Monday, September 11, 2023

Club Tropicana....

The bird was on that Red Buoy.

 After the run around on Wednesday, I was pleased to find that the Teesside Brown Booby was still hanging on down at South Gare, Redcar. To put this to bed once and for all I carried out that most heinous  of birding crimes and twitched it. In my car! How very dare.... but the 160 miles round trip was worth it and it turned out to be one of the easiest twitches I've done.

I met John at Alnwick Homebase at 6am and we headed on a traffic free A1 down to J60 at Sedgefield then a short run eastwards to arrive at our destination at 7.30am. The car was parked in a road side pull -in and as we got out and opened the boot to get the gear out, John said ' In the bag, let's away!' Eh?

'Aye its sitting over there' so I scanned with the bins and sure enough, at range the angular shape of the Booby could be seen sat atop the tall red buoy in the river mouth. Target ticked by 7.35am!

A short wander across the road with the scopes and an hour observation gave nice, if a little distant, views. The bird preened a while before being shook from its perch by the wake of a large ship passing by. It then flew around, chased by a few gulls where its small size could be seen. It then joined a gull / auk feeding frenzy to feed. The method was quite unexpected. I imagined it would plummet in like a Gannet but no, it sat on the calm surface and dipped its head down like a dabbling duck or maybe a pelican, before lifting up with a mouthful of fry.   

Some field sketches were put in the book and a few digi phone scoped shots for later. 

A few other birds passed the time too with a nice morning lit Peregrine low over, 2 Arctic Skuas, 1 Yellow Wagtails S and 1 Redpoll S. 

We left at 9.30am arriving back home at 11am. Excellent timing as we both had family commitments in the afternoon.

Brown Booby #428 BOU.

Field sketches, coloured when back home.

Worked up sketch for my neater notes.

Wednesday, September 06, 2023


 This morning before leaving work to go into the office a local WhatsApp message popped up - 

Brown Booby, North, Long Nab, Scarborough.

This is a message that causes a basic life pause, just for a second while the info is mentally processed.

Then its reported very close in past Cowbar in Cleveland.

Clearly this is the bird that has spent a couple of days off Filey, so, what chance that it is actually on the move and not just circling around in the sea haa looking for a nice feeding frenzy to join in with?

Just in case, you understand, not that the chance would arise, and yes I am remaining cool, it might be worth checking timescales.

Long Nab to Cowbar took 1 hr 15 mins for 36 miles.

Cowbar to Newbiggin in Northumberland, only 2 miles from my office is 75 miles. By counting fingers and toes I can deduce from this that the tropical Sula could be due in around 11.30am.  

No, I'm still not too bothered, chances are it will be back in Filey before I get in to work.

Fast forward and I am in the office at 10am and logged on.

A message banner pops up on my phone. Brown Booby past Hartlepool Headland, very close in...

Shit is getting real, this could be on the cards.

A humorous and hasty conversation with colleagues and manager about 'weh hey' Brown Boobies ( insert emoji) and I cant hold on much longer, I'm off to Newbiggin arriving at 10.50am.

Already there are 20 people eagerly concentrating and grilling the rolling calm waves into the mist. The good thing about these type of twitches is that we can meet up with good friends we don't see so often, so its always going to be a win. 

The tension is palpable. Each juv Gannet gets a sigh as it passes. The concentration is broken briefly when a Black Guillemot flies through my scope and on to several peoples county and year lists.

'Cullercoats Brown Booby North towards Seaton Sluice'.

That is almost in sight! Come on...

After a few minutes there begins to be some coughing and fidgeting in the now 35 strong crowd. The rumour mill is grinding. Word has it, that it has not been seen at Whitburn a seawatching mecca. But there are close in immature Gannets. Then one observer says that the sighting at Hartlepool was believed by some ( always a good one) to be a Gannet too.

The observers at Cullercoats chip in that it might not have been a Booby?

It turns out there are NO confirmed sightings North of Cleveland.

Ah well its been a pleasant two hours and I am back in the office at 12.45.

Things should have ended there, but no, life is never that easy, is it.

Gary Woodburn calls. After all the earlier confusion, conspiracy and string, the real deal has just gone past Whitburn! Could you believe it. Right, one last ditch attempt sees me back at Newbiggin for 1pm but I need to be back by 2pm.

I needn't have worried, as I got out of the car Gary messaged to say 'Stand Down, the Whitburn sighting is erroneous too!'

Whats going on here. Looks like another young Gannet is responsible.

While standing discussing this with those who about turned back to the point, we had a close in very dark Balearic Shearwater, a Bonxie and a few Manx and Red throated Divers.

Balearic Shearwater courtesy of Paul Weddle.

30 minutes passes, time to call it a day. While there had been several Boobies this morning there was no Brown Booby for Stew.

As we left, a photo came through of the cracking adult Sula leucogaster now loitering off South Gare. Looks like it has never passed Cleveland after all...


Of his Time....

 I'm not sure what is going on lately, but things have been a little bit ... well  'meh' or 'pfff' so to speak.

Motivation has been as elusive as a good bird around these parts, but here are a few bits and pieces from over the last two weeks or so.

Maybe my highlight of this period is finally getting around to reading all of Steve Gale's short 1970's memoir of his early birding experiences 'Of my Time'. Steve is a great writer and his diary had me nostalgic for those better times. The anecdotes about his formative birding years around London, Dungeness and the south of England, had me gripped!  

Only one grumble, Steve  - get on with the 80s!

Hedgely North Pit despite looking good for waders on all of the pits, we heard that the farmer drives around the very margins on a Quad each morning to check his stock, thus chasing off any grounded birds!

On Sunday 27th we headed inland to Hedgely and Branton Pits to avoid Bank Holiday on the coast. While we had a pleasant wander in good weather there was little of note other than 9 Little Grebes, 300+ Lesser black backed Gulls inc 2 'intermedius' types with very dark upperparts and long wings. This big flock of gulls were put up by two Marsh Harriers, a female and an imm male who soon drifted off south. Single Greenshank, Wigeon and Kingfisher, a few families of Redpolls, 2 Ravens and a Spotted Flycatcher were the best of the rest. Until I got back home that is....

Mid afternoon I was on our drive when the local Swallows began mobbing something. A scan over the back field revealed a small, spiky, Hobby casually flying away from the hirundines off to the North. Through the bins it looked very grey and was likely an adult or near adult male. Its long swept back wings really did match the 'swift-like' cliche.  

On Bank Holiday Monday we mostly remained around the garden and village where 2 Ravens in the back field, an adult Mediterranean Gull in plough at Cullernose and 2 garden Holly Blues were the highlight, narrowly taking the prize from an off patch Peregrine over the road on our way home from Sainsbury's.

A mid week seawatch for an hour had 26 Manx Shearwaters, 54 Shag, 3 Sandwich, 3 Common and 1 Arctic Tern, 1 Common Scoter and 400 Gannets per hour all N. 

As the forecast was for warm sunshine yesterday we went on a dragonfly search inland at Corby Woods. The first two hours were cool and quiet with not much seen other than for a dozen Crossbills.
flitting around.

Once the sun came out so did the insects with 4+ Common Hawker, 4+ Black Darter and a dozen Emerald Damselflies. The the pine plantation were full of post breeding bird flocks with many Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests seasoned with 1 Treecreeper, 1+ Redstart and 2+ Spotted Flycatchers.

Larch Ladybird, Lesser Willow Sawfly larvae and Spotted Toughshank fungi were all new species for me. Hopefully the autumn will have a word with itself and kick in soon...

Black Darter

Common Hawker

Larch Ladybird