Sunday, September 30, 2007

The return of the Marsh Tit

Not a Marsh Tit

I'd briefly glimpsed and heard a Marsh Tit in the garden a week ago and today there was one confidently snaffling sunflower seeds from the kitchen feeder, the first records for over a year. There were a few Redwing buzzing, 2 Swallows, 1 Chiffchaff, some Goldcrests and 8 Yellowhammers were under the kitchen feeders. A distant accipiter was most likely a Sparrowhawk.

There are still a few Red Admirals and Small Tortoiseshells and the ivy along the front wall is a-buzzing with hundreds of bees, tens of wasps and a few remaining hoverflies.

It is reported that the local Barn Owls are well into second brood mode with another gang of five. Prolific ghosts.

Little wind, huge sea

The sea was still crashing about today. I knew there wouldn't be many birds and should have gone looking in bushes but I went and sat on the Kettle for two hours anyway. 5 divers and 2 Mallard wrapped up the wildfowl (although I'm told there were a pile of Pink-feet in the afternoon).

Gulls included 6 adult Little, about 100 or so Black-headed, mostly flying west into the bay and 37 Common Gulls of a variety of ages - top number of Common Gulls so far. 5 Kittiwakes bothered to fly by.

Terns were of the Common and Arctic species, 9 of the former, 5 of the latter and 11 indeterminate ones.

A Knot went west.

Cormorant World stirred with 35 sightings in flight in the two hours - the majority went west but 14 went east.

On land there was a Lesser Whitethroat, a couple of Redwing and an interesting Phyllos like job that showed briefly from the sea of Gorse and promptly returned thence.

The car became very poorly on the way home and wallet was tearful again.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Garden, late afternoon

Jays were swearing at each other down the road in the plantation, 5 Redwing went west. A largish flock of Greylags seemed to circle the house for a while in the dark - this was a 'from the bath' tick.

Runswick again

House Martins still feeding young on here

Across the kelp and across the bay

Love or murder?

About 20 Common Terns were feeding out towards the Kettle. 3 Velvet Scoter went across the bay west and there were 3 Little Gulls (1 juv) in with the feeding terns for a bit.

There were Goldcrest calling in the bushes and the House martins are still feeding young on the lifeboat house.

Desperate I was for the sea ...

Nice seawatch this morning. A bit of quality and lots to hold the interest.

A male Sproghawk greeted me as I arrived in the hamlet but it was a quiet walk down to the point. A Purple Sand was warming my seat (a tick for the patch I think, surprisingly). I had a bit of a swap around to shelter from the north-easterly and didn't initially get my position correct, I was seeing too many backsides disappearing into the yonder which made id harder than it needed to be for a while. However, before I sorted that out, or really had a chance to get settled a bird went east with which I really struggled. This very occasionally seems to happen at the beginning of a seawatch. Chances are, of course, it's just a common species that because of getting used to the light and the sea conditions and lack of initial organisation I see 'wrongly'. Let's face it the chances of tropicbird past Kettleness are a bit slim to say the least (very white but chunky seabird, distinctly elongated, though no actual tail streamers, black wedges in the very white upper wing, black around the head but this was hard to see as it was going away east of me, couldn't see the bill) sounds like a Rosy and maybe it was a late one but the proportions and flight didn't seem right and I thought this was a big bird. Anyway its gone now and if it was a tropicbird I completely ****ed it up.

All in all I had a bit of a bad start really. Even without the 'tropicbird debacle' what with the unfamiliar seating position and getting myself orientated correctly. Some divers went east early on and the front two were very likely Black-throats but I just failed to get on to them properly and then there were a couple of skuas and the second one was a Pom .... pobably. I stick all these bits and bats in the note book, with quick descriptions sometimes, (and these days I sometimes blog them too) but they're things best forgotten really, or at least put down to experience but not put down as a species record. The thing about seawatching is when stuff happens it often happens quickly, and inevitably several interesting things often seem to happen at once. Today, for example, I was on a fairly distant flock of ducks at x45, 3 Velvet Scoter and 3 Wigeon going west and this monster of a Great Northern fills the view flying virtually over the rocks.

