Tuesday 18 December 2012

Another Walk

Yesterday heralded a new 'home' patch tick as a Water Rail screeched deep from a stand of marsh that is developing in the low lying areas of the field across the railway from home.

I tried to have a poke round the sewage works but found little aside from a big flock of Chaffinch and a Grey Heron I spooked from somewhere. Goldcrests called but no Chiffchaff yet. A male Bullfinch was the first I had seen in a while.

Back to the usual trail down by the beck side and nothing much to shout about apart from failing to photograph the juvenile Grey Wagtail which was messing about by the water.

Monday 10 December 2012

Foot IT update

Just a quick update to say that I have added the Foot It blog to the sidebar. I have also posted my first post on their with a quick summary of what is within walking distance of my door. Like this:

I was wondering whether yesterdays Waxwings were still around the Nethergate level crossing as there are plenty of berries in the area but alas just this Goldcrest plus a dozen Fieldfare, a hundred or so Redwing and species number 59 of my foot it dry run - a spanking Kingfisher which was roosting in a Hawthorn until I unwittingly disturbed it.

Yesterday I went to Filey hoping to score King Eider whilst having a family walk. Sadly I failed but a distant Great Northern Diver was pretty decent fare. Only on getting home did I hear about the potential Black Scoter but to me it looks like a Common Scoter with an odd bill in the video.

The rest of the week I am on boats in the North Sea (away tonight and back on friday) so maybe no updates for a few days but then perhaps I will get some material for a decent catch up. A Little Auk photo would suffice. Or Bruunich's.

Thursday 6 December 2012

Counting the Costa - Species List

Here is the full species list of this trip to the Costa Blanca. Spanish ticks in italics and lifers in bold. Sorry this is a bit of a dull one but it covers the inevitability of when I lose my notebook as an aide memoir.

1) Great Crested Grebe
2) Black-necked Grebe
3) Little Grebe
4) Gannet
5) Cormorant
6) Little Bittern
7) Cattle Egret
8) Little Egret
9) Great White Egret
10) Grey Heron
11) Glossy Ibis
12) Flamingo
13) Shelduck
14) Mallard
15) Pintail
16) Shoveller
17) Teal
18) Pochard
19) Red-crested Pochard
20) Griffon Vulture
21) Osprey
22) Greater Spotted Eagle
23) Booted Eagle
24) Marsh Harrier
25) Hen Harrier
26) Buzzard
27) Sparrowhawk
28) Kestrel
29) Merlin
30) Peregrine
31) Red-legged Partridge
32) Water Rail
33) Purple Gallinule
34) Coot
35) Moorhen
36) Crane
37) Avocet
38) Black-winged Stilt
39) Stone Curlew
40) Ringed Plover
41) Grey Plover
42) Dunlin
43) Little Stint
44) Black-headed Gull
45) Slender-billed Gull
46) Yellow-legged Gull
47) Audouin's Gull
48) Sandwich Tern
49) Rock Dover
50) Woodpigeon
51) Collared Dove
52) Hoopoe
53) Kingfisher
54) Iberian Green Woodpecker
55) Thekla Lark
56) Crested Lark
57) Crag Martin
58) Swallow
59) House Martin
60) Meadow Pipit
61) White Wagtail
62) Dunnock
63) Robin
64) Black Redstart
65) Stonechat
66) Song Thrush
67) Mistle Thrush
68) Blackbird
69) Blackcap
70) Subalpine Warbler
71) Moustached Warbler
72) Cetti's Warbler
73) Chiffchaff
74) Goldcrest
75) Firecrest
76) Great Tit
77) Coal Tit
78) Long-tailed Tit
79) Penduline Tit
80) Short-toed Treecreeper
81) Iberian Grey Shrike
82) Magpie
83) Jackdaw
84) Starling
85) Spotless Starling
86) House Sparrow
87) Chaffinch
88) Linnet
89) Goldfinch
90) Siskin
91) Greenfinch
92) Serin
93) Crossbill
94) Reed Bunting

Worst Osprey photo ever

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Counting the Costa (Part 5)

These bitesize chunks keep coming...

