Thursday, May 16, 2013
|Pied Flycatcher, Church Ravine|
South-easterlies, overcast skies, frequent showers, mid-May.... at last a forecast to relish, and so pretty much a full day in the field, from the murk of post-dawn to the sunshine of late evening.
Numerous fine-tooth combings of all available cover in the northern area (including Long Lane, Top Scrub, Long and Short Hedges, Arndale and the Tip multiple times) teased without ever truly providing; a sprinkle of fresh-in Pied Flys, Common Redstarts, Spot Flys and common warblers (especially Lesser Whitethroats) were very welcome and provided the impetus to keep going, but the hoped-for special one failed to materialise.
|Spotted Flycatcher, Church Ravine|
No matter, it seems all sites to the south of us (inc. Flamborough and Spurn) were equally frustrated, while those from Scarborough north to Teeside were well-served with seasonal scarcities; such arrivals are often accordingly localised, and it was a pleasure just to see a few quality migrants. And there's still time on the clock before the spring ebbs away.....
|Male Common Redstart, Long Lane|
|Lesser Whitethroat, Tip|
|Pied Flycatcher, Long Lane|
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
A little shameless self-publicity to start the week - my latest article for Birdwatch magazine is in this month's issue (May 2013), this one dealing with the contrasts between inner-city patch-birding in deepest London and latterly swanning around an east coast observatory (i.e., here at Filey).....
Sunday, May 12, 2013
|One of two Whinchats fresh in at the Rocket Pole field, 9th....|
Not the most auspicious or inspiring of periods here on the North Yorks coast, but not for want of trying.
Pretty much every day out on patch, and each brought new arrivals or memorable sessions in some shape or form, but the desired fall of migrants and / or scarcity ultimately failed to materialise.
|.... and the other for good measure|
Of expected migrants, warblers have been arriving in good numbers throughout, with all eight common species installed; hirundines continue to flow through, and Swifts are now happily a daily fixture.
|Garden Warbler, East Lea, 2nd|
|Weasel, Carr Naze, 3rd|
Wagtail passage has been notable, with Yellows particularly plentiful this spring (on a daily basis) and Whites on several days; odd Tree Pipits have also appeared, but visible migration has been generally slow. But for local breeders (including Peregrines), raptors have also been thin on the ground, with efforts from my favoured watchpoint producing a single Marsh Harrier (5th) and not much else.
|Common Sandpiper, Dams|
Two Greenland-type Wheatears were on Carr Naze on 2nd, and an Acredula-type Willow Warbler was at the entrance to East Lea the following day, strongly hinting at northbound long-distance migration happening quietly in the background; rather more local was the breeding Barn Owl which kept me entertained on the morning of the 7th.
|Common Whitethroat - unavoidable in any suitable habitat|
After focusing much attention on the sister wetland sites of the Dams and (especially) East Lea, brief showers on the 8th brought success in the shape of two Wood Sandpipers (a patch first) and a Bar-tailed Godwit; other migrant waders have included odd Whimbrels and Common Sandpipers.
|The quest for a half-decent shot of Grey Partridges continues....|
|Wood Sandpipers, East Lea, 8th|
More brief showers overnight inspired a little more hope for the 9th, and a full circuit of the northern area from first light, while hardly overflowing with new arrivals, at least produced quality migrants in the shape of two Whinchats on the cliff top and two female Redstarts in the scrub at the Tip.
|Common Redstart, the Tip, 9th|
While it's not been the most thrilling of springs thus far, there's still plenty to play for over the coming weeks....
Friday, May 10, 2013
No matter how many you've seen, it doesn't really get much better than a Barn Owl, and this local male gave me some the best views I've ever had the other day here in Filey. Happily hunting around me for the best part of half an hour, he was successful twice - the first was breakfast, and the second was a takeaway for the wife, occupying the traditional nest site across town.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
|Acredula-type Willow Warbler, Filey Dams, 2nd May 2013|
With internet coverage finally gracing our new airspace, time to catch up on recent happenings, starting with these two from last week. One advantage of recent slim pickings is the opportunity to look a little harder at the commoner migrants, and this washed-out, grey-cast Willow Warbler was a good case in point.
|(NB in this photo the bird appears far greener than in reality, on account of shooting through vegetation, creating an unnatural 'filter'.)|
Feeding in the willows and rank vegetation by the East Lea gate and with many other warblers close by, it naturally stood out a mile, allowing direct comparison with it's 'normal' trochilus brethren (who chased it into a nearby garden several times). Very distinctive, but on present understanding of sub-specific variation, no more than acredula-type.....
|For comparison, a 'regular' trochilus from the same location a couple of weeks earlier|
|Greenland-type Northern Wheatear, Filey Brigg, 3rd May 2013|
..... not unlike this cracking male leucorhoa-type Northern Wheatear, fresh-in on Carr Naze the following day (complete with strong apricot wash from throat to undertail coverts). Again, on present understanding, no more than strongly suggestive of the Greenland / Iceland race. Once upon a time, the word 'type' wouldn't have been necessary; but then once upon a time, lazy assumptions were far easier to reach. Comments welcome.
