Friday, 27 September 2013

Continuing trickle of migrants

After the impressive arrival of Yellow-browed Warblers yesterday, it was perhaps to be expected that things would be slower today. Nevertheless there continued to be a few new arrivals. No Yellow-browed Warblers were in the ringing site at dawn, so when one suddenly started calling with the arrival of a shower of rain around 8am, it seems reasonable to assume it was a new arrival. Another individual was seen in one of the plantations, and was assumed to be one of yesterday's birds. Two Wheatears were in the field adjacent to the ringing site, whilst Redstarts had increased to two, with a fine young male in the SW corner of the ringing site and yesterday's female retrapped. The ringing session produced a total of 20 birds, with Linnets dominating the catch. A ringing milestone was passed today with the 1000th bird caught and ringed in the ringing site this morning. This is a fairly modest total given that ringing began here in 2009, but hopefully the 2000 mark will be achieved in rather less time. More importantly I hope that with increasing numbers of birds bearing rings from Long Nab more recoveries will result and some greater insight into where some of our birds end up will be forthcoming. 

Dribs and drabs of visible migration included over 100 Meadow Pipits and small numbers of Siskins, Linnets and Goldfinches moving south, whilst a flock of four Pink-footed Geese were clearly confused as they were heading north! Offshore it was quiet with just a few Red-throated Divers seen flying past.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

My luck changes...

I finished the blog yesterday hoping that my luck would change, and sure enough today's ringing session was a productive one. After a false start, the third bird to be caught was a cracking Yellow-browed Warbler, one of five in the Long Nab area today, of which four were either in the ringing site or nearby plantations. In fact today broke all records for this species in the Scarborough area. There had never been more than three seen at a single location in the area on a single day, whilst the best total for an entire autumn was 14 in 2005. Today, birders recorded a minimum of 16 individuals from around Scarborough Birders recording area, including four near Ravenscar and at least three on Castle Hill. With incredible numbers along the east coast and in Scandinavia, something amazing is sure taking place with this species this year.

Yellow-browed Warbler
Once again the number of common migrants was relatively low, but Song Thrushes totalled 15 with two Redwings being the first I have seen this autumn. Chiffchaffs numbered 6 (almost as many Yellow-broweds as Chiffchaffs!), whilst two Blackcaps and 18 Robins were also noted. A nice surprise on one of the net rounds was the female Redstart pictured below. Whilst Reed Bunting is also an infrequent visitor to the main ringing site, so pleasing to catch.

Female Redstart

Reed Bunting

Later in the afternoon a visit to Newlands Dale in gorgeous sunny conditions was fairly quiet although five Snipe and a Teal were present, and I found another Yellow-browed Warbler in Sycarham Wood.

A gorgeous afternoon at Long Nab with Scarborough Castle in the distance

Roe Deer

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Grey and misty with few birds

When you look at the recent sightings published by the various bird news services you can sometimes be forgiven for thinking that there are so many scarce and rarer species about, that it is just a case of toddling off to the coast and you will be tripping over goodies with almost every other step. Of course as anyone who prefers to find their own birds will know, it is almost never like that, and in fact is usually a pretty hard slog with fairly minimal rewards. And so it has been for me over the past couple of days.

With the weather conditions seeming to be favourable to an arrival of migrants and the bird news services publicising many reports of Yellow-browed Warblers, plus a nice selection of other scarce and rare species I have optimistically spent most of the past two days scouring the Long Nab area. Grey and misty conditions with very light winds have prevailed and although there have been a few migrants about, in reality it has been very quiet here. 

A misty morning at Long Nab

On Tuesday a ringing session produced a total of 12 birds, with Linnets and Meadow Pipits making up the bulk of the catch. The bushes certainly could not be described as alive, with just a handful of Chiffchaffs and a few Robins the only indication of anything having been grounded. Overhead waders were on the move and this provided the main interest of the morning with Jack Snipe, Snipe, Greenshank, Golden and Ringed Plover and Dunlin all noted. Whilst checking empty nets, I missed seeing a Ruff that Micky noted flying along the coast, although I did hear it calling. News of a Red-breasted Flycatcher trapped and ringed at Filey and Yellow-browed Warblers elsewhere indicated that birds were coming in and so we were getting a tad frustrated at our relative lack of success. I was amazed when in the evening I found out that the Red-breasted Flycatcher had been one of just eight birds caught during the whole ringing session at Filey that morning. We were missing some quality. Micky covered the south side of town in the afternoon and found a Yellow-browed Warbler, but no numbers of common migrants were apparent at all.

