Friday, August 31, 2007

No big riot

Quiet again this morning, 06:20 - 08:05. Another single Sooty Shearwater tried desperately to shear north in no wind, and a single Manx Shearwater. Skuas tried to compensate with 5 Great Skuas north and 2 south, 5 Arctic Skuas south and one distant unidentified one that looked like it could be a Pom. The passage of terns continued (88 Sandwich Terns south), 28 Arctic Terns (and 8 north), 4 Common Terns south. Only 3 Red-throated Divers south, and 1 north, beaten into touch by a patch year-tick Great Northern Diver (Common Loon), that even landed on the sea, to hollers of delight from me. 4 Common Scoters S, 510 Northern Gannets N and 99 S.

Harbour Porpoise and unidentifeid dolphin again.

Sorry, must fly...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

it's oh so quiet

No shearwaters at all this morning 05:45-06:45 in a westerly breeze. One Pomarine Skua, a pale adult, heading south tried to cheer me up, and there were Arctic Skuas (Parasitic), 1N 1S and a single Great Skua N. A bonus passage fo 54 Arctic Terns south, with 2 Common Terns and just 16 Sandwich Terns, in contrast to yesterday (10N 6S). Red-throated Divers (Loons) continue to pass through (15 south, 1 north). 2 Common Scoters south, 98 Northern Gannets north and23 south, 9 Black-legged Kittiwakes N and 11 S, about 30 Northern Fulmars, and a single Atlantic Puffin.

6 Barn Swallows came in-off at dawn - I thought they were meant to be diurnal migrants?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ivory-bill Strangeness.

Updated in light of day...

Proof that the World has gone mad. Not 'mad' as in 'delightfully quirky, Mad magazine, Monty Python, comic book loony' harmless mad, but 'mad' as in, well, 'dark and brooding, cutting itself with scissors in a darkened bedroom at midnight'-type mad. I present 4 lines of evidence for which no single event is proof in its own right, together they present a compelling case that the World has, in fact, gone ,well OK, not mad.... but at least increasingly strange. Btw, before I start, no one has to take this personally - the time for wondering if anyone whould have done anything different is long past, and points 3 and 4 are at least genuine requests for more info. Liberally scattered with smilies!

1) Gambling on a Ghost Bird
If you're one of the normal population who doesn't have access to this, then I suggest you read (if you haven't already)
Tom Nelson
Birders World

The whole thing is very enlightening, but I am baffled by this last remark

"Whether that uncertainty will haunt Cornell remains to be seen. "In some people's minds, the failure to find better evidence in the last couple of years has not been good for the reputation of the Lab of Ornithology," says Russell Charif of Cornell. That specter doesn't worry Fitzpatrick. "I move with the actions that I deem appropriate for the possibility that the birds are there," he says. "And I don't look back."

Come out and say it guys, I can think of no explanation for that, or many of the other statements in there... except to think that no one thinks we're actually looking for a real bird any more. So we pretend it's there and act as if it were. No harm done there, except this leads me to...

2) How much?
Sometimes when I go out for a little refreshment on a Friday and get up on Saturday morning to find I've been mugged by a sweaty monkey who rubbed mud in my hair, bruised my knees, took a crap in my mouth and stole £50 from my wallet, I think that maybe it's time to change my ways and not p*ss so much money up the wall. Apparently, though, I haven't even started. If you believe what you read elsewhere on the web, there's possibly been some debate at the US FWS really about whether they have written a meaningful action plan. There's some political thing going on here. Still, 3 cheers for habitat creation!

3) However, I will concede it's all about evidence, which brings me to... that mystery photograph competition.
Now I would think, without even looking at the picture... that these birds have to be unidentifiable. If they were identifiable, they would have been identified. They look like ducks or shorebirds or something. I'm pretty certain that if they were IBWOs the white trailing edge to the wing would be visible. And it isn't. But as a bit of harmless fun and to get some opinions on the process of bird identification, it does no harm. but I spluttered on my tea when I read that this was actually presented (yes PRESENTED) at the AOU meeting. With no conclusion, but what was the point? First... are these the only putative woodpeckers that were photo'd? Give us some context... let us see what Pileateds, Red-headeds, look like in these automated images. Point out how these birds are different. Show us some Pintails and Mallards and everything else that's so much commoner in the swamp than Ivorybills. Without that, this whole mystery photo thing and the way it has been handled smacks of either desperation (or mischief! :-))) ). Sort out the data! Which leads me to...

