Archives for the month of: November, 2011

As we began to walk around the park, accompanied by distant Fallow Deer and not so distant Goats (need to find out which breed) (if you had read my post, you would know what breed), unusual crow calls could be occasionally heard. We speculated on their origin but remained conservative. Maybe Cumbrian crows just have an unusual twang. As we stroll around further, a Treecreeper is spotted in a tree, and Jays and Pheasant abound. The path became higher given a nice vantage other the river, allowing us to watch Dipper in a way I hadn’t before. It would occasionally swim about on the surface of the water, which is a strange thing to watch a passerine do.  Kept an eye out for kingfisher, an although we were reliably informed of one in the area by James’ sweetheart, we had no luck. More goosander, black deer, and  spectacular Buzzard views later we decided to head back. As we tromped through the rather muddy path, the unusual crow noise could be heard again. James had a peek through his twin-monoculars(read: binoculars) and he spotted the third Raven of the trip. It flew low around us several times, occassionally landing in the trees surrounding us. It eventually perched (as perching birds are wont to do) on a tall conifer (it wasn’t a conifer, but nice try). It blessed us with fantastic views of it cronking away for 15 minutes. We eventually had to leave it behind, which seemed rather rude towards such a spectacular bird.

After James finished flirting with the grounds keeper, we made our way to Leighton Moss. On route we found a pair of regular looking Fallow Deer looking perturbed by the side of the road. A few reasonable sized flocks of starlings greeted us as we arrived at Leighton Moss. Sadly it was too dark to do any serious birding when we got there, but did manage Pintail. 

As the day drew to a close we headed to nearest village and filled our bellies with carbohydrates and our ears with more Alan Partridge.

Interesting fact of day 2. No wood pigeons were seen. More woodpeckers were seen on that day than pigeons. In fact, more ravens were seen than wood pigeons.

Day 3

We woke up to find an overcast murky morning. As we made our way to the furthest hide (being told it was the best place to see otters) we could hear moorhen and water rail calling out the fog. The darkness made identifying the nosey robins on the path more difficult than you’d imagine. After half an hour we reach the hide. While still murky we could make out a fair few ducks on the water. A Water Rail showed itself just in front of the hide before scuttling off behind some reeds. As the fog cleared we could make out an egret roost on an island at the opposite end of the water. We eventually counted 60+ Little Egret in the tall bare trees. It boggled our tiny Humberside minds. The next events happened in very quick succession and I’m having trouble remember the order. These things happened within about 10 minutes of each other
– The first egret to leave the roost seemed unusually large. As it was the first, there were no other egrets to compare it to at the time. (After seeing subsequent Little Egrets leave the roost, we came to the conclusion that the first bird we saw was likely a Great White Egret, but we couldn’t be completely sure)
– The Starling roost emerged from the reeds, with 20,000 birds flying about in the murk. It looked like this

–  A Marsh Harrier flew slowly across the reed beds
– A Bittern dropped into a patch of reeds right in front of us. We got some spectacularly close views before it plopped off into another nearby reedbed.
– Another water rail showed for a few minutes.
– 15 Goosander floated across the water

Quite a bird based bonanza to see before 9am. Getting up early works a treat.

We made our way to the other hides in search of the mysterious large egret. On the way we found a Marsh Tit and got utterly confused by a particularly small (normal sized) and streakless Fieldfare. The next hide gave us nice views of 5 Little Egret and a Peregrine landed in a distant tree before making a hasty exit. We tried the next hide. On route we found a nice array of lichen and moss which I may consider IDing one day. Possibly while recovering from surgery.

Lichen with a possibly special slug

Candle snuff?

After looking about in the next hide, James’ keen eyes finally proved themselves. A Great White Egret was found cheekily poking it’s head up from behind a nearby bank. As another Marsh Harrier passed over, it, and several Little Egret, flew off, giving us fantastic views of its massive gangly legs and yellow bill.

Happy with our relative success on the main reserve at Leighton Moss we tried our luck at the part of the reserve that looks over Morecambe Bay. Looking over the water proved rather tricky given the placement of the low morning sun.  We picked many of the usual waders, including Lapwing, Snipe and Redshank. At the second hide we managed to pick out a couple of Spotted Redshank amongst the regular variety, making me rather cocky with future ID’s. A Marsh Harrier came through and bothered things with its big bothery face. The Marsh Harrier scared up some Godwits allowing us to look at the markings on their wings and rump and determine the species. I have now forgotten what species they turned out to be.

