Wednesday, January 30, 2008

RIP Goldie Aug 2007 - Jan 2008

Memorial photograph (after passing) by M. Forsyth

Yesterday a phone call home was interrupted by much wailing as Goldie was found at that very moment on his/her side at the bottom of the tank lifeless. I was to miss the funeral as I had to work late, however, Louise found Mol and a school friend playing on the computer in the late afternoon + the corpse which Mol was absent-mindedly stroking as she played on the Bratz game - I think Goldie was losing. Clearly the period of mourning had been extended and the funeral was postponed. Goldie now resides rather quietly in the fridge awaiting a rescheduled, sad, memorial type event. Goldie is survived by Shiny, possibly unrelated.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Interesting, snuffling, sneezing day

Black-headed Gull

From sunny Sandsend

Still have lurgy.

Managed to do the Garden Birdwatch fairly early on. Our list included Vesent 1+2, Chafchis 60, Tree Sparo 1, Fatdad 1 and Smelly Ellen 1. I need to tutor the scribe with her spelling methinks.

An exchange of texts with Halifax birders who had strayed into VC62 revealed a near miracle (slight exaggeration) a Hen Harrier, whilst they were seeking a Rough-leg which they failed to see. Then whilst they were on the way home down the A19 those awake at the time spotted a large white raptor sitting on a fence post beside the road. Presumably at this point mass panic ensued, particularly as Nick who had been asleep in the back came to realise that he might have dipped on a serious mega, a totally brilliant find. The next slip road was taken and much to Nick's relief the Gyr was still sitting there. By the third pass it had gone. There is always the suspicion of a falconer's bird with Gyrs but I had thought that they mostly use hybrids? Any information about falconers and their birds around Thirsk will be gratefully received. I look forward to the receiving the description chaps :-), cos it was in VC62.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hen Harriers and Operation Artemis

The December edition of British Birds reported that Operation Artemis, the police operation to protect Hen Harriers, needed more funding and more support from Natural England (Page 760 "Harry and the harriers"). My understanding is that Operation Artemis has been wound up. The website has been taken down. Artemis was unsurprisingly unpopular with game keepers (click here for their response).

Hen Harrier appears to have been eradicated from the North Yorks Moors in winter as well as in the breeding season. I now have not seen one for 2 years and know of only one record recently.

It is arguable that Artemis was a blunt instrument to deal with Hen Harrier persecution and that a different approach might be more successful. If we do nothing the species will be extinct in England soon enough. The Bowland population will not be sustainable in isolation imho and anyway do we really want just one relict population of a species that should be widespread on our moors, and in winter, over our marshes?

If we wish to see Hen Harrier returned to England we will need to work with the landowners and game keepers and develop an approach that they can stomach. Whatever our opinion of the game keeping fraternity, and we should remember the benefits of their activities as well as the detrimental persecution of raptors, I think we will have to build bridges.

Well that's today's lecture done with and as I'm grievously infected with some dire lurgy back to the arm chair, tea and toast and "Garden Birdwatch".

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Big Garden Birdwatch

Yes it's come around again, the Big Garden Birdwatch, click here for more info.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Shovelers diving

Yesterday at Blacktoft 3 Shovelers were repeatedly diving in one of the lagoons, other Shovelers nearby were feeding normally. BWP does state that Shovelers infrequently feed by diving, perhaps these had found some especially tasty snails.

An outing

Stewart, here's a bit of Phragmites for you

I had to head over past Goole yesterday so a couple of opportunities presented themselves to go to Blacktoft Sands RSPB reserve.

I arrived as they opened up and blow me there was Pete G. We had a wander out to the closest hides, I had but an hour. Marsh Harrier x2 were not unexpected, Whooper Swan, 1; lots of Teal and Shoveler and various other quackers but best was a Kingfisher and a then a Merlin that made a very serious attempt at some Snipe murdering. Sparrowhawk was also seen. Water Rail was heard. In the far distance was a mighty flock of birds which included corvids, some serious number of Lapwing and Golden Plover.

I then had to leave but managed to return for the roost. Kingfisher was again in evidence, showing off rather nicely. Marsh Harrier, at least 10, a ringtail Hen Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Merlin, several Barn Owls which performed conveniently in front of the hide, a distant flock of Pink-feet, huge numbers of gulls and distant Lapwings.

