Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Flocking November

After all the birding hullabaloo along the east coast last month, November is the time for more predictable visitors to flock to our shores for the relative warmth and abundant food on offer at this time of year - and flock they certainly do, in fact big flocks of birds of many species has been the theme of the month so far for me and here's a massive one to start off with....

The Common Starling roost at Welton Waters, nr Brough holds a reputed 30,000 during the winter months. The only one I've seen that was bigger was a few years back at Leighton Moss (50,000 they reckon!)

Starlings coming into roost at Brough, 07/11/16
Starlings coming into roost at Brough, 07/11/16
No weird murmuration shapes on the evening we visited and my 400ml lens not the best for capturing such things but an amazing experience to see flock after flock pass over our heads and settle into the reeds, chattering away like buzzbots!

Whooper Swans over Alkborough, 07/11/16
On the same day, across the Humber at Alkborough Flats we had a flock of 25 or so Whooper Swans fly over from the north. My first of the winter and I hope to see lots more around the Lower Derwent Valley in the coming month.

Barnacle Geese, Alkborough, 07/11/16

There's been a growing local population of Barnacle Geese at Alkborough ever since a pair of injured birds from the Humber Wildfowl Refuge were donated to a local farmer in 1975 - now there are 500+ breeding on Whitton Island👍👍 .... so these are probably local stock rather than a migrating flock .. they look the part though!

A bit closer to home but totally 'on the move' I've had 3 big flocks of 200+ Pink Footed Geese over the caravan park here at Fangfoss this autumn. Always calling as they fly over, usually at some height and in that classic V formation, its a real signal of winter and yes I know there are tens of thousands in the Solway Firth and the Humber but any big flock on your local patch is a spectacle.
Pink Footed Geese, Fangfoss, 25/10/16
Pink Footed Geese, over Fangfoss, 15/11/16

Been some impressive flocks of Fieldfare's and Redwings down my neck of the woods too, along with continental Blackbirds and Song Thrushes. Tricky as ever to get decent shots of either, I try every year and this time come to the conclusion that I need a camera upgrade! I fancy one of these forChristmas if anyone's feeling flush!

Anyway here's this year's efforts!
Fieldfare, Bank Island (Wheldrake), 24/11/16

Fieldfare, Fangfoss, 14/11/16
Fieldfare, Fangfoss, 14/11/16

Creeping up and peering through a hedge was the only way I could get this one. Not that anyone was watching but worth resorting to such tactics and looking like an oddbod for one that looked moderately relaxed and despite that awkward branch and bits of smudgy hedge, a half decent portrait.

 Similar story for this Redwing ... dammit they're flitty or are my field-craft skills on the wane already!
Redwing over, Fangfoss, 18/11/16

They're almost easier to capture when they're flying and you can't say that about many birds .. about 1 in 15 of these kind of shots comes out of the can looking presentable!

Fieldfares over, Fangfoss, 19/11/16

Hey I've got a new campervan and with a tenuous link to flocking birds here's it's first story. So I was up late a couple of days after I got it investigating the sleeping options, swiveling seats around as you do, and absentmindedly put my camera with big lens attached in the back somewhere - got tired, went to bed. Took the van in first thing next morning for a prearranged oil, air & fuel filter change and turning down the offer of a lift back I set off back down the lane to my campsite; it was a lovely morning, a few Redwings, Fieldfares about, flushed a Sparrowhawk from the hedge and thought to myself "shame I didn't bring the camera" thinking I'd just left it at home ..mmh😒. Well next thing I saw was 7 Waxwings not 30 yards away chomping away on hawthorne berries - thats when I really wished I'd brought the camera! Not only were these spectacular birds in perfect view and in perfect light they were a first for my local patch here. I decided when I got back that I'd walk back up the lane and see if I could get some shots. Oh oh can't find the camera! And then, after a brief moment of panic, I realized. I'd only driven a mile and a half with £1500 pounds worth of camera & lens perched on a worktop in the back of the van! Could have been nasty and expensive but I was dead lucky, I phoned the garage and it was still perched and not in pieces. Phew, but what an idiot!

The new van!!

