Monday, December 31, 2007


There were Waxwings on Prospect Hill in Whitby today (Birdguides info) however I didn't see them instead we were round at some friends tucking in to 10 year old cake. Astonishingly yummy, no unpleasant side effects (still alive etc).

Oh yes, managed to get the Crossbill song up from yesterday - very irritating motorbike in background - look down the side panel.

Enjoy some great birding in 2008.

Sunday, December 30, 2007


Winter Atlas stuff today, managed to complete my early winter squares. Best find of the day was a reasonable flock of Crossbills 17 or so which were singing and displaying. Of particular interest was the call of one male which was quite different to Crossbill standard call, much fuller and louder. It seemed to be using this call towards another male at one point. In all respects this bird looked like Common Crossbill. I caught the singing on video but not that call unfortunately. Will post video later - when Google decides it will take less than a half day to upload.

In one of my other tetrads during the hour I managed just two species. Red Grouse, 19, Redpoll sp, 1 (yup only managed to id one of the two .....).

Not one bird of prey seen in 5 hours field work in perfect Hen Harrier habitat :-(

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Year's Resolution

So Linton doesn't mention "di birdin" but I'm sure you get the jist .....

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Xmas xess

Hawthorn in lovely light

Just forgive the spelling ok, no fit state really. Grab the moment.

02:10 girls awake and open stockings.
02:15 parents realise time is not reasonable - Louise convinces offspring that this is not the right moment..
Play musical beds.
04:00 Smallest offspring has sore throat, cries. Badseawatcher has seriously sore brain. Calpol administered.
07:00 Miracle occurs (perhaps Jesus is real) girls awake at reasonable hour. More stocking stuff, chocolate orgy.
07:01 Blur of paper ripping and Sellotape carnage.
07:01:31 All presents opened and unrecyclable waste is on garden burner.

Wonderful weather, gentle breeze, skies clearing from the west and eventually venture out properly at 14:00.
14:01 Leave moaning and wailing party and head off to find Little Owls - fail.

Amazingly find new pond , well at least a pond I didn't know about, 4 Moorhen in field. 15 Siskin fly south.

Cook food, (cleverly avoid severing arm with knife) eat, drink far too much alcohol, try to blog.

Dad yor bad

Bullfinch eating nettle seeds by garden feeders

Fortunately Louise cleverly gave me Linton Kwesi Johnson "Live in Paris" which chilled me somewhat. Serious headache anticipated, however.

Watch Dr Who.

Monday, December 24, 2007

H - 145580

Whilst sharing our rather good fish 'n' chips with the multitudes of Herring Gulls I noticed a ringed individual. Fortunately I had the bins with me so in time the ring was read - it was probably ringed up in Durham or Sunderland, there used to be a big gull ringing project up there.

I also noticed this bird with a very damaged lower leg and foot and then found another similarly damaged. The perils of professional fish 'n'chip robbery perhaps. H - 145580 did not hang around for a photo opportunity.

Phone vid and pix thus the less than excellent quality.

Fish 'n' chips

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Blog disaster 2

Got irritated with the poor look of the blog so changed the template again. With a bit of doodling this one seems better, the failings with the header are better disguised.

I've just discovered Googlepages. This is a very handy tool for putting documents and files up on the web, worth a look - click here.

Farmland Birds in Yorkshire - a conference

There will be a conference "Farmland Birds in Yorkshire" in Harrogate on Sunday, 10th February. One of the main purposes of the conference is to discuss the collection, management and dissemination bird information throughout Yorkshire. Full details of the conference can be found - click here

Cost of the conference will be £10 for the day.

Blog disaster

I've changed the template as the picture header refused to go back up in any reasonable shape or form on the original template - as you can see I've been doodling with it. It's still not exactly as I want it to work but I seem to have problems with the picture header working properly whatever I do .... I've tried doodling around with the code in the widget but that hasn't provided any real solution. Some research is required methinks.

No proper birding but ....

