Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Freezing, foggy Scaling Dam

Yesterday was a right off for the Quicky Challenge as I had to attend a family event all day and although a moorland walk was involved the opportunity for adding any interesting species was minimal. However, I found some very nice trees.

This morning dawned slowly but encouragingly, a Woodcock flew through the front garden as I stepped out into the gloom. Heading to the delightful Scaling Dam by a less than direct route brought Barn Owl. This was a rather good start.

It was very, very cold at murky Scaling first thing and although Goldeneye was quickly on the list the well searched for Willow Tit failed to show. Grey Wagtail was also hiding so the Cleveland end hide was approached hopefully.

Teal was quickly added, with a good count as well; Tufted were dug out; Coot gave itself up easily. Bonus bird, a Dunlin was feeding on the point. Information regarding the possibility of a Jack Snipe was checked out but was a no show and the recently reported Rough-legged Buzzard did not return. Little Grebe could not be found and horror of horrors there were no geese, not one, none; even a drive up the road to look in the surrounding fields failed to reveal a single Greylag or Canada.

There was little opportunity for birding later in the day. I did nip out at dusk hoping my Little Owl spot would give up its riches, but it didn't. I possibly heard a Song Thrush but it was not definite and the outing was only just saved by two Golden Plover flying high over the moor.

Monday, December 29, 2008


Running out of time I had to cover an Atlas square today, not very promising for a bundle of Quicksilver points but needs must. However, it wasn't quite as poor as I expected with Common Crossbill showing well and more unexpectedly a small flock of Lesser Redpoll. Bearing in mind that in a month or so a visit to this site will be a Song Thrush song extravaganza the lack of this species, still not a Quicky score, is not a little surprising; they are secretive little sods at this time of year.

A shopping trip to Whitby managed Turnstone by sight, we nearly popped one in the shopping bag. But the briefest of Rock Pipit and Grey Wagtail calls were not quite clear enough nor repeated again so that Starling could be 100% eliminated.

As I was wandering east of Whitby today .... Gyr!

Photo - Ingrid Kent

Ok, I'm fibbing, Ingrid Kent a visitor to Whitby photographed this bird on or around the 20th December 2008. As you can see it has ribbons. Bit of a warning to any claims of a Gyr in this area, read the full story here

The pic below rather gives it all away ....

Photo - Ingrid Kent

Thanks to Jon Carter for the info and getting the pix to me.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Macabre birding

Saltwick Beach

Being a somewhat macabre crew, the family wanted to see the dead dolphin and I wanted to confirm the ID so at a relatively early hour we were all back down at Saltwick Nab. The Curlew were feeding in the field this time and 55 were counted. I then checked out the Black-headed Gulls and bingo! Adult Mediterrranean Gull amongst them - a quick Quicksilver score. Then down to the dolphin (pix to follow). The dolphin is a White-beaked. Once I found my reference book I discovered that it is not out of its normal range at all.

White-beaked Dolphin again

Ellen decided that the dark red sea anenomes were deadly to small girls and spent much of the time counting them and screaming. Mollie apologised to the dolphin via sand writing and I stared hopefully out to sea. A suspicious diver went south, dark, slow flapping, biggish feet and unfortunately too distant but Black-throated was strongly suspected, a few minutes later I got onto another suspicious looking diver (perhaps the same) coming south, close and onto it too late I again failed the ID test. However, Red-throated Divers then showed themselves en masse with several flying into the bay and a three and then a seven going north high and fast. An Eider went north and then more frustration as an auk sp at distance evaded specific ID. No Purple Sands or Ringed Plovers revealed themselves and Dunlin was conspicuous by its absence. A Pied Wagtail flew down the beach. A very, very distant adult Gannet finally gave itself up. Fulmars were in abundance but no other petrel types honoured us with their presence.

We headed for the Nab itself with Ellen determined that various red and brown algal forms were also life threatening. Resorting to bribery ("We will stop at the Spar and I have money.) we eventually managed to ascend the National Trust path but oh despair! No Stonechat and amazingly no Rock Pipit. However, rewards are there for those who persevere and at the top of the path a familiar call alerted me to a point scorer. A glimpse of a flitting small bird, a leap over the fence and Chiffchaff revealed itself, rather an excellent bird for Whitby at this time of year.

The promised Spar provided no goodies in the car park but the detour to Ruswarp to sort out birthday party arrangements produced Grey Heron and Muscovy Duck ( I can't have that can I Andrew?).
Black-headed Gull Tree

During our travels Common Buzzard and Sparrowhawk gave themselves up.

Gardening afternoon finally produced Greenfinch, just one on the feeders and Yellowhammer calling from one of the Sycamores.

A little local knowledge at the end of the day provided good views of Tawny Owl.

I think this now makes 64, but most importantly some quality birds.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

White-beaked Dolphin (I think) RIP

A rather sad event today was the finding of (what I think is) a dead White-beaked Dolphin on the beach at Saltwick. This is a species I've not seen alive, having looked the wrong way on a couple of occasions or been distracted by Wilson's Petrels or other feathery things.

