Thursday, October 11, 2018

Flamborough - 11th October 2018

With a hint of east (finally) in a blustery southerly wind, a front moving through in the morning, and a day off (well, part of one at least), I headed to Flamborough early on, and after waiting for the downpours to pass, the clearing skies happily soon began raining birds. One of those mornings where it's just a privilege to witness migration in full swing, the stars of the show arrived in flocks, bounding in against increasingly clearer skies, either pitching down or making haste further inland.

With (seemingly) nothing rare among their ranks, it really didn't matter - seeing the drama unfold on days like these never gets old. The most numerous species involved were Song Thrushes, Bramblings and Skylarks, all of which were comfortably into three figures in my notebook, as well as plentiful Redwings and Fieldfares, Siskins and Chaffinches, a few Ring Ouzels, Whinchats, Stonechats, Chiffchaffs and Redstarts and a personal tally of eleven well scattered Yellow-browed Warblers; an acredula-type Willow Warbler dancing in the Sycamore canopy received extra points for acting and looking rare, but ultimately it was a day to lap up the action and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Catskills, NY - Aug / Sep 2018 (3) - beasts!

Eastern Chipmunks - everywhere around the cabin and surrounding woods, as expected, along with American Grey Squirrels (with American Red Squirrels also noted).

Northern Water Snake (above and below)

Water Snakeskin from the garden pond

White-tailed Deer (above and below) - common in the woods


Garter Snake in the garden - check out that tongue....

Indigo, George and Kat snake-bothering

Worst possible photo of best possible beast - Porcupine in nearby woods. Contrary to the impression given by the image, this dinky little dude took its time lazily shuffling past us on the trail.... 

Eastern Newts in the garden pond (above and below)

Genuinely one of my favourite photos of the trip - a bear in the woods just beyond the cabin, snapped with my mobile phone....

...... and again, but this time after it climbed up onto the deck and swiped the bird feeder. One of many entertaining encounters with Black Bears over the course of the trip.

While I'm here, a quick shout out to my friend Gary (The Biking Birder) and his excellent blog - Gary has just returned home from another long adventure raising money for Birdlife International and his exploits are always hugely entertaining!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Catskills, NY - Aug / Sep 2018 (2)

Great Blue Heron, Akoshan Reservoir
Red-breasted Nuthatch, Akoshan Res
Broad-winged Hawk - a few birds kicking around the cabin area
Red-eyed Vireo - easily the commonest passerine around the cabin and surrounding woods
A very friendly juvenile Eastern Phoebe
Omnipresent White-breasted Nuthatch on the deck
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - a few moving through at the end of the trip

Friday, October 5, 2018

Just a Kestrel?

I finally had the opportunity to get down onto the Brigg here at Filey yesterday afternoon, but with a blustery (and unseasonably warm) south-westerly wind, I'd zero expectations of action over the sea. Still, after a while I picked up a dark dot, miles out in the haze, due east of me - i.e., way, way out to sea, next stop Denmark - and watched it as it battled low over the waves, straight into the headwind.

My first thought was skua - possibly Long-tailed, which can recall a falcon in certain flight modes - but as the bird got closer it became more and more obvious that it was a falcon, and then (despite vain hopes for something a bit more spicy) clearly just a (Common / Eurasian) Kestrel.

Just a Kestrel... I followed it in the 'scope (yes, the new Harpia 95 is absolutely killing it for seawatching) as it approached, heading into the bay to the south of the Brigg, and with Bempton and Buckton Cliffs as a backdrop - and then as it banked towards me and headed for the nearest dry land of the Brigg and Carr Naze, looking me straight in the eye as it passed. (I may or may not have said hello and welcome at this point).

It must've taken at least ten minutes to transform from a dot over the waves to dot over the safety of terra firma, much of which it spent flapping furiously into a fierce south-westerly, and yet it made the journey with plenty to spare, whipping inland as if it'd been here all the time (which, if you'd have been stood up on the country park, would've been the logical assumption).

The Migration Atlas provides lots of valuable insight into the continental immigration of Kestrels into the UK in autumn - 'Unlike most broad-winged raptors, Kestrels can migrate long distances over water, and they regularly cross the North Sea' - and not only are they more than capable of long sea crossings, northern populations (from e.g. Scandinavia) winter as far south as Ghana! Who knows where this little bullet was eventually bound for, and who knows how much further it's battled today....

Regular readers of these pages will know that I never, ever tire of the wonder of migrants arriving in off the sea, and this bird absolutely lit up what was an otherwise dull seawatch, providing another unique experience that I won't forget in a hurry.

Just a Kestrel? I don't think so.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Catskills, NY - Aug / Sep 2018 (1)

Black-and-white Warbler near the cabin
Seems like a long, long time ago already, but it's been just a few weeks since Amity and I spent a lovely, relaxing fortnight back in the States with the American family. Thanks to my wonderful in-laws Sally-Anne and Ed, we - their offspring, their partners, and their offspring - were invited to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in the same beautiful area of upstate New York where they'd spent their honeymoon four decades previously.

Canada Warbler in the garden
So the two of us, the two of them, brothers Lincoln and Ned, sister out-law Anna and neice Oona - augmented for a few days by Aunt Lisa and our dear, much-missed friends Kat and George, complete with little Indigo and the pack of hounds - had a memorably lovely time in the sticks and out of the loop.

American Redstart in the garden
The Catskills is a beautiful, lush, heavily wooded, mountainous region peppered with lovely little small-towns (villages by English standards) in upstate New York, and while there are intermittent signs of the kind of obscene wealth drained from the financial sewers of NYC that you would expect, for the most part it was reassuringly down-home, friendly and rough around the edges; even Woodstock, which I expected to be a tasteless theme park, was a pleasant place to kill an afternoon.

Black-throated Green Warbler in the garden
So it was all about the family (and all the better for it), and any bird and wildlife-related were always going to be bonus collateral. Being in such a rural and relatively wild area, however, wildlife was wonderfully hard to avoid, and we'd plenty of quality interactions with the birds and beasts in the woods. Of the former, time of year and vastness of habitat meant passerine action was always going to be by accident rather than design, and usually consisted of bumping into mobile feeding flocks - often from the comfort of the deck or exit track to the cabin.

Yellow-throated Vireo in the garden
A good selection of commoner species (including various warblers and a Yellow-breasted Chat) put in appearances, and every day brought something new; and as wide-eyed wow moments go, the spectacle of more than twenty Common Nighthawks ghosting around us at dusk one evening while we had a cook-out was hard to beat .....

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A Bridlington Red-neck

Not the first or last time I'll use that phrase (and yes, as a card-carrying survivor growing up there, I've earned the right), but for once, a pleasure to do so - in the name of a Red-necked Phalarope being fabulously showy in the harbour as the sunset the other day. A quick post-work twitch with Rich and a perfect warm-up to Bob Flood's excellent talk at Flamborough Bird Observatory's seawatch hide fundraiser.