Friday, August 31, 2007

Black-necked Grebe

There was a birder in the hide when I got there, unusual. He hadn't seen anything, not unusual. A glance out of the hide put me on to a juvenile Coot, strange, they haven't bred to my knowledge. Closer look, ah, not a juvenile Coot, small grebe, unusual. Closer scrutiny showed it to be a Black-necked Grebe, and a juvenile by the slightly yellowy, gold tint to the ear coverts. Nice one.

Windy, dreary

Nasty, blustery westerly with a smidgeon of north in it meant I sought shelter higher up the Kettle. A Sooty went distantly by and 2 Arctic Skuas were making a nuisance of themselves amongst the distant (and unidentifiable) terns. A Manx, 2 close Arctic Skuas heading east and that was that. So I went to Scaling Dam.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Now that's what I call seawatching

Common Scoter trying to get by me ....

That was gooooooood. Three hours on the Kettle from 16:25 - couldn't go this morning, had to go to work and then paint the bathroom. But the best comes to he who waits.

A superb, sparkling, wonderful (reasonably close) adult Roseate Tern went west at 18:20. I went on to high power to check out a distant Manx and the Rosy just flew into the view, full tail streamers the business. They always amaze, how does it fly? And just why? There was a juvvy Black Tern also along with 247 Arctic and Common Terns - the split was about 50:50, they were further out on the whole this evening but of close birds nearly all were Arctic - especially the ones going east - most went west into the presumed roost somewhere in the bay. Distant birds in gangs are always challenging and in the sometimes poor light, or when I got to looking too far west they become impossible. Sadly there do seem to be relatively few juvs. 104 Sarnies also went west towards the roost (there were only 31 yesterday).

The species mix this evening was just excellent - 13 Arctic Skuas, 3 Bonxies and a Pom (no skuas yesterday). 6 Soots, 15 Manx, 3 Red-throated Divers, 1 Teal, 1 Pintail, 17 Wigeon, 1 Eider, 7 Common Scoter (including the one above swimming west). 1 Redshank called early on (not frequent here) but a flock of 26 west was exceptional, also, 10 Golden Plover and 1 Whimbrel west, about 600 Gannets (from sample counts and equal each way), about 450 Kitts mostly west. So a good do.

Oh, and there was a Marsh Tit in the garden this morning, that's the first for more than a year I think.

Monday, August 27, 2007

What a tern up

In a couple of hours this evening 648 Common Terns went west, 14 went east. There were 36 Arctic Terns west (I might have missed some as distance, light and numbers were a problem). 23 terns were either Common or Arctic. 28 Sandwich Terns went west and 3 east. Star bird was a single Black Tern west, there was probably another one but I failed to clinch the id and it seemed to vaporise when I tried to refind it. Also on offer were 4 Soots - 2 distant and 2 that together came into the bay late on. Only 2 Manx and they went east. 2 Whimbrel, 3 small wadery jobs that I reckoned might have been RPs. 300 auks on the sea that were 10:1 Guillemots : Razors I thought. There were but 20 or so Kitts and 30 Gannets but Fulmars were at about 40.

A distant whale went west, didn't show the jizz of a Minke - could have been one though - however, best left as a sp - came up three times. At least 3 Harbour Porpoise were on show.

On land there was little to report.

The Vice County 62 thing

I've recently taken on the job of bird recorder for the Yorkshire Naturalists Union (YNU) for Vice County 62. The ornithological section of the YNU is the organisation which produces the Yorkshire Bird Report and the Rare and Scarce Species Bird Reports for the county of Yorkshire. For consistency the YNU uses the Watsonian vice county system so that the recording area does not change when political county boundaries are changed.

There seem to be two main jobs: 1. Making contact with birders in VC 62 and convincing them to submit their data and 2. Organising that data and getting it into a useful form for the writers of the YNU report(s).

So if you go birding or are a patch watcher in VC 62 (from just north of Filey - near Cayton Bay - to the south bank of the Tees and inland to roughly the A1 and down to York) I'm interested in your bird records (if you are not sure which vice county you are in give me the map reference and I can sort it out). This includes the south of Teesmouth Bird Club area (County of Cleveland), Scarborough Birders area, Ryedale Natural History Society area - if you usually submit records to these organisations please continue to do so as their that data will come to the YNU via their recorders. I'm not covering any of the area that falls within the York Ornithological Society realm (which straddles three vice counties) someone else is doing that. Please submit your data through the YOS.

