Posted by: mynaturaldiary | March 20, 2017

Vernal Equinox

We welcome back equal night and equal day, before heading into the light half of the year.

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | March 12, 2017

Avocets at Saltholme

Avocets are back at the RSPB reserve at Saltholme.

They constantly sift the waters for invertebrates. This pair were swimming in the scrape before Saltholme hide, overlooking Saltholme West pool. Their action is ceaseless (see video here and here).

You can notice how one is beneath the water whilst the other is above, keeping a careful watch.

Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)

On the waters of Saltholme  West pool were some Goldeneye ducks, including this male, displaying.

He has a very distinctive white patch on his head between his eye and bill.

Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)

Red Breasted Mergansers made a fine sight.

Red breasted merganser (Mergus serrator)

(see video here).

Wigeon are still on the reserve (see video here).

Wigeon (Anas penelope)


Gadwall (Anas strepera)


Pochard (Aythya ferina)


Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

Tufted Ducks (see video here)

Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)

and Teal were also on the reserve (see video here and here).

Teal (Anas crecca)

Pintail put on a fine display.

Their name comes from the tail feathers, seen as an upended male searches for food.

(see videos here, here, here and here).

Pintail (Anas acuta)

Notice in the background of the picture above, an Oystercatcher, with its beak folded under its wing, resting.

Another wader seen were Redshanks (see video here).

Redshank (Tringa totanus)

Black tailed Godwits were searching for food.

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)

(see video here and here).

And tucked away, a small Dunlin was seen from Saltholme hide.

Dunlin (Calidris alpina)

(see video here)

Our standard members of the rail family were seen. First a coot (one of many!)


Coot (Fulica atra)

and Moorhen (see video here)

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)

across the reserve were Black headed Gulls. They are getting their brown heads back, ready for the summer.

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)

A gulls life is a squabbly one (see video here); and these birds were displaying.

In the air were a pair of Greylag Geese.

Greylag Goose (Anser anser)

On the feeders at Wildlife Watchpoint (undergoing a refurbishment) were

Blue tits

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)


Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

and Reed Buntings (see video here).

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)

Finally, a spectacular sighting of a female Kestrel – first, in the air, hovering.

She then moved to a fence post to rest, allowing fine views.

(see video here)

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

She eventually flew away, hovering, searching for the next meal.

Finally, the Blackthorn blossom has returned.




Posted by: mynaturaldiary | March 1, 2017

St David’s Day

We welcome back this year’s daffodils

And, at Lake Wilton, the blossom on the trees.

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | February 19, 2017

Welcome visitors

A return of welcome visitors to the RSPB reserve at Saltholme – four fine looking birds appeared in the trees before the Phil Stead Hide.




Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)

(see video here).


Their feathers have a very smooth appearance.


so much so that a blemish stands out (in this case a seed located by its cheek).


(see video here and here).

These pictures show off the striking plumage on their tail feathers and wings.




(see video here and here).




Their propensity to flock together (in a museum of Waxwings!) means they will often be seen in the same tree.




They strip the food off a tree with great aplomb.


They are most elegant birds.



Stonechat were on the path to the Saltholme hide.




Stonechat (Saxicola torquata)

Sitting on a fence post some distance from the Paddy’s pool hide was a female Kestrel, being harassed by a crow.


It saw off the threat, before taking off itself (see video here) to resume the hunt.

In the air these falcons become masters of being able to hover over one spot (all the better to pounce).




Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

The waders are beginning to thin out in numbers. The golden Plover have mostly left, and the Lapwing numbers are also down from their peak around December.

(see video here and here).

They take to the air at the first sign of danger (see video here). Once there, they form a cloud of birds, to help deceive predators, such as the Kestrel above.

(see video here).

They are one of my favourite birds, and I love their cry in the breeding season, which gives their common name (Pee-wit).

Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)

You can see in this picture some Redshank in addition to the Lapwing.

Redshank (Tringa totanus)

Curlew were also still on the reserve.

Curlew (Numenius arquata)

Their cry is also haunting, and is the sound of spring and early summer on the Moors.

(see video here).

This delightful bird preened itself.

(see video here).

In the field with the Curlews were Wigeon.