Spotted redshank - Note the hook on the tip of the beak

A normal dirty common redshank. Eurgh

We headed to Martin Mere next. We got there and it was the most expensive thing on the entire planet so we didn’t go in (If I remember correctly, and I’m almost certain I am doing, it cost £1,400 per adult. Also, the man at the till was dressed like a pirate). We just stood around outside looking sad hoping a kind old lady would sneak us in under her shawl. It didn’t happen, largely because we had been sleeping in a car for 3 nights and looked like haunted bin liners. So we went home and that is all. This only took 2 weeks to write.

I will add to this that whilst we hung around outside, we saw a Field Vole amongst a small patch of trees, Robert spotted two Whooper Swans going over, and I spotted a White-Fronted Goose flying in amongst some Pink Footed Geese. Robert refused to look at the White Front for some reason.

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Got up, dropped Rachel off at work, and then drove down to Bempton. My reason for going to Bempton was simple, it was only just daybreak, and Bempton was the closest place I knew that was retaining its Short-Eared Owls. Here at Scarborough we’ve had plenty turn up, but they disappear inland pretty sharpish.

I got to Bempton just after sun-up, and walked past the visitors centre, which was closed, and immediately saw a Short-Eared Owl hunting over the longer grass behind the building. Unfortunately, with the sun just peeking above the horizon behind it, it was impossible to get any pictures or footage, so I just enjoyed it. After ten minutes or so, the owl dropped into the corner of the field nearest the cliff and just disappeared. I never saw it again.

I went for a walk along the cliffs, spotting Great Black Backed Gulls and Herring Gulls flying just below me. Large flocks of Rock Doves/ Feral Pigeons kept flying out from the cliff, but, though I looked for Peregrine, I could see no reason for them to have done so. As I was walking along, I scared a bird up from the path in front of me. Unfortunately it was about eight metres ahead and the sun was behind it, so I couldn’t get an ID on it. It promptly dropped over the cliff and was lost from view.

After an hour or so I head back to the car park, thinking that I could stop off at Filey on the way back. I was halted, however, when I noticed the sightings board which I had ignored earlier. DESERT WHAETEAR it said, in letters of drywipe ink. It was dated yesterday. I hadn’t checked the Rare Bird Map for a few days, and so had no idea that the bird was here. Immediately I began to think of the bird that I had scared up from the path. It would be Wheatear-type behaviour to favour the barer ground of the path rather than the longer grass either side. I decided to head back down to the cliff path.

After another hour, I had seen nothing of interest. More birdwatchers had turned up in decent numbers, all hoping to to see the bird. The wind was pretty strong, and was heading south-east. After another hour people were muttering that it could easily have hitched a lift with the wind and be long-gone by now. People started to trail away back up the path. Just then, my keen eyes spotted a passerine come up from over the cliff and drop in the stubble next to the path, about twenty metres up. I ran up towards it, telling the birders I went past that I had seen something and pointing out the rough area. Just then, the bird popped up again, and another birder got on it this time as well. As we got close it became apparent that this bird was the Desert Wheatear, and a stunning male in pretty much summer plumage at that. After a few minutes of watching it flew onto the fence at the side of the path, then off across the stubble. I was commended on my sharp eyes by two other birders, and awarded with a cup of tea at the visitor’s centre.

With my photography skills, I'm like a young.... Photographer. I can't think of a famous photographer.

On the way back to Scarborough I saw a Sparrowhawk and two Kestrels cross the road, as well as a flock of geese near Flower of May. I pulled over and scoped the pond from my car, spotting a single Greylag Goose, a flock of Canada Geese, two Barnacle Geese, and at least twenty White-Fronted Geese. Not bad, I thought. Not bad at all.

Some of you might wonder where I was, with my nice non-italicised text. Not looking at a dirty twitchers bird is where. Although it is a sexy bird. Therefore I hate James. Plus he saw herring gull. The lucky bastard.