I'm very interested in data collected from any site over a number of years and especially where bird populations have changed. So if you have that kind of information and are prepared to share or discuss it I would be very interested to talk to you (exchange email etc).

You may submit rare bird records to me and I will pass these on to the group which is assessing these records. I am not part of the record assessment process (because I don't have that expertise and I don't want to do that job anyway). All information submitted to me is considered to be confidential and will not be passed on other than via YNU systems.

You may submit rare and scarce breeding bird records to me - these will be treated in a highly confidential manner and passed on only via the YNU systems. I do now have the contacts to respond where rare breeding birds are threatened with disturbance so if you think the farmer is going to cut your Corncrake's field I may be able to summon some assistance.

I've also taken on writing the skuas, gulls and terns sections for the YNU 2006 bird report. There is still time to submit data for this. I'd be very interested in any observations of numbers of these species that were recorded in Yorkshire in 2006, especially unusual or large numbers, counts of juveniles and adults (especially of terns), first and last dates for winter or summer visitors and first fledging dates (Yorkshire breeding species) and first observations of juveniles (migrants).

If you want more information please feel free to contact me on

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Result - the Oik Factor

240 Oiks

Strangely enough I hadn't estimated this lot myself - having just checked Birdtrack and my notebook. Two sparkling entrants - but fellas you won't be doing roost counts for me cos you're a way off.

The prize - and what a prize we have for you - five visits to ....... Green Withens. I felt that everybody should have a chance to experience the most birdless birding experience in Britain. And escorted visits too - yes you will be able to experience first hand the man who can swear more creatively than any other birder in the country.

And the winner is - Darrell with an estimate of 150 - (only 90 out). So Darrell you'll have to get yourself out of the pub and get yourself down to your patch on five special winning occasions.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Scaling Dam and YNU

Scaling Dam this a.m. produced a Marsh Harrier, seen only briefly at the Cleveland end. There appeared to be a bit of Mepit movement west with one small flock going and Mepits in evidence around the reservoir and around the Marsh Harrier. As I drove over the moor later another couple of small flocks were seen, so autumn has really begun.

The YNU meeting clarified what I need to do for this VC62 business, so that was handy. I'll write up the info and stick it on the blog in a day or so.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Garden birds today

2 Common Buzzard over the garden looked like juvs, they hung around and then drifted west. A Tree Sparrow went west.

I do like a good Tansy


It's no bovver with a hovver

Comma's comma

Record shot, Spot Fly

The Tansy in the front garden is doing rather well and attracts many a hover.

It was a good garden day yesterday with Comma, Wall, Peacock, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Large White and Green-veined White all in evidence. Lots of hovers on the Tansy and the Buddlia.

A new bird for the garden - Spotted Flycatcher - 3 paused briefly to feed from the Sycamores before heading off east.

Competition time

How many Oiks? Take a quick look and estimate.

Juvvy Geeb.

The mystery gull from the other day was of course a juvenile Herring Gull. It's interesting how similar juveniles of Herring Gull and Greater Black-backed can look and the variation in apparent bill size in Herring Gull is often confusing.

Here's a juvenile Geeb for your delectation.

Now, how good are you at estimating numbers? Take a quick look at the pic of the Oystercatcher roost and estimate how many there are - answer in a day or so.

Seawatching yesterday

View from the Kettle

Teal go by

That was a bit more like it. The first hour from 06:30 was pretty good and then things slowed right down until the end but it was a much more entertaining experience.

The first few minutes produced a distant posse of 5 skuas going down (east). I decided to ascribe these to the sp designation in the vague hope they might have been Long-tails. In reality I saw them pretty poorly and they were distant. Then a few large flocks of Common Terns went down too. Next up were some distant but definite Arctic Skuas. Then a Soot and then another one. In the meantime there were Teal and Common Scoter and stacks of Common Terns and a pile of Gannets feeding just offshore. A trickle of Manxies went by.

Things improved again when 6 Scoter went past the front two being neat, drake Velv's. Wigeon, Red-th Diver and Bonxie put in cameo appearances. A Shelduck went by. 2 Ringed Plover tried to sneak past under the cliff but I was far too sharp for them.

And then it all, slooowwwed down.

