You may recall here in late March a female nuthatch preparing an old woodpecker nest hole to use as her own. On 26th March she was seen taking mud to the old woodpecker hole and applying it in and around the entrance. She also carried wood chips which she stuck in the mud to help bulk it out. She does this to reduce the size of the entrance to minimise the risk of predation or another bird taking over the nest site. Twice a great tit was seen going in only to be chased out very aggressively by the male nuthatch. The male, distinguished by chestnut red flanks, keeps guard during the whole breeding process and will fend off any intruders. During the early stages he sang from just above the nest hole and from the top of the trees. The female continued to ‘mud up’ around the entrance and to watch her size the hole to fit her body exactly was intriguing. She would go in and then squeeze her body out slowly, presumably allowing the wet mud to adjust to her exact body shape.
On two days in April, 14th and 18th they were seen mating on a branch very close to the nest hole. It is not known if she had already started laying eggs by this time. Some birds mate up to 30 days before egg-laying, others just before and some during the egg-laying stage. Nuthatches usually lay 6-8 eggs and the female incubates them after having laid the last egg. Incubation lasts 15-16 days. During this time the male keeps guard and also occasionally feeds her at the nest hole. The female was certainly occupying the nest hole i.e. sitting on eggs, on 27th April when the male was seen to feed her at the nest hole three times at 20 minute intervals. She actually came out to see off a blue tit and went straight back in. Over the incubation period more often he was seen to ‘call for his lady’, peering in the hole and flying off closely followed by her and they would feed away for about 10 minutes before she returned to her duties.
On 12th May the female arrived at the nest hole a number of times with food for her newly hatched nestlings. Each time she was seen to dip down in to the hole and out and away. During these early stages of feeding the young the male wasn’t seen to help but was close by in the trees, occasionally being heard with a contact call or short song. The female occasionally went in the hole completely and brought out a fecal sac for disposal away from the nest, cleaning up after her young. As days passed, the male was also seen to feed the young. Feeding young nuthatches at the nest lasts for 23-25 days.
On 2nd June both adults were feeding at the nest hole and periodically a nestling would appear at the entrance awaiting delivery. Obviously the young were getting big enough to think about leaving. The next day fledging was in progress, with the young being coaxed out by the adults, both having food in their bills. An adult would call at the hole and hold on to the food working back on to a branch with a fledgling following to then receive the morsel. At least four of possibly 6-8 young nuthatches were seen coming out of the nest hole and up the tree trunk flitting about in the branches. The final act was the male entering the hole and exiting alone not to return. All gone. 26th March-3rd June: the privilege was all mine. Nature is wonderful, especially when she lets you in Updale Natural History Recorder
Female nuthatch preparing nest entrance
Mating or more precisely copulation taking place close to nest site
Male nuthatch on duty near nest hole, red flanks clearly visible
Well grown young nuthatch getting close to fledging
Two of the earliest summer migrants come back to Rosedale each year, ring ouzels and wheatears. Both are back on the moor and pairing up. Ring ouzels nest on heather-clad steep slopes and wheatears favour open stoney ground. Both can be seen from the old railway line. Updale Natural History Recorder
Male and female ring ouzel
Despite the atrociously wet weather some wildlife are managing to get on with things. This mistle thrush is sitting on eggs way up in that tree. Often a rather untidy looking nest with bits of all sorts she’s got some sheep’s wool loosely tucked in there. Updale Natural History Recorder
To watch a female nuthatch preparing a nest hole is amazing. She selects an old hole, often an old woodpecker nest hole as in this case and she transforms it. She infills crevices and/or reduces the size of the cavity using mud and bits of rotten wood. She will also use mud to reduce the size of the entrance to minimise the risk of predation. The male, distinguished by chestnut red flanks, keeps guard during this process and will fend off any intruders. Updale Natural History Recorder
Female nuthatch working on nest cavity
Nuthatch uses mud and bits of rotten wood
Tawny owls are very vocal in late autumn and throughout winter but we don’t often get to see them in all their splender. How lucky local residents Bob and Janet Morton were to have a tawny owl in their garden recently, on two separate occasions. Bob has captured the warm chestnut brown feathering, distinct facial disc and somewhat dumpy appearance beautifully. Very many thanks Updale Natural History Recorder
lighter tones underneath with distinct facial disc
warm chestnut brown feathering
Fantastic to see these secretive and increasingly rare birds here in Rosedale. At least five hawfinches are in and around the churchyard feeding on yew berries. The hawfinch is the largest of our finches with a top-heavy look due to a large bill and thick neck. With this powerful bill the hawfinch is able to crack open cherry stones. They also feed on seeds from hornbeam and yew. Autumn 2017 saw an unusually large influx in to the UK as a result of a crop failure in Europe and there have been a number of sightings in North Yorkshire. But how lucky we are to get some in Rosedale and it certainly could be a first record for some time. With great appreciation to Craig and Helen at Abbey Stores for the tip-off and the best view of these shy birds. Updale Natural History Recorder
Stunningly beautiful walk in the snow at dusk along the old railway line at Rosedale East. The low mist adds to the atmospheric conditions as the light fades. A pair of stonechats break the silence with their presence as do three wrens flitting together in the rushes Updale Natural History Recorder
Fabulous to see these two up on the railway line on the east side here in Rosedale. An adult male green woodpecker with a juvenile. The juveniles are distinctly spotted giving their face and underparts a greyish appearance. Updale Natural History Recorder
Male and juvenile green woodpeckers
It was some weeks ago now that a lady rang to say she had robins nesting in the tree trunk in her garden. Her enthusiasm was infectious. We watched. They gathered food. One oblivious to our presence on the lady’s bench, the other a little wary. We watched. They fed their young. We watched. One came and went, the other hesitated, there usually being just the lady on that bench. The lady enjoyed those two robins feeding their young so close to her on that bench. She sat each day, the sun beaming down, the robins busying themselves around her. That lady was Brenda Bowes. Updale Natural History Recorder
Nest with young tucked behind pansies
Our first migrants have started to return to the uplands here in the dale. A male ring ouzel was seen on the east side on 21 March having arrived overnight along with two male wheatears. This has equalled our earliest date recorded which was in 2012. Ring ouzels spend their winter in North Africa and are one of the earliest returnees along with wheatears.
The ring ouzels are now pairing up and establishing territories. The simple and melancholy song of the male is well worth listening to as you walk around the old railway line. It is a bird in decline in England but we have seen no sign of that here in Rosedale and elsewhere on the North York Moors. A very distinctive bird with its white gorget or bib. The males are black and the females, as pictured here, are brown. Updale Natural History Recorder
Female ring ouzel