29th May. Bus, Train and Automobile

Today started off in the usual fashion i.e. 6:30 start on the patch, off to work on the 8am bus and at my desk by 8:20. As the wheels on my chair came to a halt and my knees slid under the desk the bloody mega alert went off "Cleveland  Eastern Orphean Warbler (Though it was later corrected as a Western) Hartlepool Headland" Shit the bed!! I had a problem my usual birding friends were either in South America or old enough to have seen the last bird in 1983 and the car was twenty five miles away at Jo's work!

I had horrible sense of deja vu and was thrown back to 6th June 2011 when I received the mega alert of the White-throated Robin, whilst scanning an area of Spanish Steppe and feeling completely helpless.

Never ceases to amaze me how many birders get out of work in an instant
I was just on the verge of doing something desperate - like begging for a lift via the bird info service and running the risk of other birders thinking that I'm some kind of Billy no-mates (even if it's true, it still hurts) - when I hatched a cunning plan. I was to catch a train to Mexborough, pick up the car and dash up the A1. If all went to plan I would be on site by 3pm.  Actually, and without dragging this out any longer, I left work at 12, got the train, picked up the car and by 2:30 was parked up on Hartlepool Headland. The bird however was skulking and left it almost an hour before popping out in the sun.

Came across this nice bit of birding nostalgia whilst looking for the Orphean.

And as ever the Police were there to ensure that everyone's particulars were taken down...

22nd May. Complete Madness

Here's a conundrum for you to ponder over this evening's cocoa or what ever beverage you prefer - though after reading it I guarantee that you'll be reaching for the strong stuff, which in my case will be the tube of UHU in the garage.  In the style of Have I got news for you or that really challenging quiz on Lorraine Kelly can you spot the odd one out?

All of you that said that it's obviously the lobster looking thing in the top right corner got it wrong. The Monk Parakeet, Signal Crayfish, Ruddy Duck and Pheasant are all non-native species in the UK. The former three are all targeted for ethnic cleansing by DEFRA. However the Pheasant isn't and here's the twist. DEFRA have in their wisdom donated £375,000 of Taxpayers money to carry out a trial project to protect pheasant shoots from this natural resident.

The report ( https://raptorpersecutionscotland.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/buzzard-control-experiment-overview.pdf ) suggests four ways in which to help protect their precious investments from Buzzards.

1. Cut vegetative or artifical cover inside and outside pheasant-rearing pens. Provide shelters/refuges in the form of brash piles or wigwams. Possibly also wooden shelters/ refuges.
2. Diversionary feeding. Whole carcasses left on posts out of reach of ground predators. Type of carcass to be agreed with site owners. Provide for limited periods to reduce risk of increase in local buzzard population.
3. Translocation (permanent). Permanent removal off-site, for example, to a falconry centre. NE [Natural England] would be able tm provide assistance for researchers in planning and licensing negotiations with potential recipients.
4. Nest destruction. Breeding birds displaced by destroying nests under construction, for example, using squirrel drey-poking pole or shotgun from below thereby forcing the pair to move on to find another nest site or not breed that year. Care would be needed to avoid injuring birds.

Now living just a bus ride or two from the edge of the Peak District I know, just like my fellow birding mates, that the average keeper will go straight to number 4 and probably not bother with the squirrel poking pole, a bonus if you get one sitting!

So in these austere times our government chooses to use our money to oust a species that endured decades of persecution and still does, all in the name of protecting pheasants and their wealthy Tory voting owners!

13th Missing In Action?

I can't ever remember seeing so few Sand Martins
A fairly uneventful weekend on the patch with only a handful of Arctic Terns, early Saturday morning, to get the adrenalin going.
After an hour round the lakes this morning it was clearly evident that nothing was moving. With this in mind I set about walking the entire tree-lined perimeter. Having added Garden Warbler to the year list yesterday I felt certain that I could easily add Lesser Whitethroat and perhaps even Gropper and Sedge Warbler (only one record here!). Surprisingly I had none of them and most alarming of all was the distinct lack of warblers, with the exception of Blackcaps and half-a-dozen Whitethroats, though on the plus side I did find a healthy population of House Sparrows near the houses at the southern end.  I only managed a couple of singing Willow Warblers and an occasional Chiffy.  Things aren't adding up, the numbers just don't seem to be there. Some of the Wheatears at Orgreave must have been here for three weeks or more perhaps an indication of how reluctant birds are to carry on with their journeys? Is there still more to come, or has something sinister hit our summer songsters on their journey north?

11th May. Wood

Heavy rain over the last couple of nights set expectations high and with a brief Red-necked Phalarope at Old Moor yesterday and an oh so close Arctic Skua over RV this morning, my enthusiasm wasn't totally unfounded. However the best of the two morning visits was a sleeping Turnstone on the island and a handful of lovely peachy presumed Greenland Wheatears.

Afternoon visits seldom come up with the goods so the temptation to leap off the bus on my way home was not high, but with a few seabirds noted at one or two inland localities I thought I'd give it a go.  Cold and windy when I arrived, I spent much of my time going through the hirundines and Swifts with most of my fingers crossed, but to no avail.  Walking across the causeway a distant tringa through the bins didn't appear to have red legs and worthy of a closer look. Sure enough it was what I expected - a Wood Sandpiper. Another addition to the rapidly increasing patch list.

7th May. Below Par May

Some might think that following the Arctic Skua I've spent the last ten days sulking. No quite the opposite. In fact I bounced straight back up and found 3 Brent Geese sleeping on the causeway the following morning. Okay so they're not in the same league as an inland skua, but they're still scarce in these parts.  Other movement on the 27th included a Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, 17 Dunlin, Turnstone and a couple of tundrae Ringed Plovers.

After a rather dull weekend the Monday morning showed promise with another flock of 10 islandica Black-tailed Godwits, Greenshank and finding that yet again I was pointlessly carrying the DSLR around with no memory card in it. Another arrival of Wheatears was evident with at least 18 and a cracking male Whinchat (a worthy candidate for best looking British bird).

Steve rang me mid-morning to grip me off with a Great Grey Shrike, fortunately not on Orgreave but at nearby Blue Mans Bower. I managed to get over in the early evening, where, true to current form I managed to take some awful photos in the failing light.

Tuesday was even better, again with an easterly wind and overcast conditions. Still good numbers of Wheatears with at least 22 present. A low flying Hobby came past at head height, a most welcome SF year tick my first since 2010!  An adult Little Gull followed shortly spending thirty minutes or so feeding 'marsh tern' like occasionally coming close enough for the pathetic photographer.

A possible Atlas Flycatcher at Flamborough Head the previous afternoon had been relocated to South Landing. I couldn't get too excited about it, but seeing as I had the offer of a lift I couldn't really turn it down.  It certainly looked an interesting bird, with it's velvety black upperparts, massive white wing patch and a white forehead spot like a miners helmet. I can't add anything to the debate, because I'd be making it up or quoting stuff from books or plagiarising articles by well respected ornithologists - but that doesn't seem to be stopping most of the contributors to the various internet threads on this bird!  What's ever so exciting about this bird is that for the first time ever we could be adding a new species to the British List based solely on it's DNA. Birding for the 21st Century indeed.
Soon to be on every birders Christmas list

Up to now May is proving truly dull and I'm not expecting anything of note at least until this coming Thursday.
Ta ra.