First some proof to back up my titular claims:

http://www.ttmadrid.com/blog/2009/03/21/return-of-the-kingfisher/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/marschu/5922074545/

http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/placestovisit/ryemeads/b/ryemeads-blog/archive/2010/04/01/return-of-the-king-fishers.aspx

Even local photographer Tony Mclean fell under its tempting spell:

http://tonymclean.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/the-return-of-the-king/

Anyways, my dear friend Steve came to visit me in Scarborough, and he definitely had no other reason for visiting other than spending time with me. We decided to go for a walk through Peasholm Park, our previous ‘patch’, if you will, from when Steve used to live in Scarborough. As we walked through the park, we reminisced about the Kingfisher we had seen here occasionally over the past few years, but had not seen this year. Amusingly, when  we reached the lake, a local birder pointed out a Kingfisher sat amongst the reeds. Just goes to show, eh? But I’m not sure what.

Steve’s video of Kingfisher:

The Kingfisher was not the only bird of any note though, certainly not. A Dipper had been seen on the streams (which we had just walked past without seeing anything) and there had been, mere minutes ago, a Scaup on the lake. The Scaup, however, had disappeared only seconds before we arrived . Three possibilities occurred to us, either the duck had flown off, or swum behind the island, or had been eaten by an enormous fish. Thinking that it swimming behind the island was the most likely, we split up. Rachel walked round the island to the left, and me and Steve walked to the right. Of course, with me and Steve each having a pair of binoculars and Rachel not having any, as well as us having more experience to draw on, it was obvious that that Rachel would spot the Scaup first. So she did.

I’d be tempted to identify it as a first-winter male, but take that with a pinch of salt, as you could count the amount of Scaup I’ve seen on the fingers of both hands (including thumbs) with only two spare. So, eight then.

Rachel also spotted a Pochard on the lake, which is the first time I’ve seen this species here. One day I’ll have to write up a full ‘Peasholm List’ with all the birds and stuff that I’ve seen here but I’m too lazy to do it now. 

 

 

 

Day -1 (Minus One) –

On Saturday 19th November, I set off to drive to Hull in order to meet up with Robert for our trip the next day. On the way, I stopped off at Hornsea Mere to attempt to see the Ring Ouzel and Richards Pipit that had been seen around there for the past couple of days. Within minutes I managed to fail utterly, as the field where both of these birds had been seen was off limits as some men wanted to shoot innocent geese in the face with exploding bullets until they were dead. Fair enough, I thought, I’m sure the geese deserve to be shot in the face by a ruddy faced, throwback of a man.

I instead set up my scope and looked across the mere itself. The sun was shining brightly, and was low on the horizon behind be, giving me excellent views of everything on the lake. Notable birds were 3 Red-Breasted Merganser, 6 Scaup, Slavonian Grebe & Black Necked Grebe. Not bad for half an hour

Day 1 –

After an ungodly set off time of 4:30am we made our way to Cumbria, accompanied by the soft soothing tones of The Prodigy.

Through a dense, unremitting fog I might add. Not fun to drive in.

We arrived at Sizergh Castle not long after 7am, with the intention of seeing Hawfinch. While driving up the road a Woodcock was flushed. After taking a place in the car park we gazed about were we had been told to see them. The trees were filled with noises unfamiliar to my dirty East Yorkshire ears. Around 5 Nuthatch could be seen flitting between the trees. Buzzards could be heard calling in nearby woods and Greater Spotted Woodpeckers were regularly seen amongst the usual tits and finches.

Probably one of the best car parks I’ve ever birded from, with the possible exception of the little one at the end of the road in Findhorn Valley in the Scottish Highlands. For readers unfamiliar with the bird fauna of East Yorkshire, I will point out that Nuthatches and Jay essentially do not occur in this area, so the first couple of hours watching Nuthatches and Jays, as well as Bullfinches, were a treat indeed.

At around 9am, more birders began to arrive with similar aims. As they talked amongst themselves, yours truly spotted a chunky finch fly into a low tree. I got several points for spotting the first Hawfinch of the day. (Two points, to be specific, as measured by our own personal bird spotting rules) Seconds after informing the locals, seemingly hundreds of people arrived. I can only assume they had been watching me from a distance, waiting for my obviously keen eyes to pick out the first bird. Not long after, James spotted another while the commoners fiddled with their tripods.