The dolphin did not appear damaged just dead. I guess it might have stranded itself but more likely it's just died out at sea and got washed in. I don't think this species should really be in the North Sea at this time of year?

Cancellation leads to Quciksilver points

A cancelled family event due to my sister-in-law driving her car into a bollard (people ok, car rather poorly) provided a bit of birding opportunity.

The garden has been very quiet of late, I suspect some neighbour of spending exorbitantly on gourmet bird foods. Greenfinch are currently absent and the Chaffinch flock is rather pitiful. However, a single Goldfinch made an appearance and added a point.

Late afternoon I shot to the coast in the hope of adding the Velvet Scoter that I've suspected of lingering off the coastguards. Success in the shape of a duck Velvet, 65 Common Scoter, 24 Eider (a good count here). Cormorant were also added but although I could hear Turnstone I could not see them, so I've not counted them (yet).

I then went to Saltwick (more on this later) where the roost added Redshank. Somehow I failed to add either Rock Pipit or Stonechat.

Driving back through Whitby to buy some milk I managed Mute Swan in the harbour, in the dark.

During my driving about today another species was added which I don't mention on the blog (persecution) so the total so far is a slightly more respectable 51.

Quicksilver update

Singing Dipper

The challenge started slowly with late emergence as the offsprings' usual early Christmas start - the 4 a.m. stocking opening - led to morning torpor. A trip to the coast found Kestrel on the way but three glimpsed divers were not ided and thus not counted so the seaside stroll, a traditional Christmas morn event, added relatively little other than the expected Curlew, Oystercatcher, Lapwing and Shag. A pair of Bullfinch through the kitchen window on the faithfull dock seeds provided some encouragement.

This morning's Atlas square produced some quality in the form of Dipper, singing and displaying, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, singing Marsh Tits and singing Mistle Thrush.

A cheeky attempt to add the Mickleby Bean Goose failed, although a single Wigeon was with the Mallard at the flood. Then on the return a small falcon glimpsed a couple of times was surely a Merlin but the views were just not quite conclusive.

So what's the score? A rather meagre 42 (43 if I count Feral pigeon).

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dash south

No birding because I'm knackered.

Had to dash south and say Happy Birthday to my mum - this involved far too much driving and managing small persons in the back of the vehicle for an inordinate number of hours, tempers were somewhat frayed at the edges when we finally landed back home yesterday evening.

Of interest were both Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush in song in Sussex, I've not heard either species singing here for some months. Song Thrush is the more surprising, I doubt one will be singing here for three months yet. (Bit of an over-estimate this; end of January last year was the first one.)

I've some Atlas squares to "do" before the month end. What with too much work, serious lurgy and this mad travelling they've still outstanding. Should be able to do one tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker?

These pix of a Lime Tree damaged by something - the damage looks very like damage by sapsucker sp to North American trees but this tree is in Peasholm Park, Scarborough.

So either there is or has been a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in Peasholm Park or something else has caused this.

Compare the holes in this picture - click - to the damage in the pix below.

Can Great Spotted Woodpecker do this? I've never come across it but ....

Any ideas gratefully received, please post ideas in the comments box or email to

I've just had a look at BWP and it appears that Great Spot can and does do this. Apparently the behaviour is very rare in UK but common in Sweden and feeding on Lime is specifically mentioned. Bearing in mind that these pictures were sent to me by a tree specialist and he'd not seen this before suggests that this feeding behaviour is extraordinarily rare in UK. Anyone else come across this?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Playing with Bubo

I've not kept my lists up-to-date but being unwell and needing something fairly mindless to do I started adding lists to Bubo. The life list is a wacky one. BB rares can only be added with a date and a place. Here BirdGuides Online Guide to Rares comes in handy. The earliest BB I saw was the Covehithe, Suffolk, Nutcracker in the invasion of 1968. I can remember hassling my parents to take me, we were on holiday in Thorpeness. The bird was very tame and I fed it banana sandwiches. Nowadays I would be out and about around Thorpeness looking for my own one instead. (The following year a possible flew high over Minsmere in/off most likely - no I could not id it, it wouldn't have entered my brain - but my mentor of the time was straight on to the possibility.)

I knew I'd seen a Long-billed Dowitcher at Staines, it took me a while to track it down to 1977 though, I could remember who was with me that day, just no idea of the year. Then I struggled to remember if I'd seen Caspian Tern, I had a feeling that maybe I had seen one at Minsmere. If I had seen one there then it must have been with Peter W and on the point of mailing him it suddely clicked into place ... but then I phoned for a chat anyway.

Apparently my "target species" is Ruddy Shelduck. You are kidding ... I wouldn't even hurry to Scaling Dam for one of those - actually Scaling Dam is a likely spot, the north-east's escapee Mecca. Actually the "target species" feature is rather good a it helps prevent you missing out commons - like I hadn't seen GB-bGull.

