Posted by: mynaturaldiary | November 4, 2018

Soup & Starlings 2018#1

Soup and Starlings time again at the  RSPB reserve at Saltholme . They begin to gather singly.

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

Then in small groups.

And finally, the start of the murmuration show.

The birds twist and turn in small groups of a hundred or so the land in the reed beds for the night.

They do this to escape the circling predators. Tonight it was a Marsh Harrier hunting over the reeds.

Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | October 21, 2018

Nearly Halloween Moon

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | October 17, 2018

Mrs Tiggywinkle

At home at Café Twitch, a Hedgehog appeared in the garden.


Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)



Posted by: mynaturaldiary | October 15, 2018

Those eyes in their helmet

Once again at Café Twitch, a male Sparrowhawk despatching a Wood Pigeon.

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)

‘Those eyes in their helmet’, indeed. It’s a quote from the Ted Hughes poem below.


Finally gorged on its meal, it flew away (after a preflight poop to lighten the load a bit).


A Sparrow Hawk

Slips from your eye-corner – overtaking
Your First thought.

Through your mulling gaze over haphazard earth
The sun’s cooled carbon wing
Whets the eyebeam.

Those eyes in their helmet
Still wired direct
To the nuclear core – they’re alone

Laser the lark-shaped hole
In the lark’s song.

You find the fallen spurs, among soft ashes.

And maybe you find him

Materialized by twilight and dew
Still as a listener –

The warrior

Blue shoulder-cloak wrapped about him
Learning, hunched,
Among the oaks of harp.

Ted Hughes

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | October 14, 2018

Deluge (with Ducks)

It was siling down

at the  RSPB reserve at Saltholme, but that didn’t seem to mind the Green Sandpiper.

Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus)

The raindrops made a great pattern on the surface of the waters by Phil Stead Hide. The Water Rail made its way through the reeds, hunting for its prey of small fish, snails and insects.

Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)

In the distance were Black tailed Godwits.

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)

Notice at the end of the following video how quickly they take to the air for defence. Such skittishness is a necessary part of their lives, as the following link shows when an occasional bird gets caught by a predator.

They were joined by Teal.

Teal (Anas crecca)

Also Lapwings.

Notice the birds hunkering down in the rain.

Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)

And once the rain has passed, much more alert.

Again flying away at the first sign of danger.

Their numbers are building back up again as they return from the surrounding fells of County Durham and the North Yorks Moors.

Another bird that is doing the same are Golden Plover. These also take to the sky at the first sign of danger en masse; a congregation of Plovers.

Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria)

We can expect much more of this as the weather turns colder and the winter season beckons.

One bird that seemed happy being out in the open was a Cormorant, seen from Paddy’s Pool.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)

At the opposite end of the size scale are Little Grebes.

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)

These dive underwater to catch insects larvae and small fish. When hunting they are barely on the surface of the water before diving under.

Here’s a picture of one alongside some Wigeon.

Wigeon (Anas penelope)

We also expect more of these soon.

Pochard were seen.

They also dive for their food.

Pochard (Aythya ferina)

And Shoveler.

Shoveler (Anas clypeata)

Gadwall were displaying on the muds by Phil Stead Hide.

Gadwall (Anas strepera)

Beneath the feeders at Wildlife Watchpoint were Mallard and Moorhens.

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)

On the feeders were Goldfinch

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

and Greenfinch (a soggy looking one).

Finally in the distance, a skein of Barnacle Geese were coming in to roost in the wet.

Barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis)

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | October 7, 2018

The teeming autumn

The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burden of the prime

Sonnet 97

At the bottom of Lythe Bank

lies Sandsend. 

On one side lies the North Sea

But in the other direction lies Mulgrave Cottages

Sandsend Beck runs along the valley floor and is home to sleeping Mallard.

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

The paths lead onto the woods of Mulgrave Estate, showing signs of the rich colour palette of Autumn.

Deeper into the woods, freshly fallen leaves adorn the ground.

together with conkers.

These fall from Horse Chestnut trees, themselves turning into a riot of colour.

By these trees, leaves fall.

Some trees in the wood are being attacked by climbing Ivy.

Some still have green leaves.

Others are changing.

A brief clearance gives a peekaboo view towards Whitby Abbey.

Logging takes place in the woods.

Whilst other fallen trees are covered in fungus, a sign of decay.

At the exit of the woods are Wasps aplenty.

Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris)

Mulgrave Cottages mark the return to the coast.

Out at sea, ships pass on towards Teesport.

Whilst by the cafe the flag still flies as they serve afternoon tea.



Posted by: mynaturaldiary | September 19, 2018

The Life/Dinner principle

Caught in a moment on the Lawn at Café Twitch, where a female Sparrowhawk despatched a Collared Dove.