With Robert spotting a Hawfinch, and indeed the only Hawfinch at this point, I felt like I needed to get my finger out. So I spotted one in a beech at the other side of the car park. As far as I know, only two Hawfinches were spotted that morning, and they were by us, two beautiful, modest, humble lads from East Yorkshire. We rule. Also, I feel I must point out that Robert was only slightly exaggerating about the amount of people that turned up. He basically went “There’s a Hawfinch” and Boom! suddenly thirty birders with tripods were in the carpark looking at his bird.

I promise you, that is a bloody Hawfinch

After unsuccessfully attempting to extract a fiver from fellow birders for spotting the first hawfinch we set off.

Killington Lake was the next stop. It was a bit shit. Two more woodcock were seen, along with some crossbill-imitating woodpeckers. A horse tried to intimidate me.

We then popped over to Grisedale forest. It was also a bit shit. We found some nice mossy rocks near a river but that was about it. Those rocks could have been used for a tasteful nude photoshoot.

Walney Island was the next port of call. As we made our way up the road we spotted our first heron of the trip, taking the form of an urban Little Egret. Further up the road another white bird caught our eye. With a mix of foreshadowing and good guess work we had found a Leucistic Curlew. We did a quick lap of the east side of the reserve but saw nothing of amazing interest. We quickly headed into Barrow-in-furness for a warm meal and the Alan Partridge Audiobook.

Leucistic Curlew

Pretty chuffed with the leucistic Curlew. I love a good colour mutation, as well as any odd hybrid animals. Luckily this trip was to produce them in spades…. or at least two more ‘odd’ animals after this Curlew.

Day 2 –

We awoke from our slumber sort of refreshed. I’d slept about sixteen minutes all night, in marked contrast to Robert’s thirty-six hours. We stretched, yawned, and drove down to the South Walney car park. Our plan was simple, find a member of staff or a regular birder, and ask them about any interesting birds that we should be looking out for, then go find them. Unfortunately this plan was thwarted immediately by the lack of any other living soul in the area. Instead we decided just to walk around and see what we could find. 

Robert snapped into action like a sleeper agent being activated, and within seconds of setting off had spotted a pretty sexy male Stonechat sat on a rock near the path. We continued along, stopping in hides as we went, until we ended up in a hide that overlooked a small bay-like area. Here Robert spotted Knot and Ringed Plover, as well as an undoubted highlight for me in the form of a flock of Emperor Geese. An introduced species, the geese have been living on and around the island for at least ten years, and are the result of an escape from a wildfowl collection on Piel Island. They have bred on and off during that time, and in the most recent edition of Christopher Lever’s book, ‘The Naturalized Animals of Britain and Ireland’ he states that the flock was at least 21 birds strong at one point. On our visit we saw a maximum of ten of these stunning birds, and I for one hope that they persist here for years to come. My heart aflame with joy, I surveyed the herd again, this time taking note of the group of Barnacle Geese accompanying the Emperors. It was at this point that Robert outshone his previous blinding brightness. “Isn’t that a hybrid one?” he queried. He was right. Between the the flock of Barnacles and the flock of Emperors there was a single, odd looking goose. Superficially, it looked like an Emperor, but with black speckling on the white neck, a very dark breast, verging on black, muddy yellow legs, and a white arse. Classic Emperor x Barnacle hybrid, and a new species for my hybrid list. Perhaps the reason it stood between the two flocks was to symbolise its mixed heritage, or, more likely, it was a coincidence. Some pictures of hybrid Emperor x Barnacle geese can be seen here, but are not of the South Walney individual.

We continued our traversion of the island. The next hide showed us a healthy number of Red Breasted Merganser along with Eider and Goldeneye. Thrushes could regularly be seen flitting between bushes. We then walked up the west side of the island which faced the Irish Sea. Some unusual crows were mucking about behind us. As they drew closer they showed themselves to be a pair of Raven, A lifer for myself. Further along the beach two largish raptors showed themselves briefly over a dune. We raced up to get a better view while trying to avoid the numerous sloppy bovine plops. We both failed eventually. Further along the beach the raptors chose to reveal themselves as peregrines.  We made our way back to the car where we found a knowledgeable looking man. After James pumped him for information, we set off again. We made a b-line for the Long-Tailed Duck, finding the Stonechat on the way again. After seeing the cheeky sea duck we went in search of a Water Pipit. In retrospect I’m sure they are fictitious birds, like phoenix and Merlin. Driving around the island looking in various flooded fields we took a detour to a beach.

