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.

 

 

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | August 12, 2018

Beautiful blue

Insects were plentiful at the RSPB reserve at Saltholme, despite it being noticeably cooler than earlier in the summer.

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)

The star was the Hornet Hoverfly, a mimic.

Hornet Mimic Hoverfly (Volucella zonaria)

This was about 40mm in length (or over an inch to older Brits), and quite striking.

The acorns on the trees

speak of autumn to come, and yet some will never get there, having been attacked by gall wasps whose larvae secret chemicals which induce a blight

which dominates the acorn in time.

On the path was a tiny Common Toad.

Common Toad (Bufo bufo)

Since Saltholme hide is shut down, Paddy’s Pool offered an alternative and good birds to see. First, a Ruff, which is a passage migrant for us.

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)

And a beautiful Snipe, which blended in well with the surroundings.

Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)

There was a Little Egret fishing

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

You can see it with a fish in its mouth below, just about to be swallowed (gulp).

A Little Grebe and their chick were hunting on the waters, which they do by diving underneath to hunt for fish and invertebrates.

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)

Common Terns were still on the reserve, having not migrated back to Africa yet.

Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)

Coots were on the island in the middle of the pool.

Coot (Fulica atra)

Phil Stead Hide showed Moorhens.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)

There were also Mallard.

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

Lapwing are returning in numbers.

Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)

Finally, there was a Grey Heron hunting.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

You can see its slow movement with head still, followed by a rapid darting movement for a fish.

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | August 6, 2018

Newton Dale

Newton Dale, close to Pickering is showing the annual heather bloom well.

The North York Moors runs through the valley of Newton Dale, flanked by a forest.

and overlooked by the ruin of Skelton Tower.

On Levisham Moor, the sheep hide in the heather.

And the contrast in colours are fabulous to see.

On the paths were caterpillars.

Fox Moth (Macrothylacia rubi)

Emperor Moth (Saturnia pavonia)

as well as an ant.

The view overlooking the hole of Horcum was spectacular

And flying above, a solitary Kestrel.

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

 

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | August 5, 2018

Gulls on film, gulls on film…

To Saltburn

where the beach is covered in Black Headed Gulls, now heading out of chocolate brown head breeding plumage and back into winter plumage.

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)

In the skies were House Martins.

House Martin (Delichon urbica)

The sea is very still

and there is hardly a breeze in the air as the House Martins fly through it.

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | July 27, 2018

Thunderstorms

Real humdingers to end the summer heatwave (and unfortunately to obscure today’s lunar eclipse).

 

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | July 25, 2018

Summer Swallow

A Swallow flies above the fields set against the backdrop of Greenhow Moor in the distance.

Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

The evening sunset bathes Roseberry Topping in its light.

 

 

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | July 22, 2018

Give us this day our daily bread

Summer harvest in North Yorkshire

 

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | July 8, 2018

Farewell to old Saltholme hide

The hides have been replaced at the RSPB reserve at Saltholme, with only Saltholme Hide to be done. The plans are stunning

and I recorded what could be seen from the hide before the work begins over the summer. Apart from the tower and the glass windows, there will be landscaping work, joining the two lakes together by removing the land currently separating them.

There’s been a prolonged hot spell, which has reduced the levels of the lake, and led to a large number of flies on the mudflats. This in turn has drawn waders to feed.

One bird we don’t see so often are Ruff, now out of their breeding finery.

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)

They tend to be Autumn passage migrants for us, so maybe it is an early sign of Autumn to come, despite the heat.

The other bird you can see in the video was a Black tailed Godwit. These are very elegant, long billed birds.

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Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)

This Redshank was resting on one leg before deciding to search for more food.

They work the waters searching for insects, crustaceans, although I have seen one trying to tackle a fish.

Redshank (Tringa totanus)

Lapwing were also on the mudflats. They move much more deliberately than the constant searching of Redshank.

Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)

Notice the little birds in front of the lapwing – they are Dunlin, one of our smallest waders.

Dunlin (Calidris alpina)

Now two plovers; first the Ringed Plover.

Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)

Notice the lack of an eye ring. Next the little ringed plover which has a yellow ring around its eye.

Little ringed plover (Charadrius dubius)

There can be no confusion about identifying the next wader. Avocets are black and white waders with long up-curved beaks.

Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)

More birds seen from Saltholme hide were a Cormorant, spending his time preening.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)

A Grey Heron was hunting in the middle of a lake. Notice when it moves, its head keeps still for as long as possible when it creeps forward at the beginning of the video.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

Both Mute Swan and a solitary Black Swan were in the far distance.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) and Black Swan (Cygnus atratus)

Also in the distance were Greylag Geese with their steadily growing youngsters.