4) New videos!
These videos are not identifiable... because if they were they would have been identified, again. They look pretty much like the Pileated Woody in the Luneau video, but then again, so would any black and white bird. I have the same criticism as for the mystery photos - it is very unhelpful to present these data without context. Were these the only b+w woodpeckers videoed flying around in the swamp? If they were, they I think we'd all concede that it's very unlikely they hit on IBWOs first and only time. So, show us the videos of Pileated, etc. Show us a video of Brian going 'Pileated' and a Pileated flies off from the tree trunk. That way we can see why these birds are different. Unless they're not. Show us the videos of someone going 'IBWO... no, Pileated, sorry' etc. I can't believe that never happened.' How many woodpeckers were videos that winter. How many Pileated, how many Red-headeds? It goes back to the way science works, or doesn't in this case. CONTROLS! As we tell people in the lab... 'No one cares about your work as much as you do', so sort the data out and tell people why you think it shows what it shows. What we don't let people do is to take half-baked data out into the World and challenge the reader to make of it what he will. The IBWO is an odd case because unusually, there are lots of people who care about the data as much as the workers do, but I feel that the release of these data in a half-baked, see-what-you-think way is almost like taking advantage, challenging other people to do their work for them. In fact it really is taking the mickey note another :-) . I think it's right and proper that this video is released, but if anything new is to come of it at all, we need to see the videos of things that weren't IBWOs too. Otherwise it's like working in a vacuum. Context context context.

See, i was constructive!

At length did cross an Albatross...

...Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God's name.

Dinnae fash, I haven't been suppressing stuff. In common with everyone else on the east coast I found out that things had calmed down at sea today. Only 6 Sooty Shearwaters north, 05:50 - 07:05, and 2 Manx Shearwaters. There was an atypical passage of 150 Sandwich Terns (south), cf. 9 Arctic Terns (4N 5S) and 1 Common Tern S, 4N. Northern Gannets still holding their own (341 N, 89S), and a few Black-legged Kittiwakes (42N, 17S).

Most important for my patch year list were 4 Bar-tailed Godwits north. Also 1 Annoying Small Wader south.

2 Arctic Skua ads south, and 1 sat on the water quizzing the Kittiwakes about their breakfast. 1 Great Skua N. 9 Red-throated Divers south and 6 Common Scoters N pretty much complete the morning's programme of events. A Harbour Porpoise was lingering, and also that unidentified dolphin sp,. which is really starting to get on my tits.

"God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus! -
Why look'st thou so?" - With my cross-bow
I shot the ALBATROSS.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hear the rime of the ancient mariner...

...see his eyes as he stops one of three. Mesmorises one of the wedding guests: 'Stay here and listen to the nightmare of the sea!' bam badabam badabam badabadhh! etc.

Much as I have to grab my birding opportunities whenever I can between working and looking after my lovely family, quarter to six in the morning is becoming increasingly impractical. There I was at the clifftops at 05:40 and IT'S STILL DARK!!! Pre-dawn, at least, but even so there are Manx Shearwaters on the go, and a Sooty Shearwater. Game on and eyes down! Not much breeze, but eye-boggling Northern Gannets going backwards and forwards, and lots of things to look at. Short of time, so will cut to the chase.... 05:40-07:06, 581 Northern Gannets (456N), 102 Black-legged Kittiwakes n, 50 Manx Shearwaters N and 4 S, 15 Sooty Shearwaters north, 15 Commic Terns (11N), 7 Arctic Terns S, 12 Common Scoter (10N), 1 Velvet Scoter N, 5 Eurasian Teal, 14 Red-throated Divers (13 N), 3 Great Skuas, 2 Arctic Skuas N, and 28 Annoying Small Waders.

1 Minke Whale surfaced, also a Harbour Porpoise and an un-ID'd dolphin sp., that was prob Bottle-nosed or maybe White-beaked.

This was definitely a day to stay on and do more, but unfortunately it was the University's Open Day and I was obliged to go and tell people what a fantastic place it is to study Biomedical Sciences. It IS fantastic, btw, if you're thinking of doing it. We kick butt. But I was hearing during the day of all sorts of goodies turning up on east coast seawatches. There are Great Shearwaters in the North Sea, if you believe everything you read on BirdGuides, which I do.