Anyway what did I see? Star bird was a very nice sub-adult Long-tailed Skua heading east and conveniently showing off all its best features, upper tail coverts and all. 11 Velvet Scoter; 93 Common Scoter; 51 Teal; 31 Wigeon; 4 Brent Goose (dark-bellied ones); 18 Red-throated Diver; the afore mentioned Great Northern Diver; 1 Shag; 11 Cormorants; 1 Manx Shearwater; 1 Sooty Shearwater; 4 Arctic Skua; 3 Little Gull; 1 Arctic Tern; 5 Common Tern; 900 Gannet west and 150 east from sample counts and Kittiwakes were about 30. About 10 Common Gulls was an increase. I didn't bother to count the auks as they were about equal flying each way and they were next to impossible to pick out properly on quite a heavy sea. An interesting wader went west close that was either a Ruff or something rarer but it was gone in a moment and although it was close it defied certain id. There was a 0 Fulmar count. Rock Pipit and Alba wag were on the point with the seat warming Purple Sandpiper.

As I walked back there were a few Mepits grounded below the cliff and in the hamlet 80 or so Linnet, 250 Starling and 30 House Sparrow. The railway line produced a small Goldcrest fall of about 20 and 2 Lesser Whitethroat plus a Redwing. And then I walked to Runswick Bay.

Friday, September 28, 2007


Not looking forward to getting in very cold water .... managed to avoid immersion

Aaaaaaaggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh - one week residential, inland. No vehicle and no time.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Runswick Bay, windy day

Doodled about with pic of Pom below to show definitive underwing pattern and barring on under tail coverts. Interestingly the tail now looks shorter. (No I didn't chop a bit off in Photoshop.) JB comments - " I would go for Pom - on broadness of wing base and steep hook on bill".

Common Tern

Common Tern showing classic dark wedge (caused by moult) in primaries, also note relatively long bill and short tail.

Arctic Skua

Pomarine Skua, juvenile.

Pomarine Skua, juvenile. You can just see the barring on the upper tail coverts if you click for big. The bill colouration is a useful feature also (but not wholly conclusive).

Pomarine Skua, juvenile. Showing the classic double white patch on the underwing, (but beware, apparently some Arctics can show this feature). The lighter, well marked underwing is conclusive, however. Arctic Skua juveniles have a uniform underwing which is darker than the bird's body. The bill can also be seen to show the 'Glaucous Gull tip'.

Passed on the seawatching and anything much else this morning, the south-westerly whined all night and I didn't fancy getting buffeted around on the Kettle for any number of hours. We decided to have a family trip to Runswick Bay. After numerous arguments about not wearing new items of clothing to the beach (yes the wallet succumbed) we eventually set forth.

I'd anticipated a relatively birdless trip but immediately was struck by the large numbers of birds in the bay - principally terns but there were loads of auks as well and a few skuas. There appeared to be a pile of small fish in the relatively calm and sheltered bay.

There were about 80 Common Terns feeding close inshore, amongst these were a very few adult Arctic Terns and about 20 Sandwich Terns. 5 skuas hunted the terns remorselessly, 4 adult Arctic and 1 1stW (as I thought, but look at the photographs because the 1stW shows a classic "double patch", a bicoloured, thick bill with well demarkated dark tip, surely this is a classic juv/1stW Pom. That's the trouble with using the camera, fail to look properly at the birds. (Trouble with electric viewfinders as well, you photograph a poorly seen shape.)

The skuas were fascinating. You'd watch a tern catch a fish and 2-300m away a skua would leave the water and home in on it, picking the bird with the fish out of 20-30 terns swirling in the sky. The skuas formed a cordon around the feeding terns and were generally successful quite quickly. The only bird that held out for a marathon chase all along the bay shore was a Black-headed Gull.

