Sunday, 7 January 2018

Michael Clegg Memorial birdrace 2018

A year on from my first birdrace I found myself doing a second. There were two teams operating in the Filey area this year (a team of three and four). Our team consisted of me, Keith Clarkson and Kevin Denny.

We got to the dams before dawn in the hopes of easily getting both Barn Owl and Water Rail early on. As the sun broke the horizon, the silhouettes of Wigeon, Mallard, Teal, Tufted Ducks, Moorhens, Coots, two Snipe and a lone Lapwing appeared. A Sparrowhawk also sped through. As it got lighter passerines started to become active with plenty of Reed Buntings, Chaffinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Blackbirds, Dunnocks, Wrens, Tree Sparrows and many more common garden species, but unfortunately no Barn Owl or Water Rail!

After spending dawn at the Dams we decided to get to the Brigg for a morning seawatch. In country park we saw a Pied Wagtail, Herring Gulls, Oystercatchers, Redshanks, Black-Headed Gulls and a Fieldfare, the latter was part of a large arrival of thrushes which was more prevalent later in the morning at the Tip. As we headed down Carr Naze towards the Brigg Goldfinch and Stonechat were added onto the list. Then two small waders flew in at eye level. The first a Turnstone, the second a Purple Sandpiper. They rose high and headed Northeast up the coast. Once we got down onto the rocks we saw Rock Pipits, Shags, Cormorants, Great-Crested Grebes, two Great-Northern Divers, two Common Scoter and small numbers of Eider. A Peregrine also flew in off the sea with a prey item. We very quickly realised through watching and chatting to a couple of seawatchers already present that the sea was pretty dead. The only things moving were Fulmars, Guillemots and Red-Throated Diver with a few Eider and Wigeon also. We didn't even manage to see a Kittiwake or Gannet! We had some luck with waders; Dunlin, Turnstone, Purple Sandpiper and Ringed Plover but all in incredibly low numbers. There were no Knot, Sanderling or Grey Plover present. We decided to head back up onto Carr Naze and return to the carpark. We watched a flock of Goldfinches fly towards us but something wasn't right. That was when a second flock of about 30 birds from behind them. Much to our amazement they were Snow Buntings. They went West past us and flew along North Cliff and appeared to drop into the Stubble. This changed our plan. In case something like a Lapland Bunting joined them in the stubble we decided to head along North Cliff, down to Parish Woods and back along to Country Park following Long Hedge into Top Scrub.

Thrushes were very active with c80 Fieldfare, c20 Redwing and low numbers of Song Thrush and Blackbirds in Long Hedge. The stubble field contained Meadow Pipits, Rock Pipits and Skylarks but there was unfortunately no sign of the Snow Bunting flock. We know they were not in the field and they hadn't double backed as the other team (who by this point were on Carr Naze) did not see them. A conclusion was reached that they had probably continued west. The Tip was fairly quiet aside from a nice group of 13 Grey Partridge. We moved briefly into Parish Woods were there was a Great-Spotted Woodpecker, a flock of Long-Tailed Tits and groups of Starlings, Rooks, Crows and Jackdaws heading over. We also flushed a Woodcock from the edge of the woods. Returning along Long Hedge towards Top Scrub there were still quite a few Redwing and Song Thrush as well as a flock of Linnets. Top Scrub contained more Redwings and Son Thrushes but nothing new. By this point it was about midday so we decided to return to the Dams.

The local goose flock of Greylags and Canadas had returned and with them was a single Pink-Footed Goose (which has been with them for a little while). However there were no Shoveler, Little Grebes or Stock Doves. After having some lunch at the dams we headed round to East Lea where there were unfortunately very few birds. There were still some species we needed to add and we decided to head to Primrose Valley.

On arrival we went round to the 'new' lake. In with the Canada Geese there was a single Barnacle Goose. We scoured the trees for both Siskin and Redpoll but failed. The ravine down to the beach however produced Mistle Thrush, Stock Dove, Goldcrest and Bullfinch. A flock of Sanderling on the beach was a welcome addition but still not a single Gannet or Kittiwake. House Sparrows and a Coal Tit visited a feeder by the road also. As we were leaving we bumped into the other team. They had just seen a Short-Eared Owl at the Tip, much to our annoyance as we had walked through that area earlier in the day. They also tipped us off on Little Grebe.

