Posted by: mynaturaldiary | August 14, 2017

Moorland Magic

Commondale and the adjoining Gisborough Moor has a carpet of purple heather

this time of year.

The skies are filled with Red Grouse.

Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus)

In the middle of the heather

is a war memorial to two Grenadier Guardsmen who fell in the First World War. They were Robbie Leggott, killed in action 1916 & Alf Cockerill, died of wounds sustained in combat shortly after the war.

A river seems to run through the purple.

A passing Kestrel

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

seems to have something in its claws.

It’s not this Meadow Pipit.

Meadow pipit (Anthus pratensis)

Even the sheep seem to get lost in the vastness of the landscape.

Sleddale, a small farmed valley stands out, with its green island in the purple, offset by passing clouds.

The view to Captain Cook’s Monument is also dominated by heather.

Such quietude.

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | August 13, 2017


The Brown Hawker was ovipositing

at the RSPB reserve at Saltholme .

Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis)

She took her time before she flew off somewhere else to lay more eggs.

At the entrance to the reserve is a bank of wild flowers.

Poppies, Daisies, Cornflowers, Pink Campion – a fabulous sight this time of year.

The wild flowers attract butterflies.

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)

Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera)

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria)

At the Wildlife Watchpoint hide, a Water Rail showed well.

Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)

It hunted through the reeds in search of its diet of insects and molluscs.  A young Moorhen also made a dash for the cover of the reeds.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)

Notice its green legs, a hallmark of Moorhens.

An even younger Coot chick was on the waters.

Coot (Fulica atra)

Coots breed all summer long. Little Grebes were diving under the water for food.

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)

They leave a disturbance in the water when they dive which allows you to guess where they will surface again.

In the reeds

by the hide were Sedge Warblers.

Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)

Skulking further up in the trees was a Reed Warbler.

Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)

At the Visitors Centre Sand Martins were still nesting in their especially prepared man made sandbanks.

Sand Martin (Riparia riparia)


Common Terns are still on the reserve, feeding their youngsters.

Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)

Lapwing numbers are building up again.

Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)

You can see a deceit of Lapwing fly past in this video.

They are also sitting on the causeway at the top right hand corner of the video.

In this video, they share the causeway with Dunlin, one of the smaller waders nestling in the middle of the picture.

Dunlin (Calidris alpina)

At the other end of the size distribution for waders were Curlew (with down curved bills)

Curlew (Numenius arquata)

and Black tailed Godwits (with long bills, slightly upcurved)

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)

Little Egrets were hunting, and with some success.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

Cormorants are regulars on the reserve, as well as Mute Swans.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)

Finally Gadwall were on the waters before Saltholme Hide.

Gadwall (Anas strepera)

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | August 4, 2017

Dining out

A Sparrowhawk dines out at Café Twitch

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | July 17, 2017

‘Teenage’ Terns

Quite well grown, but not ready to leave, the ‘teenage’ Terns at the RSPB reserve at Saltholme  are getting large.

Their parents still bring them food, fish from the nearby sea.

Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)

Of course, every other Tern (and nearby gull) is also interested in such a prize, so movement is essential if you don’t want to be robbed.

They are masters of the air. With their long wing to body span, and stabilising tail feathers, they can hover, glide, the lot.

(See videos here, here, here and here)

They form impressive ‘dreads’ which covers the sky when threatened.

(see video here)

The Terns will soon be off to their wintering grounds in West Africa.

Another species with largish youngsters are Canada Geese.

See if you can spot the youngsters in the photograph above. Neck length is a good clue. It’s more obvious in this one, with adults to the back and youngsters to the front.

Canada Geese (Branta canadensis)

This bird gets into the water, almost as getting into a hot bath.

There is a sense of different timescales in this movie. There is the rapid rippling movement of water by the wind, and the slower nods of the flowers by the same; the head movements then even slower movement of the geese across the water, and finally the slowest time signature; the march of the seasons shown by the flowers in bloom signifying summer.

Greylag Geese were on the waters with their youngsters (see the difference in size in the birds in this picture).

Greylag Goose (Anser anser)

(see video here)

And a real treat – a pale bellied Brent Goose.

Brent Goose (pale bellied) (Branta bernicla)

You can see how small it is when compared alongside a Greylag Goose

(see video here)

It’s a goose the size of a typical duck. A duck which is the size of a typical goose is the Shelduck.

Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)

(see video here).

This female Tufted Duck was looking after its young chick

Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)

(see video here).

Just as well Mum was watching since a predator was nearby.

Lesser black-backed gull (Larus fuscus)

(see video here).

Black headed gulls, both adult

and juvenile were seen. They still carpet the island in Paddy’s Pool.

Little Egrets were stalking.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

(see video herehere and here).

Waders were increasing in numbers as the Lapwings


Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)

(see video here)

and Curlews

Curlew (Numenius arquata)

(see video here)

arrive back on the reserve after breeding on the Moors and Fells,

A Dabchick sat on the bank before Paddy’s Pool hide.

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)

(see video here)

Avocets and Black Tailed Godwits were before Saltholme Hide.

Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)

The piebald Avocet stands out well from the reddened plumage of the Black tailed Godwits.

(see videos here and here).

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)

(see video here and here).

Dunlin have returned to the reserve. They are very small waders – see the scale in the last picture when against a first year gull and Lapwing.

Dunlin (Calidris alpina)

(see video here).

There was also a Common Sandpiper.

Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)

(see video here and here).

A Redshank was seen at Saltholme Hide.

Redshank (Tringa totanus)

(see video here).

Also a Ringed Plover

Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)

(see video here)

On the feeders were Blue Tits

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)

And Tree Sparrows

Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)

Sand Martins are still nesting in the artificial banks at the Visitors Centre.

Sand Martin (Riparia riparia)

And finally, a Red Admiral butterfly.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | June 26, 2017

A flying visit

A flying visit by me to the RSPB reserve at Saltholme  in high summer yielded the following waders.

Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)

And the afternoon’s delight, a prayer of Godwits in their summer finery.

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)

Individually, their plumage is golden-red in the sunlight.

Summer’s heat is here.


Posted by: mynaturaldiary | June 24, 2017


An annual visit to the Nightjars of Guisborough Woods yielded fine sights.

Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus)

(see videos here)

A pair circled around, churring loudly.

(see videos here and here).

On the way back to Café Twitch, a Toad was seen.


Posted by: mynaturaldiary | June 21, 2017

Roll up

The New roll up viewpoint at RSPB Bempton Cliffs offers fine views of the sea cliffs, and the colony of birds which nest there. Gannets are the star attractions.

Up close the birds show their huge wingspan

And they soar on the southerly breeze.

Gannet (Morus bassanus)

(see video here).

On the cliff edges they nest. You can see their chicks peeking out from underneath the adults.

In this picture you can also see Razorbills, and Kittiwakes.

Razorbills are powerfully built birds. They nest on seemingly impossibly narrow ledges.

Razorbill (Alca torda)

In contrast, Kittiwakes are elegant gulls.

Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)

Fulmars are another seabird on the cliffs.

Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)

They are true gliding birds, barely flapping their wings.

The cliff tops abound with wild flowers

Tree sparrows were at the Visitors Centre


Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)

Finally Swallows made their split turns in the skies.

Swallow (Hirundo rustica)



Posted by: mynaturaldiary | June 3, 2017

Harbour Seals

Ahead of the developments at Greatham Creek, Harbour Seals rest on the mudflats.

Harbour (Common) Seal (Phoca vitulina)

(See video here)


Posted by: mynaturaldiary | June 1, 2017

Cuddy Ducks

This blog is now 9 years old (Happy Birthday, Pageant!) and to celebrate, it took another trip to the Farne Islands.

Seahouses harbour was still, and male Eider ducks were floating in the waters.

Eider (Somateria mollissima)

(see videos here and here).

They are very striking birds, and are known locally as Cuddy ducks.  They are named after St Cuthbert, the patron saint of Northern England whose hermitage was on Inner Farne, and his bones now lie in Durham Cathedral.

With ideal weather conditions – flat calm, little wind

and bright sunshine accompany the boat out to the islands below.

Grey seals were in the sea

Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus)

and on the rocks of the islands

(see video here).

Nearby were Cormorants.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)

This bird isn’t a pure marine species, unlike the closely related Shag, which we’ll see shortly. These birds look happy enough where they are for now.

