Friday, August 07, 2009

The last post ....

WhitbyBirding is closing as of today. I'm still blogging but posts will be on the Literate Herring blog - click here to go there. Thank you to all contributors and readers over the last few years, it was fun while it lasted.

Hoverflies etc

Thousands of hoverflies through the garden over the last two days, Wednesday evening and yesterday morning were exceptional. Mostly Episyrphus balteatus but other species involved as well. Found the sawfly Urocerus gigas at the new Pannett Park play ground on Wednesday, had probably emerged from the equipment - very blurry pix only, on BBerry.

Purple Thorn in the house this morning.

Huge numbers of fresh Painted Lady everywhere at the moment, probably 40 or so in the garden at any one time. Also Comma x2 and the next generation of Walls have been emerging over the last couple of days whilst Meadow Brown and Ringlet are hanging on.

Ross's Gull?

BirdGuides is reporting a possible adult Ross's Gull on the East Pier, Whitby Harbour yesterday. A bit annoying as I was a few hundred metres away at lunchtime, so it goes .... not much time today either.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Hummingbird Hawkmoth

One Hummer on the Buddlia again yesterday.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Mothing, birding, butterflying etc

Nick and Sandra brought their moth trap around so first thing this morning we were wading knee deep through Large Yellow Underwings to try to discover the quality within. There are still five or six moths unnamed but on the whole we managed to id them without too much difficulty. A Hummingbird Hawkmoth paid the Buddlia a visit whilst we were doing the id, the third this year. Marbled Beauty is always an attractive thing to find and other common species made up the haul.

Twelve species of butterfly around Scaling Dam today (dipped on a Marsh Harrier) but found Whinchat and Stonechat juvs at the Cleveland end. Comma in the garden at home.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Bits of birding

Dramatic Scaling Dam produced this bit of excitement as the Stoat attempted to murder Moorhens and Mallards.

Other birds present included Green Sandpiper.

Yesterday I went to Kettleness for a brief seawatch. This produced Manx Shearwater, 4; a medium sized annoyingly distant wader and a small annoyingly distant wader as well as a Whimbrel on the shore. Sandwich Terns were trickling south and one Common Tern came west.

On the way to the seawatch there was a Green Sandpiper on the flash by the ex-tip and a Barn Owl just a little further down the road.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Autumn arrives

Autumn is officially here, the first Willow Warbler flock exhibiting that pre-migration aggression were in the garden today mixed up with Blue, Coal and Great Tits, Wrens, Robins and a Blackcap. There were eleven Willow Warblers in that group. There was also a younger family party of three or four Willow Warblers with the adult still feeding the young. 20 Lapwings flew over the garden going west and there were Swifts and Swallows trickling west as well.

Herring Gulls - orange darvic

I've been seeing a few herring Gulls with single, long, orange darvic rings. These are numbered, 1739 was at Scaling Dam on Tuesday evening. Anyone know who to contact for these? I've tried looking on the cr birding and can't find anything .....

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Squally Scaling Dam

Two Icelandic race Blackwits were at the Yorkshire end yesterday evening. Not much else though.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Garden Warbler

Garden Warbler acting suspiciously in the garden this morning. I think they are breeding in the wild raspberry patch where the Whitethroats tried last year.

Mole on the doorstep

Suspect it was escaping rather than trying to get in, the cats pick them up from time to time, especially after heavy rain but they rarely kill them. We occasionally find them running around the living room trying to get out.

Silver Ys

Walking to the Old Nab yesterday I noticed there were quite a lot of Silver Ys, about 60 or so on thistles mostly. Numbers in the garden have gradually built up until today there were about 70 or so on the lavender patch alone, mid-afternoon.

No Whinchats

.... but this was in a tree near home. A species I won't be seeing much of pretty soon.

A quick look on the moor found breeding Whitethroats and a Tree Pipit but the reliable Whinchat place proved not so reliable.


The northerly eventually got me out on to the Old Nab yesterday afternoon for a rather damp seawatch. Falling "a over t" down the "bad step" onto the end didn't help. It was always likely to rain and of course it did and I got damp. However, Manx Shearwater, 6; Arctic Skua 1 (adult dark phase); two small flocks of Common Scoter scurrying north, total 28; Razorbill carrying food (looked like sand eels); piles of Sandwich Terns feeding including at least one juvenile, Gannets, Kittiwakes made up a reasonably entertaining two hours.

Earlier at showery Scaling Dam a flock of 52 Mistle Thushes, feeding on bilberry on the moor perhaps, two Cuckoos, an adult and a juvenile, and the first Green Sandpiper of the autumn were fair recompense.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

More Spot Fly

Working for much of the day put paid to any proper birding but an afternoon visit to Danby Moor Centre (not my favourite place it should be said but the cakes are good) produced two pairs of Sand Martins and a Spotted Flycatcher.

A Lesser Black-backed Gull sailed past the kitchen window early afternoon, narrowly missing air space (but it might be a tetrad tick). A Buzzard and the ever noisy Kestrels completed my day.

Small Heath was in the garden yesterday.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

WhitbyBirding not RIP (yet) merely sleepy

A fortnight without a post, what will my ever dwindling readership be thinking?