Wigeon (Anas penelope)

(see videos here and here).

They have a plaintive cry.

They cluster on the waters for safety (see video here), and struggle to get out onto the grassy bank (see video here). They too will soon depart for Scandinavia for the summer. We’ll see them again in the Autumn.

Other ducks included


Teal (Anas crecca)


Gadwall (Anas strepera)


Pintail (Anas acuta)


Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

(see video here)

and Shelduck

Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)

A pair of Mute Swans flew past Paddy’s Pool hide.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)

They always make a strong sound in the air.

The Black Swan was also on the waters before Phil Stead Hide.

Black Swan (Cygnus atratus)

Coots are ever present on the reserve.

Coot (Fulica atra)

And finally, a Cormorant, drying its wings.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)


Posted by: mynaturaldiary | February 4, 2017

Seals and Seal Sand

At Greatham Creek, in the Teesmouth National Nature Reserve, Harbour Seals lie on the mud awaiting the turn of the tide.


Harbour (Common) Seal (Phoca vitulina)

You can see the younger seal


trying to make its way over the mud (see video here and here). I love the way in the last video it simply slides over the mud.


In this video the youngster stretches his flippers. In the water, the seals are a different animal.



They move with grace, as this video shows here.



Also on the mudflats of Greatham Creek were Redshank


(see video here). We’ll see more of them later in this post on Seal Sands. In the TNNR carpark, overlooking Cowpen Marsh were Wigeon.


Wigeon (Anas penelope)

They have blue eyes, and this male shows a faint herringbone pattern on the grey feathers along its flank.

On Cowpen Marsh, Lapwings and Golden Plover hunkered down.


Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)


Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria)

They sat at the waters edge, ready to spring into the air at the first sign of danger (see video here and here). These birds will soon depart the marshes of Teesmouth for the upland North Yorkshire Moors and for Tees-dale. But not yet!

In the distance on the water behind these waders, a male Shoveler could be seen.


Shoveler (Anas clypeata)

(see video here).

Leaving the Cowpen Marsh area for Greenabella Marsh in the Teesmouth National Nature Reserve , a real treat was found. A group of Twites were on a tree.



Twite (Carduelis flavirostris)

(see video here).

Also seen was a Great Tit.


Great Tit (Parus major)

There was a solitary male Teal on the water.


Teal (Anas crecca)


The vast expanse of the mudflats at Seal Sands at low tide is a feeding point for many birds.


Greatham Creek winds its way through this to reach the River Tees, which in turn empties out into Teesmouth, and the North Sea.

On the mudflats were Curlew. They were probing the mud for invertebrates, which you can see them eating.


Curlew (Numenius arquata)

(see video here).

Another wader seen in numbers were Redshank, which I mentioned earlier in this post.



Redshank (Tringa totanus)

(see video here)

A cloud of waders could be seen flying over the mudflats – too far away to identify.


Redshank – Sanderling – Knot? Still beautiful to see, whatever they were.

Shelduck were also on the mudflats in numbers.




Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)

(see video here).

These birds are the symbol for the Teesmouth Bird Club.

In this picture you can see a Shelduck (top right), an Oystercatcher (top left) and a Cormorant drying its wings (bottom).


Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)

The Cormorant makes a splendid primeval image, as he tries to dry his wings off (see video here).


Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)

Finally, the Black Headed Gulls appear to be making the transition from their winter plumage


back to their summer plumage


Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)

In the summer, their head will be a most attractive chocolate brown. Summer is a coming, even if it still feels cold!

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | January 31, 2017

Snowdrops 2017

This years Snowdrops have returned.


These were seen at Great Ayton, along the banks of the River Leven.





Posted by: mynaturaldiary | January 28, 2017

Café Twitch’s big garden watch 2017

Once a year, the RSPB organises a Big Garden Watch, where we dutifully record all the birds that fly into our gardens in an hour over the weekend towards the end of January. Last years results are here.

So armed with a camera, feeding table freshly stocked with seed, Café Twitch yielded the following.

First, a Dunnock. It sat cautiously on a branch, looking out for danger, before heading to the ground to feed.


(see video here and here).

Finally satisfied the coast was clear, it flew down to the seeds on the ground.