A look around Sandsend produced Rock Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Red-throated Diver (x at least 4), probable but distant (and no scope) Great Northern Diver. A very distant flock of sea duck were bobbing around off the western car park (probably Common Scoter) but 6 duck sp that flew around the bay at that annoying distance and at an annoying height in annoyingly bright light were somewhat puzzling. I'm sure I really didn't see white on the head and neck of one (the bill did not seem at all heavy) trick of the light, must have been Common Scoter, just didn't jizz quite right. The usual gulls were mooching around and a couple of distant Gannets went east.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The harbour

A few Turnstones wandering along the West Pier and in the street beyond; Herring Gulls and Black-headed Gulls loitering; Cormorant, a few Mallard and it was very cold and raining.

Maybe I'll do some proper birding tomorrow.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Humpback Whales - no slaughter hope

Seems like the Japanese have backed off on slaughtering Humpbacks - lets keep the pressure up, click here

You can lobby the Japanese Government not to build a new whaling factory ship, click here.

Knackering week

Toooooo much work ...... so no birding or blogging 'til today.

Nice Barn Owl on the way to work on Tuesday.

On Wednesday as I was heading back to work in the late afternoon a large flock of Lapwing were panicking across the road, the panic perhaps caused by some crepuscular raptor activity (unseen). In the end the flock of about 150 exploded across the front of the car in a blur of white underwings. This was all the more effective as "Diamonds from Sierra Leone" was blasting out on the stereo producing one of those rare but wonderful combinations of birds + music (especially rare now that I don't have any spots where I watch from the car).

Thursday morning and I had to almost stop the car on the way to work in the morning as the Barn Owl got up from the verge. Nice.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

By 'eck its cold


Even I think it's cold and I live here

Interesting split between the frozen moor and the not frozen moor ..... I wondered why. (probably because it had rained/snowed on this bit and not on that bit).

Another Atlas square, another day. It was sunny below the moor when I set off but as I ascended Caper Hill the frost / snow stuff got thicker and thicker and the sun went in. 32 Red Grouse and 2 Pheasants pretending to be Red Grouse plus various bods who were most likely grouse nurturers. Thus not a Hen Harrier to be found. Outrageous in this perfect Hen Harrier habitiat. 2 Stonechats, 2 Robins, 2 Winter Wrens (one of the new names I rather like though what other sort of wren it might be I don't know) - actually I do cos I reckon they're winding up to splitting all those lovely island races. 1 Blackbird, 2 Chaffinch and 1 Fieldfare in the garden of the moor edge house. Then it started to snow. Shall I do another hour? Or shall I go home and sit in our nice warm kitchen reading the Guardian with a cup of tea? - No contest.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Wheatear twitching

Expecting ghastly weather I got my act together rather late this morning. Being in charge of the small people for the day was also a bit of a disincentive to be up with the lark; proper birding was not going to be an option. However, the weather was rather fine and when I did venture out to the garden I was greeted by a flock of 30 or so Siskin along with the usual 40 or so Chaffinch. 3 Tree Sparrows appeared by the feeders. A quick check on the phone indicated that the Desert Wheatear had been seen. Aaha a plan. Small people offered various incentives and we were off.

Winter images from the garden

On arriving at the Long Nab car park the news was not so good, the bird hadn't been seen for a good bit. Now the thing with birding with small people is that bribery and corruption are actually rather ineffective tools on a cold winters day with the prospect of tramping several klicks in the mud. Fortune was on my side though and with a minimum of lagging behind and relatively few complaints the heights of Cromer Point were attained.

No Desert Wheatear. The hill to the pond looked rather forbidding to small people who were unanimous, they would walk no further.

Then a bit of magic, a wheatear appeared before me. The wrong wheatear but a wheatear nonetheless. Northern Wheatear, my latest ever. It had been reported earlier, so it wasn't a find, pleasing though. Girls admired said wheatear through scope. Played "being very small" with my bins whilst I pixed it.

The "wrong" wheatear - a December, Northern Wheatear, Cromer Point VC 62

Small people now claimed conditions were akin to the Arctic and leaving was required. So off we trooped. Northern Wheatear, lots of Rock Pipits and a single Redpoll sp over my reward. And a rather pleasant outing to a birding spot I'd not visited before.

