools Nature Reserve, the Trust’s third reserve in that bay, and gannet, red-throated diver, shearwater and great skua were also seen. On the shoreline we were able to add sanderling and a single knot, still in summer plumage.

Snipe at Cresswell Ponds

Tufted duck at Cresswell Ponds

Greenshank at Cresswell Ponds

Dunlin at Cresswell Ponds

Last Saturday, Start Birding offered its first trip to Paull Holme Strays on the Humber estuary. This 200 acre site, which was created by the Environment Agency as part of a flood risk management scheme, provides a fantastic feeding opportunity for thousands of waders, gulls and wildfowl during the autumn and winter.

Cloudscapes over the Humber at Paull Holme Strays

Dramatic cloudscapes and sunshine enhanced our birding experience on this visit and we watched flocks of golden plover, redshank and dunlin. These were interspersed with smaller numbers of little egret, avocet, grey and ringed plover, black-tailed godwits and lapwing all of which were terrorised by two hunting peregrine falcons. Our first one, a young bird, made an unsuccessful stoop then flew over our heads to begin its circling climb, gaining altitude before its next stoop to shifts some gulls off the estuary. It didn’t have any luck the second time either and we watched it fly off into the distance. Later, we were alerted to another hunting peregrine as we watched golden plover and lapwing bunch high over the lagoon. An adult bird was quickly spotted, which also flew over our heads after an unsuccessful stoop. A grey seal was seen in the Humber close to the shoreline.

Little egret at Paull Holme Strays

We finished off our day at the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s North Cave Wetlands and added some extra wildfowl, water birds, common and green sandpiper and passerines, including two southbound migrants, wheatear and whinchat, to our list of birds for the day.

A young wheatear at North Cave Wetlands
A whinchat at North Cave Wetlands

Our final trips for September take place this weekend. I’m hoping for good weather this coming Saturday we sail out of Bridlington harbour on our annual RSPB Shearwater cruise. We hope to see Manx and sooty shearwater, great skua, winter auks and gannets. We’ll then move on to Filey to look for purple sandpiper and to see if anything has turned up on migration.

On Sunday I’m leading a free walk for the Friends of Middleton Park in Leeds so do come along if you’re free.

I’ve noticed on my travels that there is a great crop of berries this autumn which will hopefully provide plenty of food to sustain our birds through the winter months.

Sloes – the fruit of the blackthorn tree
Hedgerows are full of blackberries
Flower meadows provide seed for goldfinches

Join me in October as we watch our autumn migrants increasing in numbers. We’ll be ringing birds just south of York and visiting Alkborough Flats near Scunthorpe; RSPB Blacktoft Sands; Carsington Water in Derbyshire; Nosterfield; Rodley Nature Reserve; RSPB Fairburn Ings; RSPB St Aidan’s and Mickletown Ings – a SSSI close to St Aidan’s reserve.

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