Wednesday 26 October 2016

Shorely Not

Shorelark - Jim Welford
After being gripped by the bright blue bluetail at Spurn yesterday I decided to use my day off to go birding on the peninsula. I knew the winds were going South-west but still. In it to win it etc... I didnt get off to a particularly prompt start and only arrived at 11 when I bumped into Geoff Dobbs. I decided to yomp down to the point for the Stejneger's Stonechat that is knocking about. It was evident that a few migrants were still about as knackered Goldcrests fluttered through the buckthorn and a sad looking female Siskin could barely lift off the road. Common diurnal migrants were very much in evidence as birds filter over the Narrows. At Wire Dump I bumped into Jonny Holliday who had managed to see the Stej and later found the Shore Larks at the breach. I pushed onto the parade ground where a duo of Black Redstarts were giving a good show.

Jim Welford was waiting for me at the Green Beacon when I finally arrived and we had a wander round to the Stejneger's Stonechat which was 200m or so away on the Humber side. I was struck by how bright the bird was - very orange and the fact it had a matted head made it look very contrasty. The bird was flycatching and generally stayed more than 50m away. Eventually good scope views were attained and we moved on.

We mostly gabbed on the way back, interrupted by a Blackcap here and Fieldfare there. Crossing the breach we heard that two Shorelark were kicking about. I took the tideline on the seaward side while Jim covered the beach. A false alarm over a Wheatear was soon forgotten as we got fine views of two adult Shorelarks, horns and all with fab light. This isnt my closest shot but it is my favourite.

As we were leaving a dozen Whooper Swans were seen flying south so we took a peek only to see them floating about half a mile or so offshore. A decent end to an enjoyable day!

Thursday 20 October 2016

Bittern by the Bug

On Tuesday, due to a late flight to Somerset for work, Pete and myself had a day of birding in Northumberland. We started by hitting St Mary's Island. Despite looking through a horde of migrant Goldcrests we failed to uncover anything exciting. A perfunctory check of the wetland gave us the usual ducks when Pete shouted 'Bittern!'. Hiding in the juncus was a very smart, poorly hidden Bittern which was evidently fresh in. Much merriment followed as it played hide and seek before we relocated round to the screens to the side giving superb views. This bird is probably the first record for the site.

After we had our fill of the Bittern we had a crack at the Prior's Park Dusky Warbler. After drawing a blank initially we started to leave, despondent at the high winds that made searching next to impossible. Just as we got away from its favoured hedgerow it started to call vigourously. Pete soon had a brief view but I was struggling. Both hoping for better we got to the end of the hedge where it was seen badly on occasion. We were joined by Pete's mate Toby who was convalescing at his Mum's nearby post broken leg and he hobbled over to greet Pete. At this moment, with Pete's back turned, the Dusky did the decent thing and climbed to the top of the hedge to show beautifully for a few seconds before resuming its skulk. Perfect views for me but alas Pete didnt manage to see it any better than the glimpses through the bottom of the brambles.  

After a hearty soup we headed to Druridge Bay hoping for some migrant action. We struggled a little on that score aside from yet more Goldcrests but a trio of Swallows were decent recompense at Druridge Pools. We started at Cresswell and a Jack Snipe flushed with a small flock of Snipe whilst we were in the hide. The usual assemblage of waders and wildfowl abounded but there was a smart 1w drake Scaup with a couple of Tufted Duck.

We soon moved onto Druridge Pools and it was very samey with a Chiffchaff and two dozen Goldcrests. Plenty of Black-tailed Godwit were seen from the Budge Screen. We headed down to the hides and no otter was observed but a small selection of duck and a brace of Grey Partridge. In the middle of the pool was a rather smart Common Scoter which whilst common offshore isnt overly common on freshwater.

We moved onto East Chevington and soon were at a trio of seaduck as I plucked a Velvet Scoter from the back of North Pool which was a cracker. A handful of Pink-footed Geese were knocking about and a few Pintail were amongst the Shovelers. Out on the island there were a couple of Snipe and a smaller wader which eventually transpired into a Little Stint which we couldnt turn into something rarer.

