Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Migrating Spuggies.

Today I took my birding gear to work with the intention of bunking off at 12 to drive the 50 miles to the nether extremes of our county for the long staying Bee-eater at Haltwhistle. I could have gone on Sunday but couldnt be bothered with the drive, so today was the day. Fired on by Mike Carr's superb photos, I WhatsApped John to tell him of my plan and jokingly commented that it would probably do a vanishing act before I got there, as the weather today was mild, calmish and clear, a lovely day.

Well, my prophecy couldnt have been more accurate. The feathered rainbow was still around at 9am, but at 10 it flew up higher and by 11 it had gone. Not to be seen again other than a fleeting report at 4.20. Time will tell if it returns.

The disappearance of the B.Eater at least saved me a half day holiday and some deisel, giving me time to consider my own sighting of the day.

Its no rare vagrant but Tree Sparrows were on the move this morning with two flocks of 9 and 19 at dawn flying S at a height along the coast path. The hard thing with these is to determine were these migrating or just leaving a roost locally as we still have lots of Tree Spugs here. Some discussion on our local bird group pointed me to think they were indeed on the move as large numbers had been through Spurn recently and a few at other headlands in the NE.

So whilst not a pulse racing  rare, its these migrations that are the food of the patch watcher so I am quite happy with that.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

A Patchy post...

Its been a while since I did a full on local patch type post so Saturday and today were spent doing just that, with maybe a step just a fraction outside the 'official' boundary, which I am quite happy to do. Its no good being precious about these things. Either way all sites visited today can be walked from home and are mostly within the map in the side bar.

On Saturday morning a walk around the coast path and Rumbling Kern with Peggy had - 4 adult winter Mediterranean Gulls, together, in the cow field just north of Seahouses Farm. Two weeks ago there were two adults here, the first time I have had a multiple occurrence on the patch, so to see four in one binocular field of view was excellent. A pair of Stonechats were in scrub by the Rumbling Kern. A five minute seawatch here with bins only had 1 dark Arctic Skua S very close in, 1 ad Common Tern  and 2 juv Arctic Terns N along the rock edges. Further off were 5 Red throated Divers on the sea and another two going S.

A bit of viz migging had 11 Siskins S, 7 Coal Tits coasting S and 9 Skylarks S.

A few butterflies were in the garden- 1 Small White, 8+ Red Admirals, 4 Speckled Wood.

As the wind swung north for the first time in millenia, later in the after noon I did an hour long seawatch from Cullernose Point. It was dire, but I sat it out catching the last sun and fresh air for 4 Red throated Diver, 1 Shelduck, 1 Manx Shearwater, 2 juv Arctic Terns ( probably those seen earlier), 3 Teal and 67 Common Scoter all N. A Small Copper was a late sighting on the coast path and another male Stonechat sat up giving nice close views.

Today I didnt have much hope of seeing much. Last night was clear and cold with a white frost on the car by 11pm. Still we thought we would give Craster ( north end of patch) a try today in case a Yellow browed Warbler had finally made it here.

As John arrived at 7am I put my gear in his car and a flock of 30+ Redwings flew out of the small copse next to our garden. The first of the autumn and a surprise giving the weather.

We arrived at the Craster public car park at about 7.20am and spent the next hour just standing around listening and watching birds viz-migging. Some were coasting S others dropping in from high east having just crossed the North Sea overnight. We totalled a decent list in the next hour -

Brambling 9 in off
Redpoll 60 S
Siskin 58 S
Redwing 38 in off
Fieldfare 3 IO
Song Thrush 3 IO
Goldfinch 12 S
Mistle Thrush 1 S
Golden Plover 13 S 38 N
Dunnock 2 IO arrived high from the east like pipits.
Linnet 13 S
Pied Wagtail 3 S
Crossbill 5 IO
Pink footed Geese 442 S

A Great Northern Diver flew N over head and a Barn Owl flushed from some Ivy on the old quarry wall.

In the bushes around were 2 Goldcrests and 2 Bullfinch.

Not a bad hour standing in  a car park!

We then checked the rest of the village area - 3 Willow Tit, 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Grey Partridge, 1 Great spotted Woodpecker and 1 Treecreeper. The sea was all but dead, 1 Wigeon and 6 Common Scoter N.

This afternoon I walked Peggy down through the village wood to the Pond field and back.
28 Long tailed Tits were very active flying around the village as if not sure where to go next, 1 Chiffchaff, 9 Redwing, 1 Collared Dove, a scarce bird here with maybe two or three records a year, 1 Jay, 1 Brambling S, 1 Wigeon and 10 Mallard on the pond with 2 Mute Swans and 3 Moorhen.

And thats about it for the weekend. No rarities and not even a YBW, but some nice birds to see on the doorstep and to witness migration is always good too... now where are those easterlies?

Seawatch from Cullernose.

The view north from Cullernose

Howick Bay

The coast path facing south

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Scotering along the wall...

Autumn 2018 is looking like becoming a classic for all the wrong reasons. You would have to look back 13 years since we had a September in Northumberland without a Yellow browed Warbler, but here we are into October with the clock still ticking or should that be, the west wind still blowing.

That would have been tolerable had there been an early autumn fall or two with Redstarts, Pied Flycatchers and Garden Warblers mixed with an odd Wryneck, Barred Warbler and Red backed Shrike, but even these have been relegated to rarity status this year. On my patch I've not had a single one. The best I could manage when it comes to drift migrants is a lone Whinchat in early August.

With all of this creating an atmosphere of futility, it was time to totally rethink our birding. Even the mothing is dying down for the season so no succour to be found here, so there was only on thing to do - go twitching. Hopefully that will give us the fix we are looking for.

On Sunday, with a mega seaduck and a couple of scarce southern padders an hour or two to the north, I met JWR at Homebase for a pre-dawn drive up the A1. Starting off at Barns Ness where both Woodchat Shrike and Rose coloured Starling had been present and showing well for a week or more and even up until 3pm on Saturday our hopes were high for a good day.

Soon, the best laid plans and all that began to shine through. The long stayers had only done an overnight bunk. The only thing of note seen in a couple of hours searching was a Merlin dashing over the headland.

The wind was increasing, so after breakfast at the car, we headed off on the 30 miles to Musselburgh sea wall for our headline act.

Success here was much more straight forward thanks to a huddle of twitchers a few hundred yards away hunched up over scopes all pointing in the same direction. This site is easy going, a long wide flat track behind a sea wall facing north onto good numbers of northern sea fowl. Today we had 70+ Velvet Scoter, 6+ Slavonian and 1 Great crested Grebe and a few Eiders, over flown by a Bonxie and 4 Sandwich Terns.

Our cryptic target lurking amongst the basically similar Velvets was an American White-winged Scoter. Fortunately it was one of the closest birds to the wall where all of the seperating features could be seen. This is maybe only the 4th UK record of the bird, recently given specific status rather than being a race of Velvet Scoter and very nice it was too with its lolly pink bill tip and white war paint eye makeup.

We were so pleased with the line up here, our previous dipping stop was all but forgotten. As for this Autumn? Well....