Friday 19 June 2020

Evening Falcon

Rest Park Farm and birders

Popped back to Biggin for an hour after work tonight, to check out the Red-footed Falcon. She was performing well, stealing worms from the Blackbirds and diving about around the trees in the farmhouse garden. She always came back to the wires. Great to see Craig again and we chatted about what an interesting experience the whole rare-bird-on-the-local-patch-thing is. He said most people have behaved well during the week and the whole episode has been a really enjoyable experience. Let's hope it continues this weekend! Craig said he'd asked the farmer about when he had first noticed the falcon, and he had said he'd first noticed her on the morning of Thursday 11th June. I did write-up of the bird for the York Birding website - see here.

Below, with stolen worm. Kleptoparasitism is not noted in BWP, so this is interesting although they are known to be quite opportunistic feeders.

You can see some retained juvenile central tail feathers and the tertials when she is preening. They are a bit paler and worn - see below:

I heard a rumour from my Dad the other day, that Red-foots used to be known as Evening Falcons. I then realised that Falco vespertinus, Red-footed Falcon's scientific name, literally means 'Evening Falcon'...

Post Script: She was last seen the following morning, 20th June.


Little Owls were very noisy this evening around the barns. They scowled at the birders and yapped at each other.

Wednesday 17 June 2020

She's back!

Despite failing to refind her yesterday evening, the first-summer female Red-footed Falcon is back on the wires just south of Biggin near Sherburn-in-Elmet this morning (Wednesday). Good luck if you go!


The bird spends most time on the wires (purple circle) between Pooches Park kennels and the farm north of Rest Park. The farm track is a public footpath so you can walk south, past the kennels and house and view from the second right hand corner by the grass area (green X). You can park considerately on the wide grass verge of the main road at the top of the track (blue Xs), but don't block the track entrance.

Tuesday 16 June 2020

Check the Wires!

Walking the dog first thing, I got a message from Paul Doherty about a Red-footed Falcon in the southeast of the York recording area. He said that a photographer, Craig Storton, had been told by a farmer about a 'falcon with a white head' at Biggin near Sherburn-in-Elmet. Craig checked it out yesterday evening, discovering a stunning Red-foot. Craig had seen the bird on the wires near the village but lost it as it flew off to the north late on. I decided to go and have a look before work, as it is always worth checking these things out and I had a hunch that it wouldn't have gone far at that time of night.

The weather was against me, as mist and low cloud meant viewing was difficult. I drove slowly round the lanes near Biggin, stopping to check the wires every so often. No Red-foots and not even a Kestrel, just a few bemused looking Wood Pigeons, an odd Carrion Crow and a few Magpies. I decided I best get home and rang Paul to let him know there was no sign. I thought I should do one more check of the area where Craig had seen the bird and pulled in at a layby on the Cawood to Sherburn road just west of Biggin. A large raptor circling low over the fields to the south drew my attention, so I hopped out of the car with my bins - Red Kite. Check the wires, uh oh! Hunched falcon, with long wings...looks interesting! Very quick assembling of scope and KAPOW! Female Red-foot! The pale head and breast stood out a mile, which was fortunate as it was about a mile away. I threw my scope in the car and shot down to the farm track leading to the kennels. A few minutes later and in my scope was the most stunning first-summer female Red-footed Falcon!

 Falcon in the mist!

Absolutely mindblowing. I then noticed a car with a massive camera lens poking out of it - I waved, the guy drove up - it was Craig! Big socially distant hugs and high fives. I love the way the excitement of wildlife can bring complete strangers together in this way. I got the news out and then drank in this cracking little falcon. It hunted, shrike-like from the wires, dropping into the field to catch beetles, always returning to the wires. It was totally unconcerned by our presence and flew closer to us, showing beautifully.


Three short videos of her eminence.