Anyway enough of this, I'll to work tomorrow, regardless. Either that or I'll end up really sick, lists, honestly, better get my life back. (Now where's my Nepal log book, that'll be a good one to add.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Further Cormorant calamity

We leave the docks in to seed on the bank outside the back of the house, the Bullfinches like to feed on these.

Louise did the Cormorant thing again, I was probably outside getting the coal when it went past as well .....

Bubo lists

These are a really neat idea, take a look.


The weather finally eased up and this morning is a still, dull, misty kind of a day. The bird feeders are busy again. Water is pouring off the moor, our little trickle through the pond and out down the side of the garden is something of a torrent.

In my sick bed (oh, so very sick, man flu? No, this is ... oh, a near death experience, at least - thanks for your concern Nick, it is definitely required) Asteroids finally paled and I read the latest British Birds. Poor old BOURC are getting a bit of a drubbing again on a number of fronts, I can never really understand all this passion over the list. Personally I think caution should be the watch-word and archeologically dodgy Eagle Owls and 'maybe' Bulwer's Petrels should be excluded from what is the definitive, scientifically justified list of birds of these fair isles. Actually there was a bit of cheering of BOURC in places as well as a number of jolly splits are in the offing so the list is nearing 590.

I once sat in the pub, The Britannia at Dungeness, with three observers of the two, at that time, accepted Irish records of Bulwer's Petrel (Reflected Glory points 119). Subsequently one of these records was consigned to the dustbin of history but the 1973 one is still considered good. It was interesting reading the observations of the three observers of the claimed Cumbria bird in 1990 as Bulwer's has always been a seawatching Shangri-La, not that I've even had a likely suspect off UK or Irish shores. However, over a two week period in Madeira and on a yacht down to the Salvegens I saw rather a lot of this species, even seeing a chick in the hand. The really striking thing about Bulwer's is the way it flies. Now I'd need to dig my notes out to give a good description but of the many I saw on that trip there was never any doubt because they negotiate the waves via a particularly striking flight pattern which if I recall correctly includes a frequent, but irregular sharp zig and then a zag to get the bird back on its original course. It is a flight that is so different from anything else that any seawatcher on a UK promentary would go "Expletive! Expletive! Expletive! Expletive!" because you would know immediately you'd struck gold (well, black and brown actually but never mind). Somehow I don't get the sense of this from the Cumbria descriptions and additionally the size, 25% smaller than a Common Tern, is just wrong. That the bird was in view at 600 - 800 metres (that's not too far out) for 7 or 8 minutes would indicate to me it wasn't really motoring in the way I'd expect a Bulwer's to be shifting. So disappointing chaps but there you go, you've probably got over it now anyway. For my money that bird was probably a Leach's, the description of the flight matches exactly what I would expect of that species in a heavy sea. And the lack of white in the rump? Well that can be the devil to see on some individuals in heavy weather. The long tail? Some weed or other detritus attached to it. Maybe I've got the wrong impression here from the little bits of description in BB but for what it's worth that's my ha'pence.

Had a bit of a search for some movie footage and there's none on YouTube and can't find any elsewhere, however, here's a link to some stills - first US record, Monterey Bay, 26th July 1998.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Black Grouse?

A possible Black Grouse sighting has been reported to me but:

  1. I've a bad and seriously bad and very, very bad case of the lurgy - woe, woe woe is me
  2. and it's totally ****ing it down in buckets with a nasty, cold south-westerly to boot
So I'm staying behind the nice warmth containing, newly double-glazed windows drinking lemon flavoured paracetamol and seeing the very few birds that dare to risk the elements around the 2-barred Xbill bait (no harm in upping the stakes).

The one excitement in my day - apart from discovering an online version of "Asteroids" was to watch the mad tom cat attempt to ambush a tree rat. Tree rat comes off peanuts (I've no energy to go out there and hurl things at it today); tree rat sits on ground in usual cute sit up on haunches style munching peanut; tree rat starts to hoppity loop across the lawn; huge ginger tom cat emerges from nearby hiding place (braving wind, rain and generally inclement conditions) and misses it by a tails breadth. In the past when he's caught these he's eaten the lot, claws, tail, skull, everything. These are not my favourite beast, falling only fractionally lower than Rattus norvegicus in my list of introduced vermin that should be erradicated. In particular because there is a relatively recent sighting of Sciurus vulgaris not so many klicks away from here.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Gripped off again, again, again, again

A Cormorant flew past this morning and then returned to fly over the house, disappearing before I could be alerted from my slumbers. So not only two in four days in the tetrad but a garden tick as well as it entered air space.

There have been Bullfinches around the garden for the last few days, both commoner woodpeckers, Great Spotted Woodpecker on the feeders, the occasional Redwing and Fieldfare and one Siskin.

