Each spring I spend time searching through flocks of hirundines and swifts hoping to find something unusual with Alpine Swift and Red-rumped Swallow (as well as rarer species!) among the species I hope to find. Largely this has been a rather fruitless task, until yesterday that is. I had spent the morning doing some breeding bird surveys in Cleveland, but increasingly strong SW winds meant that I had to cease work somewhat earlier than planned. As I drove towards home I considered dropping in to Ravenscar but on the spur of the moment I decided instead to turn down Harwood Dale instead. As it turned out this was a very good move and goes to show that you never know how or when you may bump into something interesting! As I drove along I noticed some swifts and swallows hawking by the road. Although expecting the usual slight sense of disappointment, I decided I had better have a quick look, just in case. I stopped, began scanning through the flock and amazingly within 30 seconds or so I locked onto a hirundine with pale underparts including the throat, black undertail coverts and long black tail streamers. Immediately I realised I was watching that Red-rumped Swallow I had been searching for all these years. Although I have seen this species many times before both in the UK and and overseas, this was a special moment. I was able to enjoy watching it for a couple of minutes noting the pale rump and collar before it drifted off towards Harwood Dale lake. I headed off after it but was unable to relocate it. Mobile coverage is awful here, but I decided that reinforcements were needed so drove off in search of a signal and phoned Nick Addey so that he could release the news to local birders via the Scarborough Bird News text service. I continued to search for the bird, but my searches were unsuccessful. However, I was delighted to hear that Nick and Tony Ford had managed to see it, but disappointingly it was not seen again.
A morning walk at Long Nab produced little in the way of the hoped for spring migrants. Hardly surprising given the leaden grey skies and cold northerly wind. A few Whitethroats were singing and a lone Wheatear was along the cliff top path. Hghlight of the walk was a Short-eared Owl which afforded nice views as it hunted over the remnants of the cover crop. Although the light was hardly conducive to good photography I managed to get a few reasonable pics.
Freelance ornithologist and tour leader based in Scarborough, N Yorkshire.