Red-foots are such quality birds and I have struggled to catch up with one in the York area. This is probably the third one this spring, with two brief birds seen in the LDV, but this one was definitely worth the wait. Craig and me, beaming like Cheshire cats, enjoyed the moment before a few local birders began to arrive and I decided I better head off to work. The bird showed well until 10.45 when, after having bashed up the local Kestrel, decided to fly off northeast. It wasn't seen for the rest of the day.

I decided to head out after tea, to see if I could refind it, but sadly, despite driving round the local area for a couple of hours checking the wires, dead trees, fences, etc, it failed to reappear. Where will it turn up next? Big thanks to Paul for passing on the news and to Craig for following up the farmer's report.


My last pic of the bird as it flew off the wires. Awesome!

Monday 15 June 2020

Return to the Sea!

It has been a long three months in lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic, so it was a great joy to head out to the coast on Saturday. Not so joyous was the 4am start, although I was very excited to be travelling to Flamborough, so I leapt out of bed and an hour later arrived at the sea in mist and pouring rain. Yuk!

The fog horn was sounding and a light easterly was blowing; it felt like October not June! Not to be daunted, I ventured out from the warm, cosy cocoon of my car and sloshed along the Old Fall path. I really should have packed waterproof trousers, wellies, or both. I was greeted at the plantation with the distinctive song of a Greenish Warbler emanating from the dripping Sycamore canopy. Distinctive though the song is, it is very hard to explain in words, so I recorded a bit with my phone. After a while, I realised the bird was also doing a bit of mimicry of a nearby Wren, which is something I didn't realise this species did. It lacked a Wren's trilling sections, but otherwise was pretty good.

The bird sang continually and as is typical, was super-active, spending a lot of time moving through the Willows and Sycamores on the north edge of the plantation, before zipping through the canopy to the south side. For a while I was convinced there was two birds until I realised it was just this guy bombing around. 12 Siskins were notable, along with singing Chiffchaff and Blackcap. I spent a good hour and a half with this bird, despite the deluge of rain, soaking the song and jizz of this little bird up into my memory. Definitely a cuter-looking bird than the large-headed angry-looking Arctic Warbler, with smaller, spiky bill and rounded head. It was difficult to discern the supercilium meeting over the bill as the bird seemed pretty wet around the head and face, as can be seen in some of the pics below.

I bumped into Lee J, and together we wandered round the Old Fall loop. Despite the promising weather conditions, we failed to find anything else of interest, although I enjoyed seeing the North Sea through the mist, and the streams of auks and Kittiwakes coming out of Bridlington Bay. I have missed the sea.

Next up, Filey, where news that Dan Lombard had found a singing Blyth's Reed Warbler got my twitching juices flowing. Abandoning my plans to stomp round the north side of the headland, I jumped in the car and sped off. Half an hour later and I pulled up at the top of Carr Naze where I immediately heard the noise of the Blyth's pouring forth from the Top Scrub. A smart find by Dan Lombard, I have been trying to find one of these skulkers in the LDV in the last few weeks without success, so felt it would be good to alert my ears to their voice, just in case I come across one in the next few weeks.

In 90 minutes, I saw the bird twice; once in the base of a large Sycamore, where it hopped among the leaves, demonstrating it's cocked tail and short-winged jizz and then briefly atop a Hawthorn for about five seconds. Neither view would have been tickable, but it waa the song I had come for, and that was really cool. He sang off and on the whole time I was there, a much slower paced effort compared to the frenetic frothing of the Marsh Warbler, but included plenty of mimicry like that species. Terrier Mark aptly described this as a medium-pacer compared to the fast-bowling Marsh! Bouts of Blue Tit, Phyllosc-'hweet'ing, Bee-eater and even Green Sandpiper would be interspersed by series of tecking calls, a bit of Reed Warbler-esque chuntering and some neat little whistled arpeggios.

Blyth's Reed Warbler plus Woodpigeon and Chaffinch. The BRW does a fine Great Tit impression.