So on the 7th I was allowed to go to El Hondo again, this time sans child and I was really excited but this was soon crushed by the pissing rain. Despite this I managed to see a few decent birds and bumped into Graham Critchell, a local guide again. 2 Hen Harriers hunted the margins of the reserve, one male and one female. A Great White Egret stalked the ditch around the pool and a group of Pochard were amongst their commoner Red-crested brethren. After a couple of hours of getting wet I retired to a hide where aside from ubiquitous Chiffchaffs a new Spanish tick did briefly grace me with its presence - a very soggy Water Rail. I tried to winkle out a Bluethroat or three but only succeeded in finding a group of Reed Buntings and a couple of vocal Kingfishers. As I left the reserve a flock of 13 Glossy Ibis sprung from the salicornia surrounded ditches. Not a bird I have seen particularly well in the area (exclusively flying birds...).

The next day the weather was cold and pants as it was in truth from the mid-point of the holiday. It felt like October in the UK. I took Izzy to the park in La Siesta and was amazed at the number of chats and thrushes present. A Blackbird and Black Redstart in every bush with single Mistle Thrush and Song Thrush. IT got really interesting when two thrushes went overhead sounding every inch like Redwing but I got nothing on them visually. Gah! A mega emerged from the bushes at that point - a Dunnock which is scarcer than Alpine Accentor in the province. The cold weather was obviously encouraging more northern birds south.

Back at the apartment I did a bit of vismigging as stuff was moving through and a small bunch of Crossbills were a nice surprise as were another Spanish Tick in the form of 2 flyover Siskins. These are scarce winter visitors to the province but I was aware they had been seen locally and as such I was prepped for them. The two Goldcrests came into view again and I managed the photo from earlier in the blog of one.

The afternoon consisted of another visit to a Park - this time at the east end of La Mata to get Izzy on the swings. Here there was an incredibly showy (or ill) Hoopoe which despite being in the middle of a dark bush gave excellent photo opportunities at high ISOs. A couple of Firecrests were in the plantation here but little else aside from the ever present Black Redstarts.

I eventually conned Izzy to go to the wader hide which held views of lots of Ringed Plover with attentdent Dunlin, Little Stint and Grey Plover. No sign of a Richard's Pipit in the 'normal' place but that is the usual story.

Our final day was supposed to be spent in the mountains at Maigmo but fog curtailed that with only a Coal Tit to show for our efforts. We then went for a walk at Clot where the above showy Purple Gallinule was hanging with the Moorhens and Mallards. And then we were done. 82 species for the trip which I thought was ok given the restrictions of a new born. I was delighted with the haul of difficult northern species. Full trip list in the next post.

PS I found a couple of Waxwings today whilst walking Isabelle to nursery. They would be proper mega in Spain

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Counting the Costa (Part 4)

A rather obliging female Serin
On the 5th we went en famille to El Clot de Galvany. My wife confessed that this pretty urban oasis of a reserve was her favourite part of Spain and to be honest I dont think it is too shabby. Birdwise it was a little quiet although Black Redstarts & Robins abounded. A Buzzard flew through with a squadron of Crag Martins attached to its derrier. On the pool were many Teal but none of the species which the reserve is rightly held in regard for. A handful of Stonechats and Iberian Grey Shrikes stood sentinel over the clumps of vegetation.

It all seemed a bit of a bust until something huge crossed the path ahead of us. I managed a distant shot of the disappearing tail of an Oscillated Lizard. It was like an iguana and lumberingly slow in the cooling breeze. 


Monday 3 December 2012

Counting the Costa (Part 3)

Apologies for the gap in my trip reports. I misplaced my notebook whilst I was away working in Cumbria and couldn't find it until now.

My birding compadre
Anyway - where were we? Ah, yes. It was the 3rd November and I had permission to go to El Hondo (but only if I took Isabelle with me). I knew and my wife knew that this was a HUGE drawback and so it proved as a 3 year old would she quickly got bored of a Spanish version of Minsmere and rebelled loudly and often during the 3 hours we were granted access for. Despite this I saw some cracking birds. Black-necked Grebes were in evidence upon the lagoons and a solo female Little Bittern sallying between stands of juncus. Ducks were also present in numbers including a few Pintail, not a bird I expected to see and a Spanish tick. A Merlin shooting over the reeds at head height was a super little thing and another 'northern' species new to my spanish list.

