Thursday, May 6, 2021

Nocmig Update, April '21 - Flamborough

"Graow!" (again) - the first of not one but two Bitterns this month (on 23rd & 29th) - that's three in six weeks! (sound recording at the foot of the post)

As mentioned in the previous post, in contrast to the same period last year, conditions were pretty much as crappy as they could be from a nocmig perspective - bitter, northerly winds, high pressure and plunging temperatures all conspiring to put the brakes on nocturnal migration (or at least, the recording thereof). In contrast to the last post, however, that conspiracy was less nocuous at Flamborough, with plenty more going on over the Great White Cape than over the bay to the north.
The month began well with a push of waterbirds on 3rd included Pintails, Wigeon, all three rallids and plenty of Scoters (see above):


And while it wasn't the migfest it could've been with better conditions, notable species kept cropping up and checking in, making for a much more diverse and entertaining month than Scoter-centric and otherwise scant returns closer to home. These included an early Green Sandpiper on 14th...


..... a Mute Swan (a scarce Flamborough bird and nocmig first) and an excitable flock of Black-tailed Godwits on 18th...... 


... the first Common Sandpiper and flock of Turnstones on 20th (with further flocks of the latter towards the month's end).....


 .... and then a Wood Sandpiper on 26th - another locally scarce species, the first of the year, and my second Flamborough nocmig record (after the first last autumn): 


Regarding the 'standard' species, dynamic and abundance were broadly similar to Filey, with Teal, Redwing, Coot, Moorhen, Curlew, Song Thrush, Gadwall and Common Gull all regular in small numbers, with odd Snipe and Lapwing, and ever-reliable Oystercatchers breaking the silence; and, as hoped, there were plenty of Common Scoters morse-coding across the sonos throughout the month, with a fantastic total of 37 flocks.

Common Gulls were a regular nocturnal migrant over the village in April

Interestingly there were several flocks that mostly consisted of a much lesser-known, trisyllabic, 'm'-shaped call type (below), which also had many females, large/long flock size, and traditional higher single notes at the beginning, in common:


All the above would've been quite enough to justify pretty much nightly efforts in the village, but a further two Bitterns - on 23rd and 29th - were the kind of unexpected joys that not only redefine the status of the such species in local terms, but also give nocmig analysis that 'finder's buzz' that is at least as exciting as uncovering a scarcity in the field. 

Here's to May.... 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Nocmig Update, April '21 - Filey

A month dominated (and somewhat saved) by these beauties 

After a memorable early spring (see here and here), it wasn't a classic month's nocturnal migration recording here at Filey; compared with the much more benevolent conditions and corresponding results of April 2020 (the month it all began), conditions were just about as anti-nocmig as they could've been, with a seemingly endless northerly/easterly airflow, often clear skies and record-breaking frosts all combining to suppress movements and provide generally modest returns.

(Please use headphones for the audio clips)


There were, however, diamonds in the mine - most notably in the unstoppable form of Common Scoters, those rotund, weatherproof denizens of spring nocmig, which were thankfully an almost constant blessing - and a few other highlights sprinkled throughout the month. Read on (it won't take long this time)....


Filey Town 
The house recorder, and its location smack bang in the middle of the noisiest Herring Gull colony on the planet, suffered more than last April, and by the end of the month, if there was 20% of sonogram worth analysing, then it was a good night - far from ideal, but a combination of track record and stubbornness dictated persistence, which paid off to some degree.


Species which put in multiple appearances during the month included Teal, Curlews, Redshanks, Black-headed and Common Gulls, Grey Herons, Redwings, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Golden Plovers, although only in small numbers; Oystercatchers were reliably regular, and a Little Egret (pre-sleet and bone-chilling northerly gale) on the 4th was a new species for the house. An odd post-civil dusk pulse of passerines past the window on 20th included several Siskins and a Meadow Pipit, while Common Sandpipers eventually clocked in with singles on 19th and 23rd.


Otherwise, it was all about the Scoters. An impressive total of 49 flocks were logged throughout the month, often sizeable and vociferous, and often including calling females as well as males; there were several good nights with multiple flocks, but by far the pick was the night of the 12th, when 29 flocks registered between 2330 and 0210hrs. A joy.


Filey North Cliff 
Regular appearances from Teal, Oystercatchers, Redwings, Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, plus a smattering of Golden Plovers, Gadwall, Common Gulls, Skylarks, a couple of Water Rails and Little Grebes, Grey Herons, and the odd Wigeon were the story of much of the month, with a distinct lack of waders and passerines and low numbers of the more regular species.



Two variations on the many nocturnal flight calls of Water Rails

However, both Little Ringed Plover and Green Sandpiper were welcome registrations on the night of the 26th, and a drumming Snipe was a real surprise on the 19th - thought to be an exclusively breeding-related behaviour in the standard literature, but clearly not the case...