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)


Are God and Nature then at strife,
That Nature lends such evil dreams?
So careful of the type she seems,
So careless of the single life;

That I, considering everywhere
Her secret meaning in her deeds,
And finding that of fifty seeds
She often brings but one to bear.

Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation’s final law
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek’d against his creed.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | September 9, 2018

A wisp of Snipe

“Lover of swamps,
The quagmire overgrown
With hassock-tufts of sedge — where fear encamps
Around thy home alone”

To the Snipe – John Clare

Normally very difficult to spot, given their superb camouflage, and a desire to exploit it to the full by skulking in the long grass, it was a great delight to see Snipe feeding in the open at the RSPB reserve at Saltholme.

Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)

You can see in the next picture a snipe (top left) with food in that extraordinary long bill of theirs.

You can see how they probe the mud with their bill.

And here is the wisp of Snipe, all feeding in the open.

There were also Black tailed Godwits, a prayer’s worth.

Black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa)

This bird still has the faint redness of bird in breeding plumage, but the rest are heading into more drab winter markings (all the better to hide in the snows).

Ruff were also with these waders.

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)

And Lapwings, where their numbers are slowly building up.

Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)

There was a Green Sandpiper, nestling under a bank of earth.

Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus)

This is an uncommon bird.

Grey Heron were hunting.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

And a Mute Swan was displaying on Paddy’s Pool.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)

Geese included Canadian, Greylag and Barnacle geese.

Canada Geese (Branta canadensis)

Greylag Goose (Anser anser)

Barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis)

Ducks included Pochard

Pochard (Aythya ferina)

Tufted Duck

Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)

Mallard (in eclipse)

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

and Teal, nestling under a bank.

Teal (Anas crecca)

Gadwall came flying in over Paddy’s Pool.

Gadwall (Anas strepera)

By the feeders at Wildlife Watchpoint were Tree Sparrows

Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)


Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris)

Blue Tits

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)

and Great Tits

Great Tit (Parus major)

Finally the warmth was enough to get Butterflies and Hawkers out in force.

These included

Small Tortoiseshell


Red Admiral


Comma (Polygonia c-album)

and Speckled Wood

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria)

The hawkers included great views of a Common Darter.

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)

I see the sky
Smile on the meanest spot,
Giving to all that creep or walk or fly
A calm and cordial lot.

To the Snipe – John Clare

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | September 1, 2018

Glassy Seas

Out to sea with the help of Yorkshire Coast Nature, thanks to Richard, and the Skipper, Sean, of ‘All my Sons‘. The high pressure sitting over the UK works its magic –

– and out at sea –

– the surface is glassy calm,

sometimes eerily so.

It’s so calm seeing into the sea’s depth is easy, to reveal things pleasant, or in this case unpleasant.

Lion’s mane Jellyfish (Cyanea capillata)

Just as well the boat is powered by diesel, not sail, otherwise we would be becalmed, and unable to do the main part of the day, whale and seabird watching. The calm seas has the benefit of making it easier to see when the Minke whales are surfacing, before diving to catch the fish.

We start seeing them some distance off –

– before closing down the distance.

Northern Minke Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)

These are some 6-7m long, and surface for a few seconds to breathe before returning deep to hunt for the shoals of Mackerel and Sand Eels.

The exceptional weather allowed us to see over 200 ‘encounters’ or sightings with many individual whales, both adult and juvenile. One even swum under the boat.

There were seals out there too!

They hang vertically in the water when resting…

until they realise we are there!

Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus)

When they’ve had enough, they dive.

Pufflings were at sea, having left the nest.

Puffin (Fratercula arctica)

These young birds haven’t developed the bright bills of adulthood which they show during the breeding season. Parental care ends when the pufflings first leave the land and fly out the sea. After that, the young birds are on their own.

Fulmars were flying around the boat –

– following the ‘chum trail’ with interest.

Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)

There were also Sandwich Terns out at sea.

Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis)

Perhaps the highlight bird for the trip were the Gannets.

Gannet (Morus bassanus)

It was a great thrill to see them dive so closely to the boat.

We come back to shore by passing Old Nab, near Beacon Hill.

Then we return to Staithes.


A ‘fintastic’ day out!

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | August 20, 2018

Strangford Lough

Strangford Lough is Northern Ireland’s only marine nature reserve. It is the home to a summer colony of Terns, including Sandwich Terns.

Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis)

Across the lough on the southern side is Castle Ward;  known as the set location for Winterfell in Game of Thrones. There is a shoreline trail, used as set locations in GoT. It’s also unspoilt, quiet, and a home to waders once the film crews have departed.

Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)

Redshank (Tringa totanus)

Curlew (Numenius arquata)

Amongst the gorse bushes, spider webs hang with dew in the morning.



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