Posts Tagged ‘Arctic Skua’

A call on Saturday to one of my mates from York, Mark K, resulted in me asking him if he was going out birding on Sunday, he invited me along saying there was room. I met Mark K, Nigel S and Paz on the main street at North Cave (of Spotted Crake fame) on a mild morning in Yorkshire.

We arrived at Spurn around 9-15am and had a mooch around until we found one of the regulars who told us that most birders had gone up to do a bit of sea watching as the conditions looked favourable. We went into the hide and enjoyed a really good sea watch, noting: – 4 Red throated Diver, 10 Manx Shearwater, 3 Pomarine Skua, 20 Arctic Skua, 2 Great Skua, 1 Long tailed Skua, along with lots of the more common birds likely to be encountered at this time of year. I think it was the first time I have ever seen all four of the more common Skua species in one day! We all enjoyed the 2.5 hour sea watch along with around 20 other birders, it was really good.

After some food we decided to go to Kilnsea wetlands and Beacon Lane pool area. We all enjoyed a Wood Sandpiper performing really well just outside the hide, along with Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, and Ruff. A Whinchat and up to 4 Wheatear were also seen in a recently ploughed field nearby. There was a relatively slow passage of Meadow Pipits heading south with a few Swallows and 2 Swift being noted.

The hoped for Cory`s Shearwater that had been seen heading south from Northumberland, did not quite make it as far as Spurn, which was the only slight disappointment on the day. Good day out got home around 8-30pm.

Dave O.dscf4016dscf4031


Just myself and Steve K out for another east coast trip (think that`s 6 trip`s to Spurn this year?) Steve K drove and we departed a dark and gloomy Rochdale at 6am. We reached Flamborough just before 8am after seeing very little traffic. We started with a sea watch after descending the ever narrowing path down to the head (glad it wasn’t slippy) A few of the regulars were already there, Brett etc. Within 15minutes a Balearic Shearwater was seen and what followed was an almost constant passage of Great Skua or Bonxie`s to give them their Scottish name. They seemed to be in family parties of 4 or 5 at a time nearly all heading south. I have never seen so many Great Skua`s at a 2 hour sea watch before, quite fascinating! 4 Sooty Shearwater in single`s all headed north, around 3 Arctic Skua`s seemed to be chasing anything smaller than themselves around. 9 Red Throated Diver`s, 300+ Gannet`s, lots of auks (no Little yet Steve K)Fulmar and a few Common Scoter made up an excellent sea watch. With our legs regaining some circulation we headed along the coast heading south and soon found a male Velvet Scoter close inshore. Lots of Goldcrest`s landed at our feet having made it across the sea and they all began feeding in the low vegetation, these little bird`s really have to be admired. A Great Grey Shrike was pointed out to us by a Greater Manchester birder, thanks Mark. News of a Siberian Stonechat in a set aside field close by was checked out and the bird was soon located and gave very good views. Looked like a real fall of birds was in progress as we saw lots of Willow Warbler`s and more Goldcrest`s in the bushes leading towards Old Fall Plantation. Then talk about being in the right place at the right time, the Dusky Warbler had been re-found in the same area. The bird could be located by its call, but as all Dusky Warbler`s like to stay well hidden did not show really well until it sat in a bush for about 5 seconds. We followed the bird along the hedge for about an hour and the crowd had grown to about 20 birders as we left. As we made our way back to the lighthouse a Short-Eared Owl put in a cameo performance for us as it hunted for its breakfast. Well what a cracking morning`s birding that was! Refreshments at the car and then a decision to head for Spurn to try to catch up with Pallas`s Warbler and American Golden Plover (which would be a lifer for Steve K) It`s not a long way, but it can be a difficult journey, so, when we got behind a man towing a boat, a horsebox and two caravan draggers the pace really flagged. Upon arrival at Spurn, well the Crown & Anchor pub in Kilnsea really, a small group were admiring a bird high up in the tree`s. We dashed along and were soon admiring a cracking little Pallas`s Warbler, we watched the bird on and off for 35 minutes. Could it get better? We enquired about the American Golden Plover just down the road towards Easington and were told that it did fly away but may well return to the same field to feed. Within 5 minutes of leaving we were watching the plover as it happily fed on its own giving reasonable views. A lifer for Steve K and a great way to end what turned out to be a really good day`s birding. The lads from York were there also and we had a good laugh with them. We left Spurn area around 5pm and managed to watch a Tawny Owl fly across the M62 in fading light. We got home by 7pm after a long and enjoyable day!
Dave O.

