Sunday, 12 February 2017

FBOG Article

I haven't done a blogpost for a while but I have done an article for the Filey Bird Observatory Group (FBOG) which can be found here -

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Michael Clegg Memorial birdrace 2017

I had never done a birdrace before and was looking forward to this one. The idea is to see as many birds in an area as you can over the course of a day. The money raised from this year's birdrace will go towards helping fund 'The English Twite Recovery Project'. The money is raised from sponsership/donations. Recording could start at 00:00 but we decided to start at 0730. In Filey there were two teams, our's consisted of my dad and I and George Day. The team wasn't originally structured like this but one member had to drop out so George came across from the other team to balance out the numbers so there were three on each team in Filey.

We decided to meet at the Dams at 0730 in the hope of getting the Barn Owl, we had no such luck. The darkness also made it a little difficult but as it got lighter we managed to pick out: Blackbird, Moorhen, Robin, Tufted Duck, Crow, Wren, Herring Gull, Teal, Starling and Pheasant. We decided it would probably be more productive to go to the Brigg to get waders and seabirds on the rising tide rather than wait for things at the dams.

We set off towards country park, where we added Black-Headed Gull. Our tactic was to walk along Carr Naze and go down the end onto the Brigg, and then continue to the end and do a brief seawatch. Looking down on Bay Corner we could see Oystercatchers and Redshanks running frantically around on the sand. Looking out over the north cliffs we got Fulmars wheeling around as well as small parties of Shag leaving the cliffs. Suddenly we heard the Oystercatchers fussing over something and we turned around to see a Peregrine dart past east towards the end of the Brigg, it then U-turned and shot back along the north side. We knew there was a long staying Snow Bunting on Carr Naze and this would be a great addition to the list. Walking along, my dad exclaimed that there was a Snow Bunting by mine and George's feet, surely enough there it was. It scuttled along ahead of us and retreated into the long grass. Unfortunately with the morning light remaining poor I couldn't manage any good shots but it was still an amazing bird to see close up. In the same area were both Rock Pipits and a single Meadow Pipit. As we got out to the end of Carr Naze we stopped and looked for a moment and picked up a few Cormorants and Red-Throated Divers. As the morning continued many more Red-Throats materialised and there were an estimated 170 in the Bay with a further 50 seen by us in the Brigg area.

The first birds we saw actually on the Brigg were Turnstones and a lone Curlew. The bay itself looked virtually empty with just a smattering of RT Divers. However as we watched, things started to appear. The first of which being a Great-Northern Diver off the Brigg with Red-Throats, a few minutes later another also flew north. Also off the end of the Brigg was a female Eider, a female Common Scoter, a Great-Crested Grebe, a few Great Black-Backed Gulls and a few Common Gulls. Hundreds of Guillemots and quite a few Razorbills were moving through with many landing on the cliffs. Out at the end we got a couple of Purple Sandpipers too. On return we walked alongside Carr Naze to go back up the steps on the side and we saw a few Knot, a Grey Heron, and a small flock of Goldfinch. Finally on Carr Naze pond was a pair of Mallard. we could see a bank of fog rolling in and we were glad we had got seawatching done even though we hadn't manage to see any Gannets.

Our next move was to walk along North Cliff to the Tip. We all had hopes of finding something like a Lapland Bunting in the mist but in reality we found a Skylark, a Magpie and a few Rock (Feral) Pigeons.

Once we got to the Tip we were in need of a few additions. In the fields we found a small gathering of Grey Partridge as well as two Snipe. Also in the same area were Dunnock, Reed Bunting, Woodpigeon and Blue tits. Leaving the Tip we entered Parish Woods. There was quite a lot of activity in the top of the woods with lots of Linnets, Tree Sparrows, Chaffinches, Great tits and singles of both Bullfinch and Greenfinch. As we got closer to the houses two House Sparrows also appeared. To get back to the car quickly we opted to walk back through the outskirts of Filey rather than back along the rather unproductive North Cliff. This paid off as we managed to add Collared Dove, Jackdaw and Rook. We then re-entered country park and went into church ravine, slightly in the hope of a Tawny Owl in the trees. We didn't manage to spot an Owl but did get two Chiffchaffs and a Sparrowhawk.