Moving to the shore, Turnstones could be found feeding amongst the exposed seaweed. Amongst the periwinkles, James found this fish in the a small rockpool. It appears to be a goby of the Pomatoschistus genus but I’m sure James will prove me wrong.

Pomatoschistus?

Oddly enough, in my four years of thorough rockpooling at Scarborough, I have never actually found a Sand Goby or a Common Goby, which are what this picture possibly depicts. They often occupy areas of lower salinity, such as saltmarshes and the lower reaches of estuaries, which may explain why I’ve not seen either at Scarborough. Anyway, this fish was too small to identify it conclusively as either Sand or Common Goby. Aww.

After grappling with menacing sea beasts we moved up to check the strand line for any bits of dead animal. An impressive haul of 32(?) sharks eggs were found. At least. I’ll have to get a picture of the box-full in my car.

After failing utterly at finding the Water Pipit, we decided to head to Leighton Moss, thinking we might be able to get a good hour or so of birding in there before nightfall. As it turned out, an astounding piece of luck and judgement resulted in us stumbling across a lovely birding spot. Before heading to Cumbria, I had looked for some target species to aim for. Whilst checking the deer that occurred in the county, I discovered a mention of a place called Leven’s Park, a stately home, gardens and deer park – and the deer park was home to a population of black, or ‘melanistic’ Fallow Deer. Unfortunately, I had dismissed this as a site to visit, as the website said that the price to enter house and gardens was £11.50 per adult. Madness. Strangely, the closer we got to Leighton Moss, the more signs we saw for Leven’s Park. Indeed, it became apparent that the route the satnav was following would take us right past it. I could stand it no longer. I turned to Robert, and said the noblest of sentences; “Maybe would should stop nearby and see if we can scope the deer through the park boundaries or something?”. Robert concurred, and our plan was go. Moments later we saw the entrance for the hall, and I pulled the car in. Just inside the driveway was a man raking leaves. Feeling brave, I asked him about the deer and deer park. Amazingly, it transpired that, whilst the house and gardens cost a kidney to enter, the deer park was free and had a footpath through it. I could have fistbumped him with joy, but I didn’t want to.

Minutes later we found ourselves walking into the deer park. Geographically, the park was a lot longer than it was wide, and was split neatly in two by a river that ran the length of it. The deer can just wade across the river as they see fit, but people can only visit both sides of the river by leaving the park and entering through another gate at the other side. There are also very decent numbers of mature Oak and Beech throughout the park, which one would expect would be good for wildlife. The first bird we saw was a first-winter male Goosander sat on the bank of the river. Robert then spotted a small group of Melananistic Fallow Deer on the other side of the river, giving decent binocular views. In addition to the Fallow Deer, the park is also grazed by what appeared to be Bagot goats, but my knowledge of domestic goat breeds is patchy at best.

As we continued through the park we started seeing more of the black Fallow Deer on both sides of the river, occasionally getting quite close and very pleasant views. We were also pretty much tripping over Jays, and Robert spotted a Buzzard fly out of tree and off along the river. The banks of the river were higher the further we walked along, and soon we were looking down on the river. It was at this point that a Dipper was spotted flying along the river, before dropping in and swimming around almost directly below us. Lovely.

To be continued.


Decided to go to Filey Brigg today to see what waders were about and for a bit of seawatching. Before I even got to my car, though, I had spotted this little beastie walking across the road:

The size and colouration reminded me of a hoverfly I had identified earlier in the year; Eristalis pertinax, the ‘Tapered Drone Fly’, but the abdomen was clearly a different shape. However, lacking a guide to hoverflies, I decided to take the easy way out and just bunged it on Ispot. Within ten minutes I had an ID, Eristalis tenax, or ‘Drone Fly‘. I’ve been a bit lazy with hoverflies to be honest, and this is only the fifth species I’ve added to my species list.

