Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Scarborough Harbour

After a frustrating fog filled and mostly birdless morning spent in the Langdale Forest Micky and I returned to town and headed for Scarborough Harbour. The Great Northern Diver that has been around for a while now was performing nicely, so I took the opportunity to spent a bit of time with it. 23 Purple Sandpipers were roosting over the high tide period, whilst a flock of 68 Pink-footed Geese headed across the bay. A Guillemot was close inshore of the harbour wall along with a smart drake Eider. All in all a very pleasant hour or so.

Friday, 6 December 2013

After the storm...

With the media full of stories about coastal flooding at various locations along the east coast it seemed likely that the blast of polar air and resultant high seas ought to produce some interest at sea. So, Micky and I headed for the Long Nab hut optimistic about the prospects of some movement with perhaps a displacement of Little Auks or something even more exciting amongst our hopes. In the event it was once again rather disappointing with a three hour watch producing little of note. Singles of Velvet Scoter, Goldeneye and Snipe, two Eider, three Common Scoter, a few Red-throated Divers and small numbers of large auks were all we could muster. A Pink-footed Goose headed north at sea, with it or another in the stubble north of the hut. The stubble also hosted 3 Lapland Buntings and 41 Skylarks. A check of Scalby Mills was also without any significant highlights, although it was marvellous just to watch the waves rolling into North Bay.

North Bay viewed from Scalby Mills

Waves rolling in at Scalby Mills
Black-headed Gulls at Scalby Mills

Thursday, 28 November 2013

What no Desert Wheatear?

After the excitement of last week's impressive seabird movements it has been back to normal this week, although it has not been without some interest. On Monday I had a look along the cliffs and a poke about in the ringing site hoping for some late interest and optimistically thinking a Hume's Warbler or a Desert Wheatear might show up. Predictably I found little of note, but hoping for the latter species is not as wildly optimistic as you might think. This section of coast has hosted three Desert Wheatears in the past with singles seen in 1989, 2007 and 2010. The first two of these were found on the 26th November, whilst the other was on 19th November, so clearly this was a good week to be looking. However, not this year it would seem. 

I also checked Scalby Mills on Monday and was pleased to see a juvenile Iceland Gull coast north just off the rocks. Presumably the same bird as that seen in the harbour about a week or so before. A Little Auk also flew north there with a Goosander following a few minutes later.

This morning another walk along the cliffs and ringing site was fairly quiet although a Blackcap and three Goldcrests were new and perhaps indicators that autumn isn't quite over. More unexpected was a sudden change in the number of Lapland Buntings in the stubble with 15 present, a significant increase on the recent counts which have all been in the range one-five. As usual however they were almost impossible to get views of on the ground.  46 Skylarks, 12 Rock Pipits and 8 Reed Buntings were also in the vicinity of the stubble and nearby game crops. 

Finally I finished up at Scalby Mills where with the tide up, Wigeon were showing nicely. There have been two previous records of American Wigeon here, so it would be great if there was a repeat appearance when they are performing so nicely! 

Wigeon grazing on the sea wall
Drake Wigeon

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Record Eider movement

With a fairly long series of pretty dismal seawatches at the Nab recently, it was great to enjoy an excellent and varied movement today. Wildfowl dominated proceedings with 307 Eider heading north creating a new record movement for the species in the Scarborough area. The previous best was 190 on 10th November 2001. Scaup, Long-tailed Duck, Goosander (3), Red-breasted Merganser (5), Goldeneye (12) and Common Scoter (481) all featured amongst a dozen species of ducks on the move. Three Great Northern Divers were well received along with a single Black-throated Diver and a reasonable number of Red-throated Divers. 

The highlight for Dave and myself was a Leach's Petrel heading north at 0925, but unfortunately Micky missed it as it slipped in and out of the troughs. A second winter Glaucous Gull was rather more accommodating as it moved north early afternoon. The only real disappointment was the lack of the hoped for Little Auks although it seems fairly likely that the odd one probably slipped through unnoticed in the deeper troughs between the waves. Maybe tomorrow...