A rubbish photo of a Booted Eagle. Limited selection for today to choose from.
Noises emanated from the reeds and took the form of Cetti's & Moustached Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Penduline Tits and Reed Buntings. Swarms of Crag Martins filled the sky which was interspersed with Marsh Harriers and Booted Eagles by the dozen. Two larger raptors circled to the south, Spotted Eagles! These are a very rare wintering bird in Spain but Hondo is the prime location so it was no surprise to see these giant denizens of the marshlands albeit at some distance. Other large birds crossed the sky in a line, too distant to hear but super none the less, 14 Cranes. In front of the hide a Kingfisher performed admirably.

Sadly my daughters attention seeking cut the trip short and made for less than ideal viewing but still a privilege to visit such a wonderful place.   

Saturday 1 December 2012

Like a Mill Pond

That would be the Mill Pond which I found some patch Wigeon on yesterday. It was also very close to the new  best goose/snipe area that was down near Wansford. In terms of new birds for the walking only patch, a Treecreeper was a real bonus in the middle of a tit flock in the middle of the village. A Pied Wagtail on the church was only a surprise in that it was the 47th species to hit the list. In fact the first interesting thing was this Cormorant flying over the mere.

Surprisingly it appears to be a carbo which I assume to be much the scarcer of  the two (sub)species round here. That said it is only on appraisal of the photos I really have any idea. Before I reached the mere I watched the Goosander disappear into the distance as it flew WSW and over my Waxwing hunting head. Before I reached the mere a flock of 17! Corms floated over. I assume with the floods they are looking for somewhere relatively easy to fish and the mere being clear water and the head of a trout stream fits the bill. This number was to pail compared with the flock of 61 that was wheeling over the trout farm in Wansford later in the day. The mere held relatively little aside from a couple of returning Tufted Duck and 2 Little Grebes on the back edge.

Goosander the day before
I soon found the Treecreeper as I was traversing the sheep field but still no Kingfisher. Amongst another tit flock was a Goldcrest. Not a terribly common bird in the locale. To dwell on this would be to demean the hundreds and hundreds of Redwing that flanked the beck. The numbers were incredible.

Soon a Little Egret was flushed from the beck as I was searching for an unseen Tawny Owl being mobbed by the local Blackbirds.

I finished up with 8.5km under the belt and added Lapwing, Grey Partridge, Pheasant and Skylark which whilst unexpected were nice but the Grey Partridges especially were smart. No sign of any Bullfinches or Reed Buntings but I am already on 56 on my patch foot list. Not a bad dry run at all. The mill pond down by Wansford was certainly the most interesting that I saw.

Thursday 29 November 2012

Patchwork Challenge

I have taken on another patching challenge for the coming new year. This time it is the brainchild of Aberdeen's finest. And Fat Paul Scholes. Over on the new blog Patchwork Challenge the details are in evidence but basically it is find as many species as you can using the birdguides rare-ometer as the scoring system and double points for self-finds of scarce or rarer birds. Unlike the foot patch challenge this seems to require actual decent birds so I have opted to use Barmston and have defined the patch to fit with their 3km limit.

View Barmston Patch in a larger map

So it is all of Barmston south of the road to the drain and the coastal strip north to Fraisthorpe and south to Ulrome plus the caravan site north of the road in Barmston. Previous decent finds there have included Rough-legged Buzzard, Glaucous Gull, Red-necked Grebe, Black-throated Diver, 1,000+ Little Auks, several Short-eared Owls and plenty of Snow Buntings and Twite so plenty of potential for something even betterer.

 Now there is a twist in that people with established patches will have their patch list score graded as a percentage of their average previous 3 years scores to enable comparability between patches (and patchers). I wont be able to enter that this year as I have no comprehensive data for the patch having watched it sporadically. Fingers crossed for the BB rare!

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Patch Gold

Managed another cracking local bird today - my first Goosander for the village. I got the news of its presence via Michael Flowers on twitter at half 3 and raced up to the mere (the village pond) to find a fine drake sat on the grass in someones garden on the far side. A truely super bird and one that is pretty scarce in the local area - evidenced by very few at Tophill Low.