I drove to Filey, and the first bird of any note was a Fieldfare just inside the entrance to the country park. As I approached the top of the brigg, six Oystercatchers could be seen feeding amongst the seagulls. As I walked down the side of the brigg I spotted a Wheatear on the path, which, despite ten minutes of trying, couldn’t be persuaded to be a Pied Wheatear or a Desert Wheatear or anything else of that ilk.

Got to the end of the brigg and set up my scope. Large numbers of auk sp. were flying north, along with slightly fewer Gannets. A flock of five Common Scoter flew north, as did four Red-Throated Diver and a single Eider. Decent numbers of waders were seen along the brigg, with at least 12 Purple Sandpipers, 3 Knot, 1 Curlew, 1 Grey Plover, 23 Turnstone and 16 Dunlin. A Shag was also perched on the rocks halfway down the brigg, the first I’ve seen at this location and one of the best views I’ve had of this species.

Also found an empty shell on the beach. I knew I’d seen it before, but just couldn’t remember its name. Checked my species list when I got home, which revealed it to be Donax vittatus, the ‘Banded Wedge Shell

Stopped off at Tesco on the way home to buy sundries and comestibles, and noticed two Sparrowhawks circling high above. Not somewhere I’ve spotted Sparrowhawks before, so that was pleasant.

Of local interest, yesterday and today there has been a Velvet Scoter at Staindale Lake in Dalby Forest. Not a species I’ve seen before, but I’d rather see it in its natural habitat rather than at an inland lake. Just wondered how it managed to get there, the easterlies this week haven’t been particularly strong.

Got home, ate crumble, posted this.

After watching the Hippo episode earlier in the week on Channel 4 I decided to give the previously shown episode a go.

The premise is that an elephant is allowed to rot in the African bush, with the plethora of creatures showing up to feed on its festering body being filmed for our pleasure. And pleasurable it is. Within the first 10 minutes of the show a hyena is thrusting it’s head into the anus of the deceased elephant. A punctured bowel wall the forces gas out, creating a propelled post-mortem haemorrhoid to explode out. It’s the single best bit of tele I’ve seen all week.

The greatest thing about it is there’s nothing special about this. Anyone who spends enough time wandering the countryside will find all manner of creatures in various stages of decomposition. Sadly most natural history documentaries prefer to wash over this side of nature to help sponsor the romanticised view of wildlife that makes for ‘popular’ viewing. When documentary isn’t willing to show this side of nature it’s failing as a documentary. The fact this is happening to an elephant, one of the most culturally revered  animals, makes it a fair more interesting watch.

The repertoire of animals shown moves away from the usual stars of these programs. While lions, (living) elephants and leopards all make regular appearances, more obscure animals are given a fair amount of screen time. Notable is the inclusion of African Civet, Palm Nut Vulture and Silver-Backed Jackal, along with flies, beetles and interesting birds.

The only major let down was the choice of soundtrack. The emerging hyenas from the darkness was sinister enough without the need for rammstein-esque pseudo-metal to create a false drama where it wasn’t needed.

The cheap version of Cillian Murphy does a fine job presenting, with just enough presence as to be informative without distracting from the glorious amount of natural gore on offer. I could have done with a few more of the obscure species being name-checked but you can’t have everything.

Conclusion

When combined with Inside Nature’s Giants, Channel 4 is making a good push into the world of wildlife documentaries, although they still have a huge way to go before being comparable to the BBC. The joy of channel 4’s effort is in how they are slanted towards a more science-aware watcher, making for a lot more nourishing viewing then the usual slew of tiger and polar bear documentaries.

Watch it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbVBl9zWt54

I got up this morning, dropped Rachel off at work, and got to Marine Drive for just after half seven. I was meeting up with Stuart and we were planning to walk around the headland to see if the south-easterlies had brought anything in. 

First port of call was behind Marine Drive wall, which is where a few migrants can turn up, usually Wheatears and Black Redstarts. This morning, however, the most exciting bird was a Cormorant flying north. We then walked up the north side of the headland, and then around the south side. This revealed a grand total of two Redwings, about sixty Blackbirds and a Pheasant (a castle list first, if I kept such a thing) perched on the castle wall. Disappointed in our lot, we decided to walk around the harbour, where we saw the regular compliment of gulls, a single Turnstone and a Curlew flying north.