The feeding Common Terns that were offshore (a long, long way offshore - x45 and eyes on stalks) in gangs slowly moving west were gradually replaced by Kitts. These feeding flocks did repay closer observation and I managed to find 3 Little Gulls and an Arctic Tern. I strongly suspected Roseatte Tern but just couldn't nail it. (Elsewhere up the coast these flocks produced Sabine's Gulls but not for me today.) All stayed quiet until about 10:15 when another Soot and 2 Bonxies appeared and 2 juvenile Arctic Skuas (my first confirmed juvs of the year) rattled past close inshore.

Walking back up the cliff 4 Wheatear hinted at some passerine business going on ..... and shiver me timbers what's this at the top of the cliff; a birder (seawatching from the car parking area) - pleasantries were exchanged but I was in shock truth to tell.

Common Terns had totalled 211 and with but one Arctic confirmed that was a significant change. There were but 14 Sandwich Terns so they've all popped off somewhere, it will be interesting to see if they return. Gannet were reckoned at more than 800 and the usual couple of hundred auks were offshore, the majority being Guillemots from what I could discern.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

No proper birding

Clemmys et (far) and Clemmys mollis-toy (near) preparing to feed, Yorkshire, August 2007.

Did make one really interesting observation today. I rarely see turtles but theses two were feeding together, or at least they seemed to be waiting to feed, I did not actually observe the food items. The species involved appear to be Clemmys et and Clemmys mollis-toy, but I'm no expert. However, a recording made at the time and translated on the internet seemed to indicate food preferences.
C. mollis-toy - "I'll have scrambled eggs and a fish fritter."
C. et - "Make that two but steady with the HP."

I had a quick look at TWP this evening and that does seem to confirm my identifications in that: "Adults of this species (C. et) have been recorded consuming HP Brown Sauce with fish fritter on some 23 occasions, however, in 21 of those observations brown sauce was recorded as left on the plate after the turtles had departed. Raphael notes (Rapheal and Yoshi 1987) that C. mollis-toy was observed on several occasions to remove the lid from bottles that looked in shape and colour superficially like those of HP Brown Sauce bottles.".

Rather too knackered to go birding to tell the truth, however, this evening I heard a Hoopoe, the song strangely enough. Bit off my beaten track in Ambridge, it only called once, and was rather distant, but it's so distinctive, lots of House Martins about as well.

Monday, August 20, 2007


The north wind doth blow, but it didn't bring me many birds. Best bird in 2.5 hours this evening was a Little Gull. Initially there were terns and Kittiwakes feeding off the point and the Little Gull was with them. There was very little movement with only 6 Manx west and no Arctic Skuas. Bonxies were loafing about though and at least 5 were offshore.

A Bonxie had killed or found dead an auk and was eating it. Several Gannets appeared to take exception to this and were harassing the Bonx. The Gannets repeatedly flew around and dropped on to the Bonx. Perhaps this was revenge for fish lost in the past, or just because it was an opportunity to give the Bonx some grief. It clearly was not accidental as one Gannet repeated the behaviour 4 times.

There was a bit of quacker movement with Teal and Common Scoter heading mostly west and 6 Wigeon lurked around the point until also eventually going off into the bay. 11 Knot, including a nice red one also fed around the point until the tide forced them off. Whimbrel was again present.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

05:50 no wind

Not so good, no wind poor vis. But An Arctic Skua went east and a Manx went west close by almost immediately. Then after a bit the terns started flying northeast out of Runswick Bay - this made them very difficult to id. For some reason the Sandwich (easy to id) float past close in whilst the Commons and Arctics (hard to separate) are further out, going like the clappers and at that awkward north-easterly angle. In the end I reckoned that about 75% were Arctic but I'd prefer the id to be more certain. Of the few close birds that were easier to id the split was 50:50 There are more juvs present now which is encouraging. There were about 120 Commics altogether and probably at least that many Sarnies. Gannets were going at about 140 an hour and there were but 100 Kitts in total.

After an hour or so the wind picked up a bit and the sea fret came in and the ducks started moving. 72 Common Scoter, 110 Teal, 8 Eider all went west. There was a Knot with one flock of Teal, a flock of Whimbrel went over but I couldn't see them (how often do they do that?) and as I left a Greenshank called and flew over my head.

Star bird was a very close Sooty that came out of the sea fret and close to the cliff before disappearing west.

