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birdwatching Blog.
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Wheldrake Ings, York

Undoubtedly Wheldrake Ings is a fantastic birding destination and it has a lot going for it. Just a few days ago there was over 1000 Black Tailed Godwits, quite a few Pintail and 1000s of other mixed ducks of all kinds. They are all quite distant and a scope is needed for proper identification, however there are many other species of birds in the trees and hedgerows as you walk to the hides.
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It's definitely a Chiffchaff year! Chiffchaffs were back early from their migration destination of choice. The bird gets its name from the song it sings and the song is an integral part of the British Spring and summertime landscape. This little Warbler sings its heart out, is attractive and punches well above its diminutive size.

The Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) is a small passerine bird species belonging to the family Phylloscopidae. It is renowned for its distinctive call, which resembles its name "chiff-chaff." This report aims to provide an overview of the migratory behavior of the Chiffchaff, focusing on its movements, timing, and destinations.

Migration Patterns:
Chiffchaffs are migratory birds, exhibiting remarkable seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds. They are primarily found across Europe and western Asia during the breeding season. However, during the colder months, they undertake long-distance migrations to milder regions, particularly in southern Europe and North Africa.

Timing of Migration:
The timing of Chiffchaff migration varies depending on geographical location and environmental factors. Generally, they begin their northward migration from their wintering grounds in February and March, reaching their breeding territories by April. The return migration to wintering grounds typically occurs from August to October, with individuals departing breeding areas as early as late July.

Migration Routes:
Chiffchaffs follow several migratory routes, with populations from different regions exhibiting varying paths. Birds breeding in western Europe typically migrate southwest across the English Channel, while those breeding in central and eastern Europe may take a more southerly route through the Mediterranean. Some populations from as far east as Siberia migrate southwest through central Asia, joining the main migration routes in the Middle East.

Wintering Grounds:
During the winter months, Chiffchaffs inhabit a range of habitats in southern Europe and North Africa. They are commonly found in woodland, scrubland, and gardens, where they feed on insects and other small invertebrates. Popular wintering destinations include Spain, Portugal, Morocco, and Algeria, where milder climates provide suitable conditions for foraging and survival.

Migration Challenges:
Chiffchaffs face various challenges during migration, including habitat loss, adverse weather conditions, and predation. Human activities such as deforestation and urbanization also pose threats to their migratory routes and stopover sites. Climate change may further impact their migration patterns, altering the timing of breeding and migration and affecting the availability of food resources along their routes.

In conclusion, the Chiffchaff's migratory journey is a remarkable feat of endurance and adaptation. Understanding their migration patterns and the challenges they face is crucial for their conservation and management. Efforts to preserve suitable breeding and wintering habitats, mitigate anthropogenic threats, and address climate change are essential for ensuring the continued survival of this charming bird species.
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Wykeham Raptor Point

We went to Wykeham Forest raptor viewing point for Goshawk really and we did see at least five. Raptors were plentiful but very distant, if I had taken photographs they would be specks on a page even with a 600mm lens, 1.4 teleconverter and two toilet rolls.
We were there for a few hours and all the time we could hear Crossbill behind, and at the side of us. Only once did one land long enough to get a decent image (see below).

Also below is two shots of a Buzzard that came close enough for my version of a decent image. Phil, my birding partner in crime has a much better version of decent images but he posts on Facebook and X, Phil Smithson.
We walked back to where the car was parked, funnily enough the raptor point car park and immediately heard several more Crossbills feeding at the very tops of the conifers. Now if you have ever been there you will know how high these trees are. Below is the results of my film and photographic efforts…be kind.

Just before we we were leaving we observed a lower level bird and immediately thought it was a Two Barred Crossbill! It did have two very distinct bars, but experience has taught us all that the bird may be masquerading as something it was not…sneaky!

Upon consulting books, apps and the internet the conclusion was Common Crossbill dressed up as its Two Barred cousin.


A little bit of science

The Common Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) is a distinctive passerine bird species belonging to the finch family, Fringillidae. Renowned for its uniquely crossed mandibles, this charismatic bird inhabits coniferous forests across North America, Europe, and Asia. With its specialized bill adapted for prying open the tough cones of various conifer species, the Common Crossbill has become an expert in extracting seeds, forming the cornerstone of its diet.

Males and females of the Common Crossbill display significant sexual dimorphism in plumage coloration. Males often showcase vibrant red or orange hues, while females exhibit a more subdued olive or yellow-green coloration. This sexual dimorphism aids in distinguishing between the genders, although both share the iconic crossed bill structure.

