Saturday, 30 August 2014

Nice hirundine movement

Yesterday's trickle of Swallows turned into something of a deluge this morning. A most enjoyable vis mig watch from the hut ended up yielding 1189 Swallows and 705 House Martins moving south, often in pretty large flocks. The Swallow total is close to our record autumn movement of 1372 south on 28th August 2002. A total of 21 Swifts is quite respectable this late in August, whilst the first convincing movements of Meadow Pipits, Linnets and Tree Sparrows were also recorded. Other highlights included a couple of Buzzards and three Kestrels moving south. Crook Ness harboured a Spotted Flycatcher and four Wheatears were feeding behind the hut.

Wheatears in the field behind the hut

The Linnet flock building up behind the seawatch hut - at least 250 today, but up to 300 this week.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Few common migrants but bring on the scarce!

Well, the excellent spell continues along the coast here!

Thursday began with Micky and I working the Long Nab area. The sea was lousy, with very little to look at apart from Gannets and was an incredible contrast to recent days. With a moderate south-east wind blowing accompanied by rain, cloud and steady drizzle plus reports of good numbers of drift migrants to the south it seemed that the prize must lay in the bushes or fields. The best part of three hours later and we were reconsidering that idea! Just a Wheatear, a handful of Willow Warblers, an increase in Whitethroats plus the Spotted Flycatcher still in residence all suggested that there was very little if anything new in at all. A trickle of waders hinted at the possibility of some interest there, but Johnson's Marsh hosted the usual Green Sandpiper and Snipe. Scalby Lodge Pond was devoid of waders, although 8 Teal were new in. By lunchtime we went our separate ways and I headed for Wykeham South Lake hoping I might find a Black Tern. However, a few minutes after my arrival a text arrived informing me of a Greenish Warbler on the castle, so it wasn't long before I was hurriedly heading back into town and cursing the tractor driving farmers as I went! Fortunately the bird was showing almost immediately on arrival and it performed nicely over the next hour or so. As is fairly usual on this blog, these aren't especially brilliant images, but you get the idea!

Greenish Warbler 

With very little evidence of many common migrants on the castle either, it just goes to show that even if there appears to be little about, if the wind is in the right direction then you just gotta keep plugging away.

Evening news from Nick, that a Pied Flycatcher had at last been found at Long Nab inspired me to head to the ringing site this morning. A switch to moderate SW winds meant I was also hoping for a little bit of vis mig. Sure enough a trickle of Swallows were moving south, whilst Yellow Wagtails and a few Meadow Pipits were also on the move. However, just 15 minutes after my arrival I was amazed to see an Ortolan Bunting arrive from the north, calling repeatedly whilst circling the ringing site and dropping into the bushes for a minute or so before flying off to the south and calling several more times as it did so. This is the first Ortolan I have found in the UK since three in the space of a couple of weeks in 1996 (one in Kent, two on Scilly), so very welcome indeed. However, of greater significance is that this species remains amazingly rare in the Scarborough area and this bird constitutes just the third record for the area and the first since 1977! The two previous records were as follows.

A male at Scalby Beck on 5th-6th May 1973 (R H Appleby, B Cockerill)
A male at Cloughton on 10th October 1977 (J Webb).

With less encouraging winds forecast in the next few days I imagine things will quieten down, but I sure can't help feeling what next?!?

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

More quality seawatching but little on the land

The past couple of days promised much with brisk winds from an easterly quarter blowing. It certainly produced a decent seawatch that yielded three Long-tailed Skuas for me and an additional bird after I left. These comprised a couple of juveniles at 0739 and 0800 and then a splendid adult at 1120. Always a great joy. Arctic Skuas were on the move, but as usual the numbers were much lower here than those recorded further south in the North Sea. Fewer Manx Shearwaters and Fulmars were moving, but a Sooty Shearwater was an early highlight. Despite grilling the large numbers of Kittiwakes streaming north, eventually totalling over 4000 for the day, I couldn't detect the hoped for Sabine's Gull amongst them.

So, all very good but the reports of Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts and a scattering of scarce migrants elsewhere inspired me to check the bushes. A couple of hours later I had located a Whinchat, a Willow Warbler and well, not a lot else! 