Once my contractual obligations were fulfilled, I popped back in for a look at to sea on my way home. So arrived at the clifftop carpark and Sh*tG*dDamnH*llF*ck there are 3 Northern Wheatears sitting on the rocks. That beats my weekend total and mmmmm.... passerine migration. Now I had a choice - trees or sea, but the lure of those Great Shearwaters was too much. So from 16:15 to 17:45, still without much weather, the gannet and kittiwake action was slacker (68 Northern Gannet N, 6S; 48 Black-legged Kittiwake N, 25 S), but the Sooties were still coming through... 25 Sooty Shearwaters N, and 1 zig-zagging south, just to be different. Fight the War F*** the Norm, and all that. I've gone very sweary again tonight. Only 6 Manx Shearwaters north... but one group of 2 was carrying another Balearic Shearwater with them! Ka-ChowWWW! A mile+ distant, but clear contrast between black-and-white duo and brown and buff singleton, in a close pack. A Pomarine Skua adult went north (good!), also 3 Arctic Skuas and I tried to string a Long-tailed Skua going south, but couldn't quite do it. It was distant, but looked small and very airy... but a juv, so more difficult to prove. Forget about it.

5 Arctic Terns and 6 Common Terns south, a female Common Eider with 3, 6/8 juvs on the water, and a raft of 5 juvenile Atlantic Puffins looking lost. What's the matter... did Mummy and Daddy leave you? Shouldn't have been such a bloody pain then, should you? This is a salutory lesson for any other small boys and girls who insist on demanding comics every time we go into a newsagent. Not that I have anyone in mind.

No Great Shears or Sab's Gulls though, so I can only conclude that the ones everyone else saw were stringy :-) note smileys again. Pretty happy with what I got today, but the patch year list has stalled, so I'm going to have to induce a few of those Great Juv Gannet Shearwaters, Cory's Fulmars, Black-legged Sabine's Gulls and Long-tailed Arctic Skuas for myself. :-O Even a Roseate Sandwich Tern would do. Argh... quick nurse, more smilies before I'm lynched.

Monday, August 27, 2007


Call Arthur C Clarke. Missing in Action ... 11180 Little Gulls. If found, please contact the Warden at Hornsea Mere.

Sunday 26th August

The streets of Newtonhill and Muchalls were resounding to the cheery chirping, chakking and squeaking of Greenish, Barred and Icterine Warblers this morning. But only cos I was playing them. Four hours birding and guess how many migrant passerines I saw... ONE Northern Wheatear. Admittedly a rather stonking adult male sat on wires by the farm between N/hill and Muchalls. But it's not a lot. There was a fresh westerly that wasn't helping.

It was a nice one though. Northern Wheatear.

Like Saturday, I decided to look out to sea for long enough to get a Sooty Shearwater, and assess how worthehile it would be to stay on. In contrast to yesterday, it took an appalling 10 minutes to see one today, going south at incredible distance (well over 2 miles). I gave it another 10 minutes after that, but there was really nothing doing (i.e. 18 Northern Gannets north and 35 south), 6 Blac
k-legged Kittiwakes, 1 Red-throated Diver north and 2 Great Skuas south.

Two White-breasted Dippers were together on the burn, first time for a while, but to be honest there's nothing else I can be bothered with. :-)

Today's corpse, a petrified Common Toad. I wonder what it was so petrified of? The approaching Range Rover, most likely. haha. Look, it crapped itself.

Who said the arable weed was dead?

Poor farming practice

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Out the house before the kids woke up. Of course I knew the chances of getting Greenish Warbler for the patch list today were vanishingly small, but even so I was mildly disappointed when I tape-lured greenish call at the Mill Garden and nothing popped out of the bushes. In fact, nothing at all popped out of the bushes - not just 'a little bit quiet for the time of year' but 'totally dead, rotten, buried and reincarnated as a small stoat'. Eventually picked up some Winter Wrens, European Robins, Chaffinches etc., but hard going. A Northern Wheatear at the clifftops was a wee bit of encouragement (second one this year!).

