Fifty days of sketching and writing within two miles of home. What has it taught me? There are species I have missed seeing. April and May would normally find me chasing ring ouzels, pied flycatchers, gannets and puffins to name just a few, but I would have missed really getting to know my local area. I know where the garden warblers nest and each yellowhammer territory. Walking the same route day after day, I have seen the exact time migrants arrive and when others pass through. I know how many sand martins nest in the river bank and have found where the kingfishers nest.
Spring butterflies have emerged. My favourite the orange tip has been in flight for much of this time and I am very aware of the fact now that soon I will see the orange tip that will be my last until April 2021. I looked forward…
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Our swifts laid an egg yesterday, but in another development I found a smashed egg on the ground outside the nest box. I think this egg was the product of the partner before the fight on 18th May. The new partner would remove the egg from the nest box to ensure it is not spending the summer raising the offspring of another swift. Their nest is really quite substantial, mainly built of feathers it is bulky enough to hide the egg from the nest box camera at times.
The weather has been wonderful for swift watching today, a light breeze and fluffy cumulus cloud. Below trees look at their very finest. The swifts largely stayed near the house. It was a joy to see them arcing through the sky and to hear their duet screaming high above; the sort of day I dream of sometimes in the middle…
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A mid morning walk along the Holbeck. The garden warblers are secretive now and quietly nesting. We heard occasional bursts of the male’s rich warbling song. Within fifty metres we also heard blackcap, whitethroat and chiffchaff singing. The lesser whitethroats are now quiet and rarely heard. This interesting list of warblers visible from one spot has led my son to name this area “warbler corner”. We have grown very attached to this tiny piece of North Yorkshire and it always delivers something of great interest.
We had lovely views of a male reed bunting singing its pleasant song from the top of a hawthorn. We have heard it frequently but have found it hard to see until today. We saw a pair of males squabbling over a territory boundary and studied the singing male at length. They are very smart looking buntings in full breeding plumage.
Sand martins flew up…
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I spent some time studying hares just west of the village this morning. I don’t draw mammals often and found it challenging and enjoyable at the same time. One hare was very obliging and sat for some time scratching itself and seemingly soaking up the early morning sun.
Sparrowhawks are very regular in village gardens at the moment. Their surprise tactic hunting is spectacular to watch. They use cover such as hedges and walls and other solid objects to approach low at high speed. They know very well where each bird feeding station is and have various routes towards them for a clean kill.
The swifts began their incubation duties tentatively today. They may well lay a third egg because they don’t seem to be incubating full time. We had some spectacular low level flypasts from three birds this morning. These passes are wondeful to watch. They gather…
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The house martins prospected the back of the house today. They didn’t really settle, but I had time to make some sketches and I still have some hope that they might yet nest in one of my seven boxes. The male was displaying, drooping his wings, singing with great vigour and fluffing up his bright white rump.
The landscape watercolour below is a study from the field near Gilling East village hall. There is a magnificent old oak and a very old section of hedgerow. For me the scene sums up the last few days. Blue sky and intense greens of trees. Soon these fresh greens will start to darken. Arguably, trees look at their very finest at the moment. Four swifts which breed in the nearby village hall are passing low above the oak.
I am still not convinced that the swifts have started their incubation full…
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I am currently waking very early to look at the moth trap. Our tree sparrows are very partial to moths and this means I need to protect them at first light. Being up at 4am is wonderful. There is so much light, the air is fresh and cold and birds are singing full throttle. Although it must be said, the dawn chorus is reducing markedly now as birds tend to their young.
Our third swift really started to make an impact this morning, passing the colony at high speed often with a potential mate in tow. I was watching them, when I heard a call that was familiar but not instantly recognisable. It was high pitched, loud “zip” sound, first making me think spotted flycatcher, then perhaps a fledgling call that I didn’t recognise. But I knew it was different and walked to the back garden where the call was…
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