Sadly neglected Scaling Dam continues to be sadly neglected. I've not even peeked at a seabird, indeed the only birding has taken place in the garden. This resulted in Lapwing being added to the garden list on Tuesday as one entered airspace, 71. The Garden Warbler and Blackcap have been absent since last weekend but the Chiffchaff still sings from the valley and a pair of Kestrels have at least two fledged chicks making their presence known by loud hunger calls.

An evening at the pub last Saturday started well as we had to stop the car to allow a Woodcock and her family to cross the road on Limber Hill. Later that evening Nightjar and roding Woodcock were heard at one of my regular spots. These were all rather good Atlas / Birdtrack data.

Yellowhammer fledglings have been ever present in the garden along with Coal Tits.

A social evening up the dale resulted in the discovery of three or four pairs of Swift breeding in a farmhouse roof and House Martins have been located at a number of places, although the village colony appears reduced this year.

An Atlas visit to a nearby square resulted in the discovery of Spotted Flycatchers, more House Martins and a local first for me a Kingfisher.

A Hummingbird Hawkmoth was a visitor to the garden again last Saturday. Butterflies are now everywhere in the garden with Ringlet and Meadow Brown being present in some numbers and two Small Skippers joining them. This is along with the ever increasing Red Admirals, Painted Ladies and Small Tortoiseshells which are feeding on the Valerian. The Budlia is about to bloom now providing additional feeding for the butterflies and moths.

Disaster of the week was Louise gripping me off severely by seeing the Graemeshall Loch Great White Egret whilst house hunting up north as I was stuck here working and looking after the offspring. Those who aided and abetted in this dastardly deed (which included a mobile call whilst she was actually looking at the bird) will receive their comeuppance in due course. GWE is a species I have failed to connect with in UK (largely, it should be said, through a slack attitude to twitching one), so salt has now been rubbed vigorously into the wound.

Slightly ameliorating this has been Voda's generosity in providing me with a Blackberry. A picking error resulting in a rather fine bit of kit arriving through my door. (I did own up and they told me I could keep it). This may result in mobile blogging, although my current rate of learning to use this tool is likely to result in that event occurring in 2023. At the moment I am severely challenged to get it to operate on my WiFi - I thought I'd cracked it but then it dropped the connection and I couldn't get it back, maybe low battery?

Spotted Flycatcher calling (with Jackdaw and Chiffchaff in the background)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Garden Warbler

Part of the Open Gardens involves "scarecrow" making and displaying, this year ours was the life cycle of a butterfly.

A Garden Warbler has been singing from all around the garden and once briefly from within it this weekend. The Blackcap is now largely silent but very occasional bursts of sing indicate it is still about, possibly breeding. Over the weekend three young Goldfinch fed on a thistle in "the meadow" and the juvenile Tree Sparrow is appearing regularly with a parent. The House Sparrows seem to have gone.

The first Ringlet of the year was flying on Saturday.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Open Gardens

Our "Open Gardens" leaflet can be found here.

Rather madly, considering our circumstances, we've agreed to do this. The garden is open to visitors today and tomorrow, 11:00a.m. to 4:00p.m. At the moment it's rather foggy and very wet, not ideal.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Tree Sparrows

A juvenile Tree Sparrow was under the kitchen feeder with an adult this morning, they have clearly bred somewhere very close by.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Small Elephant Hawkmoth

Elephant Hawkmoth

Elephant Hawkmoth

Probably two Small Elephant Hawks in total and at one point had three Elephant Hawks around the light at once Also plenty of other moths, which will take me a while to id because I'm no great shakes at them.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunny Runswick Bay

Dad's Day treat - go to Runswick Bay and have a pub lunch. I'm very fond of the Royal Hotel which serves a good pint of Black Sheep and decent enough grub (fish and chips recommended if you're hungry). You can sit out overlooking the bay and casually bird whilst enjoying these refreshments. This Wood Mouse was in the garden.

On the way down the first Herring Gull chick of the season was on a roof.

House Martins were very active collecting nest material and seven nests were located on the usual building (House Martins seem ok in this neck of the woods). Lesser Whitethroat was singing in the top car park.

Earlier in the morning at home a Cuckoo, cuckooed repeatedly from the plantation beside the garden, didn't make airspace though, the two male House Sparrows were present again, the Blackcap seems to have been joined by a competitor and in the afternoon a veritable flock of three Grey Herons flew past.

The cut field that was sprayed with cow shit now holds a goodly flock of Curlew and plenty of gulls were following the silage cutting tractors including about 60 Black-headed Gulls and 30 Herring Gulls.

Out hunting for more moths for the garden moth recording week, click here for info.

Hummingbird Hawk

Hhhhmmmmmmmm.... Hummingbird Hawkmoth in the garden this evening (very blurry pix in the gloaming). Rather early in the season methinks.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bees, butterflies and night noises

So the Painted Lady invasion finally reached here with one early in the week in the garden and one in Whitby and then four in the garden yesterday and at least six today.

Bombus hortorum

The bumblebee photos are from last weekend when I had a surprising lack of enthusiasm for birding and stayed at home mooching about.