Things are quiet on the rat front too but for a dog sized critter in one of the vegetable recycling bins - gives you a bit of a start when you're chucking the tea leaves in.

Not much doing at the moment. I cruised over to sunny Scaling Dam this afternoon hoping for some gull action. 9 Great Black-backed Gulls and a dozen or so Black-headed Gulls were a bit of a disappointment. There were 148 Teal, 18 Wigeon, 207 Mallard and 2 Goldeneye but in gulls there was a significant shortage.

Off to Sandsend then. 2 Red-throated Divers and 8 or 9 Shags. But gulls were also in short supply here with just 100 Black-headed Gulls and 30 or so Herring Gulls with but 10 Common Gulls. There was a Rock Pipit or two here as well.

Off to Whitby then. Here there were gulls, not huge numbers but gulls none the less. Three or four hundred Herring Gulls, and a few hundred Black-headed Gulls. The usual chip feeding created a flurry of larid activity. Also off the East Pier there were 61 Common Scoter, 4 Eider off the Harbour entrance and a few Shags and 3 Cormorants. Oystercatchers and Turnstone were also in evidence.

Feeding larids chips

At dusk a decent sized roost of Black-headed Gulls gathered off the Spa, about a thousand I estimated. Despite these being sortable no more interesting species could be found amongst them.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Crepuscular activity

On the way in to work late yesterday afternoon there were two Woodcock sitting in the road surrounded by snow.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Gripped off again,again,again

**** Louise scored Cormorant today on her walk to school with the girls, another tetrad tick, another tetrad dip.

Barn Owl was flying yesterday morning over the snowy road and fields of one of my new Atlas squares as I headed to work. I need to check this area in the summer at dusk, methinks.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Gripped off again again

Louise gripped me off today with a smart male Stonechat that led her and the girls to school along the dale. I've not recorded one in the home tetrad. Presumeably the cold and sprinkling of snow had brought this one off the head of the dale (two tetrads away) where I have recorded them.

Also today a spectacular rise in Common Gull numbers at home. Unusually for mid-week I was at home whilst it was still light late afternoon. For the first time in about a year there were significant numbers of Common Gulls heading out of the dale with an estimate of 550 which I suspect was probably on the low side.

Rodent trouble continues with a further Rattus alert this evening. The unseasonally cold weather has perhaps displaced them and they are searching for winter quarters. Fortunately I was working in the kitchen and spotted the cat carrying a long tailed beastie upstairs. Luckily she took it to the laundry basket before dropping it, so it ran behind. Armed with the my trusty broom I summoned reinforcements and Louise surprised herself by taking the front line (having donned her wellies) and ushered the relatively small, teenage type rat into the (rapidly emptied for the task) coal scuttle. Result.

The trap had been sprung this morning but no beast was found within - hopefully this was it. With luck just one to go.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Laid back birding

Garden stuff over the weekend. A Siskin was noteworthy as they have been absent for a couple of weeks at least. Tree Sparrows were at 4 or maybe even as many as six, the pair still seem interested in the nestbox. Not much else really; 8 Long-tailed Tits, the occasional Fieldfare and Redwing, up to 80 Common Gulls and a nice male Kestrel were all nearby. The field opposite hosted 50 or so Starlings and 60 Rooks.

The rat situation worsened with at least one in the outhouse which managed to steal the bait without setting off the trap .... And two under the kitchen feeder, a huge monster grandpa thing (pictured) and a much smaller adolescent. However, the cats did for the adolescent overnight. I attempted to do for the grandpa by hurling huge bolders at it; geriatric it might be, but it easily dodged my potentially murderous assaults.

Grandpa through kitchen window

The trap will be deployed for this one soon.

A nip down to the town early(ish) this morning, fortunately late enough to avoid the spin off in snow hazard suffered by an earlier traveller. I surveyed the harbour and west beach for little reward. 9 Eider were off the harbour with 80 or so Common Scoter. Over at nearby Saltwick Nab there were Curlew, Redshanks and Oystercatcher a gaggle of larger gulls, a trickle of Gannets, some passing quite close, 16 Common Scoter flying in to join the harbour gang perhaps. 4 auks passed, one was a Guillemot, Fulmar were back in force with 20 or so swirling off nearby Whitestone Point. 2 Red-throated Divers arrived and dropped onto the rather rough sea off the beach. Rock Pipits called and three smart Stonechats were around the car.

Stonechat, one of three

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Happy Birthday Project

My favourite so far is 16. Star Wars but 24. Space Invaders is also pretty nifty ... (click here)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Rodent stuff

Over at George Bristow's Secret Freezer some rodent business has been going on. Cheeky rodents have stolen the bait from delicately set Little Nippers.