One of the many flocks of Eiders flying past the Nab today

Monday, 11 November 2013

Raining Blackbirds

With a few domestic matters to attend to in the centre of Scarborough this morning, I headed into a wet and rainy town with little thought of any birding prospects for the day. However as I was about to head for Sainsbury's (oh yes what an exciting life I lead!) I noticed that the sky was full of Blackbirds streaming over, clearly having just arrived from the sea. A five minute count produced a conservative estimate of 400+. Wow! Smaller numbers of Redwings and Fieldfares were also amongst the throng.The shopping was completed in double quick time with a further 200 or so Blackbirds over the car park it was quickly home to dump the shopping and out to Long Nab. Reaching the ringing site around 1220hrs it was obvious that Blackbirds were still streaming over and my count for Long Nab had reached 350 before getting out of the car! Nearly three hours around the ringing site and I had logged totals of 1050+ Blackbirds, 160+ Redwings, 40+ Fieldfares, 5 Song Thrushes arriving from the sea. Most of them feeding for short periods and continuing inland. I was also pleased to log four Bewick's Swans arriving from the sea - always a scarce species around here. As I left the site at dusk at least 70 Blackbirds were around the top plantation. 

This really was impressive stuff and yet another memorable autumn day on this wonderful stretch of coastline. Blackbirds barely register as I see them daily in the back garden, but yet here with this fantastic spectacle of migration in action, I was bouncing around like a child at Christmas with a big grin on my face. What joy!

Some pics below. As usual no great shakes and the typical excuses of poor light etc, but hopefully you get some kind of idea.

Part of a newly arrived flock of 40 Blackbirds feeding briefly before continuing inland.

No not dirt on the lens, those are Blackbirds heading inland after a brief feed up in the ringing site
I set a couple of mist nets hoping to catch a few of the Blackbirds, but the rides most likely to catch good numbers were a little breezy. So just a handful were caught. Judging by the fat and muscle scores of the few I did catch, it isn't surprising that most birds were quick to move on. 

Female Blackbird

Monday, 4 November 2013

Nice seawatch

With a brisk NW wind blowing and an airstream extending to Polar regions Nick, Micky and I were full of hope this morning. Although it wasn't quite as busy as we might have hoped, there was enough to keep our interest for a watch of in excess of seven hours. Among the highlights were two Black-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver (with a reasonable number of Red-throats also moving), two Sooty Shearwaters (late for these now), four Pomarine Skuas, an Arctic Skua, 15 Bonxies, three Goosander, small numbers of Common Scoters, a handful of Eider and a flock of 69 Pink-footed Geese. The stubble field north of the hut hosted at least 23 Snow Buntings and a single Lapland Bunting. All pretty standard early November fare, but very welcome nevertheless.
A steady movement of Gannets took place throughout the watch

Saturday, 2 November 2013

A quiet spell

The past few days have been pretty quiet at Long Nab. Seawatching has brought very limited rewards and discussion has once again turned to whether recent seawatches qualify amongst the quietest ever experienced here. The consensus seems to be that they likely qualify for the top ten... A Great Northern Diver close inshore south of the hut and three Pomarine Skuas moving north this morning is perhaps a sign of an improvement. One can only hope so, although it has to be said most of the action the morning involved counting Black-headed Gulls on the move south - grim stuff! Goldeneye, Common Scoter, Eider, Wigeon and Teal have all been noted, but in very small numbers. Whooper Swans have been breaking records at other sites along the Yorkshire coast over the past week or so. However, they are seemingly too cryptic for us as we have managed just one all autumn! Clearly we need to do better.

Visible migration of passerines has been similarly muted with a handful of finches south and a trickle of Fieldfares in off the sea being about the best of it. Steve Wignill noted a House Martin move south on 1st. The stubbles have been the most productive areas to work with up to 10 Snow Buntings and three Lapland Buntings present. A Twite joined the Linnet flock on 31st, the first of the autumn here, but appears to have quickly moved on.