Bombus pascuorum (also saw B. pratorum)

Up and about early on Saturday morning my wander around the feeders to fill them brought a garden first - the sound of Redstart singing. The bird was in our neighbour's trees about 200 metres away but a nice record none the less. Redstart is much more common on the other side of the dale around the organic farm. The farm which is our neighbour is not organic, it may of course be micro-climate that dictates Redstart ditribution but I do suspect land management practices have something to do with the paucity of breeding Redstart on our side of the dale comparing dismally to the plenty across the beck. Also of note was the Blackcap which has greeted our awakening each morning since last Sunday - I'll upload some song later. A male House Sparrow joined the much more regular Tree Sparrow at the feeders along with the usual gang of Yellowhammers, Greenfinches, Siskins and Goldfinches. Stock Doves are early morning regulars from the kitchen window feeding on the fallen seed from the feeder.

Moody moor

An Atlas visit took up the rest of Saturday morning, bringing few surprises but good numbers of Tree Pipits and proving breeding, two different Cuckoos still cuckooing, Redstart singing and the discovery of some very lovely meadows in a part of the tetrad where I had previously not ventured.

Nice fields

Back home a low flying Buzzard entered airspace and Kestrel was displaying, Sparrowhawk hunting.

Evening arrived and I wondered about moth trapping, Elephant Hawk ought to be on the wing but the birds won, as they usually do and I headed to one of my favourite places. Out of the car and straight away the familiar creaking gate greeted me - LEO hunger calling. The Long-eared Owls had used the same spot as last year. I wanted to check a new spot for Nightjar so didn't linger with the owls and set off tramping. Roe Deer were but shadows in the lower fields, their barks pierced the dusk. On the way to the selected spot I heard Nightjar behind me, from where I had just been .... however, I carried on. The so called promising spot had clearly looked good to my eyes but not to a Nightjar's. Lots of churring was coming from a way away and from a closer but different spot. Eventually, having tramped more I arrived at a territory. Fortunately my midge protection was at least partially effective and over half an hour a male bird flew around me five or six times just 10 feet or so away. An unseen Woodcock roded overhead. I headed home.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Garden today and Orkney report

Today both House Sparrow and Tree Sparrow in the garden, the House Sparrow female feeding two young by the feeders. This is the first sighting of this species, common 400 metres away, in the garden for about a year. Also plenty of Siskin and Goldfinch. Willow Warbler are now whoeeeting in the trees. A Blackcap sang briefly from behind the feeders.

I managed to repair the pond which had sprung a leak, it's now full again.

Orkney report is on my other blog - Literate herring this way It's a very brief account of a very busy week.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Birding time

Awoke early and for the first time in a while felt sprightly before five so ... Initially headed for an Atlas site but it was shrouded in thick cloud so gave up and decided to play hunt the Dotterel again, encouraged by Dave's comments from yesterday. However, Dotterel were laying low, with good reason a male Marsh Harrier was cruising for a bruising. Curlews going beserk, Lapwings distracting like mad ... Plenty of waders up around the Beacon (so Dotterel hunters please tread with care). Also one or two Wheatear up ther but much reduced on a week or so ago. Cuckoo was singing.Tromping around failed to find the quarry (a glimpse of a distant "maybe" in flight, could have been a Goldie though, so a sprightly visit to fresh Scaling Dam found Garden Warbler singing near the hide and the Icelandic Blackwit continuing to feed vigorously in the rapidly shrinking flash.



Another attempt for the Dotterel in the late afternoon. Failed.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Birding interrupted

Various things conspired and combined to prevent much birding taking place .... Dotterel turned up at Danby the day I didn't go, Scaling Dam continued to hold the Icelandic Blackwit on Saturday when three Ringed Plover appeared with a Garden Warbler.

On the coast Bonxie cruised past Saltwick and there was much hirundine confusion with small parties of House Martins heading north whilst Swallows gathered and then dispersed south.

Looking south to RHB

In the last couple of days there have been six Dotterel at Danby Beacon but too much work for me to get there .... tomorrow maybe.

Proof of breeding, the young are now very noisy

Tree Rat deterrent - I have an inkling there's something awry with this plan ...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Black Tern time ....

...but not at gloomy Scaling Dam. Met by a birder leaving the hide who indicated a no Black Tern situation I persevered. A Great Crested Grebe was new, 4 Teal fed in the corner and a very odd looking "Herring Gull" didn't fit anything other than an out of season argentatus.

Even at this range the gull with the darker, bluer mantle can be picked out - great pic eh?

I drove up to the beacon to have another hunt around for Dotterel but it was a no Dotterel situation at Danby yet again.

Back down and a hunt around some favoured spots produced little. However, dropping back into rewarding Scaling Dam at the Yorkshire end a Black-tailed Godwit of the Icelandic race was found feeding energetically on the flash.

Another great pic - Icelandic Blackwit

Some owling diversions on the way back found a Long-eared Owl which I didn't see on the fence post until it flew unfortunately, quite decent views though.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Owl time

The early morning outing was somewhat curtailed due to slight over indulgence of the Sauvignon Blanc the night before - drowning the misery of one of the worst movies I have had the misfortune to not watch all of (Anchorman - just don't bother). In any case the Dotterel were nowhere to be found despite careful searching.

