Spurn Head wildlife reserve, East Yorkshire

The next stop on our holiday was full of potential but bad timing. Spurn Head is probably amazing because of all the migratory shorebirds that stop by except we managed to pick a bad time because:

  • We were shortly past the peak for migration – just the locals left, mostly.
  • There had just been terrible storms that caused huge damage to the habitat. There is a road you can normally drive out to the lighthouse at the end, but it had completely washed out.  Not that I minded the 5-mile walk each way even though walking on soft sand is pretty tiring, but it just indicates how bad the storms were that it was completely obliterated, though there were remnants left of the sea defenses from the Second World War.
  • There was a howling sou’westerly gale so even I was struggling at times.

Still, some birds managed to forage in a sheltered patch.

Shorebirds
Shorebirds

There are North Sea fishing towns along this coast, so the people are used to shipwrecks and in spite of the implied tragedy, they still keep their sense of humour.

Shipwreck
Shipwreck

And I loved this sky above the canola fields.

Canola and sky
Canola and sky

OK, I ran out of time again. Next up is the East Cave wetlands reserve, also near by.  Maybe tomorrow.

 

Saltmarshe

The destination of our trip across to the east coast of Yorkshire was Saltmarshe, on the banks of the River Ouse, flowing out into the Humber estuary.

Saltmarshe sign
Saltmarshe sign

Every village in England welcomes careful drivers. Not only because that’s always a good idea but because most of the places we went had rather narrow roads.

Railway bridge
Railway bridge near Saltmarshe

You can see why it is a salt marsh; it is as flat as Saskatchewan and the river is tidal at this point. Here is the river, which was on the other side of a dyke from the cottage we stayed in.

River Ouse
River Ouse

We stayed in Orchard Cottage, one of two on this farm. We highly recommend it. Very comfortable and welcoming hosts.  They were barely recovered from the recent very bad weather which had resulted in extensive floods.  We saw some of the areas not cleaned up and it must have been a heroic attempt to get ready for us.

Orchard Cottage
Orchard Cottage

Yes, that’s a stable on the left side.  The horses were quiet “neigh”bours.  There were many birds in the garden.  The English blackbirds are beautiful singers, unlike our raucous red-winged blackbirds.  Here is another bird among the petals dropped from the apple trees.

Pied Wagtail
Pied Wagtail

In order to construct a railway, raised above the floodplain, fill was required.  That left a hole, now a wetland bird sanctuary, called Saltmarshe Delph.  (For my non-English readers, “delph” is English for “quarry”)

In the aftermath of the flood, the delph was not as accessible as it presumably is in normal times.  The surrounding trees were still submerged a foot in water, so it was hard to get to a suitable point for photography without getting rather wet and as I just had time for a short visit, I didn’t do that.  I wish I’d had my brother-in-law’s folding kayak.  My canoe is hard to fit into a suitcase.  Still, I did get a few pictures:

Swan with Cygnets
Swan with Cygnets

In case you were wondering why baby swans are called cygnets, it is because we English are perverse and took the name of the adult animal from Old English, but the baby from the Greek, which is also the root of the “latin” name, Cygnus olor.

Just because swans always look too dignified, here is one looking less so, using its long neck to feed under water.

Swan feeding
Swan feeding

Swans in England belong to the Queen.  At the May Ball, in Cambridge University, they have the privilege of roasting some of them.  Unfortunately I missed my chances as I needed money so as the May Ball was a couple of weeks after end of the year, I was already hard a work back up north, sweating in a factory-style bakery. As I’m still a College member, in theory I could still go but it’s a long way to go to eat a bird.

Back to birds; here’s some more:

Cormorant: Saltmarshe Delph
Cormorant: Saltmarshe Delph
Crested Grebe
Crested Grebe
Heron and Mallards
Heron and Mallards

I heard lots more birds than I saw but would have needed much more time to track them down.  And my binoculars magnify more than my telephoto lens so I saw more than I could photograph.

That’s all I have time for tonight.  Next entry will have another, larger, wetland reserve and a few pictures of shore birds from Spurn Head.

I have lots of pictures from home now, but they’ll have to wait until I finish the trip photos.

English holiday – en route to East Yorkshire

We took a side trip from the west coast, where my dad lives in Morecambe, to the east coast, where we rented a cottage for a few days on the River Ouse, that flows into the Humber Estuary. This is one of the few areas of England neither my dad nor I have been, even though the trip was only a few hours. I had actually been to the University of Hull, also on the estuary, to visit a friend who was studying there, but I only saw the University, not much of the city and none of the countryside.
The theme of the trip was water birds. The area has several wetlands and Spurn Head, which is a long spit of land curving round into the estuary. But this post will just cover the trip; watch this space for the wetland pictures.

However, we did stop and see some birds on the Lancashire moors, en route.

Lapwing
Lapwing
Lapwing in flight
Lapwing in flight

We also stopped in the City of York, which has some wonderful museums and is almost a museum itself with its really old buildings still in commercial use.  Because it is accessible by river from the estuary, it was a major port as long as boats were not much larger than the Viking longships.  We did go round the Viking museum again, which has a ride through a reconstructed Viking village which is quite instructive.

Old York buildings
Old York buildings

Imagine how curved the floors must be in their.

Of course, Yorkshire and Lancashire are famous as the opposing parties in the Wars of the Roses, but now we Lancashire folks don’t need siege engines to visit York Castle.

York Castle
York Castle

The most famous of York’s streets is “The Shambles”, with some buildings dating back to the Fourteenth Century. It was the butchers’ row.

The Shambles York
The Shambles York

One of the buildings was a tavern, so we stopped in for lunch and a pint. Laurie and Frank are perusing the menu.  We recommend it and they had a wide range of craft beer.

Ye Old Shambles Tavern
Ye Old Shambles Tavern

Territory

These females, downy woodpecker and grosbeak seen to get along fine sharing a feeder.
The male red winged blackbird doesn’t seem to tolerate anyone sharing a feeder but the female seems OK with it – I’ll try to get some pictures for that soon.

It would be interesting to know how this kind of sharing varies between species and sex.
I’m going to be watching out for more examples. Does anyone know of an existing set of observations?

Woodpecker and Grosbeak
Woodpecker and Grosbeak

Woodpecker thinks it’s a robin

I always thought the flickers looked awkward, as a woodpecker feeding on grubs in the lawn, but it seems other members of the family do the same.  I have seen this downy doing the same thing for hours on end, mostly in the same spot. I guess it’s an easier living than smacking your head into a tree, even with all the shock-absorbing technology they have.

I hadn’t seen this behaviour before but I also haven’t seen any cats around this year, which might explain why the birds are bolder now. Last year a neighbourhood cat was leaping over the feeder table and snatching birds in mid-air, so I had to raise it to 2m.

Downy Woodpecker feeding on lawn
Downy Woodpecker feeding on lawn
Downy Woodpecker 2
Downy Woodpecker 2
Downy Woodpecker 3
Downy Woodpecker 3