Chatting to Mike P the warden I enquired about the flock of 31 Water Pipits that he'd seen during the week, a massive number, to be told his number had been trumped by a flock of 40 just over the water in Lincs. Is this the largest ever Water Pipit flock in UK?

The Hen Harrier count is truly dismall. This site used to hold a winter roost of 10 or 20. It seems that the grouse shooting fraternity may have decided to eliminate this species? The funding for Operation Artemis has ceased, political pressure? I reckon Hen Harrier is about to become a rare bird in England in winter as well as summer. But if those responsible are allowed to get away with this, which species will be next?

Friday, January 18, 2008

No birding

As is no doubt apparent there have been few opportunities for any birding or other wildlife observation over the last week - thus the musical interlude. Grey Wagtail over work on a couple of occasions have been the only noteworthy(ish) observations. Normal service may (or may not) be resumed shortly.

(Terrafolk are on the scale of epic live if you ever get the opportunity.)

The Great Skua - reprise

The Great Skua (British Sea Power) is a nice tune but doesn't really capture the essence of the species - more Great Shearwater if you ask me.

I've always associated Joy Divisions's Atrocity Exhibition with the Bonxie but here's an acceptable alternative as Terrafolk butcher this rather well known Davis/Mitchell ditty.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Ship-to-ship oil transfers

A private members bill receives its second reading on 25th January. The bill will impose regulation on the practice of ship-to-ship oil transfers and thus help to protect seabirds from the catastrophic effects of oil spill. Please write to your MP and ask them to support this bill. I've written a letter (no great shakes but hopefully adequate) which you can find here. You're welcome to half inch it if you wish.

The RSPB page explaining this issue is here.

Thanks in advance for your support from WhitbyBirding.

Saltwick Nab and the fields

Managed to get out late this p.m. for a couple of hours and headed for the "new patch" Saltwick Nab. Piles of gulls all over the place. I ignored the small gulls in the fields by the road as I wanted to get to the sea. A couple of hundred of each of Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull were loitering on the water's edge of the in-coming tide as I arrived. A buzz through them found no "white" gulls but a good number of argentatus amongst the local argenteus Herring Gulls.

The wader feeding field held just 39 Curlew but down on the shore there were about 300 Oystercatchers, 40 Redshank, 10 Ringed Plover and 2 Dunlin.

I wandered down to the beach flushing a Song Thrush from the Phragmites as I went. Then climbed up in to the undercliff which is an interesting wet area but apart from a Rockit and 4 Carrion Crows there was nothing much doing.

Out on to the cliff top again and those small gulls were a bit distant but as luck would have it a quick scan and the closest group flew revealing the unmistakable flight pattern of a Mediterranean Gull. The bird settled again and through the scope, even in failing light, a smart adult was revealed.

Onward towards the coastguards where 5 Eider and 88 Common Scoter were sharing the water with a couple of Grey Seals. No Velvets today though.

Then the trudge through the caravan site and back to the car with the lure of Magpie fish 'n' chips to round the outing off.

Supporting RSPB conservation campaigns

If you want to help the RSPB with its various campaigns you can register as a "Letter Writer". Click here to find out more.

Bad news re Common Scoter

The RSPB reports that the UK breeding population of Common Scoter has declined by 50% in the last ten years. For the full gen click here.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Waving Flags - id the raptor

On the Waving Flags video there's a bit where a bird hangs in the wind in front of a navy vessel. But what's the bird? I'm reckoning Common Buzzard myself - any other opinions?

.... and it's a bloody good racket in any case.

BirdTrack/Atlas day

I've neglected Egton Banks over the last year but it's a good little spot. There is the potential for Lesser Spotted 'Pecker I reckon. Unfortunately my old BirdTrack site falls in two tetrads so today I split the site in two and kept two sets of notes. I haven't done this for every site but neither of these tetrads have been claimed by anyone, however, I've just taken on one more (see later) so didn't fancy another two full Atlas sites. The lower part of the site, by the river, was quite good today with Marsh Tit, Nuthatch and a decent flock of Lapwings (44) and Common Gulls (c100) and Siskin. The river seemed a bit violent for Dipper and I couldn't find one. The upper tetrad was much quieter, and seemed colder with only Grey Wagtail and Great Spotted Woodpecker of note. There were Roe Deer in both squares, three by the river and one up the hill.