This evening there was a Short-eared Owl where I expected a L-eO and an unidentified but very likely L-eO where I expected a S-eO. Tea and chocolate may allow an early expedition tomorrow.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Garganey and gull

Nice pair of Garganey at damp Scaling Dam this afternoon.

A colour ringed gull was amongst the large gulls and when it finally emerged it was a little problematic. The colour ring was a long orange ring with dark numbers/letters (too far away) on the tarsus and there was a metal ring (that perhaps looked too narrow for a BTO) on the left leg. It was a first winter/summer bird. The tertials were almost entirely dark with just a little pale fringing. Bill was all black but not especially heavy. Size was argenteus size. Breast and belly were not especially clean white, although that feature did not show well due to angle. In flight the tail had quite a broad subterminal dark band and there was an obvious pale window in the 2aries. Overall the bird was quite dark with a paler head, white behind the eye and on rear crown. Didn't really seem to fit Yellow-legged Gull but the tertials were odd for argenteus .... Not sure really.

Sand Martins and House Martins were present but little else of note. The Garganey were nice though.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Dotterel time report

It's probably a bit early I guess. I searched Danby Beacon carefully yesterday, no Dotterel were to be found. If you do check this site please be aware that Golden Plover breed near the Beacon, try to look from the road or the car park / Beacon area or at least wander with an awareness of breeding birds.

At the Beacon there were good numbers of Wheatear, suspect these were migrants as at least one seemed to show the characteristics of Ieucorrhoa. Plenty of Kestrel at this site also.

Nearly the best bird yesterday were a pair of Grey Partridge that wandered along the road by my route to sunny Scaling Dam. It is a long time since I have seen this species which four years ago I was seeing more frequently. I have a rant to do about this species but I'll save it for now ....

A Swift was new for the year at Egton Banks and snatches of Lesser Whitethroat were detected there amongst Whitethroat, Redstart, Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. Still no Garden Warbler though.

Costa Scaling produced Cuckoo but Whinchat and Garden Warbler were elusive. The usual waders were present with Oystercatcher displaying and Herring Gull also undertaking nuptials.

Annoying sound bite off

I've adjusted Spock so he/I've shut up now.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Dotterel time

Tomorrow or Sunday may well be the days to look at high places, I'll be venturing a look at a nearby hill for the smart plover.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Real birding

Common Sandpiper

Broad-billed Sandless Scaling Dam did have a Ruff, 5 Common Sandpipers, 2 LRPs, one Cuckoo and a Lesser Whitethroat. I couldn't raise the enthusiasm to pop back to see the escaped Ruddy Shelduck reported later.

On the moor here there were about 25 Green Hairstreaks.

Green Hairstreak on Gorse

Today I went searching again for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker which I am fairly sure I have heard twice now at one of my Atlas squares, fairly sure but it needs confirming. Not a tap or keek this morning but excellent views of singing Redstart of which there are at least five at this spot. See side panel for video.

Here's the White Wagtail from last week, on the pole, note the flusher.

Startrek birding

"Spock, you fool! It's the wrong month for Broad-billed Sand, and trying to make up for it by letting a Ruddy Shelduck loose from Roxby just doesn't cut it. One Ruff, five Common Sandpipers and a Redshank were all I could find. Beam me up Scottie."

Friday, April 24, 2009

Vulcan Rareometer computes

"My computations, adjusting weather conditions against knowledge of migratory habits,indicate that tomorrow a Broad-billed Sandpiper will be found on the muddy banks of nearby Scaling Dam. I will rise early, clean behind my ears and seek this rare, wading bird with diligent and careful searching."

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Just now I heard a distant Whimbrel from the garden, I think. It was just a bit distant and it only called twice, in the end I decided not countable for the tetrad. At the beginning of the week I was puzzled by a call which was repeated over about three minutes or so, it seemed to be coming from a bird that was flying around high up. Later when I could check I listened to Bee-eater calls which the mystery sound had reminded me of. Close but not quite the business, the flutey, whistley bit was in there but not the prrupping noises. Still don't know what it was, I suspect it actually was a bee-eater, though none have been recorded elsewhere and it is a bit early - that or wild imagination.

The White Wagtail business earlier in the week was interesting, in the past I was pretty adamant that they could not be done on call and had tested this in Europe. But the bird the other day I picked up on call straight away, a good test.

Sunny today, the first blue sky we've had for over a week I think. I'll sit outside and listen some more.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Owling time

Due to the local penchant for annihilating owls I'm going to be circumspect about giving an indication where I see them. This evening's outing showed only too clearly what the problems are: managed grouse moors with miles of suitable habitat - no owls; place with no shooting - Short-eared Owl found within five minutes. These moors should have a pretty good population of S-eOs on habitat availability, the reality is that this species is very uncommon and hard to find in the breeding season.