Sunday 16 October 2016

Starting to look like Autumn

I got released from parenting duties this afternoon to ramble round Ulrome. There were obviously loads of birds knocking about. Goldcrest flocks were a new addition and thrushes and Robins remained very much in evidence. The star was definitely the 1w/female type Redstart which was my first for the patch. It was hanging around in sycamores close to the bush of dreams and after playing hard to get eventually settled infront of the camera. A greyish but standard Chiffchaff wasnt weeping.

A ramble round the southern half of patch failed to turn up anything else of note and I returned home a happy boy. This is patchtick 165 and also takes me on to 150 points this year for Patchwork Challenge. My best ever is 126 species and 156 points and I still have some low hanging fruit to aim for so fingers crossed.

Accent-uate the Positives

Courtesy of Jim Welford
I arrived at Easington half an hour before dawn and already a scrum had formed on Vicar's Lane. I decided to take a different tack and got a position along the lane where I could see the hard standing which the Siberian Accentor had been seen on the day before. As the light started coming up a few others had similar ideas but I had prime position when just before sunrise a bird hopped up on to the edge of the skip outside someone's house. On the bins and yes, it was the bird. On the scope and it gave lovely views before dropping into the skip. Like a Dunnock.

Courtesy of Jim Welford
A two minute wait was punctured by it reappearing head on and the light had improved. The throng massed through the trees at this point seperated by a chainlink fence. Sadly this prevented my digiscoping efforts but I have managed to borrow an image from Jim Welford. The stripey headed dunnock shot off to the left and only a few could still see it. At this stage a queuing system was initiated and I decided that rather than hang around 400 blokes in the gloom that I would go birding. As I left Bramblings and Goldcrests were providing the ambient backdrop.

The Throng 30 minutes before dawn
I headed to patch at Barmston determined to turn something of my own up. I had little success but a Kingfisher in the reedbed, 3 Pintail in a flock of Wigeon and a Dark-bellied Brent Goose on the beach provided compensation. Sadly work beckoned and I abandoned my sibe hunt but a bloody decent morning was had. Just a shame the Paddyfield did one!

Friday 14 October 2016


I met Pete up at St Mary's Island on Tuesday morning before work in the hope that it would be us that turns up the next Siberian Accentor. Alas it wasn't to be but we did ok as a Long-eared Owl appeared briefly. We also flushed a Woodcock whilst grilling the same 3 Goldcrests on loop. Rather surprisingly a flyover Lesser Black-backed Gull was my first and no doubt last of the year down there. A couple of Grey Wagtails flying south hinted at the vismig delights which are doubtless in store soon whilst my first local Redwings of the autumn were expected fare. There was no Yellow-browed Warbler today but a trio of Blackcaps and a solo Chiffchaff kept the insectivore quotient at adequate levels.

Note remains of jess on left leg and colour rings.

A second bout of accentor hunting occurred on Thursday morning as we tried the same tactic. This time we were less successful and whilst there were plenty of crests and thrushes about we were largely despondent. Walking back to Hartley where we had parked Pete happened to notice the bakers dozen of Pink-footed Geese in the field were getting very flappy and he soon shouted 'RAPTOR'. I got on it and it looked like a giant falcon. Because that is what it was. No jesses were on show and we got quite excited although it was hard to work out what we were looking at. Bigger than a buzzard the bird went on to harass Eiders, GBBGs, Mallard and soaring over the cliffs before shooting off after a Guillemot and getting a talon on it before the auk escaped to the water. At this point we had seen a transmitter on its back and we wondered if it could be a tracked intermediate morph Gyrfalcon. The bird disappeared to the south and we examined our photos. The bird looked ok for Gyr but better for a Gyr x Saker of some description and undoubtedly an escape or a hacked bird. It was a highlight and the lack of jesses got the pulse racing for ages. We discussed the birds origins extensively until news broke of something rather special at Spurn...

Is that a transmitter on your back or are you just please to see me?