All the A team met at 6am in Newhey for another east coast bash, with Bob at the wheel on a nice morning. With Steve K still needing to see the Black Stork in the Sunk Island area, we made it our first stop (it was not to be the last visit either) Still quite a few birders gathered around the usual general area that the stork has been feeding in. After about an hour of a no show by the stork, we headed off to Stone Creek. We met John (finder of the Mugimaki Flycatcher) and had a good chat about the general passage of the birds this autumn, lots of Swallows and Meadow Pipits going over, also a showy Kingfisher, very nice. Next stop a sea watch at Spurn with Arctic and Long Tailed Skua`s being seen along with Sandwich Tern, Gannet, but in general fairly quiet. A Yellow Browed Warbler had been found in the churchyard at Kilnsea, so we went for a good look at this lovely eastern species. The bird duly obliged and gave fleeting glimpses in lovely sunshine. The amount of Redstart`s in the area was quite high with around 15 or so in the area, the usual gathering`s of Whinchat`s was also enjoyable. A walk around the Canal triangle did not reveal much more but was nice. Steve K was now starting to sweat on the Black Stork that had been reported again in the Sunk Island area. We got to the area and guess what? yes, it had gone again! Two birders from the south of England had been waiting in the area for a while, also without any joy. Another trip to Stone Creek was made and as we all strolled around, I checked the news and the stork had just re-appeared! We all bundled into the car and headed off at pace to the spot (again) 3rd time lucky? As we got to the stork`s favoured drain, about 15 camera`s were clicking away, it was there. Steve K had a lifer and was duly congratulated. Lots of pictures were taken and after about 15 minutes the Black Stork took off, right over our heads, disappearing into a drain near the farm. Great views of a long staying bird, present almost a month now. We headed home via the back road towards Paull and Bob K gave us a cultural lesson about the area, thanks Bob! Reaching home by 6pm the day was enjoyed by all.
Dave O.

With a counter attraction on the Wirral of Cattle Egret, Red necked Phalarope & Pectoral Sandpiper, we put it to the vote and went to Spurn on the east coast. We thought there was more potential of something “rare” turning up and we were not disappointed. A full “A” team was assembled at a dark Newhey and Bob K kindly packed us all into his car. As the mists of the motorway began to clear it became a nice, warm day as we arrived in the Spurn area. Around 6 Whinchat were seen near Kilnsea Wetlands along with 2 Little Stints. At the seawatching hide, which was almost deserted as a Honey Buzzard was in the Easington area, we managed to see a few Arctic Skua’s a single Sooty Shearwater and a Great Skua and a steady flow of more common seabirds e.g. Sandwich Tern, Common Scoter & Gannets. A trip to the Crown & Anchor carpark had us soon watching a very bright Yellow browed Warbler and a bird, which for me, was my bird of the day, a Wood Warbler, very well marked and not seen very much on autumn passage. We then walked the Canal triangle to see if we could get on the Corncrake that had been seen earlier, without any joy. The churchyard and Beacon Lane where visited without any new birds and then as lots more birders returned from the Easington area, we decided to try for the Honey Buzzard ourselves. A good look around revealed mainly Kestrel’s and Wheatears, so back to Spurn. A showy Wryneck on “Sunny Beaches” caravan park was seen next, what a lovely bird and fairly close. Then a smart Great Grey Shrike was seen from the road in the canal triangle, it was seen chasing and catching bees and was great entertainment. A trip to Sammy’s Point allowed us to watch an energetic Red breasted Flycatcher for a couple of minutes, then a tantalising glimpse of a large raptor, that promptly disappeared! A Redstart & more Whinchat’s and one of our lads had 5 Curlew Sandpipers on the falling tide, they had gone when we left Sammy’s, we also missed a Barred Warbler, you can’t see all the birds. A call at the Canal Scrape and at Kilnsea Wetlands was our last birding of the day. A bird filled trip that will be remembered as, “one of those days at Spurn”. We reached home around 5-45pm with news of a Great White Egret on one of our local reservoirs in Rossendale ummm should I go?