I am told by reliable sources that S-eOs are targeted by the keepers. I have also been informed of the deliberate shooting of a Tawny Owl. Now I'll warrant that S-eOs may take the occasional small grouse chick but it is well known that they are almost entirely dependant on small mammals, I believe that the taking of grouse and other bird chicks is unusual. Tawny Owl will pose almost no threat to game birds, indeed they are likely to deal with the species that predate them, Brown Rat for example. But in this neck of the woods it seems "There's too many hawks." and owls, no doubt.

Did I come across a Hen Harrier during my evening outing? You must be joking. Last breeding here in 2003 and now very uncommon in winter, let alone breeding. What is the National Park doing about this? Absolutely nothing, indeed correspondence that I have had reveals a denial of the truth that it is human activities that limit Hen Harriers here, instead the old chestnut of ccomplexity was trotted out. Complexity my foot.

Now I've got that off my chest what was going on at misty Scaling Dam earlier today? From the Yorkshire end I espied a small flock of hirundines, so with R-rS ever on my mind at this season I leapt back in the car and headed for Cleveland. 47 Swallows, 5 Sand Martins and 2 House Martins was my haul, actually staying just the Yorkshire side of the border. However, up by the hide a slight accent to a call caught my attention, somewhere here there's a White Wagtail. That's not a White Wagtail but aha, that one is.

A few years back I was involved in some discussion about whether or not M.a.alba is separable from M.a.yarrelli on call. At the time my view was not. However, I have changed my mind, I seem to be able to tune in to them these days. There is a grey wagtailish sharpness to alba's call to my ear. I am happy with this in spring, however, autumn juveniles with their juvvy type calls are not so clear cut and I'm not sure its possible to separate them on call in autumn.

The other good bird was Stock Dove, not sure I've seen this species at Scaling before, there were two on the field across the road however. Reading the northern blogs Stock Doves seem to be on the move at the moment with birds turning up on Shetland. The other species scattered across the northern isles at the moment is Hawfinch.

Tree Sparrows are now daily in the garden and can be heard almost continuously chirping from nearby Hawthorns. The male Sparrowhawk is an almost daily visitor and a pair of Kestrel are prospecting.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Literate Herring, this way.

My new blog can be found here.

WhitbyBirding will continue for now but the baton will be passed, in a slow motion kind of a way, to my new blog - Literate Herring, this way.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A good bit of birding, in two parts

Feeling somewhat less lurgified than of late and having keen and raring to go Nick C staying, elected to head for one of my "undisclosed sites" this morning for some raptorial entertainment. On arriving at the spot and walking down the hill we both appeared to get on to the bird in front of us at about the same moment and without raising the bins, even at 50 metres, managed the correct id - Great Grey Shrike. Nice! The bird performed rather well for the next hour or so, out of proper photo range but good enough. But one surprise was not enough as raising the bins for the expected, the unexpected appeared, a very nice Red Kite, no wing tags and a missing secondary from its right wing. This did not hang around but once up and in the air went high and away to the east in about 10 minutes. The expected also performed rather nicely which added to the morning's quality.

The middle of the day was spent walking a ridge with the family, but despite high expectations raptorial views were of one brief and distant bird that disappeared too soon for id.

On returning home and brewing needed tea a knock on the door occurred. A neighbour with a bird they could not identify around their house. These being neighbours who know their birds an investigation seemed appropriate as the bird sounded as if it might be a Black Redstart. Small person assistant in tow and tea transferred to thermal cup and 15 minutes later I was watching a slightly elusive but very pleasing Black Redstart feeding around the neighbours' outbuilding.

The wing panel was less clear in the field, looks like this is a 1st summer male.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Lurgy again

Aaaggggghhhh, I have the dreadful lurgy again. This does not seem fair. Birding currently cancelled. A brief venture outside found Willow Warblers and Chiffchaff singing.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Spring is here

There were three Willow Warblers singing on my round this morning. It is the song that most heralds the change of season for me, I love that melancholy accent. I also saw two dead lambs, various placentae and one sheep with the head of, what looked like, another rather dead lamb sticking out of it's rear.

Yesterday there were as many as five Sand Martins along the river at the Danby Moors Centre and I had a glimpse of a maybe House Martin but it disappeared all too swiftly.

We then went on to Whitby where there were piles of Herring Gulls which had followed the boats in and the usual very tame Turnstones.

Click the pic for Big Turnstone

Bird movements, me movements

I've been guilty recently of not reporting on some fairly interesting bits of movement - Saturday, Meadow Pipits were coasting and whilst I was by coastguards and then down at Saltwick there was a steady trickle heading north or westward.

Yesterday morning something stirred in Fieldfare world. En route to bacon-butty-baited Scaling Dam a large flock of about 300 lingered in trees with about 50 Redwing. Then at Scaling itself another 130 or so headed north, this time without accompanying smaller cousins.

Another significant movement may be taking place in the not too distant future as the WhitbyBirder is planning a permanent northerly migration. All is not confirmed yet but the delightful property below is now on the market (70 species in the garden or in direct airspace in three and a bit years), more on this later.
Click for link to estate agents.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Runswick Bay

A very relaxed afternoon at Runswick Bay. Not really birding. Up by the car park - the top, free one - there were Tree Sparrows in the little field adjacent, no sign of the Marsh / Willow Tits though. Yellowhammer flew over.

