Sunday, August 31, 2008

Small fall

No wind and bright sunshine do not ideal fall conditions make so I made a late start and headed for Scaling Dam. There had been a bit of a wader influx with Dunlin, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Golden Plover, Redshank x2, Common Sandpiper x4 and over 600 Lapwing and 2 Snipe. Then the gull from the other day was relocated, a bit closer but in poor light. I'm pretty sure this is a Yellow-legged Gull, at least I don't think it's a Herring Gull, but it isn't a typical example and it is just beyond decent photo range. Anyway, it flew with all the other gulls when two Lesser Black-backed Gulls had a serious disagreement, unfortunately I failed to locate it in flight.

Whilst I was out one of the cats caught an Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar. This was rescued none the worse for its experience and I returned it to the willowherb where I noticed two more hiding in the stems.

Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar

There are other caterpillars in the garden which are not so welcome.

Oi! get off my brocolli

In the afternoon I headed for Hawsker where information had been received about a bit of a drop. Pied Flycatchers were in evidence at two locations, JB had four I think and there was Lesser Whitethroat and a very skulking Chiffchaff.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Rain Dale

Some rain would possibly do the trick. Whinchat and half a dozen of Willow Warbler, Whitethroat and Goldcrest with a couple of Chiffchaff for good measure. Tomorrow maybe.

Also on offer were Sooty Shearwater, 2 Arctic Skua and a strange happening in Teal world with two large flocks going north, 90 and 60 whilst a trickle came south. Assorted terns were trickling south.

Speckled Wood, 3 Roe Deer and a Grey Seal

Friday, August 29, 2008

Local birding

The Moor - a fine and beautiful place to go birding, photographing etc

It was still and sunny this morning and I haven't had a good trawl around locally for a little while, so that's what I did. Migrants included plenty of Swallows and House Martins still, 4 Willow Warblers, 1 Chiffchaff, 2 Whitethroats, 2 Spotted Flycatchers (in two different locations) - uncommon in the tetrad, only one previous record for me I think, and a Wheatear, also very uncommon in the tetrad despite the abundance of suitable habitat.

Northern Wheatear

Other birds of interest included Nuthatch, very uncommon in the tetrad although it breeds commonly in a neighbouring one, Bullfinch which is hard to find and Moorhen which although always present is often elusive. Marsh Tit was found again. A flock of 14 Golden Plover were a fine sight. Not seen but surely they are here somewhere, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Long-tailed Tit, Stock Dove and Skylark.

That other national park

Stills from Rocks/Water

Visited Yorkshire's other national park yesterday. Shooting my new minimalist masterpiece, stills above, link, I'm sure you are thrilled to learn, to follow shortly.

Same story, almost no birds of prey, I did see one Sparrowhawk, but locals report large raptors are generally present for one day only.

Have some loutish, towny picnickers left their detritus to spoil this lovely scene?

The venue for my movie is a lovely spot but some of the locals seem to have scant regard for its beauty .... Apparently the beck was littered with hundreds of bits of painted clay previously, most now washed away by the recent rains. It wasn't hard to find evidence of the clays though. Personally I find this sort of disregard for our countryside very objectionable.

Some of those who live and work in the park treat it with loving care ... not

Clay fragments in beck

On the birding front 6 or 7 Common Crossbills in one spot and 4 in another a mile or so distant.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Puzzling gull

A quick trip to Scaling Dam mid morning found the hide full of people with binoculars and telescopes. The Black-necked Grebe was showing nicely, if a little distantly but all the rest of yesterdays interesting birds had gone. So there was no Spotted Redshank, no Little Stint and woefully no Yellow-legged Gull.

However, gulls did appear as the morning went on and one likely suspect did stand out. Not the same gull as the previous day but a possible Yellow-legged Gull nonetheless.