The bushes yielded a single Blackcap on 1st November, with four Song Thrushes in Crook Ness perhaps indicative of newly arrived migrants. A Great Spotted Woodpecker at the same location is a scarce bird here, though one suspects it hasn't come far.

With the prospect of a change in wind direction to something a bit more favourable on Monday, we hope for better then.

View from the hut at dawn
Song Thrush at Crook Ness - a newly arrived migrant, or just desperately trying to find signs of hope?
Yep, things have got so quiet I have resorted to photographing Dunnocks!

A Sparrowhawk hunts over the ringing site
Another early morning view south towards Scarborough Castle

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Hen Harrier

It will not be too long now before ringing at Long Nab will end for the autumn. By mid November it usually becomes too wet and muddy to drive down to the site and by then it is unusual for there to be enough birds around the ringing site for it to be worthwhile anyway. So, I am trying to make the most of any breaks in the recent wet and windy weather that do allow us to operate a few nets. Micky and I caught a modest nine birds this morning which included two Goldcrests, two Lesser Redpolls and a retrap Robin from last year. This is the first time that particular Robin has been caught since October 2012, so we wonder where it has been in the intervening period. Good to know it is still going strong though!

A little bit of visible migration was in evidence overhead and included Siskin, Redpolls, Linnet, Goldfinch and Reed Bunting. A Snow Bunting and a few Fieldfares came in off the sea, but the highlight of the morning came whilst we were ringing a Blackbird and a female Hen Harrier suddenly appeared right next to us. It quickly reared up and headed off south being harassed by a Carrion Crow. Hen Harrier is always a treat to see, but a scarce bird at Long Nab and thus a most welcome sight. 

Once we had finished ringing a check of the stubble field by the seawatch hut produced a Lapland Bunting and two further Snow Buntings in off the sea. Feeling enthused we opted to check the Cromer Point stubble field where two further Lapland Buntings were noted and a Pink-footed Goose was seemingly recently arrived and sat in the field. As we walked back to Crook Ness further Fieldfares came in off the sea accompanied by a Redwing, and two Goldcrests were noted in Crook Ness

Later in the day I checked Cornelian Bay on the south side of town, where at least 95 Fieldfares were recorded including several that I saw to come in off the sea.

Fieldfare - newly arrived from the sea at Cornelian Bay

Sunday, 27 October 2013


A curious kind of morning at the Nab today. As I drove out to Crook Ness I had very modest expectations of perhaps recording a little bit of vis mig, most likely in the form of some finches and pipits. This did indeed prove to be the case with the morning producing 84 Linnets, 8 Goldfinches, 16 Rock Pipits and 23 Meadow Pipits heading south. At sea it was predictably quiet with small numbers of Black-headed and Common Gulls moving south being the primary, although somewhat minimal entertainment. I was therefore surprised to see a nice juvenile Pomarine Skua flying north at 0730 and then at 0755 the only diver of the morning proved to be a Black-throated. Shelduck, Dunlin and a pair of Eider added to the variety, but really it was poor. A couple of Lapland Buntings were in the stubble north of the hut and a Snow Bunting was also there before heading south. 

Small numbers of Black-headed Gulls moving south this morning

However, the main frustration of the morning came in the form of a Richard's Pipit that I heard calling twice at 0835 hrs. However I was in the seawatch hut at the time and when I looked out the back, I couldn't locate the bird. Good numbers of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were flying about at the time and I couldn't locate it amongst them.  I checked suitable fields north and south of the hut, but failed to locate the bird and guess it must have been flying south. Interestingly another observer birding at South Cliff saw a large pipit sp fly south with two Skylarks at 1045. South cliff is approximately five miles to the south, so although it presumably did stop somewhere between, it seems likely that this was the same bird. All very frustrating and one that clearly got away.