On the way down to the beach there was Blackcap singing - probably two - and Chiffchaff was singing near the bottom boat club car park.

On the water were Eider, Shag and, well that was about it really.

Late afternoon at home as I was cooking the Chicken (one, deceased) a Marsh Tit came to the back feeders. The Niger feeder right by the kitchen window is already a big hit with Siskin, Goldfinch and Chaffinch using it regularly - don't know why they didn't like it when it was with the other back garden feeders but this is better as it is so much closer also.

Saturday, April 04, 2009


Two Swallows on wires in the village as I drove to work in thick mist yesterday morning.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Migrant time

I walked out of a meeting at Caedmon School this morning to hear Chiffchaff singing. Later in the day, at home, early evening, I thought I heard another distantly from the garden.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lovely day here

In the garden the Tree Sparrows are becoming daily visitors to the feeders. Tawny Owls are very vocal during the day at the moment, one hooting at 10:30 this morning. A Buzzard flew straight through the dale shortly after (a or the) male Sparrowhawk had made an unsuccessful raid on the feeders.

Yesterday I had to combine work with birding, marshalling a fund raising treasure hunt, I was assigned to The Battery. Tucked in to avoid the northerly blast I steadied the scope sufficiently to pick out 7 or 8 Purple Sandpipers feeding at the base of the west pier; good numbers (c100 in an hour and a half) of Gannets were passing, mostly heading west; a few Kittiwakes; Eider offshore; but best were a female Goosander close inshore heading west and a high Red-throated Diver going east. Birding was of course regularly interupted to offer prizes to those that had managed to find me.

More work later, I was attending a Shakespeare festival where fittingly extracts of The Tempest were performed to the howl of the actual gale rattling the very structure of the Pavilion during the enactment of the play.

This morning the dale looked grand as I went out and about. Curlew are on territory and their familiar calls are now frequently heard from the garden.

As last year the gull flock has built up feeding in selected dale fields. There were very few gulls this winter but of late about 1,000 are feeding; Common Gull 70%, Black-headed Gull 29.9%, Herring Gull 0.1%.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Change to Italian hunting laws imminent - protest now

Join the campaign to try to prevent changes to Italian law about hunting wild birds. Click here for info.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Garden day

A lovely day here in the North Yorks Moors. I spent the day recovering from recent travelling by lazing around at home. Siskin were singing in the garden and good numbers visiting the trees and feeders, a Tree Sparrow put in an appearance, at dusk two Long-tailed Tits were on the peanut feeder at the front. Chaffinch numbers are still quite high at 50 or so and Yellowhammers abound. Also of interest were 3 or 4 Small Tortoiseshell, the Large White, however, was released by the girls from their bedroom collection of pupae.

A Roe Deer was in the field below the house.

The large Slowworm found last week was found dead yesterday. Ellen named it Slither and spent half the morning carrying it around before making a garden home for it ....

Thursday, March 19, 2009

On the road ... rail, plane, taxi, bus, tube etc

No posts and no posts, WhitbyBiriding has been on the road. A no birding trip to London and adventures northward with little opportunity for birding (mega dip on a nearby Snowy Owl which I didn't even try for - shame). Nice flocks of Long-tailed Ducks though.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Niger getting eaten

During much of the winter the Niger feeders have not attracted much interest but as spring is springing, the green shoots emerging, the Niger is being gobbled again. Chaffinches mostly but a few Siskin are now visiting regularly. Goldfinch continue to be very few and far between.

Ah, just seen a Jay from the window, 100 for the year.

In the autumn I omitted to report a Marsh Tit feeding on Niger. Ignoring the tasty peanut feeder nearby and the sunflower seeds around the back a Marsh Tit went five consecutive times to the Niger feeder, clearly took a seed, perched up in the tree and holding the tiny seed with its feet clobbered it in the usual style until it got the edible bit out. Not seen before or since but of interest I thought.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Yorkshire Bird Report 2006 published

The latest Yorkshire Bird report is now out and about.
£10 + £2 P&P to non-members from the following address. (Free to YNU members, £25 per annum, membership enquiries to: Mr J. A. Newbould, Stonecroft, 3 Brookmead Close, Sutton Poyntz, Weymouth, Dorset, DT3 6RS.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Snow gone for now

As soon as the snow was on its way into the gutter birds began to sing. Song Thrush was singing at Runswick Bay on Monday and at home on Tuesday, today there were three singing in the morning. For a bird that I've not seen or heard around the garden for weeks their sudden emergence is interesting. Have these Song Thrushes come in or have they been skulking around all the time?

Also bursting into song around home were Mistle Thrush on Tuesday and Blackbird on Wednesday.

The Yellowhammers are no in evidence continually around the back garden feeders. They were absent until the beginning of last week from the New Year. Just before the New Year I only saw or heard the occasional bird for some weeks. This is the first time since 2005, when we arrived here, that this species has absented itself for any length of time. Did they know the snow was coming and move to lower ground?

Tree Sparrow has also reappeared although a little more sporadically, there was one on the feeder at the back this morning.