Local June Birding

As spring migration reaches an impressive finale of late spring vagrants (Blyth's Reed Warblers, Marsh Warblers, Greenish Warblers etc), the first returning Green Sandpipers are already bringing a touch of autumn locally. Quite incredible to see this seasonal overlap.

I spent an enjoyable evening at Wheldrake Ings last week, with the focus being on the flower-filled hay meadows, where a Quail sang 'wet my lips' briefly, unseen among the stems of Narrow-leaved Water Dropwort and Meadow Foxtail; a Corn Bunting jangled from the top of the Meadowsweet and a Grasshopper Warbler crept above the sward to give his reeling extra volume.

A morning or two later, I had a pre-work trip to Bank Island to look at an unseasonal Knot, presumably a female, feeding with the local Redshanks. Usually a scarce autumn and winter bird in the York area, a June Knot is pretty unexpected and a nice find by Duncan Bye. Another Grasshopper Warbler was reeling nearby; it seems like a pretty good year for them round here.

Monday 8 June 2020

Straight Outta Compton

Up early for a pre-work twitch to Compton Lane, Collingham for a Rosy Starling. No sign in it's favoured Bird Cherry tree, before it flew in and landed on a telegraph wire at about 06.30. I assumed it would then drop into the tree, but it had other ideas, and dropped to the ground and started feeding on the road verge, at times disappearing into the long grass and the foot of the hedge.

The bird was in pristine condition, with an oily-looking crest, blue sheen on the wings and lack of pale fringing on the vent, all indicative of an adult male. After a few minutes it vanished into thin air, only to turn up back on the wires.

Looking surprisingly pied at a distance. I have put these pics in to give you an idea of what one looks like from a distance as you are passing by - not so easy with a frame-filler to get that impression.

This bird, one of at least three present in Yorkshire yesterday, is part of a nationwide influx, following a major push northwest across Europe from the southeast. I checked a few York 'Starling spots' on my way back home but without success. I am going to load up the fat ball feeders today to try and tempt one into the garden...

Saturday 6 June 2020

Grasshopper Warbler

Grasshopper Warblers have turned up a few times on the ings near Bishopthorpe in the last few years. They seem to favour the rough wet grassland with thick hedges and a few scattered bushes. Lets hope this one finds a mate.

Lockdown Birding Video

As Lockdown starts to be eased, I had a look back through the past few months of bird sightings and put this little video together. It was a really interesting time, very challenging but also helped me reconnect with nature on my doorstep. With the discovery of a Red-rumped Swallow near my house in late April, it proved that rare birds can and do turn up just about anywhere. The tune is Busy Earnin' by Jungle. Enjoy!

Click here to watch the video

Friday 5 June 2020

Searching for Nightjars

European Nightjars are one of my favourite birds. They are hard to find, even harder to see and I always seem to watch from the wrong place. Nevertheless, I have had some wonderful experiences with these enigmatic birds over the years and wanted to share a little of the experience with you. Part of the excitement is being present out in a wild place as night falls. Pretty spooky! Add to that the nightmarish levels of insects that want to drink your blood and you create an unforgettable wildlife experience!

Nightjars are rare and very susceptible to disturbance so I won't reveal the location of my video. It is a bit clunky as I've not done much of this editing stuff before. I hope you enjoy it!

Click here to watch on YouTube

Monday 1 June 2020


Libellula quadrimaculata - the Four-spotted Chaser - what a corking dragonfly! This one had just emerged out of a pond on Strensall Common and looked glorious warming up in the morning sunshine. I also saw my first Emperor Dragonfly - a male- recently emerged too, shining cobalt blue and bright green. Also seen, a pair of Spotted Flycatchers in a different place, but presumably the same pair as I saw a fortnight ago and a nest of very rowdy young Great Spotted Woodpeckers on the YWT reserve. And the sheep were all happy chilling in the shade!