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North Sea Thread (1 Viewer)

Gander

Well-known member
Since Saturday, there has been little to report. Just one adult Gannet drifted by. I fear the worst for it, as I generally only see them on the water out here, in heavy weather. The weather was calm and sunny.
This morning saw two juvenile Common Gulls arrive, along with an adult GBBG. Nice to have something other than the resident dozen or so Fulmars to look at.
 

Gander

Well-known member
I arrived back at the platform, having been away for an extra week due to circumstances beyond my control. This afternoon, having already noted a flock of over 50 GBBGs, and a single passing Gannet, I headed out for a wander around the platform.

First thing I noticed was a large raft of birds. There were over 100 of them, mainly Kittiwake, but with a fair few Common Gulls mixed in. As I watched they suddenly took to the air as one. I started scanning for the expected Great Skua, but found instead an Arctic Skua. A beautiful pale phase specimen, that came so close to the platform, that I could hear it's call. Only the second Arctic I've recorded here, so I am well pleased.

The raft of gulls reformed off the platform again, but I remained watching to see if the Arctic would return. Suddenly the birds lifted, but this time the cause was a passing Great Skua. The flock reformed again, but for best viewing, I had to change position. I moved a little way along the walkway, and as I did, a small bird landed on a scaffold a few feet from me. An easy identification at short range, I had my first live specimen of a Spotted Flycatcher. The flycatcher made its way out of sight, and as I turned back to the gull flock, I was just in time to witness another attack by the Arctic Skua, then when it had moved away, with the flock reforming for a third time, the Great Skua came back, and this time scattered the flock in all directions, not to be reformed again.

Not bad for a first day!

31. Arctic Skua
32. Spotted Flycatcher
 

Gander

Well-known member
Heading out of the accommodation block this morning, I was greeted by a Cormorant.

A small hawk was reported as being on the platform yesterday, but we have not crossed paths.

No sign of the Skuas! Kittiwakes much happier!!
 

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Gander

Well-known member

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Gander

Well-known member
A flock of 16 Guillemots seen yesterday. I think that is the highest count I've ever had here. Later in the afternoon I spotted another or returning Great Skua.

I continued to receive reports of a small hawk/Kestrel yesterday. I never got a glimpse of it, but someone else managed to get a photo (see attached). Kestrel confirmed.
 

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Gander

Well-known member
Two Great Skuas seen harassing GBBGs this morning. A Cormorant fishing under platform.

Yesterday, a male Siskin was reported to me. Description was spot on, and it was seen at close range, so happy to accept it on this year's list.

33. Siskin*
 
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Gander

Well-known member
Yesterday afternoon, I got a brief viewing of a Skua. It was hard on the tail of a Kittiwake that was twisting and turning in an attempt to throw off its pursuer. By the time I got the monocular on it, it was disappearing around the corner of the platform. Seeing it so close to the Kittiwake, I realised it was not big and beefy enough to be a Great Skua. The wings were also more pointy than a GS. I was then thinking Arctic Skua, but this bird was certainly not the pale phase Arctic of a week or so ago.

With dark phase Arctic in mind, I focused on the bird's tail, just before it disappeared from sight. I could not pick out the tell tale spike, but noted a narrow tail, and possibly what appeared like a faint grey/white area on the rump. I am not experienced enough with Skuas to make the call, but I am leaning towards Pomarine, but as it could have been a dark phase Arctic, I'll be not be adding it to the list.

Today, after a quiet spell with passerines, there are a few Pipit types around.
 

delia todd

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I do hope you manage another sighting of this skua Paul - with good enough views to be able to confirm your thoughts.
 

Gander

Well-known member
As I headed up the stairs yesterday evening, my eye was drawn to a small bird that flew at speed into the cover of the structure below. A second later, a young female Kestrel swooped past the area into which the probable pipit had disappeared into.

Over the last week or so, there has been a pretty constant Great Skua presence, but no sign of any other type of Skua. The Great Skuas are unusually focused on the GBBG gathering, of which we have about 100. I suspect that this is because there are so few Gannets in the area.

Until today, we have had a good number of Kittiwakes, although the Common Gulls that were mixing with them have largely moved on, leaving only a few juveniles. No sign of Kittiwakes today, although we have heavy fog, so they could be sitting out a bit. A LBBG was a slight surprise this morning. During the week, a couple of Herring Gull were also seen.

A few days to go of this trip, so I am still hopeful of more migrants, but I think next trip, starting mid Sept, will be the main event, if the weather cooperates.
 

Gander

Well-known member
I am a little bit gutted this morning, as we had a bird that I did not get to see. Just before the end of my shift yesterday, I started getting reports of a buzzard onboard. I managed to get away for 5 mins, but found nothing but a female Sparrowhawk. I went back to the original reporters, and they were absolutely adamant that what they saw was a buzzard.

An hour later, I received another buzzard report. My shift was over, so I headed out and scoured the platform, but was left disappointed and frustrated. I knew any buzzard out here was more likely to be Rough-legged than Common, especially at this time of year. This morning, prior to my shift, I again scoured the platform, but to no avail.

The last person who saw the bird, spoke to me an hour or so ago. He is very familiar with Common Buzzard, and was insistent that this bird was different. His emphasised in particular that this buzzard had a particularly long looking neck, and a strange "chicken like head". Later he added that the bird was particularly long tailed for a buzzard. I had mentioned Rough-legged to him, and he went away briefly to view internet photos. It was only while he was away, that the penny dropped, as I remembered Honey Buzzards are long necked.

My spotter returned, stating that during his viewing of Rough-legged buzzard, a Honey Buzzard photo had popped up, and he was 100% sure that was the bird was a Honey.

As I wrote previously, I am gutted I never got my eyes on the bird, but at least I have got an ID. I am wary of adding birds to the list based on description only, however, I think in this case that the description I got was very good, coupled with confirmation from stock photos. Time of year is good, and likelihood of a buzzard out here being a Honey is also good, although rare. Based on this I am listing the bird as.......

34. Honey Buzzard*
 

Gander

Well-known member
I have now returned to the platform, and realised that I failed to post a final report last trip. There were two birds of note on the last day. A dark phase Arctic Skua and a LBBG. I believe the LBBG is intermedius, but see what you think from the attached photo showing bird next to GBBG.
Today, with a stiff northerly blowing through, there is not much around. About 40 GBBG, 4 Herring Gull, a Fulmar and a Gannet. At sometime in the previous three weeks, while the platform was unmanned, a young Sparrowhawk and a Wheatear arrived here and met their end. Both bodies found on the Cellar Deck in different locations.
 

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Gander

Well-known member
Sadly, two more Sparrowhawks found dead this morning. Both in internal areas, so possibly they had found their way in, but not out again. Very unusual though! From memory, I've never found a dead Sparrowhawk (or any other dead hawk) on here in 30 yrs, now since yesterday, I've had three.

Also, next to one of the Sprawks, I found a small raptor skull and a few scattered feathers. I am thinking Kestrel was the last meal of the dead hawk.
 

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