Kilnsea

I had a great day out today at Kilnsea and Spurn. The weather forecast was gloomy and I wasn’t expecting much, but we escaped the rain (bar one very brief but heavy shower), and saw a great selection of species.

Things were relatively quiet out to sea, but we still managed to pick up several flocks of common scoter and a flock of eider, plus the odd sandwich tern, guillemot, gannet and kittiwake. Waders on show included whimbrel, knot, redshank, greenshank, turnstone, oystercatcher, curlew, dunlin, grey plover, ringed plover and black- and bar-tailed godwit. Sadly we didn’t get on to the curlew sandpipers that were around Beacon Ponds, but a juv knot somehow did a good job of fooling us for a moment! There were also plenty of little egrets and a couple of grey heron.

One of the highlights of the day was a single pink-footed goose, which came into land briefly on the Canal Zone pond, and other waterfowl around included a single wigeon, two brent geese, a flock of teal and several shelduck. There was a smattering of migrants about in small numbers, the undoubted highlight being three Lapland buntings at Beacon Ponds (a much sought-after bogey bird of mine!), and outgoing migrants included whitethroat, lesser whitethroat, pied flycatcher, whinchat, chiffchaff and yellow wagtail. There were also plenty of swallows and house martins around, and a single sand martin was seen.

Another great bird to see was a juvenile cuckoo, which gave great views around Beacon Ponds.

Raptors around were a couple of sparrowhawks (including one with a kill near the churchyard), a few kestrels, a marsh harrier and a probable peregrine that was a bit too far out to call with certainty.

Some pics…

Whimbrel Whimbrel Sparrowhawk with prey Sparrowhawk with kill Knot

Knot

Nom nom nom...

Song Thrush Oystercatcher Oystercatcher Guillemot Guillemot

The guillemot above was on the beach, and looked distressed, with two herring gulls closeby watching menacingly on. It didn’t appear to be injured, just looked unable to stand up in the wet muddy sand, and so I gently ushered it into the sea where it would stand a better chance. However looking at the photos I took I wonder if it had an injured wing and if I did the right thing – it’s so hard to know what to do in these circumstances sometimes.

A slightly more comical event was earlier on in the day when we were investigating Kilnsea Churchyard. We could hear an Acrocephalus warbler singing from the behind the churchyard, intespersed with what sounded like scratchy but expert mimicry of birds such as blackcap and magpie. The only bird we could think that would use such good mimicry was a Marsh Warbler, but it was confusing as the song didn’t seem right. So I tweeted the Spurn birds obs to tell them there was an un-ID’ed Acro behind the churchyard… only to hear back there were some tape recordings of various species being played in that location (presumably for ringing purposes)! Oh dear, not my finest birding moment…!

An excellent day, though, which continued on the journey home, with a very late swift seen over Hedon, and a hobby later on. Over 80 species seen or heard during the day, with a full list below (in rough chronological order).

  • Tawny Owl (near home)
  • Starling
  • House Sparrow
  • Robin
  • Carrion Crow
  • Mallard
  • Common Scoter
  • Herring Gull
  • Swallow
  • House Martin
  • Goldfinch
  • Kestrel
  • Magpie
  • Woodpigeon
  • Tree Sparrow
  • Blue Tit
  • Meadow Pipit
  • Bullfinch
  • Great Tit
  • Goldcrest
  • Long-tailed Tit
  • Sparrowhawk
  • Curlew
  • Blackbird
  • Whimbrel
  • Oystercatcher
  • Guillemot
  • Shelduck
  • Cormorant
  • Mute Swan
  • Great Black-backed Gull
  • Redshank
  • Sandwich Tern
  • Feral Pigeon
  • Wigeon
  • Whinchat
  • Reed Bunting
  • Yellow Wagtail
  • Linnet
  • Dunlin
  • Dunnock
  • Pheasant
  • Chiffchaff
  • Reed Bunting
  • Wren
  • Lapland Bunting
  • Little Egret
  • Greenshank
  • Knot
  • Grey Plover
  • Black-tailed Godwit
  • Brent Goose
  • Teal
  • Cuckoo
  • Common Gull
  • Ringed Plover
  • Gannet
  • Sanderling
  • Black-headed Gull
  • Bar-tailed Godwit
  • Lesser Whitethroat
  • Song Thrush
  • Kittiwake
  • Eider
  • Turnstone
  • Sand Martin
  • Whitethroat
  • Grey Heron
  • Pied Flycatcher
  • Pochard
  • Chaffinch
  • Moorhen
  • Marsh Harrier
  • Collared Dove
  • Buzzard
  • Rook
  • Swift
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull
  • Lapwing
  • Jackdaw
  • Hobby
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Skua Cruise 2011

This weekend I had my annual pilgrimage to Flamborough and Brid for the Skua and Shearwater Cruise.

I arrived on Saturday lunchtime, and made it up to Flamborough in time to learn I’d just missed a buff-breasted sandpiper at Thornwick Bay! Ah well! I met up with fellow birder Jason, and had a very pleasant afternoon, although it has to be said that it was a very quiet day indeed bird-wise. We spent quite a bit of time seawatching, but apart from a few sandwich and common terns, and the obligatory species such as gannets, fulmars, cormorants, guillemots, kittiwakes and oystercatchers, nothing came into view. Other stuff around included a nice pair of whimbrel, a trio of bar-tailed godwit, the usual turnstones, a small group of red-legged partridge, and a sedge warbler (practically the only migrant all day), plus a few grey seals bobbing around and giving good views.