The beasts of the field are occasional B&B customers in our house. Recently a Wood Mouse lived in our sofa for an unknown period of time. We eventually tracked it down and evicted it, the sofa now has a redesigned section. Moles are occasionally found circling the living room, one recently tried to dig its way out and I need to repair stone and mortar (we have generally released these unharmed). The cats have found a source of young rats of late and they have taken to bringing them in to play with. Two of these have caused chaos when we've been faced with Rattus charging around the house with us and cats in hot pursuit. The first of these I managed to trap in the coal scuttle after turning out a whole cupboard. The demise of the second is described in the Secret Freezer. Feeding the birds does seem to attract Brown Rat. Currently one can occasionally be spied peeking out of a wall near one of our feeders and then rushing to the food below. During the snow it melted a little path to and fro. I will need to get my rat trap out. The trouble is like the Little Nippers it is a lethal piece of kit but rarely to Rattus. Somehow they seem adept at getting into the trap eating the food and then getting out again, I come along and try to put more bacon in to reset it and kerpoww it slams violently shut on my arm and I respond with a stream of invective and tears. The other problem with the trap is it is somewhat indescriminate and potentially lethal to a variety of creatures from cats to Blackbirds so measures need to be taken to prevent casualties and these measures make the trap less effective - apparently a dachshund is a useful alternative.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Early this morning it blew a blizzard. By the time dawn did its thing no one was going anywhere from here. So sledging was the order of the day.

14 Fieldfares went west and Blackbirds were very obvious with 8 in one hawthorn bush.

View up the dale from the garden

The thaw when it came was rapid and forces were mustered to rescue the vehicle which was looking rather sorry for itself when we eventually got there, that was rubbish parking Alastair. It was duly hauled from the ditch.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


The feeders

Rather a lot of snow today so the planned seawatching was a non-starter. In the garden House Sparrow was exceptional, I think the last one here was probably about 18 months hence. Another rarity was Starling, often seen flying past and over but very rarely do they come in to the feeders as 7 did today.

The fed

By early afternoon the snow had mostly melted off the road thanks to the gritter wagon so a trip to chilly Scaling Dam looked possible. Scaling is often good in a northerly or other "bad" weather with odds and ends dropping into shelter. 25 Cormorant were a record for me there I think and two flew over the road and in as I left. 189 Great Black-backed Gulls were also a very good count. But the hoped for Common Gull roost didn't materialise with about 200 flying out late afternoon leaving a paltry 168. Black-headed Gulls totalled about 40. There were 13 Wigeon, 135 Teal, 4 Goldeneye and otherwise not very much. I was happy to stay until dusk, however, but well before then it started to snow and when it hadn't stopped after half an hour I thought I'd better go. Too late. The main road was a crawl and when I turned off I realised also too late that hadn't been a very good plan. A slow graceful slide into a ditch didn't do any damage but I'll be needing to borrow a tractor tomorrow methinks. Fortunately I was well prepared with kit and rucksack but didn't have to walk too far as I was soon offered a lift - very many thanks. But birding probably curtailed tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Working tick

Yesterday morning I was patrolling the playground a trifle earlier than usual as I was on a mission. However, totally distracted by three low flying geese that nearly made it into the works airspace. No bins but these were close, aren't those dark bars on the breast, hey no pale leading edge to the wing - nice noise guys, White-fronted Geese.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Garden birds

Coal Tit, flew in to window and clung there for 10 minutes before flying off strongly

I didn't go out today as an unwell offspring required supervision whilst riding was in progress. In the garden a Treecreeper was unusual. A small thrush flock 9 Fieldfare and 4 Redwing went west and that was about it really. Marsh Tits were abundant, probably three or four. They were present all day but as usual there was most activity in the late afternoon. The many Coal Tits, perhaps 15 or even 20 different ones I would guess were all action early on but were hard to find later in the day. A pair of Tree Sparrows were prospecting around one of the nest boxes - now that would be nice. The Chaffinch flock is now up to about 35 and the day ended with much Tawny Owl racket from the plantation next door.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Twitch no dip surprise

I'm a rarity at a twitch and it is even more rare that I actually connect. The last effort was the Scarborough Desert Wheatear (dip), before that Broad-billed Sand at Saltholme (dip); before that Semi-P at Saltholme (connect). So this was a good experience. The slightly awkward to find Garfitt's Farm was located by a process of more luck than judgement. I was then fortunate to be guided to find one of the few places to watch the feeder at the back of the house as well as the one at the front (watched by most folk). I had rather limited time as there was a YNU meeting today - actually the reason for going as it was en route (vaguely). Having arrived at the spot, 2 Siskin on the way, it was the usual waiting around. Crossbills flew over. Great Spotted Woodpeckers hogged the rear feeder. Then I heard an interesting, but feint, high pitched crossbill like call. More waiting. Then bingo, it (Two-barred Crossbill) was on the feeder and I was getting excellent views. The birder next to me quickly got good views and then there was a bit of a rush. The bird eventually went in to the larches around the house and was well seen by all I think. Mission accomplished I left in order to only be slightly late for the meeting.

The Seige of Garfitt's Farm

I'm glad I don't live there at the moment, this twitching business would drive me nuts.