Notice how well camouflaged the grey body is against the earth.



Notice though it remained cautious, always on the look-out.

(see video here)


Dunnock (Prunella modularis)

Secondly, a messy blackbird (some birds accidentally put seeds on the ground for the Dunnocks).


Blackbird (Turdus merula)


(see video here).

Finally, a Starling, up in the branches of the tree.


Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)



Posted by: mynaturaldiary | January 18, 2017

First Song 2017

Song Thrush heard on 18th January. This makes it 28 days from the winter solstice. and well within the normal range of dates recorded by me since 2008.



This year is at the 40%, close to the average at 50% (33 days after the winter solstice). Looking at the trend of these dates, no discernible pattern emerges.


The birds aren’t singing any earlier, year on year.

The annual Central England Temperature record (CET), running back to 1659 now has the 2016 data. The average temperature for 2016 (10.31° C) was almost the same as 2015 (10.27° C).

The yearly values (shown by points connected by a dotted line) are shown in the graphs below, together with a time series analysis of the data, using exponentially weighted moving averages (EWMA)  for the 10 year (red line) and 30 year (blue line). The 10 year (red line) is the decadal behaviour; the 30 year (blue line) is the multidecadal behaviour.   Given the length of the time series, we can look back and identify when the trends changed, by taking the turning points in the blue trend data. Clear warming or cooling trends can be identified when the red trend data rises above the blue trend data (heating), or falls below the blue trend data (cooling). Periods of time when the temperature is stable is highlighted by both the red and blue lines being similar. The blue trend multidecadal behaviour, is perhaps of more interest in understanding climate, rather than the yearly values, which are dependent upon each years weather pattern.  {Click on each image to see it enlarged}.


Looking at the data since 1850 (when the blue 30 and red 10 year trends were the same, so the temperature was stable) shows the current patterns more clearly. From this period of time onwards, we can be certain that robust thermometry has been used to measure the data.



Currently the red line trend is above the blue line trend, which indicates a rising temperature, and has been so since 1988. For an overall falling trend, the red line trend must be beneath the blue line trend (as it did from 1880 to 1900). A stable trend in temperature would have both lines moving along together (as it did from 1900 to 1911, and 1964 to 1989). Looking at past behaviour shows it is unwise to believe that any current behaviour will persist indefinitely, and that forecasting on the basis of linear extrapolation of the current trend has limited value as a forecasting method. EWMA only allows forecasting one time step ahead, and this is shown in the graphs (next year’s prediction, based on all the data).

The year to year temperature difference from 1850 until 2016 shows evidence of a stochastic process, as shown below, with a mean value of 0.01° C, and a standard deviation of 0.70° C.


Thus if the yearly difference in temperature is greater than ± 1.4° C, we know an unusual year has occurred. (±2 standard deviations  or ±95% confidence limits). That has only happened a few times since 1850; the last time in 2011.

Looking at the monthly temperatures is instructive, as it is the basis of the yearly data. Have the trends in temperature in the yearly record above occurred across all months, or are their differences between the months and the seasons?



A complex pattern of gradual increase (1850 until 1940; blue trend = 2.65° C to 4.05° C), followed by a decline (1940 to 1967; blue trend 4.05° C to 3.63° C), followed by the current rise (1967 to 2016; blue trend 3.63° C to 4.27° C). The red trends line reached a peak in 2009, and has declined since then.




Essentially unchanged from 1850 until 1988, when a rapid increase occurred (1988 until 2016; blue trend = 3.61° C to 4.38° C). You can see the red trend line stopped increasing in 2004, and is currently slowly moving back towards the blue trend line.



The trend has been gently up (1893; blue trend = 4.99° C to 1962 = 5.71° C), stationary (1962 to 1987), then an increase (1987; blue trend = 5.71° C to 2013 = 6.32° C). The 30 year trend has declined since then to 6.24° C in 2016. Concomitant to this, the red trend has reversed direction, and is heading towards the blue trend line. This is somewhat similar to the pattern of February. If the red line crosses beneath the blue line, we will know the current warming phase has ended. If both the red and blue lines move along together, a stable trend in temperature will be occurring. Only more time will tell.