Later on we went south the Bempton and South Landing. Whimbrel and sea fret at Bempton, plus the wonderful aroma of Gannet, of course. South Landing produced more Whimbrel (3 and a 1, seen this time), a Knot, Dunlin, Ringed Plovers and the usual South Landing things. It is an interesting beach, huge variety of washed up seaweed, interesting tide lines and interesting plant colonisation.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Kettleness then Scaling

Kettleness yesterday evening was rather dull. On reflection I should have spent the time taking pix as the light was nice initially and many things came close to the end, like Oytercatchers, Curlew, Sandwich Terns and the very lovely gull assortment. And that was about the whole seawatch - an adult Arctic Skua did chase the Sandwich Terns for a bit and a few Arctic and Common Terns came into Runswick Bay (with a reasonable proportion of juvs, so that's a bit more encouraging).

Scaling Dam this morning produced another juvvy Marsh Harrier which flew around a bit and then perched in a bush. There was a Green Sand as well. Spent most of the hour chatting to birders from Cleveland, a rare opportunity at Scaling where I hardly ever meet other birders. Quite unlike Kettleness where there are never other birders - unless I force them into my car and drive them there and then make them go birding with the business end of a tripod.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Other flying stuff - dangerous methinks

New - Movie (main feature)

Not only is it the birds which fly. (Some of this looks decidedly dangerous to my eye.) But I do enjoy watching a thing done well - good tune too Fatboy.

Well that was exciting .... not

Atmosphere shot - fishing
Click on any pic and it'll go big

What a neat juvvy HG

Oooohhh, just look at the moult on that!

What's this then (answers on the back of an envelope please)?

"Call me a Leeb and I'll peck your heart out and eat it minced with squirrel"

Down to the sea at 6:40 The wind was blowing (WNW and west a bit more), there was cloud (but rather a lot of sun too) and the birds .... what birds. Ok so there were a few more Fulmars moving than there have been but the Kitts have given up compared to last week; ok so there was a pile of Sandwich Terns but rather a lot fewer Arctic and Commons. Quackers? 1 Common Scoter and 7 Teal. However, a rather nice juvvy Little Gull fed into the wind and two hours later another one did the same thing. Now, in 11 years of watching Withens Clough I never saw a Little Gull and one Little Gull there, let alone 2 in 2.5 hours would have been a triumph but somehow that isn't the point. After two hours I thought, "This might be a seawatch without a Manx." And then a Manx, one, a single one went by. So I thought, "This might be a seawatch without a Wandering Albatross." And Triton said, "Give it a rest mate." So I packed up and climbed back up the cliff lest I test his patience and engage his wrath.

Anyway, above are some very nice gulls, I always see a pile of them and I've changed the Movie (short) to give you a taste of the sea - I don't mean that literally unless you have a large bucket on the 3rd USB port.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

VC 62

What's all this then? You may well ask. I'm sure I'll be asking myself when I'm knee deep in finch records. 385 feeding stations in the vice county all send me their daily counts of Greenfinch and Chaffinch - I will cherish them, I will, I promise.

No seawatch Scaling dam (and work) instead

It was throwing it down at 5 this morning. No way am I sitting on the Kettle in this. So I went to Scaling Dam instead (nice dry(ish) hide). And it was quite good. A long distance Aythya quacker didn't quite give itself up in the very poor visibility but it was most likely a Scaup. There were 4 Gadwall (don't think I've seen them at Scaling before) and 1 drake Wigeon. There was a Dunlin. And then a stack of big gulls appeared, so they needed a sift through, a-ha, a LB-bGull showing the characters of intermedius (small and much darker on the wings, back and mantle than graellsi). So quite good really. Then I had to go to work, yes, I know I'm on holiday, so it goes .....

So I went back to Scaling this evening and there was a Dunlin and 2 Green Sands at the Yorkshire end and at the Cleveland end there was one more of each of these. There was a pair of Wigeon, a Curlew and ..... that was about it so I came home again.

If it isn't raining and if I wake up I'll go seawatching tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Think I'll paint the bathroom instead. But look at the weather map - see link to Bracknell, it's looking good for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. With luck the calm weather will mean any skuas will come back on Saturday ... I'm on holiday so maybe I'll be giving it a go tomorrow anyway (if it rains I'll paint more). Whatdya mean "soft" you try sitting on Kettleness in the rain and a northerly (the Kettle points north, it aint no fun) - this isn't Filey or Scarborough or Hartlepool yknow, this is real elemental seawatching .... there goes the brollyeeeeeeeeeeee .... inland at 35 knots.