At lunchtime I got myself dropped off (car problems) at Scaling Dam where there was little of note, Mallard, 246; Teal, 199; Wigeon, 34; Tufted, c20; Goldeneye, 8; a Little Grebe and 3 Cormorant. On checking the website I discovered that no one has adopted Scaling Dam as an Atlas site, and my whole BirdTrack site pretty much is within a single tetrad so I've added it to the list. 33 species for this late winter visit. Early in the New Year there had apparently been a Water Pipit here, seen several times by the hide. This bird didn't get on to BirdGuides otherwise I might have nipped over there during my festive break.

The Great Skua

The latest British Sea Power album includes a song called "The Great Skua". Bonxie to "The Great Skua" will have to be done. MP3 playing phone at the ready on seawatches until success is achieved, methinks.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

East side of town

Saltwick feeding waders

Abbey Plain Lapwings

Velvet Scoters (honest)

Spent the late morning and early afternoon searching the tetrad on the east side of Whitby. Loads of waders including 67 Redshank, 81 Curlew, 717 Lapwing, 123 Golden Plover, 9 Dunlin and 95 Oystercatchers. These split between Satwick and the Abbey Plain. The "Withered-legged Whimbrel of Saltwick Nab" was not found but a Curlew with a duff leg was. This bird spends most of its time lying down, when it flies the leg hangs straight down below the body and it is without doubt a Curlew.... But my mind is still open to the possibility - two bird theory.

Best of the morning was a flock of 21 Snow Buntings found whilst scanning and counting the waders at Saltwick.

At the coastguards the Velvet Scoters gave themselves up rather easily, all 6 of them. They rather conveniently sat on the sea directly below the coastguard after having a bit of a fly about. Also of note there 90 or so Common Scoter and 3 Eider.

There were 3 Rock Pipits around the Abbey.

It wasn't too windy, sunny even some of the time, little rain, 'twas bliss.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Great Grey Shrike - no more show

Despite a bit of a search the shrike did not reappear - maybe put off by garden tobogganing activities.

However, Peregrine over the garden was a good record also (uncommon here, I wonder why?) Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Marsh Tit and assorted thrushes also put in appearances. The Chaffinch flock was up to about 100 and 8 or so Yellowhammers were also feeding under the bird table.

It flew down into here - that's useful

It sat on the branch next to the peanut feeder

Here are some of the Chaffinch flock in a blizzard

Where're my bins! Don't panic! Don't panic!

Lots of snow so doing a little bit of work after breakfast, glance out of the kitchen window to the bird feeders. AAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH what's that in the oak tree? Great Grey Shrike. It stared at me, I stared at it barely believing. "Louise look at this. Where are my bins?" Can't find bins, shrike feels the thumping of feet in the front room - small people dancing to David Bowie's Changes - and wisely decides on the peace of the valley bottom. Louise provides perfect description of Great Grey Shrike in flight as I fail to see it fly as I'm looking for my bins. Fail to relocate it in the valley bottom. Great bird, slightly frustrating brief view. Brilliant garden tick.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

No show Whimbrel



Curlew bathing

Curlew (click for big)

I spent an hour or so this morning searching for the "Withered Leg Whimbrel of Saltwick Nab". 76 Curlew was a good total but no bird with a withered leg let alone a Whimbrel. Also at this site 4 Redshank and 66 Oystercatcher.

Off the Coastguard Station there were at least 180 Common Scoter and I glimpsed one likely Velvet in flight but failed to confirm it. Also in the area were 3 Wigeon, 6 Eider and a Mallard.

The fields along the east cliff were full of Lapwing, at least 500; Starlings, c250; and plenty of Black-headed Gulls.

In contrast west of Whitby was very quiet with just 3 or 4 Shag in Sandsend Bay and one or two distant flying duck which for irritating reasons (people getting in the way or me being too slow getting on to them) defied id. Grey Wagtail and Pied Wagtail were the only other birds of note.