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.

Blue Runswick

Rock Pipit (click for big)

Speckled Wood

Blue, blue sea

Various Turnstone pix

Got to Runswick to find family conspicuous by their absence so had a cake and some coffee and went off to take some pictures.

There were some birds there to. 4 Shelduck, 2 Goldeneye, 2 Red-throated Divers and one or two Guillemots were in the bay. 14 Rockits on the rocks. Grey Wagtail and Goldrest were in support.

A Speckled Wood came in-off and landed on the beach and a Red Admiral did a good impression of a Gannet and sailed majestically by 100metres out.

Family arrived an hour later with some excuse about the road being blocked and having to take a massive detour.

Sandwiches were eventually purchased, as were "the flags of the nation" (on cocktail sticks) and probably made in China, and Ellen paddled in the stream in her shoes and tights ".... because Mollie told me to." I ask you.

Kettleness yesterday

All this excitement has quite overcome me .... But an hour watching the sea yesterday morning produced 8 Little Gulls; a five and then a three on the half hour. Little else was moving although towards the end of the hour the Gannets crept up to a bit of easterly passage and a few Razorbills joined them. During the last 15 minutes or so a juvenile Gannet flew by close and it seemed really small and a bit of an odd shape, wings back down the body and the belly of the bird nearer the tail and rather prominent. Of course it was gone in a moment but it looked odd .... best forgotten.

In some respects what was not seen was most interesting, no divers, no Fulmar, no Kittiwakes.

Common Gulls have now arrived in some numbers - this is where they get to Martin, but it seems to take them a while - with at least 50 kicking about. There were 2 Shags on the sea and 1 went west, another sign of winter.

On the non-seabird front I'd flushed a Woodcock near the point, a Twite was heard as I walked back up the cliff. 29 Siskin went east and there were still good numbers of Blackbirds along the railway line, about 40.

And then I walked to Runswick Bay ....

Mega alert!! Mega alert!!

Lapland Bunting (photo taken at 800ASA in dark(ish)

JB has been birding the Whitestone, Hawsker, Ness point area of Whitby for the last two days. This is the area to the east and south of Whitby. John has birded this area for many years and has found some quality stuff in the past.

When JB gets searching for small birds rares will be found. Earlier in the autumn he warmed up with a Barred Warbler but yesterday things started to get a bit more grippy with a Short-toed Lark.

Not having seen JB for some time I decided to forgo the delights of The Kettle and join him at Whitestone Point this morning.

As we strolled towards the area where the lark had been found yesterday I was rather pleased to lock on to a Lapland Bunting. The Lap proved confiding and although it was only just after dawn we managed some pix.

A Merlin shot past. Brambling and another Lap were heard.

After a bit of a wait in the cold a flock of larks appeared and sure enough in amongst 40 or so Skylarks there was a small critter. The larks all went down into some hectares of freshly tilled field and proved to be almost invisible but eventually with perseverance John found the head and shoulders of Short-toed Lark. It did in time reveal its characteristic collar and upper breast for a few minutes but thereafter proved seriously elusive.

More Bramblings and 2 more Lapland Buntings were seen. 4 Snow Buntings buzzed around us. I tried for better views of the lark but it didn't cooperate and after a few more fleeting views I decided to give up. Tea was drunk; recent Halifax Birders gossip was exchanged and I headed off to do the family food shop. JB headed off towards Ness Point.

I was just 5 minutes from home, shopping mission accomplished, when the phone went. Safely pulling into a layby (he responsibly writes) I answered the phone to "I've got a pipit with white tramlines up it's back and I don't think it's Red-throated." We held a bit of a discussion and I promised to phone back with references to hand.

By the time I called back John had managed to see the primary extension and as I read out the call the bird did just that. Pechora Pipit it was then. But it flew 30 metres and despite reinforcements the bird was not seen again.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Oh! Some birding news perhaps ....

Redwings still trickling through the dale today with one small flock early p.m. Marsh Tit again in the garden. Yesterday the Tree Sparrows were around once more, heard from my lazy bed. Also Jays swearing in the wood below us, they've been about for a couple of weeks, the first in this part of the dale for two years. And Louise saw Grey heron over the moor.

I probably should have gone seawatching this morning as there was some wind - my feeling with Kettleness is that the direction does not necessarily dictate whether there will be birds or not. It is looking goodish for passerines tomorrow, maybe. Probably too much Moon (I've added a useful Moon gadget to the blog). I'll probably look at the sea first and then have a skulk about and attempt to de-skulk some skulkers.