This morning as I arrived at Crook Ness, Nick Addey's pre-work visit had been productive as he informed me that he had just found a Yellow-browed Warbler at Cliff Top House and a Lapland Bunting had flown south. However, opting to try and find my own birds elsewhere on site, I optimistically set off on a walk around the area. A flock of seven Pintail heading north was interesting as this is a scarce species here and a Whinchat was moving south along the clifftop weeds near the seawatching hut. Presumably the same bird was in the cover crop late morning. A few Siskins, Goldfinches and Meadow Pipits were trickling through south and I was pleased to find a Lapland Bunting in the stubble field north of the seawatching hut. However, it was all downhill from there with over four hours in the field yielding Whitethroat, Blackcap, seven Chiffchaffs. 16 Robins a few Song Thrushes and not a great deal else.

Reports of quality birds being found to the north kept me going and I ventured up to Sycarham Wood and Newlands Dale in the early afternoon, with further minimal rewards before I had to head off for other commitments. I have thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent in the field over the past couple of days, even if I have been a little disappointed in my returns. However, the weather remains promising and I look forward to returning to the patch in the morning when hopefully my luck will change... 

Monday, 23 September 2013

Marsh Harrier

A visit to the ringing site to undertake some net ride maintenance was most enjoyable on another gorgeous sunny morning in pleasantly warm conditions. A couple of Chiffchaffs were in the ringing site on arrival and during rest periods between strimming the rides, I noted occasional parties of up to four Meadow Pipits heading south (totalling 21 birds) plus odd Sky Larks, Linnets, an alba Wagtail and Reed Bunting. However, the highlight of the morning came as I left around 1130 when a neat juvenile Marsh Harrier was seen heading south, only the third of the autumn here.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Bright and sunny, but few birds

A beautiful morning with clear skies, sunshine and pleasantly warm temperatures made for a lovely walk, but little of note. The best I managed was 2 Whitethroats, 14 Chiffchaffs, 13 Robins and a Blackcap in the bushes. Overhead vis mig was sporadic with a few Meadow Pipits, Linnets, two Reed Buntings heading south. At sea there was very little to be seen, although an hour or so at the hut in the company of Nick Addey yielded Arctic Skua and the odd flock of Wigeon, Teal and Common Scoter.

View north towards Sycarham Wood

Friday, 20 September 2013

You never know...

As I headed out to Long Nab this morning, I did not expect to find a great deal of note, but with the wind in the NW I did hope that there may be a little interest on the sea. However, it soon became apparent that was not to be the case and in fact as the minutes ticked by I was pondering whether it could be up there amongst the top ten worst sea-watches I have experienced at Long Nab. There is a lot of competition for a position in that particular top ten listing, with many very slow hours spent watching here, but with 10 Teal, 2 Red-throated Divers the best I could manage in 90 minutes it has to be up there!

In fact things were so dire, I spent some time taking a few photos so that anyone out there who are actually following this fledgling blog can get a feel of the place I like to call my patch.

Our luxurious seawatching hut

View along the coast north of the hut. The high point in the far distance is Roger Trod.

The view along the coast south of the hut towards Scarborough.

So, with the excitement (!) of the sea-watching over, I opted for a wander in the direction of the ringing site. Once again no great expectation, and with no migrants en-route I wasn't anticipating much. However, you never know and on arrival I heard the calls of a Goldcrest and soon located two birds; the first I have seen here this autumn. Encouraging... I then heard a single 'tuh' call, that sure sounded like a Wood Warbler, but seemed a little unlikely on such a quiet morning this late in September. However, the bird in question soon appeared above my head and I enjoyed nice views of a smart Wood Warbler as it fed in the centre of the ringing site. My attempts to get a photo were not entirely successful, with the shot below the best I managed. 