Sadly no photos as my camera is living in the airing cupboard to remove the moisture that got into the lens and fogged it yesterday but if it stays until tomorrow I will try to get some shots. Additionally, three species of Tit made it onto the footpatch challenge practise list with Great, Long-tailed and Coal Tit all visiting my feeders today taking me onto 47 in 2 days. Another 2 Cormorants passed within viewing distance of the house but sadly I wasnt home to see it. Must try harder! Apparently 10 Waxwings were in a private garden about 200 yards NW of mine but I failed to see them in situ let alone get them on the garden list. Numbers of winter thrushes in the locale are astounding with most of them being Redwing. Must keep checking for the Dusky Thrush.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Patch Footlist Challenge

Over the last couple of days the talk of twitter has switched from Munticorns to patching and more specifically, how many species can be seen in January on foot from your front door. As birders are competitive buggers there is a competition afoot - to see the biggest percentage of realistic target birds for your local patch by foot. My realistic maxima is 96 species with proper local rare in Smew and Water Rail amongst these. I generated this number by taking what was on Birdtrack for my 2km square and deleting the passage summer birds and those that are races or domestics but adding any that I had seen that weren't included (just Peregrine in winter).

In light of this I thought I would get some practice in and voila! 43 species including some patch gold. Casting my eyes on the feeders failed to get me Great Tit or Tree Sparrow but the rest of the usual garden fayre was present. I went for a wander to where the Waxwing was seen yesterday and quickly saw plenty of Redwing but no Jedward's Hypocolius. A Sparrowhawk buzzing someones feeders was a bonus (although I later saw another, both adult males by the looks of things).

The mere held the usual suspects plus a very fine drake Pochard and a Little Grebe but no Gadwall which for the first time in 4 years are absent. Walking along Nafferton Beck towards new bridge lane found no Kingfisher but a flyover Grey Wagtail was decent in the winter. The first of 2 Grey Herons was hiding amongst sheep as the rain sheeted down and I got very wet. A calling Great Spotted Woodpecker went unseen but very much ticked.

Crossing south of the railway and a few gulls were added including a stonking adult Great Black-backed Gull and a few Herring Gulls of varying stages of sub-adulthood. Here on the Carrs I am always aware that BoPs are potentially about and a Buzzard and Kestrel made themselves known in awful light. Finally the rain began to ease and rather forlorn I saw a Cormorant fly over the village - directly over my house. This much expected garden tick eluded me again (there is a daily passage along Wansford Canal too and from roost sites and the sea).

Just as I was heading home a call alerted me to the only Yellowhammer in Yellowhammer hedge. I did notice a large group of Fieldfare in the berry laden trees above the hedge and as I put down my bins my brain whirred...there were some smaller crested birds amongst them. Four Waxwings then gave excellent views as I tried in vain to get a decent shot with my rain soaked camera shooting into the sun. I gave up eventually and returned home very chuffed.

Species List
1) Mute Swan
2) Greylag
3) Mallard
4) Tufted Duck
5) Pochard
6) Cormorant
7) Grey Heron
8) Little Grebe
9) Sparrowhawk
10) Buzzard
11) Kestrel
12) Coot
13) Moorhen
14) Common Gull
15) Black-headed Gull
16) Herring Gull
17) Great Black-backed Gull
18) Feral Pigeon
19) Stock Dove
20) Woodpigeon
21) Collared Dove
22) Great Spotted Woodpecker
23) Magpie
24) Carrion Crow
25) Rook
26) Jackdaw
27) Blue Tit
28) Waxwing
29) Wren
30) Blackbird
31) Redwing
32) Fieldfare
33) Song Thrush
34) Mistle Thrush
35) Robin
36) Dunnock
37) Starling
38) House Sparrow
39) Grey Wagtail
40) Chaffinch
41) Greenfinch
42) Goldfinch
43) Yellowhammer

Which equates to 41.3% of the expected total (even though it hasn't started yet!)

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Counting the Cost(a) part 2

Sorry for the delay in posting part 2 of my epic family holiday to Spains coastal strip - Im working like a dog at the moment! Anyway - on with the story.

Day 2 had us heading into the mountains of mid Alicante (roughly inland from Benidorm). We were heading to a town called Alcoy which is sat in a gorge between two mountains which we were hoping to investigate. Heading out of La Siesta the first Hoopoe of the trip was inflight (several more were noted!) and on the Lemon Tree Road we had a flyover Cattle Egret. Not so common this far from El Hondo but ten a penny only a few miles to the north. The drive past Santa Pola salinas also revealed the first Osprey, Flamingo and Black-winged Stilts of the sojorn. Nothing earth shattering but nice to see.