Dave O.




Just myself and Chris B for a trip to the east coast with me driving. We met in Newhey at 6am and arrived at Flamborough at 8am with the roads nice and quiet. The weather was dull at first and becoming sunny around midday. There had been some good birds during the week with easterly winds and good sea watching. It had all changed on Sunday as after an hour, apart from lots of Gannets, a solitary Arctic Skua was our seawatching total! News of a Wryneck and a Barred Warbler in Thornwick Bay (near the lighthouse) had us looking for them. The Wryneck showed really well after a while and the Barred Warbler remained hidden. Lots of more common species where around which made the birding much more pleasant, after the springtime double dip of the Crag Martin (think that really hurt me). A trip to Old Fall Flash to see a Little Stint was next, along with a close encounter with 2 Roe Deer, who just ran through a hedge at the side of me! Two Greenshank also on the flash and lots of bathing large gulls. Time to leave the area and have a look out for other raptors in Wykeham Forest just west of Scarborough. Perfect conditions for raptors, but, in the hour Hobby, Sparrowhawk and a single Buzzard was all we saw! News of a White fronted Goose at Fairburn Ings (even though a bit dodgy) was our next stop and and after a good search around only a very large flock of Greylag Geese was apparent and no White front. We lastly visited a reserve that I have only been to once in the last 20 years, Swillington Ings. It used to be known as St Aidans Flood/Flash and was a dissused open cast mining area you could always guarantee things like Iceland & Glaucous Gulls and lots of Smew. The area has really changed and is ready to be taken over by the RSPB. There are lots of footpaths around the large area with lots of people using them and with lots of effort will be transformed into a great nature reserve in time. We called in here as there was a Black Tern in the area, the only hide was visited, access along Fleet Lane. We went into the hide and 3 of the local Swillington Ings members were present, they made us feel very welcome and even gave, yes gave us each a copy of their yearly report! A Spotted Redshank was seen and the lads told us how to find the Black Tern at the other end of the reserve, we had a good laugh with them and as time was against us we went along Astley Lane to where the very large “Drag Crane” is. This will be the RSPB visitor center area as it has a large carpark. The Black Tern was found after 10 minutes of searching and was really enjoyed after missing out on a couple of birds during the day. We reached home by around 6-15pm and both enjoyed our trip seeing 4 new year birds each.

Dave O.

Nearly a full team for our annual sea watch at Flamborough Head. Leaving Milnrow at 6am and settling down on the cliffs by 8am. The weather was not good for our purpose but, as we know it will not always follow what passes by these cliffs! In a couple of hours we saw:- 4 Sooty Shearwaters, 6 Great Skua & a very dark Arctic Skua and lots of Gannet,Fulmar, Swift and a few auks so, not a bad haul. We called in at Hornsea Mere and soon located 2 Black Terns and about 10 Little Gulls who just sat at the mere’s edge and again Swifts, nice to see a few staying around reminding me of summer! Next stop was Kilnsea / Spurn were we quickly located a Red Backed Shrike, we tried to find one of the Wryneck’s that had been seen earlier without any luck. It was pretty quiet so we pushed on to our next location. One of our number had not seen Stilt Sandpiper, therefore, Neumann’s Flash, Northwich, Cheshire was next stop. The bird was on a flash we used to visit in our old RSPB trip days, it has certainly grown up since we last visited, gone are all the large amounts of gulls from the tip that has closed and all the Turtle Doves that used to be there! Well enough nostalgia, the walk to the shelter / hide was short and the bird was still on show, it was a bit distant but,  it had been worth the long drive over. Time had once more beaten us and we got back to Rochdale by 6pm. Migration season is now upon us, lets hope it’s a good one.

Dave O.

