Monday, 23 November 2015

Harbour birding

After a spell away undertaking yet more surveys in Scotland, my return to Scarborough has coincided with some excellent seawatching. Sunday morning at Long Nab yielded a nice movement of 50 Little Auks (49 N, 1 S), a Red-necked Grebe, both Great Northern and Black-throated Divers, Long-tailed Duck and a variety of other wildfowl including a fair few Goldeneye.

This morning a further spell at the Nab produced a single Pomarine Skua, Black-throated Diver and a Short-eared Owl. The Lapland Bunting is still in residence north of the Obs. However, with the action at sea seemingly petering out, I was tempted to have a look in the harbour where the Black-necked Grebes are still performing very nicely and where I also enjoyed some nice views of Red-throated Diver. A Little Auk was close inshore at the nearby Marine Drive. 

Black-necked Grebe

A diving Black-necked Grebe
Juvenile Red-throated Diver

Little Auk

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Black-necked Grebe and Snow Bunting

A visit to the Nab this morning was generally fairly quiet, but enlivened by the discovery of two Lapland Buntings in the field north of the Obs and an obliging Snow Bunting feeding by the Obs.

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

A trip down to Scarborough Harbour to see the Black-necked Grebe was most enjoyable with some great views and a few photo opportunities.

Black-necked Grebe

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Like Buses

Although not averse to the occasional twitch, my birding has long focussed on finding my own birds. It is my prime motivation for getting into the field for recreational birding – as opposed to the paid bird survey work which, somewhat oddly, more often than not takes me to places where there are frequently very few birds. Although I am certainly not a prolific finder of rare and scarce birds, the result of an excellent home patch here at Long Nab (frequently punching above its weight - apparently) and the chance to spend a great deal of time in the field means I do get to find notable birds on a fairly regular basis. Increasing my find list has been a motivation for a while now and I am now getting pleasingly close to the 300 mark. However it remains difficult adding to the list, despite some seemingly reasonably ‘easy’ prospects for a Find Tick. I do sometimes wonder just how many of the nation’s pager-following twitching fraternity realise just how much effort is put in by many of the nation's rarity finders or how much effort is required to get a substantial list of Self-found birds? However, I digress.

I began this autumn with the target of adding at least one species to my Find List. Richard’s Pipit was the prime candidate as it was perhaps the most regularly occurring scarcity that I hadn't found somewhere. Readers of this blog will be aware that I found one on 4th October, a very welcome find on a quiet day and target achieved. Amazingly however, just two days later in the company of Andy Mckee I found another at Cocklawburn Beach in Northumberland. The best part of 40 years birding without finding one, then two in less than 48 hours! Amazing. And so to this morning. A short visit to Nab initially focused on the Cover Crop and the stubbles. I was pleased with my first Lapland Buntings of the autumn and a Snow Bunting was quite obliging. However, I was utterly amazed to find two Richard’s Pipits flying around the ‘Short-toed Lark’ field north of the Obs calling loudly and making sure I could not miss them. Talk about being like buses!

Record shot of one of the Richard's Pipits at Long Nab

Of course, I’ve been wondering if I have been overlooking them over the years or just been plain unlucky. As I see and hear Richard’s Pipits most winters during the course of leading birding tours in various parts of Asia, it’s a call I am fully familiar with so I very much doubt I can have been overlooking them. After all it is a call that demands attention. So, I have to conclude that I have probably been just a little unlucky with this species in the past. 

Such little clusters of finds are something that I have experienced in the past, with my first two Black Kite finds just three weeks apart and my first two Pectoral Sandpiper finds separated by less than 10 days. Curious stuff and no doubt just some kind of coincidence, but I am left wondering, do Siberian Rubythroats travel on buses?

Snow Bunting at Long Nab
An update to this blog post on Friday to include a couple more ropey photos of the Richard's Pipits, this time on the ground in the field behind the 'Obs'.

Richard's Pipit

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Another Yellow-browed Warbler...

