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Bird Report 2001

by Jack Watson

This report is again in two parts: the highlights of the year, followed by a list of species reported within the Society’s area with approximate location and date.

January, February March

The first two ‘winter’ months of the year were relatively mild, broken by one or two short colder spells. Birds visiting gardens for food tend to be more numerous during the early part of the year and include some of our winter visitors e.g. Fieldfare, Redwing and Siskin. Those members who take part in the B.T.O’s ‘Garden Bird Watch’ will be aware that the top ten species recorded invariably include Blackbird, Blue Tit, Robin, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Dunnock, Collared Dove, Greenfinch, House Sparrow and Starling, but the frequency order can vary from one part of the country to another. I know from my own records that in the five years since the inception of the survey House Sparrows have always ‘topped the list’ in both numbers and consistency with Blue Tit a close second.

Small flocks of Fieldfare and Redwing continued to be present up to mid-March, but in smaller numbers than previous years. During the months of January and February Mistle Thrush and both Greater Spotted and Green Woodpeckers were heard breaking into ‘song’ here in the Gilling area.

March saw the return of the first of our ‘summer’ visitors: Chiffchaff in Gilling 17th March, Ampleforth 19th March.

Newburgh Priory Lake near Coxwold is always worth a visit any time of the year. A pair of Shelduck were seen there on 19th March and on a visit the same day to Pond Head Reservoir (Grid Ref: 568743 - just south of our boundary, which is 750!) a pair of Great Crested Grebes, 2 Wigeon, 8 Tufted Duck, 4 Greylag Geese and 50 plus Mallard were seen.

April, May, June

Willow Warblers were heard singing in Gilling Woods on 13th April and on the same day 15 Swallows were seen at the lake there, ‘hawking’ for insects. A male and a female Great Crested Grebe were displaying together. On the 24th April a visit to Castle Howard Lake was rewarding, with some 200-300 Swallows and 30-40 Sand Martins hawking for insects, also 2 pairs of Ruddy Duck on the water. On 27th and 28th April an Osprey was seen over the lake in Gilling Woods, also the remains of a dead fish at the top end of the lake! I also received an unconfirmed report of a Grasshopper Warbler along the old railway track in Gilling. The main influx of summer visitors continued throughout May – Swifts, Garden Warblers, Whitethroat, Blackcap and House Martins were reported from many areas.

Heavy rain in early June with changeable weather for much of the month resulted in reduced insect and caterpillar activity and may well have affected the breeding success of some of our visitors but I was pleased to see, in mid-June, a Spotted Flycatcher feeding fledglings on the telephone wires in Gilling, and a pair of Sparrows feeding 3 fledglings in my garden during the same period. Blue Tits hatched 5 fledglings in my nest box.

July, August, September

Early July saw several fledgling Goldfinches along hedgerows in gardens and fields in the Gilling area. House Martins seem to have had a successful breeding season - three nests under the eaves of my house in Gilling produced double broods. Despite seeing fewer than the usual number of Swallows generally in the area it was satisfying to see 100 plus assembling on the wires in the village during mid-August.

October, November, December

An extremely wet and mild period with constant flooding in many areas. In the bird world, certainly in my area, a notable absence of Fieldfare and Redwing except in small numbers. An occasional Siskin visited the bird table during October and the return of the Marsh Tit from its summer sojourn in the woods was welcome. During a wet evening drive to Ampleforth in early December 1 did catch sight in my headights of a Barn Owl sitting on the edge of the road. Tawny Owls are heard regularly on most nights during the period. Towards the end of December a very short spell of cold winter weather arrived and birds appeared in greater numbers in the garden looking for food. Flocks of 50+ Starlings were observed in the adjacent fields together with smaller groups of up to 20 Fieldfare and smaller flocks of Redwing. The stream flowing through Gilling had been running pretty full most of the month of December, but following a drop in level during the cold spell it was a welcome bonus to see a Kingfisher there on Boxing Day.

Species list 2000

G = Gilling area; NPL = Newburgh Priory Lake; SL = Slingsby area;
RU = Rudland area; KMS = Kirkbymoorside area.

