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by Jack Watson
This report is in two parts: the highlights of the year and a list of species reported within the Society’s area with approximate location and dates - in total over 100 species.
Following heavy snowfalls on New Year’s Eve, many areas awoke to a white blanket over gardens and fields. Groups of Fieldfare and Redwing were reported and flocks of up to 30 Siskins in the Gilling area; Bullfinch and Nuthatch were seen near the village golf course. There were 16 Waxwings in Kirkbymoorside on January 6th.
A visit to Newburgh Priory lake on January 26th was rewarding with a male Mandarin Duck, 8 Pochard, 8 Greylag geese and up to 100 Mallard on the water, plus a flock of approximately 500 Black Headed Gulls in the late afternoon sky towards the Castle Howard area.
The month of February opened with snow, sleet and rain and a cold easterly wind, followed by milder weather. A visit to the larger lake in Gilling Woods on February 6th showed 7 male Goosanders and 3 female Goldeneye present, also 3 Greylag geese. On February 13th I visited a flooded ploughed field near Newsham Bridge - Amotherby (not actually within the Society’s area) and recorded 32 Mute Swans, 5 Bewick Swans, 1 Black Swan, 1 Canada Goose and 1 Chinese Goose plus approximately 300 Lapwing and 150 Golden Plover.
Following further snowfalls in the Gilling area on February 28th a Jay and a Green Woodpecker were heard calling, as well as a Song Thrush in the local woods. From March 1st access to many areas was restricted by the Foot & Mouth epidemic. This applied to moorland, woodland, river banks and agricultural land. Private gardens and viewing from public roads and certain private estates became the sole accessible areas for the next six months. Flocks of Lapwing (50+) and Fieldfares (100+) were seen in a number of areas. Curlew were calling and Skylark singing towards the end of March. In my garden in Gilling a male Brambling was feeding regularly on bird seed from March 25th until April 26th (on the same day in late April I saw my first Spotted Flycatcher!).
A pair of ‘early’ Swallows was seen in Gilling on April 2nd. The main influx did not arrive until the 22nd. Sand Martin and Willow Warbler were both reported from Kirkbymoorside on April 8th. An ‘early’ Spotted Flycatcher was seen in Gilling on 26th April. May saw the arrival of most of the summer visitors. Swallows, House Martins and Swifts were present in their usual haunts by the end of May. Garden Warblers, Spotted Flycatcher and Blackcaps were reported less frequently than in previous years. I suspect this may have been due to limited access to some woodlands because of the foot and mouth restrictions.
July was a relatively quiet month. House martins had a good breeding season, taking advantage of generally good summer weather and reasonably abundant insect life. Swallows, though late in arriving in numbers, had a relatively good breeding season but were seen gathering in large numbers well before the end of September.
Little Grebe appeared from time to time on the larger lake in Gilling woods but there was no evidence of breeding there this year. Tree sparrows appeared regularly in my garden in Gilling and nested in the gable end of the village hall.
Jays were seen and heard regularly in Gilling woods, seeking acorns which generally seem to have been in short supply this autumn. Treecreepers were also recorded from time to time in Gilling woods during October and November. Fieldfares and Redwing seemed to be present in fewer numbers here until early December onwards.
Little Grebe Occasional visitor G lakes, no evidence of breeding; singles NPL 26 and 29 Sept.
Great Crested Grebe Pair bred on G. lakes; singles NPL 26 and 29 Sept.
Cormorant Single on G lakes 28 March and 11 April; 2 on NPL 19 December.
Grey Heron 1 Hovingham 15 Aug, 1 over Slingsby 10 Oct, Single Hovingham 29 Oct, 2 in G valley 11 Nov.
Mute Swan Common on many waters throughout the area.
Greylag Goose 8 NPL 26 Jan; occasionally on G lakes in spring.
Canada Goose Common on many waters throughout the area.
Shelduck 1 on NPL 14 April.
Mallard Common throughout the area. Maximum 350 NPL 5 Oct.
Mandarin Duck Single male on NPL from March till September.
Wigeon Up to 10 on NPL Sept/Oct.
Teal Recorded regularly in autumn/winter on NPL.
Shoveler 2 on NPL July.
Pochard 8 on NPL 26 Jan.
Tufted Duck 2 on NPL 29 Sept; also regularly on G lake.
Goldeneye 3 female on G lake 7 Feb + single male.
Goosander Female with 9 ducklings on R. Rye at Nunnington 24 June. 7 male on G lake 6 Feb.
Honey Buzzard Single juvenile, Welburn 21 Sept.
Osprey G single bird seen and heard in flight 9 April.