We decided to follow this Little Grebe lead as we were starting to struggle to add new species. Little Grebe was quickly added down the coast on a pool at The Bay. We continued south to Hunmanby Gap in the search of Yellowhammers but with no luck. By this point it was late afternoon and the light was disappearing rather rapidly. Curlew was a notable absence from our list so we hightailed it from the southern end of the recording area to the northern limit at Gristhorpe Bay, where there were good numbers of this species.

The Golf Course and Martin's Ravine was our penultimate stop off. Martin's Ravine unfortunately didn't add anything but a male Gadwall at the Golf Course was an excellent addition to the list. As the light was fading at almost 5 o'clock we returned to the dams in the hope of adding one last species to the list. We did just that, as three Mute Swans had dropped in.

The list was added up and we finished on 78 species. Some species we were surprised not to get were Grey Heron, Shoveler (the other team got), Gannet, Kittiwake, Buzzard, Treecreeper and (rather annoyingly and slightly embarrassingly) Greenfinch(!) (which the other team got). The overall species count between the two teams finished at 82, not bad for a day in January, especially with the sea producing so little!

Great Northern Diver


Snow Buntings (honestly)

Pink-Footed Goose (with Canadas

Barnacle Goose (with Canadas)
Gadwall (top with Mallards)

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Great weekend birding

The weekend started in Lincoln on Saturday 23rd September. I was at a Uni open day with my dad at Lincoln University. I saw that there was Red-Necked Phalarope and Long-Billed Dowitcher about 30mi away on the coast and we decided that on the way back we would go for them. After getting the info from fellow birders we set out first to Covenham Reservoir. Once we got there we could see some birders along the wall, we headed that way. We walked a little way and could see the Phalarope in the distance, but there were birders watching something nowhere near it. To our amazement there was a Curlew Sandpiper just a few metres away. We continued onto where the Red-Necked Phalarope was, but just as we got there, it along with Little Stints and Dunlin took flight. They annoyingly went back to near the Curlew Sandpiper so we headed back that way. Once there we were graced with fantastic views of the waders and also a pair of Ruff. We then hopefully continued onto Saltfleet where the Dowitcher was. Once we got to the area it suddenly dawned on us we didn't really know where to go. We knew that it was around 'paradise pools' but neither of us knew where this was (what did we expect a big sign?!). We eventually found a small carpark and map and realised we had driven passed the area where it was. When we went back we found a birder who had just seen it go around the corner in a creek. We drove around to the other side of the creek and got fantastic views of it feeding fairly close to us. The Dowitcher and Phalarope were also UK lifers (I had seen both abroad).

The next day I was volunteering as part spotter team (including Harry Witts @polychloros) on the penultimate RSPB Autumn Highlights cruise out of Bridlington. We set off at 0830hrs. We first headed south towards Barmston and Hornsea. There was a lot of feeding activity. We came across many flocks of Little Gulls (100+ by the end of the trip), a Juvenile Black Tern, Razorbills, Guillemots, 2 Puffins, 2 Arctic Skuas and a Great Skua. 74 Teal, 2 Pintail, Common Scoter flocks, Brent Goose, 2 Bar-Tailed Godwit and a feral pigeon also flew by. After this success we continued further out off Flamborough Head. We saw a further 7 Arctic Skua, 3 Great Skua (2 with metal rings), 2 Juvenile Black Terns, more Little Gulls, 4 Puffins, 7 Red-Throated Diver, 2 Yellow-Legged Gull, Lesser-Blacked Backed Gull, 20 Redshank and 3 Knot. Unfortunately no shearwaters could be tempted in by the chum, but that was probably down to the winds. That being said the cruise had a great selection and ended with lots of happy faces!
I ended the day up at Bempton. The Red-Backed Shrike continued it's residence as did the Yellow-Browed Warbler (but I missed it). 2-3 Lesser Whitethroats, 2 Chiffchaffs, 2 Blackcaps, 5+ Goldcrests, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 2 Whinchat, 4 Stonechat, 1 Rock Pipit and a Ruff (flew SE) were on reserve today. The start of next week look promising and may turn up some migrants, though typically I'm back in college. Hopefully anything that does arrive will stick around. 

Little Stint

Long-Billed Dowitcher
Red-Necked Phalarope

Curlew Sandpiper

Common Scoter

Great Skua
Black Tern

Arctic Skua

Red-Backed Shrike

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Week in Fife

From Monday 21nd to Sunday 27th of August we (mum, dad, my brother and I) were staying at our  friend's house in Fife near Cupar. They are both birders and ringers as well. Fife is a fantastic place for birds and over the week we had some good stuff.