A complex pattern of gradual increase and decrease, with a clear rapid increase starting in 1941, peaking in 1950, then declining until 1987. Since then a gradual increase (1987; blue trend = 7.96° C to 2016 = 8.51° C). As in the earlier months above, the past few years suggest the rate of increase has slowed, having peaked in 2012.



Essentially unchanged since 1850. (1850; blue trend = 11.50° C to 2016 = 11.55° C). The current warming phase began in 1988. The red trend recently reached a peak in 2010 (11.95° C), and has now declined in 2016 (11.75° C).



Essentially unchanged; if anything a slight decline since 1850. (1850; blue trend = 14.52° C to 2016 = 14.40° C). The red trend recently reached a peak in 2008 (14.76° C), and has now declined; 2016 (14.47° C).



Essentially unchanged from 1850 to 1982. (1850; blue trend = 15.75° C to 1982 = 15.92° C). Thereafter a slight warming trend, indicated by the red trend rising above the blue trend (1982; blue trend = 15.92° C to 2016 = 16.44° C). The red line reached a peak in 2007.



Essentially unchanged from 1850 to 1975, when the red trend rose above the blue trend in the most recent period (1850; blue trend = 15.38° C to 1975 = 15.60° C). Thereafter a slight warming trend, which plateaued in 2005. (1975; blue trend = 15.60° C to 2005 = 16.21° C) . Since 2005, the blue trend has remained essentially stable (2016 = 16.13° C), and the red trend clearly shows signs of falling back to the blue trend, having peaked in 2006.



Essentially unchanged from 1850 to 1933 (1850; blue trend = 13.08° C to 1975 = 13.08° C). A gentle increase up to 1962 (1933; blue trend = 13.08° C to 1962 = 13.57° C), then unchanged until 1998 (blue trend = 13.58° C). Thereafter a rise until 2007 (blue trend = 13.92° C), followed by a pause until now 2016 (blue trend = 13.92° C). The red trend shows signs of returning towards the blue trend, having peaked in 2008.



A gentle rising and falling pattern from 1850 until 1921 (1850; blue trend = 9.53° C to 1921 = 9.42° C). Thereafter a slow steady increase until 1981, with the red trend consistently above the blue trend (1921; blue trend = 9.42° C to 1981 = 10.28° C). A short pause, lasting until 1995 (1981; blue trend = 10.28° C to 1995 = 10.24° C). More recently, another warming phase, currently unbroken (1995; blue trend = 10.24° C to 2016 = 10.76° C). The red line had a recent peak value in 2015.



A gentle rising and falling pattern from 1850 until 1931, when the red 10 year trend rose above the blue 30 year trend (1850; blue trend = 5.93° C to 1931 = 5.93° C). From 1931, a steady rise in temperature, indicated by the red trend being greater than the blue trend (1931; blue trend = 5.93° C to 1965 =6.50° C), whereafter a short period of stable temperature occurred lasting until 1978 (1965; blue trend = 6.50° C to 1978 =6.38° C), indicted by the red trend and blue trend lines being similar in value. From 1978 until 2016, a period of warming has occurred (1978; blue trend = 6.38° C to 1978 = 7.10° C). The red line currently indicates 2016 as the peak value.



A rising and falling pattern at the beginning 1850 until 1910 (1850; blue trend = 3.99° C to 1910 =3.95° C), followed by gentle rise until 1925. (1910 blue trend = 3.95° C to 1925 = 4.43° C). Thereafter a holding pattern until 1971 (1925 blue trend = 4.43° C to 1973 = 4.33° C), when the red trend rose above the 30 year blue trend.  Thereafter a warming trend continues until the present notwithstanding the exceptionally cold year of 2010, and warm year of 2015 (1973 blue trend = 4.33° C to 2016 = 4.84° C). The red line indicates 1989 as the peak value.

All the above analysis, month by month suggests recent warming in late autumn and early winter (October & November). Summer seems unchanged over the longer time period. There is clear evidence in recent years of a warming phase which has peaked and is declining. This may presage a period of stable temperatures, or further decline into a cooling period. Only time will tell.

The monthly temperatures going back to 1850 are below, shown on a probability plot.


