Annual Photographic Competition

Wednesday 18th November 2015

This years winning photos can be found here


Richard’s nature notes:  November, 2015

 There is always something interesting to observe in nature.  One of my more notable observations this year was watching a male Great Spotted Woodpecker investigate flowers of a Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia) in a neighbour’s garden.  This behaviour has been well documented, with several photos available on the internet.  I presume that the bird I saw could have been feeding on nectar or on insects attracted to the nectar.  Similar behaviour has been reported for the Cuban Green Woodpecker which has been observed drinking nectar from flowers of the Geiger tree in the West Indies; this behaviour may also be contributing to pollination of the tree. 

 Another unexpected woodpecker observation this summer was seeing, on several occasions, a Green Woodpecker standing on the edge of the road between Brantingham and Ellerker.  I assume that the bird was attracted by ants in the dry soil of the grass verge.

 In May, a pair of linnets were nest building in a dwarf conifer outside my kitchen window.  There was a clear and predictable pattern to their behaviour.  Whilst the female was nest building inside the conifer, the male would sit very alert atop an adjacent bush (obviously on the lookout for danger).  When the female emerged and flew off to collect more nesting material the male would immediately follow.  On returning, the female would promptly disappear into the conifer and the male would resume his lookout position.  Although eggs were laid, we returned home one day to find the nest had been raided by something large enough to bend over one of the conifer’s branches.  Presumably a cat had found the nest which was quite near to the ground.

 Invertebrate species new to me this summer included seeing the tiny Adonis Ladybird (Adonia variegata) in a field margin near Dunswell and Semaphore Flies (Poecilobothrus nobilitatus) on the muddy edges of a number of local ponds and puddles.  The ‘common’ name for this fly apparently originates from the ‘2012 Name a Species’ competition run by the Guardian newspaper in collaboration with Natural England.  These flies, with shiny green bodies, have a complex courtship display which includes a waving (semaphore) display of the white-tipped wings of the males.

 Extensive species listings are reported by some British naturalists.  For instance, one snail enthusiast is attempting to see every terrestrial snail species in the UK (see Snail Trail 2015).  Others go in for pan-species listing (identifying species from different taxonomic groups); one pan-species lister claims to have identified over 12,000 different taxa in the British Isles.

 I prefer to learn something about the biology of a particular species.  For example, I can recommend the absorbing account of sea shells (biology and use by humans) in the recently published ‘Spirals in Time’ by Helen Scales.  A particularly astonishing behaviour by hermit crabs is described: sometimes, when seeking a new home, large numbers will gather round an empty shell. Rather than there being a totally disorganised scramble for the empty shell, the hermit crabs apparently organise themselves into one or more queues of decreasing shell size.  The largest crabs wrestle for the empty shell.  The winner occupies the empty shell, and then its vacated shell is taken over by the next largest in the queue and so on down the line, but not without some jostling between queues.

 Returning to local observations, a friend took me to see a small group of Bee Orchids beside a footpath near Ellerker.  I am told that this was not an unusual find in the East Riding because they are seen reasonably often although, with one or two exceptions, not in large numbers.  They were abundant, for example, on North Ferriby Riverside Walkway in 2012.

 Not all local observations are so welcome.  My contact at the Forest Commission says that a number of cases of Ash Dieback disease have been recorded in East Yorkshire this summer.  The disease has been more notable on smaller trees, up to about ten years old, in part because lesions are easier

 to spot than on larger trees.  The public is encouraged to report suspected cases through the tree alert

reporting system (see which provides details of the characteristic elongated bark lesions. 

 Plastic and other litter continues to blight local roadside verges.  However, plastic is a more significant concern in the sea, especially when broken down into persistent small particles.  It is therefore encouraging to note that researchers in America and China have found that larvae of the mealworm beetle will eat polystyrene.  The plastic is then further degraded by bacteria in the mealworm’s intestine, with a significant amount converted to gas (carbon dioxide).  Hopefully this discovery will lead to ways of reducing plastic accumulation in the environment.


Bird sightings in Brantingham:  late August – end of October 2015


The following notable bird sightings have been passed to Richard by Mark, an experienced birdwatcher, who has been building the new stone walls at Burrills Farm in Brantingham.

 August    26th August: 16 Fieldfares, a particularly early arrival of this autumn/winter visitor. This was the first time Mark had seen Fieldfares and Swallows in the sky together.

 September and October on most days: Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, 1-5 Buzzards, Sparrowhawk and Goldfinches.

 Late September: 4 Jays seen collecting acorns. A notable record because Jays are only seen occasionally in Brantingham, probably because of the limited number of oak trees.

 October     Most days in October: large flock of Gulls (500-750) in fields between Burrills Lane and Woo Dale.

Early October: a Harris hawk was seen twice. A North American hawk used by British falconers, but this bird did not have a jess (the thin strap used to tether a hawk in falconry).

9th October: Pink-footed Geese arrived, flying over Brantingham (4500 were reported to be on the Humber).

12th October:  3 Yellow-browed Warblers (reported to Rare Bird Alert); a bird that breeds in Siberia and normally winters in South East Asia. A number of these birds have been seen in East Yorkshire this autumn.

23rd October: 1 Whooper Swan flew over.

24th October: 1 Brambling (an Autumn/Winter visitor from Scandinavia), a northern relative of the Chaffinch.

27th October: 1 Goldcrest.  A pair had bred at Burrills Farm earlier this year.

29th October: 1 Black Swan and 1000 Fieldfares seen overhead. 20 Siskins in alders.

End of October: 1 Chiffchaff  in roving flock of tits (Long Tailed, Blue, Great and Coal), a late sighting of this summer  visitor.


[Note: in addition, Mark regularly saw a Water Vole during the summer in a small pond on Burrills Farm.]


Wildflower Meadow Opening

Sunday 11th May 2014

A large following of members of the 'Wolds & Riverbank Countryside Society' turned out to witness the official opening of the society's new wildflower meadow adjacent to their wood on Brantingham Road. Following the cutting of the ribbon to open the meadow, members had brought along a selection of food and drinks for an afternoon picnic. Though the weather threatened heavy rain showers for the day none were forthcoming and all were able to enjoy a dry afternoon though a little on the cold and windy side.

Tree Planting Project  Link to photographs



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