bird behaviour, Sketchbook

Coal Tits

We are inundated with Coal Tits in the garden. These big headed little birds charge around the garden with sunflower seeds burying them in lawn and border alike. If I hang up a feeder of mixed seed they throw out many seeds to reach the sunflower seeds, easily emptying a feeder in a morning! Fortunately the Tree Sparrows are around to pick up te spilt seed. Some of these Coal Tits may well be migrants from Scandinavia. They are super little birds to sketch with their bold pied head markings and rich buff chests but it will be interesting to see how many sunflowers appear in our borders next summer. A Wren was exploring the bottom of the hornbeam hedge this morning.

Coal Tit- pencil sketch in sketchbook
Wren- pencil sketch in sketchbook
bird behaviour, Sketchbook

Filey- 12th October

A great day at Filey looking at migrants. Three Swallows moved south as I arrived and there were many Robins, Song Thrushes, Redwing and Blackbirds newly arrived. Goldcrests were very common in almost every area of trees or scrub and even in dead thistles on open ground. Many looked exhausted as they recovered from their North sea crossing. The wind had swung round to northerly today and apparently there were many more Goldcrests last weekend with strong easterly winds. Whilst looking at Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests in Church Ravine I chanced to meet Ian Corbet who had found a Red- breasted Flycatcher the day before; thank you to him for pointing me in the right direction. I didn’t have to wait long to spot it in a sycamore tree. It offered brief good views before remaining elusive for much of the morning. After midday it became bolder and showed itself well enough for me to make these sketches in my sketchbook. This bird would normally be heading from Scandinavia to spend the winter in Western Asia but has drifted off course in strong easterly winds. Great to see and hear a new bird but I shall remember all those tired Goldcrests most.

Red- breasted Flycathcer- watercolour in sketchbook
bird behaviour, Sketchbook

Thrushes at dusk- 6.46pm

A watercolour sketch in my sketchbook. As I sketched thrushes were beginning to set off on their night migration. Small groups of Redwings headed south west into the peachy sky. Blackbirds and Song Thrushes too left their daytime cover and flew high up, orientating themselves before flying in the same direction as the Redwings as darkness approached. I would love to know where they will land in the morning. Recent days with easterly winds have brought a whole host of migrants to the east coast.

Fog forming at dusk- watercolour in sketchbook
Butterflies and moths, Insects

Ivy flowers

The ivy flowers along the lane were teaming with insects in the heat of the midday sun- the temperature climbed above 20 celsius in the shade today. Ivy is a very important late source of  nectar for many insect species. There were buzzing swarms of House Flies and some hoverflies. Honey bees dragged around enourmous orange pollen sacks. There were also a few Noon Day Flies. These attractive insects lay their eggs in cow dung- the larvae then eat the larvae of other flies. They are known as Noon Day Flies for their habbit of basking in the the midday sun. Also on the flowers was a Comma, looking stunning against a clear blue October sky. Up to four Commas were feeding on apples today along with one or two Red Admirals.

Comma feeding on ivy flowers
Noon Day Fly
bird behaviour

Tree Sparrows

Tree Sparrows are regularly on the feeders again. Two or three visit at the moment though I expect this number will increase as autumn turns to winter. Last winter we had eight visiting on a regular basis. This morning I saw a good flock of about 20 in a hedgerow bordering a stubble field. Tree Sparrows do well in this area despite suffering a very sharp national decline in the last three decades(95% between 1970 and 1998 according to the Breeding Bird Survey). They make a good subject to draw with bold head markings, especially the distinctive cheek spot which is one feature that sets them apart from House Sparrows.

Tree Sparrow- watercolour sketch

October colour

I went to find Fly Agarics on Yearsley Moor this morning. They grow beneath birch trees and it wasn’t long before I found my first. There were many beautiful fungi in the wood. I could hear migrating Skylarks and a few Swallows above the canopy. A very large flock of Long- tailed, Blue, Great and Coal Tits searched the still leafy canopy. With them were a pair of Willow Tits uttering their harsh “ti, chay, chay, chay” call, Treecreepers and Goldcrests.

Fly Agarics- watercolour in sketchbook


Hedgehogs were back at the feeding bowl this evening. As I sketched I heard the ‘seeeep’ calls of Redwings newly arrived from Scandinavia, migrating by night. I always look forward to hearing them on October evenings. There were few calls this evening, but in the next two or three weeks, given the right conditions many should be audible along with Song Thrushes and Blackbirds. The scope has given me a great view of Jupiter and four of its moons quite low in the east and the milky way is a fine sight in a very clear night sky.

4th October- hedgehog sketches