Not a seawatch day (aside from the westerly breeze, I was keen to get up to the Secret Garden and allotments), but I thought I'd look out to sea long enough to get a Sooty Shearwater, then go. TWO minutes later, one flew nonchalently past, going south at 800 m. I reckoned that, even for me, a 2 min seawatch was a bit weedy, so I gave it another 13 min (!!), getting 108 Northern Gannets going north ( = 432/h), 12 Black-legged Kittiwakes, 1 Red-throated Diver north (the exception that disproves the rule), and 1 Common Scoter north.

As I said, I was eager to get up to the Secret Garden, but predictably I needn't have bothered. 1 Willow Warbler in the allotments was the only potential migrant. But by way of a bit of a change, I found, photographed and ate this Short-tailed Vole Microtus agrestis.

Note the short tail.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Another cog in the murder machine

... which is a weird way of saying I was up early again this morning. It's killing me. Flat flat flat calm. I despaired of seeing any shearwaters, figured they wouldn't like having to flap their wings too much. BUT I was wrong; that's twice it's happened now. Cos between 05:45 and 06:50 I got 10 Sooty Shearwaters (9N 1S), which is almost like proper seawatching. Only 3 Manx Shearwaters. An unusually large number of Northern Gannets going north (391, cf. 37S), only 23 Black-legged Kittiwakes, 15 Common Scoters S and 3 N. 9 Arctic Terns north, 1 Great Skua south and 1 offshore with the gannets. Even by 6.45 it had all gone a bit feeding-flocks, with birds starting to meander round in circles.

Off passing interest, a Common Shelduck south is not common here, 2 annoying small waders went north which I think were Ringed Plovers - again not common here with no sand - and 2 White-beaked Dolphins were feeding about1 mile out early doors.

Right, this is impinging on valuable drinking time and apparently there's a thread on BirdForum about Fea's Petrels that has kicked off big time and I want to get a ringside seat.

I might be too late, but kids permitting it's give-me-Greenish-Warbler-or-give-me-death* this weekend. I've loaded the call onto my phone and I'm going to lure them out of the willows.

*death might be a bit strong. Give me piles.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sooty Galore

Well, 'galore' might be a bit strong, but I had 7 Sooty Shearwaters north this morning between 05:45 and 7:05 in nothing weather. Also 23 Manx Shearwaters, and another Balearic Shearwater (@06:23). Cracking. Tbh the Balearic was verging on a jizz-id cos of the distance (est. over a mile), but I'm good at spotting the flappy flight pattern, and at that distance I was picking up gleaming white on the Manxies whereas this one was just dirty. Put it out anyway. I like reviewing what else seawatchy is on BirdGuides, but sometimes they leave out the numbers of commoner things like Manxies that accompany the goodies. As you know, I'm inclined to suspect that everyone else (except me) is stringy note smiley ;-) and it would be nice to see which east coast seawatching sites appear to get a disproportionate number of scarce shearwaters and skuas cf. the numbers of Manxies and Arctic Skuas. I hope it's not Newtonhill.

ON a separate but related note... someone, perhaps me, should set up a website where we could gather North Sea seawatching records from observers each day from all the countries bordering it, and really get a feel for what is going on. One for next year. We could call it 'Seawatch North Sea'. Oooh, there's an explosion of imagination. Good idea?

Also this morning... 158 Northern Gannets north, and 5 south 71 Northern Fulmars, about 50 Black-legged Kittiwakes, 6 Red-throated Divers south (and 1 N), 4 Great Skuas north and 2 south, 3 Common Scoters,
4 Eurasian Teal and 3 unidentified ducks north, 20 Sandwich Terns S and 5 N. 1 Common Redshank north, and 1 annoying small wader.

Would have stayed longer today, but pesky work was demanding my attention.

Cripes, it's a bit crowded at Hornsea

And again.... Cripes, it's a bit crowded at Hornsea.

I went to Hornsea Mere once, about 18 years ago, and saw about 100 Little Gulls and a Black Tern, and i thought it was the donkey's wanger. Can't imagine what I would have made of 12000 Little Gulls.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tuesday 21st August

I forgot, yes forgot, to post yesterday's brief seawatch, the usual 05:40 - 07:00. Actually it's getting a bit dim in the mornings for these v early starts. I'm going to have to be more selective and choose days where it won't matter if I hang on a bit longer and miss the bus to work. Anyway, just in brief, cos I know you're eager to get over to skills-bills or punkbirder or something...

