Kingfisher Pellets

Yesterday I spent the day photographing kingfishers and was lucky enough to see one regurgitating a pellet. They do this a couple of times a day to get rid of fishbones and other indigestible remains from their fishy diet.

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It took some bringing up before a flick of the head sent it into the grass.

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Little Egret v Black headed Gulls

This little egret was out for a quiet Sunday morning spot of fishing when the local hoodlums in the shape of three black headed gulls decided to spoil his day.

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At first he was ignoring them carrying on trying to feed and ducking out of the way when they got too close.

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But eventually he’d decided enough was enough and started to stick up for himself.

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As with all bully’s they eventually back down and he let them know who was in charge before wandering off and carried on looking for a spot of lunch.

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Sedge Warbler

The reed beds at the weekend were full of these guys singing away at the top of their voices. It seemed to be territorial as they were flying up into the air before landing and starting the singing again.

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400 Year Wait Is Finally Over

Spoonbills haven’t nested regularly in the UK since the 1700s, but in recent years they have slowly been expanding their range north and returning to Britain once again. These birds are regularly seen along the east coast of England, and there is a breeding colony in East Anglia. However this year has seen them breed in Yorkshire for the first time in 400 years with three chicks fledging at the RSPB site Fairburn Ings. As they generally tend to only lay 3 eggs all three hatching is a real success.
Due to their rarity the spoonbill is a protected species in the UK, and the successful breeding at Fairburn Ings had been kept secret until earlier this week. This success can be put down to the excellent work of everyone on the reserve who have created a suitable habitat for what will hopefully become a new Yorkshire resident.

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I’d never seen a spoonbill till this morning when I went to another Yorkshire wetland site half hoping to see one of these enigmatic creatures. They are regularly seen at Blacktoft Sands but I was told I was unlikely to see one as they generally feed here in the afternoon. So I was amazed to see this one right in front of the first hide I ventured into. No time to check the camera setting just fire away before it departed.

They use their distinctive beak to sweep through the water filtering up any shrimp, fish or crustaceans they disturb. the beak snaps shut as soon as suitable food hits the inside.

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Great to see these birds beginning to spread throughout the UK but it is probably a result of global warming as their more usual sites in Southern Europe dry out.

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More Little Owls

Yesterday lunchtime I got up close and personal with the local Little Owl and then realised I hadn’t got my camera!!!! So I returned in the evening and was rewarded with a real treat. I’d driven up close using my car as a hide and the owl didn’t seem at all perturbed as it basked in some glorious late evening sunshine.

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After about ten minutes posing the owl began calling and at first I thought that maybe I was stressing it out and was about to beat a hasty retreat when the mate arrived.

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Within seconds the first owl had flown but the new arrival continued soaking up the sun and after having a good scratch almost nodded off.

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I’ve never got close enough for pictures like these so hopefully they’ll get used to the car and allow me to get this close soon.

The Not So Common House Sparrow

When I was young there were literally millions of house sparrows. Every time we raced round a corner we’d disturb a flock of thirty or forty birds off the street and on to the rooftops. Nowadays they’re nowhere near common, with a 70% reduction in numbers since the Seventies and not just in the urban areas.

I’m lucky to live in an area where I see sparrows quite regularly and the local council is currently monitoring the bird to see how the population is doing. In my garden in the last week or two it’s blossomed with a pair bringing their fledglings to the feeders.

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Sparrows lay between 2 and 5 eggs and this pair seem to have hatched the maximum and Dad has been on feeding duties most of the time. He pecks away at the fat balls before passing it on to one open mouth after another. This suggests Mum is back on the nest as they can have up to four clutches in a good breeding season.

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The young are beginning to get the hang of the feeders and can be seen precariously balancing on a small twig trying to reach the seeds rather than alight on the feeders built in perch. As their confidence grows they are becoming more adept.

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These five will be added to the local survey and if the parents are as good at raising the next brood hopefully I can add their siblings. Maybe one day we’ll get used to seeing flocks again on our streets rather than the rare individual of recent years.

 

Many Mouths to Feed

At this time of year many birds will be starting on their second broods after having been busy raising and feeding their first family. As soon as they hatch the parents begin an endless round of food collection and feeding. When I was watching the woodpeckers raise their young I counted them flying in with food 31 times in an hour!

I sat on the river Wharfe recently and photographed some busy parents collecting a variety of insects for their offspring. This dipper was nesting under a tuft of grass halfway up the span of a bridge.

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Close by a grey wagtail was also busy hoovering up the insects to feed the family.

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And this pied wagtail was obviously trying to set a new record for the number of bugs it could fit in its beak!

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All three were totally focussed on their job, as soon as they had enough they were away to the nest but were back almost straight away to begin the hunt again.