Feeling a little despondent, we thought that we may as well walk back round Marine Drive to our cars and set off home. Hearing this, the birds decided to get their acts together, and we were rewarded with two Red-Throated Divers in the sea just over the  wall, and another flying south. Only a few metres further down Stuart made probably our best sighting of the morning, and exhausted Short-Eared Owl sat on the sea defence rocks. Unfortunately it saw us only moments after we first saw it, and it flew round the headland into North Bay out of sight. 

As we got back to the cars, I heard a Peregrine calling from the side of the cliff. A quick scan with binoculars revealed both birds sat near each other in their usual spot. As most of the activity had been over the sea, I asked Stuart if he fancied an hour of seawatching (long time readers will know that this isn’t a particular strong point of mine) and so we journeyed to the Marine Drive shelter.

Stuart spotted the first birds of any interest, ten Wigeon flying north, which spurred me to have a quick study of the collins to try and get duck wing patterns branded on my memory. I spotted the next bird, a female Goosander flying north, which was followed shortly by two juvenile Gannets. Another Red-Throated Diver flew north, as did three other unidentified ducks, which were either Goosander or Red-Breasted Merganser but I couldn’t get the scope on them quickly enough. Stuart had to leave at eleven, but I hung around for the best part of another hour, seeing a flock of 23 Common Scoter heading south, two male Eider heading north, a Guillemot swimming south, and a Grey Seal swimming north.

So, not so bad really. Owls, funky ducks and huge mammals always cheer proceedings up.

There have been lots of waterfowl flying down the coast over recent days, a boon for people with the gift of seawatching. Unfortunately my seawatching ability is roughly equivalent to that of a blind, dead, cut-up and burnt fox with no thumbs who hates looking through optical devices. Imagine my joy then when I received a text telling me that a party of twelve (Twelve!) Tundra Bean Geese had landed in the stubble field just behind the seawatching hut at Long Nab. These would be a lifer for me.

I quickly jumped into the car and set off, forgetting that there are roadworks at present between Scarborough and Burniston. After a slightly longer detour than I would have liked, I get into Burniston. My phone goes off again, and I pull over and check it. The message informs me that there are in fact eleven (Eleven!) Bean Geese and one White-Fronted Goose. I’ve only ever seen White-Fronted Geese twice before, so this is in fact an added sweetener. I fire up the engine and continue my journey.

I park up and walk almost all the way to the seawatching hut. As I arrive at a good spot for scoping the field, I get my third text of the morning, informing me that the Geese flew off north, but may have landed near Hundale Plantation. Long story short, after almost an hour of searching, I locate the geese, eleven gorgeous Tundra Bean Geese and one European White-Fronted Goose. I have an inordinate fondness for waterfowl, so this was a cracking morning for me. I’d post some pictures but I don’t have a camera capable of taking pictures over distance, and even if I did, I would keep the pictures close to my chest like shards of gold.

I’ve only really started looking at beetles properly this year, tricky group of rascals that they are. Me and Robert saw what was probably a Devil’s Coach Horse near Beacon Ponds earlier this year, but I didn’t obtain pictures and so couldn’t confirm it.

However, after I finished at school today, a trio of kids came and brought me one they’d found in the school greenhouse. I was able to confirm it as a definite Ocypus olens. It was nice to able to bring it home and obtain the following mediocre image:

This now brings my beetle list to an underwhelming 31. Though, in my defence, I have seen many more beetles that I just cannot identify to species level.

Sunday 6th

Started in Bridlington harbour. Got my best ever views of Purple sandpiper.  Also Turnstone and Barnacle goose in harbour, Rock pipit on the harbour wall and Redshank and Knot feeding on the beach. Also saw a Great Black Backed Gull eat a crab whole. It probably also ate the hopes and dreams of nearby children.

I first saw the Barnacle Goose in Bridlington Harbour on the 7th Feb this year, though it was mentioned here as far back as January 2009. I’d nick it if I had somewhere to keep it.