After a bite to eat we decided that we would venture into the south end of the FBOG recording area to Primrose Valley in the hope of some Geese and possibly a Grey Wagtail. Once we got to Primrose Valley we first drove past the lake to look for woodland birds but did not see anything we had not seen previously in Filey. On return to the lake we spotted the local goose flock. There were lots of Canada Geese, lots of Greylag geese and a single Barnacle Goose. Also in the vicinity was a Great Spotted Woodpecker and some Siskin.

After the success at Primrose Valley we went a little further south to 'the Bay' holiday village to see if we could find a Little Grebe on the pools, we had no luck there but we did stumble across the highlight of the day. 10 Waxwings which flew SW at just above head-height calling, a perfect view but typically I didn't have my camera ready.  In the gorse nearer the cliffs we also came across a Woodcock and a Kestrel. After this we headed to Reighton Sands to try and get Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and Sanderling but failed with all three.

Driving back to Filey was odd as you could actually see Filey as we were on the road above a blanket of thick fog. We knew finding stuff in this would be a nightmare and we were glad we had got our seawatching out of the way! We decided to head to East Lea. In the reeds at the back of the dams was a Coot and a flock of Long-Tailed Tits. On East Lea itself were presumably large numbers of Wigeon though we could only see a fraction of them (the rest were quite audible). A Shoveler also drifted out of the mist. It turns out that due to the visibility we had missed Lapwing and Dunlin.

We were now a little stuck for ideas we needed some common stuff such as Coal Tit, Grey Wagtail and Gannet. Keith Clarkson had advised we went to Reighton water treatment works. Surely enough once there we found a Grey Wagtail. After this we went back to the Dams. We couldn't see anything. We were about to leave when a Water Rail started calling from the back reeds. This left us on 72 species. We missed a lot of common stuff (Coal Tit, Gannet, Song Thrush, etc.) but we had a great time. We did get more than the other team (65) and I wonder how we fared against the likes of Scarborough...
Snow Bunting - Carr Naze
Purple Sandpiper - Brigg
Waxwing - The Bay / Hunmanby Gap
Grey Heron
Feral Barnacle Goose (with Canadas) - Primrose Valley

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

A bit of winter birding

I had to take my scooter in to be serviced, dad met me in Scarborough and we went birding. The first place we went was Peasholm Park, a small lake surrounded by woodland close to the sea. There had been a Red-Throated Diver there for a few days and, although I see them regularly, this gave me a chance to see one very close. The bird had been active and feeding on small fish. When we got there we walked around the lake, it then shot past us at about eye level and we saw it land on the other side of the lake. We walked in that direction. Once we got to where the bird was it swam towards us. It gracefully went past us, within only a couple of metres, an amazing experience.
After some lunch we then went on to Scalby mills rocks (outside the sealife centre), this was because there was a gull roost there. We looked through the gulls but could only produce Herring, Black-Headed and Great Black-Backed Gulls. Also present were some rather smart Wigeon, Redshank, Curlew and Oystercatcher.
The both of us then decided we would go to the harbour to try and see the Black-Necked Grebe and Great Northern Diver. En route we stopped briefly to look for a Black Redstart in the rock armour but had no luck, but we did see another Red-Throated Diver in the bay. At the Harbour we picked up the Black-Necked Grebe and Great Northern Diver quite quickly. The tide was out so they were confined to the main part of the harbour. Eventually both came close to the harbour mouth where they gave good views. Also running around our feet were Turnstones, although the Purple Sandpiper roost was empty due to it being low tide. This was a great day with a good range of species.