None of us have ever been to Hilbre Island, just off the Wirral, so, on Sunday we decided to go! The reason was that one of the team needed to connect with Leach’s Petrel and a sighting of Long Tailed Skua would be appreciated for both of the other lads. There had been some action on the sea during the week with high winds etc. and as the forecast was just as bad, we all donned extra waterproofing. Leaving Rochdale, nice and early we reached West Kirby at 7:40am and encountered 2 almost naked gentlemen ( totally naked waist down), who had been swimming in the marine lake, we are not alone being a little eccentric birdwatching then are we? The weather was not going to script, it was not very windy and fairly mild, though the wind did get up once we were on the island. After working out which path to take, at 8:07 we headed of along the mile plus of sand, rocks, seaweed and sticky mud( I think it was mud??) reaching Middle Hilbre and onto Hilbre itself at around 9-00am.

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A few other birders later joined us at what looked like a lifeboat slipway with a birding hide above it. We made camp and began watching the in rushing tide, a few Grey Seals were fun to watch as they did their “surfing”. It wasn’t very long when we saw our first skua of the day a distant Arctic Skua chasing one of the many Sandwich Tern’s that were around. Great Skua soon followed on, then a Pomarine Skua was on view for a while as it flew around the wind turbines and green buoys chasing more terns until they dropped there prey. Gannets, Red throated Divers, Scoters and lots of waders were also seen over the high tide period. The highlight though was a juvenile Long Tailed Skua that flew towards and almost over were we were stood! A Great Northern Diver was seen with a Red Throated Diver and a nice comparison was made. A stunning Peregrine had flushed a lot of the waders on the way out to the island. As the tide began to retreat we had a look for other birds on the island and found:-20 Linnet, 1 Robin, 1 Swallow, 4 Meadow Pipit, 1 Pied Wagtail and a brief look at a Wheatear. All in all we really enjoyed the experience of visiting a remote island. The walk back was made a little quicker with the news of a Blue Winged Teal at Southport. Off we go through the tunnel again, this time the weather was dreadful with almost storm conditions welcoming us to Marshside Reserve, Southport. Met an old birding friend of mine and he said that the duck had not been seen for over an hour, we gave it 45 minutes, but, the weather was apalling and not as they say, “good weather for ducks”. We also missed a “Great White Egret” that was possibly, just a close to the road, Little Egret,there’s me being scepticle again! By now home and some dry clothes were beckoned, we reached home by 7-00pm, another excellent day’s birding.

Dave Ousey.

Our “annual” trip to the east coast is usually onshore high wind, rain and cold. Quite a nice change to sit on the cliffs at Flamboro` in shorts and getting a suntan! We reached the almost empty carpark at 8-30am, and after 2 an half hours sea doggin’  we saw a good list of species to add to our year lists including:- 4 Sooty Shearwaters, Balearic Shearwater, 10 Arctic Skua`s, 3 Great Skua`s, Little Gull and lots of Kittiwake`s. Large amounts of Gannets, Terns and Auks also present. One numb rear-end later, and a trip to Filey Dams LN Reserve was made. Apart from high water levels it still held 3 Ruff, Greenshank and a moulting Shelduck plus all the usual regulars, including a Sparrowhawk and a Grey Heron that “spooked” the birds, enabling us to see all the birds in flight! Where to go next? after consulting a map we realised that the raptor viewpoint at Wykeham was not that far away,we decided on there. Only Chris had been thier before and upon arrival 3 lads from Burnley told us that they had seen an Osprey and a distant Honey Buzzard, This place is really good for watching passing or local raptors as you can see many a mile. After a 10 minute wait 2 Goshawks flew above our heads and the lads said that there was a family party in the area, these birds kept flying around and gave great views. Also seen:- 2 Buzzard, Hobby, Marsh Harrier, Peregrine (it flushed the Goshawks out as it flew past) A party of 5 Crossbills and some Siskins also settled in the pine trees. What a place, we will be calling back at Wykeham. News of some waders at Lin Dyke hide, Fairburn Ings near Castleford had us getting a little nearer home. The sun was still beating down as we reached the hide enabling us to see all the relevant features on:- 3 Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stint, 3 Ringed Plover. Then from nowhere the local Peregrine flushed the waders away and as we left the hide a small party of Swift passed through the reserve. Time for home now, cracking day out!