Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Aiming high, digging deep

So, we're only a few weeks away from race day out there in the shimmering Negev, and it's time to start twisting a few arms and calling in a few favours.... If you're not yet familiar with the Champions of the Flyway and our team's attempts to raise £3000 (as part of an amazing effort involving many other teams and many lovely people fighting for the same cause), then have a quick look at the background info here, and then have a look at Mike's write-up on Birdguides re:our team over here.

If you can't be arsed to read the background information, well I'm prepared to forgive you, but only if you trust me when I say it's a wonderful cause that combats the mass killing of migratory birds by direct action, education and on-the-ground community efforts - and only if you head to the link below and donate whatever you can (it only takes a few seconds). Thanks a million in advance, we really appreciate it :-)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

February Blues

It's windy as hell up here on the North Yorkshire coast right now, and with plenty of Fulmars prospecting the ledges and rafting on the sea, a session at Gristhorpe Bay (the highest and most northerly point within our recording area) seemed like a good idea. As hoped, they were doing their beautiful, effortless hang-gliding thing below and alongside me, which was easily good enough as you might imagine; but then it got better still, when this subtly smoky Blue briefly swung by, said hi and buggered off out to sea.

As a scarce, often hard-won passage seabird, Blue Fulmars are always a pleasure to see, but rarely do I get the opportunity to fill the frame and look one in the eye; kind of the opposite of February blues, then. Below is a 'regular' bird, taken from the same spot a few seconds later, for comparison.

Monday, February 6, 2017

This Wheelie's on Fire

Sanderling is a lovely name, but then 'Wheelie-bird' or 'Wheelie' is almost impossible to disassociate once it's been put in your head (thanks to Amity many years ago). Take your pick, but what a wonderful species, in every respect.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Champions of the Flyway 2017: out of the blocks

2017's Champions of the Flyway event is out of the blocks and beginning to pick up steam as the race day of 28th March approaches. If you've heard of it - and hopefully many in the birding community have - you'll know that it's a brilliantly orchestrated, fantastically co-operative and (here's the bit that really matters) supremely successful fundraising exercise, with all profits feeding directly into on-the-ground efforts to combat and alleviate the illegal killing of migratory birds.

It's been running for several years, with each year channelling funds into a different countries' efforts to fight the slaughter - this year's recipients are Doğa Derneği (BirdLife Turkey). A fuller explanation of their amazing work and projects is available here, but in a nutshell, they'll be using the COTF funds to fight persecution on the ground at migration bottlenecks, to foster engagement and ownership via various education projects, and to forge strong links and launch awareness projects with Syrian refugees. Fantastic.

The race itself, while hotly contested, is an anomaly among bird races, in that the teams readily share information and actively help each other; however, such an approach is indicative of an event which has fund-raising as its one and only Modus operandi. It's for this reason (and the fact that, last year alone, the race teams raised over £80,000 for the cause) I'm always more than happy to cough up a bit of cash to one or more of the teams involved. This year is a little different, however, in that I'm very lucky to be participating directly, as part of the Birdwatch-Birdguides Roadrunners team.

My team-mates are the wonderful Dawn Balmer and the COTF old hand & logistics wizard Mike Alibone, so I'm in illustrious company. What I lack in comparative illustriousness I intend to make up for in arm-twisting cash-conversion for the cause, so that's where i need your help, dear reader. Throw me a bone, in the form of a very-quick-and-easy-to-part-with sliver of your disposable income, via our just giving page here, and I'll be forever in your debt. Which is no bad thing, especially if you ever need to call a favour in.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Saturday Gull

.... only a Herring Gull perhaps, but it was kind enough to follow a surfer's path across the face of a breaking wave, so deserving of its own post I think.

Saturday, January 14, 2017


After yesterday's festival of meteorological mayhem and white-winged gulls, today's forecast promised sub-zero temperatures, wind-speeds dropping to moderate and sunny intervals, and with the promise of displaced wanderers tracking back north (or just hanging around), the Brigg beckoned. Long story short, five hours spent out there (mostly on a mesmeringly beautiful, surf- and roller-battered Brigg end) were five hours wonderfully well spent, and a walk out onto Carr Naze for sunset with the Mrs was a perfect was to round off the day.