Red-Throated Diver
Red-Throated Diver
Wigeon (male and female)
Black-Necked Grebe
Black-Necked Grebe
Great Northern Diver 
Great Northern Diver

Thursday, 3 November 2016

September and October Patchwork Challenge 2016 roundup

Over the last two months I have added 20 species to Patchwork Challenge resulting in 31 new points.  At Hunmanby Gap, Hunmanby and 'The Bay.'

The first birds added in September were on the 17th at Hunmanby Gap. Seawatching definately paid off in a Northeasterly wind. I added 547 Wigeon (499 north, 48 south), 19 Pintail (28 north, 1 south), 10 Shoveler (north) and 2 Velvet Scoter (2 south). I unfortunately missed a Black Tern. Other highlights were 618 Teal north with 1 south and 32 Sooty Shearwaters and 41 Manx Shearwaters north, not a bad morning.
Wigeon and Teal
Birding at the Gap on the 25th brought a welcome '3-pointer' in the form of a Yellow-Browed Warbler, unfortunately we knew it was there so no bonus points for finding it. Still a great patchtick and a a great little bird. I then went on to find a Whinchat in the clifftop scrub, another new bird for me for the year (at the Hunmanby Gap).
My next additions were also at Hunmanby Gap, with 3 Little Egrets going south on the 1st and 4 Arctic Skuas going north on the 2nd.
Little Egrets
The next day I went to 'The Bay' (just north of Hunmanby Gap) and was happy to spot a Slavonian Grebe drifting north offshore sea and two Kingfishers on the clifftop pool. The 4th was cut short, I was birding in Hunmanby (it was quiet with a few Redwing and a Hare) and the news got out that there was an Eastern-Crowned Warbler at Bempton (I went and saw that)!
It wasn't until the 8th when I next got to the Gap, the seawatch itself was quite quiet but adding a Balearic Shearwater north made up for this as well as getting 5 (Dark-Bellied) Brent Geese (3 south, 2 north). I also went seawatching on the 9th, I didn't manage to add anything because although we saw an Asio sp. (Owl species) it was too far out to sea. Typically, after I had gone both Short-Eared and Long-Eared Owls made landfall (which I missed)!

Species 124 was a flock of 10 Grey Partridge at the Gap (long-awaited I must say).

The next tick for me was pretty unexpected with a flock of 32 Barnacle Geese on the 19th going Northwest over Hunmanby (my first for the village).

Vismigging (watching for visible migration) paid off on the 28th with Lesser Redpoll being added.

However the 30th was joint-most successful with the 17th of September over the last two months with four birds being added at the Gap. The first to be added that morning was a flock of 9 Whooper Swans going south, a Goldeneye then went south also. Keeping with wildfowl, 5 Scaup also went south. Land-based migration was also good as I added a Corn Bunting and Mealy Redpoll both went south. However two other highlights were 273 Siskin and a late Swallow south over the course of the morning.
Whooper Swans
The last two months left me on 131 species and 165 points. I can't wait for what the winter will bring, November 1st had 4 Little Auks north, although not a patchtick, a great bird. Bring on winter!

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Great day in Cleveland

In the morning I had been vismigging / seawatching at Hunmanby Gap. It had already been a successful day as I patch ticked (added to Patchwork Challenge) a Corn Bunting south, a Mealy Redpoll south, 9 Whooper Swans south, 5 Scaup south and 4 Goldeneye (1 south, 3 present). Other notable birds were 273 Siskin and a Swallow south, (not bad for high pressure and westerlies). Full counts can be found here on trektellen. I got home between 9 and 10 and I was going with dad and gran as we took her back home to Hartlepool.