On Staple Island were fabulous views of colonies of Guillemots, mixed with Kittiwakes and Shags, interspersed with other gulls, notably Herring and Lesser Black-Backed Gulls, and Fulmars. Finally, a few Puffins nest there too.

First the main attraction – the Guillemots and Razorbills. Razorbills are powerful looking birds from the Auk family, with thickset bills.

Razorbill (Alca torda)

(see videos here and here). They are pretty silent compared to their sleeker neighbours, Guillemots, who are extremely noisy.

The colony of Guillemots is called a loomery, and is densely populated. They are very sociable birds.

Guillemot (Uria aalge)

(see video here,  here  and here)

These birds have evolved to make their way through two fluids; the high density one (sea – to catch fish) and the low density one (air – via flight). This makes them very streamlined, but with very a short stubby tail.

The trailing feet act as the tail feathers, stabilising flight.

From the top of the island looking down, you can see the birds coming in to land. The camera manages to capture the motion mid air.

(notice the sand eel in the bird’s beak).

With the absence of a large tail, their feet hang low when landing, acting as wing flaps & stabilisers.

This gif captures the frenetic action well. The sound is here.

(see videos here, here, here,

There is a faint look of Charlie Chaplin in how they walk (see video here and here).

There were also Bridled Guillemots on the rocks.

Bridled Guillemot (Uria aalge)

About 1/100 are Bridled Guillemots, with a white eye ring and a thin white line extending behind the eye, which marks them from the more common (99/100!) type.

Life can be brutal there for youngsters. In this short clip, predation of a Guillemot chick by a passing Herring Gull happens in a blink of an eye.

(see video of this smash and grab raid here).

The gull made off with the chick before the rest of the colony had a chance to react.

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.

Tho’ Nature red in tooth and claw, indeed.

Herring Gulls have a mean hungry look about them.

Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)

They are on the prowl for young chicks all the time, eliciting a wall of dagger like bills from the loomery, much like a square of infantry being charged by cavalry in the eighteenth century.

See some video here – the Herring Gull decides the reward is less than the risk, so it flies away to try its luck elsewhere. The relationship is parasitic – predatory, but the Herring Gull can’t attack a mature adult. That’s not the case for the dominant UK seabird predator, the Greater Black backed Gull, a bully of a bird which can kill a mature Guillemot in the water.

I saw just one of these birds, and they are impressive – very large.

Greater Black Backed Gull (Larus marinus)

All the other birds gave it a wide berth.

Lesser Black Backed Gulls are also powerful birds, in between herring gulls and ‘GBBG’ in size.

They have bright yellow legs as a distinguishing mark.

Lesser black-backed gull (Larus fuscus)

They also act as parasites on the feeding Guillemots and Puffins, as do the Black headed Gulls, which you can see mobbing a Puffin to release its load of sand eels.

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)

They also nest, like the other birds

They coexist when there is no food at stake. (see video here). It’s almost as though the Puffins are resigned to paying a tax to the gulls.

The Puffin escaped down into its burrow. They are the most beautiful birds on the islands.

Puffin (Fratercula arctica)

As mentioned they nest in rabbit burrows, and have the habit of popping up out of the ground.

(see video here)

They waddle on the ground across the grasslands when they walk towards their burrows.

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

They are also constantly scanning the horizon, probably for Greater Black Backed Gulls.

(see videos here, here and here).

At the cliff edges, they are less restless.

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

As you can see from the gif above, their wings are small compared to their body (probably to help with swimming underwater). Consequently they fly with a rapid wing motion as you can see in these videos (here and here) when they come from the sea, more often than not laden with sand eels for their young.


Being true seabirds, they also rest on the sea.

And resting on the cliff edges.

Shags also nest on the rocks.

They have beautiful iridescent feathers, that shine green/black, depending upon sunlight.

Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)

(see video herehere, here and here)

They continue to build their nests by adding seaweed to the pile.

They tend to their young, mere fluffballs now.

They look great when swimming out at sea.

Thence up he flew, and on the tree of life,
The middle tree and highest there that grew,
Sat like a cormorant; yet not true life
Thereby regained, but sat devising death
To them who lived; nor on the virtue thought
Of that life-giving plant, but only used
For prospect, what well used had been the pledge
Of immortality.

Milton was too hard on the Phalacrocoracidae, when he used them for Satan in Paradise Lost.

