Saturday, 28 November 2015

Scarborough Seabirds,Dovekies And Black-necked Beauties,Sunday 22nd November 2015.

With an arctic blast the day before,today was looking good for some passage over the sea and the annual search for the most diminutive of Europe's Alcid family,Little Auk.
 So,with this in mind i headed over to my fave seaside town,Scarborough and with the added interest of the resident flock of Black-necked Grebes i was in for a good day.
 I arrived bright and early and parked at Marine Drive and after bumping into fellow birders Justin  Carr and local birders Micky Mcnaghten and Chris Bell,we began to watch the sea for the first few hours of the day.
 The wind was still blowing from the north,but a lot calmer than the previous day,but the day was going to be a wet one,with banks of wintry showers throughout the day.
 As hoped for it wasn't long before we logged our first of the days north bound Little Auks as several birds passed by,most of which were nice and close in,with one actually landing on rocks close by,briefly,before carrying on its journey.This cracking little bird is one of the commonest seabirds in the world and is always a privilege to see.
 Other north bound birds included a cracking Red-necked Grebe close in,probable Great-northern Diver,several Red-throated Diver,Red-breasted Merganser,Guillemots and Razorbill and a group of 4 Black-necked Grebe just off the Harbour.
 Other interest in between watching the seabirds was provided by 3 Harbour Porpoise and 2 Grey Seal,always great to see.
 After this great start i made my way down to the harbour and this is where i spent the remainder of the day.
 After arriving at the harbour side along with Chris,it wasn't long before i was enjoying my closest views of Black-necked Grebe ever,with some amazingly close views of 2 individuals,1 an adult and 1 a juv/1st winter.It was a tad worrying watching them diving in amongst all the rubbish and diesel polluted water.
 It wasn't long before we were joined by other hope full photographers and birders which included birding friends,Mike Robinson,Steve Race and Alex Meek and the first of at least 7 Little Auk in the harbour area.This,as the Black-necked Grebes,included some cracking close up views of this super little seabird and other species observed in around the harbour included 39 Purple Sandpiper,Rock Pipits,Turnstone,2 adult Med Gulls and a drake Eider.
 So what a great day today,despite the weather,with some excellent bird encounters and good banter along the way.
Early morning off Marine Drive.

North bound Little Auks off Marine Drive.

A slightly closer north bound Little Auk off the harbour.

Black-necked Grebe in the harbour.

Black-necked Grebe in the harbour.

Purple Sandpipers roosting off the east pier.

A brief spell of sunshine at the harbour.

Little Auk in the harbour.

Little Auk in the harbour.

Little Auk in the harbour.

Little Auk in the harbour.

Close up of one of the Little Auks in the harbour.

Some familiar faces watching one of the Little Auks in the harbour.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Fantastic Frampton,Sunday November 15th 2015.

With the prospect of a full day out today and with last weekends superb day out in the south of the county at Gib Point,i again decided to head south today to visit the superb RSPB reserve at Frampton Marsh.
 After arriving at the reserve car park and getting the kit together,i headed over to the 360 hide were i settled down for the next 3 hours or so over the high tide.
 The numbers and variety of birds which use the scrapes are amazing,with 11 species of duck's,8 species of wader and 4 species of geese observed during my visit.But it was three species which were the most prominent,Golden Plover,Teal and Wigeon.It was really great to see the mass flocks of birds wheeling around together at the slightest sniff of a raptor,but it is the relative closeness and comfort sat in a well situated hide that really gives you an advantage here.It's amazing to think that this reserve used to be farmers fields and through the hard work of the RSPB and volunteers,have turned this site into Lincolnshire's premier wader hot spot.
 Highlights seen during my watch from this excellent vantage point included 42 stunning Pintail and 2 male Ruff in amongst the throngs of commoner species.It was really nice to study the gorgeous Pintails at relative close range,the lovely sound of the males as they attempted to capture the attentions of the unimpressed females as they displayed to them and sparred amongst each other.This was birding heaven for me,watching in my opinion,the smartest of our dabbling ducks.
 Some guesstimated counts included 2500+ Wigeon,800 Teal,600 D.B.Brents and 1500 Golden Plover,with 16 Black-tailed Godwit and 300+ Lapwing making for a very impressive scene.
 After this excellent spell of birding i wandered back to the car and had my lunch before walking along the perimeter of the reserve onto the sea bank and back to the car in a big square.Highlights included at least 3 Marsh Harrier hunting the saltmarsh,at least 350 Pink-footed Geese feeding on a winter wheat field to the south of the reserve,with 13 Little Grebe and a single female Goldeneye on the farm reservoir.
 As i neared the car park and visitor centre,3 adult Whooper Swan made a very brief visit to the scrapes before heading in the direction of the reservoir.
 A second visit to the 360 hide saw me along with a visiting RSPB group from Chesterfield enjoying more views of the Pintail which had reduced to 28 birds now the tide had dropped and the 2 Ruff showed closer also,an adult and juvenile male.
 As the afternoon wore on i made my way back to the car seeing a final goodie before travelling home,a pair of Goosander which flew in off the Witham,over the scrapes and south towards the reservoir.This species is a bit of a rare here,so i was chuffed to have seen them.
 A really enjoyable day today,visiting this superb reserve in the heart of the Wash.