The day has been spent working the Nab with high expectations but not quite the rewards we were hoping for. A few more migrants about with 3 Brambling, a few Song Thrushes and Redwings new in and an increase in Goldcrests. We caught what we think is the Yellow-browed Warbler that has been around for a few days and a second arrived during the morning. However, not a great deal else to report which is disappointing given the goodies appearing to the south of us.

Anyway a couple of pics of today's Yellow-browed Warbler.

Yellow-browed Warbler

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Plenty of Goldcrests,but...

not a great deal else. The past few days have seen substantial numbers of Goldcrests arriving at the Nab, but although the birding has been most enjoyable there hasn't been too much to write home about. Ringing was productive on the 11th and 12th with new additions to the ringing list in the form of Sparrowhawk, Bullfinch and Great Spotted Woodpecker - all of which are long overdue, although the last of these is genuinely scarce at Long Nab.


Great Spotted Woodpecker - a male.

Goldcrests peaked with ca 120 at the Nab on the afternoon of the 11th, but there wasn't too much else arriving with them. A couple of Yellow-browed Warblers were welcome as always, but just a few Song Thrushes and Redwings.


A couple of Short-eared Owls were present on 12th with nice views of the bird on Rocks Lane and another near the ringing site.

Newly arrived Short-eared Owl near the ringing site.

The Short-eared Owl on Rocks Lane.
Seawatching has been a little neglected but a couple of short sessions produced a nice surprise in the form of an adult Sabine's Gull on 13th, with a few duck also moving involving a couple of Goldeneye and some Eider. With the winds still blowing from the 'right' direction we remain hopeful of something a little more unexpected and we'll keep plugging away hopefully!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Richard saves the day!

With reports of a mouth-watering selection of rare and scarce species along the coast, and in particular Spurn it seemed a good idea to spend a few hours working the hedgerows, plantations and fields at Long Nab. Other commitments meant a late start, but I was in the field by 1015 and by 1130 I was beginning to wonder why I had bothered! A Blue Tit was the only bird in Crook Ness and the walk along the cliff top to the ringing site was similarly uninspiring. The ringing site has hosted a Yellow-browed Warbler for the past few days, and despite reports of new arrivals at Filey and Flamborough there was no sign of Yellow-browed action here. I amused myself with photographing the remaining Siskins, of which a dwindling flock has been feeding in the alders for the past week or so.

Just a couple of Chiffchaffs and a handful of Goldcrests were in the ringing site and plantations. A pretty dismal return in the first week of October! With sunny skies and pleasantly warm temperatures it felt more like June! I spent some time taking a few photos - a Hare and one of the numerous Speckled Woods.


Speckled Wood

A large flock of Linnets kept my interest for a while before I began wandering back towards Crook Ness. As I crossed the field North of the Obs I was wondering whether I had ever spent in excess of four hours and seen so little? The answer is probably, but I didn't get as fas as concluding that. A loud rasping 'Schreep!' broke into my thoughts and immediately registered as a Richard's Pipit. Wow! I quickly picked up the bird - clearly a large pipit with a longish tail - but it promptly headed South calling again a couple more times and although I continued to watch it as long as I could I lost it to view over Cromer Point with it apparently still going. Now I have seen many Richard's Pipits over the years but this was the first one I have actually found in the UK so a very welcome addition to my Find List. About time too though! It was also a welcome 6 points for Patchwork Challenge - pure #patchgold!

The rest of the afternoon passed in a quiet manner but with some good weather conditions forecast for the next couple of days maybe things will improve. Shame I am heading away on another work trip! 



Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Quiet few days

Although there has been a very light SE wind blowing over the past few days, it has been pretty hard going at the Nab. A few grounded migrants have included a couple of Wheatears, a Redstart (pictured below), a trickle of finches involving good numbers of Siskins in the ringing area plus a few Lesser Redpolls and Goldfinches.

Female Redstart

A couple of ringing sessions have been fairly productive by our standards with a nice haul of Siskins this morning allowing us to share in the amazing numbers on the move this autumn. As the ringing figures demonstrate this year is our best season for this species since 2011. So, it has been a good opportunity to have a look at the variations in moult with this species. Here is a nice male from this morning. Notice the pointed tail feathers indicative of a young bird.