Sparrowhawk Fairly common throughout year in many areas, also frequenting gardens.
Buzzard Seen regularly in Rudland, Bransdale, from 6 Feb till mid-May.
Hen Harrier Male on Harland Moor 25 December.
Peregrine Single bird Bransdale 25 December.
Merlin Seen regularly Rudland/Bransdale. Male north of West Ness.
Kestrel Common in Bransdale area; seen regularly in G area; single SL 8 Jan.
[Red Grouse Common on moorland throughout the year.]
Grey Partridge 6 in Wombleton 15 Sept, 4 G area 26 Dec; infrequent in Bransdale. 3 flushed West Ness 2 Feb.
Red-legged Partridge Adult with 11 chicks Welburn Hall 22 June. Fairly common in many areas.
Quail Reported from Muscoates area Sept.
Moorhen Common on G lakes and NPL; single Wath Beck 5 Jan.
Coot Common on G lakes; 19 on NPL 16 Sept
Oystercatcher G 1 flying east, calling 24 July; 5 NPL 9 June.
Golden Plover Heard calling in G area early spring; 60 Wombleton 23 Dec and 60 in Gillamoor on 31 Dec. 12 flying over Slingsby 9 Oct.
Lapwing 3 pairs bred Coxwold 9 June; 2 bred Appleton Common 16 June, seen with chicks. SL area 24 June, flock of approx. 50 flying west. Small flocks in G; also Lastingham 4/5 March.
Curlew G heard calling 16 March; Ampleforth early April. Birds returned to Rudland 8 March. Single at Newburgh 31 March. 2 males calling SL 26 June.
Whimbrel Single heard calling in flight RU 8 Aug
Woodcock G single bird 6 Feb. 2 at Pry Rigg 4 July.
Snipe Heard "drumming" Gilling/Ampleforth 18 April. Single Coxwold 19 Dec.
Black-headed Gull Very common throughout the area.
Herring Gull Common throughout the area.
Lesser Black Backed Gull 3 juveniles SL 14 Sept.
Wood Pigeon Common throughout the area
Stock Dove Seen and heard in G area, not abundant. Pair nesting in owl box, Slingsby.
Collared Dove Very common in many areas. A flock of 30 Fadmoor 30 Sept.
Turtle Dove Not common. 1 pair in garden SL 27 Aug; 2 Cropton 27 May; single in G woods and village May and June.
Cuckoo Heard 4 occasions G woods mid-May. 1 Cropton 16 June. First heard Rudland 1 May, SL 27/28 April.
Barn Owl Single on A167 at Costa Back Bridge 12 May. Single SL 14 May. Pair seen regularly west of SL 9 July, 14 July. Single Welburn 8 Mar. 1 Gilling 18 Jan. 1 Sinnington 22 Dec.
Short Eared Owl Single "quartering" Harland Moor 13 May.
Little Owl Single Muscoates road in daylight 14 Oct. 1 Welburn 1 Feb. 1 KMS 17 June. 1 Stonegrave 4 Jan. Single RU 2 May & 22 Oct.
Tawny Owl Common in many areas.
Nightjar First heard ‘churring’ Rudland 23 May, then regularly till early Aug.
Swift First seen RU 11 May, Slingsby 5 May followed by large influx 10 May with main departure 15 Aug; similarly Gilling, Nunnington and Helmsley.
Kingfisher Single Helmsley 23 March; G mid-April; NPL 13 July.
Green Woodpecker Heard and seen occasionally G. 1 juvenile East Ness 8 July.
Greater Spotted Woodpecker Fairly common in many wooded areas; regular visitor to bird table in G (nesting in oak trees nearby). Recorded in SL.
Skylark 6 KMS 13 April; 20 Fadmoor 30 Sept. Up to 6 singing in Stonegrave area.
Sand Martin Small numbers with swallows on NPL on June. 6 Nunnington 1 June.
Swallow Fairly common in the area. First arrivals SL 10 April; there were 2 in G on 2nd. Flocks gathering for departure in many areas in late Sept/early Oct.
House Martin Fairly common. First arrivals SL 1 May, departures 15 Aug 70 NPL 9 June, last recorded there 29 Sept.
Tree Pipit 2 at Cropton 6 May; 1 singing RU 6 May, more numerous here this year. 1 at Helmsley.
Meadow Pipit Several above Stonegrave most of the year. 1 KMS 9 Nov.
Grey Wagtail 3 at NPL 16 Sept. Occasional visitor to garden pond RU. Seen regularly on village stream, Gilling.
Pied Wagtail Common throughout the area.