North Sea Coast birding links

I'm just reorganising my links into categories, this should make navigation a bit easier - this is "a work in progress".

There is a real lack of information from Scotland - George Bristow excepted. There is no point in putting Flamborough on as the information on the Flamborough website is out of date - Brett posts the full details of seawatches on BirdGuides (as much as they don't edit out - BirdGuides seem to leave Flamborough reports on in full most of the time).

Some of the links I've included don't have up to date news. For example East Ayton Birding isn't a news site but Dave Mansell often posts excellent photos of Yorkshire coast rares.

If you are aware of any links that you believe I should include please email me at badseawatcher - the gmail account.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Today, just another ....

Tree Sparrow on a garden feeder this morning. Managed to snap some pix but am yet to download them, watch this space. (Trre Spug pix mostly blurry and then some weird software glitch, fortunately i didn't delete them from the card, will try again.)

Met one of my all time heroes yesterday, Linton Kwesi Johnson ... albeit briefly. He spent an hour on stage just talking and reading to us (a few hundred people) totally captivating and very moving. I sound like a groupie, especially as I went and bought his book and managed to garble a few words of appreciation ....

Gilad Atzmon the extraordinary bebop saxophonist (and controversial political activist) has been today's highlight. Stunning music (video clip to follow, with luck), very amusing cracks at Blair and Bush (very controversial political statements though).

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Before work I had a rush around to do the feeding station and there were quite a few Redwing about, a small party went west. Then minutes later as I was ungraciously stuffing the offspring into the car a flock of 60 or so Fieldfares cackled overhead.

40 minutes later and there was no sign of any movement on the coast but for the regular westerly (coasting) Starlings.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Team visit

Eyeing up our chips, later in Whitby

Kettleness this morning and I had reinforcements, Halifax stalwart Nick Carter accompanied me.

Driving through Goldbrough Blackbirds scattered and things looked good. However, the customary seawatch could not be avoided and good job too.

First up were a few piles of Wigeon and Common Scoter, Gannets were notable by their absence and there were two or three Red-throated Divers on the sea along with the now dwindling numbers of Guillemots and Razorbills. Black-headed Gulls were heading west as were Common Gulls in a steady trickle.

Good things began with a distant Red-necked Grebe going west. A dark-bellied type Brent Goose went east all alone. Then a veritable flock of Great Northern Divers went west (=3), this looked like 2 adults and a juv, family party - and maybe they weren't BigFeet perhaps they were BananaBills, these days we should be sp-ing these perhaps. A Red-throated Diver trundled east for a nice comparison.

Next for our delectation were two scoterish things, just off Denmark, that could, maybe, just have been Velvs but we agreed to ignore them. An Arctic Tern fished briefly close in and the Gannets picked up to a rush of about 10 or so every 5 minutes.

2 Eider drakes went east, another Great Northern / BananaBill went west and two close Common Terns fished their way into the bay. 2 Grey Herons drifted west. And then in one of those amazing flurries of activity all of a sudden there were 3 Wigeon, 2 Teal and 5 divers coming west. 4 of the divers were clearly of the standard Red-throated type but one caused some debate. Larger, with a slightly different wing beat, broader wings, serious extension feet out the back, but generally similar in shape to the Red-throats and having a dark face with small pale smudgy cheek patch and the head held level it had to be Black-throated Diver, (a very uncommon species for the Kettle).

All this excitement was a bit much for us so after a Tufted Duck had passed we called time to check out the undercliff bushes and we hadn't seen a Kittiwake or a Fulmar in the 90 minutes.

The railway line was quiet at first but as we approached the dell legions of thrushes fled inland. A Fieldfare was first for the year. A smart male Bullfinch sat out smartly. And then Nick called a maybe Yellow-browed and there it was moments later showing us all its glory.

Totals included 80 Blackbirds, about 40 Redwing, 20 Robins, 5 Stonechats, 9 Siskin, 8 Tree Sparrows, a few Skylarks and about 4 grey Song Thrushes.

At Runswick Bay the House Martins had finally departed, a weird leucistic Robin was glimpsed and a Grey Wagtail perched uncharacteristically in a bush.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Banana Bill trauma

An away day in Sowerby Bridge probably resulted in one or maybe two Banana Bill dips. On reflection I'd have probably made a pig's-ear of them ....

Hedgehog splat and non-splat

Hedgehog poo has been evident in the garden for the last 6 weeks or so but seeing the beast has been less easy. This morning the Hedgehog was splat outside the front gate, car casualty. Bearing in mind how few vehicles go up and down this lane at night you'd think the spiky friend had to have a significant suicidal urge to manage to meet the Reaper in this fashion.