As the afternoon wore on the tern numbers decreased and the skuas closed the cordon closer until terns were being chased by two or even three skuas all over the Kettle end of the beach. Whilst the most skuas I counted at any one time were 5, I suspect more were involved drifting in and out of the bay.

I'd have spent the whole day taking photographs but ...... this was a family trip so I failed to spend the time necessary to get the shots that were possible, and anyway had to spend time photographing the fashion parade (oh yes! lost that battle) and supervising offspring as Louise took the opportunity to walk to Kettleness (pay back for the hour I spent taking the photos I did get). Anyway small people played in sand, I got more time watching (slightly distant) skuas and terns (and failing to pick out the Pom, maybe it had siddled off). Also on offer were Red-throated Diver, Guillemot, Razorbill, Peregrine, Teal, numerous gulls, 2 Gannets 0 Kittiwakes, 0 Fulmars, 40 or so House Martins and a Chiffy.

It seems it was too windy for the clearwing.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Early afternoon as we were leaving for Tearside Park (opening my wallet always makes me emotional) I brought the car to a sudden stop and leapt out after proceeding all of 68cm. "Clearwing!" I shouted as family all groaned (shopping trip jeopardy detected). Thereafter I was shackled to the steering wheel and fitted with blinkers. I shall be prowling the verges with camera come the morn.

Pink-feet and family

Black-headed Gull

Not Black-headed Gulls

10 Pink-feet were on the Dam trying to hide amongst the 4 million Greylags. 6 Wigeon and a Chiffy or two were the only other notables. Then Louise and the girls turned up so we got bacon butties and tea from the van and tried to tempt the Black-headed Gulls, but they couldn't carry the girls off (too heavy).

Roadkill (sensitivity warning, corpse photography)

If you're going to photograph roadkill make it something substantial. The only bit of car I could find was a mudflap, however, I expect (hope) it was in a bit of a state after this double murder. (To be fair they do sometimes panic and jump out and it was on a bit of a bend.) Rather sad though, they are exquisite things, I've been seeing them fairly regularly on the way to work recently (prancing ones that is, the deer not the cars, doh).

Having drunk all the beer (and eaten a whole packet of Maryland Cookies) whilst seawatching, lost the rifle in a ditch, and finding only a small roll of masking tape in the boot, I passed on the roping to the bonnet and a-hollering and a-whooping and all that mullarky all the way to Scaling Dam. (With honours and all homage to George Bristow's Secret Freezer, whose joke this is, thanks Martin.)

Addendum - last autumn a Sperm Whale was washed up in Runswick Bay "The Bay". Somehow I missed this (very smelly) event. However in terms of critters found dead this was the big one, I'm now picturing it roped to the bonnet of the metallic green Scenic = one squashed car.

Beautiful morning

Kettleness fields

I love this thing Starlings do, groups leapfrogging to the front of the feeding flock, it creates a ripple of birds across the field. Must try and get a movie.

Anyone know what this might be? Tree fossil???

I overslept a jot. Well I'm in work mode now and the getting out for birding is hard. But I was at Kettleness by about 07:20 and sea watching by 07:45 It was probably a mistake to go seawatching as there was a bit of a drop and I was distracted on the way to the point by piles of Mepits and Linnets, there was a Whitethroat as well and something else that might have been a Skylark and might not.

