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Bird Report 2004 (records for 2003)

by Jack Watson

[Ed: You might like to compare Jack’s notes on the weather with the graphs...]

[Again we have a list of birds ringed at Pry Rigg by Jim Pewtress during the year: thanks to Jim for providing these.]

This report highlights some of the main features of the year together with a summary of species recorded within the society’s area.

song thrushThe first two weeks of the year were unusually mild though wet. Song thrushes were heard singing from early January, with blackbirds and robins also staking their claim to territories. A heavy snowfall on the last day of the month brought an influx of birds to garden feeders – long-tailed tits, tree sparrows and the usual 20+ house sparrows.

During early February great spotted woodpeckers were drumming regularly and the occasional song thrush was breaking into song. March saw the arrival of the first summer visitors – chiff-chaff on 19th folllowed by a pair of swallows on 14th April, though the main influx did not arrive until the last week of the month. A first cuckoo was heard on 30th April, but subsequently heard infrequently.

A pair of great crested grebes was present on Gilling Lake from the end of April; they subsequently nested and were seen with three juvenile birds in August. Spotted flycathers were seen in the garden in Gilling in early June and again in mid-August when they were observed removing the occasional butterfly from a Buddleia bush to feed waiting juveniles on the telephone wires.

swallowSwallows and house martins enjoyed a good breeding year in many areas. Swallows seemed to leave for migration to warmer climates during the final two or three weeks in September, whilst the house martins were still around up to mid-October.

The end of October saw large flocks of fieldfares in the area with estimates of some groups of up to 150+; fewer redwings were seen until early November. Large flocks of lapwing were also recorded in a number of areas until the end of the year.

[Ed: This will be Jack’s last report since he is retiring as our Bird Recorder after fourteen years. I would like to thank him for his dedication and interest and of course his excellent annual reports since 1990.]

Species List 2003

The birds are listed in the official BTO order.