However, Marsh Tit has now disappeared. Having been so evident since the autumn there is now no sign of this species in the garden. Interestingly the Atlas site I covered yesterday, and have made the occasional visit to recently has also suffered an exodus of this species. Perhaps there is now sufficient natural food around and they don't need to lurk around the garden either here or at the Atlas site (where they were also found near feeders).

Lots of questions, not many answers.

I've had a few instances recently of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker reported in unlikely locations. I think these are misidentifications but .... It's always difficult to know what to do about these records, going to check them out is not usually fruitful with this species. I don't think this is a hard species to ID but maybe I'm just complacent. I haven't seen this species for quite a number of years now, I seem to have stopped bumping in to them. Yesterday's Atlas site looks perfect for them but after many visits at appropriate times of the year, no sight and more pertinately no sound.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Can't say, won't say

Red Grouse in the snow

Impressionistic Red Grouse in flight

This morning I went somewhere by car, a bit of a way, and saw some birds.

Unfortunately due to the vulnerability of some species and the prejudiced and ignorant attitude of a very few of the shooting fraternity (who sometimes monitor this blog) I can't say more than that.

This afternoon following up a bit of information from Louise I checked out another possible Barn Owl site. Nice, prolonged views of a hunting bird were obtained by all.

Most of the 696 Lapwing and 7 Golden Plover standing on ice,
The tyre crop is coming along well, organically grown too, we'll be harvesting soon so drop me a mail if your tread is running slim

Frozen Scaling Dam held 5 Goosander today (3 males and 2 females), not common here. There were 696 Lapwing and 7 Golden Plover standing on the ice. Duck numbers were otherwise severely reduced with only 7 Tufted for example. The now miserably miniscule gull roost held but 150 Common Gulls, 50 or so Black-headed Gulls and 22 Great Black-backed Gulls.

More Common Gulls in the dale today, c300 than in the Scaling roost

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Barn Owl extravaganza

On the way home yesterday by another route due to birthday mission a Barn Owl was hunting at a new site.

Today after doing the Spa gull roost and Sandsend gull roost - no result. Decided to head back to yesterday's Barn Owl site, and found two more at another site on the way.

Over at Coastguards there is still a single Velvet Scoter, 40 or so Common Scoter, a flock of 18 Eider + another 15 or so, 2 Red-throated Divers, 3 Guillemots and assorted Shags and Cormorants.

On the cliff top there were a good assortment of waders including 38 Lapwing, 35 Golden Plover, 3 Ringed Plover, about 50 Curlew, 4 Redshank and about 100 Oystercatcher. There was also a sizeable Fieldfare flock of at least 160.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

On the way to work ....

... this morning a Barn Owl distracted me. I stopped the car and watched. The owl headed off up the field so I tried to head off to Whitby. Er, car not moving. Engine working - check; in gear - check; large sheet of black ice - check. I rolled gently down the hill backwards, the way I'd come and tried again and off I went to work.

Things were rather serious on the way home; where's the road gone? Lots of white stuff falling. Taking a bend out of Whitby somewhat injudiciously I found myself going back into Whitby again. No car not that way! Amazing how quickly that happened, it was a rather graceful spin - clearly I'm no McRae. I did manage to drive all the way home though, thanks to the thoughtful folk who had put half a beach on one particular hill.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

More fun than birding?

Blogging again

Late yesterday p.m.

Please excuse the temporary disruption in service as my work interfered for the last few weeks. Hopefully the usual frequency of reporting will now be restored.

Well it's snowed a bit hasn't it? Looking at North Downs and Beyond it seems to have snowed very considerably "down South" whilst we have escaped relatively lightly, excluding last Monday and yesterday when there was some fairly significant precipitation.

Front garden at midnight, moonlight shadows

Driving home on Friday afternoon / evening a possible Woodcock flew in front of the car on one stretch, some ten minutes later on pulling up to reverse into home a definite Woodcock flew from the small wood by the road and over the house.

Yesterday's snow brought a Stonechat to within feet of the garden but it made neither the "seen from" or "within" lists as I couldn't get back into the garden fast enough to tick it - tetrad tick for me though.

The long absent Yellowhammers returned to the garden last weekend and yesterday and today there have been up to four at a time. Other absentees seen recently have been Tree Sparrow, one and Siskin, four yesterday.

Today Blackbirds have flooded in to the food with 16 at one point.

The local magazine, Valley News, brings to light a body I seem to have been oblivious of somehow; Upper Esk Valley Wildlife Group. Now I must make contact with them as they are publishing some interesting records that I seem to be missing. Anybody have a contact for this group?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Work, work, work, Glaucous Gull, work, work

Not a Glaucous Gull

Far, far too much working to be done at the moment. All today and tomorrow, well allish. I nipped out at lunchtime but no Waxwings in the gardens or decent gulls in the harbour. However, the Spa gull roost beckoned at tea time and I shot out again for a short while. Small gulls close inshore, all Black-headed or Common. A few Eider were beyond the suicidal surfers who were attempting a harbour wall incident. A distant Gannet joined the year list and Guillemot amongst the gulls did the same. 19 Eider in all and a Red-throated Diver. Then I started to scan the more distant big gulls and oh, ho ho, what's this big, boyant high in the water, white wing-tipped beast; tis a first winter Glaucous Gull. Having confirmed the id at some distance I drove up to Caedmon Avenue and bang opposite the roost searched through again. The quarry was on the wing and eventually flew a few feet over my head - camera in car for some reason. Well chuffed I returned to the grind-stone.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mad moorland birding

Lovely morning yesterday so I decided to nip up on the moor.