I knew that there was an 'Eastern' Black Redstart at Skinningrove and a Pied Wheatear had been confirmed at Redcar. Both of these places were 'on the way' (with a slight detour). Going to these places would mean sacrificing a visit to Saltholme and the Jewish Cemetery (to try and see Twite). We all agreed we go for the rarer birds. On the way up a few decent birds were seen from the car window: Jay, Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush (these were the best). We got to Skinningrove and drove down the south side of the village, this was when we realised none of us actually knew where the bird was. Then, in the distance I saw some birders walking north on the other side of the river. We drove over and parked, we walked along the seafront. We found some birders and we got onto where the bird had been favouring. We saw it flit across the gaps in rocks a few times. However after a few minutes it came out onto the rocks and showed itself nicely. My gran was particularly impressed by the brightness of the orange. It was a fantastic little bird. I didn't manage to see one near Scarborough a few years back so I was glad to see this one. The bird was accompanied by Rock pipits, a Robin and a Dunnock.
'Eastern' Black Redstart (as are the below pictures)

After around 20 minutes watching the Black Redstart we drove to Redcar, on the way we saw (from the car) a flock of around 40 Golden Plover and lots of Redwing. We found the old cinema and saw the Pied Wheatear fluttering around. As I was walking down on to the beach for a better view, 5 Whooper Swans flew north. On the beach there were Turnstones and just offshore there was a smattering of Eider, along with Cormorants, Shags and a Red-Throated Diver. Whilst standing on the beach the Pied Wheatear was very active and gave superb views. This was a great lifer to end a great day. After dropping gran off we headed home. Driving over the Tees there were 3 Whooper Swans. we were surprised that we didn't see any Red Grouse on the moors. The only two new birds for the day on the way back were a Rook and a Blackbird (partly due to the light going early now the clocks have changed). This was a great day in Cleveland.
Pied Wheatear
Pied Wheatear
Whooper Swan
Pied Wheatear

Monday, 24 October 2016

Birding and ringing over the last week (Filey ringing and migration week)

It was the annual Filey ringing and migration week, this year I would be ringing. The first day Saturday the 15th of October was simply fantastic. As dad and I pulled up, Top Scrub was alive! Endless thrushes were dropping out of the sky after making the north sea crossing. This was due to the light precipitation on the coast and slight rain just offshore. These were mainly Redwing but there were also Song, Fieldfare, Blackbirds and Mistle Thrushes over the course of the day. Just about every net round was bird filled. I got to ring lots of Redwings, a bird I had never ringed before. There was also an influx of Goldcrests and Robins and two Yellow-Browed Warblers could be heard calling in the scrub. In my opinion the best birds of the day were three Woodcock, of which I got to ring one of. These are a big powerful bird. Other highlights were Brambling and both Lesser and Mealy Redpoll. 230 birds were ringed that day. In just the northern coastal area of Filey a Woodlark, 3,700 Redwing, 630 Song Thrushes, 450 Fieldfares, 18 Mistle Thrushes, 260 Blackbirds, 230 Siskins, 85 Redpoll (incl. at least 4 Mealy), 125 Brambling, 370 Skylarks, 12 Woodcock, 65 Robins, 90 Goldcrests, 6 Yellow-Browed Warblers and a Ring Ouzel were counted (I missed the Woodlark and Ring Ouzel) (counts via the FBOG website).  Just after dad and I left a Great White Egret flew over Top Scrub. This truly was a fantastic day and a true migration spectacle.
Mealy Redpoll (right) with two Lesser Redpoll

The second day of ringing and migration week was quieter, however a Yellow-Browed Warbler was trapped and ringed. Along with Brambling and Siskin. Around 60 birds were ringed that day, compared to yesterday's 230. The Yellow-Browed Warbler had alluded the nets for some time. Up close this tiny phyllosc was absolutely beautiful. I wouldn't be able to do a full days ringing until Friday the 21st so it was great getting the Yellow-Brow.
Yellow-Browed Warbler
Yellow-Browed Warbler
The next time I could get to Filey was Tuesday the 18th. Rain had delayed opening the nets. I managed to get some extracting done but I had only ringed a few birds by the time I had to go to college. However that day a combined total of 1000 Pink-Footed Geese flew south. Later that day after I had gone a second Yellow-Browed Warbler was trapped and ringed.
Pink-Footed Geese
Pink-Footed Geese
Ringing was cancelled on Wednesday because of wind but I couldn't have gone anyway due to college. The highlight on the 19th for me was 32 Barnacle Geese northeast over my house, I therefore also added these to Patchwork Challenge.

