Monday, October 9, 2017

Reighton Sands, 9th Oct '17 - more quality vismig action

Woke up (having barely slept, with a heavy cold) thinking I may as well be ill on a clifftop counting migrants than sat in a dark room groaning dramatically, and so drove the ten minutes south to my new, lip-smackin' visible migration spot at Reighton Sands (above) for dawn. Five and half hours and lots of action later, and surprisingly I felt a lot better.... not least because of the cone-faced beast below, which bounded past me and over towards Buckton early on. What a cracker, too - Hawfinch is significantly less than annual here in the Filey recording area and it's a proper chunky vismig prize.

A rich and varied cast over the session included Barnacle Geese (slipping through the jet stream of a flock of Pink-feet), a single Whooper, plenty of finches (from Greenfinches to redpolls) and buntings (a rare three-Emberiza day, with lots of Reed, a few Yellowhammers and a Corn), Tree Sparrows, Skylarks, and - as the skies cleared and the temperature rose - a succession of Common Buzzards incoming from various directions. Hard to know exactly how many non-locals were involved, but it was at least twelve, and a Red Kite was an added bonus.

So, with a raised vantage point / wind-break created by the pill box, a stunning, unhindered panorama, lots of birds and a distinct lack of dog-walkers, golfers or indeed any other human distractions, it's a winner. More to come.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Inbound Buzzards

Among the hoards of southbound geese yesterday, a few raptors were on the move, including several Common Buzzards - two of which came in off the seas and were soon greeted by the corvid police and then strong-armed inland.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Whooper for every thousand Pink-feet

An epic day of pure migration at my new and frankly beautiful vismig spot at Reighton Sands - more specifically, on a WW2 pill-box with a breathtaking 360 degree view at the south-eastern corner of the Observatory recording area. I arrived before dawn and the clear skies and strong westerlies promised little in the way of passerine action, but four Whooper Swans - the first of the year, and a wonderful sight as they battled towards me in the golden first light - bode well for the big stuff. A couple of hundred Pink-feet in small groups in the first few hours was, at the time, the best of the season thus far, but with a day off and nothing too urgent to attend to, I was back out at 1145 after a short break for a late breakfast.

Which was a very good decision. Four hours of almost constant Pink-footed action followed, with skeins appearing from all directions - from miles inland to miles out to sea - often at great height and invisible to the naked eye (and at times barely visible with just binculars); many approached from the north, but as the session wore on, more and more appeared from over the sea, battling into the strengthening westerly.
In those four hours I counted 4,233 in 53 skeins, smashing the day record by a considerable margin - and with a couple of hundred this morning (and several hundred more from the Gap this evening), our final Filey day count will be close to 5,000.

Not-so-domesticus with montana allies

Friday, September 29, 2017

Filey & Flamborough Ringing & Migration Week - 14th-22nd Oct 2017

Happy to report that it's almost that time of year again, and that this year we're pairing up with our friends across the bay to provide a bigger and better programme of events (see full schedule below); full details are at the foot of this post, but while everything is free, there are a couple of talks that require advance booking: mine on Sunday 15th and Yoav's on Saturday 21st. Contact me via to book places, and for any other enquiries.

The Filey & Flamborough Ringing & Migration Week kicks off on 14th October and this year it's bigger and better than ever! While our respective recording areas create a seamless zone of coverage along this famously bird-rich stretch of the UK coastline, 2017's programme sees the two neighbouring Observatories collaborating for the first time for a wonderfully varied programme that is, as always, absolutely free and open to everyone.

Building on the successes of last year's Filey Ringing and Migration Week (which in turn built on FBOG's long-running annual ringing weeks many years previously),
this joint event - which actually runs for a full nine days - aims to provide a wealth of accessible, exciting and instructive activities that are all suitable for everyone, from beginner to expert, young to not-so-young, novice to experienced.

Both Observatories are running daily ringing demonstrations, where our experts are on hand to show the birds up close and explain their amazing journeys. Recent Ringing Weeks have involved the catching of everything from huge arrivals of Scandinavian thrushes and Goldcrests to Short-eared Owls and Sparrowhawks and Siberian gems such as Pallas's, Yellow-browed and Dusky Warblers; families and children are especially welcome, and it's a rare occasion when a younger attendee isn't entranced by these awe-inspiring travellers in the hand. The Filey ringing station remains in its traditional spot in the Country Park (turn left after the cafe for 100 metres) and will be operating from dawn to dusk each day, while Flamborough's team will be stationed at the dedicated ringing lab at the Living Seas Centre, South Landing, from 10 to 12 each morning.

