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

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Redwings, Goldcrests and a Lapland Bunting

A few hours wandering the Nab this morning was most enjoyable, if lacking in something of quality or a scarcer nature. The wind was still blowing strongly from the NE and there was some light rain falling. On getting out of the car a Crossbill was calling from the pines, but it never gave a nice view to check it closely. A bunch of Redwings dropped out of the sky and a couple of Goldcrests were calling. An encouraging start, but not followed up immediately as my exploration of the first two plantations yielded only a handful of Goldcrests, three Fieldfares and a few more small groups of Redwings arriving from the sea. Down at the ringing site things improved with the discovery of larger numbers of Goldcrests, with at least 22 in a small area of pines and seemingly newly arrived. A couple of Chiffchaffs included a rather 'abietinus' like individual. Yesterday's Great Spotted Woodpecker had been joined by a second bird, whilst a pale looking Treecreeper attracted my interest, but did not linger long enough to pose for pictures. 

I was kept informed of the birds I was missing moving offshore as Nick and Micky clocked up Black Guillemot, Leach's Petrel and Red-necked Grebe, the first of which would have been an area tick. Checking field edges and hedgerows was fairly uneventful apart from the odd Song Thrush and Redwing, whilst a walk across the stubble produced a nice encounter with the Lapland Bunting pictured below and a Merlin was seen briefly. The cover crop harboured 10 Reed Buntings, but despite feeling 'rare' it was not going to be my day today. Still, always tomorrow...
Lapland Bunting

Friday, 11 October 2013

Bonxies galore!

Wow! What a day of excellent sea-watching. After the slight disappointment of yesterday, the wind had moderated slightly, moved into the NE, and the seawatch today was simply superb. Micky, Dave Bowes and I enjoyed one of the most memorable seawatches it has been my privilege to experience. A pre-dawn start found Micky and myself in position and by the time Dave arrived just around 7.30 am we were already clocking up the Sooty Shearwaters and Great Skuas. At 0820 a Leach's Petrel appeared in my field of view and after a tense couple of minutes we had all latched onto it. The birds came thick and fast, so much so it was hard keeping up with the flow of birds being called out. The stars were the Bonxies, which totalled 221 by the end of the watch and totally smashing the previous best Scarborough area count of 115 back in 1984. Sooty Shearwaters were also impressive with 206 being the highest count for the site in quite a few years.

Other highlights before 11am included Storm Petrel, juvenile Long-tailed Skua, Black-throated Diver, two Balearic Shearwaters, good numbers of Common Scoter, a few Red-breasted Mergansers, five Pale-bellied Brent Geese and a few Arctic Skuas. The pace slowed after 11am, but Storm Petrel and a petrel sp were added before Micky decided to check the bushes near the hut. He discovered a Firecrest so the hut quickly emptied but it appeared to move on through quickly. Nevertheless with the action at sea slowing, we headed off to check the fields and hedgerows. Not a lot was found although a Great Spotted Woodpecker is unusual here and given that it was a juvenile still sporting a red crown was presumably a Northern bird? A few Goldcrests were newly arrived in Crook Ness which bodes well for the next few days...

The main totals for the period 0700-1330 were as follows.

Red-throated Diver - 23 N, 1 S
Black-throated Diver - 1 N
Fulmar - 857 N
Sooty Shearwater - 206 N
Manx Shearwater - 79 N
Balearic Shearwater - 2 N
Storm Petrel - 2 N
Leach's Petrel - 1 N
Petrel sp - 1 N
Gannet - 1112 N, 5 S
Cormorant - 3 N, 52 S
Shag - 1 S
Pale-bellied Brent Goose 5 N
Wigeon - 21 N
Common Scoter - 399 N, 14 S
Goldeneye - 1N
Red-breasted Merganser 8 N
Arctic Skua - 3 N
Long-tailed Skua - 1 juv N
Great Skua - 221 N
Little Gull 1 N
Kittiwake 1539 N

Part of a closer group of Bonxies

Common Scoter

Great Spotted Woodpecker - a scarce bird at Long Nab

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Sooty Shearwaters but not much else

With a northerly gale blowing overnight and all day, Micky and I arrived at the seawatching hut just before sunrise, full of hope and expectation. However, seven hours later we left somewhat disappointed. A very heavy sea was dramatic to watch over, but the numbers of birds were generally disappointing. A nice movement of Sooty Shearwaters was the highlight with a total of 60 recorded, the highest count for the current year. However, other interest was a bit limited with the best of the rest being two Velvet Scoter, a female Goldeneye, seven Manx Shearwaters, three Pale-bellied Brent Geese, a Barnacle Goose and just seven Bonxies (4 south, 3 north) and three Arctic Skuas. Why the numbers of skuas were so low is a mystery to me!

Some sense of the atmosphere of the day can perhaps be gleaned from the photos below.

I was sure glad not to be on this ferry as it headed north past the Nab!

Flock of Common Scoter with a single Velvet

View of Burniston Bay south towards Scarborough

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Coal Tits and Goldcrests

I have been away in Portugal for the past week and very enjoyable it has been too! Not a great deal of birding whilst I was there but a few pictures and a brief report can be found here.

This morning Micky and I did a short ringing session, mainly targeting finches, with Goldfinches and Chaffinches making up most of the catch. However, five Song Thrushes were present at dawn, two of which soon headed inland and there were also three Goldcrests, two of which were caught and ringed. With easterlies forecast next week, hopefully we'll be seeing plenty more of those! Two Coal Tits also appeared mid-morning and were the first in the ringing site this autumn. In previous years odd birds have appeared in August or September, so these are a little later than usual. However, they were clearly British (not continental) and were both young birds, so presumably hadn't come all that far.

Visible migration included an impressive eight Lapland Buntings, four Swallows, a trickle of Siskins, Linnets and Goldfinches, whilst Meadow Pipits continue to move through and seven Grey Wagtails were a bit of a surprise. A flock of 94 Pink-footed Geese headed south although it was perhaps a little surprising that no other flocks followed them.

Coal Tit