Amongst the calmer birds on the islands are Kittiwakes and Fulmars.

Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)

(see video here)

Fulmars are true gliders in the air, stiff winged, they rarely flap. They make a great contrast the the Puffins and Guillemots seen above, with short stubby wings and frenetic flying just to keep airborne.

Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)

They are tubenosed, which can be seen when they are nesting.

(see video here).

One bird that is most certainly not calm are Arctic Terns – one of the great navigators in the avian world. They nest on Inner Farne, and form dreads; a mob of birds that attack likely predators. And birdwatchers that get too close.

(see videos here and here).

They hover inches from your face,

then peck you!

(see video here).

On this visit the chicks hadn’t hatched yet.

There are also Sandwich Terns on the island.

Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis)

They have black bills with yellow tips (see video here).  Also notice the Common Tern in the gif above.

Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)

This tern is a poser… white headed, so immature. Black billed, smaller than a Sandwich Tern. Maybe a Roseate Tern?

Roseate Tern (Sterna dougallii)

We started with Cuddy Ducks and we’ll end with them too. The females nest on the island, with wonderful camouflage.

(see video here and here).

The bird count for the islands, courtesy of the National Trust is here.


See you again next year!

Posted by: mynaturaldiary | May 21, 2017

Chicks everywhere!

Chicks are everywhere at the RSPB reserve at Saltholme.

This busy Great Crested Grebe parent has a pair on its back, and another very keen to join them.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)

(see videos herehere)

The family made its way out onto open waters, before rushing back to the relative safety near the reeds.

(see video here & here).

Moorhen chicks were also on display.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)

(see videos here and here)

One was moving in the green reeds before Wildlife Watchpoint.

(see video here)

Mallard chicks were seen at the same hide.

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

(see video here)

with parents nearby.

Greylag Geese had chicks moving between a pair of watchful adults.

Greylag Goose (Anser anser)

(see video here)

Black headed Gulls and their chicks dominate the island at Paddy’s Pool hide.

(see videos here, here and here).

Their nests are all over the cockle shells that make up the island, together with some twigs.

(see video here).

They act together to form a dread to repel marauders –  in this case Lesser Black backed Gulls on the lookout for an unprotected chick.

(see video here).

Life is a brutal game of survival for young chicks, but if they make it through to adulthood there are quieter moments. I like this solitary Black headed Gull caught with its reflection in the water.

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)

(see video here).

The villain of the island, a Lesser Black backed Gull rests here.

Lesser black-backed gull (Larus fuscus)

(see video here) Notice its bright yellow legs, which identifies it.

Other predators on the prowl were Grey Herons.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

(see video here and here).

In the vignette below, set against the reed beds, three different species including Grey Heron, Little Egrets and Canada Geese can be seen.

Canada Geese (Branta canadensis)

(see video here).

Little Egrets were hunting in a scene that looks straight out of the Jurassic, especially in the video below.

(see video here).

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

Other ducks seen were


Gadwall (Anas strepera)

(see video here, here and here).

Shoveler (see video here)


Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)

and Tufted Ducks

Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)

Waders included Avocets, now a firm fixture at Saltholme

Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)

(see video here, here and here)

Lapwings were also there breeding

Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)

Oystercatchers passed through

Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)

(see video here)

Two summer visitors, alongside the Avocets were Ringed plover and Little Ringed Plover. First the Ringed Plover

Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)

Notice the orange bill which is black tipped and the lack of an eye ring.

Next the Little Ringed Plover

Little ringed plover (Charadrius dubius)

(see video here)

Notice the black bill and the yellow eye ring. The differences between the two species is how we tell the birds apart.

In the far distance on the grasslands before Paddy’s Pool were Dunlin.

Dunlin (Calidris alpina)

The Common Terns have returned.

Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)

(See video here and here)

A pair of Mute Swans performed a heart dance.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)

(see video here and here)

Sand Martins have returned to the artificial sandbanks we’ve made for them.

Sand Martin (Riparia riparia)

(see video here)

Also Swallows, in the air and outside Saltholme hide.

Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

(see video here)

On the feeders by the visitors centre were Goldfinch

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)


Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris)


In the far distance, our top summer predator, a Marsh Harrier glided by (top right hand side).

Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)

(see video here)

And finally some curious cattle that roam the reserve, come to visit one of the hides.

(see video here)


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