Daily blog from Gilling East, Sketchbook

June 30th- crossbills and swift diary

Tolly and I had a lovely walk on the moors near Helmsley this morning. Our target was to see crossbills. It wasn’t long before we heard their loud “chip chip” calls. Though loud these can be quite hard to locate when they are flying, but we found a party some distance away that settled in nearby larch trees. I set the scope up for some brilliant views as the small party of crossbills chattered in the tree top. There has been a large influx of crossbills in recent days, though it is quite possible that these were local birds which breed in the coniferous forests in the area. A stunning male was very vocal at times.

It was a very pleasant morning for walking, the sky was steely grey but it was not cold even in the brisk wind. We heard golden plovers though they remained elusive. Skylarks were still belting out their glorious song high above. Tolly then spotted some bilberries, this distracted us for some time as we plundered the bright green bilberry leaves for delicious and nutritious reward! The first bell heather is in bloom already adding a vague purple tint to the moor, but the dominant colour was the fresh green of the bilberry leaves.

Ringlet butterflies were on the wing. They are known for flying in rather dull and even wet conditions. We had lovely views of them settled amongst the grass. There were some wonderful specimens of common spotted orchids. We checked in on the Arctic starflowers we had seen earlier in the month, but just the leaves remained. We will come and see these beautiful flowers again next year.

Swift Diary
Quiet. The adults come and go with food. We had an interesting sighting just south of Helmsley. A flock of about 50 was feeding above a field. We knew which crop it would be, and so it was- oil seed rape. Swifts actively feed over this crop, mainly on the flea beetle which it attracts. The birds here were probably Helmsley’s breeding birds gathering food for their young. No other type of crop had swifts feeding above it, something I have come to notice each summer.

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