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July 9th- redstart and another grey, cold July day

On a very dull, cold July morning I drove to the Post Office via a couple of decent local birding spots. Newburgh Priory lake was looking quite dramatic as I arrived with very heavy cloud and just a hint of brightness in the Ampleforth direction. The scene was almost monotone, just hints of dark summer green in the trees. The water was steely grey. An oystercatcher was resting on the far bank and a single juvenile shelduck swam around the north side of the lake. When I scanned the lake with binoculars I picked up a small group of swallows and house martins feeding in the shelter of the trees at the east end of the lake. They were feeding so low over the water I think they were touching the surface at times. If you look closely at my watercolour you can see a few of them.

Moving on towards Ampleforth I stopped at Byland Abbey where immediately I saw a male redstart. It was extremely puffed up in the cold conditions and feeding by flying out from a wire fence and low hawthorn branches. At least the numerous sheep in the field guaranteed the redstart a constant source of insect food. It was starting to look quite worn with the rigours of the breeding season. But on this dull morning its gleaming white forehead, blue grey upperparts rich rufous breast stood out in the gloom and lifted my swiftless blues!

Swift Diary
Another day unsuited to aerial insect feeders. Cool, very cool for July, cloudy with drizzle in the morning. At least the wind has dropped but we are still a long way from seeing swifts here. This is rapidly turning into one of the most swiftless summers I can remember. Briefly around noon ten swifts appeared above the village and for a second or two they screamed. That sound, filling me with hope, but they were gone as quick as they arrived. Perhaps a feeding group on route from Castle Howard Lake, I don’t know, but it was lovely to see and hear the first group of swifts over the village for twelve days.

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