Oh yes! did have a quick look at the water works before we left. I suspect you're not meant to so this but on leaving I was advised it was a possibility for the Desert and that's where it had been in the past and it was ok to go and look. Recalled that you were not supposed to take the car and the notices indicated such but trailed up to the filter bed compound on foot - the notices probably meant on foot too but the gates were open and a rather new and grand stretch of Tarmac offered access. A Turnstone and several Pied Wagtails with a pipit that was most likely Rock but flew. Not really worth the effort.

The Desert Wheatear was relocated at 1:30 p.m. about half an hour after we left the area, such is twitching; and why I rarely do it.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Pre-blizzard Atlas

By ek, I'm off. That's Badseawatcher 'n' his camera.

Managed to get my next Atlas square done before the blizzard came in. The square, just north of Robin Hood's Bay and including Ness Point was rather uneventful. This Stonechat being the star turn really. The blizzard was wicked, totally horizontal snow from just before 1 p.m. for a couple of hours or so.

No passage at sea was apparent, just one auk sp was seen to fly north. Other than the Stonechat 2 Red-throated Divers and 1 Guillemot were loitering off-shore and there was a goodly bundle of the commoner gulls.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

BBRC report

I love the BBRC report. The best bit is always the records not accepted. This time the best of those are the Blue-winged Teal records - if at first you don't succeed.....

There's a fascinating Bridled Tern record for Essex. This species, usually feeding just out of scope id range for 2 hours before vanishing forever to be seen at no neighbouring sites .... or, alternatively hacking north at such a rate it's gone in a moment and you think you imagined it and perhaps you did because no one else sees these ones either. This species showed off wonderfully for a single observer (I guess) who photographed it wonderfully well perched at close range and then equally wonderfully for all you Essex listers apparently didn't put it out on Birdguides for the best part of a week. I suspect A.Wright is no more, quite possibly now upright (concrete, one of) at the new Wembley Stadium or some other large and impressive construction (as befitting the finder of a close, stationary, poser of a UK holidaying Bridled Tern).

First Royal? No, no, no, deposed to "records not accepted" Off with their heads I should think (BOURC that is). No, no not me, its those Men of Kent you should beware of - a dangerous crew, mark my words.

RSPB climate change campaign

You can support the RSPB Climate Change Campaign here.

Thanks for your support.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


I was going to do another Atlas square but it peeed it down so I did jobs instead. However, Redpoll sp in the garden eluded id, 2 Marsh Tits and a few Common Gulls up the dale. And that was that.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


First proper Atlas outing today - Kettleness without the Kettle (the point itself is in a different square, and is the only land in that square). Wind was a bit strong to be honest but if I don't get on with this I won't get it done - I've six squares to do. Very little on the railway line, Blackbird total was 8. No Robins, no Dunnock - not so many weeks ago these two species were everywhere. There was a bit of a westerly big gull thing going on, more of a trickle than a movement though. Eventually I got down into the under-cliff which was sheltered and started seeing some birds. 24 Snow Buntings flew over my head and went off out on to the point. I managed a bit of a seawatch from the sheltered side of the Kettle and found 4 Red-throated Divers, 5 Guillemots and a Lesser Black-backed Gull (very uncommon here).

After weeks without Fulmars, one last week, there were 7 sitting on the breeding cliff. 2 Stonechats, 3 or so Rock Pipits. Not a bad do in the end.

Drove around to Runswick Bay to meet the gang and photographed a rather smart Red-breasted Merganser while I waited for them to appear. Then we went to the pub.

Always a bit of a tricky balancing act small children and pub. The Royal Hotel at Runswick is welcoming to those of us with small offspring, the clientele generally tolerant and the beer excellent. Once the J2Os and the food arrived the threat of small person riot was ameliorated and a kind of relaxation was achieved.

A tromp along the beach recorded Grey Wagtail x2 and a maybe Chiffchaff called once from near the boat pound but I couldn't entice it out with any amount of pishing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Whales and badseawatching

Click this link for a wild and wacky Badseawatching experience.

Let me know if you see a bird.