White-headed gull to right of frame - opinions welcome

Tertials were dark brown with white/off white tips - inner tertials showed some white on lower edge of feathers, outer tertials showed cross bar pattern in last third, otherwise dark. This was a big gull, larger than surrounding juvenile Herring Gulls. Age was a problem. It could be a juvenile/first winter but more likely a 1st summer/2nd winter. Bill was all black with a pale tip, didn't appear quite as heavy as on some individuals. Seemed to show a distinct black tail band with sparsley marked upper tail, but this was not seen very clearly.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Garden birds

Changes are afoot. Siskin has gone from the most common and frequent bird in the garden, always present on a feeder to almost completely absent over the last week to ten days. A couple did fly over yesterday but none today and none on the feeders for some days now. However, in compensation Marsh Tit returned today after a long absence. Goldfinch are also very infrequent, following a similar pattern to the Siskin, again none today. Both woodpeckers present today, juvenile Great-spotted are a common sight on the peanuts at the moment. A new visitor to the Niger seed yesterday was Collared Dove, at sat picking at the seed for a minute or so before a gang of Greenfinches hustled it off.

Terns and more terns

Three of the four Little Egrets, Old Nab, Staithes (Photo JB - thanks)

Missed the Black-necked Grebe at Scaling, I was thinking of going down there that evening as well. Then more dipping as I turned up at Old Nab to find JB there and reporting four Little Egrets in the bay before the tide fell and all the people got on the beach.

The sea had been quiet and despite JB watching since about one little other than the egrets had been seen. However, I was on a mission as I reckoned with a south westerly wind there ought to be a few terns later on. About six or so the terns started coming west, heading, as I believed at that point, for the Tees. The trickle became a steadyish stream and they started coming in closer, this did not make for easy counting as some were further out as well. Totals in the end were 1159 Common Terns and 211 Arctic Terns, when in doubt they were attributed to Common (BirdTrack doesn't have a Commic Tern category so they have to be IDed or they don't exist). This probably results in under recording of Arctic Tern. The biggest problem was that almost 50% of these totals came through in one ten minute period just after 8pm so the figures are best taken as my best estimates.

Also seen 30 Sandwich Tern, 3 Arctic Skua, 2 Common Scoter, 60 Guillemot with plenty of very noisy young, 100 Kittiwake with only 3 juveniles, about 300 Gannet and 6 Manx Shearwater.

When I packed up at about 8:20 I had a bit of a scan around and found that very large numbers of terns were hanging around outside Staithes Harbour and they seemed to be roosting on the sea there. I had expected all my terns to be heading for the Tees so this was a bit of a surprise.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Montagu's Harrier

Family seaside visit, lots of digging in the sand and me staring rather hopefully out to sea. We'd decided to leave but were awaiting the completion of a further sand structure when the hopeful became hoped for. What's this? Dark, large falcon-like but lazy flier, low over the sea about a klick and a bit away. I watched the raptor slowly heading west, occasionally gliding (that's the bird not me), trying to figure it out (that's me). Peregrine was in my mind, as that's what you'd expect, but it was far too lackadaisical and indirect and the jizz was wrong for any falcon although the wings were pointed and narrow and the tail a comparable length. Then it soared up and for the first time I saw it head on, classic harrier shape. The penny dropped, it's a Monty. I watched the bird soar way up and gave Louise the bins for a look (no scope of course). It soared around for a while and then dropped down again, further out now and to the west, it kept going. Whilst up high it was with a couple of Herring Gulls briefly, it didn't like them, and was smaller and slighter. I was surprised how dark this bird looked but the distance, the sunshine and the fact that they are quite dark (juveniles especially apparently) would explain that I guess, I couldn't see any plumage detail and certainly I was not able to count the primaries. it would have been nice to have had the bird closer, or to have had the scope but so it goes.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ness Point / Hawsker

View from Ness Point, looking north

Linnet - lots of these especially around Rain Dale

Didn't get going until a bit later yesterday a.m. and there was very little wind so I headed for Ness Point. A Yellow Wag' was welcome, it flew over as I got out of the car. There were a few Willow Warblers and Whitethroats, Swallows were much in evidence and House Martins were still traversing their cliff nest site. Once the breeze got up I gave sea watching a go. Quite a productive two hours with 5 Sooty Shearwaters, 71 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Arctic Skua, 2 Great Skua and a flurry of quacker activity including 3 Wigeon, 24 Common Scoter, 24 Teal (in five parties). 60 Kittiwakes went north but no juveniles and there were at least 74 Guillemots on the sea with at least a third of these being adult with young combinations. Mammals included 3 or 4 Harbour Porpoise and 2 Grey Seals. Small Copper and Wall butterflies were seen and an unidentified hawker dragonfly.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Up North

Trip Up North today required to resolve the transportation issue, fortunately successful, and for a bit of a look at old haunts and to take in some culture.