However the lack of seabirds (even ones I couldn’t identify!) didn’t bode well for the next day. Would the Skua Cruise be equally bereft of birds?

Getting up first thing on Sunday for the 9am cruise, I joined the usual BirdForum regulars on the North Pier, stopping off to have a quick look at the easy purple sandpipers on the harbour wall. Kittiwake was also got before we left the harbour, and common and sandwich tern followed very shortly. It wasn’t long into the cruise we got our first arctic skua, giving great views as it bobbed around in the water next to the boat, and shag and common scoter were soon picked up too, fulmars were drifting around the boat, gannets were plunge-diving, ridiculous amounts of harbour porpoise gave cracking views as they broke the water, and the odd grey seal popped its head up. Despite my misgivings this was showing early promise… and it was only going to get better!

The boat drifted off to explore a huge raft of auks, mainly containing thousands of guillemots, but also a good few hundred razorbill (and two puffins were also seen later). Very quickly we got our first shearwater of the morning – a sooty shearwater sat in the water a few metres from the boat. A much sought-after lifer for me, and I got cracking views. Soon Manx shearwater was called too and distant birds were seen, another arctic skua seen, and a couple of arctic terns were picked out among the commons.

Exploring the auk raft further, we came along a second sooty shearwater. Or was it? Regular seawatchers on the boat realised it was too small, stumpy and – most tellingly – had a pale belly. The penny dropped and it was reidentified – Balearic shearwater, giving equally cracking views as the sooty! And mere minutes after we were all onto this the fella calling birds shouted at the top of his lungs, barely containing his excitement… SABINE’S GULL!!!! Most of us managed to whip round from watching the Balearic in time to see it just as it passed the boat, only brief views but enough to see its distinctive all-grey ‘W’ markings which differentiate it from the confusion species of juvenile kittiwake.

Following this excitement, stuff still tricked in, with a flypast by the one and only great skua of the trip, we finally got a cracking view of a Manxie, and a flock of little gulls found among the terns. A quiet spell followed, but on the way back things went a bit mental as Brid loomed back into view. A black tern was called, which turned out to be the first of at least nine seen (a remarkable number for the cruise), arctic skuas were appearing left right and centre, a flock of teal bobbed past (the only thing I’ve mentioned I didn’t get on to, and the one I can live with!) and five red-throated divers went past.

This is the fourth cruise I’ve been on, and while I’ve always enjoyed them a lot, I’ve always got the sense I’ve picked relatively quiet cruises, with only a handful of skuas or shearwaters seen. But this year more than made up for it – it’d take a lot to beat this one!

My camera’s not good enough for seabird photography, but Michael Flowers has kindly let me use some of his, which are below. (Check out Michael’s Blog for his own version of the day, and loads of other info on his birding and the nature courses he runs).

Arctic Skua

Arctic Skua [(c) Michael Flowers]

Balearic Shearwater

Balearic Shearwater [(c) Michael Flowers]

Harbour Porpoises

Harbour Porpoises [(c) Michael Flowers]

(You can see a pic of the Sabine’s on Martin Garner’s blog – also see if you can spot me in the short video of the boat crew!)

Brilliant stuff! After the cruise some of us went up to Thornwick Bay on the remote chance the buff-breasted sand was still around, but no avail! Consolation was a smattering of stonechats and whinchats on the way to the hide, and  little grebe was added to the day’s tally, but Flamborough was just as quiet as the day before, and nothing could top the rush of such a fantastic skua cruise – a brilliant birding experience!

Here’s my full list for the two days…

  • Greylag Goose
  • Mallard
  • Common Scoter
  • Red-legged Partridge
  • Pheasant
  • Red-throated Diver
  • Little Grebe
  • Fulmar
  • Sooty Shearwater
  • Manx Shearwater
  • Balearic Shearwater
  • Gannet
  • Cormorant
  • Shag
  • Grey Heron
  • Sparrowhawk
  • Kestrel
  • Moorhen
  • Coot
  • Oystercatcher
  • Lapwing
  • Purple Sandpiper
  • Whimbrel
  • Curlew
  • Turnstone
  • Arctic Skua
  • Great Skua
  • Little Gull
  • Sabine’s Gull
  • Black-headed Gull
  • Common Gull
  • Herring Gull
  • Great Black-backed Gull
  • Kittiwake
  • Sandwich Tern
  • Common Tern
  • Arctic Tern
  • Black Tern
  • Guillemot
  • Razorbill
  • Puffin
  • Feral Pigeon
  • Woodpigeon
  • Collared Dove
  • Swallow
  • House Martin
  • Pied Wagtail
  • Meadow Pipit
  • Wren
  • Dunnock
  • Blackbird
  • Mistle Thrush
  • Robin
  • Stonechat
  • Whinchat
  • Wheatear
  • Sedge Warbler
  • Whitethroat
  • Great Tit
  • Blue Tit
  • Carrion Crow
  • Jackdaw
  • Rook
  • Magpie
  • Starling
  • House Sparrow
  • Goldfinch
  • Linnet
  • Yellowhammer

Wharncliffe Wildlife

You may think I’ve been pretty quiet of late, and you’d be right! But I have been out and about, mainly patch-watching in the local area in Wharncliffe and Grenoside.

The area’s well-watched by other birders, and I’ve joined forces with three of them – Dave Woodriff, Andy Hill and Dave Simmonite – to create a multi-author blog to show off our sightings and photos. This blog will be used for the times I go off-patch, but if you want the day-to-day goings on from Wharncliffe, updated very regular by the four of us, then that’s place to go!

Wharncliffe Wildlife