18th November 2015
This years winning photos can be
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.
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.
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.
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
spot than on larger trees. The public is encouraged to report
suspected cases through the tree alert
reporting system (see
http://www.forestry.gov.uk/ashdieback) 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
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.
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.
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
October: Pink-footed Geese arrived, flying over Brantingham (4500
were reported to be on the Humber).
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
October: 1 Whooper Swan flew over.
October: 1 Brambling (an Autumn/Winter visitor from Scandinavia), a
northern relative of the Chaffinch.
October: 1 Goldcrest. A pair had bred at Burrills Farm earlier this
October: 1 Black Swan and 1000 Fieldfares seen overhead. 20 Siskins
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.]