Hmmm, weather is looking a bit interesting, SE becoming NW later with a bit of strength to it - just a matter of timing really - perhaps I should go twice, this evening and early tomorrow, certainly early tomorrow - to the sea, to the sea.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

If you know what this is please post in comments

Went to the YSP on Saturday. At lunch time I had a wander around and found this orchid which I can't identify - help please someone ... Small Copper, Common Green Grasshopper, Gatekeeper.

In the afternoon we walked up on to the ridge to the new gallery - I think Mr Goldsworthy is having a bit of a laugh .... Sheep shit snowball indeed. And hare's blood and snow - I have this vision of the hare with its back legs tethered and its throat slit, bleeding to death over the canvas; now I'm sure that didn't happen .... I usually like Andy's stuff, the photo's of the various stone dams are neat, I think they would have been fun to make and record. The chestnut leaf stems curtain is fragile and a bit of a wonder, but the cow shit window is .... Anyway there were loads of Gatekeeper on Ragwort along the ridge, there must have been 30 or so.

Such a contrast between Old Moor with its enthusiastic staff and fantastic openness, encouraging everyone to look at wildlife and all the "Keep Out" notices around the YWT reserve at the YSP - what a missed opportunity (but am I surprised?).

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Old Moor

Click the pic for big
A quick visit to Old Moor today produced these Green Sands, 2 Little Egrets, a Yellow Wag, a Common Tern, Tree Sparrow, Emperor Dragonfly, Gatekeepers and various other bits and bats.

Perseid Meteor Shower

This was quite good. A few minutes in the garden just now and we must have seen 10 bright ones + plus a few smaller ones. Also clocked 6 satellites.

Roesel's Bush Cricket

I've been on my travels. The new Movie (short) is of this fairly uncommon bush cricket. I found a colony near a children's playground in East Sussex - thanks girls for insisting on going scooting. Click on the play button for it to play in the panel or elsewhere in the image and it will take you to YouTube and play there - turn the sound up on your speakers, the song is neat - like fizzing pylons.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Seawatch Kettleness this a.m.

The wind went around to the north-west so seawatching is a good bet. Not today. In 3.5 hours from 05:55 Whimbrel - a flock of 15 went east and a singleton came west and er, well that was about it really. There was a Bonxie, 12 Teal, 2 Common Scoter, about 15 Manxies mostly messing about feeding, 2 Eider and about 40 Arctic Terns. The only notable feature really was the huge increase in Kittiwakes, including many juvs (good news). At one point my sample counts indicated Kittiwake at 600 an hour (roughly equal numbers in each direction). The total for the watch was probably between 1,200 and1,500. At times there were three feeding flocks off the point of sometimes 70 - 100 birds in addition to those moving. Around and about the point best bird was a Merlin terrorising the Swallow flock; 15 Curlew, 5 Teal, about 20 Sarnies with at least 3 juvs.

Filey had a Little Gull this morning + a Minke and an adult Sabines this evening - perhaps I should have stuck it out all day .... so it goes.

So the Yangtze River Dolphin is extinct, or nearly so. That is a major extinction. Watching Arctic Terns today, one of my favourite birds, I wondered how long they have left. Another terrible breeding season is reported, so far this year I have seen a maximum of 4 or 5 juveniles amongst several hundred adults. perhaps it is still early and they will arrive but ... They are such a fragile thing, ultra long distance migrant, specialised food requirements (which humans are hoovering up for fertiliser), vulnerable nest sites ...

Monday, August 06, 2007

Darrell's quacker day

Green Withens Reservoir (West Yorkshire) has 36 Common Scoter this evening. This ties in nicely with the movement I recorded this morning. This is also the largest flock of birds ever seen at Green Withens Reservoir by some considerable margin. Nice one Darrell.

Quackers going

Juvvy Kittiwake - they seem to have done ok judging by the number of these about.

No feeding furies offshore today, but this small gathering was just off the point.

Adult Kittiwake

A duck day at Kettleness with 370 Common Scoter west in 4 hours from 6 this morning (3 anarchic ones went east). Also 2 Pintail (one using subterfuge by flying with a female Mallard); 1 Wigeon; 2 Eider and 35 Teal. The other main feature was 95 Manx Shearwater going east (with 13 west later in the morning). Interestingly a Common Scoter is in West Yorkshire this morning and there are large movements of Manx on the west coasts.

