Tag Archives: Summer

From galls to gulls (and back to galls)

The Summer ‘silly season’ in patch birding – when self-respecting birders go off and get new hobbies like… er?… surveying plant galls, or lichen, or when they attempt to turn gin and tonic drinking into an Olympic sport – may be coming to an end somewhat faster than I expected.

The quiet month of June normally leaks a little into July, but one of my patch colleagues shattered that peace last Saturday with news of an extremely early ‘Autumn’  Common Redstart on the Patch. He also found what may have been a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull. I was busy doing other stuff that morning, but returned for an afternoon wander.

The Redstart was nowhere to be found in the early afternoon heat so I strolled onto the football pitches. The pitch-roost of gulls is still pretty small at the moment, but there was a reasonable selection of non-breeding birds that was worth scanning as I was rather keen to ensure YLG joined my 2017 patch list.

I could almost immediately see that one of the young, and very pale, Herring Gull‘s was colour-ringed. It was only when it took flight that the ring came clear of the grass and was readable as Orange L1YT. I am still waiting to see full details, but I understand it is likely to be a ‘Pitsea’ bird.

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Young Herring Gull (Larus argentatus): ‘L1YT’

I followed it as it moved from flock to flock on the pitch when a slightly bulkier gull flew in behind it. I instantly knew it was different, and you can see that the bill, face mask, and tail – amongst other things – give away the ID as Yellow-legged Gull, but also point to this being a different bird from the one Tony had seen earlier.

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Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis)

Aside from the juvenile gull, there was little else of interest in avian terms so I reverted back to studying leaves, with my best find being this impressive fig gall caused by an aphid on English Elm:

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Tetraneura ulmi

In case you were to think that my day was solely spent with gulls and galls (some people’s idea of wildlife hell), I also counted double figures of species of butterfly with Small Copper being new for the year on the patch for me.

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A signal of summer: the song of the Yellowhammer

Giddy from the result at Wimbledon and from the heat of a summer evening, I can reflect back on a crazy few weeks, which included my Stag-do and explains (though perhaps doesn’t excuse) my absence from the blogosphere.

Yesterday morning, I took a few hours to breathe in the hot summer air of the countryside.

pathway

I walked through meadows and cornfields and woodlands…

Meadow

Wheatfield

Oak

Kilwick Wood

There was typical livestock, such as this late-season lamb with its early-season playmate…

Lamb

… and atypical, such as this huge-horned bovid…

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I photographed an array of summer flowers (which I don’t have time now to identify)…

Poppy

Thistle 3

Flora

Thistle 2

Thistle 1

Dandelion

I was accompanied throughout my walk by birdsong: the eerie cries of soaring Buzzards, the tinkling of Goldfinches, and the piercing calls of speeding Swallows and Swifts (our beloved birds of summer). But the voice which signals summer to me more than any other is the song of the Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella). Some say it sounds like, “A little bit of bread but no cheese”. I am not sure I entirely agree. Either way, standing to watch a male proud at the top of his tree sing his heart out was a moment of real summer joy as profound, but perhaps not quite so ecstatic, as watching a British man win Wimbledon after 77 years. At least I know I won’t have to wait that long to watch the Yellowhammer sing again.

Yellowhammer

Mid-song