Tuesday 22nd

On Tuesday (the first full day) we set out to do the 'chain walk.' A walk which runs along the coastline. It's called the chain walk because for some parts of the walk a chain is required to walk (climb) along, up and down the narrow 'paths' cut into the cliff. The walk is near a village called Earlsferry. The beach was full of Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Redshank and Curlew. A Greenshank flew over and we saw lots of Common and Sandwich Tern with small numbers of Arctic. A lone Wheatear patrolled the beach in amongst a large flock of Starling. Whilst doing the chain walk it was hard to look for birds but there were plenty of Eider offshore along with a Goosander. On the way back to the house we stopped in Pittenweem where a Great Skua caught, killed and ate a Herring Gull offshore! 

Wednesday 23rd

Wednesday wasn't spent birding, however in the evening there was some passage over the house whilst having a barbecue. 2 Ospreys, 5 Swifts, a Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk went high over (raptors NW, Swifts SE). However the Ospreys were probably just commuting between the Eden Estuary and a breeding site as one was carrying a large flat fish.  


Thursday 24th

Thursday was a rather packed day. It started with ringing in the garden. This was from around 6am to 12pm. We got over 70 birds which were mainly Chaffinches. We also got a Willow Warbler, a Blackcap, quite a few Blackbirds, 2 Song Thrush and Great-Spotted Woodpecker. We tried tape luring Meadow Pipits but they didn't go into the nets (some did investigate the tapes). 'Mipits' were passing through throughout the morning and a single Tree Pipit went over to the south. We all then went for a walk along the coast near Tayport, on the Tay estuary. It was full of birds. The highlights were; 3 Ospreys, 700+ Sandwich Tern, 300+ Common Tern, 5+ Arctic Tern, c330 Bar-Tailed Godwit, 1 Black-Tailed Godwit, 6 Greenshank, 5 Wigeon, 5 Red-Breasted Merganser, 6 Goosander, 100+ Teal, 2 Snipe and lots of Redshank, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Lapwing and Dunlin. There was also a Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar in the dunes.
Bar-Tailed Godwit
Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar
Common Tern
Friday 25th

On the 25th we visited Shell Bay and Rudden's Point. We went down onto the rocky shore looking for birds and invertebrates. We found both. The life in the rock pools was brilliant, many fish, crabs species, squat lobsters, brittle stars, starfish, etc. The highlight of the day was an immature Black Guillemot just off the rocks, this is pretty rare for the east coast and not what we'd expected in the Firth of Forth (interestingly this was the only auk of the whole trip). Down on the rocks were quite a few Sandwich and Common Tern as well as Redshanks. A Ruff, 4 Whimbrel and 3 Knot flew past us. As we moved off the rocky shore we headed back to the carpark along the clifftop close to where we had done the chain walk. Down at the cliff base there was a pair of Grey Wagtails. There was some sense of passage on the clifftop with a Whinchat, Juvenile Stonechat, Willow Warbler, Wheatear and Meadow Pipits. As well as these there was a lot of hirundine passage with flocks of Sand and House Martins, Swallows and 17 Swifts.

Black Guillemot
Saturday 26th

In the morning we went to Scotland's Secret Bunker (where there obviously weren't many birds). After this we went to Pittenweem for a walk along the coast towards St Monans. When we got out of the car I saw a Juvenile Herring Gull with a metal ring, I managed to get close enough to read the code. On the rocky shore there was a fantastic (flighty) loose flock of 300+ Golden Plover. As well as these there were many Redshank, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Turnstone, 2 Dunlin and 4 Lapwing. Feeding in the pools were 5+ Grey Heron. Terns were moving offshore with a lot of Common and Sandwich and at least 7 Arctic. Back in Pittenweem a small gull roost formed with a juvenile colour ringed Herring Gull and Great-Black Backed Gull and a metal ringed adult Herring Gull, all of which I managed to read (the colour rings more easily than the metal)!

Saturday ended a great week of birding in great company!