Guided Migration Walks are taking place daily at a variety of spots across both recording areas - including Bempton Cliffs RSPB - and are all led by local experts who are more than happy to explain the mysteries behind the arrivals and departures as they happen. In addition, we'll be hosting Visible Migration Drop-in Sessions for those who want a taster of this wonderful live spectacle along the Yorkshire coast.

There's also a varied programme of five evening talks, which kick off with RSPB's Mark Thomas sharing his exclusive insights about Protecting the UK's Rare Breeders (a collaboration with our friends at Scarborough Birders), and ends with the inaugural Martin Garner Inspirational Talk on the final Saturday night - Yoav Perlman on Israel - Where Migration is Defined. Yoav's knowledge, passion and enthusiasm for migration are well known, and as a close friend of the mighty and much-missed Mr Garner, we couldn't have found a more perfect speaker.

Remember, it's all free, voluntarily run and open to everyone. See you there!

Mark Pearson (co-ordinator)

Note that all ringing demos and talks are weather-dependent and final updates will be posted at 7pm each evening on and - be sure to check before attending.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Potential Baltic Gull? - Filey, 28th Sep 2017

From this afternoon's otherwise genteel and uneventful seawatch.... interesting feedback on this bird (hence posting), some better versed than I tentatively suggesting it's a probable fuscus - but with much overlap (and no ring), tentative seems like the best word for it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Back in the ring

So the autumn so far has been something of a, well, slow burner for migration up here... which in many ways has been just as well, with few opportunities to truly get in the thick of it. There have been plenty of the aforementioned stolen hours here and there, however, mostly at Flamborough pre- and post-work, but these last two days have been the first of the season where time off and encouraging conditions have coincided - and so I've spent both birding from pre-dawn here in Filey until the birds ran out late afternoon.

And what a pleasure it's been. Nothing too rare, despite the easterly airflow and variable fog and cloud (unfortunately punctuated by extended sunny periods), but finally a couple of days where landbound migration kept in a spring in the step, an eye on every suspect movement and an ear on every incoming call. A couple of hours in the Carr Naze area before work on 25th in the fog produced a dark-headed flava wagtail in off, frustatingly beating the auto-focus in the process, but a handful of continental Song Thrushes and a fresh-in Yellow-brow on the cliff to path were enough to get the juices flowing for the upcoming free time.

Dawn on Carr Naze yesterday (26th) was initially quiet, but an hour or so after first light and birds began to arrive through the banks of fog - first a few Song Thrushes, then a Mealy Redpoll, then a few more Song Thrushes - and before long it was time to check Top Scrub, where Dan and the team had the nets up and were already catching. A (very strong candidate) Siberian Lesser Whitethroat - more on this bird to follow, but it was a cracker - in the hand was quickly followed by a Firecrest darting through the misty canopy, three Yellow-browed Warblers tsooesting and Pied and Spotted Flycatchers among commoner migrants.

Back home for a quick breakfast and after running the Mrs to work, back in the field within 40 minutes and up to Gristhorpe Bay to check the clifftop scrub and hedge for grounded migrants. A slow scan of the fenceline, and bingo - a sharp-as-a-razorblade male Red-backed Shrike stared back at me before resuming its pest control duties. Ignoring the group of five Whinchats nearby, I snuck closer, and the shrike snuck closer to me, leaving me with fantastic views and twenty very, very well spent minutes together. The rest of the afternoon meant more patrols of Carr Naze and Top Scrub, and plenty of variety - Bramblings, Siskins, more thrushes and other finches, a scattering of common warblers (including ever-present and vocal Yellow-brows), an upsurge in Robin, Dunnock and Goldcrest numbers - and despite much activity drying up by mid-afternoon, even at dusk there was evidence of new arrivals, with new Robins and Song Thrushes on the Carr Naze clifftop.

Today? Well much the same in truth, although again, a steady turnover of birds, including at least five well-spread Yellow-brows, my first Ring Ouzel of the season chacking along Short Hedge, more new Robins and thrushes, a Dunnock watched arriving high and in off (a real highlight - I'm not kidding!), new Pied Flys and chats, and the constant promise that the next bird might just be the big one; but if not, who cares - it's a joy.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Israel, March 2017 - extras

Better late than.... a few leftovers from the memory card which slipped my mind until now - what a place!