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

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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.