On a more serious note follow my new link under wildlife campaigns and send an email to heads of state to protest against the Japanese so called "scientific" whaling expedition in the Southern Oceans. You can click here too.

Information about the Greenpeace campaign and what is going on can be found here.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Managed an assist after lunch today as the mobile brought news of a possible Desert Wheatear down the coast near Scarborough. A quick call to Russell Slack meant troops were summoned and a speedy confirmation was made. I called the finder back who was delighted to have been proven correct - he's only been birding a year.

What with the Short-toe up at Newton, Pallas's at Filey and this I think I should develop a hardier attitude at this time of year.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Attitude 'n' stuff

Woken at an unsociable 05:40 with "Dad could you get my snack?" by 3 breakfasts Moll I escaped to the sea. The recently neglected Kettleness produced 2 Velvet Scoter and the first Fulmar for weeks. The wind strengthened and shifted more to the north making viewing an uncomfortable experience so after an hour I packed up.

Back home and sheltered from the northerly the garden was rather pleasant and even after mowing the grass (lawn would be flattery) and digging out the clogged up drainage ditch I still managed some rather good birds. 3 Crossbill were the stars, 2nd garden record, but Treecreeper, 8 Mallard, Tree Sparrow, 2 Marsh Tit and Great Black-backed Gull added interest. Siskin are still about and the Chaffinch flock is approaching 50 but Goldfinch are down to 3 and Greenfinch to a similarly low number. Red Grouse continue to threaten to get on to the "in the garden list" but are still 100m or so shy. The daily trickle of Redwings and Fieldfares appears to have dried up although Redwing are still around and about in small numbers.

Being at home I couldn't escape the enviable hospitality - great cake Moll.

The rebuilt cafe at Sandsend was reopened this weekend, more seats and more windows plus a rather sumptuous veranda. The "closest to the sea cafe in the UK" one suspects. A drake Eider, c40 Common Scoter and the usual gulls were espied from its cosy interior this after'.

The sea was huge and approaching the high tide was threatening to engulf the road. (It did soak some friends who ventured a little too close on foot.) A small Common Seal sought shelter a little way up the stream and proved to be a popular attraction.

Common Seal debating the age old fish or beer conundrum as it eyes up the pub across the water.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Parallel universe

I occasionally have this problem with George Bristow's Secret Freezer. It's happened a few times this year.

Now, let's be clear, I've never met Doc Martin and apart from being an expatriate Scot and blogging a little have no connection, but this is getting scary ....

Back on the 11th August the Good Doc ended up in a church on the very same day that I also visited the house of a god (overlooking Robin Hood's Bay for strange and arm twisted reasons), a very,very rare event. At the same time there was a pile of breakfast cereal trauma in both households; decorating mayhem; dead critters, especially shrews, haunting our every step; then there was coinciding plague afflicting us. And now this washing machine business - fortunately (and sanity saved) I'm yet to find strange phallic fertility symbols stained into the the kitchen floor but I'm convinced it is but a matter of time ....... aaaaagggghhhhhh - it even snowed here today as well. "Now what are the chances of that?"

Black-headed Gull roost

Quite a roost of Black-headed Gulls in the harbour at Whitby this evening, about a 1,000 or so, I'd popped down to the fishmongers before closing. Probably there because of the rough sea.

A fatality at the harbour mouth around lunchtime when someone thought it was a good idea to set sail out into the North Sea in a strong north wind with a 6+ metre swell. Ill advised. You wonder why really.

On Wednesday after two days of rain there were a few birds at work in the morning. 4 flocks of Lapwing were seen to distantly head west, a Peregrine shot over and flushed 6 Redshank which panicked away inland.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Barn Owl

A Barn Owl was being hassled by corvids as I drove to work this morning. Eventually the corvids desisted and the owl perched on a fence post a small field away. I reversed up and we stared at each other for a while. The bins were in the boot so I didn't bother and after a minute or two I left the owl on the fence post and continued on my way. I've probably driven that route more than 100 times at a suitable time of day for a Barn Owl but that was the first sighting.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

West Pier

Work commitments prevented much birding today but I did manage to nip down to Whitby mid-afternoon.