On the way home I got to the top of the dale when a passerine flipped along the road in front of me. This proved to be as I'd thought a Snow Bunting, very nice.

Rubbish pic of Snow Bunting

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dream birding

Very occasionally I dream I'm birding. I don't keep a dreamt birds list, although it might be entertaining to do so. However, last night I was watching a Hume's which I wasn't very excited about (so presumably I'd gone and twitched it) when a totally unexpected Red-breasted Fly came in to view. This was excellent and I was right chuffed, even though it moved rather rapidly to the back of the twiggy bush (Hawthorn?) the initial views were excellent. I could do with this happening more often at this time of year especially as finding that kind of quality bird in mid-November is not a frequent occurence. Probably shouldn't stick it on BirdGuides though, should I?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

I did go biridng today

... but I didn't find the Pallas' Warbler at Hinderwell - a likely spot I wish I'd thought of looking there. There were lots and lots of Blackbirds at Hawsker and a Woodcock.
Only one of these today

The only bird to get the pulse racing was a redpoll sp at Robin Hood's Bay, I only saw this bird briefly and incompletely as much of it was hidden by twigs or it was flying off yonder, but white background colour on the flank and a soft flight call indicate what it might have been - nice for speculation.

"No Hope Ravine"
I spent a good while looking in here today to no avail as expected, it is a small wood really and access is tricky.

Totals of 84 Blackbirds and 26 Robins were otherwise of note and 17 Goldcrest. I possibly heard a Waxwing again but it was a bit feint and distant, another one best forgotten.

Off the beach at Saltwick Nab were no birds. This looks like a Common Seal to me.

"I'm sure there's a King Eider around here somewhere!"

Off Coastguards there were 9 Eider and about 65 Common Scoter (all females), 165 Oystercatchers were roosting at the cliff bottom or feeding on the fields.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

I didn't go biridng today ....

... but other folk did. A Ring Ouzel was on the railway line near to Robin Hood's Bay and there was a Med' Gull near Saltwick Nab, not a great deal to show for a whole day's effort.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Click to join the campaign

You can post your photo and hopefully a simple message to the ObamaWall via this email address, type a message and attach a photo of yourself to


A phone call this morning alerted me to two Waxwings in Robin Hood's Bay. A free diary and lunchtime gave me the opportunity to nip down the coast armed with vegetable somosas to stave off hunger. The railway line was buzzing with Blackbirds, Goldcrests, Bullfinch and then I flushed an owl, habitat and a brief glimpse indicated Long-eared but fortunately I got a second go at it and it proved to be Short-eared Owl. Further towards Ness Point was quieter but back near the village was all action with flocks of Fieldfares appearing, even more Blackbirds, Redwings and eventually two Ring Ouzels. Even more Goldcrests showed themselves and then I heard the familiar trilling, but could not locate these Waxwings by eye, tucked away in a garden I suspect. All too soon I had to leave but an exciting and refreshing November birding break midweek - I could have done with staying all afternoon though.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Stewart, you were right not a Scaup - closer examination indicates Tufted Duck.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


An early excursion to the coast found Nick C and I tramping around in the dark (slight exaggeration) and a howling gale to say nothing of the rain. The tramping produced a Woodcock which initially mistook Nick for a tree but then decided that he might not be the ideal hiding place and headed off to a nearby hedge. One or two Black Redstarts were suspected but not proven. A pale brown passerine was flushed from one of the muck heaps, caught by the wind and disappeared forever. Clearly there had been a bit of a Blackbird drop as on a couple of occasions groups of five or six were flushed from gorse or gardens as we passed. A single Fieldfare, a single Redwing, a Reed Bunting and nearly 1,500 Starlings were pretty much it.

Ideas of Grey Phalarope sent us searching the harbour where two drake Eider were sheltering and one Purple Sandpiper was discovered.

Louise then sent us to the pub the wet way, we walked, and not to the nearest pub either. A warming luncheon raised the spirits and 170 or so Pink-footed Geese (found by Ellen) sent us home in a rather bedraggled state.

Pink-feet in the rain

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Twenty Snow Buntings and a Lapland Bunting found today south and east of the town in stubble fields. Not much doing this afternoon around Hawsker. Bird of the day a Hooded Crow which flew the length of gusty Scaling Dam late this morning from Yorkshire into Cleveland, it looked like a pure bird and not an intergrade to me. Possible of the day a wing-barred Phylosc seen briefly near Saltwick Nab, unfortunately it disappeared before th observers could get a posiive id.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Close but no .... BananaBill

So the White-billed Diver flew at 14 mph between Whitburn and Hauxley (if it was the same bird). My possible, but too far out for me to id, would have been flying at about 13.7 mph if this was the same bird that went past Whitburn - reckon I was robbed. The Bamburgh bird would have had to fly at 36 mph to get between Bamburgh and Hauxley in the time given, that had to be a different bird then.

