Saturday 30 September 2017

Mega Scops

I met Tom Middleton on his patch today, a small coastal valley at Ryhope, just south of Sunderland on the Durham coast.

On Wednesday, he had done his usual walk round his patch, full of expectation due to the easterly wind that was blowing in across the North Sea. He hadn't seen much before a fast-moving warbler caught his attention- he hoped for a Yellow-brow. As he raised his bins, a movement in the middle of the Elder bush caught his eye, and he found himself looking straight at a small owl. Having only seen Tawny Owl on his patch before, this was going to be a patch tick.

He got some photos and then the bird's head turned to face him revealing ear tufts - a Scops Owl! His hands began to shake and the net photo completely missed the target! He had found the first Scops for Durham - cracking! (The warbler was a Chiffchaff).

This tiny owl showed well to several hundred visitors that day, and again the next day, although it had moved roost and was difficult to see. Yesterday, the bird was not seen and I assumed I had missed my chance to see this cracking little vagrant; it had either moved on, or died, I assumed. Remarkably, today it was refound back in the original Elder bush.

I had an unexpectedly free afternoon, so hooking up with Chris and Paz, we cruised up the A19 to Ryhope. A short walk under the railway and the assembled birders were clearly still 'on it'. After a little bit of searching, there it was - lovely. What a super little bird. It stretched a bit, yawned and half-opened it's eyes, before going back into a doze in the dappled shade of the Elder. A little later, the sun came out and it seemed to not like the light, so turned it's head away - very cute.

Nearby, a Spotted Flycatcher performed, a beautiful migrant, accompanied by a skulking Barred Warbler, from Eastern Europe. Wow! A little later, we had a look at the sea, where a Red-throated Diver, complete with a mostly-red throat loafed offshore and a few common waders were roosting on the rocks as the tide rose. We bumped into a young lad who we chatted to - he then mentioned he had found this bird - this was Tom, and he generously told us the story of his mega find. Good work Tom!

 Barred Warbler, skulking
 Spotted Flycatcher
Paz, Chris and on the right, a very happy Tom Middleton

Friday 29 September 2017

Goth Puffins and friends

Another YCN whale and seabird trip and sadly no whales, despite excellent views by Rich's trips recently. Nevertheless, a great day out with plenty of seabirds, including Bonxies, Manx Shearwaters and Puffins, one of which was clearly heading for the Whitby goth festival. The wind went back round to the west and consequently very few migrants among the resident Stonechats on the cliffs near Cowbar.

Manxie and Kittiwakes, Goth Puffin and Stonechat.

Boggled: 26-27th September

Two days with work at Boggle Hole on the North Yorkshire coast in an easterly, always promised to be good! After my morning's presentation, headed north along the clifftop and was rewarded with a smart juvenile Red-backed Shrike feeding from the hedge surrounding one of the paddocks. With the assistance of a colleague I managed a couple of digi-binned shots with my phone:

The shrike was still present the next day, along with a Yellow-browed Warbler just by the Youth Hostel. Very nice! Also, a strikingly blue toadstool which apparently is a Blue Roundhead:

Flamborough: YCN/YWT/FBO Migration Workshop, 23rd September

Our first migration workshop of the autumn was hampered by westerlies, but nevertheless, Tony pulled in a few smart birds including a couple of Bullfinches and a Goldcrest. Later, Ian turned up with an enormous Convolvulous Hawkmoth:

We did the Old Fall loop which was great fun despite the lack of migrants which consisted of one Pied Flycatcher in the plantation.

Monday 18 September 2017

A taste of the autumn to come

Yesterday I had my first visit of the autumn to the Great White Cape. It has been predominantly westerly for the last few weeks apart from a Greenish-tinged day when it went east momentarily, so poor for the east coast, but great for seabirding on the west coast.

Yesterday, things changed and the winds went light and from the north with a bit of an easterly airflow across from Scandinavia, and this change certainly did the trick. I gave seawatching a go early doors, managing to be the one in eight who managed to miss the fly-by Sabine's Gull! Nevertheless, stacks of stuff was heading north, with flocks of Red-throated Divers heading south. About a dozen Sooty Shearwaters joined double that number of Manxies, plus several Bonxies, plenty of Arctic Skuas and lots of wildfowl. I headed off after an hour as the allure of the bushes was too strong.
Early morning at Flamborough Head. Never get tired of this view...

Two Lesser Whitethroats and a Willow Warbler in the bushes by the lighthouse was a good start and gave early promise. The air was alive with Meadow Pipits, and flurries of Swallows flicked past. A Peregrine cruised over and a black-bellied Golden Plover flew around calling. Round the Outer Head to Old Fall where Craig and Lee instructed me on where the Yellow-browed Warbler - the first Flamborough bird of the autumn - was lurking. It called on cue from the southeast corner of the plantation but was elusive in the strengthening wind. It appeared briefly in the tops of the sycamores twice, before melting away, teasing us from the depths of the spinney with more calling. Little else of note during completion of the loop but an enjoyable morning nevertheless. Elsewhere, that hint of east dropped a fine selection on Fair Isle, an Arctic Warbler at Spurn, whilst Burnham Overy in Norfolk pulled in a Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler....More to come hopefully!

Friday 8 September 2017

Whale of a time

First Yorkshire Coast Nature Whale and Seabird trip of the season for me today. Sadly, no Minke Whales showed up, though we got good close views of Harbour Porpoise, plus Red-throated Divers, Bonxies, Arctic Skua, Common Scoters, Peregrine, Puffins - including a couple of Pufflings and best  of all, a Gurnard, caught and released by skipper Shaun. A great group and we had a lot of laughs. Bring on the next trip!

Puffling and Bonxie, off Staithes, North Yorkshire.

Staithes and the plucky YCN gang, with skipper Shaun on the left of the cabin.