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.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Redwings coming

9,100 Redwings to be precise ... but not here, at Reighton in two hours this a.m. However, every time I'm out of the door this evening I'm hearing them. The short time I was outside in Whitby this a.m. I heard but one.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


It was cold late this afternoon at that place I go birding. There were few birds, late afternoon is usually so much quieter than the morning. Curlew numbers seem to be slowly increasing. There were a few Goldcrests calling. Then as I was leaving a flock of about forty Redwings shot in/off and kept going low, heading inland.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Too quiet. But it feels as if there should be something. Returned from working away for the week totally knackered and not enthusiastic about birding. Three Redwing over the garden on Saturday, late afternoon were the first here for the autumn (I had been seeing a few each day near Pately Bridge where I'd been working).

This morning I tried a couple of hours in the Saltwick area. There were a few migrants; 1 Chiffchaff, 8 Goldcrest, 11 Chaffinch, 3 Reed Bunting and a redpoll sp. Skylarks were trickling in/off as were Meadow Pipits but it wasn't very exciting. A Merlin livened things up.

At home a Jay, 6 Goldcrest, 2 Marsh Tit and the male Sparrowhawk made a successful strike (prey item unidentified). I must have seen the Sparrowhawk (presumed same male bird) make at least 20 attempts at our feeders and this is only the second successful sortie. They have to work hard for their grub.

Helophilus pendulus (hoverfly) and Comma

Butterflies in the garden - Peacock, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell and Comma; one of each.

In this one the Comma is sharp

A quick nip to the recently neglected Scaling Dam for the gull roost produced 519 Common Gulls before they left to roost on the sea I guess. A Goosander was unexpected. There were three Lesser Black-backed Gulls which are not so common here and the three other commoner species of gull were well represented.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Seawatching okish

Four hours sat near Ness Point was quite hard work. I was about to pack up after two hours when the Halifax crew arrived so I stayed to be sociable and saw a few more birds.

I've done very little seawatching this year so I'm well out of practice but the 3 then 4 Pink-footed Geese going north were close enough. Not sure what they thought they were doing, that's the wrong way guys. The later Barnacles, a 5 and then a high 2 were just that awkward distance and it was surprisingly hard to see the features on them; they also headed north. Harder still was the adult looking skua that went north shortly after the Barnacles, I'll make the excuse I was late to get on to it but with a strong tail wind it was confusingly intermediate between Arctic and Pom and of course it was distant. There was a bit of banter about this bird with some of us favouring Arctic and some Pom.

Probably the worst photo I've posted ... showing inshore juvenile Gannets (really)

An interesting feature of the seawatch were the increasing numbers of Gannets going north. I counted just over 1,000 in the four hours with most of the juveniles close inshore and the adults, almost without exception, distant. They started off at about 150 an hour and got up to around 320 an hour. There have been a couple of inland records today, perhaps unsurprising with so many inexperienced birds moving in a strong SW wind.

Also seen: 4 Wigeon, 1 Great Northern Diver, 13 Red-throated Divers, 1 Manx Shearwater, 1 Merlin, 1 Peregrine, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 3 Great Skuas and at least 3 but possibly 7 Puffins.

2 Sandwich Terns passed as we looked for passerines in Rain Dale before heading off - no passerines to speak of.

Absentees were Fulmar, they are uncommon in October and Kittiwake.

One of the crew glimpsed a fairly distant Minke Whale, no doubt one of the many that have been hanging around just off Whitby this last ten days or so.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Sea, The Sea

Seawatching could be ok tomorrow, shame I've got to work but Saturday might be ok......