Anyway I watched the sea for an hour but it was south-westerly, usually good for vismig and terns and not much else. The terns were all a bit shambolic, there weren't that many and they were indecisive about where they were going, well at least the Common Terns were - 12 east(ish), various swanning about and 1 west. 8 Sandwich Terns went east and 2 were hanging out. There were very few Gannets and most were adult, c 40. No Kittiwake. Auks mostly close in again the majority appeared to be Guillemots c100. 1 Fulmar went west. other westerly movers were a Bonxie and 5 Teal. Easterly there was an unclaimable Great Northern (fair way out, silhouette, and one of those not very angular ones) I'd be very surprised if it was a Black-throat but caution prevails; 2 Common Scoter and not much else. There were 6 Knot on the rocks along with the usual few Curlew and loads of Oiks. Common Gulls were 1 each way, Black-heads were a lot each way and sea mammals ran to just 3 Harbour Porpoise and a Grey Seal. that was that.

By the time I walked inland the mepits and Linnets had dispersed and there was little vismig to speak of. However, I did find a Wheatear, another Whitethroat, a smart Lesser Whitethroat and there were a few Chaffinch on the move with the occasional flock of 3 or 4 heading inland. Also 2 Siskin, about 30 Swallows and a small increase in Robins and Dunnocks or they were just making themselves more evident. Tree Sparrow 1. Time for Scaling Dam methought.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wedding stuff

This very small mouse caused bridesmaid chaos outside the cottage where they were assembled for grooming etc - they all rushed out to try and see it. I think yellow-necked but I couldn't be 100%.

Snuck down to the sea

Skipped out of work at 5:20 and was seawatching at 5:30, although the gate was across and the tide was rising. Loads of "black" gannets, going west at around 250 an hour, the few adults seemed to be further out on the whole; eastward movement was about 100/hour. A drake Eider in the harbour mouth was joined by a Guillemot. A very distant Manx went west. There were a good few terns about although (despite the movement of 170 Arctics off the Long Nab) I failed a certain id of that species; fair numbers of Common (36) and Sarnie (14) + c10 Commic. A suspect "small" juvenile skua went east at high speed and a suspect Black/Red-throat hung offshore at awkward range exhibiting characters of both species and hiding in the troughs as much as possible. 2 Grey Herons went west together. As I left after an hour an Arctic Skua arrived to terrorise the "going to roost terns". 2 Razorbills, a small row of Kittiwakes, 4 gull species, Turnstones roosting on the east pier and Rock Pipit were the supporting cast.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The North Wind doth blow, again

For the third Monday in a row the North Wind has got itself out of the house and is having a good thrash around. This is absolutely and entirely unfair. Thursday, Friday and Saturday are the days for the North Wind to tear around, surely. Tell me which god I have angered and I'll offer a suitable sacrifice.

Weddings in September ....

I had to go to a wedding. There's nothing else to say.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Staring into the distant distance

New Seawatch Place


05:15 beep, long wait, beep. Smoke alarm battery going. get up, get ladder from shed, curse electrician who put alarm in place inaccessible, battle large arachnids, remove smoke alarm and stamp on it violently, wake up small person (s***!), get snack for small person, get another snack for small person as first is apparently substandard, put ladder away, get birding kit, go out.

Peaceful birding is rather too peaceful as I'm struggling to find birds. Eventually manage to pish a ticking Lesser Whitethroat out of a Hawthorn in the ever charming Upgang Ravine. The sea has a few terns and some very close Razors, Red-throated Diver just manages to squeeze on to the day list as I scramble back up to the car.


Read of Great Shearwaters at Collieston and near Dundee and with an Orca at Newtonhill.

Get birthday cards and wrapping paper and so avoid anticipated summary execution come the dawn.

March out to the "New Seawatch Place".

