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