To say the wave action was dramatic would be a huge understatement, a bit like saying that the various Glaucous Gulls I've seen here today were quite pleasant... it was one of those losing track of time days, where you just lap up the circumstances and thank your gods. A minimum of four Glaucs this morning - an adult, a 3cy, and two 2cy's - plus two 2cy's this evening (at least one of which was 'new') - gives me a minimum of five for the day (three pictured); several of yesterday's birds were also identifiably different, and thus I've been lucky enough to bump into at least eight over the last 48 hours. Remarkable, especially considering I've not seen more than two or three in a year here before, despite a lot of efforts at the right times....

Friday, January 13, 2017

White horses & white-wingers

Ah, that's more like it. Unbelievably, today was my first day out actually birding in weeks - after a week in London over Christmas with the bins untouched, a week in France over new year with incidental use at best, straight back into assignment deadline-meeting madness upon return and a talk in Sheffield straight after - so with the predicted gale-force north-westerlies, inclemental maelstroms and storm surge due to hit today, it had to be done. I woke up this morning pre-dawn to find a beautiful scene outside the window of a thick layer of fluffy snow covering all surfaces and flurries swirling in the streetlights.

Out soon after, the snow soon turned to sleet and the sleet to rain, but not before I'd hit the seafront, beach and bay corner. By the time I reached the latter, the reality of not being able to physically make it any further was confirmed in comedy style as the wind knocked me backwards onto the rocks, leaving me flapping forlornly skywards in helpless flipped-over turtle style. Time to turn around.... but not before more decent scans of the bay and seafront, where a couple of argentatus Herring Gulls were, disappointingly, the best of the Larus assemblages.

Holed up in a seafront shelter along the esplanade, this afternoon was another scene altogether. I love wild winter birding, especially here in Filey, and it was one of those sessions that makes you forget the fact you can't actually feel any of your fingers or toes. Three hours or so of every type of weather imaginable, the continuingly howling north-westerly, waves that would make a surfers head explode on sight and an incoming, increasingly 'entertaining' tide provided no fewer than four Glaucous Gulls and an Iceland Gull among their wind-battered brethren, battling north or feeding in surf out beyond the Brigg. At one point I'd two Glaucs and the Iceland in the same field of view, and at others, new white-wingers swept by much closer in. Absolute class, and so good to be back in the ring.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Bad Company

A pleasant sunny winter's morning here in Filey, and grateful to Dan for dragging me away from the laptop (where I'm wrestling with such cheerful topics as environemtal degradation in relation to industrialisation and urbanisation presently - it's really a laugh a minute) and into the sunshine. On the tip, Barn Owl, Roe Deer and Grey Partridges were all enjoying the disturbance-free confines of our reserve, but it was a day characterised largely by wildfowl: skeins of yapping Pink-feet on the move against clear blue skies, Wigeon and Teal commuting between various local wetlands, and most satisfyingly, a nice adult Eurasian White-fronted Goose in with the wrong crowd over at our East Lea reserve. Surrounded by our local feral mutants, it must be wondering what the hell it's let itself in for.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Western Mass, USA - November 2016

As mentioned in the last post, the (very sad) circumstances of our visit back to the family homestead meant that birding was far from a relevant part of the agenda, but there's always wildlife to enjoy on the doorstep out there, and a indeed little further beyond when the opportunity came. A lovely afternoon with Ammie and my wonderful bro-and-sis-in-laws Ned and Anna took in the Rock House reservation and the Quabbin reservoir (both within a half-hour of the house), where we stumbled on various birds and beasts, including (from above) this Belted Kingfisher, noisy and friendly Great Northern Divers, and a fly-by Bald Eagle......

... in the garden, meanwhile, were various common species, including (pictured) Chickadees, Mourning Doves, American Goldfinches, Purple Finches, Cardinals and Tufted Titmice.