Little Grebe Fairly regular on Gilling Lakes
Great Crested Grebe A pair breeding on Gilling Lakes
Cormorant Single juvenile on Gilling Lakes 18th August
Grey Heron Common in Gilling, Kirkbymoorside, Hovingham and Slingsby areas
Pink Footed Goose Flocks flying north over Rudland in February and south in October
Canada Goose Common throughout area; bred on Gilling Lakes; single bird at Rudland 28th November
Greylag Goose Recorded on most waters throughout the area. Flock of 300 in flight over Slingsby; single bird at Rudland 20th March
Mute Swan Common on waters throughout the area
Shelduck Recorded occasionally on Newburgh Priory Lake
Mallard Common throughout area; party of 250 in Farndale February
Teal Fairly common on most waters
Wigeon Not common; occasional winter visitor on Gilling lakes; pair on Rudland pond remained till April
Common Pochard Seen regularly Newburgh Priory lake, occasionally Gilling lake
Tufted Duck Common on most waters throughout area
Goldeneye Single bird on Gilling lake February
Goosander Seen on R. Rye in April
Ruddy Duck Pair on Newburgh Priory lake in April
Marsh Harrier Female at Shunner Howe, E. Rosedale 30th April: seen on the moor at 10 yds range
Hen Harrier no records for 2003
Sparrowhawk Common throughout area. Gilling, Hovingham, Kirkbymoorside areas; Slingsby, feeding young 26th April
Common Buzzard Kirkbymoorside area 12th April & 27th December, Hovingham area 4th November
Rough-legged Buzzard One seen over Ousegill, Bransdale 2nd February
Kestrel Common throughout area; commonest raptor of the moors
Merlin Single bird at Slingsby Heights 31st January; also single bird seen on a bird table in Pickering 7.30am 14th November
Red Grouse Common in moorland habitats. Unusually seen in both spring and autumn at 500/600ft not in hard weather
Red-legged Partridge Flocks of up to 20 round Gilling throughout the year; single Slingsby April; small groups High Park 25th Dec; the “common” partridge at Rudland
Grey Partridge Coveys of up to 8 birds round Gilling in January; pair at Hovingham 31st March; 8 on Boonhill early in the year
Pheasant Common throughout area – too many released birds
Quail Heard on setaside land at Boonhill 28th-29th May
Moorhen Common on waters throughout the area
Coot Common on Gilling and and Newburgh Priory lakes
Oystercatcher Single seen and heard calling, Gilling area in April
Golden Plover Flock of 200 Welburn area 26th January, 29 Slingsby area 31st March. Big winter flocks Kirkdale. At Rudland 19th February and mid-April (up to 200), also late-December
Lapwing Flock of 150 Gilling 21st October, 29 at Slingsby 28th November, 300 at Welburn 26th January, 100 Oswaldkirk 12th September. On breeding grounds at Rudland 25th Feb; a white-winged bird seen late May
Redshank Single bird seen & heard calling mid-April in Gilling area
Curlew Single male bird calling in flight Harome 27th May. Welburn 9th May, Gilling 17th May, Hovingham area 25th May. Returned to the moor edge at Rudland 26th February
Whimbrel No records for 2003
Woodcock “Roding” Gilling 4th April (8.15pm), 29th April. Present throughout the year at Rudland
Common Snipe Welburn Mill 7 birds 9th March; 3 at Kirkbymoorside 3rd December; Slingsby area 12th Jan, Ashberry 9th May. Present at Rudland throughout the year – drumming 3rd March
Black-headed Gull Slingsby area, mainly a winter visitor; flocks of up to 100 round Gilling in winter
Lesser Black-backed Gull Single birds seen with black-headed gulls in Gilling area
Herring Gull Common throughout the area
Greater Black-backed Gull Seen in small numbers following the plough, Gilling area
Common Gull 30 at High Park 15th November
Wood Pigeon Common throughout area; flock of 100+ on sugar beet at Slingsby 29th November
Stock Dove Fairly common in Gilling area. Flock of 40 (largest for many years) in Welburn area 26th January. Common resident at Rudland. Bred in garden at Slingsby
Collared Dove Common in lowland areas, scarcer on higher ground
Turtle Dove Recorded in May/June at Pry Rigg and Cropton (7 at Spiers House); Gilling 29th May-June. Pair seen at Rudland in May but not later
Cuckoo Slingsby 18th April, Gilling 29/30th. Cropton (Pickering Moor), also Middleton Moor 5th and 24th May; Pry Rigg 11th May. More evident than usual in Sykes House garden and the Rudland area