Other birds of interest 3 Arctic Skua; 26 Arctic Terns; at least 11 Whimbrel; a Peregrine (but no pesky pigeon) and a juvenile Whinchat.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Movie (main feature)

Replaced E with the wonderful Granchester Meadows (again) - well summer has returned and I'm feeling chilled.

Attempts to film something useful to do with Treepers calling failed dismally earlier today so the Movie (short) continues to be Long-eared Owl calling. Watch this space. (Memo - remember to turn on the video when you want to film, doh!)

Garden birding day

The moor pond - a favourite spot

Small Heath - best I could do

Sad end to the day - Greenfinch RIP - aged by the shape of the tail feathers as a juvenile

Two nice records today, a Treeper in the plantation and two Tree Spugs in the oak in the front garden very briefly. Both of these are second records for the garden. Also, Bullfinch x2, Herring Gull, Swallows and House Martins in very good numbers with perhaps some movement (especially a.m.) and perhaps a bit of Swift movement also. Also three Sparrowhawks, 2 chasing and playing and then a female having a go at a Kestrel. Sheep got in again via neighbours garden. Soon ushered out and they (the neighbours not the sheep) were encouraged to repair their gate.

The moor pond was good in the late afternoon with 100s of tiny frogs, Common Blue Damselfly mating, Common Darter and what was either Common or Southern Hawker, but I didn't see it well enough. Plenty of Small Heath around the pond as well, but very hard to photograph.

On the coast a visit to Sandsend for playing on the beach with the offspring - fishing for haddock with a small pink fishing net and terrorising the many promenaders with a pink and possibly lethal, 1,000 mph Frisbee. Good day, none of us drowned and no one beat us up .... Talking of drowning why do people give their kids large inflatable rings and boats to play in when there's an ebbing tide and a strong offshore wind? Don't answer that. However, the visit created another id conundrum: flock of waders way out, 27 or 28, I reckoned I could see plenty of white in the wings and tail but I have a wild imagination, I just went Blackwit, just like that. Trouble is Flamborough had no Blackwit and a fair old Whimbrel passage at about that time - moral, always take the scope.

Darrell - an apology

Now Darrell, I'm really sorry, please don't get all offended but .... I've taken the link to Green Withens Birding off my blog. See, the trouble is I've gone mainstream, sold out (if you will) and as amusing and jolly as I find your turn of phrase I know there are folk out there who might take offence. So, is it ok if I give you a plug from time to time? After all I don't want to turn my back on a patch watcher as obsessed and nutty as I ever was.

For those not easily offended by a word or two Darrell is a hero of the patch watching revolution, observing, with serious dedication, a site so unpromising that birders had only previously visited it when they got lost or were intoxicated. A place infested with offroad vehicles and other pestilences, a place where there are singularly very few birds, ever.

Parental advisory for sure to:

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Barn Owls again

Went out to the Barn Owl site again and took the girls who were suitably impressed. A Black-headed Gull appeared over the fields at about 9:20 and flew in a confused state around the site, at one point one of the owls chased it. The gull seemed to be considering roosting in the fields, the behaviour was interesting as it appeared close to panic. This was an adult, I presume it had got flushed from its "proper" roost or was on the move and couldn't find a suitable roost.

I've added a new link to the blog, Bracknell weather charts. These are very useful charts, nice and clear, highly recommended to seawatchers and other migrant hunters.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Sheep in the garden

A non-day, a chill out day. Then, "The sheep are in the garden again!" There they were too close to the girls flower garden for comfort. So once we'd chivvied them out I had to fix the gate.

There were two Roe Deer in the field below the house this evening. Plenty of butterflies in the garden this morning including Comma again and Small Skipper.

It seems to have been a poor year for Nightjar. I suspect lots have failed. They are now hard to find at my best site, and I failed yesterday evening. Recent visits to this site and another site have produced just brief views of single individuals feeding.

Yesterday - Good day dip, good day nonetheless

Northern Eggar (click the pic for big)

Rubbish record shot of Marsh Harrier juvenile

Yesterday morning, arrived at Scaling at 09:00 having deposited the girls at horse riding for the day. The log indicated that MAB was still somewhere about and the 6 Shoveler he'd recorded were still in front of the hide. There was some passerine activity along the shore by the Sallows, 3 Robins and then a Lesser Whitethroat gave itself up, feeding in good view.

Further scanning produced a Green Sand, I suspected a second and sure enough a minute or so later they both flew towards me and landed on the shore by the Lesser Whitethroat. The Shoveler floated across the same field of view (ok Calderdale guys this is not a fantasy, just birding where there are some birds).