A Purple Sandpiper was lurking under the West Pier. At first the Common Scoter proved elusive with 2 duck inshore and 24 in the bay but then those in the bay flew off east. However, as I was leaving, way off in the distance, 250 milled around vaguely heading west and these were followed by about another 100 a little later.

3 Red-throated Diver, 1 drake Eider, c15 Shag, 10 Cormorant, Turnstone, Redshank, Black-headed Gull c500 in the roost, Herring Gull and Geeb plus a Starling or ten were the supporting cast.

In the failing light these three Homo sapiens (unwise I would have thought, nevermind) appeared to be attempting to roost just offshore.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Extra Whitby records from last Sunday

Thanks to JB for the photo

Little Auk in the harbour, c200 Common Scoter offshore + Velvet Scoter and Long-tailed Duck. Also Little Auks passing close in at Sandsend in the afternoon.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Link to field notes in flight G. adamsii

Stewart's field notes of an accepted, in-flight White-billed Diver.

Thanks Stewart

Title link full page, text link straight to big.

Fly-by Banana-bill (Gavia adamsii) id issues

I posted the comment about id of White-billed Diver Gavia adamsii because I have concerns about the id of this species in flight. Stewart responded that he's seen a couple in flight and had them accepted by BBRC and I'm not raising the issue to cast any doubt on the records of those folk (like Stewart) who clearly know what they're about. However, caution should be exercised with this species. It's worth reading what observers who have seen plenty of these birds have to say. Kenn Kaufman for example writes, "Yellow-billed Loon (G.adamsii) should be identified with extreme caution, with attention to every possible field character." Kenn then goes on to list these characters (Advanced Birding 1990). (If readers would like me to post this stuff I will scan and post on request.) More recently Blomdahl, Briefe and Holmstrom (Flight Identification of European Seabirds 2003) indicate less directly the difficulties in their descriptions of how to separate G. adamsii from G.immer, but still imply strongly I think that it's a tricky business.

My own interest is more prosaic as I like to id to species every bird that flies by if I can and I don't think I can do this with the adamsii/immer species pair on more than about 30% of birds seen. Usually this is because I get on to the birds too late or the scope is dancing about in the wind or the birds are just too far away. I don't see that many likely suspects in any case. Of the 8, I saw on Sunday, which were mostly within id range I would judge I got good enough views to id 3 with some confidence (immer). There was one bird which I saw well which might possibly have been adamsii and the other 4 I didn't see well enough - and that was a good day. (I realise I am contradicting myself here - previous post - but I've been ruminating so forgive me.)

Now maybe if I'd seen a few in the past I might change my tune but the published criteria seem to me to be difficult to observe in flight to 100% certainty of an id. I would be interested to read any field notes of in-flight observations of adamsii or even better see some sets of photos of in-flight birds of both species in winter / 1st winter plumages (taken on the same day by the same person preferably). Maybe I'm making a meal of this (I have recently had this suggested to me) but there have been a good few Banana-bills claimed this season and maybe this species is more common than we think it is in the North Sea (I don't actually believe this to be the case in most years, I hastily add). I think a bit of a discussion might be healthy - I'd welcome the opinion of anyone who has seen a few (2 or more would do) adamsii and has an opinion.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Venue change - Ness Point seawatch

This jolly sight greeted me at Ness Point when I arrived at 07:30. The only Puffin seen during this seawatch.

Two Little Auks went past initially. Then I continued to stare through the scope seeing nothing until I glanced down at the rocks below and saw a small flock beneath me. After that the scope was abandoned and counting was steady. A Red-throated Diver and a Great Northern went south in this first period. After 40 minutes or so JB and Bev appeared and recommended a change of venue - a bigger gully further north. Not quite so sheltered but with a better view.

I hadn't been seawatching at Ness Point for a good few years but a northerly like today's would have been hard work at the Kettle, also Ness Point is much better for birds moving north. However, you are too high up really and monitoring close inshore and further out is hard work even with three observers.

The Little Auks seemed totally knackered and several were seen to be taken out of the air by the breakers. The gulls were quickly upon them, several only escaping by flying in over the rocks. Most were seen very close in, over the surf, only later were any numbers seen further out to sea. Little Auk total to 12:15 was 335 north and 17 south.