Returning to the hut for some more seawatching I had a text from Micky informing he that he had found a 1w Caspian Gull just south of Crook Ness. So a yomp along the cliffs was in order to see that, but somehow gulling just seemed plain WRONG on a day with such a brisk easterly blowing! It was a fair way off, but scope views were pretty decent and it looked the real deal.

This morning Micky and I undertook the first proper ringing session for a while but it was to prove a little disappointing with the catch consisting primarily of Chaffinches, Robins and tits, all of whom clearly hadn't come far. Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat and Willow Warbler were the only 'proper' migrants we caught although a Pied Wagtail was new for the ringing list and a Spotted Flycatcher feeding along the fence line was a pleasant diversion between net rounds. The sea yielded another juvenile Long-tailed Skua, a stream of Kittiwakes and Common Terns were moving north along with a reasonable movement of Teal and Common Scoter. A few waders were also trickling through with Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Curlew, Knot all noted heading south.

Lesser Whitethroat - a retrap from July last year and presumably a local breeder

Willow Warbler
Spotted Flycatcher

Sunday, 24 August 2014

It's quiet but anticipation is increasing

With easterly winds forecast for the coming week there is a sense of anticipation of what might be ahead, but for now it remains fairly quiet. It was rather chilly this morning, 4 Celsius when I left home and 6 C when I arrived on site; there will be mornings in December when it won't be as cool as that! 

My morning walk around the plantations and fields was predictably quiet although there was a clear increase in Willow Warblers (seven in total) and a scattering of doubtless mostly local Chiffchaffs, Whitethroats and Blackcaps. Nick found a Stonechat near the seawatch hut early on and it had relocated to the cover crop by the time I saw it. A juvenile, it probably hadn't come very far, but nevertheless it was another welcome PWC year tick for me. A Whinchat in the hut field eluded me, but I imagine there will be a few more once the easterlies forecast for the coming week kick in. There has been precious little visible migration of passerines recently, but today a flurry of House Martins totalled 56, whilst smaller numbers of Swallows and Sand Martins were also apparent. A couple of Meadow Pipits moved south and it will not be long before they are moving in earnest. One suspects the next SW wind will stimulate a significant movement of hirundines, pipits and wagtails. The sea was quiet, just a few Manx Shearwaters and an Arctic Skua, but a trickle of waders included Whimbrel, Sanderling, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover and Oystercatcher, whilst small numbers of Teal and Common Scoter were also moving and the first Shelduck since June cruised north. 

All in all a quiet, although very pleasant morning and now hoping the the forecast easterlies materialise and that they deliver a few more moments of excitement!  


Willow Warbler

Juvenile Stonechat

Early morning view from Long Nab on Saturday

Friday, 22 August 2014

The PWC year ticks continue...

After the exciting seawatching earlier in the week, things have quietened down over the past few days, but there has still been plenty of interest. Wanting a change to staring at the sea, I opted to cover the fields and scrub on Wednesday. Migrants were predictably in short supply as Chiffchaffs, Whitethroats and Blackcaps were all I could find, most of whom will have been local breeders.This return was a bit disappointing in view of a Ruff seen in the hut field which had gone by the time I got there and news of two Redstart sightings in Scarborough town. 

Yes, I can see you! A Whitethroat at the ringing site.

I returned to seawatching on Thursday and although it was very quiet, a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was new for my Patchwork Challenge yearlist. Nick recorded two additional individuals later in the day, so clearly a little influx taking place, and probably the highest ever day total for this species at Long Nab. A Mediterranean Gull was feeding in the hut field, whilst a juvenile Common Buzzard heading south was another, somewhat overdue year tick for me. 

Friday rounded off the week nicely, although it was frustrating to get the news from Nick of an early morning Hobby before my arrival. Nevertheless Ospreys always make a day worthwhile and one that cruised south along the cliffs at 0738hrs was most welcome and a new bird for my Long Nab list no less. Two Gadwall were rather less memorable but also new for the PWC yearlist and pushed me through the 200 points mark for the competition. A wander around the bushes yielded a couple of Willow Warblers and a Tree Pipit, the latter scarce at The Nab (despite being common in the nearby forests) and only my second of the year here.

Willow Warbler at the ringing site.
The occasional wader continues to drop into Johnson's Marsh with this Green Sandpiper present there for the past few days.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Punching above our weight... Again!