Wood Warbler

Although not the latest date for the local area, two on Castle Hill on 26th September 1976 appear to be the latest ever recorded around here, it was nevertheless a very pleasing find.

I sent a couple of texts to let local birders know and it wasn't long before Micky McNaghten joined me. We heard the bird calling on a number of occasions, but it refused to show.  Other warblers on site today included 2 Whitethroats, 4 Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap, whilst overhead the hirundines got their act together around midday with Swallows and House Martins collecting in groups over Cloughton and then pushing south. Respective totals of 359 and 298 were recorded up until we left at 1315. 23 Pink-footed Geese and three Siskins also headed south, to give the morning a fairly respectable feel.  

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Meadow Pipits

With some large counts of Meadow Pipits recorded whilst I have been away, I was keen to try ringing some at the ringing site. In recent years I have rarely been around when they have been on the move in numbers, so it was a priority for me this autumn to try catch some for ringing. So this morning, in the company of Micky McNaghten, we ran a couple of nets from dawn until the rain arrived around 0915. We managed to catch and ring five Meadow Pipits, so a pleasing if modest haul. All those caught were first year birds. Hopefully we'll get further chances to try for more before the main passage period is over. 

Overhead vis mig included 523 House Martins, 14 Swallows, Grey Wagtail, 3 Goldfinch and 2 Linnet heading south. Disappointingly I missed the Hobby that Micky noted heading south whilst I was checking the nets. At sea a few Teal were moving with a total of 64 during the session, with 3 Wigeon, 28 Common Scoter, Arctic Skua and 3 Common Tern also noted.

Meadow Pipit

Meadow Pipit

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

First geese of the autumn

With the possibility of a NW wind, I opted for a couple of hours or so seawatching this morning, but with the wind actually being no better than WNW, things were disappointingly quiet. Very little was moving at all with two and a half hours producing little more than three Red-throated Divers, three Teal, 25 Fulmar plus very small numbers of southerly moving Rock and Meadow Pipits, Chaffinch and Linnets. Opting to have a look at the cover crop on my way back to the car, the tell tale sounds of geese calls revealed the presence of a flock of 115 Pink-footed Geese flying south. These are the first of the autumn here. Work commitments took me onto The Carrs later in the morning, where I saw a flock of 54 heading over Flixton. With reports of a large movement over Spurn it seems the first real push of Pink-footed Geese along the Yorkshire coast is taking place today.

Pink-footed Geese heading south over Long Nab

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Back on the patch

After a week away enjoying leading a birding group for Birdwatching Breaks on Shetland and Fair Isle, it was nice to be back on the patch for an hour or so this morning. Although I was little late to arrive on site, there was still a little bit of Vis Mig taking place with 103 Meadow Pipits, 31 Linnets, 12 Goldfinches and a Rock Pipit heading south. At sea 3 Red-throated Divers were noted and the bushes at Crook Ness hosted 2 Whitethroats, 3 Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Slow start to September

It has been a fairly slow start to September, although there has been some evidence of an increase in visible migration. 

3rd: A look at the sea was pretty dire apart from single Arctic and Great Skuas heading north, plus three Manx Shearwaters, 60 Fulmars (41 N, 19 S), nine Common Scoter and two Puffins, whilst a trickle of Meadow Pipits heading south totalled 18. 

A walk around some of the fields and hedgerows produced nine Whinchats in the cover crop and the Northern Wheatear pictured below, but other than that it was predictably quiet.

Northern Wheatear

4th: This morning there was a steady southerly movement that involved 103 Meadow Pipits, Grey Wagtail, flava Wagtail, 143 Swallows, 5 House Martins and 8 Sand Martins, 41 Linnets, 9 Tree Sparrows and a Common Buzzard. 

In the ringing site a couple of Chiffchaffs were trapped and ringed, with other warblers including 2 Willow Warblers, Whitethroat and Blackcap. New to the ringing list were two Meadow Pipits, which were tape lured into one of the nets. The first time that this species has been seriously targeted here, and certainly not the last. A check of the cover crop revealed that six Whinchats were still in residence, whilst a nice surprise came in the form of a Spotted Flycatcher in one of the hedgerows.