Sunday 9 October 2016

Tipping Point

No photos Im afriad today as the birds have all been too quick for me. Today was an adventure. It had highs, lows and endurance but ultimately a touch of frustration. Much like Friday at Flamborough it was chocka with decent birds and I saw a good few friends this time. I arrived at Easington Cemetary for 7.45 and there were Redpolls, Siskins and Bramblings aplenty with the ever present Robins and Chiffchaffs. Briefly working through the canopy at the back was a Red-breasted Flycatcher which in all likelihood was one of the two which was there the previous day. Its co-conspirator was at Willow Cottage apparently as John Sadler came into view bearing the news. Peter Williams was also about having been watching Redstarts in the hedge across the road. They headed off for the OBP at Vicars Lane whilst I moved on to Church Field hoping for the Rustic Bunting which had alas done a flit by the time I got there.

John and Peter brought news that the OBP was showing nicely when they rejoined me. A Hobby zipped low right across the back of the field and birds thronged but alas not the target which we found out had taken a visit to the triangle and has yet to be seen since. A Yellow-browed Warbler was nice to see in the Crown and Anchor as a second bird called unseen. We moved round to the Obs garden but alas no new birds and headed into the triangle. Lots of Redwing and Blackbirds were obvious but a Blackcap at Rose Cottage was the highlight until Tim came over the radio to say he had a new OBP at Clubleys. We were at Canal hedge at this stage so we bombed round and got close and nice views but they were sadly brief as the bird flew to cover on the clifftop and called as it left.

News came out of a possible Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler as we were getting views of the OBP and we gravitated toward the breach. And then across it and before you know we are at chalk bank. A Short-eared Owl flew over wire dump. There followed blank couple of hours trying to find the bird and Peter had to leave. I even got halfway back to the breach before the reinforcements came in the shape of Steve Routledge and Garry Taylor. Fresh faces gave all optimism but we still couldnt refind the bird let alone identify it. A Tree Pipit was a decent sight at chalk bank and I missed a Redstart. Alas the effort was forlorn and the bird was never seen again.

The long haul back to Kilnsea took a good while but eventually we got back and saw another Yellow-brow on the rocks as we bumped into Pete Mella. I finally saw a Redstart as 2 fought in the same area as the YBW. A final attempt to see the Rustic Bunting was interrupted by a mass exodus as news of the Siberian Accentor broke and then I gave up and headed home.

Friday 7 October 2016


Star billing goes to the Yellow-browed Warbler which has been at Ulrome for the past couple of days. It is a handy 6 points for patchwork challenge and was an easy bird to find - in the same place as the previous one, calling away. Other birds at Ulrome included a Treecreeper and a Stonechat, both of which were new for the year. A Short-eared Owl which flushed into a kale field was also new and peered around as it I couldnt see it once it had pitched in. Aside from this a brace of Blackcaps and lots of Robins and Blackbirds have been the sum total which is a touch disappointing.

You cant see me, right!
After a similar turn out today I upped sticks and headed to Flamborough where I seemed to miss all the scarce stuff but a brief Ring Ouzel in the gorse field was nice. I had a thoroughly pleasant perambulation round Old Fall which resulted in a brace of Brambling in the hedge and plenty of chiffs and crests. A Jack Snipe was 'hiding' in plain sight by the pond in Old Fall plantation and was duly scoped to bits. I briefly heard the Yellow-brow which is in there before heading to Lighthouse road. Weirdly along with a couple of other gents I noticed a few bits moving on the sea and picked up Great Skua, Arctic Skua and Black-throated Diver whilst several hundred meters from the cliff edge.

Not hiding
 A scan of the North Marsh from the road revealed 9 Pink-footed Geese but the Greylags were on the pond. Happily they decided to get up and land with the pinks in a stubble field and they were joined by the mighty Taiga Bean Goose which was a county insurance tick having only previously seen them in Norfolk. As I was leaving it was evident stuff was arriving as half a dozen crests worked through Bay Willows.

