About Two Owls

Sunday 31 October 2021

Yorkshire Mega's Bonanza October Part 2

13th October - In retrospect we probably should have gone to to Flamborough Obs first thing and then headed off to Spurn Point but we didn't, electing to get down to Spurn as soon as we could.  It was a rather breezy day and for much of it, it was overcast which didn't help draw the birds out of cover.  We started our morning visiting ex-CHOG birder Mark Andrews who has moved to Kilnsea and has a wonderful location and garden next to the Humber.  We had a tour of his garden, which has already seen a number of scarce species but none for us, before we walked down the road to see if we could find a Western Bonelli's Warbler that had turned up the previous day.  It had been seen a little before we arrive in the Crown & Anchor car park but after an hour or so waiting and only having heard it call a few times we decided to head off and do a little seawatching and try again later. 

Our seawatch wasn't spectacular but it added a few year ticks in Red-throated Diver, Common Scoter and Goldeneye all missed in the early part of the year because of lockdown.  We also recorded Golden Plover, Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Pink-footed Geese, Razorbill, Guillemot, Rock Pipit, Skylark and Brambling.  

Skein of Pink-footed Geese passing by at distance Kilnsea Beach © Nick Hull

After our seawatch we headed back up the road to give the Bonelli's another chance to show but no chance so we headed off for lunch after which we headed to Kilnsea Wetlands before the tide receded and the waders leave to feed out on the Humber mudflats.  There was a good number of wildfowl and waders and we managed to add Spotted Redshank to our year list though we didn't find it in the roosting birds but caught sight of it when it flew out with accompanying Redshank.

We headed back to the Crown and Anchor to try for the Bonelli's again but when we arrived it still hadn't been seen but a message from the Spurn Obs came through to say there was a Jack Snipe on the Obs pond so we headed up the road and around the back of the Obs to join a number of birders already there watching the snipe.  We had great views and we saw a Jack Snipe swim in the pond something we had never seen before.

Jack Snipe_Spurn Observatory Pond Kilnsea © Nick Hull

The Jack Snipe was a fine way to finish our day at Spurn with a pretty good day list of 67 species on a pretty drab poor day, wasn't bad at all.

14th October - Back to Flamborough Obs for the mornings ringing session but it wasn't a great morning the wind had changed direction overnight and there was little migration, best of the morning was a stunning little Treecreeper up close.  So we headed back to the cottage for lunch and checked out up the lane at Buckton but generally had an easy day, fortunately as it turn out. 

Treecreeper - Flambourgh Obs © Nick Hull

15th October - We were up early and back to the Flamborough Obs with no idea of what the day would bring.  The first net round produced a single bird. the second was much better and added Lesser Redpoll and one of the local Tree Sparrows.

Lesser Redpoll, Yellowhammer,Tree Sparrow & Goldfinch  © Nick Hull

Then came the best bird of the weeks ringing sessions and strangely a species Jackie and I had been talking about over breakfast not having seen one for a while.  The last bird that appeared out of the bag was a juvenile Red-breasted Flycatcher the first we had seen in the hand close up and it was a little cracker.

Shortly after news came to the Obs that a Western Bonelli's Warbler had been found near to the lodge so Jackie and I headed off with a few of the other birders to see if we could catch up with this elusive species and hoped we could get to see this one unlike the Spurn bird.

We arrive at the location and the sun went behind the clouds and we waited for an hour or so, then the sun shone through again and shortly after we heard it calling along with another Yellow-browed.  It was a little further down the path and I manage to spot it moving through a sycamore and called to the others and eventually everyone was getting brief views.  

Western Bonelli's Warbler - Flamborough © Nick Hull

Jackie wasn't satisfied with the views she had so we went for lunch and returned and we both had much better and closer views though it was very hard to photograph as it was on the move all the time.  We left very happy and went out to the viewpoint and tried a bit of a seawatch but only added Eider to our list.

16th October - We started as usual at Flamborough Obs but things were very slow and there seemed to be very little migrations and it was damp and windy.  So we decided to go to Scarborough and start at Scalby Mills a place we've not visited before.  Looking from the sea wall we added Turnstone to our list, otherwise a good number of Wigeon and Oystercatchers with just a singles of Eider, Guillemot and Curlew, a few Redshank and a variety of the more common gull species.  Then news of a Snow Bunting at Bempton Cliffs showing well made up our minds of where to go next.