It's not as peaceful in the late afternoon, there are fisherfolk and tourists. There is lingering about and small people bumping the tripod. But there is also a beautiful close Arctic Tern that shows off and then flies into the harbour and sits on the railings opposite. Another Arctic Tern more distantly and quite a few Common Terns. A few Sandwich Terns trail east. And then it gets weird. I glimpse a possible large cetacean well out. Two distant birds pass east that may be grebes, or may not be and I struggle with the distance and the slight haze and can't come to a conclusion. Ah, what's this coming west, coming at me, it's all black and small? At first I think maybe Leach's but I know it isn't. I'm wracking the memory but it's a way off, keeping it's distance but still coming. Then I get it, suddenly I see it's a falcon, wave hopping. And now I'm really struggling because I might be a badseawatcher but I am definitely, totally rubbish at raptors. I can't figure this out, there is only one black raptor like this and that's Red-footed Falcon (adult male only) . Could it be? Then maybe as it goes round to the west of me I think I glimpse a pale cheek and then a huge monster of a Herring Gull gives it some jip and they tangle and it is tiny, too tiny I think.

I'm still getting over this when I follow a distant Arctic Skua east and way beyond it there is a huge splash and then it happens four times more and I manage to see a grey thing a-leaping. Presumptuous id would be Bottle-nosed Dolphin, but it was a mighty long way out. An adult Little Gull passes at identifiable range, which is a bit of a relief really and a couple of Red-throated Divers wind up the hour so I go home.

Oh, the falcon; must have been a male Merlin and the light and distance made it look all black, I think so, surely.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A jolly tune

To cheer myself up over all this shearwater business here's a jolly tune, thanks again Mr E - see Movie or click the link above.

Well I had to try didn't I .....?

So 06:15 this very morn I tried a new seawatch place. Having studied my "Badseawatchers' Manual" with care I decided that there was very little chance of a Great Shear from Upgang Ravine (in the bay). Logistics dictate that Kettleness and work don't go or most likely = a sicky (which I can't do these days - being the boss n'all). So Whitby West Pier it was.

Obstacles had to be surmounted (like an inconvenient gate put in place to prevent the unwary from being washed away) but on a falling tide and a settling swell all looked safe enough to me.

And instantly there was a Sooty Shearwater, 30 seconds later there was another. Wow, maybe this is my new seawatch place. An Arctic Skua and then .... then rather a lot of Gannets, close Guillemots, various flocks of Wigeon heading west, which were jolly. A pile of Arctic Skuas roaring around and causing the Kittiwake and tern worlds considerable grief.

Then rather a lot of terns, like 100+++ mostly Common but a few Arctic and a good number of Sarnies passing east, some going behind me.

Eventually it became very clear that a Great Shear was unlikely (as I had guessed from the outset really). I did get a couple more Soots and 3 Manx. There were Red-throated Divers and Teal. Loads and loads more Gannets and piles of terns to look at all the time. Walking back along the pier the Turnstones were at my feet I resolved to return in better light and calmer seas as this is a place with great photographic potential. But sadly not a spot for 7,114 Great Shearwaters to pass; unless they were ill or without a compass and map or in some rare and unusual state of mind.

My interest in Puffins the other day was reflected in Norfolk where they are even less common and where amongst more exotic things two flew by. So something was indeed up in Puffin World.

I have now managed just over two years without finding a rare bird or even a fairly uncommon one. This might indicate incompetence on my part, or "Wrong Place" or just that rare birds are well, quite unusual really. So it goes.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Garden news

I've neglected reporting on the garden of late.

First Painted Lady since May on Friday and Saturday. A hawker today and yesterday was seen only briefly but suspect Common Hawker.

18 Golden Plover over yesterday and a Treeper heard today. Still several Chiffchaff about. Siskin still in evidence though numbers lower but Greenfinch now up to 25 at least. Great Spotted Woody is around again. A Yellowhammer was a casualty, of the windows I suspect, unfortunately.

They all go back again

I waited all day - despite the news of Great Shears in the North Sea (as well) - because I had a hunch about yesterday's Little Gulls and I wanted to do an evening seawatch. I also wanted to check the evening tern situation. Kettleness is definitely pants for shearwaters coming north anyway - I think they get pushed out off Flamborough and then they see the Tees and miss me out (just compare my Sooty numbers with to the south and to the north of me - rather pathetic).

