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.

Flycatchers

There are two flycatchers which are regular visitors to Yorkshire in Spring and Summer, and a good place to spot them is the woods around Bolton Abbey.

On a recent visit I managed to spot both types but found it difficult to get any decent shots….so I went back and tried again with slightly better results.

The Spotted Flycatcher is a bit of a misnomer as its not really that spotty and has more of what I’d describe as flecks than spots. They are rather undistinguished but their aerial antics catching flies are mesmerising to watch as they dart out from a perch to grab an insect before returning. When feeding young they will collect a huge beak full before returning to the nest. They are a late arrival when it comes to migrants, turning up in mid May before returning in September.There are plenty of nesting sites in the oak trees and also plenty of nest boxes put up especially for these and the pied flycatchers.

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The Pied flycatcher is a more distinctive bird and the black and white male particularly stands out. These birds winter in Africa before returning here to breed. Again like their spotted cousin they are brilliant at catching insects on the wing.

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That Time You Wish You’d Got There Earlier!

I’ve met some interesting people while out with my camera and a couple of these have become friends.

One of these is Roy, who I first met at the local nature reserve and over the years we’ve developed an easy friendship. We meet up every now again for a trip out and we constantly let each other know of good spots to visit or wildlife we’ve seen. We take the mickey out of each other and generally enjoy each others company. Roy is well known for his field craft and his ability to sneak up on not only a plastic owl but also a plastic heron!

Roy also has a fascination with kingfishers and we often sit for hours waiting to snap them. A couple of weeks ago he rang me to say they were showing well on the river so I popped down to join him. When I got there he told me I should have been a bit earlier as a deer had just come down to have a drink. He showed me a couple of the pictures on his camera which looked great. It was only later when he got home and reviewed the pics that he spotted the real surprise. She was giving birth!!!

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Roy told me she didn’t seem in any distress and calmy had a drink before wandering off.  It looks like a breech delivery with the back legs coming first but as both legs are clearly out it didn’t look like she’d have any problem delivering the fawn. Hopefully everything went well and they’re both doing well. Amazing pictures which Roy has let me share here.

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Oystercatchers

As the name suggests these are generally coastal wading birds however there is a good breeding population on the Yorkshire moors and in the Dales. These were spotted close to Bolton Abbey in North Yorkshire and included at least one pair with two chicks.

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They are a striking black and white bird with the most distinctive orange red beak and bright scarlet eyes. They are about the size of a magpie or jackdaw and at the coast will feed on a diet of molluscs such as cockles and mussels (I’m not sure if they actually eat oysters). However inland they will feed mainly on earthworms or insects.

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They are a monogamous bird and have been recorded using the same nesting site for up to 20 years. They lay 2-4 eggs in a shallow scrape and are very vocal in defending their young from potential predators.

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They are present in the UK all year round but in Winter may move to more Southerly coasts where they can congregate in large flocks. They are always a pleasure to see wherever you might come across them.

Happy Birthday

The swan has been sat on her nest for some time now and the regulars to the park have been constantly asking for updates. Yesterday I was the first to see her new arrivals as three cygnets could be clearly seen in the nest and I happily passed on the news like a proud father. If I’d had cigars I would have been handing them out.

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She was constantly fidgeting though which suggests there may be more still to hatch. Last year she had eight who all survived and the year before she had six so fingers crossed there’s a few more to come.

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One of the three was clearly more confident than the others and was eager to explore its surroundings venturing out of the nest and pecking at twigs.

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It must be amazing to see the world for the first time with new sights, new smells and sunshine on their beaks. I do hope the first thing they saw wasn’t me!!

On The Moors

There are a lot of different habitats close to where I live but one I don’t visit as often as I should are the moorlands. Whenever I visit I tend to come across something new and it was the same on a recent early morning outing.

The warblers have returned and virtually all the small trees had one singing away in full voice. These were willow warblers trying to attract a partner for the breeding season after having arrived back from sub-Saharan Africa where they spend the winter.

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There were also lots of meadow pippits around, which although usually around all year may well have spent the winter at the coast or lower down the valleys.

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The star of the show though was the skylark which I watched rise to the heights singing its song before diving back down into the heather. Luckily I watched where it landed but its incredible camouflage meant it took me a good few minutes to fix on it and take a picture.

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Something A Little Different

This weekend the third Tour De Yorkshire came to town. Its a legacy cycle race which developed from the Grand Depart of the Tour De France which came to Yorkshire a few years ago.

The route came fairly close and featured a steep climb up a local cobbled hill so I staked my claim amongst the thistles and nettles and thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle.

_X0A9533This climb was about two thirds of the way into the stage so the cyclists really began to feel the pain. The crowds were amazing cheering the leaders and the peloton up the hill and over the summit.

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All the climbs in the race are given a French name for the event and as this was the Cote de Shibden Wall it was no suprise that a certain President of the USA appeared with his wall building friends!!

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Brilliant day, superb crowds and a great advert for Yorkshire, God’s own county.

Cetti’s Warbler

A visit to Blacktoft Sands RSPB reserve at the weekend threw up a first for me almost the second I got out of my car. Virtually the first bird I saw announced its presence extremely loudly but disappeared as soon as I raised my camera. I was fairly sure what it was but asked the warden who confirmed it was a Cetti’s warbler. Now if you read the Collins Guide to British Birds these should only be spotted in a couple of locations in the South of England. However over the years they have been moving steadily North and there at least two pairs on this reserve.

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The female was difficult to spot skulking in the reeds and scrub but the male was happy to sit out in the open flitting from tree to tree and blasting out its song. Its great to see a species increasing its range but is it because of an increase in numbers or are the milder winters of recent years helping it’s move North?

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