Little Grebe Lakes in Gilling woods: occasional visitor in Spring and Autumn
Great Crested Grebe Adult and 2 juveniles G lake July; 4 in flight RU 3rd July
Cormorant One in flight SL 3rd Dec
Grey Heron G lakes pair 10th April; SL 3rd Dec. Ellerburn 11th July
Mute Swan Regular visitors to G lakes/NPL breeding in both locations
Greylag Goose Occasional visitor to G lakes, 12 present 16th May; NPL 30+ and at G 14th September
Canada Goose Occasional visitor to G lakes 5 present 5th May, also on NPL
Shelduck A pair on NPL 19th March
Mallard Numerous throughout the area
Pochard Occasional visitor to NPL
Tufted Duck Present on NPL and G lakes
Goldeneye A male and female on NPL mid February
Goosander 3 seen flying over SL towards R. Rye
Sparrowhawk Fairly common throughout, regular garden visitor
Common Buzzard 2 in Bransdale 12th March; 1 in G 23rd June; 3 Bransdale 12th May; 1 RU 27th Dec
Osprey Single bird G lakes 29th April
Kestrel Fairly common in suitable locations e.g. Helmsley, Slingsby, Gilling, KMS, Coulton
Rough-legged Buzzard RU February
Merlin Rudland Farm 8th May (mobbed by 2 Lapwings); juvenile Bransdale 7th July; regularly present RU
Peregrine Ampleforth 25th August, mobbed by crows
Red Grouse Common throughout the moorland area
Red-legged Partridge A pair in SL 12th March, small groups in G
Grey Partridge Single bird in SL 26th May; flock of 8 near Pockley mid-July
Pheasant Numerous throughout
Moorhen Numerous on lowland waters, pair in RU
Coot Common throughout the year on lowland waters
Oystercatcher 1 R.Rye 12 May; 1 flying RU 13th May
Golden Plover Flock of 50 flying N SL 3rd Jan; large flock up to 350 KMS Feb-April
Lapwing Large (up to 170) winter flocks in many areas; single pairs breeding in G, SL
Snipe Relatively common RU; single bird G 14th April
Jack Snipe Single bird RU 16th Oct
Woodcock Many sightings throughout the year RU; single birds Cropton, KMS, G
Curlew Displaying G March/April; singles SL; nesting RU 10th July; pairs in Ampleforth May/June
Common Sandpiper Single bird feeding on edge of small lake G woods early May; 2 River Rye, Helmsley 3rd August
Black-headed Gull Many in fields in G during winter, seen regularly on way to ‘roost’; present KMS
Common Gull 3 KMS 2nd Jan
Lesser Black-backed Gull 100+ in ploughed field Hovingham; singles Pockley 28th May; Hutton 4th July
Greater Black-backed Gull Single RU 12th August
Herring Gull 2 Pockley 28th May; occasionally present on lakes in G woods
Common Tern Single bird in flight Wrelton 7th May
Stock Dove Occasionally seen amongst Wood Pigeon flocks
Wood Pigeon Common throughout the area
Collared Dove Regular garden visitor, fairly common in many areas
Turtle Dove Heard ‘singing’ G 16th May; SL garden 22nd May; singles Ampleforth 23rd April, Cropton 17th May
Cuckoo Cropton 1st May, Bonfield 24th May, SL 3rd May G 29th April
Barn Owl Yearsley 14th Apl; Wombleton 15/16 March; Oswaldkirk 5th Dec; Using nest box and rearing 3 young SL – see p. 10
Little Owl 1 SL 8th Jan; 2 Rievaulx 7th May; KMS 23rd July
Tawny Owl Common in wooded areas throughout
Short-eared Owl 1 RU 24th May, seen also 9th May; 1 Spaunton Moor 22nd April
Nightjar Single bird Ampleforth 2nd July; heard ‘churning’ RU 9th May
Swift Present in many areas from 8th May to 21st August
Kingfisher 1 seen on R. Rye, Rievaulx 21st May; 1 fishing village stream, Gilling, 26th Dec
Green Woodpecker Calling in G 12th March and irregularly throughout the year
Greater Spotted Woodpecker Fairly common in the area
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Single in KMS 2nd August
Skylark Small numbers only in a number of areas, e.g. G, SL, KMS, Stonegrave
Sand Martin Small flock Harome 30th April, New Bridge 5th August; SL 2nd May, generally scarce
Swallow Common In many areas from early April until October: approx 150 G mid-August
House Martin Fairly common in many areas from mid-April
Tree Pipit 1 Pry Rigg 7th April; 3 Cropton 9th July; 1 Fen Bog 30th June
