Tree sparrows passing through Crigglestone

A pair of tree sparrows came to my feeders in Crigglestone from 26-29 March 2015, but they moved on. I used to have a breeding colony in my nest boxes from 1958-1968, which peaked at 10 pairs in 1964 and 11 in 1968.Corn bunting, cuckoo, green woodpecker, grey partridge, kestrel, linnet, skylark, spotted flycatcher, tawny owl, yellowhammer, whitethroat and willow tit were also heard and seen here in the breeding season in those days.Male and female sparrowhawks now follow birds into the feeder tree from time to time.Greenfinches were absent during the winter, but a male and two females have been coming to the feeders since 6 April and 2 peacock butterflies were in the garden on 7 April.

Tree sparrows at a feeder

Tree sparrows at a feeder

Garden birdwatch: Wrenthorpe sparrowhawk

How exiting can a bleary-eyed glimpse out of the upstairs windows be on a grey and grim morning at the end of February.  Usually not at all, but this morning was different when I slowly focused on a sparrowhawk perched very quietly on the brick wall in my Wrenthorpe garden. Understandably, the usual sparrows and other small birds that normally feed on my offerings were no where to be seen!  The photo was taken in low light and through the window, but hopefully it still shows what a really handsome bird it is.

male sparrowhawk, Wrenthorpe

male sparrowhawk, Wrenthorpe

Signs of spring: Lapwings

Spring really is hurtling our way as a glance around the countryside will show – hazel catkins, insects on the wing and lapwings displaying are all sure signs. Lapwings are back on their local breeding grounds and are really in full swing now as they display over the fields in the area. They can easily be seen as I drive into my village, Ryhill, particularly around Chevet, Wintersett and on the Nostell side of the village.

Lapwing at Wintersett

Lapwing with Wintersett village in the distance


Peregrine watching in Wakefield

I went into Wakefield to check on the peregrines this morning. I planned to go in early to catch them feeding but I waited for the mist to clear and I got there at about 8:30. I found two peregrines on the steeple, with one of them feeding on a pigeon. After a few minutes, the other bird took to the air and then swooped in to snatch the pigeon from the other bird. There was some screeching as it did this. Unusually, this bird then went onto the small pinnacle to the left of the nesting platform to feed. It looked as though there was little more than a few bones left of the pigeon.

The two birds sat for a while and the one that had been feeding first looked to have a bulging crop but I guess that they were still hungry because they both flew away and had not returned by 11:30. They headed north and west.  I wonder weather the fog of the past two days has prevented them getting as much food as usual.

As an aside, Pauline found the remains of this woodcock at the base of the cathedral so the birds are still feeding well on a variety of birds that we probably weren’t expecting! Are they taking the woodcock as they migrate at night or are the peregrines hunting a woodland at night I wonder?

woodcock remains

woodcock remains – Pauline Brook

Further observations on the cathedral peregrines

peregrine falcon Wakefield cathedral

A fabulous falcon on the cathedral

I went in to Wakefield earlier today to spend a few hours getting a clearer picture of what is happening on the spire. I got some pictures but these were taken by putting my phone to the eyepiece of my telescope, so the quality is low.

I arrived at about 7:30 and I found two peregrines on the north side of the spire. The larger of the two birds was sitting near the stone feature that has often acted as a larder and dining table in the past. One of the pictures shows this bird and some of the remains in the larder. This bird had obviously just fed and it spent time cleaning feathers and gore from its talons. A few crockets above it, I noticed that a lapwing had been stashed to be eaten later.

The smaller bird was perched near the lapwing. This bird flew away for a short time before returning and starting to feed on a starling. I did not see it carrying the starling when it returned but I might have missed this as I wasn’t using binoculars at the time. The starling’s head is visible in one of the pictures..

 The larger bird moved to a different crocket and spent time feeding on a woodcock. One of the pictures shows this bird after it had fed. It is possible to see the bars running across the woodcock’s head. Feathers on the larder were a similar colour to those of the woodcock, so it may be that the peregrines have taken a number of woodcock.

 I remained until 11:30 but the peregrines didn’t move again. I was hoping to see them showing some interest in the nesting platform but they were obviously too lethargic after their meal. Afternoon’s might be a better time to watch for activity.

 The peregrines certainly seem to be at home on the spire, with lots to eat, so it is to be hoped that they have settled in for the winter. I will try to get into Wakefield whenever I can to watch for developments in the coming months.

peregrine falcon Wakefield cathedral

peregrine with larder

peregrine falcon Wakefield cathedral

A lapwing in the larder

peregrine falcon Wakefield cathedral

Peregrine with starling

peregrine falcon Wakefield cathedral

Peregrine with woodcock

Little Auk at Wintersett

With little auks being seen off the coast in good numbers over the last few days, it may not have been entirely unexpected that one would turn up inland but it was certainly a massive find for one birder at Anglers CP. Within minutes the grape vine was buzzing and the local birders were dreaming up all sorts of excuses to get out of work early to get this mega rarity on their list. It was the first record for Wintersett, though not the first for Wakefield. The bird seemed lively enough and was actively feeding for most of the afternoon but, as darkness fell and the wind became stronger, it was seen to crawl out onto the bank and huddle sown beneath a sedge tussock.

Eventually the bird was picked up and sheltered overinight before being released at Bridlington the next day where it was watched flying out to sea, Hopefully, it will have made a full recovery.

Little auk at Anglers Country Park

Great northern diver in Mirfield

I’m well out of the birding loop these days and I’ve only just got wind of a long staying great northern diver at Lady Lakes in Mirfield which has been there for about 5 months! Thinking there might be a photo opportunity, I nipped over there and sure enough I saw this amazing sub-adult great northern diver. I couldn’t understand why it was in Mirfield in June and not in Scandinavia along with the rest of its kind until I saw it feeding. On every dive it brought up a large crayfish, presumably signal crayfish, and heartily scoffed them down. Living on a rich crayfish diet like that must outweigh the long flight north :¬)

The bird regularly surfaced right in front of the anglers on the lake but would not come up in front of me and my camera! I managed a few grab shots before being thrown off the lakes by the owner – only fishermen are allowed on. So, if you go along, stay behind the otter fence and you are fine. Lots of black-tailed skimmers there too.

great northern diver in Mirfield

great northern diver in Mirfield

great northern diver in Mirfield

great northern diver in Mirfield

great northern diver in Mirfield

great northern diver in Mirfield with crayfish