It was a good seawatch, not as good as those further north of me had but entertaining all the same. The Gannets were doing the opposite of the other day, juveniles were generally going south whilst adults and 2nd years and older were generally going north. Gannets north in three hours 141 and south 34. There were almost no Kittiwakes until about 10:00 then I noticed distant birds going south, I started counting at 10:00 and between then and 10:35, 668 went south, they then stopped almost as abruptly as they had started although 100+ were feeding distantly offshore. A single 1stW Little Gull was picked out amongst the Kitts. Almost all the Kittiwakes going south were adults, the few I had had earlier going north inshore were mostly juveniles.

Apart from the suspect White-billed Diver, which should be attributed to diver sp I saw 3 Great Northern Divers, 3 Red-throated Diver and another diver sp, 22 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and 6 Dark-bellied Brent Geese (two went south); 65 Common Scoter; 3 Velvet Scoter, 2 Long-tailed Duck, 1 Scaup, 19 Eider; 1 Red-breasted Merganser; 1 Goldeneye, 58 Wigeon; and 23 duck sp (various annoyingly distant, fast flying and southward flying quacker individuals and small flocks that disappeared all too rapidly); also on offer 1 Manx Shearwater; 1 Fulmar; 1 Great Skua; 1 Shag and 59 auk sp some of which were Guillemots and 3 of which were likely Razorbills but nearly all the auks were distant.


I emerged from the seawatch at 10:45 and began a thorough search of Rain Dale and then the railway track. My reward was a Waxwing that dropped in just as one of the squalls past Rain Dale. Unfortunately it rapidly moved off when the farmer drove his cows past it. (No Radde's Warbler then.)
Rain Dale bushes

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thrushes on the move

A bit of movement early this morning with 171 Fieldfares, 120 Redwing, c100 unidentified thrush sp, 3 Mistle Thrush and Blackbird increase and one dropping in - in 1.5 hours from 07:15. Also on the move Woodpigeon with 125 west or south and 2 east, Tree Sparrow one west and two in the garden on the feeders. Also in the garden early was a very elusive Brambling which despite my best efforts I failed to see properly and a Bullfinch.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Snow in October

Here's the evidence - on Monday there was Small Tortoiseshell flying around here

Somehow yesterday I missed the best part of 300 Pink-feet whilst seawatching - perhaps they went behind me, or high in the sky, or I was drinking tea, removing biscuit crumbs from the bins or asleep, so it goes - at least it wasn't 300 Little Auks, 300 Wilson's Petrels or one Yellow-nosed Albatross.

Late yesterday afternoon 25 Fieldfare came west over the moor.

Not a Fieldfare

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Seawatch 2

No this wasn't the day either. Only Gannets and (half-heartedly) Kittiwakes moving. Friday looks as if it might be the Little Auk day?

Today Great Northern Diver was the best bird, it flew in with a Red-throat, which it dwarfed, and landed on the sea in front of me but too distant for pix. On the walk down I flushed a Snow Bunting but otherwise that was about it. Exactly 100 Gannet went north in the two hours, I did count them, with 15 south. 78 Kittiwakes were dawdling north also. Other than those it was 3 Common Scoter, 3 Goldeneye and 1 Eider all north and 9 Red-throated Diver in various directions.

In the early light an argentatus Herring Gull managed to look very like an adult Glaucous Gull as it went south. I could just make out one black primary tip, the bright sunrise making the mantle, back and upper wings look very pale. An easy pitfall. Four more of these went south in the first hour but none was quite as lacking in wing markings as the first bird and as the light got better the back colour looked darker.

A hunt around for passerines drew a blank.

I got home and it snowed .......

Monday, October 27, 2008


There's an Arctic Tern in there somewhere

Out in the dark and then the tramp to the seawatch spot. I've stayed faithfull to the new place although it's a bit further to walk. I'd barely got myself sat down when an interesting looking duck went north, a quick fight with the scope and it proved to be, as suspected, a drake Velvet Scoter. Good start. However, the wind was not far enough around, still mostly westerly really so it all proved a bit slow. Next up was an adult Mediterranean Gull which went rather distantly south. There were quite a lot of small gulls about, mostly Black-headed Gulls, difficult to know how many really as they would feed for a while and then scoot off south but 4-500 would be a reasonable guess in the 2 hours. Three fairly distant Whooper Swans battled their way north on the hour. An interesting looking diver sp was my following customer, I couldn't id it though. It might have been a Black-throat but I'm not going to stick my neck out. Off Denmark two little dots went north which were very likely Little Auks, alas too far away to be sure. For the final twenty minutes or so I scrutinised the quite large flock of feeding gulls, hoping for another Med to be honest but was better pleased with a smart Arctic Tern feeding amongst them. Also on offer this morning were 11 Gannet, about 8 or 9 Kittiwake, a few Guillemot on the sea and 2 Red-throated Diver also on the sea.

