Posted by: mynaturaldiary | November 19, 2017

Winter is Coming

It was cold enough to partially freeze the lakes at the RSPB reserve at Saltholme .

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

You can see this Mallard duck dabbling for food at the waters edge where the ice begins.


Moments like these remind me of how hardy wild birds are – the water must be freezing cold, and yet the ducks just get on with the daily round of survival.

The Teal were in the same predicament. At the waters edge it had frozen.

but in the middle of the lake all was still ok.

Teal (Anas crecca)

Wigeon are partially land based, where they feed on grass.

Wigeon (Anas penelope)

At the slightest sign of danger, they fly en mass onto the waters at a low height.

Where they slowly congregate together

before breaking off one by one, back onto the grasslands. Notice their nodding head action, signalling they are about to fly.

They were also on the ice.

The males are all displaying the distinctive orange head stripe that they show in winter on their chocolate brown heads.

Another duck sticking only to the open waters was this Shoveler.

Shoveler (Anas clypeata)

This Redshank put on a wonderful display of hunting before Saltholme hide.

Redshank (Tringa totanus)

Lapwings were on the ground

Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)

and in the air

together with Starlings. More of them later at the end of this post in a murmuration.

Other waders that took to the ground and the skies were Golden Plover.


Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria)

It’s in the air that they seem to come to life as they wheel around in cloud like formations

before landing.

Now, some smaller birds. First, Greenfinch.

Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris)

And a Reed Bunting

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)

And a Blue Tit.

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)

Geese seen were Greylag Geese

Greylag Goose (Anser anser)

And Barnacle Geese.


Barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis)


We also had special visitors – Whooper Swans.

Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus)

Their yellow bills mark them out from Mute Swans.

Very elegant birds indeed.

About this time of year, tucked away on the reserve are Long Eared Owls. They have returned again.

Long-eared Owl (Asio otus)

Long may they come back.

And finally, the murmuration I murmured about earlier. Starlings are on the reserve all year.

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

At this time of year, our reserve hosts thousands which fly in the complex patterns we call a murmuration, before settling in the reed beds for the night.

A wonderful sight indeed.


Posted by: mynaturaldiary | November 4, 2017

Coatham Beach

In celebration of Sky Landscape artist of the year being held at South Gare, I return to take a few photos of the scenery.

This is the few painted in the competition. A twist of the head over the fishermen’s huts hints at the North Sea and distant cliffs.

Heading in that direction gets you to Coatham beach,

a wild place frequented by Oystercatchers.

Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)

The waves appear not to disturb them.

Also present were Black headed Gulls in their winter plumage.

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)

And Redshank.

Redshank (Tringa totanus)

Cormorants were sunning themselves.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | October 8, 2017


Greylag geese have returned in skeins at the RSPB reserve at Saltholme .

They flew past the Transporter Bridge, the local landmark.

Then onto the grassland by Holme Fleet.


Once on the ground, they were feeding on the grasslands close to Saltholme Hide.

Greylag Goose (Anser anser)

This pair showed a wonderful duet of drinking.

It’s nice to see them back in such numbers.

In the middle field a few Barnacle Geese fed.

Barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis)

I hope we see more as winter arrives.

We always have Canada Geese present, and a small flock were on Paddy’s Pool.

Canada Geese (Branta canadensis)

Large deceits of Lapwings have also reappeared as the birds congregate off the Moors and Fells for the winter by Teesmouth.

The skyline around our reserve is a mixture of countryside with heavy industry, mostly chemical. The Lapwings wheel around in front of them, oblivious to the distillation columns and their contents.

On the ground, they still keep together, ready to fly at a moments notice from the passing danger of birds of prey. They also feed at the waters edge.


Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)

Their cries echo over the reserve, and will do so until the spring.

Ah, but I think him better than I say,
And yet would herein others’ eyes were worse.
Far from her nest the lapwing cries away:
My heart prays for him, though my tongue do curse.

The Comedy of Errors, Act IV, scene II

In addition, congregations of Golden Plover rise into the sky.

They make twisting patterns when flying, the better to confuse the falcons that hunt them.

Once they are on the ground, they rest in a group.

Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria)

A Ruff was seen from Saltholme Hide.

