Tuesday, 18 October 2016


Well the title of the last blog post was certainly not wrong. An incredible couple of weeks has provided some of the most amazing autumn birding in living memory and thoughts of updating this blog have kept being postponed. Although not quite hitting the heights of some other sites on the Yorkshire coast, my visits to Long Nab have been most enjoyable, although tinged with some early frustrations. 

The morning of 5th October began with a visit to the garage to fix the car. Mercifully the repair was fixed fairly speedily and I had a decision to make, An Eastern Crowned Warbler down the road at Bempton had almost tempted me into some twitching, but I opted for a visit to the Nab first. My arrival at the Nab coincided with news of a Black-browed Albatross past Filey and then Bempton. Oh dear! Still, I stuck to birding the nab and after a couple of  hours had little to show for my efforts. My mood wasn't good. Deciding that I should head off for the Eastern Crowned Warbler, and feeling that at least I had tried on the patch, I began walking back to the car. As I walked along a hedgerow a cold olive-brown toned, robin-sized bird with a dull blue tail flushed up in front of me and then darted into a nearby plantation. I was remarkably calm and having seen such a sight many times during trips overseas, I instantly thought, that'll be a Bluetail then. I waited on the edge of the plantation and nothing happened. Venturing in and another 90 minutes of searching gone and still no sign. I was on the verge of giving up and walked along the edge of the plantation again, and flushed it again getting much the same views as before. Oh bugger. I spent the better part of four hours trying to nail it, but just those two flight views and a brief perched view where the key features - head and flanks were obscured left me in a position of knowing what I'd seen, but not in a position to claim it. Nick arrived for the final couple of hours of light and had three further flight views but was unable to add anything more. I have rarely been more frustrated.

The next few days were spent guiding a couple who had been amazingly lucky in their timing of a birding break along the Yorkshire coast. Amongst the haul of fantastic birds were the Eastern Crowned Warbler, Arctic Warbler, Pallas's Warbler, Great Grey Shrike, Red-breasted Flycatcher and plenty of common migrants.

Eastern Crowned Warbler - Bempton
Whilst I was occupied with my tour group, other local birders were beginning to make some finds on in the Scarborough area. A Little Bunting at the Castle found by Steve Wignill didn't linger, A Radde's Warbler found by Micky on the castle was typically elusive and a Pallas's Warbler at the Nab found by Nick was in the same plantation as that which had hosted the Bluetail. So, with clients off home I was keen to get out and find something myself. 

The 10th October was quiet for me and nothing much to show for my efforts. A long slog around the patch of 11th October was also limited in its rewards. My belief that something would pop up was starting to wain a little and I was wondering whether to take a break and have the afternoon off.  It has always struck me that belief that you will find a rare bird is an important part of continuing to find goodies. So, although my mood was not great, in the back of my mind I was telling myself to keep going. I decided a change was in order and remembered a cover crop just north of the patch at Cloughton Wyke. Maybe that would have something? Half an hour there produced a Blackcap and a Chiffchaff. Not exactly what I had in mind, but a set-aside field had a few pipits and Linnets in it, so I began to set my scope up to have a look, with the hope of perhaps dropping on a Richard's Pipit. Well, the pipit was soon forgotten when a small compact bunting flew in and sat on a nearby wall. Recognition was instant and there in front of me was the Scarborough area's third Little Bunting! Wow! And a very welcome, if rather overdue, find tick to boot. And where was the camera - in the car. Bugger. Of course by the time I'd retrieved the camera the bird had dropped out of sight. I got the news onto the local grapevine and although views were subsequently rather distant (thus no pics) it was successfully twitched by four other observers - the first Scarborough bird to be twitchable. 

With a nice find under the belt, the flood gates kind of opened a bit. A Pallas's Warbler in the ringing site the next day came and found me - arriving in the top of a sycamore and calling whilst I was setting a mist net. The day after that an enjoyable wander ended with a Great Grey Shrike whilst I just driving away from the site. 

In the absence of a photo of the Long Nab bird, her is a pic of the Pallas's Warbler at Thornwick

Friday 14th began with a ringing session and the first Woodcock to be ringed at Long Nab. News that the Siberian Accentor that had been found the previous day was just too good an opportunity to miss, so a trip with Nick to see that was highly successful.

Siberian Accentor - Easington

A huge arrival of thrushes took place along the Yorkshire coast on the morning of 15th October and for once those that arrived at Long Nab lingered along the hedgerows long enough to be watched and although I never found one, I at least felt in with a chance of a rare thrush. Good numbers of Bramblings were present and a thoroughly enjoyable day included many common migrants plus quality in the form of Firecrest, White-fronted and Tundra Bean Geese and a late surprise in the form of a Great White Egret which arrived from the NE, flew over the Nab and ended up spending a few hours on Johnson's Marsh. Wonderful!


Tundra Bean and White-fronted Geese

Great White Egret

 And finally, to finish this rather long-winded round up, a ringing session on the morning of 17th October yielded an impressive 40 odd Lesser Redpolls and a single Mealy Redpoll, a lovely way in which to round off an incredible spell. There would appear to be a short break in the fun, before we get a further spell of easterlies, so hopefully that brings more excitement!

Lesser Redpoll

Mealy Redpoll


Sunday, 2 October 2016

Here comes the business end of autumn

Well, so far its been a fairly underwhelming autumn here at the Nab. That is not to say it hasn't been without its interest, just that with a marked lack of easterly winds thus far, with the exception of an arrival of Yellow-browed Warblers, there have been no significant arrivals of passerines, and with a couple of notable exceptions, much of the seawatching has been hard work.

This morning was one of the exceptions to the seawatching rule, with a very pleasant few hours yielding a cracking juvenile Sabine's Gull feeding with Kittiwakes as it moved N, a juvenile Long-tailed Skua, close to 50 Sooty Shearwaters and a selection of more standard fare.

Sunrise at Long Nab on 2nd October

I was unavailable for the deluge of Sooty Shearwaters on 17th September but the day before a memorable wildlfowl movement included an excellent variety of dabbling ducks including excellent totals of Wigeon (578), Teal (630) and Pintail (30) all of which neared but did not quite break record-day totals for the site. 

We have managed a few ringing sessions and whilst we have not exactly been overwhelmed with birds we have added a few species to the site's ringing list. Stonechat, Skylark (somewhat strangely caught in a net ride through some trees and bushes) and rather less interestingly, Wood Pigeon have all been ringed in recent weeks. The number of Wrens has exceeded the previous best totals here suggesting a continued increase in the local population (not to mention increased swearing by ringers trying to extract them from the nets!). Dunnock and Chiffchaff have also been caught in good numbers which have been suggestive of a good breeding season. 





Significant numbers of Meadow Pipits have been logged moving south (a record autumn total for us) and we have caught a few of these, although ringing sessions have not coincided with the largest day totals. However, despite their abundance it is always a great pleasure to handle these attractive birds. Boring little brown jobs they certainly are not!

Meadow Pipit

We don't get too many Treecreepers at Long Nab, so it is always a pleasant surprise when one finds the nets in the ringing plantation. The individual pictured below was found on 1st October.

A Yellow-browed Warbler caught on 21st September was the 5th to be ringed here; a total that exceeds that of so-called commoner migrants such as Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart and Lesser Whitethroat!

Yellow-browed Warbler
With the forecast suggesting a week of easterly winds ahead of us, no doubt there will be more of these delightful Asian sprites and hopefully there will be something even more exciting that will require me to return to this blog before too much longer!