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January 2009

4th, Millington - A lovely winter’s walk in this beautiful area of the Wolds, starting from the church and heading up to the top of Millington Hill and back round to the village by the road. The ground was rock hard at the bottom of the dale, a few days of accumulated frost penetrating deep into the earth, and the temperature on our walk was around -1 C. Lots of winter thrushes in the fields, with one of the brightest Redwing’s that I have ever seen amongst the many Fieldfares. A few Bullfinches seen along the walk too, and a Red Kite was seen soaring above the wold. A Buzzard was also heard in the wood up above the village. In the fields a farmer was feeding the sheep, these making quite a din in response, and the village itself was looking jolly fine on this perfect winters day, the pleasant smell of chimney smoke hanging in the air. I really do enjoy these cold and crisp days.

6th - A dusting of snow this morning, after a few light flurries last night. A Redwing was heard in the garden during the afternoon.

8th - A Redwing seen in the Hawthorn at lunchtime.

Watton - A quiet morning at this under visited reserve, though we had a fantastic view of a Water Rail along the water’s edge, only the second time that I have seen this species of bird, and the first time in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Also of note out on the lagoons edge was a Ringed Plover, a species which you wouldn’t expect here at this time of year. More common observations included Golden Plover’s, Lapwing’s, Redshank’s, Winter thrushes, many Teal, a couple of Wigeon, and Bullfinches in the scrubland. A Sparrowhawk and Kestrel were also observed hunting over the reserve. In the drain the Kingfisher was briefly seen too, a species which is usually fairly reliable here in winter. A decent enough morning’s birding.

9th - Thick fog this morning. Out in the garden the tips of some bulbs are now beginning to appear, as even now in deepest winter the signs of the coming season are beginning to emerge.

10th - A cold and frosty start, with a low of -4.5 C. Indeed in the first ten days of the month there have been seven frosts thus far. A flock of Fieldfare’s flew over during the morning, and a Redwing was seen attempting to feed on the lawn during late afternoon, but the Blackbird’s weren’t very welcoming, and kept chasing it off.

11th - A blustery day, gusting up to 41 kts.

Millington Dale & Nettledale - A good walk this morning, on a mostly cloudy and breezy day, though the sun did break through for a short time. The ground still hard under the surface, but with the top layer now thawing out it made it quite slippy, the conditions not helped by abundant sheep droppings along the tops. Not much about but lots of winter thrushes were seen in the area, and a Red Kite was spotted soaring above Nettledale. A pleasant Sunday morning’s walk.

13th, Lowthorpe & Burton Agnes Churches - Went to see two churches in the North east of the county this morning, visiting first St. Martin’s at Lowthorpe. This is an interesting church, which undoubtedly was part of a wealthy community at one time judging by the local manor and the generous rectory/vicarage. It is set down a tree lined avenue, with woodland to the north and grazed fields to the south. The church itself is unusual, with a ruined chancel, the remnant of the collegiate church which was served by a rector and six chantry priests from 1333 to 1548. The chancel was eventually abandoned in the 18th century and the rest of the church was later restored in 1859.

From here we went up to the nearby village at Burton Agnes, famous for its Norman manor and Jacobean hall. As you would expect this is quite a grand parish church, having received the patronage of the Wickham-Boynton family whom at one time were Baronets. Indeed within the churchyard lie a number of their monuments, baring the families coat of arms. The church is approached through a small avenue of Yews, where on our visit we encountered a very friendly cat which proceeded to follow us around during our visit. Unfortunately we couldn’t go inside the church but nevertheless the exterior of the church held plenty of interest anyway, and you could see the fine stained glass, as well as good quality stone work. The church is of Norman origin, and holds monuments from the 15th, 17th, and 18th centuries, including hatchments, Georgian box pews, and a fine Squire’s pew. The aforementioned Stained glass was made in 1772 by William Peckitt of York. All in all a fine afternoon exploring the local church history.

14th - A male Blackcap was seen feeding on one of the fat cakes during the afternoon.

15th - The male Blackcap was again seen at the feeding station today.

17th - A Kingfisher was seen in the drain at Keldmarsh this morning. In the garden the male Blackcap was seen on the feeders a number of times today.

18th - The Blackcap is still here.

Deepdale - A good walk around this deep valley on a fine and sunny morning. Buzzard’s seen in the area, and there were good numbers of finches in the woods. On the return journey we passed through Millingtondale where there were at least two dozen birders about, no doubt looking for the Rough Legged Buzzard which has been reported in the area since the end of November. Some Golden Plovers were also seen over fields on Huggatewold.