Male Siskin

Finally with Yellow-browed Warblers breaking yet more records with large numbers being reported up and down the East Coast, it wasn't really a great surprise to find three in the ringing area on Tuesday. to our delight we were able to catch and ring one of these, and one was still present on Wednesday morning.

Yellow-browed Warbler

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Obliging Kestrel

A Kestrel has been regularly hunting close to the Long Nab hut - or perhaps I should be calling it 'The Obs' these days - for much of the late summer. During a fairly quiet seawatch this morning, I took a few photos a couple of which are posted here.

A Grey Heron also headed north close to 'The Obs' this morning.

Grey Heron

The bushes and fields were fairly quiet although with a single Wheatear, a few Whitethroats, a handful of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs the best I could come up with in a wander lasting the best part of three hours. Perhaps I should have persisted with the seawatch...


Tuesday, 25 August 2015

August arrival

It has been a rewarding couple of days at Long Nab. With moderate SE winds from Sunday it was fairly predictable that there would be an arrival of commoner drift migrants, and of course along with those we are always hopeful of something a little more unusual. 

With reports on Sunday of Pied Flycatchers arriving, and Nick enjoying an Icterine Warbler arrive at the cover crop hedge on Sunday afternoon I was keen to plan a ringing session on Monday morning. With nets in position early it was clear that there was a good number of Pied Flycatchers in the ringing area.

Pied Flycatcher - a 1st winter

Pied Flycatcher - an adult

A nice selection of other commoner warblers were present with Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Blackcap and Willow Warbler all present. Most of these avoided the nets, but a Willow Warbler was ringed. Chats included a scattering of Whinchats and the odd Wheatear plus a couple of Redstarts (including a cracking male).

Willow Warbler

More unexpected was a Grasshopper Warbler that was initially found by Micky in one of the pines in the ringing site and it was not too long before it had found its way into on of the nets.

Grasshopper Warbler
Waders were clearly also on the move with regular (mostly heard only) Ringed Plovers heading south, with Turnstone, Golden Plover, Oystercatcher, Wood Sandpiper and Ruff all amongst the movers. A Marsh Harrier headed north, whilst a Kestrel went south at sea. 

All very nice, but perhaps lacking the quality scarce or rare migrant we had hoped for. However, a second, shorter session on Tuesday morning produced the goods with a cracking Barred Warbler turning up in one of the nets soon after sunrise and necessitating an unexpected early morning pre-work twitch for Nick. 

Barred Warbler

Barred Warbler

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Late summer seawatching

Although it remains fairly early in the autumn seawatching season, the past couple of days have been pleasantly productive. The highlight on Monday was a cracking adult Long-tailed Skua moving south just beyond the near flags affording nice views. Bonxie and two Arctic Skuas were also noted along with a steady trickle of Manx Shearwaters. A couple of flocks of Whimbrel were also seen moving south, whist as Nick and I headed back to the car park a flock of three Ruff! Such a sighting at many locations probably wouldn't be that notable, but this was the first flock that either of us could remember seeing here.

Tuesday was a little slower, but A close Balearic Shearwater was very welcome, whilst the first Little Gull in the area this year at last appeared with an adult amongst the Kittiwake flocks. Waders were again a feature with a Grey Plover, a few Knot, Sanderling and a decent passage of Oystercatchers. News from Steve Hey that there were two Ruff on Johnson's Marsh meant that we popped in there and for once in the Scarborough area there was an opportunity to enjoy grounded waders! So, a few pics were in order...

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Late summer update

Trips away from home for work have meant little time to update the blog in recent months. However, there have been plenty of highlights at 'The Nab' since late April.

A short visit on the 28th April yielded my first patch Rough-legged Buzzard flying south in the morning. An unexpected and very pleasing sighting marred only by my inability to get the camera to focus on its intended subject! 

