Look in the grass, what do you see?
I guess lots of folk saw one or two Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava flavissima at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire over the weekend. How many actually looked at what they were seeing?
The ‘good old days of hundreds of flava wags’ seem to have gone, but Saturday evening saw Doug Fairweather and myself heading down the side of D wall having counted 20 from the car park hide on the wall. Greeted by a bigger flock of wagtails, a few counts got us up to a minimum of 74 birds which included two Blue-headed Wagtails Motacilla flava flava. The flock of birds also attracted the interest of a Sparrowhawk Accipter nisus which flushed all the birds we could see, and about 40 more. A superb gathering of a minimum 110+ flava Wagtails took to the sky – in the evening sunshine, calling away before disappearing into the huge expanse that is Decoy fields – that will live in the memory.
The finding of a Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis at Watton Nature Reserve on Sunday, proved advantageous, as everyone went south to see it – leaving me with a quiet afternoon to enjoy flava wagtails without disturbance for several hours.
A minimum of 80 birds were present, no doubt the number was nearer 100 as the birds went backwards and forwards between D wall and Decoy field.
Among the flava flavissima, two, or more probably three flava flava (1+ male and a female) were present, while 1+ flava flava x flavissima known as Channel Wagtail was present. Unfortunately, the birds didn’t come close enough for decent pictures. The Blue-headed Wagtails M. flava flava always remained too distant, but I was able to manage some of the Yellow and Channel Wags in these heavily cropped pictures below.
Channel Wagtail Motacilla flava flava x flavissima with Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava flavissima for comparison
Yellow Wagtails Motacilla flava flavissima
I also picked out this one briefly. Darker headed, with a darker eyestripe than on the flava flava x flavissima above. The ear coverts and cheek were darker than these pictures show when the bird was seen on the grass, but it didn’t strike me as a regular flava flava – so maybe a hybrid of Blue-headed Wagtail x Channel Wagtail which would make it flava flava x flava x flavissima perhaps!!!??? Sometimes you just can’t tell, but it looked a stunning bird in the field compared to the pictures taken when on the wall as the wind got up!
Among the flava flock, a few alba wags. Both White Wagtail M. alba alba and Pied Wagtail M. alba yarrellii.
Other than the flava movement, it seemed to be actually a really quiet weekend birdwise. A Crossbill Loxia curvirostra flew north on Saturday while two Avocets Recurvirostra avosetta on SME were a welcome year tick – not a species that is annually added to the site list. The touring Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris also put in an appearance on Sunday. For the latest news and photos, click on the Tophill Low NR official website.
With cold overnight temperatures, moth trapping only took place on Friday night. Predictably, hardly anything came to light, but scouring the trees in certain parts of the site lead to Doug Fairweather and myself finding a few Diurnea fagella, including the first female we’ve encountered on site.
The warm sunshine on Saturday tempted out the opening Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria of the season and first Large White Pieris brassicae, while around 20 Peacock Inachis io were encountered across the site.
Ladybirds have been in short supply this spring, but the search for Diurnea fagella enabled Doug to photograph this Chilocorus renipustulatus Kidney-spot Ladybird – the only one we found all weekend.
The dry spring has ensured fungi of any sort has been at a premium. However, a rule of ‘look hard and you will see’ produced Coleosporium tussilaginis for a second year.
Predictably, no sign of any Odonata despite extensive searching on both Saturday and Sunday. However, it is worth clicking on the Yorkshire BDS website to pre-order your copy of the long-awaited atlas of the Odonata of South-east Yorkshire which has apparently reached the final proofing stage. Hopefully, it will be worth checking for Odonata sightings in the near future.