Thinking that was that I was less than hopeful when took a look around the garden late this evening but found a live Hedgehog under the apple tree. Of course by the time I'd got the camera it had gone.

Week review

No birding this week really. However, bits and bats included Swallows at work in Whitby on Monday, 2, and Tuesday,1. Starlings seemed to be on the move on Friday with flocks moving west and a few on the playground. At home Redwing have been evident most mornings and evenings with most yesterday and today and there was a Redpoll sp in the garden this morning.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Most remiss of me

Not a Barred Warbler, more of a Spot Fly

This is a Firecrest

Photos by John Beaumont

The afore mentioned JB found some nice passerines last weekend at Ness Point and even sent me some pix. Somehow or other after I'd put the records on file I forgot to mention them - he did put them out on Birdguides. So to remedy matters. Barred Warbler - Little Raindale and Firecrest - Raindale, near Robin Hood's Bay. 29-09-07.

No Marsh Tit movies

YouTube appears to have taken a dislike to me, or at least to my movies. I'll see if I can use an alternative service, sorry.

Rain, sea fret, shoes full of water and Yellow-browed

2 not nice pix of Yellow-browed - my excuse is it was tipping down and foggy

Spent the morning at home, sunny, no wind. Fixed the landing area for the girls' slide - so hopefully no more compacted vertebrae - and generally did house things. Then JB phoned at 11:40 to say he'd had 5 Yellow-broweds and at least 1 Dicky's Pipit at Ness Point - the area north-west of Robin Hood's Bay.

Then it started to rain.

Then I went birding.

I don't like looking for passerines; I'm not very good at it, they're often complicated little rascals to id, and the job inevitably involves barbed wire fences and irate landowners. However, I quite like Yellow-browed Warblers and I'm very partial to a Dicky's Pipit.

Kettleness was foggy, wet and cold .... and apparently birdless. I trudged round, and round, and round. There were a lot of Robins but last week's Goldcrests had gone and none had replaced them. Things were not looking hopeful. Then by the dell I thought I heard that distinctive Yellow-browed call but at that instant a crowd of Redwing dropped in and then I couldn't hear it again. I waited there for half and hour then gave up. I headed off back down the railway line and after a few 100m, bingo. A shadow in a Sallow made a very muted Yb call. It was enough, like a ferret with a rabbit I hung on and was rewarded with excellent views (and some seriously rubbish photos).

Encouraged I went off and searched the east end but in vain. A last look around the hamlet and there were Pink-feet in the fog. Shoes were now so full of water I was becoming a hydroponic human. So I went home.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Fishing Crow

Carrion Crow bottom right

The delightful Upgang Ravine was the site of this morning's not very early excursion. There were piles of birds in the ravine compared to a few weeks ago (and piles of dog excrement to skip around all over the place). 10 Song Thrush, 20 Blackbird 13 Redwing went south, about 100 assorted and mixed finches with best being 20 Siskin. There was a Blackcap and a Chiffchaff. There were Bullfinches. There was no Blyth's Reed Warbler - at least I didn't see or hear one. I rather quickly tired of all this and went and looked in the bay.

Razorbills, Guillemots and Red-throated Divers were launching themselves up the beach at the small fish that were in the surf (such as it was). A Carrion Crow was seriously contemplating diving in, circling low over the water and then walking right to the waters edge. All in all there were at least 12 Red-throated Divers, there were a half dozen Common Terns and not much else.

Garden today

Marsh Tit - click for big

Two Marsh Tits were the star performers, proving to be very confiding. Mid-morning there were still a few Redwing going over and a Grey Wagtail was a surprise vismigger (not sure if that's on the garden list already). Moorhens were heard as were Greylags - no repeat of Louise's 2 flocks of Pink-feet of Thursday. Long-tailed Tits were maybe heard distantly.

I'll post the Marsh Tit call in movies. Two movies one with call and almost no bird and one with bird and no call .....

Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell are around in ones and twos and a possible very worn Painted Lady was a fly through.

Barn Owls again again

The 2nd brood are rather depleted. There were 6 eggs originally but currently only two chicks are reported, now getting their first few feathers.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Rachid Taha

Music link changed - as the musicport festival approaches and for those of you a little tired of MrE. I've been a bit lackadaisical in keeping up with the music links of late so here's a double dose.

Click the link for the version with Mick Jones - woooooooooooooaaaaaaaa

Long-tailed Tits

Flock of 21 at work this morning, most of which flew off high south.