2 more Sooty Shearwaters and a Black-throated Diver (Arctic Loon) went north, being the best of the morning. The Loon was another patch year tick (God Save the King!). Five Manx Shearwaters went north, and 4 Red-throated Divers went south. I had been saying to myself (good move sitting on clifftops at 6 am talking to yourself?) that you know where you are with Red-throated Divers cos they go north in the spring and south in the autumn, and that's the way it should be. Then this other diver came through north andI was cursing for spoiling my little observation. Then it turned out to be Black-throated, so it became the exception that proves the rule, or something. No!! Don't go! Quick, more birds.... 99 Northern Gannets north, 55 south; 12 Common (Mew) Gulls N and 3 S; Five Great Skuas north and 1 Arctic Skua (Parasitic Jaeger), 57 Northern Fulmars (41N), 1 Velvet Scoter S, 3 Common Scoters north, and 1 Eurasian Teal, 8 Arctic Terns (1N, 7S), 36 Sandwich Terns (7N, 29S). Finally a single Dunlin went north, and I've a nasty feeling that might be a patch year tick too! :-)

OK, you can go now. Run along.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ach! I'm hit - go on without me

I was wondering where all these hits are coming from today, and it's from punkbirder. Alex Lees (punkbirder, apparently the brainy one, though I have no way of knowing if that's true) has been bitching that I had better 'accessories' than him. I guess he's referring to this...

In which case, it's true, I did have better accessories, but he had better hair. You pays your money and takes your choice. Alex was one of only 2-3 of lifers at the Fair this year (hi to David Conlin too), though I got some very valuable year ticks, and I didn't see a single bird all weekend.

Obligatory shot of eager BirdSpotters basking in BirdFair sunshine

And this is for Hazel - a boring brown bird. Original here.

They call me Slim Shady...

...I'm back, I'm back. BirdFair info posted later.

So, lots of interesting things to tell. I *distinctly* remember telling you all not to see anything while I was away, and while Darrell obliged, I see the rest of you were out seawatching - bit of an East Coast movement with lots of Sooties and a few Balearic Shearwaters yesterday by the looks of it. Someone was stringing Great Knot and someone else was seeing Sooty/Bridled Tern (actually that might have been real for all I know). Also I noticed that on Thursday some helpful person had READ my blog and POSTED my Pomarine Skua onto BirdGuides. V nice - gave me a shock when I checked BG that night and saw someone else birding at N/hill, then realised it was me!

Went down to the sea this morning 05:45-07:00 to see if I could get some aftershocks, but it wasn't very good, although a single Sooty Shearwater came through north as I was preparing to give up at 06:55. No other shearwaters at all, but 14 Great Skuas (11N 3S). No other skuas, but 1 Velvet Scoter north. No other scoters, but a Common Scoter N. Oh, wait... that was another scoter. Well, no other other scoters, but another set of 41 Common (Mew) Gulls south, 121 Northern Gannets north, (28 S), 35 Northern Fulmars (26 N), 37 Sandwich Terns south, 1 Red-throated Diver (loon) north, only 6 Guillemots/Razorbills, all north (when they move out they really move out) and 1 Atlantic Puffin N.

1 Common Seal offshore was not the best of the mammal action, cos I am on such a roll just now I found this sultry lovely.
To be honest, I think we would all have benefited if I'd found it a few days ago, but being that small, with the proportionately long tail, I reckon this has to be a Pigmy Shrew Sorex minutus. A patch tick if true. As such, I dedicate this shrew to Marianne Taylor, in recognition of her 'hungry shrew hypothesis'.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

For once the rich white man is in control

Another early morning, and just in time. I was at the clifftops by 05:45 just in time to catch a Sooty Shearwater heading south at 05:50 in calm weather. The forefront of a good seawatch?? Not really. I got one other shearwater, a Manxie, before giving up at 07:00. A Pomarine Skua going north at 06:40 was good too, otherwise 2 Great Skuas south, 1 Arctic Skua north. 14 Arctic Terns went south, 1 Common Tern, another 9 Commics, 6 Sandwich Terns south and 7 north. Another 19 Common (Mew) Gulls going south today, reasons unknown, 186 Northern Gannets north, and 31 south. 5 Common Scoters north and 7 south. Most entertaining bird was a Grey Heron (at least I assume it was Grey) heading south skimming the waves about 2 miles out, begging the questions where did it think it was going (A. south) and how was it getting there (A. flying).

