Saturday, 29 February 2020

STELLER'S EIDER 2 guessed it?

Overnight drive tonight with Steve Lawton for Ferry at Scarbster at Noon tomorrow. Night in Kirkwall. First flight over to Papa Monday morning. Staying on the Island till Wednesday afternoon flight. Ferry from Stromness back to Scarbster then home. Simple, no nonsense plan.

At least I know this...isn't it...

Hopefully better weather, better reading glasses...and ID skills!

An Old School twitch into the unknown. The best sort. More exciting for its unpredictability. David Roche the local Birder has left the Island for a holiday. He was VERY helpful previously but personal circumstances meant I was unable to travel earlier. I missed the initial rush due to our UAE trip. I'm totally open-minded about the outcome, besides there's nowt on Tele'.

So, off we go. I'll try to post updates as the trip progresses...

Friday, 28 February 2020

Sea State

After yesterday's Village "MEGA" I intended another stroll, south this time. A message from Richard informing me of a Great-crested Grebe drifting South off School lane finalised the plan. The weather was deteriorating but I gave it a go. In fact I kept going to Cliff Farm at Out Newton. I'm in training?

I couldn't re-locate the GCG but I did score with my FOY flock of Common Scoter (P.83, H.55) heading South...

19 birds

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Patch Gold!

A crisp clear morning, so time for a dog walk along the beach. I could see a few RTD's from the cliff so I decided to try and negotiate the somewhat fluid temporary steps down by the runnel. I made it despite Buddy's best attempts to interfere!

I walked back South to hopefully check out the Divers. The sea was quite choppy due to a moderate NE wind which obviously didn't make for easy viewing. The first bird I picked out...wasn't a Diver. First thoughts due to the habitat were Red-breasted Merganser rather than Goosander. The conditions made getting a conclusive view difficult. The bird was swimming strongly North (into the wind) and kept disappearing in the swell...

I followed it North up the beach and eventually got some decent images...

Really chuffed to add Goosander (P.81, H.53) to my Holmpton list. Self-found Patch ticks are the most satisfying sightings. It's not easy picking these local gems...

Holmpton 170

I also saw my first Gannet (P.82, H.54) of the Year. I still need Red-breasted Merganser!

I have a cunning plan for next week. Maybe you can guess what it is?

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

NDC - Raptor Fest!

I passed through Bubwith just before 10am to the familiar winter site of  floodwater! Always an impressive sight...

After settling down in the Geoff Smith Hide I started to scan the Carrs. It was a bright, sunny morning with little wind...long overdue!!! To be honest the water level was far to high for optimum conditions. Most of the birds were scattered around the perimeter of the reserve giving distant views. However, there was plenty of quality around. Buzzards seemed to be everywhere with a conservative estimate being 10. Then...a Peregrine...and another! Both birds came to rest at the far end by some hay bales...

Large female
It was c1000yds away!

This bird hunted and returned to this perch throughout my stay. These two were both adults but a young bird (possibly two) were also seen on NDC and the neighbouring Bubwith Ings. Great stuff! This was my first experience of a multiple sighting of this species here. Special.

After a short visit to Selby for the obligatory chip butty (plus hair cut) I returned for the afternoon session. This paid off with prolonged views of a distant Red Kite, a much anticipated sighting as they had been reported in the area over the last week or so. A pair of Oystercatchers on the riverbank completed my Year additions bringing my total to 60.

Spring in the Air...?

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Food for thought?

An interesting email from across "The Pond"...I thought?