7 Great Northern Divers went north in singles apart from a pair that snuck past very close in, we nearly missed these two. We were pretty certain of our id but for one white headed bird, but this was the most distant. Again, because of the height it is not possible to see the belly profile of passing divers, a useful guide to White-billed I believe. I would be very, very cautious of claiming White-billed flying by. It would be necessary to see all the features, bill shape, head features and the body shape I reckon. Many Great Northern (several today) show a white bill. I have no field experience of White-billed in flight, I would think this would be essential to claiming one in flight unless it was very close / photographed. Hereby the cautionary tale endeth.

Various other bits and bats went by including a very nice 1st winter type Pomarine Skua which briefly hassled a Kittiwake before proceeding rapidly south. A two and this flock of Goldeneye. Some Wigeon, two small flocks of Common Scoter, the flock of 24 including another duck which we failed to id. 3 grey geese went south which we reckoned were not Pink-feet, possibly White-fronts. A Purple Sand snuck under the cliff. A few Red-throats, Guillemots, Razorbills, Gannets - but only a few.

Initially Kittiwakes were going north only close by but as the morning went on there was a constant stream of distant birds heading south.

Something weird was happening in P. aristotelis World (Shag World sounds a bit coarse somehow). Two singles went north then a flock of 25 went south followed by 4, 10, 1, and 3 all south.

As we walked back to Robin Hood's Bay 7 Pale-bellied Brents cruised north. A Stonechat popped up and that was enough.

Ness Point rainbow time.

Saturday's birds

Male Bullfinch in the garden, with the now resident Tree Sparrows and Marsh Tit. 60+ Fieldfare in the next door field (and the same number at Scaling Dam a little later). Best tho' was 4 Redpoll which dropped in to the feeding flock, no bins so no id unfortunately.

Later at Scaling there were more duck than of late with 227 Teal, 30 odd Wigeon and 12 Goldeneye as well as 2 Goosander ducks (there'd been a drake earlier).

Also at Scaling was the Stoat World Marathon champion which spent the morning galloping around the edge of the reservoir chasing rabbits, without a great deal of success. One had to admire the Stoat's tenacity as at one point it bounded all of a 100 metres in pursuit of one particular terrified Lagomorph.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Bit of a sea ....

No birds tho .....

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Early morning West Pier

Down to the end of the West Pier for 7 a.m. Very difficult watching conditions with the wind blowing WNW with a bit of welly in it. Scoter were moving and after 5 minutes two skuas sheared down with the wind. Of course they were gone in moments and with the scope shaking around id was tricky. I reckoned they were Arctics but I could not be certain. In the following half hour there were no more skuas, no little weeny things and lots more scoter - various small numbers close in going east, a large flock west and two large flocks (40 or so) east. There were also Kittiwakes all over the shop, close in, distant going up and down and there were a few Gannets knocking about as well. By 07:35 I decided to have a look in the harbour and around and about - 2 Guillemots were in the harbour mouth, a few Cormorants but that was it.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Atlas practice

Having a bit of the sleeping sickness at the moment due to some vile lurgy that has invaded my body and is devouring my energy. So, too late for the sea I decided on a local round. Also I thought it would be useful to see how easy an Atlas count would be. I did not cover much of the home square in an hour. But it was a good hour. Tree Sparrow, 1; Marsh Tit, 1; Yellowhammer, 8, all good stuff. Then on the edge of the moor I heard a familiar sound.

Hear (sic) they come.

Have a quick look and estimate how many there are (answer tomorrow).

These were up in the air at the same time, nice as well.

Over my head.

Elder stems in autumn evening

Hoverfly on Ivy flowers

The Pink-feet just went due south over my head. 65 Golden Plover got up at the same time.

The bottom two photos are from last weekend to tell the truth - there was a Red Admiral as well but I missed the pic.

Later on I went to Scaling Dam where there were 8 Goldeneye with a drake Goosander (which is an uncommon bird at Scaling). The gull roost was a bit pathetic with just 500 Common Gulls, and half of them flew off, to roost at sea I guess.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

I've done this before ....