Early May saw me readying for a long work trip to Scotland. However, news of a singing Sedge Warbler (!) at the ringing site had me dashing to The Nab in search of a valuable Patchwork Challenge 2015 tick before leaving North. On arrival I met up with Micky and soon saw the Sedge Warbler. Plenty of other migrants were arriving and a Tree Pipit was a welcome sight as this is a scarce migrant here these days, despite it being fairly common in the nearby forests. Shortly afterwards a wader flying over calling proved to be a Dotterel heading north. An excellent bonus and a demonstration of the benefits of indulging in Patchwork Challenge. Without the motivation to twitch a 'lowly' Sedge Warbler I certainly wouldn't have seen that! I had to leave shortly after that and thus missed a singing Twite and a Redstart that Micky had unearthed, but excellent rewards for an hour or so in the field!

Late May produced a few nice waders with Wood Sandpiper and a smart Temminck's Stint the highlights on Scalby Lodge Pond, but there was no repeat of the longer list of highlights that graced the area in same period in 2014.

Fast forward to June and most of the longer survey trips were out of the way and so a chance to relax, play a bit of Patchwork Challenge catchup and enjoy a bit of time on the patch. The 23rd June saw the first large Scoter movement of the summer and much to my delight a flock of ca 40 Common Scoter also had a splendid drake Surf Scoter amongst them as the flew past the 'Obs'. Common Scoters totalled 870 that morning (and would have been more had I managed to get to the site an hour or two earlier), but another memorable sea watch was chalked up.

Swift movements have been a feature of late June and July with much to enjoy even if there has been nothing especially unusual amongst them. 

A Swift heads south past the Obs

Waders eventually got moving in the latter part of July with some nice offshore movements of Knot particularly enjoyable, with other attractions including a Grey Plover (rare hereabouts!), Greenshank, Curlew, Whimbrel, Sanderling, Redshank and Oystercatcher. 

Johnson's Marsh has been attracting a few waders. A bit of management work strimming back some of the long grass yielded instant dividends as a couple of Black-tailed Godwits arrived within a couple of hours of the work being completed! Greenshank, up to five Green Sandpiper and a couple of Dunlin have also dropped in recently, so hopes of something a little more exciting gracing this tiny site certainly linger.

Greenshank on Johnson's Marsh

After a couple of sessions beating back the overgrown scrub and long, rank grass at the ringing site, the autumn ringing campaign began with a productive session on the morning of 22nd July. A long overdue addition to the site ringing list came in the form of a Swallow:- Yellow-browed Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Mealy Redpoll and Blyth's Reed Warbler have all been ringed here before Swallow! Locally bred Goldfinches, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were also caught and ringed and so hopes are high of a good autumn with the mist nets.


Tree Sparrow

Finally an evening session on 26th July to try and catch and ring Storm Petrels was successful with three birds caught, one of which was a control for which we await the original ringing details.

Storm Petrel being ringed

With waders on the move and the first two Willow Warblers of the autumn appearing on 24th July, I think we can safely say that the autumn is now properly underway. I have a slightly less hectic work schedule so hopefully there will be plenty of reasons to update the blog here with news of great birds on the patch!  

Friday, 24 April 2015

It's been a while

This blog has been neglected for a a few months, but with the slow winter period out of the way and spring migrants now arriving back, I hope there will plenty of reasons to post here. A busy work schedule has also meant extended periods away from the patch and with these continuing, I hope that I am around when the rarer species appear. 

Earlier in April a Firecrest was a nice find in the ringing site and although the photo perhaps doesn't suggest so, it did show nicely.

With clear skies dominating over the past few days, conditions have not been conducive to grounding migrants. A Wheatear yesterday was my first on the patch and a Willow Warbler this morning likewise, but there has been very little in the way of grounded migrants this week and very little visible migration. A Golden Plover flew north and a 2cy Glaucous Gull flew south this morning, with the latter presumably the bird seen at Filey recently.

It has been pleasing to undertake a couple of ringing sessions, with a few recently returned migrants hitting the nets. The ringing site currently has single territories of Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Whitethroat. A Reed Bunting territory is the first to be recorded within the the ringing site since I started visits here (although they have bred nearby).



Plenty of Skylarks are singing and the usual scattering of Meadow Pipits are breeding along the cliffs.

Meadow Pipit