Goldcrest in Bay Willows

Thursday 6 October 2016

Bempton Borealis (and an ECW)

I managed to resist all the interest at Bempton until this afternoon post submitting a report at work when news of an Arctic Warbler came out. One of my biggest tarts in Yorkshire and a bird I have missed a couple of times. I went, Quickly. Upon arrival the Eastern Crowned Warbler was showing delightfully and I soaked up my fill as it flitted alongside a host of Chiffs and crests including a very decent Siberian Chiffchaff candidate. Bramblings wheezed and a Yellow-browed Warbler called.

The Eastern Crowned moved rapidly across the sycamores and hawthorns so that everyone got superb views, unlike the Brotton bird a couple of years ago. I decided to go looking for the Arctic Warbler and the gathered crowd 100 yards away looked disinterest. I decided to head to the shelter belt beyond where a few other people were looking hopefully. No sooner had I arrived than the gent to my right had it showing in the top of a bush. It showed in the open for 15-20 seconds before diving left but was exactly what I had wanted to see. Slightly uncooperative after this glimpses were had but a Spotted Flycatcher shot out. A crowd gathered and I decided to go and have further looks at the ECW. This yielded a brief Yellow-brow and a Greenish Warbler which everyone ignored for the more glamorous relative. I reeled off a few more photos in reasonable light and made my leave, very happy.

Tuesday 4 October 2016

Breaching Basker

Today I managed to grab a precious few hours at St Mary's Island hunting for migrants and patch ticks. As I set up the scope to have a brief look at the sea instantly half a dozen Dark-bellied Brents sweep north up the coast. As the sun starts to rise over the horizon I was scoping the buoy in the bay on the shearwater line when one of the most fantastic sightings I have ever had occured. A large animal breached, perhaps 10 foot long. In my head it went 'dolphin, no the tail is on wrong and it isnt rigid enough, shark, basking shark, omfg!!!!'. A breaching Basking Shark is not something you expect on the east coast. A breaching Basking Shark isnt what you expect at any stage. One of the most fantastic wanted things. Awesome animal and not a sign after it made a rather large splash. It towered vertically before crashing straight back down rather than falling to the side.

The wind continues to ruffle my hair as it comes in stiffly from the east and before too long the absence of Sooties starts to nag. A ragtag flock of six ducks heading north held two Eiders, two Teal, a Common Scoter and best of all a Velvet Scoter which was new for the year. As I packed up to bash the bushes a small skein of Pink-feet went south silently overhead.

Best of a bad lot
The bushes were my next port of call and the first bird I saw was a Yellow-browed Warbler. A second called from a crest flock further along the bushes that surround the pool. All of a sudden there were further calls from Yellow-brows in the gully 50 yards away. A further three birds were calling away. Pretty soon a couple melted away but one showy individual moved through the willows and sycamores without settling. A handful of Song Thrushes moved through the gully but little else and soon it was time to head off to work.

At the end of the day I returned to somewhat poor returns although Goldcrest numbers had swelled and a couple of Chiffchaffs obviously arrived through the day. I tried to pull out something from the mounds but returned with just a brace of Stonechats and a dozen Herons roosting in a field.

On Sunday I headed to Spurn, teaming up with Pete, my PWC co-conspirator. As I waited for him to arrive I watched a few Sooty Shearwaters skimming north and missed an apparent Balearic Shearwater. Once Pete arrived we headed into the triangle seeing my first Redwing and Fieldfare of the autumn. A number of Bramblings wheezed overhead and visible migration was evident with mipits and finches pouring through. A Yellow-browed Warbler called unseen from Kew Villa despite our best effort and those of my friends, John and Jim who were busy flushing Snipe when I bumped into them. Steve Routledge was also being taunted by the YBW and he elected to wander the triangle with us. We had little success as a possible Ring Ouzel dived into a hedge never to reappear. Two more Yellow brows evaded us in Canal hedge and we split up. Pete and myself had a brief seawatch as the end of the mornings movement dried up. We caught the last Sooty of the morning and called it a day at that. Obviously there was a decent fall of stuff in the afternoon but hey brownie points earnt!

Crap snipe photo from Canal Scrape

How birds and brains become mutually exclusive

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