Close encounter with the Golden Plover flock.

Wigeon,Pintail,DBB Brent Goose,Black-tailed Godwit and Teal.

Dark-bellied Brent's,Wigeon,Pintail and Teal.

Part of the Pintail flock.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Pallid Harrier At Last! And Gibralter Point Raptor Fest,Sunday November 8th 2015.

After the continued presence of the Juvenile Pallid Harrier at Gib Point,this is where i made my destination for the day.
 It was with some trepidation that i made the visit today,after missing 3 individuals in the past,coupled with that was my desire to see this stunning raptor.
 The journey south to Skeg,was broken only by a couple of hunting Barn Owls near Utterby and some worrying fog before reaching my destination.
 On arrival at Gib i paid for my all day parking permit and got the gear together before making my way to the Wash viewpoint.
 As it began to get light,myself along with a few other observers began to scan the saltmarsh area adjacent to our watch point.
 Plenty of birds kept us interested to start with which included 2 Ringtail Hen Harrier,1 a female and 1 a juv male and a Common Buzzard which hunted the surrounding area.
 As the light became gradually better and the sun came out and right on cue,the Pallid Harrier appeared from the north flying along the edge of the saltmarsh right past our viewpoint....yesss,you beauty!.We watched as it flew past and after a half hearted attempt at hunting,this cracking bird landed about 150m from our position.
 As it sat preening,the head pattern was as striking as i had imagined,with the white eye patches above and below the eyes and dark cheeks and the conspicuous pale collar really standing out even through the bins.
 After about 10 minutes it took off and returned in the same direction from where it had arrived,hunting the edge of the saltmarsh again before disappearing in the distance over the top of the Millenium Ridge and that was that.In flight,again,the collar and head pattern were the stand out features,with the underparts being less rufous than i had thought it would be,being more cinnamon in colour,but this bird was obviously in active moult with the tail and wing feathers becoming a tad tatty.
 What a cracking bird and as mentioned above it was my most wanted bird species being a bit of a raptor nerd.
 I continued in my vigil from the viewpoint along with several late comers in the hope the bird may return,but it wasn't to be sadly,so an early start certainly paid dividends.
 Other excellent raptor sightings during the rest of the day included at least 3 Merlin,2 Peregrine together,a cracking adult male Hen Harrier to add to the 2 seen earlier,2 juv Marsh Harrier and a single Short-eared Owl.
 8 stunning Whooper Swans flew south into the Wash and comprised 6 adult birds and 2 juv's,with those lovely trumpeting contact calls between the flock,one of my fave sounds in nature.Also overhead a few passerine sightings included 50 Siskins,2 Brambling and 9 Lesser Redpoll and this coupled with flocks of Pinks and Brent Geese,made for a great days birding.
 So what a cracking day out today and i made the long journey home through the wolds a happy birder after seeing my stunning target.
Stunning sunrise.

Distant record shot of the Juvenile Pallid Harrier.

Distant record shot of the Juvenile Pallid Harrier.

Distant record shot of the Juvenile Pallid Harrier.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Breezy Bonby,Saturday 7th November 2015.

With a few hours to spare this aft and some sunshine at last,i decided to give Bonby Carrs another look.
 As i got out of the car i was greeted by a flock of Fieldfares overhead and as i got the gear together several more flocks passed overhead.
 Several scans of the pasture fields and hedgerows saw some big numbers of both Fieldfare and Starlings as on my last visit and the former were easily over 600 birds,with flocks scattered everywhere.
 I carried on my walk and a juvenile Marsh Harrier flew west towards Worlaby,showing distantly and on the next field a trio of lovely Roe Deer were watched browsing the field edge.
 Fewer finches were recorded today,with 32 Linnet and 25 Goldfinch being logged along with a single Siskin overhead and a handfull of both Skylarks and Yellowhammer.
 After reaching the river,a brief Kingfisher as on my last visit,was again nice to see but little else was seen apart from 3 Common Buzzard over the adjacent woodlands.
 As time wore on,the hoped for Short-eared Owls were seen,with 4 birds observed hunting the rough fields between Bonby and Worlaby Carrs,none of the birds were close,but nice to see all the same and pretty much expected after all the birds coming in on the coast during the autumn.
 As i neared the car a snippet of a trumpeting call was heard and i turned around to see 9 Whooper Swans fly overhead and drop into one of the pastures down towards the river to no doubt roost overnight.
 This latter sighting along with 2 Brown Hare and a west bound flock of 50 Pinks as i put my boots in the car,was great way to end the visit.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

A Wet Afternoon,Bonby Carrs......05.11.2015.