Everything flushed off the edge as the Roe Buck crashed through the Sallows and splashed along the shore. MAB arrived in the hide. He'd also seen Lesser Whitethroat, a Spot Fly, a Greenshank and 2 Whimbrel had flown through. I'd missed the Greenshank by a few minutes.

We chatted about this and that, agreed that my Short-eared Owl carrying food of a few weeks earlier must almost certainly have been Long-eared (the Birdtrack record needs to be adjusted).

MAB decided to leave and after a few minutes i went to look for the Spot Fly and see if there was Emperor over the pond. Good views of the Spot Fly, no Emperor, mobile goes off. MAB, "I'm by the garage and there're Peregrine, Common Buzzard and Honey Buzzard coming your way." I shoot down to the hide and eventually locate very distant the Peregrine and the Common Buzzard but no Honey. A further phone call, the Honey was heading for the coast. In the car but a fruitless search. So it goes.

In the afternoon Louise and I went to Fryup Dale Head. This is a really interesting area and looks full of potential. Tiger beetles scattered at nearly every footstep.There were plenty of Red Grouse families and having walked the Coast to Coast path we headed down into the dale. Two Stonechat and one Whinchat families were quickly found, Willow Warblers and Blackcap were also added. Kestrels hovered. Two large orange butterflies headed up the dale but defied id. Eventually we scrabbled back up to the Coast to Coast path and found this immaculate Norther Eggar on the path. Moments later Louise said, "Is that a Kestrel?" It clearly was not a Kestrel but was a juvenile Marsh Harrier, it slowly soared up and drifted away south.

But the day was not done. A phone call took me in the evening to a not so distant location where a pair of Barn Owls and their 5 young were out and about. This was a really good example of a bit of creative management of the potential nest site and surrounding land providing a pair with a suitable site which they had very quickly occupied.

Good day.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Kettleness and the unloved

Where's a hungry Peregrine when you need one?

Mid-seawatch and on two interesting slightlybiggerthandots going west way out, when I had that feeling, that "I'm not alone" feeling. Still concentrating on the dots, as they were interesting, but this is a feeling I do not like. I knew the uninvited company was not human, it was possibly of the rodent clan and it was close. In the end I can stand it no more and look about me. A scruffy creep of an avian scavenger subsequently attempted to, perch on my shoulder, eat my boots and then walk into my rucksack - presumably in search of biscuit, not soup (problems with Thermos lid etc). It took some dissuasion and one curtain call before I slung a large chunk of Kettleness in its general direction and it took the hint.

Now, those dots, were a problem. Usually failed id is between species of divers, terns or skuas but in this case family was a bit of an issue - my first and strongest thought was that there were two different species involved, the front bird being one of the smaller grebes - Podiceps sp. The rear bird being an auk, probably a Razorbill. But the size thing doesn't work for this idea methinks as the auk should dwarf the grebe (at least in body mass), and although it looked larger, not much larger, and I think the size difference was a product of the rear bird being black (thus Razorbill). This wasn't working out. What about a quacker - Velvet Scoter perhaps seems possible. This now might add up as Velvs do often look weird (for some reason) - especilly at range in bright light. There was certainly white in the wing of the front bird, maybe in the rear one. The white in the wing maybe made the wing look very slim on the front bird (and slim enough for an auk in the second), thus exaggerating the neck length and fineness in proportion to the rest of it. The differences between the two birds being gender or age (female or juvvy at the front adult drake to the rear). So the conclusion, I guess I like the Velvet Scoter theory but I'm unsure.

All this enlivened a rather drab seawatch, especially compared to yesterday. Best were a very smart pale phase Arctic Skua that passed west; a bit of a Curlew thing going on which finally included a Barwit tacked to the tail of a distant singleton; an adult LB-bG (uncommon here). The tern thing was happening on a smaller scale with about 40 Arctics and that was that. Swallows appeared to be on the move with 8 east and out and another 40 or so buzzing around the cliffs.

A quick look at the cliff found two fluffy Fulmars with another site that might hold a third. The Herring Gull chicks are now flying (in a fashion).

Dropped in to Scaling on the way home where the Woodpigeon I have unfairly maligned; I saw several sticks taken to the nest. Most time was taken speaking to another birder (a rarity in itself for Scaling) - methinks my id here is correct and this was someone well-known - and very friendly and informative about local bits and bats.