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Birds in Autumn 2008

by Tom Denney

It has been an interesting birding autumn and early winter in Ryedale. October brought the usual large influx of northern thrushes to raid our berry trees with the wild rowans being their preferred food. Rowans are also the favourite of our local mistle thrushes which occur in quite large flocks in October, so early large thrush flocks feeding on berries are not necessarily fieldfares. November brought a rare and very unusual visitor to North Bilsdale – the well-reported two barred crossbill which obliged birders by preferring peanuts to larch cones!

This winter has also been a good waxwing year, but few have been reported from Ryedale so far, seeming to prefer the easy pickings in parks and supermarket car parks in the West Riding and Tees-side. However there plenty of winter months left to watch out for these delightful Scandinavians. It has been a similar story as regards the northern chaffinch – the brambling, with very few reported so far in Ryedale.

The moors and forests seem even quieter than usual in winter but it is worth taking a look out for another couple of interesting northern visitors. Snow buntings move south from Iceland and Scotland and flocks usually frequent the coast. However, they also like the roadsides going over the high moors and it is always worth looking out for these avian ‘snow flakes’ fluttering along the verges. One recently stayed for a while on the road to Bransdale, and Blakey Rigg is another favoured location.

snow bunting snow bunting

Snow Buntings

Another black, white and grey winter visitor is the great grey shrike. This striking bird, which advertises its presence by sitting on prominent perches, can turn up anywhere but recently felled forest seems to be particularly favoured, and two birds are wintering in Dalby Forest just to the east of our region. Last but not least it is always worthwhile checking out winter buzzards. Common buzzards are becoming a much more normal sighting in Ryedale but in some winters a few rough legged buzzards cross the north sea to Britain. One or two of these larger and lighter-coloured buzzards usually winter somewhere on our moors, but this year may have deserted us for pastures new at Millington on the Wolds.

Photos © Tom Denney 2008