We arrived and enquired if the bunting was still present and was told it was down by the Grandstand viewing point.  It didn't take us long to get there and it was performing extremely well with no fear of people and allowed for everyone to get great shots of this northern breeding species.

Male Snow Bunting - Bempton Cliffs RSPB © Nick Hull

Whilst we were there on the info services it came on that an Red-breasted Flycatcher had been found at the Flamborough Fog Station.  We didn't panic as we had already seen one so we had our fill of the bunting and walked back to the centre for lunch.  Just as we finished one of the volunteers said had we heard that the Red-breasted Flycatcher had been re-id'ed as a Taiga Flycatcher.  There was no worries of where we were to go next and off to the Fog Station as quickly as possible.

We couldn't have timed it better as we walked across to where all the birders were the bird was flushed and it sat on the fence rail of the Fog Station and gave us good views though a tad distant for ideal photograph with just a 400mm lens.  I managed a few memory shots before it was flushed again by birders and photographer that had been watching it down on the undercliff as they climbed back up to the clifftop path and flushed the bird back down onto the undercliff.  We decided as we'd had pretty good views and that the weather seemed to be deteriorating we would call it a day and what a way to finish!

Taiga Flycatcher - Flamborough Fog Station © Nick Hull

17th October - This was our last real day of birding in Yorkshire, rather wet and drab, we went to Flamborough Head hoping for a bit of seawatching but rather disappointing but we had no room to complain our birding break had been superb with one lifer and four British ticks and a total of 116 species for the 10 days in the county.

Just to add a BIG THANK YOU to all at Flamborough Bird Observatory for all the work put in to organise MigWeek21 it made a great birding break.

Monday 25 October 2021

Yorkshire Mega's Bonanza October Part 1

On the 8th October Jackie and I headed off to East Yorkshire for a birding break to take in the Flamborough MigWeek21 with talks, bird ringing and walks all aimed at seeing migrants fresh in from Northern Europe or further afield. We have taken part in this event previously and had some very good birds such as Red-flanked Bluetail, Yellow-browed Warbler just to mention a couple. We also have had large thrush, finch and goose movements which can be quite spectacular.

We left Dorset early in the morning and as we couldn't book in to our cottage at Buckton until after 17:00hrs we figured that we would have time to fit in a visit to Blacktoft Sand RSPB reserve near Goole.  As there was a White-tailed Lapwing a very sought after bird species in Britain as there has only been ten UK records the last was in July 2010.  It's a species that is also on the Dorset list from Abbotsbury in July 1979, which is another story.

So around five and a half hours later we were pulling in to Blacktoft and the first person we saw was fellow Lytchett patch birder Shaun Robson who had called in to see the lapwing on his way to Newcastle and he told us just where to see the bird.  When we arrived at the hide only six people were there so we took a vacant seat and scanned the pools out front and quickly picked up what turned out to be our first mega of the trip, over the next thirty minutes is performed well and gave unbelievable views.  So we went off and had our lunch then visiting the other hides before leaving to get to our cottage.  Adding Curlew Sandpiper and Ruff, Marsh Harrier plus the more common species to get our Yorkshire list up and running.

White-tailed Lapwing - Blacktoft RSPB © Nick Hull

9th October - Our first morning we spent at Bempton RSPB as they had a ringing demonstration that morning and we had arranged to meet friends later.  We were greeted by the sound of chirping Tree Sparrow always a joy to see and we made our way to where the ringing was to take place.  The first few net rounds produced several of the common species Robin, Dunnock, Blue Tit etc.  Then the first of the autumn for us a Yellow-browed Warbler popped into the net and we had close up views of this stunning eastern gem.

Yellow-browed Warbler - Bempton RSPB © Nick Hull

When the ringing slowed and our friends arrived we headed off down to the breeding cliffs to checkout the Gannets colony as many still hang around for sometime after the breeding season is over and we had some great views of bird plunging in the sea for fish and gliding effortlessly by the uplift of the wind along the cliff edge.  There wasn't much migration going on, though we did have a few Chaffinch and Skylark coming in and moving over also a Mistle Thrush which isn't common here.