As the final days of 2019 pass, and January 1st looms, many organizations (eBird, BirdsEye, etc.) are promoting more and bigger birding in 2020, often with a “How to Do a Big Year” theme. Meanwhile, I had been contemplating writing an email proposing a different strategy:  one discouraging the seemingly perpetual county year listing habit that has developed in San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles, and elsewhere. Granted, we all bird for different reasons, with different styles. However, while some think of Big Years as primarily exploratory (and perhaps they are in less populated areas), long year lists are usually comprised of large numbers of species found by other observers that required chasing, often with few rarities or unexpected birds actually found by the owner of the list. Big Years on any scale have increasingly become  a product of how successful a person is at chasing birds found by other people, with little time devoted to exploration and a great deal of time earmarked for running after reported rarities. Clearly birding with this approach is satisfactory for many, but there are other, potentially more gratifying ways to bird than just being caught in an empty, unending cycle of chasing year birds.
Admittedly, year listing has a long tradition. However, since the inception of the Top 100 in eBird, the ephemeral year list has taken on a life of its own.  Chasing rarities has always been a part of birding, but chasing the rarity du jour is now repeated every year by everyone scrambling up the Top 100 until falling back to zero on January 1st.  (Clearly Sisyphus kept a year list.) A major downside to this is increased visitation to sensitive or restricted areas, with many eBird users not plugged into local listservs simply setting their maps app to direct them to the coordinates of the rarity, with no understanding of access restrictions.  Behind the scenes, eBird reviewers are cringing, dreading the onslaught of all of the known winter rarities being reported again and again the first week of January by dozens of birders anxious to get all the known rarities out of the way. So, as January 1st approaches, I’d ask that people reflect on how much Needs Alerts from eBird drive your behavior? Are they set to Hourly for Year Needs? How much time do you spend going to look for birds found by other people for your year list? Does that bring you the same satisfaction as unexpected discoveries or birding in new areas? Are public data displays like Top 100 your primary motivation?
Late last year, after learning about the 5-mile radius (5MR - ) approach to birding, I encouraged many birders to try it out, and several did. (Missed out? It’s not too late! Draw your circle with this tool: ) This has been a very successful style of birding for a lot of people, a new way for folks with limited time or money to stay active and engaged, and a number of new local hotspots have been found. Many folks have told me it has rejuvenated their interest in birding! The main point of this challenge was (and is) to encourage exploring the local nooks and crannies around your neighborhood. (I, for one, largely ignored Point Loma this fall as it fell outside my circle.)  Not all circles are equal, and the competition was really just intended to be with yourself – how many can you find, regardless of what others (in perhaps better locations) are finding? Where to get shorebirds if you’re land-locked? Checking that golf course pond repeatedly in hopes of a snipe or Spotted Sandpiper. Scouring small parks or residential streets for a rare warbler or vireo versus visiting the same famous hotspots every day. And so on. Exploration and discovery is major part of learning the status and distribution of birds in your neighborhood, your county, or your state. What is expected and not expected, when and where. Let’s do it again next year. It need not be a year listing approach, but simply adding to your cumulative patch total. Or – just throw the list out the window and bird with a sense of discovery and contribute to the ever-changing status and distribution of our local or state species. Yes, one is allowed to travel outside your circle, and visit famous sites, and chase rare birds, but I encourage you to spend more of your time exploring under-visited areas of the county or state.
Will you consider making a detour to check a park on your return from a (un)successful chase across the county? Large gaps in coverage are evident from looking at eBird maps – how much of this is being driven through without checking?
Take a look at this map of House Finch observations in San Diego, for example:
This species likely occurs across nearly all of empty space on this map, but they’ve not yet been recorded there by eBird users, almost certainly due to poor coverage.
Let’s look closer at North County:
And now the southeast corner:
The red pins in the very southeast are from Jacumba, related to searches for a recently found Lark Bunting. To the northwest of that, the Laguna Mountains, and the trail out to where Evening Grosbeaks and Red Crossbills delighted many. What awaits discovery between your house and Jacumba, and how many of you stopped somewhere else on the way to or from the Laguna Mountains?
If the eBird coverage of something as ubiquitous as House Finches is incomplete, just think of what the situation is for species of local and conservation interest like California Gnatcatcher or Cactus Wren. And how many rarities are hiding out there awaiting discovery? I get it, many people have stated that they don’t want to bird in residential areas or business parks. (However, many of these areas are certainly visited by folks when rarities are reported from there!) But what about the large swath of rural and undeveloped habitat in east San Diego County? Or any number of the more aesthetic state and county parks?
Not all of these unexplored areas are public, and most of them will not turn up anything “rare” on the first visit. But they may after multiple visits at different times of year. More importantly, however, by simply birding these hinterlands, you are updating and expanding our combined knowledge of status and distribution. By submitting eBird checklists from these areas, we fill in gaps on the maps. Another Greater Pewee checklist from Balboa Park this winter is a drop in the bucket compared to a visit to Barrett Lake or Portrero County Park. (Ever been to either of these locations? Me neither!)
Will you return to Jacumba in 2020, regardless of what’s reported from there? Will you check other trails in the Lagunas or the Cuyamacas for crossbills this winter? On the way to or from these spots, will you stop off for a quick 5-minute stationary eBird count in the middle of nowhere?
Hopefully, while you’re out in the far corners (or in the nearby nooks and crannies) you’ll be using breeding codes in your checklists, when appropriate. See the following link for a full explanation on when and how to use them:
Noting a bird on a nest, or one carrying nesting material increases the value of your efforts. A revisiting of Unitt’s San Diego County Bird Atlas (which included coverage through spring 2004) is overdue, and eBird data may one day be utilized as the basis for a new version, much in the way iNaturalist data helped drive the San Diego County Mammal Atlas.
We all, well most of us at least, enjoy listing. I’ll be on my way as soon as possible to see a new county bird, and given the distance, a state or life bird, but in the mean time I’ll try to focus on finding one on my own, or trying to familiarize myself with some new part of our vast county and state. Hopefully, by foregoing a list driven by Year Needs Alerts from eBird (Unsubscribe! As noted 5MR birder Karl Marx said, “You have nothing to lose but your chains!”), you’ll reduce stress in your life, explore parts of the county or state you’ve never heard of or been to, and, with luck, build a more satisfying list of “self-found” species of your own discovery. And, yes, reduce the workload of your poor eBird reviewers! By all means, bird more in 2020, but bird differently!