St Mary's Island and Black-headed Gull + rain, lots of it

St Mary's true to form managed to drench us and cause near rebellion amongst offspring, however, the excellent coffee and cakes served by the Rendevous Cafe, down the way at Whitley Bay, generally restored our spirits.

Herring Gull, juvenile at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art

Japanese art at the Baltic is outstanding - click here for info. And the opportunity for a further pic of a bird at an artistic location. Unfortunately spent most of the time at The (very wonderful) Angel of the North sorting out car insurance so failed to get any sort of picture of a bird there.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Birds today

The Old Nab was rather quiet this morning except for the previously mentioned whale.

Scaling Dam still had two LRPs, a Green Sandpiper and a couple of Common Sandpipers.

Scarborough Birders new website

Scarborough birders have a new website here.


A Minke Whale went east (south) past the Old Nab at 06:50 this morning, it was reasonably close inshore but was motoring on its way, not feeding. Also 1 Arctic Skua, also east.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


The sun sets in to Teeside from Old Nab

A gentle August evening, just the job for another go from the Old Nab with terns the target species. I was not to be disappointed with small numbers of Common and Sandwich Terns evident inshore on my arrival just before 6 p.m. Careful scrutiny out towards Denmark indicated that there were some hundreds of feeding terns in the near North Sea. My thinking had been that although Kettleness was pretty good for terns the Old Nab should do better in the evenings as the birds headed back in to the Tees to roost. Initially the birds were frustratingly distant but as time wore on and they began to head for the Tees they generally came closer and I found the first of three Roseate Terns at 7:10 p.m. Arctic Terns were scattered amongst the predominant Commons and two more Roseates were found 20 minutes later. In all I reckoned 500 or so Common Terns and 30 Arctic but it was a bit of a guess as I'd forgotten my tally counter and decided to concentrate on separating out the more interesting species. Also for my delectation was a Red-necked Grebe, a second summer Little Gull and a Bonxie. A likely Sooty Shearwater managed to vaporise into a trough before it could be confirmed and was unrelocatable.

It was encouraging to see the feeding swarms of terns, clearly there are fish available and there seemed to be some numbers of juveniles of both Common and Sandwich Terns. Only 40 or so Guillemots were offshore, although there were a fair number of juveniles. Kittiwakes were counted at about 50 with only five juveniles. usually at this time of year I would expect to see many hundred Kittiwakes and many more auks so this was concerning.

Cormorant world was back to normal with just one heading east. There were several Harbour Porpoise feeding off the Nab.

Emerald Damselfly

A family outing to the moor pond early in the afternoon had found a few Emerald Damselfly, a Southern Hawker a sadly demised Great Diving Beetle and a single, very small, Common Frog.
Great Diving Beetle

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Moth stuff +

Silver-Y pretending to be Gorse

Yesterday's sunshine brought a few more butterflies to the garden including 3, Wall; 2, Small Copper. Today there was a Silver-Y, uncommon this year and more Walls, Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral.
Ling Pug?

I've tried a bit of mothing of late. I think this is Ling Pug, which might be an interesting record if it is one, it's rather worn so difficult. There continue to be huge numbers of Large Yellow Underwing which invade the house at any opportunity - especially when I position the lamp just outside the front door.

Marbled Beauty

On the dead things front this pipistrelle sp was found on the stairs, unfortunately a cat casualty I think.

Pipistrelle sp

Possibly crossbill over the garden this after' but little else of note about.