Gannet - Bempton Cliffs RSPB © Nick Hull

10th October - Out again early this time to Flamborough South Landing and Observatory.  The mornings ringing brought in very little in fact much the same as the previous day with the highlight being another Yellow-browed Warbler and a nice male Bullfinch.  We headed back to the cottage and Jackie went for a rest and I headed off up the lane/footpath to see what was around locally.  In fact there was very little as the area is quite intensively farmed but after about a mile I met RSPB's Mark Thomas a local birder.  He was investigating a sighting of a Yellow-browed Warbler in a small copse and invited me to join him which I duly did.  We had hardly arrived when we both heard the 'shweee' call of a Yellow-browed and in due course had good views as it moved around in some elder and thorn before heading back into the sycamore where we first heard it.  It was then that I realised the time and had to head back to the cottage for lunch.

Yellow-browed Warbler - Buckton © Mark Thomas

In the afternoon we headed to Hornsea Mere usually a good place to catch up with Little Gull and it didn't disappoint but we only had a single well marked 1st/winter bird, we added a flock of Barnacle Geese that flew in and a number of common waterfowl species but the Slavonian Grebe couldn't be found.

1st/winter Little Gull_Hornsea Mere © Nick Hull

11th October - On the Friday we arrived a real mega wader was identified a Long-toed Stint at St. Aidan's RSPB.  Jackie and I decided we would risk not going straight away, to avoid the crowds of weekend twitchers by going on a week day and Monday suited us best. So an early start and after an hour and fifty minutes we were pulling up in the reserve car park and getting directions to where the bird could be seen.  It was a pretty long walk possibly three quarters of a mile.  We arrived to find around a dozen birders present and they made room for us at one end and directed us to where the bird could be seen.  We had to wait for it to walk around from the back of a small island to come into sight but it appeared next to a Lapwing and looked really dinky in comparison.  Long-toed Stint is an Siberian breeding species that winters in Thailand through Malaysia to Australia and has only been recorded in Britain and Ireland on three previous occasions Marazion, Cornwall in 1970, Saltholme RSPB, Cleveland 1982 and Ballycotton, Cork in 1996.  Due to the distance we were from the bird I only managed a few memory type shots but it was a fantastic bird to catchup with.  We also saw Bittern and I had two Red Kite while Jackie had gone to get sandwich's for lunch.

This is the small island the stint frequented and the boxed area is expanded below

Long-toed Stint_St. Aidan's RSPB © Nick Hull

The dark rufous crown and prominent supercilium, long tertials with no primary projection and pale yellowish legs were very noticeable. When viewing through the telescope at high magnification the legs also seemed long for a bird of its size and seemed very flexed almost like a Jack Snipe much different than with Little and Temmick's Stint. In fact It reminded me more of a Least Sandpiper.

We lunched at St Aidan's before moving on to tick off another RSPB reserve at Fairburn Ings, our purpose here was to see if we could find Willow Tit.  We needn't of worried we checked in at the centre and were told to try the hides where there were feeders as they had been getting regular visits from Willow Tit in the morning. So we headed out and only went as far as the centres feeding station and lo and behold there on the fat balls was a Willow Tit.  None-the-less we did a circuit of the reserve and glad we did as we added two possibly four Great White Egret, two Cattle Egret, Grey Heron and Little Egret to our Yorkshire list.  Jackie also caught up with a Red Kite that circled right over us on the return path to the centre.  

Red Kite over Fairburn Ings RSPB © Nick Hull

At this point I'd just like to thank Alan Davis of 'The Biggest Twitch: Around the World in 4000 birds fame'. (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Biggest-Twitch-Around-World-birds/dp/1472918606). As we approached the centre, via a boardwalk, the corner to turn to get off and return onto the path was too sharp for Jackie's scooter to  drive around.  Instead of Jackie having to reverse all the way back Alan, who happened to be behind us, suggested to help me lift Jackie's scooter and spin it around the corner, which  between us we managed to do. 
Marsh Tit - Fairburn Ings © Nick Hull

We ended our day here as we started with Willow Tit at the centres feeders.

Willow Tit Fairburn Ings © Nick Hull

12th October - It was back to Flamborough for the early morning ringing session and it turned out to be pretty good with some thrush and finch migration.  With Redwing predominating a handful of Song Thrush and Blackbird the first Fieldfare and Brambling moving in off the North Sea all of which were seen in the hand except for the Fieldfare.  