I didn't have to wait long before I locked on to a steady trickle of distant Little Gulls going east - I kind of knew they would do that. They were hard to pick out and if 130 of them hadn't gone fishing I'd have missed nearly all of them, as it was I reckon I saw 50% of those that went by in visible range because I got distracted by other birds (and tea and biscuits). So 220 went east in three hours and 2 west (although I bet they went east eventually). They're tricksy things are Little Gulls anyway, they have this way of sneaking past the seawatcher.

Arctic Skuas were out in force zooming around off the point and into Runswick and Sandsend Bays; 18 different ones may have been an overestimate. Only 1 juvenile in that lot is of concern.

Only 1 Sooty, Flamborough had over 250 today. 3 Manx in with the feeding frenzy and 3 late easterly movers.

At first the terns were only Commons and Sandwich mostly going east. Then I started picking out terns with those distant Little Gulls and suspected they were Arctics. I'd seen Sandwich Terns moving earlier from Sandsend Bay so I wasn't surprised to see 22 east and 2 west. The Commons were all over the place after a bit with quite a few close birds coming west also, I could hear them much of the time. Then I found a feeding gang of terns nearly all of which were Arctic, 40 or so. The next smaller feeding frenzy was right in front of me and close and of 20 or so terns at least 10 were Arctic.

Something happened in Puffin World today. I see few Puffins off the Kettle so 8 all east was a bit weird. There were Guillemots and Razorbills moving in small flocks east this evening as well, not too many, about 30 Razors or so. Most of about 3-400 Razors were still happy to sit on the sea and feed.

So still not petrels or Sabs (I rather fancied a Sabs today), but entertaining nonetheless.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Perfect or pants?

Gannets go by

Manx close in

Arctic Skua on a mission

Feeding scrum

The thing with seawatching is you can never really tell how it's going to be. At least this morning there was a bit of wind, the westerly with a smidgeon of north again, and there was cloud out at sea. But I wasn't hopeful. I got there at 06:30 and could hear terns straight away. Struggling to get set up as the remains of the presumed roost headed off north-east out into the North Sea. Most of these 40 or so terns looked like Commons but I heard Sandwich, the only ones of the watch. There were a lot of gulls hanging around, but it was low tide so that's not unusual. During this confusion an interesting wader went east and landed on the most distant low-tide-rock but I chose to ignore it (now ticked as Sharp-tailed Sand of course). Then it started; Little Gulls. I couldn't find my tally counter so I counted, that meant the tern counts were a bit awry, but to be honest they were all coming back west and then more going east and then 200 out in a distant (very, very distant) feeding frenzy so they were uncountable anyway. After 2 hours I was nearly to 400 Little Gulls.

The other main event of the watch was the feeding frenzies. The large gulls inshore were regularly going mad, flying from one place to another. I'm guessing the mackerel were in and were driving the small fish (sandeels maybe) inshore. There were 200 Gannets a way out going beserk and the afore mentioned terns. As the watch went on more Common Terns with the occasional Arctic joined in the inshore madness and the skuas came.

So whilst the Little Gulls represented the only real movers there was a load going on. The mystery wader was most likely a Knot as 1 and then 2 of those appeared on the rocks below. Whimbrel was heard.

Now this diver went by close in. The trouble with divers in close is whilst you can see them well the view is brief. This thing looked like a summer plumage Black-throat, it had the jizz of a Black-throat, the feet, the slow wing beat, held its head right and the bill looked ok but it lacked the pale mantle patches. So in the end I made a sp of it. If anyone has knowledge of diver moult and can tell me that they can moult out the patches first ..... I'm not that familiar with Black-throat, they are really not very common off this coast (this far south at any rate) - I might be prepared to reinstate it. There were a few Red-throated Divers, 4 Eider went west, there was a distant Bonxie and about 15 Arctic Skuas (they were coming back and forth). Last of all a really close Manx.