I seem to remember there's a 'record' of 4 huge eagles/vultures seen from Cape Clear circling the Fastnet Rock(i.e. about 4 miles away)
with ponderous wingbeats. That has always screamed 'heron' to me. But as they say, every day must have its hoodwink :-O

Only other thing, 2 Common Seals (Harbour Seals) Phoca vitulina poked their noses out of the water. Not as common as Grey Seal here.

So, short and sweet today and I'm off to the BirdFair - British Birds stand. Full of good stuff and don't forget the BirdGuides BBi DVD that promises to be better than something that's better than sex. NO ONE has to see any birds while I'm gone, OK?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Who's a good pig?

Seawatch again this morning, 05:40 - 07:00, calm SE1-2 etc. Different every day, and today I started to catch up with my Arctic Skuas (3 south). Also 2 Great Skuas, south, then about 7:00 as a feeding flock of Black-legged Kittiwakes was building up (c100 birds), there were 2 Great Skuas sat among them menacingly, possibly the same 2. Also on the water, small rafts of apparently flightless Guillemots (Common Murres) and Razorbill adults, in the process of moulting their flight feathers all at once. Pestered by their kids as well.

This was one of those days like I had last year when Common Gulls (Mew Gull) are on the move (20 south) for no adequately explored reason, also 20 Arctic Terns south (one of the Arctic Skuas made a pass at them), 5 Common Terns and 19 'Commic' (the sun was in my eyes, M'lord, please don't beat me again). 25 Sandwich Terns back n' forth.104 Northern Gannet (62 north), 25 Common Scoters (21 N), 3 Common Redshank south and 1 Red Knot. best bird... a juvenile Little Gull feeding among the Kittiwake flock as I was about to pack in and go home. Another patch year tick... [FX, a Mr Burns-styleee 'Excellennnnnnt']

So mildly entertaining again, but I get the feeling the birds are all a bit happy and relaxed. They're getting flabby. What we need is a good storm to stir things up and bring me a few more shearwaters.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Power of Prayer

A walk round the patch, thinking maybe some passerine migrants might be in order. Getting a bit jumpy as it is the Bird Fair next weekend, and last year I was marooned down there for the best early autumn fall for a number of years. Grrrr.... Anyway, there were no east coast passerine migrants around today, a fact confirmed by BirdGuides, where it's all herons and waders today. Not that I helped myself by not getting out til mid-morning. By the time I'd decided to get up, served the kids their breakfasts of choice (1 x Cookie Crisp, 1 x Coco Pops, and hyperactivity please), AND set up the bleeding 'Thomas the Tank Engine' trainset, mediated a dispute over ownership of the Nintendo DS AND found the remote control dinosaur, it was 9 am.

As I mentioned, my mobile phone records trace me to Newtonhill Parish Church* for 2 hours yesterday, for reasons that can only rationally be described as barbecue-related. I was asked if I wanted burger or sausage, but let's face it, all I really wanted was a juicy shrew. Now look what I found today. I'm not saying that God definitely exists, but if she doesn't, how do you explain THIS? Behold, Nature's Bounty!

I spotted this soggy gooey beauty from 20 m away - getting good at picking them up on jizz from a distance. If shrews need to eat constantly just to stay alive, I guess this one got a bit peckish half way across the road and 'Erk!', deid.

A quick look out to sea turned into a full hour and a bit seawatch, and I'm not sure why cos it wasn't exactly busy. Laziness I guess. I really like sitting down. It's only beaten by lying down. No Great Skuas today, but at 10:47, another adult Pomarine Skua went north - what's happened to all the Arctic/Parasitics? This was close in with spoons and everything, no possibility of mistake, before you start, you scabrous dogs. And although I complain... a lot... at least you can guarantee when looking out to sea that it's a different flavour every day. I mean, normally it's not a very nice flavour (yesterday was fish fingers (fishsticks), today was slug), but at least different, e.g. in contrast to yesterday, no Arctic Terns, but a trickle of Red Knots going south (39 between 10:15 and 11:30). Are they a patch year tick? I hope so... keep it ticking along. 2 Eurasian Teal heading south were a bit of a change, and there was a female Common Eider on the rocks with 3 well grown juvs - they're normally all eaten by the Great Black-backed Gulls before now. Also received by the editor.. 4 Manx Shearwaters north, 27 Common Scoters (25N in one flock, and 2S), 2 Red-throated Divers (Loons) south, 17 Sandwich Terns, 103 Northern Gannets (80N).