During my searches for the pipit, I a flock of Linnets numbering at least 350 were at Cromer Point and a Lapland Bunting was in the stubble field there.

Sunrise at Crook Ness

Thursday, 24 October 2013


A productive ringing session this morning in glorious sunny conditions with clear blue skies. Three Mealy Redpolls were the highlight amongst a catch largely consisting of Lesser Redpolls and Chaffinches. A couple of pics as time is short. I will return with a few more later.

Lesser Redpoll

Mealy Redpoll

Monday, 21 October 2013

Change of scene

I opted for a change of venue this morning wanting to investigate the potential of Roger Trod as a visible migration watch-point. Roger Trod is significantly higher than Long Nab and affords great views to the south towards Scarborough, which this morning was looking rather atmospheric in the murk of an approaching rain bearing front which duly arrived soon after 11am.

View at sunrise south towards Scarborough from Roger Trod

Sunrise at Roger Trod

I was watching for 90 minutes between 0745 and 0915 with the following totals resulting.

Cormorant 10 s
Skylark 27 s
House Martin 4 s
Swallow 1 s
Rock Pipit 5 s
Meadow Pipit 9 s
Starling 14 s
Chaffinch 54 s
Brambling 1 in off
Greenfinch 7 s
Goldfinch 79 s
Linnet 21 s
Reed Bunting 2 s

Interestingly Micky and Nick were watching from Long Nab which is to the south of Roger Trod, and at a lower elevation. They recorded significantly larger numbers of Meadow and Rock Pipits, but fewer Skylarks and a little surprisingly no Chaffinches at all. Quite a few of the birds I recorded were following the line of the valley of Newlands Dale, immediately inland from Roger Trod, and birds taking that route would pass along the ridge inland of Long Nab and in many cases not detectable or difficult to identify from there.  

Moving down into Newlands Dale, I was pleased to find a smart male Ring Ouzel along with seven Redwings. Also present were three Teal, a Chiffchaff and at least 9 Bullfinches.

On my way back into town I paused at Johnson's Marsh. It has been quiet on here for weeks now and today was no exception with just seven Teal and the usual collection of Moorhens present. Hopefully it will not be too long before the usual wintering flock of Teal builds up here.

View of Johnson's Marsh

Teal sleeping on Johnson's Marsh

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Late 'summer' flurry

A quiet morning at the Nab was notable for the mild conditions and a number of late summer migrants. Offshore the sea watching was fairly slow although a few ducks were on the move in form of six Eider, small numbers of Teal and Common Scoter and a single Red-breasted Merganser. A flock of ca 45 Knot flew south, whilst a Bonxie and a Sandwich Tern headed north. By the seawatch hut Nick located a Whinchat, in the process setting a new latest date for the species in the Scarborough area (previous latest being at Scalby Lodge Farm on 18th October 1997). What was presumably yesterday's Wheatear accompanied it. Interestingly a Whitethroat was seen on the Castle today, thus setting a new record late date for that species in the area. The previous latest being at Scalby Mills on 14th October 1974. A walk across the stubble field produced a single Lapland Bunting with the Skylarks and three House Martins flew south. The cover crop has been disappointingly quiet for much of this autumn, but an increase in Reed Buntings was fairly obvious here and perhaps encouraging for the late autumn and winter period.  Crook Ness hosted a Chiffchaff, but with little else in evidence it was time to get a few other tasks done.

Saturday, 19 October 2013


A funny kind of day began with an addition to the site ringing list in the form of a female Crossbill. With reports of Parrot Crossbill from other parts of the country this bird was carefully checked for Parrot, but the bill and other measurements clearly indicated that it was a Common. With very dull conditions at the time this bird was caught, photography was tricky and the photos below are the best I could manage.

First year female Common Crossbill

1st year female Common Crossbill

The rest of the ringing session was pretty slow, with just six birds caught, three of which were retraps. Birds were arriving from the sea however, with parties of Starlings flying in off and continuing west, plus small numbers of Blackbirds, the odd Reed Bunting, a few Lapwings and a few Meadow and Rock Pipits heading south. Offshore a few flocks of Teal, Wigeon and Common Scoter were seen and two Great Northern Divers headed south. 

