North Cliffe Wood

A couple of hours at this nature rich woodland brought plenty to enjoy, even if the weather was not quite so joyful with grey skies and a cold breeze sweeping across the bracken, rush and ling covered heath. Such dull and chilly weather doesn’t usually bode well for birding prospects, though it was nice to catch up with a party of Siskins (Spinus spinus) in the southern birch woods, a bird, which I at least, have seen little of this winter down on the East Yorkshire lowlands. A check for any Redpolls among them proved fruitless, but it was good to catch up with a few Marsh Tits (Poecile palustris) in amongst the roving mixed tit flocks. Out on the heath a Green Wood-pecker (Picus viridis) was heard, as were a couple of ‘mewing’ Buzzards (Buteo buteo), though perhaps the biggest surprise came in the heart of the wood where 6 to 7 Teal (Anas crecca) were flushed up from one of the dark & stagnant ditches which run through the wood.

Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) were far less numerous than during our last count, but nevertheless four were flushed up, this undoubtedly just a fraction of the actual number which call this wet woodland their home during the winter months. Out on the cereal fields west of the reserve a good number of winter thrushes were feeding, with around 50 Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) and roughly 10 Redwings (Turdus iliacus) searching for food, though the most welcome sight and sound here was a couple of Skylarks (Alauda arvensis), not singing yet but making their presence known nonetheless. A further observation came in the shape and form of a hovering Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), the falcon in question showing a particularly rich and colourful plumge.

As is usual at this woodland, the water table is continuing to slowly rise with most of the ditches and the bogs now nearly full and saturated, this despite the fact that this winter has been largely dry with just 46.8 mm of rain since the beginning of December. No doubt water levels will continue to rise in coming weeks, usually peaking in March regardless of actual rainfall in any given year, though for the time being water levels are below the access paths, this making access no problem at all for even the most ill-prepared.

Further observations during our Sunday morning stroll included evidence of two common leaf miners, including Holly Leaf-miner (Phytomyza ilicis) on, yes you guessed it, Holly, and Chromatomyia primulae, a common leaf-miner often found on Primrose and Cowslip. Incidentally the new leaves of this year’s Primroses are now starting to appear in the shelter of the hazel coppice, a cheering sight, whilst the green spikes of Bluebells are also everywhere to be seen. Meanwhile a Fox (Vulpes vulpes) was encountered along the central path, the beautiful mammal slinking off into the thick undergrowth as soon as it spotted us, and further mammalian interest was provided by a handsome Hare (Lepus europaeus), one of my favourite British mammals.