A 45 minute run had us at Font Roja, a beautiful mountain south of Alcoy and my wife was very impressed. A baby related false start meant we were hanging about a little while but soon we were scrambling through the woodland tracks and investigating caves. Robins were wid spread as were seemingly Rock Buntings judging by the calls but I failed to lay my bins on any as I was carrying the baby and entertaining Isabelle who found a pretty cool little cave. With that duly investigated a Sparrowhawk drifted by. A party of tits passed through, mostly Coal and Great Tits but tagged on the back of the flock were three Short-toed Treecreepers. A lifer no less after missing them in the spring. Suitably underwhelmed as they cleared off calling but refusing to give bins views I went back to playing with the kids.

Back at the car park I looked along the spine of the mountain and I noticed 3 raptors circling distantly. These were big and as I raised the bins they resolved into Griffon Vultures. A bit more searching and 11 of these hulking brutes were found in total. They must have come from the colony the other side of the valley.

We descended the mountain hoping to catch lunch in the cafe on the cliffs close to the Vultures home but sadly this was closed as the season ended the day before (All Saint's Day) so I took solace in the impending number of Vultures and the male Stonechat that was sat on a plant stem beside the road. Arriving at the colony initially nothing but slowly up to 25 birds were seen from this vantage point. They were joined by my first Spanish Peregrine which was bothering them.

The kids were asleep but we needed feeding and my wife wanted McDonald's and I duly obliged by descending back into Alcoy and giving my best impression of Spanish to the obviously bored attendent. Once we had had our fill of junk food I glanced up at the Sierra behind and up to 50 vultures were circling over it. A remarkable sight for someone who hasnt been to South west Spain (yet!).

We headed back to La Siesta so the kids could have a nap and at a wee stop en route I noticed an Iberian Grey Shrike on wires. Expected but I didnt see many on the trip. The rarest bird of the trip was noted after we got back when two calling crests in scrub turned out to be Goldcrests. They hung around the whole trip and Im not sure if there have been any documented records for the province (rumours of 3-4 prior records but nothing firm). I finally got some record shots of them on the Friday before we left thankfully.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Counting the Cost(a)

So I am returned from another visit to Alicante province. November is not a time I have visited before so I was intrigued as to what I would see but this was weighed against the presence of our lovely new baby, Abigail who was three months old whilst we were away, and as such my birding time was cut in half. Despite this it was a successful trip with 93 species recorded including a couple of lifers and a number of Spanish ticks plus some local raritiesbrought down by the chilly weather.

View from the balcony
We arrived at La Siesta, Torrevieja at around 1am on the 1st November and the lack of any denizens of the night aside from several species of bat meant for a quiet start. The next morning and I watched from my balcony in 20 degree heat and sun whilst calming the baby. A Common Buzzard lifted off from the pines and headed south west whilst many Crag Martins hawked over the lake with a single House Martin amongst them. A single Slender-billed Gull over the apartment was the only one of the trip. It was also evident that the winter infestation of Black Redstarts had begun with a juvenile male holding territory on our elderly relatives roof. A few Robins were already in as well.

We headed into the town centre of Torrevieja to Potato City Park (park of nations) and a Swallow was alone amongst its Crag Martin brethren. A mixed flock of Spotless and Common Starlings were flycatching amongst the hirundines and the best find of the day was a late Subalpine Warbler enjoying the unseasonal warmth. I had to put the aircon on in the car...

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Barmston Blackys

This guy was one of hundreds of Blackbirds that arrived at Barmston on Monday morning along with smaller numbers of Robins, Fieldfares, Redwings, Song & Mistle Thrushes. I also managed to find a phyllosc tastic sycamore stand (sans birds but it was a light SWer). My main aim was to find Little Auk due to decent numbers passing over the weekend. In the end I failed but a couple of brief seawatches interspersed with a bush bash turned up about 200 Common Scoter bombing around the bay, a single Greylag south and 4 Twite south. By far the best bird of the day was a Red-necked Grebe south at 11.30.

Right now I should be packing as I am away to Spain this afternoon. Spotted Eagles here we come...

Sunday 28 October 2012

Cumbrian Period

Last week I was working in Cumbria and largely saw the inside of an office during the day but I managed to squeeze half hour birding in the morning and evening in St Bee's.

On arriving for the first time a party of 5 Whooper Swans sailed over head travelling north and calling away as they did. Not long after another group of 21 swans flew south over the sea and were likely of this species.

