Monday, October 29, 2012

When the cat's away...

It doesn't often happen to me on the patch, like it can to others who have more well watched study sites, but an odd occasion is all it takes to depress.

In 2009 I was on Holy Island when my neighbour had a Turtle Dove drinking from a puddle no more than a hundred yards from my door. I raced back and, despite looking several times during the day,  dipped. I still haven't seen one here. Ouch...  

Or the time in 2010 when Iain Robson had a Red Kite visible from my house while I was cutting the grass. He kindly rang me to give directions. I couldn't get on to it. It still has an un-ticked box on the Howick list. Painful...

And this evening I get this kind email from Peter Tapsell....

At c.11.00 this morning I was on the footbridge over the mouth of Howick Burn when I noticed a female or first year Red Breasted Flycatcher in the tall scrub just west/inland from the bridge.
I only had a brief view before it flew up the burn and back into dense scrub where I was unable to relocate it. There was no sign of it when I returned that way at 15.00 hrs.
Alas I didn't have my camera with me.....

Now the clocks have changed, this might as well be on Fair Isle...I'm gutted.

RBF is one of those 'hoped for' birds that any east coast patch watcher would like to see on their list. 

One day I'll get one in the garden, you'll see.

I'm off to cry into my wine...

( Great record Peter, I'll add it to me list ( un-ticked) and thanks for the message)...  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Seawatching Weekend....

Not all of it. Very little really, but the three hours spent over two days just a few hundred yards from the door were ones well spent.

Saturday 08.10 -10.00am

After horrendous gales and snow and temps down to freezing, I felt a Little Auk coming on...

Off to view from Cullernose Point where there is a little bit more shelter than off Howick Village ( its only quarter of a mile along, at the north end of  Howick Bay) had -

Little Auk 6 
Great Northern Diver 1, a nice close one too.
Long tailed Duck 2, a pair.
Pintail 1
Bonxie 1 right over head.
Sooty Shearwater 2 as usual, distant.
Velvet Scoter 1
Common Scoter 8
Wigeon 311
Goldeneye 5
Shelduck 3
Red throated Diver 4
Manx Shearwater 2.
Dunlin 12
Knot 2

Not bad at all. Rarer still I was joined by two other birders, after the first hour. Three people birding here...unheard of.

Sunday 08.45 - 10.00am.

Myself and JWR. The sea had calmed right off after yesterdays mountains. The wind has changed too, WNW 3.

I fancied that the calmer conditions might make viewing any re-orientating birds, that bit easier.

Little Auk 107, in small parties up to 30 in number, Very close in ( as typical, unlike yesterdays Sooties)
Long tailed Duck 4
Great Northern Diver 1
Velvet Scoter 6
Pochard 1
Teal 206
Wigeon 135
Common Scoter 24
Goldeneye 1
Red throated Diver 19
Red breasted Merganser 3

Also, some viz miggging with -

Woodcock 2 in-off, both picked up  a mile out and follwed to shore. One landed only yards from us before continuing west. Fantastic.
Fieldfare 12 as the Woodcock, all of these seen low over the waves and eventually reaching shore.
Starling 20
Blackbird 2

Its great to watch these birds arrive after a Scandinavian sea crossing, they must be knackered.

A good weekend!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What a day....

I'm knackered!

Fall conditions certainly take it out of you, both physically and mentally.

This morning in thick fog and drizzle, I headed out with Bunty for her walk, on a recce to see if any birds had arrived. A few Robins 'ticked' and half a dozen Fieldfares and Redwings were on the coast path. At the south end of my patch is a geological feature on the coast called Rumbling Kern. Its a hole in a sandstone rock and when the sea is rough waves bang into it, hence the name.

Rumbling Kern
It is a smallish raised area, a bit like an island, and in today's fog it certainly had that feel about it.

On arrival, more Thrushes were leaping from gorse, and a few Goldcrests hunted in the tall Knapweed stalks. They looked tired.

Goldcrest down to 3 feet.

I went to check an old quarry recess in the Kern and saw a bird flush from the path. It was the call that attracted me first, a bit like a Redwings flight call and quite 'urgent' sounding.

