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 -

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