After an unsuccessful trip across to the south side of town to try for a Bittern that had been seen at Holbeck a return to Long Nab was fairly quiet aside from a Wheatear in the field behind the hut.
A Lapwing arriving from the sea at Long Nab

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Siberian seconds

With the weather bright and sunny, I couldn't resist returning to have another look at the Siberian Stonechat at Scalby Nab. Although performing very nicely it was usually a bit far away for decent photography, so the photos below are not great, although some might say that is usually the case with this blog.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Siberian surprise

Once again Micky and I headed for the ringing site at dawn and had a productive session that resulted in the trapping and ringing of 31 birds. Goldfinches dominated the catch, but it was pleasing to trap two Yellowhammers and two Reed Buntings, both of which are fairly scarce in the ringing site, despite being quite readily encountered in the Long Nab area. A couple of Lesser Redpolls made for an interesting comparison with the Mealy Redpoll trapped a couple of days ago. A Woodcock, Blackcap and couple of Chiffchaffs were present and overhead a trickle of migrants included a Snow Bunting and a hunting Merlin was also noted.

Dawn at Long Nab

Lesser Redpoll


As we were just about to pack up Micky got a call from Steve Wignill with news of a Siberian Stonechat that he had just found at nearby Scalby Nab. We quickly packed away our gear and headed down to where Steve was and were soon enjoying watching a smart example of this ghostly chat. The light wasn't great and it was pretty breezy, so photographs were hard to come by, with the best I managed below.

Siberian Stonechat

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Morning ringing session

Micky and I spent the morning at the ringing site where we operated three mist nets. A steady 25 new birds were caught and ringed, with three Goldcrests from yesterday also being re-trapped. Most of the Goldcrests seem to have been around for a little while now as they were carrying quite a bit of fat. However the Brambling and some of the Redwings that were caught were clearly new arrivals.

What was presumably yesterday's Acrocephalus warbler was caught and found to be a Reed Warbler, whilst Blackcaps were also on the move with at least six in the ringing site. Other sightings during the morning included three, now fairly late Swallows heading south and a heard only Lapland Bunting. 

A few pics of some of the more interesting species caught are below.


Reed Warbler

Monday, 14 October 2013

Arrival of a sprite

I was a bit late getting out this morning, so it wasn't until 9am that I stepped out of the car near the Top Plantation at Long Nab. Blackbirds and a few Redwings were obvious along the road and soon I had located a Ring Ouzel. A nice start. As I stood looking into the bushes, I became dimly aware of a call further up the road which sounded familiar, but I couldn't immediately place. However, it was not long before the penny had dropped and I was enjoying some close views of a superb Pallas's Warbler. What a fantastic start to the day. I followed it back along the road and it soon ended up in the plantation. Here there were a few Goldcrests and a few Song Thrushes and Robins. An interesting looking unstreaked Acrocephalus warbler popped up, but it quickly disappeared and despite spending an hour looking for it, I failed to relocate it.

Opting to take a break from looking for the Acro, I headed for the game crop, but there was little of interest here, although a Lapland Bunting was in the stubble. With the winds beginning to subside a little I decided that I would try setting a net in the ringing site. Micky joined me and we spent the rest of the afternoon undertaking a productive ringing session with a northern Treecreeper, Mealy (Common) Redpoll, two Bramblings, two Blackcaps, two Chiffchaffs and a good number of Goldcrests caught. A likely 'tristis' Chiffchaff was present, although we didn't hear it call, whilst another interesting looking Acrocephalus warbler was seen, but it too slipped away before it could be convincingly identified.  

Pallas's Warbler

Mealy Redpoll

'Northern' Treecreeper

Arriving yesterday and given recent weather conditions these Greylag Geese were perhaps wild birds rather than the usual feral ones