A smallish bird, with white outer tail feathers ruled out Robin, then the call again and started to dawn on me. This was a pipit. Getting late for Tree Pipit up here now but these things happen, so I was pleased when I saw it land up near the cliff top then run a yard or so to sit on an overhanging rock looking at me. Again it called - 'zzzeeet' tzzeee' sounding like it had a smokers cough too.

What a shock when I located it through my bins. A white breast with unbelievably heavy black spotting, like a thrush - OLIVE-BACKED PIPIT! I continued to watch through adrenalin -quivering lenses hoping it would start wandering about, pumping its tail in 'Jack Snipe' fashion, but no, it just sat there, soaked. I could even see its bill opening when it called, but, being above me, in poor light there was no colour.

I must get a better angle if I am going to eliminate a heavily marked Tree Pipit thinks I, and slowly walked backwards. I had to look down to avoid falling on bramble 'wires' and when I looked up the bird had gone. I heard a final 'tzzzeet' in the mist as it said goodbye...

What a pisser. Bird of the year on the patch and not enough to convince the records committee that it wasnt just a Tree Pipit...still, its going on my patch list even if it is in brackets.

Olive backed Pipit. Notes when I got home, before checking guides.
After dropping the terrier back at home, I was out again, this time up to check Craster. This was a a short lived visit as I fell over a barbed wire fence gashing my hand open in the process, so I had to retreat to tend my wounds. I said  these days are physically challenging...

Blood mopped and gash taped , back to Craster.

Here there were many hundreds if not thousands of thrushes. Mainly Fieldfares and Redwings with smaller numbers of Blackbird and Song Thrush. Robins were in every bush, and goldcrests were frequent but nothing too exciting could be found. I think the best were 2 Twite in the Thrush flocks moving west.

Home again for refreshments, then a walk to Cullernose Point, the north side of the patch, Birds were still clearly coming in. Blackbirds carpeted the ground as many Redwings left the gorse. There must have been 300+. In with them was a nice male Ring Ouzel, 6+ Bramblings and 3 Black Redstarts.

Another look at Rumbling Kern for 'Ollybippit' found more of the same with 2 Stonechat for the year list.

So a good busy day, but not quite the result I would have planned...

Fog lies heavy on the cobwebs.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

More migrants...

As there had been a few birds around this week and no news was coming from Craster, we thought, that's the place to be...

Craster used to be quite well watched in days when people went out birding and didnt just follow the news or sit in a hide. As its just a mile and a half up the road, it can be classed as a local patch of sorts...

Although no sibes or rares were found we still enjoyed the morning with -

Ring Ouzel 1
Whinchat 2
Garden Warbler 1
Blackcap 6
Chiffchaff 1
Brambling 3
Great spotted Woodpecker 1 in-off
Crossbill 3N
Willow Tit 2
and good numbers of Redwing, Song Thrush and Blackbird. Again, a flock of 12 Coal Tits lifted from gorse where they called in agitated fashion, flew to several hundred feet then headed off south, almost over the sea, a great sight.

Back home this evening, a high flying owl coming in from the east turned out to be a Short Eared Owl, it flew right over the village. Only my second patch record.

Still no photos. I just couldnt get anything close enough for my 'box brownie'...

Some nice pics of that Reed Warbler at St Mary's doesn't look like Blyth's to me, but photos can be deceiving.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Migration...and a panic attack.

On Friday morning, over night easterlies with very heavy rain resulted in good conditions for a movement of birds over our garden.

After checking a woefully quiet moth trap, it became apparent that birds were dropping in around all around me. Its days like these when work seems to get in the way, but I stood on our drive counting from 07.45am - 0815am before the work bell rang....

Redwing 428 ( in groups of up to 80)
Fieldfare 5
Blackbird 30
Song Thrush 12
Lapwing 8
Snipe 1.

I was keen then to check out this morning anything missed from yesterday. 

I took Bunty for her walk just around the village/ garden / back hedge area, all within sight of home really and was pleased with the results.