These birds are highly social, often found in small to large flocks, especially during the non-breeding season. Their presence can be detected by their distinctive flight calls, which are loud and metallic. Common Crossbills are known for their nomadic tendencies, moving in search of abundant cone crops. Their ability to travel long distances contributes to their survival in dynamic forest environments like Wykeham in North Yorkshire.

Breeding occurs primarily in the spring and summer months, with females constructing cup-shaped nests in the branches of conifer trees. The female typically lays a clutch of 3-5 eggs, which she incubates for about two weeks. Once hatched, both parents participate in feeding the chicks until they fledge, usually around three weeks after hatching.

Despite its relitivley widespread distribution, the Common Crossbill faces various threats, including habitat loss and degradation due to deforestation and climate change. Changes in cone crop availability, essential for their diet, also pose challenges to their survival. Conservation efforts aimed at preserving mature coniferous forests are crucial for ensuring the continued presence of this unique and captivating species.

Intriguing in both appearance and behavior, the Common Crossbill serves as a symbol of resilience and adaptation in the face of changing environmental conditions, captivating birdwatchers and researchers alike with its specialized feeding habits and social dynamics.

Written by Steve Farley Yorkshirewild


Hillam Rooks!

Good morning everyone, yesterday evening the device pole was removed and I am hoping never to return. No more loud bangs and no more disturbance to our wildlife, Horses. Children and pets. Not necessarily in that order.

I hope we have a resolution and I do not know if the environmental officer has been around, I really hope so. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody that reads this for their support.
A little bit of Science!
Just for clarity we will call it a Rookery. The Rookery is at the side of my house at the end of Hillam Hall View and contained about 55 birds at its largest count. At the peak of the breeding season this is 9 nests at the very top of some very very tall trees. Every morning the Rooks leave to go to their feeding grounds in the stubble fields surrounding Hillam and Burton Salmon.

I know that our Rooks go East and usually feed in fields surrounding the pumping station in Hillam, so not very far away. However before they go other groups of Rooks will sometimes join them and swell the numbers and this can look like a murmuration and lasts three minutes or so. They all then go off together and in my observations over the last twenty eight years rarely return as one big group. The 55 or so in our Rookery return as a group as they will have done for 10"s if not 100"s of years.

Rooks only make a noise in the breeding season.
In the film above you will clearly see several groups of Rooks getting acquainted before they go to their feeding grounds in the east of the village. They will murmurate just before they leave, this usually takes place in the breeding season and just after.

The fact is somewhere between forty and fifty five birds will return to this Rookery along with some Starlings and depending on the season other species too.

Hartepool, Salthome & Redcar Beach.

If you would like to see all the birds above then head to Hartlepool Headland. Parking near the Hartlepool Gun Battery which is a military museum head down towards the sea, 30 metres at the most then turn right in a South Easterly direction. This is a lovely prom and keep walking towards the old lighthouse and I guarantee you will see all the species above.

The hardest to see is the very well camouflaged Purple Sandpiper who hang out with gangs of Turnstone on the rocky foreshore as they forage for food. This really is a great place to see birds, as you walk you often have good numbers of seabirds flying in and out or just flying past. Then within a 100 metres you have a breakwater often with Cormorant and the occasional European Shag
Gulosus aristotelis and a tiny bit of beach sometimes with Sanderling and Purple Sandpiper. Keep walking through the children's play area and you come to a larger expanse of sandy outcrop that can hold anything so don't ignore.

Keep an eye on the "sheltered" sea here for Eider, Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter and anything else from Grebe to Divers.

Purple Sandpiper

The Purple Sandpiper (above)have the most northerly wintering range of any other wader. This small pot bellied bird is a very hardy bird, they can and do breed in the lowlands of Arctic Canada. You can often observe them constantly probing soft ground, lichen and sandy sores for food, they never seem to stop moving. They are often miss identified as Turnstones or Turnstone young. We are quite lucky in that we have some very reliable sites to see them like Hartlepool, Scarborough and the harbour walls in Bridlington.

Gulls, these are some of the most difficult birds to identify. This probable second year, probably a Herring Gull, Why am I not certain? Well, as I said above Gull especially young gulls are impossible. I'm drawn to these magnificent survivors, they just adapt to every situation. However, gulls are endangered! Never think there's millions of them, they really are struggling.

The Phil Stead hide at Saltholm really is a great hide, often full of very friendly people from Teesmouth Bird Club @teesbirds1 on "X" Club membership is £16 for the year and along with York Ornithalogical Club represents the very best in birding @yorkbirding.

From here I got immediate views of Great White, Cattle Egret (hiding in the reeds) and little Egret which was fabulous. Some pretty poor images below.

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Made by Steve Farley