You can see the data is all ‘Gaussian/normal’, since they show up as a series of straight lines when plotted on a normal probability graph.

Tabulating the monthly average temperatures for 2016 showed we had one exceptional month (i.e. outside the +/- 95% confidence limits), which was September, the rest being ‘normal’ (i.e. inside the +/- 95% confidence limits).


Behind all these trends in British weather lies the Jetstream. The following offers a guide to what the Jetstream does to British weather.

      • The position of the jet stream over the UK determines the type of weather we experience.
      • If the polar front jet is situated significantly to the south of the UK we will experience colder than average weather, driven by the polar cell.
      • If the polar front jet is situated to the north of the UK we will experience warmer than average weather, driven by the Ferrel cell.
      • If the polar front jet is situated over the UK we will experience wetter and windier than average weather.
      • If the polar front jet has a large amplification then cold air will travel further south than average and warm air will travel further north than average.
      • The direction and angle of the jet stream arriving at the UK will determine what source of air (i.e. cold, dry, warm, wet, from maritime or continental sources) the UK experiences.


The weather in Britain is ‘difficult’ to predict over the course of a few months, which is why the Brits talk about it all the time.

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | January 15, 2017

Skitey Ducks

A grand Northumbrian word, skitey means slippery. That’s what the waters were at the RSPB reserve at Saltholme when they froze over. The ducks have to manage this change to conditions.

This Shoveler seems not to have minded (I guess the big webbed feet helps).


Shoveler (Anas clypeata)

(See video here and here).

They manage to steer their way between the ice sheets.





The water is freezing, but the ducks just get on with it.



Wigeon (Anas penelope)

Wigeons land gently on the ice, and try not to go flying across it as a flat stone does when thrown on the surface of water.

(See video here and here).


They cope with the ice and water well.

Pintail kept to the waters to feed.




Pintail (Anas acuta)

(See video here).

Mallard were also walking on water ice.


Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

The female in the pair got a soaking when the male took off to walk on the ice.


(see video here)

But she too got her turn on the ice.



Teal were also on the waters



(see video here)

and on the ice.




Teal (Anas crecca)

(see video here).

The Teal were getting frisky, and into courtship displays.


Notice the bottom waggling and head stretching between rival males.


(see video here).

Gadwall were also on the reserve. This male was upending to feed.


Gadwall (Anas strepera)

Notice the black bottom, and the white patch, which helps identify it when its head is under the water.

Shelduck were also on the reserve.




Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)

(see video here and here).

In the last video link, a Black Swan appears.



Black Swan (Cygnus atratus)

Golden Plover are still on the reserve in small flocks.




Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria)

(See video here).

This last bird was showing signs of the dark underbelly which marks their breeding plumage.


They will soon be leaving for their breeding grounds on the Moors ( North Yorks Moors and Teesdale at the source of the river Tees).

Goldfinch were on the feeders at Wildlife Watchpoint.


Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

(see video here)

They squabble too!


Despite it being freezing, there were flies in the air.


A Little Egret was stalking on the edge of Paddy’s Pool.



Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

(see video here)

Finally a poser for us Hide Guides… when is a small gull a juvenile or another species? Look at the bird on the left hand side. Is it a Black Headed Gull, or a Little Gull?


Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)

We think, after debate it’s a Black Headed Gull juvenile. It’s small (hence the doubt), but a Little Gull has shorter legs. So it’s a little Black Headed Gull.

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | January 14, 2017

Tracks in the snow

Left by wild rabbits, the snows on Gisborough Moor mark their passage by their tracks.



The path onto the Moor is highlighted well against the bright sunshine.



On the Moor, the sun dazzles.



The paths stand out in white.



Further on, the path looks like a slalom.




The snows cover the heather in patches.



Red Grouse look for breaks in the snow to feed.





Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus)

When disturbed, they fly low over the snows, calling as they go.




Being dark coloured birds, they stand out against the snow.


Sleddale, a small farmed valley in the middle of Gisborough Moor looks wonderful.



In the trees on the edge of Gisborough Moor, and unusual call alerts me. It’s a small flock of Crossbills.



Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra)

Also among the flock are Siskins.











Siskin (Carduelis spinus)

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