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Best YCN Birding Days 2020 – Richard Baines

  • Fri 17th Dec, 2021

I love forests especially large ones and big landscapes. Scale is so important to wildlife. The bigger the habitat the better it is for wildlife. The Great Yorkshire Forest, location of our Forest and River Birding Days is a special place to me. Having grown up in the North York Moors National Park (NYMNP) I feel at home but the size of the forest means I will never know all of it. For me this makes the area even more magical. I am forever discovering new places.

North Yorkshire Forest at dawn © Richard BainesNorth Yorkshire Forest at dawn © Richard Baines

Two days stand out for me from the spring and summer of 2020. In May I was working part time as the NYMNP Turtle Dove Project Officer. As a member of staff, I was officially given permission to conduct our Turtle Dove breeding surveys despite lockdown. Unfortunately, our volunteers were unable to take part due to COVID-19 restrictions so I decided to do as many of the surveys myself. Our surveys start at or around dawn because the first two hours of light is one of the best times of day for singing Turtle Doves. This year the extended period of calm and dry weather made a big difference to the success of the surveys.

Turtle Dove forest habitat North Yorkshire © Richard BainesTurtle Dove forest habitat North Yorkshire © Richard Baines

On the 27th May I rose at 0230 grabbed my binoculars and survey map and headed up to the forests. On this morning I was planning to survey a 1km² area of Dalby Forest I had not been to before which made it extra exciting. After walking through mixed woodland with small clearings I heard a Tree Pipit singing loudly as the sun started to rise. The habitat looked great for Turtle Doves; young forest plantations of Spruce and Larch with nearby stands of more mature Scots Pine and lots of Birch. Forest tracks facing east and south-east with long sun-drenched verges of wild flowers providing seed for the doves.

European Turtle Dove North Yorkshire © Richard BainesEuropean Turtle Dove North Yorkshire © Richard Baines

At 0525 I heard a Turtle Dove singing from high up in a Scots Pine. Great news! I quickly reached for my sound recorder to capture the song. Just before I was about to switch it off, I was amazed to hear a Nightjar singing behind me! A real thrill to hear and capture the sound of both Turtle Dove and Nightjar at the same time. Further on down the track another Turtle Dove and a Redstart singing, and a Northern Goshawk flew overhead. Down by the road at the start of the track a male Spotted Flycatcher was singing and another male Redstart. This was icing on the cake and a great way to end a very memorable birding day/survey.

Common Redstart © Richard BainesCommon Redstart © Richard Baines

In early spring all our YCN trips, many of which were sold out had to be postponed. To our relief and gratitude nearly all of our clients were happy to re-arrange their bookings for a later date. Then in July we were able to start birding again!

Honey Buzzard North Yorkshire © Richard BainesHoney Buzzard North Yorkshire © Richard Baines

Larger numbers of raptors can be encountered in our forests in late summer than earlier in the year. Many resident birds have fledged young and these are joined by smaller numbers of migrants. On the 7th August I was leading a Forest and River Birding Day. I was searching for birds of prey with my small group of five clients. We were doing well with great views of Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Common Buzzard and it was only 9.30am! Shortly afterwards I noticed a Goshawk with two other large birds of prey over the forest. I got my scope on them and there was a Honey Buzzard and a Common Buzzard alongside the Goshawk!

Common Buzzard and Honey Buzzard fight August 2020 © Richard BainesCommon Buzzard and Honey Buzzard fight August 2020 © Richard Baines

The Goshawk and Buzzard were hassling the Honey Buzzard. Shortly afterwards another Honey Buzzard and two more Goshawks! By the end of the raptor-fest we had seen six Common Buzzards, three Goshawks and two Honey Buzzards! We had also had lots of time to ‘drink in’ the experience looking at the finer details of identification and watch their behaviour. Later in the day a Eurasian Hobby flashed past us putting a falcon seal on an amazing Yorkshire birding day.

Richard Baines

Yorkshire Coast Nature

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