After days of crap weather i bit the bullet and went down the Carrs at Bonby this afternoon.The weather certainly wasn't great while i was on site,with occasional,drizzly showers before the rain,as promised set in.
 All was not bad though with some decent sightings as i walked down to the river and back.
 As i left the car,the first highlight was a smart adult male Marsh Harrier which was watched hunting the fields between Bonby and Worlably Carrs,a nice start and the first of three seen during the visit,with the others being a 2nd calendar year male and a juvenile/1st winter,all eventually heading east toward the estuary.
 With several scans of the surrounding hedgerows,it soon became apparent there were good numbers of Fieldfare present,with the final count being at least 565 birds,a very respectable count of this lovely winter visitor.Also associating with the Felfares was a guesstimated flock of 600 Starlings and together both species provided an impressive spectacle as they roved about the hedgerows and fields.
 Other passerines noted included 6 Lesser Redpoll,150 Linnet,20 Skylark and 30 Goldfinch.
 After reaching the Ancholme,i spent some time scanning the area and highlights included a single Short-eared Owl hunting in Appleby Carrs and a stunning flash of electric blue as a Kingfisher zoomed along the river after flying out of the adjacent drainage dyke,both welcome sightings.
 Other bits and bobs here included 2 Common Buzzard,12 Snipe,4 hunting Kestrel and 43 Greylag.
 On the return walk back to the car,the rain had set in,but highlight of the visit certainly brightened proceedings with a flock of 6 Pintail flying up from one of the fields and towards the river.This species isn't that common here and i have only recorded them on a few occasions,so it was a most welcome sighting.
 As i reached the car,slightly sodden,the family of 7 Mute Swans were still feeding in the Soak Drain and i thought to myself it won't be long before the two adults are chasing their 5 kids away,but for now they all looked happy.
 A decent visit to the Carrs today,despite the poor weather.

Monday, 2 November 2015

American Goldie etc......Sunday 01.11.2015.

With the outside chance of some good birds and hoping the previous days Pallas's Warbler may still be around,i headed over to the Spurn area again today.
 The journey over was hampered in places by thick fog,but as it became light and i neared my destination for the day,it thinned.
 The previous day there had been a couple of Pallid Swifts seen further north at Flamborough and in County Durham,so along with a few others including Tim,a vigil at numpties was the order of the day.
 The condition were not that ideal really for Vis Migging,with still conditions,but we still managed some good numbers of Siskin and Skylark.The highlights from the watch included 2 Velvet Scoter which flew south and singles of both Swallow and House Martin which also followed the Scoters south.
 As it neared lunch time i said my goodbyes to the lads and ambled back to the car at the Bluebell seeing a couple of male Stonechat and Chiffies along the way.
 After a very welcome pack up i decided to walk up Beacon Lane and head up to Beacon Ponds and the Wetlands.The walk up Beacon Lane was fairly quiet apart from a couple of Chiffchaff and a hand full of Blackbirds and Redwing,but as i neared the northern end,the welcome sight of a hunting Short-eared Owl was nice to see.
 I watched the owl as it hunted and it eventually caught a vole which it quickly devoured,perhaps it was a new migrant in as there has been quite an arrival along the east coast of this cracking asio.
 After a chance meeting with Dave and Sarah Aitken,we watched the Juvenile American-golden Plover at distance to start with on the Wetlands with its adopted Lapwing flock,but when the flock was flushed by an unseen predator the goldie left the flock,flew straight over our heads calling and settled on Beacon Ponds.
 We watched it for some time as it stood giving fairly nice views through the scope,the best of which i had enjoyed yet.As it was staying put i left Dave and Sarah and walked around to the other side of the ponds,when the bird again flew,but this time onto the beach.Over the next hour and a half i enjoyed some cracking views of this super bird along with Spurn regulars Ian Smith and Rich Swales.
 So all in all it didn't turn out to be such a bad day after all and with the American-goldie showing so well,i had forgotten all about Pallid Swifts....maybe next time.
Sunrise taken from near the Bluebell. 

The seawatching hut and warren heligoland trap.

Wood Pigeon,Warren bushes.

Male Reed Bunting,Canal bushes.

Juvenile American-golden Plover,Long Bank.

Juvenile American-golden Plover.

Juvenile American-golden Plover.

Juvenile American-golden Plover.

Juvenile American-golden Plover,note the only area of golden spangling was on the rump,compared to European-golden Plover and those distinct grey underwings and fine scalloping along the flanks.