Barn Owl Slingsby 25th June, 3 chicks raised from box. Single birds seen at East and West Ness 22nd Feb; also recorded from Marton, Ganthorpe, Wombleton, Gilling and seen at Keldholme and Hovingham
Long Eared Owl Robin Hood’s Wood 27th Dec. Also a report of one seen along Castle Drive, Gilling in early May
Little Owl Stonegrave 12th April; occasionally at Rudland
Short Eared Owl Blakey Rigg, May
Tawny Owl Common throughout area. Rarely seen but often heard at Rudland. One seen in Hovingham with a rat
Nightjar Seen and heard on society’s outing to Rudland 9th August; present as usual on Harland Moor
Common Swift First arrivals reported first week in May Helmsley area. Early departures from mid-August. 100+ in Slingsby 31st July (last seen 15th August). Does not breed at Rudland but seen in flight
Kingfisher Single bird on Holbeck at Gilling in February; one on Wath Beck, Slingsby 13th May and again 1st Sept; one at Ness 4th September
Green Woodpecker Cropton 7th June; heard calling, Gilling area 16th Feb, also seen sitting on fence-post 30th Oct. Not uncommon at Rudland
Great Spotted Woodpecker Common in woods and gardens throughout the area; not uncommon RU (seen on feeders 16th Feb)
Skylark Not uncommon in many areas; singing Stonegrave, Hovingham, Gilling, Slingsby from early April. 11 in Kirkbymoorside area 26th Jan. Breeds at Boonhill and the moor edge at Rudland
Sand Martin More present on R. Rye than in the previous 2/3 years; 125 ringed. Few reports from elsewhere
Swallow First arrivals 12th and 14th April at Slingsby and Gilling, then main arrivals 29th April. 2nd broods in a number of areas. Arrived Rudland 14th April, 3 broods in the garage, left first week of October
House Martin First arrivals at Gilling 16th April, main influx end April-early May. Departures into early October. Party of 12+ Gilling 27th April. Seen at Rudland in September but do not breed there
Tree Pipit 4 singing Hartoft 4th April; recorded Cropton 1st May (41 territories at Cropton), Gilling 11th May (one); one singing Rudland 5th May but no breeding records
Meadow Pipit 4 at High Park 11th Nov. Numerous in the Stonegrave area. Common breeder on the moors. Small flock in the snow early Jan. Flock of c.50 at Sykes House in April
Yellow Wagtail No records in 2003
Grey Wagtail Single in garden, Slingsby 15th Nov. 2 at Welburn 9th March; single Gilling 7th Sept and 30th Oct. Occasional visitor to garden pond at Rudland in late suimmer and autumn
Pied Wagtail Common in many areas, frequenting gardens in Slingsby and Gilling. Back at Sykes House early March – bred under the tiles rather than in the nest-box
Wren Common in many areas. 4 at Cropton 2nd March, 4 on 4th May. Bred in garden, Slingsby. Often seen at Rudland outside breeding season
Dunnock (Hedge Sparrow) Common in many areas
Garden Warbler 4 in various localities in Cropton area 5th May; 6 Pry Rigg 11th May, 1 Gilling area 4th May. Breeds locally at Rudland
Blackcap One singing at Aislaby 23rd April, pair at Slingsby 29th April, 1 Kirkbymoorside 14th Jan, 1 Pry Rigg 11th May; Gilling area 16th April, Hovingham 16th April. Not known to breed at Rudland but seen early Sept on plums
Whitethroat Cropton 5th May, Gilling area 8th. Breeds locally Rudland – pair seen on pond 7th May. Fryton Wood 7th May, Stonegrave 7th July, feeding young at Slingsby 20th June
Willow Warbler Common in many areas from 13th April. First heard singing at Rudland 13th April
Chiffchaff Singing round Gilling and Hovingham from 19th March, Pry Rigg 23rd March, Rudland 25th. Not known to breed in Rudland but heard on passage. Seen in garden Slingsby 29th March
Wood Warbler First heard in Rudland area 28th April, breeds in the area. 1 in Cropton 5th May
Goldcrest In full song Slingsby 13th April. Common resident at Rudland and in Gilling area
Spotted Flycatcher Seen in Gilling garden early June, breeding with 3 juveniles seen August. Single at Kirkbymoorside in May. Pair seen in Hovingham area 31st May, also 14th July. Returned to Rudland and bred at Sykes House
Whinchat Pair Bransdale 10th May. 2 pairs Pockley Moor 15th May. Present at Rudland but less common than in recent years
Stonechat Female seen at Ousegill 25th Feb and 6th May
Pied Flycatcher Present in south Bransdale
Wheatear Very few breeders. Seen on the High Moors at Rudland. Single male Rosedale 4th May; single female Pockley 15th May