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)

Also a Black tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)

And a Curlew

Curlew (Numenius arquata)

The other wader showing well was a Redshank, that staged a Zen like performance in the waters before Saltholme hide.

I love the ripples of water

as well as the bird’s behaviour.

Redshank (Tringa totanus)

Another bird hunting in the waters before Saltholme hide was a Little Egret, successfully fishing.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

They are very skilful in catching their prey.

Swans were on the reserve – a Black Swan (and a Greater Black-backed Gull)

Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) & Great Black Backed Gull (Larus marinus).

Also Mute Swans, which are always there.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)

Ducks were present too. First, Gadwall.

Gadwall (Anas strepera)

then Tufted Duck

Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)

and Shoveler

Shoveler (Anas clypeata)

Finally Wigeon, which are returning in numbers.

Wigeon (Anas penelope)

Notice the distinctive orange stripe on the head which has just reappeared. The males only display this in winter.

Finally, some cows. A young Highland Cow munches on grassland

whilst another walks on water (apparently) in a trick of perspective.


Posted by: mynaturaldiary | October 7, 2017

Conkers 2017

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | September 17, 2017

Migrant Hawker

Migrant Hawkers were at the RSPB reserve at Saltholme . They fought for a few minutes along the path

before settling on separate stems.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta)

The second one looked more battered.

There is an amazing level of detail in the dragonfly’s eye.

What goes on in that mind?

There is a definite feel to a turn in the season. Farewell summer visitors, and see you again in 2018 Common Terns and Sand Martins. Hello to the returning Wigeons, who winter with us.

Wigeon (Anas penelope)

Notice they do not yet have the yellow stripe along the top of the males head which is so prominent later on in the year.

This last video shows a mixture of Wigeon and Coot and Saltholme West.

Coot (Fulica atra)

The Coots are the black birds, with white markings on their heads (hence as bald as a Coot, a phrase first coined in the 15thC).

You may also notice in the video above a Little Grebe serenely floating by. They are small diving birds, which catch amongst other things small fish.


Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)

Other waterfowl on the reserve were Gadwall

Gadwall (Anas strepera)

Shoveler (with their large bills)

Shoveler (Anas clypeata)

Pintail were on Saltholme West pool.

Pintail (Anas acuta)

Lapwings are returning to our reserve in numbers.

Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)

In this video, we see a Lapwing harassing a Black tailed Godwit, and a Redshank.

The Black tailed Godwits eventually found a quieter place to feed and rest.

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)

The Redshank also found space to search for food.

Redshank (Tringa totanus)

Little Egrets are a common large bird on the reserve.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

In the far distance a Black Swan was seen.

Black Swan (Cygnus atratus)

And on the water, a young Great Crested Grebe.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)

They were very small in May. Now look at them.

On the feeders were a pair of Paridae.

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) (at the front and) Great Tit (Parus major) (at the back).

Also a young

and mature Goldfinch.

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

And a mob of Starlings.

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

Let’s leave the reserve with a tiny snail making its way into the undergrowth.


Posted by: mynaturaldiary | September 10, 2017

Commondale Buzzard

A Buzzard seen hunting low over Commondale Moor.

Buzzard (Buteo buteo)

The heather is brown again, past its purple prime.


Posted by: mynaturaldiary | September 6, 2017

Churchill Colours

Signs of Autumnal colour change seen on the walls of Churchill College, Cambridge during a fleeting visit.


Posted by: mynaturaldiary | September 1, 2017

54.718 N, -0.675 W & the wonders in the deep

Some of the Sunday crew RSPB Saltholme hide guides went to sea with the help of Yorkshire Coast Nature, thanks to Richard, and the Skipper, Sean, of ‘All my Sons‘.

On the inshore North Sea this time of year, you can expect to find seabirds, including passage Skuas and Petrels (if you are lucky). If you are even luckier, you will see Minke Whales.

Out at sea, some 10 miles off the coast of Staithes

the sheer cliffs of the Yorkshire Coast seem distant.

A close watch of the seas surface reveals a wonder surfacing from below – an adult Minke Whale.

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.

Patience is needed when looking for whales – they can submerge for 15 mins or so between breaths. Patience, also a sharp lookout, and a fast boat. After a while, another whale surfaced.

and yet another..

and again…

and even more….

