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.

Saturday, January 03, 2009


The twitchers

The twitched (the bird directly behind the Carrion Crow)

Ok, there's a proper picture of it here.

I know why I don't often do this, it seems more like stamp collecting than birding (no doubt I'll be in trouble for that remark). However, part of me likes to see a rare thing occasionally. I can excuse myself with my interest in gulls and not having seen this species before, how could I find one if I don't know what to look for?

The Glaucous-winged Gull was smaller than I expected, the tertial step was not as pronounced as I expected and the bill was not as heavy as I expected. At rest and at range it was hard to be certain always that the primaries were indeed grey rather than black. The dark, blue, grey mantle was distinctive and allowed the bird to be picked out at range. The tertials formed a very broad white band on the closed wing and in flight the grey rather than black primary tips were very evident. An interesting bird. I should have been more patient and waited at the ploughed field further in to the afternoon as it later gave very good views there, but I spent about an hour sifting through the gulls there and wanted to see other things. Other nice birds of the morning were Little Egret, a flock of Black-tailed Godwits, Red-breasted Merganser and I heard Spotted Redshank. I somehow managed to avoid any other interesting gulls except a leucistic Herring Gull (well that's what I thought it was) that roosted briefly with the G-wG.

Interesting twitcher moments - someone shouting repeatedly that they had it in flight when my understanding was it was half a mile way at the time. This caused a stampede of twitchers and then considerable bewilderment. Shortly after this the word was spread quietly that the bird was elsewhere, this resulted in one of the most thoughtless and stupid pieces of driving by one individual, a grey Renault Megane estate to my recall. This individual needs help, seeing the bird is not more important than the life of the many birders on foot between yourself and the bird, let alone other road users. Rather sad, as everyone else I came across was polite, friendly and helpful.

No visit to Teesmouth is complete without a ride on the Transporter Bridge (note the sign)

I then went to a place I've never been before, South Gare. The most north-easterly bit of vice county 62 (North Yorkshire). There were Sanderling and delight, Grey Plover, a bird I see most infrequently.

The South Gare, looking south to Kettleness (I think) in the distance

Song Thrush


So yesterday I go along to Runswick Bay and just about the first bird I see is Song Thrush, then Grey Wagtail ..... Rock Pipit was heard but briefly though.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Quicksilver score

The score is 80 including Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon but not including Guillemot / Razorbill (unidentified specifically) or Muscovy Duck :-)

The list is here.

Happy New Year to all my readers and enjoy your birding in 2009.

No birding day.

Well almost, I managed to engineer returning from the children's party activities via a Barn Owl site and excellent views were obtained by all vehicle occupants. (The first thing one of the children said to collecting parent was, "I saw a Barn Owl!")

Oh, heck! I've got to work out my Quicky score. It might be 80 or so, I'll count up and post the list later.