There really were a stack of auks today, close in, probably about 1,000. I thought 4:1 Razor:Guillemot. These were all diving and going mad as well.

There was passerine movement with 10 sets of mepit calls, 3 Alba Wag and a Grey Wag. So all in all a good do - not perfect but certainly not pants.

(Now 7,114 Great Shearwaters, + quality supporting cast, that's perfect.) But as in my seawatching life I've seen two huge large shearwater movements (off Ireland admittedly) I shouldn't be greedy - just seriously envious.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Speciation Through Temporal Segregation of Madeiran Storm Petrel (Oceanodroma Castro) Populations in the Azores?

L. R. Monteiro, R. W. Furness
Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, Vol. 353, No. 1371 (Jun. 29, 1998), pp. 945-953


Madeiran storm petrels Oceanodroma castro breed on three small islets in the Azores: Vila, off Santa Maria, and Praia and Baixo, off Graciosa. Analysis of data on brood patch, incubation periods, chick body size and recaptures of adults provides evidence of the existence of two distinct populations (hot- and cool-season) breeding annually on Baixo and Praia, out of phase by four to five months and overlapping in colony attendance during August and early September; on Vila only the cool-season population is present. Analyses of adult morphology indicate highly significant phenotypic differentiation between the sympatric hot- and cool-season breeders, whereas an almost complete phenotypic uniformity characterizes allopatric breeders within the same season. The hot-season birds are 10% smaller in egg and body mass but have longer wings and tails than cool-season birds. The two groups were readily separated by discriminant analysis. The preference to breed in the cooler season is interpreted as a consequence of greater food availability in that period. Morphological differentiation between seasonal populations is interpreted as an adaptative response to different environmental conditions in the two seasons. The hypothesis is given that the hot-season population has evolved from the cool-season population owing to density-dependent constraints on crowded colonies, forcing birds to time-share nest sites. These populations may represent a case of sympatric speciation through temporal partitioning of reproduction and may be better treated as sibling species.

This is similar evidence to that used to separate Zino's and Fea's - different breeding sites, different times of year for breeding, smaller vs larger bird etc (somebody will suggest I might be talking through an alternative orifice here) - there doesn't appear to be any genetic analysis but then I've only got my paws on the abstract.

Teesmouth Bird Club

My membership pack arrived from TBC yesterday. It included the 2006 report, very well done, and loads of interesting info. Impressive folks, thank you. (I know I should have joined two years ago but so it goes.)

I've put the link in above but their site appears to be down at the moment.

Little Gulls, lots of

At this time of year, if I follow last year's plan, I transfer my attentions during the week to the Upgang Ravine. This wonderful spot along Whitby's West Cliff sits in the middle of the golf course and is a favoured amble for dog walkers. Thus, between the buzz of the mowers drowning out passerine calls and my curses as I step in yet another sweetly scented pile I attempt to find some mega rare.

Today I arrived in good time and at first the sea looked deadly quiet so I headed for the scrub and cover. But I always keep half an eye on the sea. A Red-throated Diver was close inshore, about 100 Gannets were feeding well out and then a nice adult Arctic Skua cruised along the beach. However, there were a few Chiffchaffs so I kept on the passerine theme until er, aren't those Little Gulls? A group of 7 small gulls with pitch black underwings and gleaming uppers disappeared up the coast. By this time I was a good few 100m from the sea but that was that, I legged it for the shore.

Now this is an interesting seawatching site, a classic "Wrong Place" in the pantheon of seawatch spots. Not only is it in the bay but Whitby's harbour piers are near enough to the east and the cliffs beyond Sandsend guard the north western exit. However, it is about the only place with reasonable access between home and work so beggars cannot be choosers.