Redstart 22nd April Hovingham area; Gilling area 22nd April & 4th May: pair seen feeding young 28th June at Gilling. 3 at Cropton (Newtondale) 5th May. Bird singing at Rudland 15th April
Robin Common in in all areas throughout the year
Fieldfare At Rudland left 20th April, arrived 14th Oct. 30+ at Slingsby 15th Oct, Gilling 100+ 28th Oct
Ring Ouzel Rudland first arrivals 5th May. Singles seen Pockley Moor 20th April. Pairs feeding young in Bransdale 10th-26th May. Rosedale 26th May 2 nests with young birds
Blackbird Common throughout the area. Singing at Rudland 2nd March
Redwing Gilling 40+ 19th October (one with ring). Slingsby 9th Jan. Kirkdale and Farndale 40+
Song Thrush Recorded in Slingsby, Cropton, Gilling, Nunnington, Rudland (singing 21st Feb – uncommon here)
Mistle Thrush Gilling singing mid-January; flocks of up to 50 birds on berries Rudland. Present in High Park and Hartoft. 2 pairs singing in Slingsby 8th January
Long-tailed Tit Common in many areas. Up to 15 Gilling 16th Nov. Flocks of 10 and 25 Welburn late December. Pair Slingsby February 7th, 15 Kirkbymoorside 31st December
Marsh Tit A pair regular visitors to garden G; widespread Rudland; single Slingsby Jan 31st. Fairly common around Kirkbymoorside
Coal Tit Common in many areas
Willow Tit Possible sighting at Rudland – under investigation
Blue Tit Common throughout area
Great Tit Common throughout area
Nuthatch Regular visitor to bird table in Gilling garden; heard at Rudland, Gilling Woods and Welburn
Treecreeper Gilling Woods Jan 19th, Feb 16th. Bransdale April 20th. Common at Rudland, where 5 juveniles were seen clinging to a tree. Single Hovingham July 14th
Yellowhammer Not uncommon breeder at Rudland. Party of 19 Kirkbymoorside 9th March, 20 at High Park Nov 15th; 3 at Gilling Jan 19th, 12 Pockley March 2nd; Slingsby area Jan 17th and April 7th
Reed Bunting Seen at Gilling Lakes 7th and 8th June. At Rudland 12 feeding on fields at Sykes House in January. Single male Ousegill May 15th
Snow Bunting 3 Bransdale November 21st; also seen on Blakey in November
Brambling 24 in Kirkdale November 2nd. Recorded at Rudland from mid-October. Gilling: seen in garden February, 20 in Gilling area March 2nd, and 30th November in a mixed flock with greenfinches
Greenfinch Common throughout the area
Chaffinch Common throughout the area
Goldfinch Common in Rudland, Gilling and Slingsby areas
Siskin Seen occasionally at Rudland. Flocks of 50+ in Gilling area February 8th and 28th: at Cropton March-May. 40 at Kirkbymoorside December 31st
Linnet Common breeder at Rudland up to late summer. Cropton area 4th May, 11th November
Redpoll Cropton 4 on 4th May; 12 feeding on catkins at Slingsby 13th January; Gilling 30th November
Common Crossbill Up to 30 in Cropton area in May. 10 Pry Rigg in March. Present at Rudland March-May
Bullfinch Quite common at Rudland and Gilling. Seen Gilling March 6th. Slingsby pair in January. Kirkbymoorside December 27th
House Sparrow Common throughout the area. Up to 100 around Nunnington August 8th
Tree Sparrow Up to 10 in Gilling garden regularly. 8 in Slingsby garden 26th Jan; bred in nest boxes in Slingsby. Pair Stonegrave 12th April. Seen on the bird table at Rudland
Starling Common throughout the area, but not a common breeder at Rudland
Jay Present in Gilling woods throughout the year. Not uncommon at Rudland. Seen in Slingsby garden November 11th. Recorded at Pry Rigg and Cropton
Magpie Common in many areas. Recorded at Rudland
Rook Common throughout the area. New rookery at Rudland
Jackdaw Common in many areas but does not breed at Rudland
Carrion Crow Common throughout the area

Total: 118 species

Birds ringed at Pry Rigg by Jim Pewtress 2003

Species Full Retraps Total
Wren 11 1 12
Dunnock 10 0 10
Robin 37 8 45
Blackbird 5 1 6
Song Thrush 5 0 5
Garden Warbler 11 2 13
Blackcap 14 0 14
Chiffchaff 41 2 43
Willow Warbler 66 26 92
Goldcrest 26 0 26
Long-tailed Tit 32 0 32
Marsh Tit 7 3 10
Coal Tit 29 4 33
Blue Tit 29 0 29
Great Tit 10 0 10
Treecreeper 4 0 4
Jay 1 0 1
Chaffinch 10 0 10
Siskin 1 0 1
Linnet 1 0 1
Bullfinch 21 5 26
Yellowhammer 2 0 2
Annual Total: 373 52 425

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Text © Ryedale Natural History Society 2004.
Pictures © Stuart Dunlop, used with permission (see