The greenhouse is now just about completed - end of bad-tempered phase.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Food and drink

Essential sustenance during the seawatch. This morning I opened my bag to find an incorrect biscuit, indeed a packet of the same. Ah, sending the wife shopping for seawatching supplies, what better could I have expected? The digestive is not a seawatcher's biscuit. It has many disadvantages (or at least a lot of one disadvantage) compared to the fig roll or the Jaffa cake. It is surpassed by many a modern confection and by that great seawatching delicacy and most practical of snacks, flapjack (when correctly prepared). So this morning I did espy a few seabirds 6 Arctic Skuas; 4 Great Skuas; 6 Manx Shearwaters; 75 Common Terns and 110 Sandwich Terns but was much distracted by the repeated need to upturn the binoculars to remove that dreaded hindrance, crumbs.

This was all brought back whilst enjoying a well considered Christmas present that has kept my attention for these many months, the box set of Still Game. IMHO a work of some considerable genius. The episode "Scran" reminded me of some thoughts I had had whilst considering the dismal numbers of Kittiwakes passing the Old Nab this very morn. The said digestives led me to consider how a New Tory might engage with the seawatching snack issue. Perhaps a pre-ordered hamper from Fortnum's woud be awaiting the liberalised toff as he unzipped his Cath Kidston patterned scope case. Or maybe in the spirit of roughing it for the paparazzi a simple healthy fruit breakfast would be sliced and prepared in situ and spooned into the eager orifice by a minimum waged assistant. Ah, but this is the beauty of a quiet watch, an opportunity to indulge ones mind in offbeat perambulation.

Offbeat were the Great Cormorants. Clearly some urgency to head east and south out of Tees Bay had struck the local population of this mega fish scoffer as 26 headed past me over the two and a bit hours. Several others loitered around the Nab and some additional carbo may have snuck past close inshore and under my line of vision, unacceptable behaviour in (or actually not) my view. Later at Scaling Dam a rare moment as a cormorant landed on the new bank in front of the hide. A-ha, I thought, an opportunity for a photo and then protractor to hand, at my leisure, some gular measurement fun a la "Bordering Birding", but it was a fantasy ...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Greenhouse foundations

No proper birding today, the weather didn't look too encouraging and the greenhouse is supposed to arrive tomorrow so I had to make the base for it to stand on - so a rather bad tempered day then, dropping a railway sleeper on my foot didn't help.

There was a Sylvia warbler tacking in the garden for a while this morning but I couldn't locate it, Blackcap probably. Siskins are still scoffing Niger, House Martins and Swallows paid a brief visit and that was about it.

Highlight of the day was Louise shrieking in alarm in the kitchen as she brushed a creature of her neck on to the kitchen floor, it turned out to be a Puss Moth caterpillar. It was replaced none the worse for its experience on a willow in the garden (food plant).

Other insects today included a Comma, Red Admiral, Meadow Browns (6) , Green-veined White and 10+ Large Whites.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Happy holidays

Mediterranean Gull, adult, (probably a female :-)

Sussex, Wiltshire, Dorset, Cornwall, the grand tour. Not that everything went entirely to plan but a good time has been had by all. We have returned minus one long standing member of the family - we are a car less as the cambelt decided that enough was enough somewhere near the Devon / Dorset border. (For the uninitiated when the cambelt breaks it wrecks the engine.) However, the Visa card and Europcar came to the rescue and after a pause holiday mode was reinstalled.

Birding highlights included finding a Ring-billed Gull at Helston (so all those hours at Scaling Dam grilling Common and Herring Gulls proved worthwhile - first know your argenteus from your argentatus. Twelve Mediterranean Gulls on the Helford River in one go were rather good and a Wood Sandpiper at Stithians was an appreciated find.

First Summer Ring-billed Gull, The Loe, Helston

In Wiltshire I tackled moths again with Rosy Footman and Large Wainscot (to be confirmed) highlights. Black Arches and an interesting Emerald were located in Cornwall (in a public toilet).

Herring Gull, The Tate, St Ives

The arts were fully appreciated as was our nation's heritage.

Jackdaws, just after dawn, Stonehenge

Do something new: body boarding is pretty wild if not a little knackering.

Many thanks to all who were wonderfully hospitable.