In the following half an hour or so I managed to find about 300 (or maybe more) very distant Little Gulls feeding at maximum identifiable range, heading out there of the roost and then feeding out there were about 150 or so Common and Arctic Terns (about 4:1 Commons:Arctics I thought), 4 Arctic Skuas went west although two at least ended up sitting on the sea, a Bonxie appeared. Less expected were 3 Manxies and a distant Sooty. Add to these 5 more Red-throated Divers and 3 Common Scoter and 6 or 7 Sandwich Terns and that's a pretty nifty seawatch.

Monday, September 03, 2007

New BB - Sept 07

With admirable restraint the Good Doc (George Bristow's Secret Freezer) reviews "Ivorybill hunters: the search for proof in a flooded wilderness" and the words baloney, barmy nor even bollocks clattereth not from the GD's keyboard.

The storm-petrel id thing is furthered by the blurriest evidence ever for Madeiran off Scilly. Yes it could be a storm petrel, it might be a small, light aircraft or even a cracking, deception of a model - look closely isn't that an aerial? Ok who on that boat had the remote? And who could get the sea as horizontal as that in those circumstances, eh? Very suspect if you ask me. I'd have been that excited that you'd have water skied at world record pace down the slope I'd have created. (I'm only jealous.)

Quick glance at the sea

This evening gannets were all over the place - possible, but very distant Pom. Pah. maybe i'll have a quick look tomorrow a.m.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Down to the sea again

Sandwich Tern juv

Sandwich Tern adult

There was a probable Common Buzzard over the road as we headed for Sandsend, unfortunately as soon as we stopped to look at it it went behind a plantation never to reappear.

At Sandsend there were two summer plumage Red-throated Divers on the sea along with a pile of rather distant auks (probably Guillemots - grey rather than black, no scope). Just four Sandwich Terns hunted the tideline of a very low tide (0.98m). A Common Tern was present briefly. There were hirundines out at sea and plenty of House Martins around the village. Tig was played and we all got very wet in a rather spectacular cloudburst driven by the still bumptious westerly.

Weather looks good for seawatching for the next two days .... but I'm at work.

3 hours this a.m. from 6 on the Kettle

Quite pleasant when I got there, W3-4, but by the time I left it was howling, pitching to 7 at times and I had trouble getting off, lots of effort nil progress.

Loads of terns again. There seemed to be pretty good movement east (south eventually) and the majority were Arctic, I reckoned 249 but that possibly was an underestimate - total Arctic/Common 435 give or take. They didn't just stream past but quite a number paused to feed, at times up to 150. This always causes difficulties with numbers, so it's best guess really. A few more juvs today I thought. Only 2 Sandwich Terns in the three hours (one each way).

A Sooty, a few Manx, 3 Arctic Skuas, 3 Common Scoter and a Little Gull enlivened the proceedings. 3 Red-throated Divers and 2 Whimbrel also made things more interesting.

There are more auks flying about now, today I had the most so far with about 40, mostly Guillemots I thought and all but one flyer went west.

Good news was my pen was in exactly the place I expected to find it - busy place Kettleness.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Chiffs and WWs

The garden was full of Chiffys and Willow Wobblers this morning, at least 4 Chiffs and 2 or 3 WWs. The Chiffs were being even more aggressive than the WWs. I remember years ago reading a paper about Willow Warbler pre-migration aggression and then seeing it first hand a few days later in Richmond Park. Sometimes they can be quite demented chasing almost anything. Not sure I can recall Chiffs being quite as aggressive as this previously though.

Walking back home across the fields this after' flushed a Grey Partridge and then a Little Owl from the usual spot.

Late entry

There's a late entry for the competition, Craig estimated 250, so he wins, sorry Darrell. Craig you'll have to negotiate your escorted visit to Green Withens - actually on second thought this is perhaps unfair and not such a good plan, especially bearing in mind Darrell's recently published views in relation to Filey Craig, Moll will bake you a cake instead (sample above).

Saturday in GOC

Brass band and a duck race, "C'mon No 1081, there's a £100 resting on this. Oh, b@@@@r. Hey, Mallard, outthaway!"

What could be more perfect?