On the way down to the point this Blackbird was lying dead.

Very nice hour and a half on Kettleness Point from 7 this morning. The wind wasn't blowing when I started but after half an hour it got up to a 4-5, not quite as far round to the north as I had expected.

The first Kittiwakes for weeks appeared early on and their numbers increased until I reckoned about 100 were seen over the watch. The sea was thinly scattered with auks, mostly Guillemots and although there appeared to be a bit of westerly movement this was probably just repositioning for feeding. In all there were probably 250 Guillemots; only 6 Razorbills were ided.

Three drake Eider were swanning around off the point, one of which flew conveniently closer. Small numbers of Gannets appeared, in the end a total of 40 or so.

Star turns were an excellent adult Med Gull that drifted by close inshore at about 07:45. This is probably only my second or third from Kettleness so I was well pleased. Then a few minutes later as I was looking out to other lands at x45, espying some suspicious but distant feeding activity, a first winter Pom powered into view. I turned the power down to x15 to enjoy this bird, it was quite close but all too soon it was around the corner and eyeing up the Black-headed Gulls in Sandsend Bay. Now I did think at this point, maybe there'll be more of these. Classic date, wind getting up and I remembered the morning some years ago when I counted 13 off Ness Point (the other side of Whitby) and then packed up too early because subsequently 150 or so probably went by (reports from other coastal stations). There's no signal at Kettleness so I can't check what's going on elsewhere but I reckon I'd have seen a few more Poms if I'd sat tight beyond 08:30. So it goes.

Next up was a tiny thing, a wee, wee thing, very distantly heading east that ditched in an auk like manner, no doubt it was a Little Auk but unclaimable.

There were in addition to all this 2 Red -throated Divers, 2 diver sp, 14 Common Scoter and several buckets of Black-headed and Common Gulls. But I wanted to check the dell and the point bushes so I packed up.

The point bushes, one of the two Sallows (there's also 1 Elder and a good old bit of Gorse, an Apple and a Hawthorn or two). Sitting on the rock to the right of the bush is the likely "cause of death" of the Blackbird.

Maybe this is why the Sparrowhawk abandoned its prey.

Up top there were still lots of passerines around the farm including 7 Twite. But on the whole numbers of thrushes, Robins etc were much reduced.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Stormy night, bright afternoon

The south-westerly eventually blew itself out by the afternoon. A family visit to Runswick Bay late morning (sheltered from the wind and always a good spot to look in a gale). 1, 2 and finally 3 Red-breasted Mergansers were in the bay along with 2 Red-throated Divers and a duck Common Scoter. A Little Gull fed at the mouth of the bay. There was a Knot, 5 Ringed Plover, 5 Redshank and about 45 Turnstone plus the usual few Curlew and Oystercatchers, a lot of waders for Runswick. There was also some sort of fishing competition going on which apparently involved seeing how close to Norway it is possible to walk without drowning - as Jesus didn't seem to be competing, not very far would be a fair judgement. The lifeboat cruised off Kettleness in expectation of some rescue fun.

Elsewhere a Rough-legged Buzzard was reported over Danby Beacon, another Little Gull (or the same) was at Sandsend. Lapland Bunting was at Whitestone.

At home the Tree Sparrow "flock" of 2 now seems to be a permanent feature. Marsh Tit is still evident but Siskin seems to be down to just 2 and their visits are very intermittent. No Jays were heard today.This evening there were plenty of thrushes including two decent sized flocks of Fieldfares totalling about 60 or so. 2 Moorhens were heard in the bottom fields.

The neighbouring farm has sprayed cow shit all over their fields in the last week and so the gulls have returned. At the beginning of the week about 40 were seen, mostly Common Gulls but once all the fields were sprayed the numbers built up and there were probably 500 Common Gulls and 40 Black-headed today.

JB appears to be winding down. After the Short-toed Lark and Pechora Pipit early in the week, then two Pallas' Warblers on Thursday things have become more mundane. A Firecrest in Pannett Park, in Whitby, yesterday and just Lapland Bunting at Whitestone today. However, the winds and JB may yet return, the autumn isn't over yet. Early November is one of my favourite rare finding times and if we get the winds no doubt more will be discovered (hopefully by this good self - a White-billed Diver would suit please).