A few of the birds we saw close up at the ringing demonstration

It was interesting to see the Blackbirds which they identified as most likely to be Scandinavian birds as they had longer wings and were slightly heavier birds also the plumage appears slightly sooty black compared to local birds.  The Song Thrush and Redwing were also Scandinavian birds, and Jackie was allowed to release one of the Redwing which was placed on her open hand on it's back where it stayed momentarily before righting itself and flying off.  

To be continued in Part 2

Monday 4 October 2021

September Birding & NocMig Ortolan Bunting's

Jackie and I visited eleven locations in September not all of them were necessarily productive but none-the-less we added species to our year list.  On the 1st we went over to Stanpit Marsh but we missed the tide and the birds had gone into the marsh to roost which made it hard to pick them out amongst the long marsh grasses. The highlight here was our first Grey Plover of the year which a really smart summer plumages individual though there was a few signs that it had started it's autumn moult.  We had been there sometime scanning looking for the reported Curlew Sandpiper but we couldn't find them anywhere but as a consolation an Osprey came over and quartered the harbour and gave us pretty good views as it dived to catch fish 
eventually it was successful and flew up towards the River Avon.  Jackie found our only Wheatear of the day which was in around the gorse patch on Crouch Hill.  Otherwise it was very much the usual species that were to be found.  Jackie and I popped around to Mudeford Quay to the public loos and had a view across the harbour to see if we could add anything and got lucky finding two Curlew Sandpiper and five Knot on the sandbar which finished the mornings birding off very nicely.

We had a morning walk out to Old Harry from Studland on the 7th where we had good numbers of Whitethroat and a steady passage of Swallow, House Martin and a few Sand Martin making their way South for the coming winter. We also had a couple of Wheatear out on the head and we had the usual gull species.  It was the insects that were the highlight with our first Clouded Yellow Butterflies and my first Field Sand Digger Wasp Mellinus arvensis which I found as it took a fly on some bracken which it will take back to her burrow as food for her young after she lays her egg on to the fly. 

Clouded Yellow Ballard Down © Nick Hull

Sand Digger Wasp Mellinus arvensis Ballard Down © Nick Hull

Our next visit was out of county to Keyhaven and Pennington Marsh, it has always been a bit of a favourite site for us particularly in the autumn as you always can find a good assortment of birds there almost at anytime of year.  Our target species here was Spotted Redshank but as always we were finding everything but this species.  We found Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and a forty or so Yellow Wagtail on Pennington Marsh but it wasn't until we were making out way back to the Keyhaven car park that I spotted a wader in the back of the Fishtail lagoon and scoping it found our target bird a Spotted Redshank.  I know they aren't a particularly scarce species but we seemed to been missing them in the field pools at Lytchett so it was nice to get it on the year list.

Male Kestrel Keyhaven © Nick Hull

Wheatear - Keyhaven © Nick Hull
It wasn't until the 19th that we managed to add another species to our year list with Ruff which had been on the Sherford Pools field along with Little Stint, Green Sandpiper, Hobby, Marsh Harrier and Jackie managed to get to see her first Kingfisher of the year.

We ended the month with a walk around Greenlands Farm and back via the Agglestone Rock with the only highlights being a couple of Crossbill and Wheatear and a single Whitethroat.

Since I started recording the sounds of birds on nocturnal migration going over Lytchett Bay I've recorded an assortment of different species from Common and Green Sandpiper, Redshank, Greenshank and Spotted Redshank, Whimbrel, Curlew, Redwing, Fieldfare and Song Thrush, Ring Ouzel and Pied Flycatcher, the Pied Flycatcher was possibly the best I've record up till now.

Other friends who have been doing NocMic recording around the harbour have recorded a number of Ortolan Bunting but not me, well until now that is. Because on the morning of the 5th September at 01:46hrs I found 5 calls from a single bird flying past and comparing the sonogram with recordings on the Sound Approach website they appeared to match an Ortolan Bunting.  I sent a copy of the audio to Paul at the Sound Approach who was able to confirm the record as being indeed a Ortolan Bunting. At last I had joined the Ortolan Club.

Four days later I was going through the nights recording as before and came across another recording of what sounded like another bunting passing over this one was slightly closer and at a quieter time of the morning at 03:05hrs the sonogram looked slightly different but it was within the correct frequency range but I wasn't 100% so sent off another audio file to Paul and yes a second record of Ortolan Bunting for the Lytchett Bay airspace.

What will be next?