First up was a calling Brambling near the Village Hall. A second was in the copse later. A Snipe flew south very high up, then a nice female Redstart was seen flycatching at the corner of the back hedge.

A few Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were flying south and I heard Crossbills on three occasions but they remained unseen.

Over at the coast path, a Snow Bunting flew north 'peeuu-ing' overhead. A great surprise here was a first for me, a tight flock of 13 Coal Tits flying south along the coast, calling constantly, quite high up. I have heard about these tit migrations but have not witnessed it first hand.

Now for the panic attack.

While checking the copse, I could hear a mass of mobbing birds from a lone gorse bush about 10 yards from the coast. I though this might pay investigation, hoping for a patch Long eared Owl. Stalking carefully and scanning with bins, a bird broke cover - a 'little'owl! It flew into the light and landed in scrub half a field away. The birds were still mobbing and I went in pursuit, mind racing. I have not seen Little Owl here before, but with all the talk of erupting Tengmalms in Scandinavia.. Despite careful scrutiny then close examination it was nowhere to be seen. It had obviously made an exit out of my sight...

I'm kind of pleased really, I couldn't be doing with the pressure of  finding a Tengmalms!

Back home, a second winter Mediterranean Gull was flycatching over the back field with Black headeds and Common Gulls and 4 Barnacle Geese flew south.

A good day on the patch...

Thursday, October 04, 2012

A Pagan visit...

This morning was bright, sunny and a bit cool.

It was my turn to walk Bunty through the village wood, where a few Redpolls were still around and seemed to be feeding on seeding Meadowsweet.

We came out on to the main road to be dazzled by the low eastern sun. A car sped past, the driver keener to get to work this morning than me, then I looked up again on to the road ahead.

Standing, staring towards us, in the middle of the road where Jensen Button had been seconds earlier, was a a sight I didnt expect to see at Howick.

A young Red Deer stag, backlit with golden sun, his breath in clouds from his nostrils was frozen to the spot. For a second everything was silent. I refocused my eyes, after all, it was still quite early,  to make sure I wasn't confusing myself. No, he was still there. I thought about speeding cars, and considered what to do, but fortunately nothing was required. He turned on the spot and hopped the gate and he was gone.

Just like a dream...

This evening at dusk I took a walk to see if  the 'spirit of the wood' was grazing in the fields but there was no sign. A brace of Stoats enlivened the return walk as they 'plaited' their way across the road.

A good day...

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

A Sprite in the Can...

Over the last week, there was quite an arrival of migrants on the coast locally.

I took Wednesday off, last week, after the main easterly storm had abated, to check locally to see what had arrived. The conditions looked good at first, but closer scrutiny of the weather maps showed a few low pressure systems on Scandinavia, blocking any mass movements.

The first bird of note on Wednesday was on our drive. There are two rowans with berries, and they had attracted a fw female Ring Ouzel, like a fly to the proverbial. It chacked and squeaked away, while feeding and was present most of the day.

Elsewhere around the patch were single Redstart and Lesser Whitethroat, and a few Wheatears.

From home I moved north to Craster where a nice Lapland Bunting flew low south overhead calling, 5 Redstarts, 2-3 Redwings and a Spotted Flycatcher kept the interest going. Two Willow Tits were my first of the year.

The rest of the week was spent at work but I had hopes of some lingering or reorientating birds at the weekend.

On Saturday, I had a walk to the pond. On the way back, a Yellow browed Warbler was calling like mad from a thick area of wet woodland. Despite searching I couldnt see hide nor hair of it.

Next morning I was back to the same spot where the frantic calling had stopped. Then I heard a light soft call once, twice then nothing.

I stood for a further half hour and my patience was rewarded with close views in the open of the Yellow brow ( the term 'striped sprite' would be a bit cliche, but true!). After the good view, it moved high into a willow but still remained on show while it fed for twenty minutes or more.

Another nice find on the doorstep. Better than twitching one on Holy Island... ;)

A supporting cast of 80 Barnacle Geese overhead, 6+ Chiffchaffs, 1 Spotted Flycatcher and 20 Lesser Redpolls made a good patch day.