Monday, 24 February 2020

Slim pickings

I always try to offer something positive...BUT it's damn hard at the moment. Continuing inclement weather (a polite interpretation) and very little bird activity. I did hear my first Greenfinch (P.79, H51) this morning!!!

At the risk of over-egging things...the good old STELLER'S EIDER is still present on Papa Westray and seems to be remaining faithful to Tredwell Loch. Tempting?! Weather still an issue though, especially further North...surprise, surprise!

My pal Phil has just booked a fortnight next month in Cyprus. Hopefully I can help out a bit. I'm sure he'll have a great time and I'll look forward to following his exploits.

Over to NDC tomorrow...

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Green shoots of Spring

Bud burst is upon us (this post is highly optimistic). I've heard Song Thrushes singing down the lane, Skylarks and Curlews attempting to display. A Woodlark at Easington today.  I saw the Barn Owl again this morning quartering the field around 9.

All truly uplifting...BUT...the weather is truly diabolical and looks to remain so for the forseeable future. Sorry about that! Back to trip planning.

My new personal Texas patch is looking better and better with every visit to eBird...

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Doldrums - bird wise

Definitely a time of year for trip planning IMHO. Constant strong wind and rain here. Scoring points with family and at work (not too many here!).

National excitement over an AMERICAN HERRING GULL briefly in Devon...doesn't do much for me I'm afraid...sacrilege I know? I did travel to see one in Cambeltown, Scotland some time get it out of the way! Still not recognised by Clements (eBird)?

I'm still enjoying daily views of "my" Barn Owl hunting in the field opposite the Cottage. Forecast (for what it's worth) is favourable tomorrrow, so hopefully something to report after our family walk...not sure where yet. Dependant on the WIND!!!

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

A couple of hours at NDC

No rushing today. I trundled through Hull (you have too) and arrived at NDC around an unusually busy car park? A group visit. I didn't fancy a crowded hide so I amused myself on the phone for a while until they left.

It was bright...but still very breezy. The plus side to this was a large group of Whooper Swans tucked in out of the wind in the south-east corner close to Garganey Hide. This would have afforded a great opportunity for some decent pics...if I hadn't forgotten my cameara!!
THE bird of the session was a beautiful drake Goosander. I only saw it for a few seconds but a great addition to the Year list (scarce here). A modest 27 species seen withother highlights being 2 Marsh Harriers and c100 well as the Whooper Swans of course. As I left i bumped into Elaine from the Village. It was nice to see her again. She told me she'd seen 2 Red Kites earlier! Maybe I should have braved the hide.

I arrived home around 3 and took Bud to the field opposite the Cottage. A Barn Owl has been present for a few days now,in fact I saw it a sI left this morning. It was present again...

I enjoyed great views as I exercised ma boy...

Just a was 4.55pm.

Just one more pic from earlier in the week taken during my Snakey Lane yomp. A group of Wood Pigeons took flight but one was a Stock Dove totally unconcerned by my presence...

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

It's wild out there!

Not much to report as I haven't braved the gales recently...I'm keen but...

Cover is limited in these here I stay in the trees...seeing very little! Richard's Firecrest is still present. Not a bad bird to enjoy in these grim times. Finally sorted the car, so it's over to Duff tomorrow to hunker down in the Geoff Smith Hide. I know...WIMP!


STELLER'S EIDER 2 is starting to formulate. It's a fluid plan which could take many paths BUT at least there's hope. A/The TENGMALM'S OWL has turned up again on mainland Shetland.