Waxwing 16 KMS 6 Jan; small flock in Slingsby 14 Jan.
Dipper Seen very occasionally on village stream, G.
Wren Single in garden SL, pair nesting in shed 9 May, also in gazebo 16 July. 11 at Cropton 6 May; regular visitor to garden, G In RU one of the commonest moorland birds.
Dunnock Common throughout the area.
Grasshopper Warbler 1 heard in G during spring.
Garden Warbler Singing in G 5 June, in RU 9 May, 1 NPL 9 June, Cropton 16 June.
Blackcap Singing regularly in G from 2 May. KMS 16 April, SL 12 March.
Whitethroat Singing SL 13 May, Barton-le-Street 5 May, Cropton 6 May, NPL 9 June, G from May - Oct.
Lesser Whitethroat Single male Totten Lane, Slingsby 6 July.
Willow Warbler Common throughout area; singing from mid-April. 38 in Cropton 6 May.
Chiff Chaff Common throughout area. first heard G 30 March; last 5 and 9 Oct.
Pied Flycatcher Heard singing in Bransdale 17 May. Single in RU garden 31 July.
Spotted Flycatcher Seen in G 26 April, a pair 18 June. May 17 RU - good breeding season. Present SL 18 May, Hawnby 17 May, single at Sproxton.
Wheatear 2 seen RU on passage 28 Sept. Single Rosedale 16 June.
Redstart First seen RU 15 April. Male singing G woods 10 May.
Robin Common throughout the area.
Fieldfare Still present in RU 14 May, returned early Oct. Common in many areas; large flocks during winter. 90 SL Feb, 3500 KMS 10 Nov.
Ring Ouzel A few present in Farndale/Bransdale area mid/end May.
Blackbird Common throughout area.
Redwing Good numbers RU throughout winter. 90 KMS 9 Dec; smaller flocks recorded G and SL areas.
Song Thrush 18 KMS 25 Feb, small numbers in other areas. Singing SL 30 Jan, G mid-Feb, nest-building G 25 April. Uncommon RU.
Mistle Thrush 4 East Ness 8 July. Flocks of 20+ in autumn RU. A pair SL 15 Jan, nesting 30 April. Small flocks up to 12 in G early autumn.
Long-tailed Tit Common in RU area, G woods; party of up to 10 in G garden early autumn.
Marsh Tit Regular visitor to garden bird feeder in G throughout year, also in RU and SL to bird tables.
Coal Tit Regular visitor to bird feeders in G, RU and SL.
Blue Tit Common throughout area.
Great Tit Common throughout area.
Nuthatch Regular visitor to bird feeder G. Single KMS 25 Feb. First record for RU 22 Sept.
Treecreeper Seen regularly in G woods. Hovingham 9 Feb.
Yellowhammer 15 KMS 13 April, 60 Yoadwath (KMS) 22 Dec, 25 Low Farm KMS 25 Dec. Small flock SL 9 Feb. Male in full song 12 Feb. Flocks of up to 10 G Oct.
Chaffinch Common throughout area.
Brambling Small parties near Ravenswick Jan/Feb. Male in G March/April.
Greenfinch Common throughout area.
Siskin Seen throughout year RU. 4 Cropton 16 June, 30 G 15 Jan.
Goldfinch 10 at Newburgh 9 June; several in garden SL 15 April; small parties in G April and August.
Linnet 2 Cropton 27 May. 1 KMS 17 June. 4 Ampleforth in May.
Redpoll Small flocks of up to 20 G woods in autumn. Seen regularly RU.
Crossbill Small numbers Helmsley May and Nov. Seen Hartoft May 8, RU 4 and 14 Aug: on 4 Aug a female and a juvenile in garden pond RU.
Bullfinch 2 Cropton 16 June; male SL 11 Feb. Pair at Southolme 8 May. Pair G 24 Jan. Heard calling in G woods.
House Sparrow Common throughout area.
Tree Sparrow Regular visitors to nut holders in my garden in Gilling - max of 6 on occasions from March onwards. Nested in gable of village hall.
Reed Bunting Single bird Cropton 27 May; also 1 KMS 30 Dec.
Starling Common throughout the area but in smaller numbers than 5-10 years ago.
Jay Seen and heard regularly in G woods. 1 in garden G 1 Oct.
Magpie Seem to be quite common in small numbers in G and surrounding area but no records received from elsewhere.
Rook 40+ nests, many occupied, in Gilling. 91 Newburgh 31 March. Large flocks north of Slingsby.
Carrion Crow 40 Starfitt Farm KMS 30 Sept. Single pairs nesting G and SL.
Jackdaw Common throughout area.