Garden stuff needed to be done at home and Louise found the birds of the day. "What's that?" I looked up into the blue and there way, way up, white and glimmering against the blue were four Whooper Swans directly above the house heading west, totally excellent. (And in the air space so a garden tick.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Aythya puzzle

I spent the first part of the morning at sunny Scaling Dam. Behaviour is often a guide to something different so when I saw a "Tufted Duck" associating closely with a Goldeneye for 30 minutes or so I was suspicious. Closer observation confirmed that this bird did not look like a Tuftie but it didn't look like a straightforward Scaup either. The round head and the big bill pointed to Scaup (and excluded Lesser Scaup bye-the-bye). Views with the scope at reasonable range seemed to indicate a bill pattern that was inconsistent with Scaup, black beyond the nail. There seemed to be an indistinct pale patch to the rea of the cheek. Fortunately I clicked off some - rather distant I'm afraid - pix. Magnified up these seem to show that the black is indeed just retricted to the nail, perhaps water on the bill made it look dark in the field. I reckon this is indeed a first winter female Scaup but I'll stand to be corrected by any quacker experts out there.

Scaup? No Tufted Duck
This bird is in fact most probably a Tufted Duck, a repeat look at it confirmed it is too small for a Scaup, the cheek patch was not strong enough, the head does have a small tuft, though hard to see.

It wasn't really a birding day, not living in Kent anymore, so much of the day was spent in Whitby Pavillion. However, emerging I gave the sea a quick scan and a Great Northern Diver flew by, conveniently close.

We went to Sandsend for a walk by the sea, not such a good mix of gulls this time but this Kestrel was a bit of a poser. Only two Red-throated Divers in the bay today.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

H145580 part 2

Christmas Eve last year I found a Herring Gull bearing a ring whilst we were eating fish and chips down in Whitby. I read the ring and sent the details off to the BTO. I was rather surprised when they replied that it wasn't a BTO ring and they couldn't help source which ringing scheme it was from. A few emails were exchanged but there semed little hope of getting to the source of this bird. Early this week there was a letter from Belgium on the doormat. Someone at BTO had been a bit more persistent than had been indicated to me, thanks, oh diligent one. The Herring Gull had been ringed as a fourth year at Middelkerke, Belgium, 437 km away, on 13th March 2006 (1y 9m 11d previously). Thanks to everyone who managed to track down the information and get it to me.

Clearly this is an unlikely route for the Herring Gull to have taken unless it sat on someone's roof rack - no you would not want a Herring Gull inside your car.

It's looking mighty good for a seawatch on Tuesday next week - maybe Wednesday as well, I can't see the charts for that yet. And ..... I'm off work ...... brilliant. Come on weather, stay on track.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Gully amble

Adult Mediterranean Gull - it was a bit of a way off

I wandered along the beach at Sandsend around lunchtime and almost the first bird I saw was an adult Mediterranean Gull. This didn't linger but flew off north west to be lost in the distance. There were quite a few Red-throated Divers in the bay. I counted eight but as usual with this species that is probably a lower number than were actually there. These varied in plumage from juvenile (at least three), almost moulted in to winter plumage adult to full summer plumage adult. Other notable birds were a nice adult Little Gull, a Kittiwake, a drake Eider, seven Shags and a Rock Pipit. It seemed to me there was a bit of a movement of Black-headed Gulls but perhaps they were just disappearing inland or feeding over a largish area.

There's the little fella


I thought this 1stW Common Gull was potentially quite confusing with the mask around it's eyes, not a typical bird at any rate.

Sandsend and gulls

Encouraged by the suspected gull movement and the strong winds I headed for gusty Scaling Dam in the late afternoon. As expected there were plenty of gulls and only a relatively small proportion seemed to be stopping for the roost, the larger gulls especially just flying through. Watching the Common Gulls flying in (about 700) I was sure I'd found another Med Gull but I could not relocate it on the water so best forgotten.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Bit of a cheat - sky on Thursday morning

Looked like the morning for a bit of VisMig from the doorstep - in charge of the offspring and various jobs to do - west south west, seemed a bit strong but I was greeted by 3 Redwings struggling west as I stepped outside. It was all a bit stop-go probably because the cloud kept building up at the head of the dale and putting them off (so good few went east too). It was quite encouraging to start with, dribs and drabs and then a low fast twenty, the occasional Greenfinch too. I tried from up the hill a way but drew a blank. Two geese got past me high and I couldn't id them. Two decent flocks came off the moor and a distant flock of finches. Two Pink-feet went north and then a Sparrowhawk west and then a flock of 7 Blackbirds with some Redwing in their wake. In the end an hour and a half produced Redwing 243W and 21E; Blackbird 7W, Greenfinch 5W and finch sp about 20W.

Borrowby Pink-feet (most of)

Later at Borrowby 200 Pink-feet came in from the west high and then coasted north and there were 2 Redwing and a Brambling. (Just remembered heard a Brambling as I put out the Little Bunting bait on Friday at home.)