It was a bit icy around us but seemed ok.

Halfway up the very steep road to the moor top I was beginning to question my sanity as the road was covered in frost, ice and some snow. Fortunately the trusty winter tyres did their job and the Fiesta got to the top. The less fortunate VW that had tried to go down a neighbouring route, I could see from the top, was way off the road - rather lucky it stopped where it did another metre or so it would have rolled a long way.

The top road was just pure ice and snow. Eventually the site was gained but it was all a bit still. Of the four target species none were confirmed, though two were maybe distantly heard. However, a beautiful morning.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I'm reverting to my youth ....

Well it would be nice to have the vigour.

I went twitching again yesterday. News of Rough-legged Buzzard not 25 minutes away and a sunny and available afternoon was sufficient motivation. Following my current good run in respect of the twitch, I got my gear out of the car, just about got organised and picked the bird up coming in from behind and had pretty decent views for about three or four minutes before it disappeared in to the distance. A drive further up the appropriate dale allowed me to reconnect and I enjoyed another hour of very good views. At one point a Common Buzzard appeared and for five minutes or so the two species were hunting together allowing rather nice comparison of structure, behaviour and jizz..

On the way home, whilst enjoying the harrowing drama documentary of the Piper Alpha tragedy on Radio 4, I dropped in at Lockwood Beck, another vice county site I'd not been to before. 4 Pochard and about 7 Goldeneye were the highlight here.

Chatting and listening to birders at these two sites was a rare experience as these days I'm usually in the field on my own. A theoretical second R-l B was proposed by one observer, today proven correct. Birding holidays in exotic but cold locations made me somewhat jealous. A proposed Black and White Warbler in someones garden last autumn made me wonder what they were on.

My listening pleasure interrupted again by this birding business as a further stop was required at the recently neglected Scaling Dam. Not too much reward for the effort but in excess of 500 Lapwing and a late forming and rather diminutive gull roost of about 250 Common Gulls and a scattering of the three other commoner species. I soon retreated to the warm environs of the homestead, having missed the end of the drama - I'll dig it out on Listen Again.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bill paying

A nip down to the garage to pay the bill :-( produced Nuthatch singing in the tree opposite and two or three Marsh Tits by the river. On my return home there was a Marsh Tit in the garden , absent since the turn of the year. Sparrowhawk raided the front feeders scaring a Treerat on the feeders so much it froze for over a minute, now if that had been a Gos you'd have been toast my son.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Waxwings, maybe

Rushing out of work earlier than usual to collect offspring some Starling like jobs flew over the car. They weren't, they were almost certainly Waxwings. I was short of time and it was gloomy but Starlings rarely look brown and do that spread tail thing. There were more, I glanced at 50 m.p.h. in the big tree by the Victoria Garden Centre. I'll take my bins tomorrow, perhaps I'll have lunch at The Stables (pub on that junction). Looked like there were quite a few.

If you do one more thing today ...

My personal position is I will never go birding (that means visit) Israel until there is an equitable peace agreement that is lasting. Click here to protest the behaviour of the Israeli state.

Russell's new book

Russell's new book is about to be published, reserve your copy here.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Stonechat at last

"He'd better hurry up with that photo or we'll all topple over!"

It had been quite a while since I'd seen a Stonechat but on Saturday the familiar call caught my ear across the beach, where succeeded in photographing Oystercatchers beside a very sloping sea and a quick scan brought the species on to the year list.

I spent a few hours around the east side of Whitby relocating the Velvet Scoter by the coastguards, seeing the reduced Common Scoter flock, admiring a very fancy drake Eider in the inner harbour and a good number of his peers offshore and then moving on to Saltwick where amongst other things like a single Red-throated Diver offshore, there was the afore mentioned Stonechat. I searched for the Chiffchaff unsuccessfully and then having warmed up in the Coop spent a bit more time mooching around the harbour.

Herring Gull (1st winter) on roof of pickup

Carrion Crow, for once obligingly tame.

GB-bG 1st winter in colourful surroundings, Whitby

Having been sent some superb photographs of a Chiffchaff (maybe a tristis) from Starr Carr near Scarborough (thanks Dave) I had a browse of the Birdguides picture archive looking for definitive tristis. Many labelled tristis but few convinced and surprisingly few had been heard to call. I think I'd better dig out the BB article and see what it says. This does seem to be a form that we are still struggling to pin down (so to speak). The call should nail this id but of course this individual failed to call - unlike the Chiffchaff I found beofre New Year at Saltwick, there was no doubt to that id.

Here's a slightly odd Chiffchaff call from Hawsker in the autumn. You'll have to turn the volume up somewhat - bit of a rubbish recording, sorry.