Monday, 12 January 2015

Barmston and St. Mary's Island 2014 - James Spencer

2014 saw the start of my twin attack on Barmston and St Mary's Island as my home and work patches respectively. A slow start to the year saw me unable to visit St Mary's until late May as I was seconded to central Scotland for six months and with just a handful of visits to Barmston in the first quarter it wasn't proving particularly profitable.

January saw a solitary visit to Barmston where I came away with 40 species and 45 points (I'm already ahead for 2015!). The best bits were the returning Kumlien's Gull which was a very subtle individual although unanimity was seemingly reached as it returned in a fresh 2nd winter plumage. My second patch record of Great Northern Diver and a close in Razorbill. Auks can be a bit ephemeral here in the depths of Bridlington Bay and whilst Guillemot is easy enough getting a Raz in range can be tricky.

February was bleak with again a single visit to Barmston. As I delicately put it Teal, Mallard and Grey Partridge fell victim to my point cannon. A blur of electric blue along Barmston drain indicated a Kingfisher had strayed beyond its territory to the sluice.

Demands on my time remained high and balancing work and being a Dad continued to eat away at my patching potential in March. Despite this my single visit to Barmston yielded a swathe of early seabirds with Manx Shearwater, Kittiwake, Fulmar and Common Scoter making appearances. The shearwater especially was manna from heaven as they generally pass by about 5 miles out thanks to Flamborough Head.

April saw a couple of visits to Barmston as I was determined to get cracking and the arrival of the first migrants. Sand Martins were back in their breeding colonies and a few warblers marked out their patches. My first patch record of Shelduck since 2008 (there have been some sizeable gaps in effort!) was on the sea amongst the gulls. A pair of Gadwall summered and looked intent on breeding but after I flushed them from every tiny drain and puddle across the summer it appeared their efforts may have been in vain (no flushes intentional). A Canada Goose north along the seafront was a patch tick and a number of Corn Buntings were defending their corners in one of their remaining strongholds. I also saw the last of the Kumlien's Gull before it headed to the high Arctic for the summer.

By mid-May I had got another visit in to Barmston and was starting to get all the spring species under my belt. 92 species and 103 points by this time. A trio of Whimbrel on the beach were decent if expected and a Little Owl across the bonnet at dawn an absolute bonus of a patch tick. Some tern action was happening offshore and a few Common Sandpipers were noted on the puddle by the outflow. Another patch tick was a pair of Tufted Ducks which set up shop on the drain. Four visits to St Mary's got the ball rolling including the splendid Spotted Flycatcher below. Other stuff included a Goosander which was a bonus plus Stonechat and Grasshopper Warbler. I had managed to get to 50 species in short order.

June had some list filling at Barmston and not a lot of note at St Mary's. Seawatching time was acoming and a marauding Bonxie proved it. A seawatch on the 10th July provided worthwhile with a flyby Storm Petrel and Little Gull noted at long-range. On the 16th after doing some Nightjar surveys I had the afternoon to kill and I decided to doze in the hide at Mary's. This was proved worth doing as an adult and juvenile Roseate Tern floated past. Kerching! Various other odds and sods added themselves to the patch list as I left a happy boy. The terns were later picked up going past Hartlepool Headland.

A couple of visits to Barmston in late August were very productive with hundreds of Little Gulls foraging offshore with Arctic Skuas and a solitary adult Long-tailed Skua amongst them. The Long-tail was a patch tick as was a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull on the beach, Also amongst the Little Gulls were single Arctic Tern and Black Tern. Points bonanza! The next day a funny phyllosc which sounded like a Pied Wagtail in a bush failed to materialize and was let go. A late Cuckoo was awesome and Yellow Wagtail finally made the yearlist. A Greenshank flew high overhead - the second time in two years I have picked a migrant up. Up at St Mary's I managed to grab a couple of hours during a relatively big movement of large shearwaters but whilst others managed to add Cory's and Great my need to go to work meant I only connected with Sooty Shearwater. Not too shabby mind!

September started well at St Mary's with a couple of Little Stints amongst the stinking weed that had washed up. I dipped the Ruff that was also present but hundreds of birds were utilising the feeding. Water Rail and Grey Wagtail were timely additions. At Barmston dispersing Grey Wag made it a double patch year tick while two Kingfisher sightings made it a record year. A juvenile Mediterranean Gull was an expected addition although I was starting to think I was going to miss this species. A fall of scarce migrants in late September gave me new patch ticks at St Mary's of Yellow-browed Warbler and Red-breasted Flycatcher. No bonus points for these but an 'f'' in the find column for a juvenile Long-tailed Skua which flew inland over my head whilst searching the scrub. Very odd.

October saw a wedge of time at St Mary's and an early morning seawatch with my colleague Pete was extremely productive as first Great Northern Diver and then a first winter/female Surf Scoter flew south at point blank range. No photo just the abominable drawing below but potentially the first for North Tyneside and multi-observed. This bird later turned up on the Essex/Suffolk border being refound by other PWC contestants. A pod of Bottlenose Dolphins were a good way to round off the morning before work. At Barmston I did the BigVis and got lucky with a flock of European White-fronted Geese flying north on the 19th. I also managed to add Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser at both sites.

Yes - I cant draw.
 November was very quiet but a duo of patch ticks with 8 juvenile Pomarine Skuas north on the 29th and a small flock of Shoveler heading in the same direction on the 22nd were pretty cool. A Rock Pipit was the only point garnered in December to leave me finished on 121 species and 148 points at Barmston. 7 points down and level on species with 2013. Up at St Mary's an equally quiet end to the year finished with 120 species and 160 points.

Barmston 2014 Species Accumulation

St Mary's Island Species Accumulation 2014

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