Tuesday morning provided views of an adult Mediterranean Gull which hung around all week. A few Rock and Meadow Pipits bobbed about as well. The evening walk provided little new but Wednesday morning provided a Peregrine & Sparrowhawk. The evening highlight was an Arctic Skua bombing south whilst Thursday morning gave us further views of the med, small parties of Redwings overhead plus a few Gannets and a Grey Seal. The last meander on Thursday evening provided Linnets and a few passerine migrants in the form of Robins, Blackbirds, 2 Redwing and a Goldcrest.

Tomorrow I am off to Barmston for some Little Auks and Poms (please!) and then it is off to Spain for 10 days. Huzzah!

Saturday 13 October 2012

No Dick's on the Head

Sadly Isabelle & myself failed in our Richard's Pipit quest late this afternoon after the bird flew inland as we walked up. It was very warm and pleasant and a steady stream of Mipits kept the spirits up but little else of note. Izzy loved it and just spending time with her made it all the more fun. Dip - nah, just a nice walk with my girl.

Friday 12 October 2012

Injection of pace

The autumn seems to be hotting up with plenty of American passerines in Ireland and Scilly and a small number of rare mainland Locustellas (in fact a friend found his second Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler on his patch at Whitburn today and they are in addition to one he found on Fair Isle). For me frustration is the key at the moment as inevitably the baby comes between me and ideal birding times. The prosaic nature of the birding largely has led to somewhat prosaic posts on here. I apologise - I guess this is my annual, must do better post. I will redouble my efforts to make this a worthwhile blog to read and thus the injection of pace referred to in the title will include my postings.

In order to keep your mind vital I am posting links to some blogs with prose that is a bit, well, springier. First up is my ornithological mentor and friend, Graham Scott, a lecturer at the University of Hull. He is a geek like myself but importantly he writes nice flowery rubbish that draws you in. This I imagine helps with the teaching side of things. His blog, Bioedstuff is a jamboree of his interests which include natural history, ringing, birding and sloe gin as well as the unsurprising bio-education. He has a keen eye for interesting animal behaviours as does the second blog I am linking to by Africa Gomez - Bugblog. This beautifully presented blog looks at the natural history of the back garden bugs and especially their behaviours. Watch out for the white bowl treatment as well. It renders excellent results!

If I manage to escape the clutches of Casa Spencer over the weekend then I will ensure that I marry up crap stories and crap images in a new and entertaining manner. Or try and put words in the title that will at least draw some hits ;).

Thursday 11 October 2012


On Tuesday I gave Flamborough Head a thorough thrashing but as it has taken me 2 days to get around to blogging about it I'm sure you can draw from that it wasnt an epic success. Indeed migration seemed to be none existant largely until late knockings. The weather was fine and sunny with a light northerly breeze, not exactly ideal conditions for grounding scarce migrants but I decided to go ahead anyway - it only takes one bird to brighten the day up after all.

First up I was at Holmes Gut, the ravine between Thornwick Bay & North Landing. Here I bumped into the local ringers who gave me the news that quiet wasnt quite the word for it. I carried on cheery as you like but inside I died a little. Until that point the non-logical part of me continued to hope there was to be a scattering of migrants drifted south from rare covered Shetland. At the time what seemed like pretty lean pickings on reflection seems quite reasonable. 1 Goldcrest, 1 Blackcap & 2 Stonechats. Rather frustratingly as the ringers drove a hedge to catch a couple of Robins a long, warm warbler shot into the bottom of the next ditch. Very acro-esque and probably a Reed Warbler but I had ammo to allow me to string in my head all day...

I bid farewell to the ringers as the continued with their lean pickings. Next I went to old fall. In 2 hours I managed 3 Goldcrests, 1 Willow Warbler & 4 Swallows. Rubbish. That took in the hedge, the plantation, the gullys, the gorse field, the motorway, headland gardens, bay brambles, bay willows and all the way back to old fall steps. Apparently I missed a Lesser Whitethroat. This does not upset me.

My final destination was to be South Landing. Here it all seemed a bit more promising when a roving tit flock held 3 Goldcrests and a juvenile Common Buzzard was flushed by the local maggies. All quiet for the next hour but as I got to the bottom of the ravine a few thrushes were about including 4 Redwing. And that was it. No scarce, hardly any common. It was all pretty quiet. Originally I had planned to do something similar yesterday but instead I went for a wander round the village and found 2 Snipe in a stubble field next to a flash.

Monday 8 October 2012

This Week I have Been Mostly...