Got a really good recording of a juvenile Guillemot on the water, calling for fish. The link is here - juvenile Guillemot calling for its Dad - wanting fed. And a sonogram...

Compare it to the Razorbill on 29th July. Much less modulated (i.e. wavy). I notice putfile have taken some of my earlier recordings down because they consider them to be pornographic filth. It was just a Hume's Leaf Warbler! If they want filth, tho, I got plenty...

*The way Lizzie tells it... Jesus dies for us every Easter, and then we have to wait for a new Jesus to be born at Christmas. Between Easter and Christmas, there's no Jesuses. I have no comment to make.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Some surprises

To the surprise of all concerned, I found myself briefly in a House of God this afternoon. This was AFTER doing a bit of decorating, so the day wasn't going to plan, but a bit of seawatching but it right, 17:50 - 19:00, calm, with visibility coming and going, and some rafts of Razorbills, Guillemots (Common Murres) and Atlantic Puffins incl. juvvies on the water, and an atypical 50+ Arctic Terns feeding among them, with smaller numbers of Common Terns. A Common Redshank flew south, and passed by... by Jingo(!!)... a Great-crested Grebe on the sea - only my second Newtonhill record (Manchester/Merseyside-based birders might be shocked, but they're actually not common in NE Scotland). Get in! Maybe nine Great Skuas tonight, but more likely 2-3, i.e. 2 north, 1 north, 2 south, 1N, 1S, 1N 1N. But better, 2 Pomarine Skuas flew through together, heading north close in (nearly went under the radar). 8 Manx Shearwaters north, 4 Common Scoters, and a Peregine Falcon flying round giving the juvvie Black-legged Kittiwakes a bit of exercise. A measley 88 Northern Gannets and assorted Northern Fulmars feeding among the vast flocks of terns. A Mylar helium balloon ditched on the sea was entertaining an Atlantic Grey Seal.

In other news, congratulations and commiserations respectively to the McKinney and the ex- Miss Cole. I think I got married once - that would explain all those other people living in my house.
If I tried this here I'd just get lots of photos of surprised looking neds in burberry hats drinking Buckie. Works well in California tho - nice. But Bad Otter! Naughty Otter! In your bed!!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A tribute to human ingenuity... the Yangtze River Dolphin would never have thought of this.

*Irony Alert*

...but first... and hour's seawatching this morning. It was flat calm, starting at 05:40 and finishing with no small sense of relief at 06:45. It's getting worse. Two Great Skuas went south (or maybe the Great Skua, twice), and an Arctic Skua south just before I gave up. Actually it looked very small and I entertained the possibility it might be a Long-tailed, but it was too distant and too silhouetted. 3 Manx Shearwaters north (together), 66 Northern Gannets (47 north), 1 Common Scoter N, 3 Annoying Small Waders N (and that Common Sandpiper on the rocks), 1 Common Tern north, 4 Sandwich Terns and 3 Common (Mew) Gulls south. 1 Harbour Porpoise broke cover, and 2 Bottle-nosed Dolphins were breaching a couple of miles out. Nae Puffins.

And now... something completely different. This from

McClintock et al. 1978. Autumnal bird migration observed from ships in the Western North Atlantic Ocean. Bird Banding48: 262-277.

Imagine you are perfoming a scientific survey of birds migrating out at sea. You are on a boat... it's not your boat. You need specimens, but are forbidden to use a gun on board (and in America too!). But you do have an old bag of grapes you brought on board, and an elastic band. So you do something a bit naughty - clever! As long as you NEVER admit to it in print. Doh! This wins my award for bizarre research methods of the week.

It almost beats the thing about tying a video camera to the front of a canoe.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Why do I find it hard to write the next line?

I bought a ticket to the World, but now I've come back again. And a mid-morning stomp round the patch looking for further evidence of a species new to science, 'Sykes's Reed Warbler'. I didn't see one, mind I was looking in the wrong habitat. Tbh, I didn't really see much at all, unless you want me to recount sentimental anthropomorhic passages about a Song Thrush smashing a snail. You don't btw - I know this much is true. As I walked down to the beach I saw a Great Skua in the bay, attended by a few Herring Gulls and eating something disgusting and stringy on the water, probably not unrelated to raft of Razorbills nearby. A Common Sandpiper flying across was a useful year tick for the patch, and there were 2 Grey Wagtails feeding among the jetsam with the Rock Pipits. Then walking up the cliff steps I first surprised myself by getting an in focus shot of a Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas by phone-cam...