Monday, May 6, 2013
|Gannets, Bempton Cliffs, 30th|
Busy times, what with moving house, guests staying, playing shows, and lack of internet for the best part of two weeks; so, a much-delayed summary for the last third of April.....
|Meadow Pipit, Carr Naze|
With a satisfyingly clear calendar and daily sessions in the field, there was plenty to enjoy, despite the relentless and often gale force south-westerlies, which made for frustratingly challenging conditions on most days during the period; hard work in truth, but with a few standout highlights making efforts worthwhile.
|Peregrine over the Country Park|
18th: Several hours at the wetland reserves of the Dams and East Lea produced four Common Sandpipers and four Dunlins, a male Mandarin, and up to a hundred hirundines battling the winds over the water, mostly Swallows and Sand Martins, but with House Martins scraping into double figures for the first time. A full circuit of the northern area on the 19th, more out of habit than sense, was predictably quiet given the conditions, with a couple of Wheatears at the Tip the pick of a sparse page in the notebook.
|Dark-bellied Brents off the Brigg|
The 20th called a change of plan, which involved pitching up in the hides at the Dams and East Lea from sunrise, and waiting. Reasonably successful, and telling, in that most of the waders recorded – a Little Ringed Plover, two Green Sandpipers and two Dunlins – all passed through before 0700, with none staying for more than a few seconds. Shovelers numbered six, and a pair of Mallards had four young ducklings at the Dams, the first of the spring. The highlight, however, was an immature Iceland Gull that drifted northwest early on, unfortunately not dropping in to loaf and bathe with congeners.
|Red Kite, 22nd|
To the clifftop sky-watchpoint for late morning, with the wind temporarily abating to moderate and small numbers of passerines on the move in the shape of hirundines, Meadow Pipits, Yellow Wagtails and finches; a Marsh Harrier high and west at 1115 and eleven Arctic Terns in the bay were the highlights.
|Teal at the Dams|
Another early start on the 21st, and a cracker of a session, described in detail right here, but a good few hours kicking back on the clifftop paid off beautifully - with a spectacular 45-minute airshow from a Common Crane, an Obs record of at least seven Red Kites, plus a Marsh Harrier and at least five Common Buzzards.
Almost unwatchable on the 22nd down to the increasingly strong south-westerlies, but in a mid-morning half-hour spent largely rescuing the 'scope from an early saltwater grave, another two Red Kites and a Common Buzzard battled south. The next two days were equally plagued by the wind, and rounds of the northern circuit and the Dams / East Lea were relatively uneventful, but for a decent arrival of warblers (esp Phylloscs, plus a first Common Whitethroat of the year), an explosion of butterflies (esp. Small Tortoiseshells) and Tree Pipit over.
|Brown Hare, Tip|
A respite on the 25th with genuinely light winds for the first time in years was a pleasure, and the fact that three Dark-bellied Brent Geese on the Brigg were the only notable record barely detracted from it. The following day and back came the winds, with little new to show for it but for the first Common Swifts gunning northbound.
|Grey Partridge, Tip|
The end of the month provided little in the continuing wild winds, although a brief trip down the road to Flamborough in search of the Iberian Chiffchaff proved instantly successful.....
|Iberian Chiffchaff, Flamborough, 28th|
.... and a new month was around the corner, with plenty of time in the field in the bank.
Monday, April 29, 2013
|Happy birthday - you're late|
|Iberian Chiffchaff, Flamborough Head, 28th April 2013|
.... but you can try, and sometimes, it coincides with the gods in especially benevolent mood. With each passing day (and each clear, starry night) I was resigned to the bird leaving, but thanks to constant updates from Martin and Rich (ta very much as always chaps), the earliest window of opportunity - yesterday - drew ever closer with the little beauty still kicking around, albeit with increasing elusiveness.
Apparently it'd become less inclined to either call, or indeed show, on its originally reliable circuit, and second hand news of various frustrated visitors copping nothing better than a mouthful from Rich's neighbours after hours of waiting didn't bode especially well. And so a windy, dull and showery yesterday afternoon (my birthday) finally rolled around, and with aching bones (the vinyl collection gets heavier with every move) and reeking of cleaning fluid, I arrived on the head...
...and immediately heard the clear, loud, Siskin-like tseeuu from the small row of willows in front of me. Five seconds later, and there it was, showing perfectly down to a couple of metres in the bending branches; the only bird (excluding a few Tree and House Sparrows) in the area, and the only bird calling at all. And what a racket - easily audible in the constantly blustery winds, and even when far away, across the road, behind the houses and otherwise well concealed.
A cracking little bird and (after unsatisfactory views a few years back in Spain) a real education, on many levels. And so, after failing to connect with several rarities on the head last year (that's what you get for for too much staying-on-patch stubbornness), 2013's Flamborian cherry-picking continues to produce the goods; here's hoping it continues.