...finding Sabine's Gulls. My third and fourth of the autumn were at an undisclosed place in the North Sea and were both seen briefly. Despite this we got enough on the first to get it to first winter and somehow a colleague got photos even though he didnt see the bird! I cant post these as they arent mine to do so but you can have a couple of Little Gulls instead. Hopefully Im going to get out on Wednesday for a few hours (and the wind looks reasonable for Flamborough) so there will be more updates. Perhaps.

Friday 28 September 2012

Some Stuff

Photos of some birds I have seen this month. Other bits included adult Sabine's Gull, Leach's Petrel, hundreds of skuas including 5 Long-tailed Skua, 5 White-beaked Dolphins and Manx & Sooty Shearwaters in abundance.

Long-tailed Skua
Long-tailed Skua
Intermediate Morph adult Arctic Skua
In the field I thought Pom but this shot made it much clearer.
Today I have been Vismigging at Barmston for 90 minutes from 8.30 until 10am. Best of the lot was 31 Pintail north. Also House Martins were moving south in number. I imagine Spurn will have a big count today.

Meadow Pipit 48
House Martin 128
Swallow 24
Skylark 1
Goldfinch 17
Linnet 1
Pied Wagtail 1
Greenfinch 3
Tree Sparrow 3

Reed Bunting 4
Goldfinch 23
House Martin 1
Pintail 31

I also did my final WeBS low tide counts and it was pretty steady although there were big numbers of Turnstone and Lapwing on one of the sectors plus a Grey Heron that managed to get recorded on two sectors. Aside from that nada of interest. Out tomorrow for a bit but unsure what to do due to westerlies.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Cracking Kilnsea

So the first bird I saw was a Yellow-browed Warbler in the Crown and Anchor which was followed very swiftly by a Red-breasted Flycatcher and a Pied Flycatcher. It was a good start that would have improved immeasurably if I had connected with the Rose-coloured Starling at Easington. Up there I saw a few Redstarts and plenty of Meadow Pipits plus a few Chiffchaffs. I returned an hour later to Kilnsea and got stuck into the migrants in the area. Further Yellow-brows in Kew and a Spotted Flycatcher on the roof of the church along with more Pied Flys, a Goldcrest and a Willow Warbler. More common migrants were knocking about and 2 Red-breasted Flycatchers were showing in Kew Villa.

A Lesser Whitethroat showed well at the gate and we were shown a Tree Pipit in the hand.

I was heading along the River along the canal with ample numbers of Redstarts, Lesser Whitethroats and a Garden Warbler. A Little further along and a Whinchat topped a post. I became aware of a Greenish Warbler a few hundred yards away at Riverside Hotel and quickly turned round. A wise decision as my second Greenish showed at first piecemeal and finally atop a bush before departing to Steve Exleys plantation. Cracking view at the end although very brief. No sooner had this bird gone than a Hen Harrier was seen hunting the fields to the west near Beacon Lane.

I headed back to the Crown where the Red-breasted Flycatchers were showing intermittantly. I managed a few record shots and heard a Yellow-brow. I connected with another Yellow-brow across the road in Cliff Farms walled garden along with a Reed Warbler and a couple of Lesser Whitethroats and a Garden Warbler. A Great Spotted Woodpecker hit the nets in Kew and flycatchers were everywhere. I dipped a Barred Warbler and it was time to go after a rendez-vous with Michael Flowers to purchase a couple of his Calenders. At last knockings the report of an interesting warbler in long grass near Clubleys led to a probable Locustella sp. missing the mist nets. In light of the 3 mainland PG Tips today several long faces were present.

The two RB Flys are probably different birds.

Friday 21 September 2012

Glaucous Surprise

I went to sea for a few days this week which went really well but I am not really allowed to say what we saw so I won't. But it was good enough to induce a visit to Spurn for a seawatching and viz-migging afternoon. The weather was a bit hit and miss with strong sun, drizzle, cloud and gusting westerly winds. Not exactly ideal but I persisted.

I managed 3 hours in the seawatch hide by the warren with a couple of other guys. The undoubted highlight was a Glaucous Gull drifting south. I only saw the back end as it disappeared following the road but a big brute it was. There was little else moving save a regular passage of Swallows plus the occasional House or Sand Martin.

The sea was a little more productive with a couple of Arctic Skuas, both adult types with one light and one dark morph. A single Manx Shearwater worked distantly north before settling on the sea. A steady flow of Red- throated Divers went south with 32 in total.