Golden Plover
Herring Gull 'X:130'
Grey Heron
Metal ringed Herring Gull 
Great Blac-Backed Gull 'X:099'
Golden Plover 
Collared Dove 

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Rainy day in Cleveland

Dad and I had to go up to Hartlepool to give some stuff to my gran. We knew there had been Marsh Warblers at both Saltholme and Bowesfield marsh. This would be a lifer for me and we decided to try for the Bowesfield bird. The weather was awful with heavy rain all day. Near the Tees we came off the A19 and headed into Middlesborough towards Bowesfield industrial estate. We found the reserve and walked through it to the northern end where we found a few other birders looking into reeds in a dip. We stood and waited. There were plenty of Sedge Warblers and a Grasshopper Warbler but no sign of the Marsh Warbler. We kept waiting through the rain (I realised my waterproof coat wasn't so waterproof). Then we heard it briefly and watched it climb up through the reeds. It sat for no more than 30 seconds before is disappeared again. However the views were still excellent. We then drove to RSPB Saltholme, not to go birding but to get some lunch. However we did get nice views of Common Terns. After this brief stopped we headed to my grans. After this we decided we would year tick Little Tern at Crimdon Dene. We luckily managed to get them from the carpark so didn't have to go down to the beach (I did manage a record shot). All in all a good, albeit wet, day.
Marsh Warbler
Marsh Warbler
Little Tern, honestly
Common Tern 

Friday, 26 May 2017

Ringing and a bit of birding at Tophill Low

Today Dad and I went ringing at Tophill Low nature reserve. It was a steady morning with 43 birds caught (full counts here on The highlights were 7 new Sedge Warblers and 19 juvenile Blue Tits. A Cuckoo, 2 Cetti's Warblers and 6 Little Egrets (high SE) were also about. The Sand Martins are getting seemingly more interested in the Sand Martin wall so will hopefully breed soon (although there is already a Great Tit occupying one of the holes). After we packed away we went to look on South Marsh East. We weren't disappointed, when we arrived there were 5 Little Egrets, 2 Black-Tailed Godwits and a Goosander. Then after about 15 minutes a 1st winter Little Gull dropped in, being one of my favourite gulls I was obviously pretty happy with this. We then finished the afternoon with two Red-Crested Pochard on D res.
Sedge Warbler
Little Gull
Little Gull (left)
Red-Crested Pochard
Great Tit
Sand Martin (and Swallow)

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Some local weekend birding

Over the last couple of days some good birds have turned up locally. The highlights being Siberian Stonechat yesterday (6th) and Spoonbill today (7th).

On Saturday morning I was at a Geology revision session at college when I saw that a Siberian-type Stonechat had been found at South Landing, Flamborough Head. I kept watching that space and surely enough it was ID'd as a Siberian Stonechat. I was eagerly awaiting 12:30 when I was getting picked up. On the way home from college a Wood Warbler had also been found and was giving good views. With Whinchats and Yellow Wagtails turning up on the headland it really did feel like Spring. Dad agreed to drop me off because he had to go to Bridlington anyway (and wasn't bothered about seeing the chat or the warbler as he already had done in the past). On the way, at Speeton, 11 Bar-Tailed Godwits flew south (a nice surprise), there were also two Red-Legged Partridge in a nearby field. I got dropped off by the Living Seas Centre at South Landing and walked down to the entrance of the Nature Trail. There was another birder there but neither of us could see or hear the Wood Warbler. I decided to go for the Siberian Stonechat but went through the woodland in the hope of stumbling across the Wood Warbler. I came out of the woodland and found the sheep field that the Stonechat was favouring, there was a number of birders present and the bird was pretty easy to get onto, it was pretty obvious against the hedge behind it. After watching it for a few minutes I decided to walk East along the clifftop a little way to see if I could find anymore migrants. There were a lot of Sand Martins and Swallows feeding over the clifftop and drifting steadily North. Then from a nearby bush a Whinchat flew down to the ground and low across the field back towards the Siberian Stonechat. though unfortunately it was much less confiding! On the sea there were 2 Common Scoter, 2 Red-Throated Diver, 2 Common Gulls and a few Razorbills and Kittiwakes. I went back through the woodland but again had no luck with the Wood Warbler, although I wasn't too bothered as the Siberian Stonechat was cracking!

I spent Sunday morning in York and we planned to do a bit of ringing in the garden when we got back. However it was a bit too windy and it looked like it was going to rain. We got home early afternoon and I was hopelessly hoping something might fly over the house or turn up in the garden! At 15:07 news came out that 3 Spoonbills had just dropped in at Filey Dams. Dad and I decided to go for them. We were there at the Dams by about 15:15 and got onto them pretty quickly, actively feeding they had obviously been put down by the slight rain, there was also a Goosander present. Surely enough as the rain began to ease at about 15:30 they left and flew southeast. They were then picked up by birders at Flamborough and they were tracked flying across the headland to South Landing before they returned Northwest. Who knows where they'll end up!
Siberian Stonechat
Siberian Stonechat 
Siberian Stonchat
Goosander (and Canada Goose)

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 -