April 20th- tree pipits, green woodpeckers and blackbird song

Jonathan Pomroy

I awoke to the sound of robin and blackbird at 4.45am. I have always struggled to sleep beyond dawn during the Summer months; bird song is my alarm clock. Most of the time this is a blessing, but I will admit that midsummer can get quite tiring! The sudden screaming of swifts especially, can literally have me awake and leaping out of bed in seconds! My swift scrambles.

Ptolemy and I set off before dawn, for a walk around Gilling Woods. We were greeted by another frost, but the sun rose in a clear sky and soon added its warmth to our backs as we walked West. A pair of green woodpeckers flew up in front of us, immediately making themselves invisible in the wood. We nibbled at wood sorrel leaves as we climbed higher up the escarpment. The number of singing blackcaps mounted up quickly and the species would…

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April 21st- goldfinches and dandelions

Jonathan Pomroy

Another fine day, but with a strong Easterly breeze. We have had day after day of unbroken sunshine. You have to be careful what you wish for, but as an artist I am rather missing clouds now. The ground is very dry and we could really do with a good soaking. My son has a school project on sounds, so we walked down to the sand martin colony to listen to their distinctive calls. The strong wind in the Scots pine trees was a great start; the ivy cladding the tall, straight trunks rustled, the harsh sound increasing in volume with each gust. By contrast the wind through the pine needles above was soothing. We listened intensely to each birdsong, this morning we heard sand martin, stock dove, woodpigeon, goldfinch, greenfinch, great tit and blackbird. Finally we stopped by the spring and listened to the water dropping into the beck.

I…

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April 22nd- first garden warbler of 2020

Jonathan Pomroy

A two mile loop from the house gives a good variety of birds. We are really getting to know local bird territories. We can plot yellowhammer territories now and are making up names for small areas of habitat. “Warbler corner” is a dense patch of bramble by the Holbeck, surrounded by a mixture of hedgerow and trees. Crab apple, hawthorn, blackthorn, elder, ash, alder and holly surround the brambles which grow right down to the beck. This sheltered area is bathed in sunlight for most of the day. We stood in one place and watched blackcap, garden warbler, lesser whitethroat and chiffchaff. All were singing.

It was great to have good views of a garden warbler. The species is often thought to be one of the plainest of British birds, but I have always admired their subtle beauty. As an artist it is interesting to study a bird free from…

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April 23rd- swallows and jackdaws

Jonathan Pomroy

Yesterday evening I spent some time watching and sketching the jackdaws on a neighbour’s chimney. Like many birders, lockdown has forced me to really concentrate on wildlife at home. Jackdaws are such charismatic birds and I have vowed to make more studies of the species in the coming weeks.

We went for a walk to the East of the village today, in the hope of finding yellow wagtails. We didn’t find one, but we definitely heard one. The slurry covered field where it was probably feeding was shimmering in the warmth making viewing quite difficult.  But, we did see swallows. There has been an arrival of swallows in the village; one two days ago, two yesterday and six today. A few house martins were swooping back under the eaves too. It was lovely to listen to the swallows twittering on the wires again.

I have unblocked the entrances to the…

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April 24th- pied wagtail, queen wasp and red mason bee

Jonathan Pomroy

A day of big temperature range. We awoke to a bird bath frozen over. The overnight minimum of -2C, climbed to 18.3C early in the afternoon. Ptolemy and I went for a walk in Gilling Woods. We walk everyday now and see this time as a gift, natural history is a perfectly valid subject as far as we are concerned and he scribes notes as we go.

There were so many highlights, we feasted again on wood sorrel leaves and admired the last wood anenomes that still flowering in shady areas. Bluebells are starting to flower and will be at their best soon. Wild cherry trees are in full bloom on the North facing slope of the wood. We stood below and listened to the loud hum of bees feeding above us. Cowslips and dandelions dominated the avenue. Tolly found 9 peacock butterflies feeding on dandelions, together with a green-…

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April 25th- treecreepers and garden warbler

Jonathan Pomroy

Another walk along the Holbeck today. After a cold, cloudy start the sun broke through late in the morning. Butterflies were quick to respond, especially orange tips, brimstones, tortoiseshells and peacocks. The sand martins were busy feeding along the beck.

We had very close views of a pair of treecreepers, that were undoubtedly nesting nearby. We watched the male feed the female an insect and saw him singing a rather plaintive song. We were mesmerised by them. Treecreepers are simply like no other bird in the UK. They are completely adapted to life on the tree trunk and we watched them clinging without effort upside down on ash boughs. They ascend the tree exploring nooks and crannies in the bark and then descend with a flight that is fast and inconspicuous. Like magic they suddenly appear at the base of another trunk to start the process again.

We also had…

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26th April- SWIFT!

Jonathan Pomroy

Another glorious April morning, espresso outside looking at the sky,

SWIFT

The significance of my first swift of the year cannot be overstated. Since primary school days, where they used to nest under the eaves, the species has captured my imagination like no other. The impact of my first swift of the year seems to increase annually; the shape never fails to be a visual shock, memories of past Summers flood back, my heart rate literally increases and without caring who hears, I just cry “swift”!

I immediately reached for the watercolours and made some studies to get my eye in again. This was without doubt the first Gilling East swift to return. I could almost sense the swift familiarising itself with its aerial map again. We saw it several times during the day, sometimes quite low, probably checking our colony to see if others were back. But it remained…

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April 27th- red kite and blackbird song

Jonathan Pomroy

A cooler day than yesterday, but one of beautiful skies with cumulus cloud under much higher cirrus streaks. I was watching buzzards, rooks and herring gulls thermalling this morning. Without a wingbeat they climbed hundreds of feet in minutes. Then a less familiar shape came from the South West. A red kite drifted over us and began circling, joining a pair of buzzrads who were already riding high on the same thermal. Within minutes the kite was a speck, even through binoculars.

Blackbird song filed the air today. Two males were singing at each other only about fifty feet apart. Now is the time to savour that rich, slow song, with Spring at its peak. The trees are bursting into leaf now, it is peak dandelion time. Within a few days those warm yellow blooms will all be clocks providing a banquet for finches.

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April 28th- swift and house sparrow

Jonathan Pomroy

A single swift was above the village again this morning. It seemed strange standing outside on what felt like a Winter’s morning (7C with leaden skies) while watching a swift. It was cruising around very slowly, conserving energy. Through the binoculars I could clearly see that its body feathers were very ‘puffed up’. I am fairly sure that this bird has returned to nearby Gilling Castle, where a few pairs nest in the old stonework. It remains the only swift in the village for now.

Tolly and I went for a walk to see the sand martin colony this morning. It was surprisingly active given the cold weather, with three pairs feeding low over the river and occasionally investigating the banks. At least six swallows and a pair of house martins joined them.

On our walk back we stopped to watch a male house sparrow displaying. The display involved loud…

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April 29th- redstart

Jonathan Pomroy

A walk this morning in dull, grey conditions. Areas of bluebells and wild garlic in Gilling woods are coming to their very best now. The scent of both species filled the air at times. We had great views of a buck roe deer through the scope.

Despite the cold, birds were singing. We had superb views of a tree pipit singing at the top of a birch tree and occasionally watched it launch into its display flight. But the undoubted star of the show today, was a male redstart fresh in from Africa and back on its usual territory. I consider myself very lucky to be able to walk from the house and see this species. I first heard the bird’s melodic bursts of song. Redstarts often sing at the top of a tree and so it was this morning. A sadly demised ash tree was an ideal song post…

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