Saturday, January 20, 2018

Kilo Wren - embracing the darkness...

... of the seawatching hide. A long time ago (about a fortnight) in a galaxy far, far away (about 15 minutes from the house)..... Everyone needs a pocket-sized friend from the dark side on a quiet sea-watch, especially one which mercilessly wipes out an entire population of insects (presumably from the resistance) deep with the darkness of the hide.

Help us save migratory birds this spring - read about my team's mission here: Zeiss Yorkshire Terriers

Friday, January 19, 2018

Out in the cold (for a couple of hours)

A brief run out with the old man this afternoon and, for want of much else around, we had a go at the Hawfinches reported around Brompton and Thorton-le-Dale. A few jumpy birds at the latter were as good as it got, but an unexpected thrush bonanza at the former (in the snowy field opposite the church) was a real bonus - not least for this cracking Ring Ouzel which hopped out and showed well for a few minutes. Amazingly there were all six commonly-occurring thrushes side by side in the field - not something you'd expect on a sub-zero January day..... a quick look at the mostly-frozen Mere in Scarborough on the way back was fairly quiet, although a few Goosander were making the best of a hard day's fishing.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

International Bird Observatory Conference - the RBA article

As regular readers will know, I was lucky enough to attend and speak at the International Bird Observatory Conference in Cape May, New Jersey a couple of months ago, and I've co-written up the experience (excellent birding included) with my good friend Maina from Manomet for Rare Bird Alert here:

The World's Observatories Flock Together - IBOC 2017

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Glaucous Gull at the Dams

Catching up.... this from a couple of weeks back (27th Dec), when a cold front and associated biting northerly winds and snow showers swept through. After a disappointing seawatch, I checked in at the Dams for an hour or so, where I was hoping the newly-scraped central area may attract gulls at high tide; aside from the excellent selection of Scandinavian Herring Gulls, after a while this beautiful white-winger dropped in, evocatively just as the snow began to fall.

I must've checked the bathing and loafing gulls at the Dams hundreds of times over the last six years, and one of my local birding anomalies during that time has been the total lack of rarer large gulls there - but for an Iceland Gull that half-heartedly circled and thought better of it a couple of winters ago, not a sniff, until this bird. It's interesting to speculate if the more extensive and depth-variable water resulting from our recent habitat improvements has already made it more attractive these species? Either way, a perfect start for the new-look Dams.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

White-fronted Geese, Filey Dams

Back from London after dark yesterday and with White-fronts arriving on the coast, I was hoping not to miss out; called in at the Dams after dropping the Mrs at work this morning and bingo - 19 in front of the East Hide. Beauties, and another early indication of how the overhaul at the Dams is already pulling in the birds. Talking of which, there's a Glauc I forgot to post from a couple of weeks back - to follow....

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Less than three months .....

Over the next ten weeks or so, I'll be gently cajoling whoever is good enough to listen into coughing up anything - a few quid, a few hundred quid, or a few thousand (hello rich people, some of you must be nice!) - to help save the millions of birds being brutally slaughtered as they migrate through the Mediterranean; or more specifically, to help change minds, landscapes and cultures away from killing and towards cherishing and lasting protection. I've put together a team of very lovely like-minded Yorkshire birders in order to raise as much as we can in this short window of opportunity, and you can find out more about our team and the cause right here: Zeiss Yorkshire Terriers - Champions of the Flyway. For the full story, read on....

Champions of the Flyway helps save species that are disappearing fast from the British landscape, including Turtle Doves

For my friends in the wider birding community (and any other community we're both part of!), here's everything you need to know about the race (and why you might want to take the thirty seconds to make a donation to our Just Giving page here...... )

In March 2018, four intrepid Yorkshiremen journey to Israel to take part in the famous Champions of the Flyway bird race - an international event to find as many bird species in the wilds of the Negev Desert... in just 24 hours! How they fare in the race is in the hands of the gods (and the desert sun), but how they fare in their high-profile campaign to raise funds for international bird conservation is in yours ....

Teams from around the world will gather at this globally-renowned Middle Eastern flashpoint, smack bang in the middle of the Eastern Mediterranean Flyway – one of the the busiest and most diverse of nature's superhighways on the planet, where multitudes of birds flood north and then south between continents on their epic migratory journeys. But it's a journey laced with great danger - and countless millions of these avian miracles succumb every season to the brutal travesties of illegal hunting.

Thousands of Quail are needlessly slaughtered as they try to reach their European breeding grounds every spring

Which is where Champions of the Flyway comes in. It's a bird race, yes, and a hotly-contested one - but it's really all about fund-raising, and using those funds to directly combat the illegal killing of migratory birds through on-the-ground action, campaigning and education. With a global appeal and having already raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for local projects, Champions transcends borders, divisions and barriers – be they geographical, political or cultural - and each team is there to raise as much money and awareness as they can to help stop the slaughter.