One can only be at the right place and the right time for the next experience –  a whale circled and passed under the boat.

You can see its white flukes

showing clearly as it swum underneath the boat in the video above. And then, even rarer, it broke its head out of the water to take a good look at us all.

Shades of the 107th Psalm.

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.

Wonderful! A totally unexpected treat, and a very rare occurrence

Of course, on the day many seabirds were also seen. Leaving harbour, Cormorants flew past and rested on the sea.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)

Their white throat helps identify them from their darker cousins, Shags. Also seen were Puffins

Puffin (Fratercula arctica)

and a passing Common Tern, searching for Sand Eels.

Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)

These birds were all close to the shore, less than a mile out. Heading deeper into the North Sea lies the realm of true seabirds, who only come onshore to breed on the Cliffs of Britain.

Gannets are our largest seabirds, with a wingspan up to 1.8m.

Gannet (Morus bassanus)

They are very impressive when they fly overhead.

The wingspan is very large, about 1.8m , enabling it to glide, or to flap powerfully. Their dagger like beak reveals their ‘trade’ of diving for fish; they are streamlined for the twin fluid mediums of the air and the sea. Bills are one of a bird’s giveaway identifiers, being adapted to their ‘trade’ of feeding themselves.

The other true seabird this far out were Fulmars – they are the North Atlantic’s ‘albatross’ to which they are distantly related.

Notice in the video the combination of wingbeats and gliding close to the sea’s surface, which is typical for them. The stiff wing is formed for gliding

Their eyes are deep set, so it is difficult to catch sunlight glinting on their eyes in flight.

Notice the complex bill structure, split into plates.

They rest on the sea when feeding or tired.

Again with a glint in its eye.

Notice in these photos the tube nose (called naricorns) which they breath through.

They run over the water when they get enough lift to start flying.

We’ll see some more Fulmars later in this post.

Great Black-backed Gulls also share the sea around the boat.

These are powerful birds – our largest seagulls, with a wingspan of about 1.6m.

Great Black-Blacked Gull (Larus marinus)

This one is an immature gull – the bright yellow bill hasn’t emerged yet, which is a sign of maturity.

They devour what they can, bullying other birds into dropping their catches. They are noted for ‘their air of glorious villainy’. Watching it eat ‘rubby dubby’, the local name for ‘chum’, it is hard to disagree.

Out at sea, the canopy of the sky changes with the weather. The day went from bright cloudless skies, to overcast, and then to soaring Cumulonimbus

which duly formed, brought rain and claps of thunder, clearly visible from a safe distance.

Returning home back to port, Staithes offered fine views.

How nice to see it at sea. So he bringeth them unto their desired location indeed.

Thanks Sean for getting us back.

On land, a quick detour to Cowbar, on the northern side of Staithes allowed good views of the cliffs and Cowbar Nab. Nesting Fulmars still feed their young.

And on Cowbar Nab, Oystercatchers feed.

Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)

This post ends with some ‘slow TV’; the horizon at sea

and onshore, looking out to the sea from Cowbar Nab.

The sea that is always counting.

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | August 28, 2017

Staithes and the Yorkshire Coast

Staithes harbour nestles between the cliffs of Cowbar Nab and Penny Steel.

The boats are ready to put to sea in a working harbour.

(note the red one moored to the harbour wall, which takes visitors out to sea for whale watching – more of which in the next post!).

A walk out of the village along the Yorkshire coastline gives fine views.

This wheat is ready to be harvested from the fields on the cliff tops.

Old Nab juts out into the sea.

And on the shoreline of Brackenberry Wyke, home to Jurassic fossils and seabirds, Oystercatchers are feeding.

Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)

Thorndale shaft marks the end of this stretch of bay before the next one.

The Jurassic geology is well exposed here, with sandstone atop mudstones. Beneath lies the ancient Triassic seas, now mined at Boulby for their rich seams of potash and halite.

Crossing past Port Mulgrave, the harvest is again evident.

On the loop back to Staithes lies Oakrigg Wood, home to 65 varieties of oak.

Finally back to Staithes, here’s a view overlooking Cowbar Farm with Boulby Cliffs in the distance.


Posted by: mynaturaldiary | August 28, 2017

Autumn Harvest

Hay bales like cotton reels beneath Roseberry Topping


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