Greylag Goose (Anser anser)

On Paddy’s Pool were large numbers of Canadian Geese, together with their youngsters, who are smaller than the adults.

Canada Geese (Branta canadensis)

Tufted Ducks were chaperoning their chicks, and keeping them from the ever present danger of predatory Gulls.

Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)

Black headed Gulls nest on the island in the middle of Paddy’s Pool. They too have young chicks to care for.

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)

They have grown substantially from the last time I was on the reserve 4 weeks ago.

Common Terns also nest on the island.

Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)

Up at the visitors centre I saw a solitary Sand Martin emerge from the nesting site build for them.

Sand Martin (Riparia riparia)

In the bushes were butterflies,

Large Heath (Coenonympha tullia)

Finally, along the paths basking in the heat were large numbers of Dragonflies, including Common Blue

and Common Darter

 

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | June 17, 2018

Tenacity with Tv – or a decade of nature blogging

This nature blog is now 10 years old (happy birthday, Pageant!), and to celebrate this tenacity with Tv a trip to the Farne Islands beckoned.

The North Sunderland harbour is in the town of Seahouses,  Northumbria, and the boats depart at regular intervals (thanks to Billy Shiel and the other operators).

Before getting to the boats a group of young Starlings were begging for scraps of food on the Quayside.

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

In the harbour were Eider ducks, known locally as Cuddy ducks.

Eider (Somateria mollissima)

It’s out at sea in the Farne Islands where the wildlife lives. First, let’s see the Grey Seals on the islands, and in the North Sea.

Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus)

The boat sweep on, towards the seabird colony on Staple Island and its three stacks.

The island is home to thousands of seabirds, including Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Guillemots, Razorbills, Shags, Herring Gulls and Lesser Black Backed Gulls.  These latter two birds are part predators and pirates on the rest of the birds, forcing them to disgorge or drop the sand eels they have caught , or catching the birds themselves.

Let’s look first at Herring Gulls, and their chicks.

Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)

The adult guards the nest most of the time, but also must leave to feed itself and get food for the chicks. At that time, a chick breaking free of an egg could be seen, calling to the outside world it hasn’t joined.

It will take hours to emerge fully. Here is a more recently hatched one, with feathers still wet.

The adult soon returns to stand guard.

The Lesser Black Backed Gulls are bigger than the Herring Gulls, and have bright yellow (as opposed to pink) legs.

Lesser black-backed gull (Larus fuscus)

You get a sense of the menace they exert here, as they stand around waiting to rob returning Puffins of their food.

Puffins are, of course, the most delightful looking of all the birds on the islands. Whether out at sea

or emerging from their burrows

They stand around, as if waiting for something to happen.

They take to the air with some labour…

…but once there, it’s a delight to see them return from the sea laden with Sand Eels for their young called Pufflings.

 

You get a sense of how bust the sky is with Puffins in these videos.

There are thousands of them on the Farne Islands, but there are even more Guillemots who nest together in huge colonies.

Notice the frenetic way in which they land – fast frame photography captures this well.

In the air they show determined grace whilst carrying their bulk through the air, especially when carrying a solitary Sand Eel.

 

Taking off is frenetic too.

Guillemot (Uria aalge)

There are also Bridled Guillemots there, which have a white eye ring.

Bridled Guillemot (Uria aalge)

Like Puffins, Guillemots are true seabirds, only coming onto land to nest.

They are closely related to Razorbill, with a more powerful bill than the dagger like Guillemot.

Razorbill (Alca torda)

Shags are other seabirds that come to land to nest. They are long necked, and have a whiff of the Jurassic about them.

Their hooked bill is for catching fish underwater.

Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)

Other gulls on the islands were Kittiwakes and Fulmars. First, Kittiwakes.

Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)

And Fulmars.

Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)

Note their tube nose. They glide like Albatrosses, with stiff, outstretched wings.

They too are pelagic birds, living on the open sea outside of the breeding season.

The champion bird for flying on the Islands have to be the Terns, which in the case of the Arctic tern travel thousands of miles each year, as the migrate from the Northern to the Southern hemisphere. They breed on the Farne Islands in a colony.

They defend their young with ‘full intent’

But they are graceful flyers, and don’t mind too much where they land.

Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea)

There are also Sandwich Terns nesting at this time of year. These are bigger than the Arctic Terns, and have their own colony amongst the Black Headed Gulls.

Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis)

The Black Headed gulls also nest on the Islands.

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)

Finally let’s leave the tableaux of these busy islands with a solitary Oystercatcher, preening itself.

Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)

 

 

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