Since myself and James started our journeys so many moons ago we have often discussed how one would go about get the most number of species seen in a day, particularly during the shortened hours of January. This is the closest I come to twitcheriness, probably. Well we finally got round to giving it a go. After plotting our day we set out pre-dawn.
Tophill Low was the first port of call. We were hoping for barn owl on the drive in, but the dry evening before meant they were thoroughly-stuffed in their sky burrows (A.K.A nest boxes). Flocks of greylags greeted us along with a goldcrest in the pines at the car park. We made our way to watton, giving that’s where all the hot frothy action was and settled in. I was already complaining about my wet feet. Sadly my supposedly waterproof shoes doesn’t prevent wet water. I didn’t use my camera much that day so we will be settling for MS paint demonstrations of the action. This is how wet my feet were.
Watton proved pretty good at showing us a nice variety of wet bird species. James decided to find all the good things while I was getting my scope out of it’s bad, therefore taking all the points. I scraped back some self-respect by finding a knot amongst the redshanks. Pintails, lady smew and white-fronted goose where all about. The green-winged teal was a no-show sadly, but we got an eyeful of that bad boy a week or so before. A buzzard landed on a conifer and treat us to pretty special views and some roe deer came out as the first interesting mammal of the day. Here’s an illustration of the view. Notice my handy guide to telling knot and redshank apart in the field, in case you were struggling.
We made our way around the rest of the reserve, picking up kestrel, goldeneye, tits, sparrowhawk and greater black backed gull, amongst other things.
Our next planned destination was North Cave wetlands but we realised a semi-reliable little owl spot was on the way. This took through an unusual combination of back roads meaning james could see weasel and we could both see stoat within about 5 metres of each other. They probably have epic battles under ground. No little owl could be seen so we continued on our way, picking up a 200+ flock of fieldfare on route.
At north cave wetlands, with my wet feet, i filled up on egg sandwiches and hot chocolate while James failed to see a tree sparrow (making me the winner. It must be said, the wetlands were somewhat lacking. The overfull island lake had pushed most the waders away, with only redshank sticking about. The variety of ducks was weak, with shelduck, teal and mallard being the only species I can remember. The logbook had redpoll down at the far end of the reserve, so we did the lap and failed to see them. My feet were still wet. Just as we were about to reach the main road out of the reserve a low flying, exceptionally pale buzzard flew in front of us. A mad dash for a better had me trying to turn it into a rough-legged buzzard. No luck was had but it certainly buoyed my spirits. We got comfy in the final hide and spotted 7 buzzards on the nearby ridge. Pochard and tufted duck could be seen. A bazillion gulls flew up from nearby fields. It was awesome.
Heading towards the buzzards we saw a richness of raptors that was bloody lovely. No unusual species, but the density of buzzards, kestrel and sparrowhawk was indicative of how rich the area can be.
North Cliffe wood was the next destination. An oak woodland of a type that is very difficult to come by in East Yorkshire. James was in full fungi spotting mode, and when he gets round to upload some pictures i’m sure he’ll be very informative. I found a dead frog to counterpoint his naturalistic flair. I’m curious as to whether it had been unearthed by predator or died from exposure after emerging from hibernation due to the unseasonably mild weather. The latter seems more likely given it’s complete state. I also had wet feet.
The wood is hot spot for many species that can be hard to see in east yorkshire, such as marsh and willow tit (although we only saw marsh this day, probably). It’s also a fantastic site for insects in the summer, and the unusual patch of heath nestled within holds a few treasures. The metal sheets left out seem to imply reptiles can be found here, although we only found an obliging vole species underneath at this time of year. Some logs scattered about had hibernating beetles underneath which im certain james will identify for me.
Our final destination for the day was a red kite roost. At certain times of year this site can host up to 30 red kite, but over an hour of waiting only showed us 3, although one should never complain when red kite are about. The area also held some large finch flocks, kestrel, buzzard, several bullfinch and a jay (very uncommon in east yorkshire). My wet feet were very wet.
We ended the day just short of 60 species of bird, 6 species of mammal and a dead amphibian. Ideally we would have gone to a coastal site to pick up more waders and towards the humber for marsh harrier, but there is only so many hours in the short January days