19th - The Mistle thrushes have started singing, and some Song thrushes have likewise been heard recently.

21st - A ‘V’ of about 50 grey geese were seen heading northwards during the morning.

22nd, North Cave Wetlands - An afternoon visit on an improving day, with sun breaking through after morning rain. Quite a few birds about, with the Shelduck build up seemingly begun, with about 80 to 100 seen in total. Amongst them was a male Goosander, which looked very handsome in the low winter light. Lots of Teal about, and though we didn’t see it, there apparently was a Green winged Teal too. The pair of Goldeneye’s are also still about. The geese were back in numbers and amongst all the Greylag’s there was one Barnacle Goose, and a lone Bar Headed Goose. Other wildfowl included good numbers of Mallard, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Gadwall, and Pochard. Quite a lot of Redshanks still about, but Snipe are now becoming less apparent with only a few seen today. A welcome observation was the return of a single Great Crested Grebe, a species which has been absent since early December. The Green Woodpecker was briefly seen, and also noted was a Coal Tit, a not particularly common species on this reserve due to a lack of conifers or pines. Lots of gulls again, with Black Heads dominating, but also a few Common’s. To the north east of the reserve three Buzzard’s were seen soaring over the ridge. Also of note is that the buds of the Sallow are now swelling. A good afternoon’s birding with 45 species seen, a good total for January.

23rd - The Blackcap continues to be seen daily at the feeding station. I also noticed today that the garden Honeysuckle is beginning to come into leaf now, and also a few Snowdrops are just beginning to appear in my spring border. Also today the barometer fell to a low of 970 mbar.

25th. Huggate Wold & Dykes - A pleasant walk on a grey, breezy, though mild morning. Not much about, though there were lots of Hare’s out on the high fields, with ten seen together at one point. Possibly warming up for the coming season. In the woods the Snowdrops are starting to come up, though they are still a few weeks away from being in flower. On the way back home we drove back through Millingtondale where again the Birder’s were out in force, looking for the Rough Legged Buzzards, but also a newly reported Hawfinch which is apparently being seen in the pond area at the head of Sylvandale.

26th - The Blackbird’s were singing this morning.

27th. North Cave Wetlands - An afternoon’s birding on a grey and murky day with a raw southerly breeze. Coming over the Wolds there was thick low cloud, with visibility under 100 metres at High Hunsley. Despite the weather there was lots to see at our local reserve, with the undoubted highlight a Green winged Teal, a new personal species for me. It has been seen around the area for a while and I’m glad we finally managed to catch up with it. It was mixed in with the European Teal, which are still around in good numbers, and was easily distinguished by its diagnostic vertical white stripe on its flank. Elsewhere on the reserve were good numbers of more typical winter wildfowl, and amongst the Greylag’s, the lone Barnacle & Bar Headed Geese are still present, these appearing to be resident now. The Shelducks continue to be around in good numbers, with at least 50 recorded, and a single Great Crested Grebe seems to confirm that they have returned after an absence in mid winter. Two Green Woodpeckers were seen around the reserve, and at the feeding station there was a good variety of tits, finches, & sparrows. Out in the fields were good numbers of pigeons, mainly Woodpigeons, plus a few Stock doves. All in all 46 species were recorded around the reserve, another good winter count.

29th - The Aconites are just starting to emerge in the garden.

North Duffield Carrs & North Cliffe Wood - An afternoon visit to this vast area of seasonal floodplain along the river Derwent. We had hoped to see the Whooper Swans, though unfortunately they must have been up river, but we did see about a dozen Pintails, more than ample compensation. The reserve was also teeming with Teal, & Wigeon, the combined sound of both is truly the sound of winter down on these wetlands. All in all there were eleven species of wildfowl seen, and like at North Cave the Shelducks have returned with about 30 or so seen. An interesting visit, despite the overcast and raw weather.

On our way back home we stopped off at North Cliffe Wood, where the weather was in sharp contrast to North Duffield with weak winter sun, and much less breeze. The wood was very quiet, though we did hear both Green, & Great Spotted Woodpeckers, but it was such a wonderful late afternoon it was just a delight to be out and about exploring this little quiet wood. Indeed as we continued the drive back home the setting sun over the Vale was fantastic.

30th - The Black headed Gull with the white ‘Darvic’ ring RBM, which was seen last December, returned again to the garden this morning. At least ten Blackbirds also came down to feed on the lawn, with seven males and three females. Later on I also heard Greenfinches ‘tchewing’ for the first time this year, and the Mistle Thrush continues to sing from high in the trees.