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May 25th – fifty days of sketches and notes from Gilling East

Fifty days of sketching and writing within two miles of home. What has it taught me? There are species I have missed seeing. April and May would normally find me chasing ring ouzels, pied flycatchers, gannets and puffins to name just a few, but I would have missed really getting to know my local area. I know where the garden warblers nest and each yellowhammer territory. Walking the same route day after day, I have seen the exact time migrants arrive and when others pass through. I know how many sand martins nest in the river bank and have found where the kingfishers nest.

Spring butterflies have emerged. My favourite the orange tip has been in flight for much of this time and I am very aware of the fact now that soon I will see the orange tip that will be my last until April 2021. I looked forward to the hatching of St Mark’s flies, saw the peak of their flight time and witnessed how important they are as a food source for birds.

I have watched flowers bloom and fade. Since I started this in early April, blackthorn, cherry and hawthorn have all come and gone. I have come to know individual trees like friends and watched their leaves open. The woodland canopy is now closed over as the mass flowering of bluebells and wild garlic fades.

The transformation of this small patch of Yorkshire in fifty days has been remarkable. I am still on the same tank of fuel in my car as I was fifty days ago and that makes me feel very good. I feel close to Gilbert White, one of my natural history heroes because he was the true master of the local patch.

The last week has seen a mass fledging of starlings. They roam around in flocks visiting pasture and local bird tables. The young are attractive looking birds with plain mousey plumage but their calls are raucous to our ears. Starlings have had a food year here with several more pairs than last year. Each precious fledgling will be a part of a spectacular murmuration in mid winter.

Swift diary

Yesterday evening the three local pairs of swifts put on a fine display. It was the first evening of the year that I could stand outside and watch them screaming and chasing until twilight. There are two pairs in the village hall which is c100 m away and our pair. Although these nest sites are close my feeling is that they are a seperate colony. Mine rately interact with the village hall birds. I hope to see the addition of a new pair here this year.

Our pair laid their first egg this morning though it was hidden by feathers and I have only just seen it. More on this tomorrow. The swifts have had an easy day, with fine weather. They are feeding high. I have frequently heard screaming swifts today, high up in the cobalt sky.

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