Great Grey Shrike, Strensall Common, 03/11/16
A Great Grey Shrike turned up a few weeks ago at Strensall Common, a scarce bird for the York area and you bet I had the camera on that occasion! We got some great views of this grey monster, saw it chasing Goldcrests (on they're menu apparently) catching a few late flying bugs and at one point Mark P saw it dismembering a mole. So so light and never within easy photographic range but some reasonable record shots obtained

Great Grey Shrike, Strensall Common, 03/11/16

Great Grey Shrike, Strensall Common, 03/11/16

Great Grey Shrike, Strensall Common, 03/11/16

Great Grey Shrike, Strensall Common, 03/11/16

Great Grey Shrike, Strensall Common, 03/11/16

We thought that was good, and it was, but on the same day another bird drifted across the Common that got 3 birders very excited indeed .. a Ring-tailed Harrier. My first instinct was to get a good eyeful through the bins ... looked spectacular, looked 'orangey', really bright white tail ring .. and gone! No chance of pic, I'd have missed the moment but hells bells we all thought 'that was very orange looking' .... could it have been a Pallid? This one turned up at Spurn 2 day later
Juv Pallid Harrier, Welwick, nr Spurn, 05/11/16

We'll never really know but on reviewing the evidence & observations of the 3 of us present (me, Mark Paine & Mikey Naylor), in my book it was juv Ring Tail, probable Pallid Harrier. One of those things really - no pic, no id but for the 30 seconds or so I had in sight all I can say is that it was a beautiful creature, a few glides, a quick stoop, down onto something or other and then it was gone, never saw it come back up again. High 5's all round ensued for 3 lucky birders!

Lovely, lovely little photo shoot of Long Tailed Tits down the lane here at Fangfoss one bright morning a few weeks ago  .....

Long Tailed Tit, Fangfoss pk, 04/11/16
Long Tailed Tit, Fangfoss pk, 04/11/16
  all available for download as portraits on my photo stock site here bye the way if you're interested

Long Tailed Tit, Fangfoss pk, 04/11/16
Long Tailed Tit, Fangfoss pk, 04/11/16

Long Tailed Tit, Fangfoss pk, 04/11/16

Long Tailed Tit, Fangfoss pk, 04/11/16

Pleasing little fellahs aren't they?

As are these, a bit bigger and different beasts altogether - some Roe Deer I flushed in  the fields alongside the Spittal Beck, nr Wilberfoss. I see them often around here but nice to get some good clear shots of these bucks  and hinds running free.

Roe Deer, Spittal Beck, 14/11/16

Roe Deer, Spittal Beck, 14/11/16

Running free indeed, and now I have a campervan again that's what I want to be doing - France & Spain beckons in the new year but I aim to slip in a few trips out in the UK before then. In the meantime here's a few more of  my late Oct / November pics.

Eurasian Buzzard, Fangfoss, 17/10/16

So many Buzzards around my place I rarely make much of an effort to photograph them anymore but this was a particularly handsomely marked individual I hadn't seen noticed before.

Common Snipe, Spittal Beck, 24/10/16

I flushed 9 Common Snipe from the same field alongside the Spittal Beck back in March (30/03/16) but otherwise this is a scarce sight around here

Skylarks are still relatively common here though with winter flocks of 50+ not unusual

Eurasian Skylark, Fangfoss, 04/11/16
 Many of the Gulls that fly over this part of Yorkshire during the late afternoon are on their way to the Humber where 10's of 1000's roost on exposed sand banks. Here's a few hundred of them, probably Black Headed nr Brough with South Ferriby in the background
Roosting gulls at sunset, nr Brough, 07/11/16
'Laughing Jim' fungi, Alkborough, 07/11/16

 Its Fungi time again! Had to post a query on a facebook site to get the name of this - Laughing Jim or Gymnopilus junonius if you fancy calling me a clever t**t!

A bit 'grainy' due to the light but Jay's are difficult enough at the best of times to capture and this one was so intent on hanging onto that hazlenut he wasn't too bothered by the lens.

Common Jay, Strensall Common, 08/11/16

Grey Wagtail (female), Fangfoss, 23/11/16

Tried and failed to get a decent shot of one of the resident Grey Wagtails nr my campsite for ages, again this is grainy because of all the shadows down by the sluice gates, but its the best I've done all year!

Blue Tit, Fangfoss, 14/11/16
And finally, you've gotta love Blue Tits when they're as nicely perched as this. Numbers of have certainly built up again this month but nowhere near as many as in previous Novembers.