With the winds continuing from a NW direction it was a case of more seawatching at Long Nab this morning. Micky and I arrived at the hut at 0640hrs and at 0641 Micky called out a large shearwater! Wow! However, with the bird fairly distant and us only having just started it was a little difficult to get our act together. Almost certainly a Cory's it seemed more prudent to let it go as a large Shearwater sp.

Once settled in properly it was clear that Fulmars and Manxies were again streaming by in good numbers. We grilled the various streams of birds heading north and at 0936hrs we both locked onto a large shearwater that was clearly a Cory's and doubtless the same bird that had passed Filey at 0850hrs. At 0950hrs Micky picked up another, more distant, large shearwater that was shearing far more than the Cory's. Plumage features and structure clearly matched Great Shearwater and we were able to watch it intermittently over a period of 20 minutes as it slowly moved north, seeing it pitch onto the sea with Kittiwakes at one point before it continued its way north. This was doubtless the same bird that passed Flamborough just before 0800hrs. 

The final Manx Shearwater total reached 168, whilst Fulmars totalled 419 and other highlights from the morning included three Sooty Shearwaters, 12 Arctic Skuas and 16 Arctic Terns. A Sedge Warbler near the Crook Ness car park was, amazingly, a year tick for my Patchwork Challenge list. It is my third Acrocephalus species of the year following on from Marsh and Blyth's Reed Warbler in the spring, but I still need Reed Warbler for the year here!

To see the two larger shearwater species on a single seawatch at Long Nab is not quite unprecedented as both Great and Cory's were seen passing here on 8th August 2005. However, that appears to be the only previous occasion it has happened here and I presume is something that has happened fairly infrequently even at Flamborough. 

It has been said by some birders that Long Nab has been punching above its weight in recent times and today would seem to be another one of those occasions. Personally, although delighted with recent highlights, I still don't think we have quite reached our full potential and there will hopefully be many more avian gems to be unearthed at this still, under-watched location.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Grey Plover upstaged...

After spending an enjoyable few days at the Bird Fair it was good to be back at The Nab in encouraging seawatching conditions today. A force 6 NW wind was blowing and the morning began with a steady passage of Fulmars and Manx Shearwaters resulting in high hopes that we might get something of note. However as the hours ticked by spirits began to sag as the Manxies petered out and variety was minimal. A Grey Plover was greeted with great enthusiasm as it was a year tick for two of us. The species has been unusually scarce in the Scarborough this year so for a short while was a clear favourite for bird of the day. However, it was not long before I dropped onto something that looked interesting, but before I could say anything it was soon clear Micky had also independently got onto it as he was calling out "Cory's". Wig had also independently locked onto it and we all enjoyed nice views as it headed south. Quite amazing that we should all drop onto the best bird of the day at more or less the same time; brilliant! A little later on the area's first Sooty Shearwater came north and with Fulmars finishing on a good total of 659 N, 33 S, Manxies totalling 88 N, 46 S and nine Arctic Skuas and Bonxie headed up the supporting cast it had been an excellent morning. 

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Willow Tit

With trips to France at the end of June and the Qinghai-Tibet plateau for most of July I have not spent a great deal of time at The Nab of late. However, with the autumn now clearly upon us my visits will step up a gear from now on and this somewhat neglected blog will be updated more frequently. 

My first visit on return from China was just a quick look at the ringing site on 2nd August, when I was delighted to find a Willow Tit; my first sighting of the species at Long Nab and possibly the first site record. Although they don't move around too much, it is rather surprising the species doesn't appear more often as they are quite regular and presumably breed in the nearby Newlands Dale area. This morning, the first ringing session of the autumn resulted in us trapping it, a welcome addition to the ringing list and allowing me to confirm my suspicion based on field views, that it is a bird of the year.

Willow Tit
Wader passage has been the main interest whilst I have been away with the area record count for Whimbrel smashed and good numbers of other waders also being recorded. Today a few Golden Plover, Oystercatchers and the odd Whimbrel were on the move, but I was gripped by the news that Dave Bowes saw a summer plumaged Grey Plover go past the seawatch hut. Inexplicably rare this year, it remains an obvious gap in my year list! A Bonxie, a few Manx Shearwaters and a few Common Scoter were the other items of interest at sea, whilst a Wheatear was the first of the autumn here.