Sunday 26 November 2023


Sunday morning, and Castle Howard yielded little: 49 Tufted Ducks, 48 Teal and 10 Goldeneye. The two Scaup from earlier in the week had gone.

Heading for the LDV, news came through from Neil Cooper of the seven Waxwings he'd found yesterday still being present in Melbourne, which was handy as I would be passing through there on the way to Ellerton. Sure enough, the lads were present behind the Melbourne Arms pub in a tree. I showed the landlord and landlady the birds through my scope and shortly a guy came past, who also had a look. He said his name was Tom and that the birds were sitting in a tree in his garden, and if I wanted to go down his drive and have a closer look, that would be fine. Thanking Tom, I headed round there, past the Rowan tree where they were clearly feeding, and into his garden. The Waxwings were very close and unconcerned, happily trilling away and preening. I enjoyed good views for 15 minutes, before carrying on. Thanks Tom!



Waxwings preening: it takes effort to look this good!

On to Ellerton and a long walk down to the landing and then Hagg Lane, revealed c100 Tufted Ducks and 50 Pochards, plus 30 Pinkfeet, 50 Whooper Swans and not a lot else. c600 Golden Plovers and 30 Dunlins were in the field at Derwent Cottage Farm, Bubwith, with 8 Ruff on South Bubwith Ings. Later on, I walked down to Acaster and was pleased to find 120 Golden Plovers in the field north of Acaster.

Lingering Cold Northerly

Three weeks on since my last post and I am still feeling under the weather with a persistent cold. Talking of cold, a biting northerly roared down the North Sea yesterday and I had visions of it pushing a torrent of Little Auks, Ross's Gulls and Gyr Falcons in front of it, so after a restless night, I was off east to do some seawatching at Flamborough. I was a little perplexed and also dismayed to see virtually nothing in my first hour, save a monstrous grey sea, foaming and snarling offshore. Mid-morning I decided on a change of scenery and headed round the Old Fall Loop. In off the sea, three Siskins bounced, freshly arrived from Scandinavia. A missile rocketed up from below the cliffline to intercept the little finches; a hunting Merlin! It separated one unlucky Siskin off from the group and began a relentless aerial pursuit, with spectacular stoops, twists and dashing speed. The plucky Siskin was not going to give up easily, jinking aside at the last moment to avoid the Merlin's attacks. But after a while the Siskin's energy began to fail and high in the sky, the Merlin came from beneath and with a quick twist, turned on it's back and grasped the Siskin from underneath. 


There was nothing much on the sea off the south cliffs, with a single Eider and a pair of Common Scoters the only birds of note. I reached Old Fall, which despite being at the end of the rainbow held little either. 

Shortly, a message came through that the seawatchers had seen three Little Auks pass by. Well, there was nothing doing in the bushes, so I decided to head back. 


This proved a good move, and after a few minutes, picked up a Little Gull, shortly followed by a close-in Grey Phalarope! Conveniently, it landed on the sea just offshore and began feeding, allowing all present to pick it up. Five minutes after this and my first Little Auk pelted past, a tiny Arctic-bound pied streak. It seemed that the seabird passage had begun. A little later, Johnny Mac spotted another Grey Phalarope, this one much further out and moving steadily north. Cool. Over the next few hours, we notched up a further 19 Little Auks, including parties of three and two - see video. A Great Northern Diver went past north, among the many Red-throated Divers, with several Eiders, a Long-tailed Duck, two Sanderlings, Dunlin, Turnstone and Grey Plover. 

 Not easy to phonescope!


Sunday 5 November 2023

Feeling Rough

I was beginning to feel a bit rough towards the end of the week, but rather than sit under a blanket feeling sorry for myself this weekend, I headed out to Stone Creek, just east of Hull, to do some birding and get some fresh air. A series of large set-aside fields lies next to the north bank of the Humber and this is attracting large numbers of finches and small mammals, to feed on the thistle and other ruderal plant seeds. This abundance of food has attracted a range of raptors including a juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard, which has lingered here for a couple of weeks now. 

The Rough-leg was present on arrival, sitting atop a large Hawthorn. A typical frosted-cream bird with large dark belly patch, and small beak. 

After 20 minutes or so, it took off, and flew steadily up river towards Paull. I lost it in to the distance, so switched my attention to two fantastic ringtail Hen Harriers quartering the fields, often coming really close. Further up the fields towards the Humber, three Short-eared Owls were cavorting around, seemingly enjoying the breeze and oblivious to the toggers snapping away with their mammoth lenses. A huge flock of Golden Plovers swirled over the Humber, with smaller flocks of Knot, Bar-tailed Godwits and Curlews mixed in. No doubt a hunting Peregrine was disturbing them, but I didn't see it. After a while, I picked up the Rough-leg flying back towards the fields and obligingly, it landed on a Hawthorn for a while, though at the back of the fields. 

Shortly, the buzzard took off and began hunting, hovering into the wind, sometimes hanging into the strengthening breeze motionless, whilst at other times putting quite a lot of effort in, to maintain position. From the rear, the large white primary patches on the upperside of the wings, and the white-tail base were very eye-catching. 

Every so often, it would drop vertically, hover again, before dropping like an over-sized Kestrel on to a hapless vole or mouse. It was great to watch and gradually came really close. Unfortunately I didn't have my DSLR with me nor the phonescoping adaptor, so the footage is a bit ropey! The rain arrived on cue late morning and having grilled this cracking bird for a good hour or so, I decided to head back west.

At North Duffield Carrs, two Great Egrets were hunting voles on the rapidly submerging river bank, a ringtail Hen Harrier was flying about with several Marsh Harriers. A decent Aythya flock on Bubwith Ings held 30+ Pochards and over 50 Tufted Ducks. Hopefully this flock will increase and pull in something interesting.