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Marsh Tit calling

Finally managed to upload the Marsh Tit calling video - the bird is in view very briefly but the call is quite clear.

I've given up with YouTube, uploaded fine with Google and the embed tool works well just need to adjust the numbers a jot so it will fit in the panel.

Oh yes! The movie is in the side panel.

Quick nip to Scaling Dam

I've been neglecting the Dam recently but a brief opportunity presented itself today so I stopped by for an hour. 155 Teal, 21 Wigeon, 3 Goldeneye, 3 Pochard and 2 Little Grebes plus a Sparrowhawk
were present for my delectation.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Kettleness today

There was almost no wind first thing so I forewent the seawatching and searched for small birds all morning. As the wind began to get up it became clear that it had gone around to the SW but it didn't stir much vismig action.

Plenty of species were found and much of local interest, best being Great Spotted Woodpecker calling from the Pheasant Wood. I briefly heard Jay a couple of times, perhaps not quite well enough to confirm the record. 12 Twite were in the field behind the post box, none of these carried a colour ring so they were not Halifax / Huddersfield birds most probably.

Twite and Starlings

Fieldfare, 5; Brambling, 3 or more; Redpoll sp, 2; Siskin, 14; Reed Bunting, 2; Blackbird, 54 were the species of most interest.

Of passing interest is a weird and wonderful story in the Whitby Gazette today about school children finding an albatross feather in the car park of Whitby Leisure Centre. There is a photograph of said feather and identification seems to be based purely on size - the length of the feather being 71cm and the diameter of the quill being 3cm (this last figure must be a mistake - 3mm maybe?) (Sorry no link to the story on the paper's website.) Now it is true that not many birds could have a primary this long and I'm no expert on feathers but why should this lead to the feather being from an albatross? Bearing in mind the wonderful zoo at Flamingo Land is not a million miles away and the feather was found in the car park ..... I'm not sure what species are kept at Flamingo Land but I'll investigate. The story ends by mentioning JB's Richard's Pipit from earlier this month calling it both rare and common from one paragraph to the next, oh dear!

More rares but not at Kettleness

JB was in action again yesterday, indeed I understand it was a team effort with Birdgudes' Russell Slack (a long time Whitby birder) joining him. Two Pallas' Leaf Warblers were found along the railway line from Robin Hood's Bay - I believe at least one of these was in the apple trees about 1km from the village on the left of the old trackway (or at least in that area).

Badseawatching No4 - failure to use optics (= missed Bulwers Petrel, there it goes far right on the downward sloping bit of sea).

Meanwhile at Kettleness I had a rather laidback visit as Louise came with me. We wandered out to the seawatch point for 1/2 an hour (reward 2 Eider, 5 Common Scoter and unusually a Puffin) and then searched the undercliff pretty thoroughly (reward a very few Blackbirds and Redwing). Up on the railway line there was a Reed Bunting and a Brambling (first records for the autumn) and that was about it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Mouse trouble (dead things warning)

Wood Mouse, so it seems

I seem to have made a complete bollocks of mouse id.

I have been reporting the mice that the cats occasionally dump on the kitchen floor or that we sometimes rescue from them and release as Yellow-necked Mouse Apodemus flavicollis but this is a species unrecorded in Yorkshire (The Naturalist N0 1062 Vol 132). So these mice have to be Wood Mouse Apodemus sylvaticus. The id criteria are about the size of the yellow throat patch and the sharpness of the demarkation between the belly and upper body colour. My pix of the latest casualty do indeed show a small throat patch (good for Wood Mouse) but I'm not sure how much sharper the boundary between the colours needs to be, looks sharp to me (good for Yellow-necked).

If a higher authority has an opinion it will be gratefully received.

A little research shows that there is a record of A. flavicollis just south of Yorkshire and one record west of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Methinks I should get hold of some better id criteria and examine these beasties a bit more carefully in future - document with photos for sure.