Excitement for Texas chasers in the form of the FIRST WHITE WAGTAIL for the State! Wonder if it will wait for me? I thought that last year with the YELLOW GROSBEAK. Of didn't!


Sunday, 9 February 2020

Texas 2020 - An ever changing scene

As I sit here watching the hail beat down on my lounge window and the Acacia bending double, I wanted to post a few thoughts about my upcoming trip to my favourite Birding destination. Feel free to leave now!?

We arrive in Houston on April 12th. We're heading out West again to Kerrville, NW of San Antonio for three nights. The idea is to start with some "Hill Country" species before returning to Galveston for the rest of our holiday. No visit to Port Aransas this year.

Main targets in the HC...

Black-capped Vireo
Golden-cheeked Warbler
Zone-tailed Hawk
Rock Wren
Cactus Wren
Ringed Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher
Scott's Oriole
Bullock's Oriole

So to Galveston and Birding heaven. A few new ideas for this year, just for bit of fun...yes I can still have it! I'll be doing a self found list just for the Island and for a specific reserve which is local to  our accommodation...more later. The island is the perfect base to explore further afield with the free Ferry to the Bolivar Peninsular...and High Island being a particular bonus. The popularity of the area means that it can get quite busy on occasions (individuals and groups visit from all parts of the States and beyond) but as a seasoned visitor I know how to avoid the crowds...if need be. The atmosphere I have to say is always cordial.

My chosen hotspot is one of the less popular sites but has massive potential for "finding your own".
Dos Vacas Muertas (Two dead Cows!)...and it's just across the road.
Should! Our friend Lorna (of Calliope Hummingbird fame) will be visiting us again from "the Valley".

Last year I managed 263 species at a reasonably leisurely pace (can there be any other these days). Finally adding Cape May Warbler and Bobolink to my Texas List was VERY satisfying...indeed!!! I still have hopes of adding one or two to my list, although it's obviously getting harder as the law of diminishing returns starts to bite harder. Mourning Warbler would be nice. It's not just about ticks though...never has been. Experiences are THE main thing. One aim is to "jam in" on passing Magnificent Frigatebirds (they can be seen following the Ferry!). Swallow-tailed Kites are another iconic and truly beautiful migrant that passes through regularly. Then there's the Warblers...

These are peaks for the “windows of passage” for most of the eastern
warblers in Texas.
NOTE: These are general rules; however, in the biological world there are always
exceptions to the rules. Migration and the timing of migrants are not black or
white — there are lots of variations. A trickle of individuals of a given species can
occur at any time, but listed below are the peaks of passage.
Early-season Arrivals/Migrants - March/early April
Northern Parula
Black-throated Green
Louisiana Waterthrush

Mid-season Arrivals/Migrants - mid-April
Northern Waterthrush
American Redstart
Yellow-breasted Chat

Late-season Arrivals/Migrants - late April/early May

Should be  Will

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Signs of Spring?

Snowdrops peeping through and Daffodils trying hard to emerge now. Song Thrushes and Great Tits singing. How am I doin'?

Nice last hour yesterday after a needless trip back to Birmingham to sort the car out. 30 Fieldfares on Snakey Lane plus 22 RTD's of Seaside in a tight raft. Then a large white moth (Barn Owl) in the paddock behind the Cottage (first here for quite some time). Hope Springs eternal (see what I did there?).

More Gull controversy in Gloucestershire. A possible BLACK-TAILED GULL videoed at Newnham on the Severn Estuary. Some now suggesting LBB Gull? Who knows...I don't!

Very windy today but better forecast tomorrow and Thursday. Hoping to add a few Year ticks on foot...

Saturday, 1 February 2020


I've always thought of November as the "worst" month but I'm leaning more towards January these days. At least the former has the remnants of migration although the decreasing daylight will never be a plus. January has the new list advantage.... but that's about it really. It just feels er...dead.

Anyway... my totals...

Holmpton 45
Patch 77
Duff 36

So, February. We should get some signs of Spring, although the Thrushes have already made a tune or two. The first singing Skylark can't be too far away. Always a joy.

It has been VERY encouraging to see the number of Barn Owls present on the Patch. Well into double figures at different locations. Buzzards are common now but shouldn't be taken for granted.

A Black-throated Thrush has been found over the Humber in Grimsby. As I'm still deep in my car transition I won't be paying a visit any time soon.

More rain forecast tomorrow after a windy spell that had dried things up somewhat! Hoping to get out for a walk at sometime...