Small numbers of wildfowl were also moving with 10 Pink-footed Geese coming in off. Several small groups of Teal and Common Scoter moved south along with a single flock of Wigeon. All said it was an enjoyable if not spectacular three hours. Hopefully I get the opportunity as the autumn progresses to get out and about a bit more. Infact there is a Pec Sand at Swinemoor so hopefully I can catch up with it today.

Sunday 16 September 2012

Mothing the Night Away

It was warm and calm last night so I stuck the moth trap out after a couple of blanks last week. I finally caught something with some new species for the garden. 10 moths were trapped but a carpet type thing legged it before I got there. The trap consisted of:

1 Lesser Yellow Underwing
2 Common Marbled Carpet - new for garden
2 Green Carpet - new for garden
1 Garden Carpet - new for garden
1 Silver Y - new for garden
1 Flounced Rustic - new for garden
1 Square-spot Rustic

Flounced Rustic

Flounced Rustic

Green Carpet

Green Carpet (worn)

Common Marbled Carpet

Sunday 2 September 2012

Cruisin' for a Bruisin'

Today I hit up the RSPB Skua and Shearwater Cruise out of Bridlington on the Yorkshire Belle, where my father joined me and a couple of mates. A quiet start was punctuated by the call of "POM". Now this is a bird that I need still for Yorkshire but I only got poor views of this bird. For me the ginger tones, extensive wing flash and bulk without a double underwing flash made it a slam dunk juvenile Great Skua and I dismissed it but all the people up top spotting seemed delighted and crowed about it throughout. I'd love to string it but I cant in all good conscience.

Not the contentious Bonxie
A few family parties of Sandwich and Common Tern were the sole entertainment on the way out but we soon bumped into large parties of becalmed Little Gulls. At this point we were surrounded by Harbour Porpoises and I had high hopes of something better but this seemed unlikely as the time ticked away. A juv Arctic Tern came into the boat briefly amongst parties of Commons and a Black Tern was called at the back of the boat but it didnt materialise. A handful of Manx Shearwaters swept past as we hit the limit of the Yorkshire Belles allowed distance from land and we turned back, seeing more Little Gulls. Amongst these I saw a slightly bigger gull with a distinctive grey wedge on its back. It was flying away and the light was bad but I was sure it was a Sabine's Gull. Unfortunately nobody else picked it out amongst the large group of Little Gulls. I was treated sceptically by the spotters (who I note reported their 'Pom' to birdguides but not the Sabs). Now here I need to have a little moan. The caller who was relaying sightings seemed to not know who his target audience was, which birds were worth calling, how to give directions. He was also far too slow to relay information for it to be useful so it was frustrating from what is normally a smooth operation. I appreciate the level of experience of the passengers was pretty low meaning that the spotters were doing bulk of the work but they didnt listen properly. Additionally, due to the slowness of the calling a number of birds were only seen by one side of the boat leaving the other side frustrated.

Its a juvenile LBBG

An Arctic Skua came into the back of the boat and it seemed just that. It wasnt cold looking or particularly barred. Nor did it bounce but it seemed that the callers were obcessed with turning it into a Long-tailed Skua. Generally I was unimpressed by the operation as it seemed very amateurish - the info on the birds was largely platitudes or plain wrong when on previous trips that years breeding success etc would be rolled out plainly. A crib sheet would have been easy preperation. Anyhow, enough moaning - it was largely an enjoyable experience. A Bonxie gave a good fly by and there were plenty of Puffins nobbing about on the water. As we returned a Spotted Flycatcher flew over the front of the boat which was a surprising year tick. As we returned to the harbour a couple of Purple Sandpipers were residing on the breakwater.

Not a Sabine's Gull
Due to a dictat from my wife there was to be no Arctic Warbler today (but I have got permission to go tomorrow if it sticks). Instead I headed home with my dad. Whilst having a quiet coffee in the garden reflecting I noticed a Holly Blue in the trees which I digitally rendered.

Holly Blue
Moving on to all things lepidopteran I had the trap out last night. 2 Lesser Yellow Underwings were expected and unsurprising was a worn Square-spot Rustic after the 3 we had indoors the week prior. Better was a Single-spot Wave and a Common Carpet. Addtionally something green and marbled flew off before I could work out what it was or photograph it.

Common Carpet
Single-spot Wave

How birds and brains become mutually exclusive

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