Sunday, 16 October 2016

Culworth: Dark Mullein and autumn colours.. and accentors

Definitely feels like a changing of the guard this weekend - with pretty much all of our summer migrants departed and  a few more of our winter visitors arriving, albeit in fairly small numbers.  On Saturday I drove though the Northamptonshire countryside between Wardington and Daventry, stopping in likely spots to see what was about.  Much of this landscape is arable farmland, most of which is currently bare ground following autumn harvest and before the emergence of the winter sown crops.  Gulls and corvids in particular are attracted to these fields, especially during cultivation or muck-spreading.  Lesser Blacked-backed Gulls tend to dominate, often with large flocks of Black-headed Gulls, however one area of farmland had attracted about 200 Common Gulls, by far the highest number I've seen so far this autumn, and a sure sign birds are moving in from the north and east.  While I was watching the gulls, three Fieldfares flew over, my first of the autumn - soon there will be hundreds in the area.  Another patch of farmland, just east of Chacombe, has attracted a flock of over 100 lapwings, actually quite a notable count for our area!  Two Golden Plover were also present with them, plus a few Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Stock Doves.

Out for a run in the afternoon, Mark spotted a large plant with yellow flowers growing next to a footpath through rough grassland just east of Culworth.  It was clearly a species of mullein, so I returned on Sunday afternoon to take some photos - it turned out to be Dark Mullein.
Dark Mullein
I don't recall seeing it anywhere else locally, maybe I've missed it but I doubt there is too much suitable habitat for it either.  Red Kites were also on the wing in this area, patrolling above a pretty valley between Culworth and Eydon that is hidden from the road.  A Redwing flew over, and I stopped for a while to photograph the autumn colours.
Valley at Culworth, Northants
English Oak

Back-tracking to Friday, an hour spent watching the gull roost at Grimsbury Reservoir was rewarded with further views of two Yellow-legged Gulls, one adult and one two year old bird.  I managed to photograph the adult in good light with both my SLR camera and the iphone/telescope combination.
Adult Yellow-legged Gull (phone-scoped)
Adult Yellow-legged Gull Canon SLR with 400mm lens
The beautiful Siberian Accentor hit the birding headlines this week, with the arrival of at least three in Britain (the first ever recorded).  This prompted me took look back at photos I took of Rufous-breasted  Accentor during a trek though the Sikkim Himalaya in 2010.  Their breeding habitat in Sikkim was juniper scrub at around 3500m, in this specific habitat they were quite common, but somewhat shy.  I didn't have such a good telephoto lens then either!  Interestingly, Alpine Accentors were migrating up towards their breeding habitat in the mountains, we encountered a small flock at over 4000m.  Of course we do have a resident accentor in the UK - the hedge sparrow.
Rufous-breasted Accentor, Sikkim, 10 April 2010
Rufous-breasted Accentor habitat
Migrant Alpine Accentor, Sikkim
Hedge Accentor..or Dunnock, Grimsbury Reservoir 2014

No comments:

Post a Comment