Which is where we come in. In these dark days of a Yorkshire notorious for its persecution of wild birds, the Zeiss Yorkshire Terriers are here to represent the true Yorkshire spirit – tenacity, passion, inclusivity, and a healthy dose of sheer bloody-mindedness. In the name of international, grass-roots conservation, we're flying the Yorkshire flag on the global stage, and showing the world what God's Own County really thinks about illegal wild bird killing.

Which is where you come in! In order to make a real difference, we need as many contributions as possible, however small or large – every penny counts and will help to save these avian wonders from hunting along their epic, cross-border journeys. Everyone who contributes can proudly call themselves a Champion of the Flyway, and it only takes a few seconds!

Visit our Just Giving page here!

… and read all about the project and its previous successes, the campaigns, the teams, this year's story and much more on the Champions website here!

London talks, January 2018

I'm in London all next week (from the 8th) giving a series of talks in the area - hope to see some old local friends there!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Scandinavian Herring Gulls, Filey Dams - 27th Dec 2017

A cold northerly blow and wintry showers overnight and during the day today, and a couple of hours free locally - firstly for an hour or so's bay/seawatch from the car on the seafront, and latterly for an hour or so at the Dams. Not a great deal on the move over the sea, although a smart 1cy Glaucous Gull and at least two Scandinavian Herring Gulls made it worthwhile, and with a big high tide and rough seas, the newly-expanded freshwater of the Dams seemed worth a shot for bathing gulls.

And it was. As well as the beast of Glaucous Gull that dropped in for 15 minutes or so while the sleet came straight into the hide (see next post), Scandinavian - i.e. argentatus - Herring Gulls were immediately conspicuous. Just to contextualise, they're a rare but regular visitor in the winter months (almost always during and after such conditions) here, although almost always in the lower single figures at best. It's likely more occur, but a combination of under-recording, under-awareness and the lack of opportunity to nail 'clear-cut' birds as they pass the Brigg means they remain a novelty in the annual report, and almost always from the coast.

However, a quick scan of the small Larid flock on the freshly-created main lagoon revealed at least five distinctly darker-backed birds, interestingly four of which were clustered together; over the course of the next hour, I recorded at least eleven clearly legit argentatus (on combinations of mantle colour, wing-tip pattern and size/shape) and several others were either too brief or not conclusive. And that's a lot - in fact a record away from saltwater at Filey - boding well for similar checks in similar conditions through the winter here.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Filey, December 2017

A quick update from the last couple of weeks.... after the occasionally productive sea-watches and bouts of strong northerlies in late November, this first half of December hasn't quite provided the kind of conditions that inspire early starts and pre-dawn windscreen scraping, but there's been a few enjoyable sessions of winter birding to enjoy. A couple of seawatches at the turn of the month produced single Pom Skuas, small movements of waders, odd Bonxies and plenty of divers - the latter of which involves Great Northerns with a pleasing predictability at the moment.

There are up to three at the moment in the northern bay, continuing an increasingly reliable multiple wintering presence over recent years; Black-throats, meanwhile - always the rarest of the trio - have put in two appearances, on 1st and 15th. On the land, one of up to three Chiffchaffs in the willows at the back of the Dams caught my attention briefly at the end of November, sounding like a tristis but giving less-than-satisfactory views; happily, presumably the same bird played ball on 4th of this month, showing and calling nicely.

Otherwise, a foray onto farmland near Gristhorpe Bay on 14th produced a field full of activity - 22 Snow Buntings were a pleasure (the first sign of any local flocks this winter), 16 Grey Partridges were encouraging, over a hundred Skylarks was a stand-out count and winter thrushes and Snipe were inbound in the weak sunshine.

In the same area, a flock of about 75 Pink-feet contained two birds of particular interest on closer inspection - one sporting a neck collar bearing the inscription VXA, and the other a GPS collar (with the number 41). A little research reveals both were ringed in Iceland in the summer during their annual wing moult, and 41 has so far commuted between Northumberland, the Solway Firth and North Yorkshire since arriving in the UK in October. More on these two to follow.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Filey seawatch, 29th November 2017

A quick one from this afternoon... I've been away for a few days giving talks in the interior, and made it back home to the coast for lunchtime - and thus dumped the gear, quickly fed, donned the thermals and slid down the muddy cliff to the Brigg hide for a seawatch in promisingly strong northerlies, wintry showers and plunging temperatures. As it turned out, there wasn't a great deal on the move, but the inherent wildness and solitude of the Brigg on days like this are more than enough justification.....

.... and both Common Scoter and (the only) Little Auk played nicely for the shaking camera against the tempestuous backdrop.