The next time I was ringing in Filey was Friday the 21st, I was annoyed as I had missed a Pallas's Warbler which was ringed the day before. That day did see a Mealy Redpoll ringed and a few smart Brambling, along with some commoner birds such as Redwings.  As it was quiet dad and I decided to go and see the Snow Bunting on Carr Naze. In classic Snow Bunting fashion it wasn't put off by people and was fairly tame, whilst watching it a Short-Eared Owl came in off the sea.
Snow Bunting
Mealy Redpoll
Short-Eared Owl
On Saturday the 22nd dad and I went to Buckton to ring with Mark Thomas, it was quiet. Until around 12 we ringed a handful of birds including Redwings, Robins and (best of all) a Siberian Chiffchaff. 3 Lapland Buntings also flew south. The good thing about the 22nd was that I got to use a Heligoland trap (a large wooden and mesh structure with trees planted inside which funnels birds towards a catching box). That same morning Filey had it quiet too, their best was a Norwegian ringed Mealy Redpoll. Both we and Filey packed up at around 12 o'clock. Dad and I briefly went to Hunmanby Gap after this but it was very quiet there as well.
Siberian Chiffchaff
Saturday the 22nd was supposed to be the last day of the ringing and migration week but because the team packed up early on Sunday and cancelled on Wednesday an extra morning was organised. That morning was very quiet but a few Blackcaps, a couple of Redwing and Blackbirds and a couple of Greenfinches were trapped and ringed. Part way through the morning the news got out that there was a Red-Breasted Flycatcher in Arndale. Me and a few others walked to see it and got decent views although it was quite high in the canopy. The team stopped early afternoon due to the lack of birds. I called off at home on my scooter and then noticed on birdguides that the Hume's Leaf Warbler was still showing at Thornwick Pools, I drove there and managed to get decent views. This ended a fantastic week (and a day) of birding, ringing and migration.
Red-Breasted Flycatcher
Hume's Leaf Warbler 

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Bempton bonanza

Over the last few days Bempton has had some excellent birds. It all started with the Eastern-Crowned Warbler on Tuesday the 4th October. I rushed down and managed to see it that evening. It was a fantastic little bird but I couldn't manage a picture. The next day I was in college, much to my annoyance, I checked my phone and noticed something I really didn't expect on birdguides, a Black-Browed Albatross at Bempton! The bird had previously been seen at Filey and was later seen off Thornwick and Flamborough, I'm annoyed that I missed that one! After this I didn't get to Bempton until Saturday the 8th meaning that I had missed a Greenish Warbler. However I did have a Bluethroat, 2 Yellow-Browed Warblers, a Red-Breasted Flycatcher and an Arctic Warbler. Later that day I bumped into Elliot, Ellis, Harry and Darragh. We managed to see the Bluethroat and Arctic Warbler (the latter being missed by Harry) but the Flycatcher stayed hidden.
Arctic Warbler

Sunday the 9th was a great day. It started off with fantastic views of the Red-Breasted Flycatcher and a Marsh Harrier flew high south. I then saw the two Yellow-Browed Warblers and great views of the Bluethroat. Over the RAF field a Short-Eared Owl stormed south whilst being mobbed by Crows, Jackdaws, Starling and Herring Gulls, whilst this was happening another Marsh Harrier went south. It then seemed to quieten down, between New Rollup and Staple Newk I found a Wheatear. This was when I heard that there was a Firecrest I didn't see the Firecrest but I did have a Ring Ouzel go north (another later flew north). This was a fantastic day because, as well as the rarer birds, there was a whole host of commoner migrants such as Brambling, Robins, Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests. Throughout the day Jackdaws were also moving southwest with 237 logged.
Red-Breasted Flycatcher
Short-Eared Owl