Monday 7th

An early start to the day meant a nice early arrival at spurn despite the weather being grey, drizzly and cold. On the road to the point found a Great Grey Shrike sitting on a bush at the side of the road. Cracking view before it flew off north and a lifer for me. A walk around the point found 3 Redpoll (another lifer), and a buttload of thrushes (mainly Fieldfare with large flocks of Blackbird coming in off the sea). One odd sight was that of a fawn-coloured male Blackbird. Took a while to properly ID but was obvious with it’s bright yellow beak and uniformly coloured coat.

This website has a picture of a virtually identical Blackbird for those of us with no imagination.

Also found were some Collared Earth Stars. Drove back down the road to find Wheatear and Woodcock. Another walk round the point found us Black Redstart (yet another lifer) with Gannet and Common Scoter over the sea. James pocketed a few shark eggs (like a dirty thief).

Picture of the egg cases I found:

After reading the SharkTrust egg case website, I’m pretty sure I have only two species represented here. The large case on the right is that of a skate species, either Spotted Ray or Undulate Ray, but I need to rehydrate it so that I can measure it properly. I assumed that the other four cases were all of the Lesser Spotted Catshark, but the identification key states that, excluding tendrils, the length of the case should be around 40mm, which all of these exceed even when dry. This seems to indicate that they may well be egg cases of Nursehound, Scyliorhinus stellaris. I really need to soak them all first though to be sure.

As we come up the bank we stumbled upon a second Great Grey Shrike sat on top of some buckthorn right in front of us. Gave some nice views before flying off. Also flushed a Woodcock near an old bunker filled with bat droppings. A Waxwing sshringed above us a couple of times before finding a nice view of one on a nearby telephone wire. It then dropped into a bush to allow for a few poor photos. (My only lifer of the day, though seeing Shrikes is always life-affirming)

A small stop off at Sammy’s point produced a Peregrine (missed by me), several waders and a particularly late Willow Warbler. A stop off at Paull proved fruitless besides standard waders so we retired early for stew and Wayne’s World.

Excellent stew by the way.

Tuesday 8th

The previous days report of cattle egret at Sunk Island spurred on another early morning. Sadly the desolate and shocking landscape of Sunk Island forced us to give up our search rather quickly. I then received some news of possible work, temporarily postponing the adventuring for the morning. After then being rejected outright by strangers we set off again at midday.
Popping into North Cave Wetlands provided us with the usual Crested Plover, Redshank and a bonanza of six gull species. Best gull easily being the Mediterranean Gull on the main lake. My first self-found ‘weird’ gull. A pair of wigeon were also present on the far lake and I watched a Stoat chase a Rabbit that chased a Great Black Blacked Gull. An egg sandwich was eaten.
After that a walk around the often overlooked North Cliffe Wood provided some nice tit flocks, including a Marsh/Willow tit, Treecreeper and a possible Nuthatch. Woodcock were flushed from some undergrowth amongst a group of Redwings and a Pheasant gave me a small seizure. On the way out a Greater Spotted Woodpecker gave its best crossbill impression.
We then made for a brief look at Welton Waters/Brough Airfield where a trio of Short Eared Owls showed off. A Treecreeper was also found.
The evening consisted of veggie burgers and Jurassic park II – The Lost World.

Wednesday 9th

After further faffing about with jobs we made for Blacktoft Sands. On the way a spectacular number of gulls at a rubbish tip along the motorway may have inspired a future adventure.
Blacktoft was exceptionally quiet, almost bordering on dull. This was quickly remedied by a female/immature (I hate the phrase ringtail) Hen Harrier giving me 4 lifers for the adventure. It made several appearances throughout the day and was sexy as fuck.

Luckily my dear friend Steve was on hand to obtain these stunning frames of footage, which, if nothing else, prove that we saw one. Sit back and enjoy.


After a few hours some Marsh Harrier finally made an appearance and a female Kestrel hunted very close to the hides. Some large skeins of Pink-footed Geese also passed over head.

Over the 3 and a bit days 5 different raptor species were seen (Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine, Marsh Harrier and Hen Harrier) along with two pseudo raptors (Short-eared Owl and Great Grey Shrike).

Pictures will be added shortly.