Meadow Pipit Common throughout area in both lowland and moorland areas
Yellow Wagtail Very scarce one report only - a pair in G
Grey Wagtail Pair on floodwaters G, singles on G stream
Pied Wagtail Fairly common throughout. 14 seen in KMS 10th Dec; 3 dead chicks in nest RU early June
Waxwing 8 Sinnington, 3 KMS 29th December
Dipper 1 on Holbeck, Gilling April
Wren Common in gardens and woods throughout much of the area
Dunnock Nesting reported in many gardens; generally common
Robin Common in gardens and woods throughout the area
Redstart Single birds seen and heard G woods from early May; Fen Bog 26th June, Lockton 4th July
Whinchat Fen Bog 26th June, several singing
Stonechat No reports for 2000
Wheatear 3 on Pockley Moor 9th April
Ring Ouzel Ones and twos in Bransdale area from May to July
Blackbird Common throughout - flock of 35 KMS 8th May
Fieldfare Flock of 200 Bransdale, up to 50 in other areas from January to March, last reported 23rd April; small flock G mid September
Song Thrush 12 KMS 9th August; nesting SL 3rd May; singing G 3rd Feb
Redwing Small flocks G 1st Jan; also SL 3rd Jan; last seen RU 16th April; 40 returned 21st October
Mistle Thrush 30 feeding on wild cherries RU August; singing RU and G early Dec; also recorded at Oldstead
Grasshopper Warbler One heard singing G 29th April
Sedge Warbler Singing Fen Bog 26th June
Whitethroat Cropton Forest May/June; male in full song SL 3rd May; adult feeding 3 young Fryton 15 June; G area 29th April; Hole of Horcum 28th June
Garden Warbler G area 6th May; Ampleforth 30th May; Oldstead 10th June
Blackcap Fairly common in many woodland and garden areas
Wood Warbler 2 singing in G woods May 2nd & 5th
Chiffchaff Fairly common throughout wooded areas from 20th March
Willow Warbler Widespread throughout the area from late April to October
Goldcrest Many calling in G woods 14th March; recorded from Spiers House
Spotted Flycatcher G area 16th May, feeding young mid-June; Harome 12th May; SL 12th June; recorded RU
Pied Flycatcher Hawnby, June; 5 pairs bred with at least 25 fledged
Long-tailed Tit Fairly common in woodland and garden areas; 10 Welburn 31 Dec
Marsh Tit Regular visitor to bird table G in autumn and winter, nested in box SL; Oldstead 10th June
Coal Tit Fairly common in gardens and woods throughout the area
Blue Tit Common throughout
Great Tit Common throughout
Nuthatch Seen and heard throughout the year in G woods, regular visitor to garden feeder in G
Treecreeper G area 4th May, recorded Spiers House area
Jay Not very common but recorded from Oldstead, Rievaulx, Gilling, Yearsley throughout the year
Magpie Common throughout the area
Jackdaw Common throughout the area
Carrion Crow Common throughout the area
Rook Common throughout the area: rookeries in G woods, also Levisham with 50+ nests
Starling Common throughout the area, particularly after flocks of migrants arrive in autumn
House Sparrow Common throughout the area
Tree Sparrow Several in G area, breeding recorded; breeding in SL, visited bird table RU
Chaffinch Flock of approx 100 KMS February; common throughout
Brambling Visiting bird table RU 4th and 14th March; flock of 25 at Fadmoor 17th Feb; up to 3 feeding RU up to April
Greenfinch Common throughout the area, flock of 40 recorded
Goldfinch Had a good breeding season, many seen in gardens, hedgerows, G, SL, KMS
Siskin Flock of up to 60 G 18th March; 40+ RU Dec 7th
Linnet 60+ feeding in stubble field Hovingham 29th Dec. 100+ RU late September; 5 SL 4th June
Redpoll Recorded in G woods occasionally
Common Crossbill Few reports, seen occasionally in G woods, 2 Cropton 17th May
Bullfinch 3 in G area 9th January; 3 SL 3rd Dec. 3 Kirkdale, 1 KMS December
Yellowhammer Not very common, noted singing in G area; SL May/June
Reed Bunting Single male singing G lake June; singing male Hole of Horcum 26 June
Corn Bunting A single bird in full song near Ampleforth 14th June

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