...and then stumbled over a real treat for you dead-shrew obsessives out there. Cop a load of this one. A Eurasian Water Shrew Neomys fodiens! And moreover, one of the dark-bellied form. Oooh.. I haven't been this happy since they sacked Thatcher and she cried.

Not too common* round here either - only 4 records in the North-east Scotland Biological Record Centre database (website).
*or at least, not too commonly recorded - not the same thing at all.

If you're wondering why I put it in my notebook, it's because I need to squash it for display in my pressed-shrew collection - 27 19th century mahogany cabinets and counting. That's true that is. This one is getting a drawer to itself. It's like Gold.

15 minutes looking offshore produced 35 Northern Gannets, 1 Great Skua going south and 1 Common Scoter likewise. And on my way back through the Barricades I counted 11 Common Swifts over the courts. Went back in the evening (5 o' clock) for a further 45 minutes sat in the pissing rain (no one else would have considered it, but always believe in your soul, I say). I could pretend I saw 7 Great Skuas, but over the 45 mins regularly spaced at intervals it was 1 Great Skua north... 1 Great Skua south...
1 Great Skua north... 1 Great Skua south... 1 Great Skua north... 1 Great Skua south... 1 Great Skua north. It's blindingly obvious that this is just 1 Great Skua, patrolling, nay marauding, up and down this section of coast, getting some amazing squeaky noises out of the Black-legged Kittiwakes. It must be the sound of their souls. Only 3 Atlantic Puffins today, 3 Arctic Terns south, and 24 Sandwich terns back and forth. Ah ha ha haaaaah, ha!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Rumour has it...

... that I sometimes go birding, when not gloating over the destruction of my enemies. It's true, I do. Boring seawatch 05:40 - 07:00 this morning, but of haze made the light difficult, with a southerly wind 3-4 (dropping to 2) not helping. Pretty much down at bmr with 5 Great Skuas (4 north, 1 south), 3 Arctic Skuas (2 south, 1 north), 231 Northern Gannets (138 south), 20 Common Scoters, 23 Sandwich Terns (8N, 15S), 3 Arctic Terns and 1 'Commic' Tern south, 2 Manx Shearwaters north, and a boring Grey Seal.

He was not the sort to shout 'Eureka'. but he came close to it that day

I wanted to do something about the magnificently named Vero Copner Wynne-Edwards, but there's nothing I can do that beats Bill Bourne's effort for quirkiness. All hail Bill Bourne!

I've just notice VC W-E went to Leeds Grammar School, as did I, briefly. And it's not every day someone brings you a tray of Audubon's skins they just found under a pile of soot.

Soon I won't need to scan bits of old British Birds issues because it will all be available on DVD. BBi will be launched at the British Birdwatching Fair, celebrating 100 years of BB. And it's all on the DVD and it's going to be bloody brilliant, AND it's cheap. See the BirdGuides website for details. I like the way their promo material mentions Bill Bourne by name! Buy it... while... you... still... have... eyes.

Hilarious but ridiculously overanalysed deaths of Herring Gulls involving moles, number one in a (probably) very small series.

Reproduced from Scottish Birds 7: 207-8 (1972), with a big recommendation for the Scottish Ornithologists' Club (SOC) - Scotland's Bird Club, publishers of Scottish Birds and guardians of the magnificent Waterston Library. Everyone who birds in Scotland should be a member. I personally aren't... but YOU should be! :-)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

After the pride, the fall

So after yesterday's mini-bonanza of interesting things to look at, this morning was a bit of a come-down. Breeze, such as it was had swung round to SW, never good. The usual hour produced 7 Manx Shearwaters north, 138 Northern Gannets (72N 64S), 3 Great Skuas (2N, 1S), 1 Arctic Skua N, 2 f Red-breasted Mergansers south, 6 Sandwich Terns N and 5 'Commic' Terns S (they were a long way away, honest) (no Dougal, these cows are small, those ones are just FAR AWAY...). 7 Atlantic Puffins north too, if I'm counting them now.