And then, thank the gods, there were the Scoters. Flocks were recorded on a total of eleven nights, again often substantial and often involving female calls, with a maximum of eleven flocks on the big night of the 12th. By the end of the month, a total of at least 35 flocks had graced the North Cliff recorder - with a minimum (allowing for duplication) of 72 flocks recorded over Filey combined in April alone.


(Happily, my Flamborough recorder had a much better month - summary to follow soon....)

Sunday, May 2, 2021

North York Moors Surveys, late April '21

Ring Ouzel

So that's round one of our North York moors lowland wader surveys in the bag - the first of three visits to various sites across the National Park, primarily to survey waders, but also to record all species of interest while we're there.
Marsh Tit

So far, so good. Methodology dictates early starts and arriving on site for dawn, which has made for some beautiful, frosty sunrises in idyllic surrounds. Breeding wader densities have of course varied depending on land use, grazing regimes and other factors, but Lapwing, Snipe, Curlew, Woodcock and Oystercatcher have all featured, and being in such great habitat for other key species has made for pleasantly busy survey maps.
Red Grouse

After such a poor spring so far on the coast, the variety and abundance of iconic species in the NP has been a real tonic, with Redstarts, Tree Pipits, Goshawks, Marsh Tits, Ring Ouzels, Dippers, and big numbers of Willow Warblers and Fieldfares all making for really enjoyable work days. Already looking forward to round two.
Spot the Redstart, breeding in a cliff face up on the moors....
Fieldfares - everywhere
The first Tree Pipits are back on territory
Ring Ouzel and Song Thrush
Dippers and Wheatears


Saturday, May 1, 2021

Guiding Adventures, April '21

Crippling views of Gannets are unavoidable at this time of year.... 

So I'm halfway through guiding this spring's programme of Yorkshire Coast Nature Birding Discovery Days, and it's been a blast so far - lots of great birding, with lots of lovely people, at beautiful locations in kindly weather... I love all of my jobs, but this one is always a pleasure and never a chore.
Brambling - a vocal migrant with a group of Chaffinches 

The days are limited to four clients (I prefer it to be more intimate with a smaller team) and we have a full day exploring my stretch of the coast, mixing it up with seabirds, landbirds and any particular specialities or requests on the day.
Four of a flock of nine Yellow Wagtails we enjoyed at close quarters

We have the option of roaming to Filey and Scarborough (or further south) - and often do for the Autumn Migration Days - but as is so often the case, the Greater Flamborough Headland provided us with more than enough during this first month of coastal adventures.
Summer plumage Bar-tailed Godwits on the move in the sunshine

At Flamborough, the outer head is always productive (especially early in the day) and then there's North Landing, South Landing or Buckton to choose from, and we've done all the above multiple times so far this spring. At this time of year it would be criminal not to spend the latter part of the day at the mighty Bempton Cliffs, especially as the light improves and it becomes less busy.
All the breeding seabirds were superbly accommodating, including Razorbills.....

It's a recipe that had paid off beautifully and provided a holistic birding experience of our local coastal spoils, and I can't wait for May.....
.... and these ever-popular summer visitors

I'm happy to say all the spring dates sold out quickly, but my Autumn Birding Discovery Days are freshly up and available to book on the YCN site - get 'em while you can!

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Common Scoter, April 2021

Busy times - too busy for blogging of late unfortunately (as reflected by overflowing memory cards), but in the spirit of an attempt at catching up, here's the first of hopefully a few posts this week, starting with this beautiful male Common Scoter on Scarborough Mere a few days ago. They've been wonderfully prevalent on my nocmig recording in recent weeks (many, many flocks), but its always good to remind yourself just how stunning they are in the flesh. More to follow, hopefully....

Monday, April 19, 2021

North York Moors Surveying - 17th April 2021

A few from today's surveying up on/off the Moors - highlights including a male Merlin (below), a singing Fieldfare (and other quiet ones), plenty of other thrushes (including Mistle Thrushes, above), countless Brown Hares, lots of Yellowhammers (also pictured) and plenty more on a glorious sunny day.

Monday, April 5, 2021

March 2021 (in random pictures)

Male Reed Bunting on Carr Naze. Reed Buntings are increasing as a breeding species locally and March is also a good month to catch them during visible migration.

As the North wind rages and temperatures plummet outside, time for a quick dip into the memory card for a few of last month's photo-orientated highlights.....
Little Egret on one of our surveys at Paull on the Humber. Look at those wing bones....
Female Teal, also on the Humber, where they congregate (with Wigeon, waders and gulls) at an outflow by the docks.
One of 20+ Bottlenose Dolphins off the North Cliff here in Filey on 28th. Following a recently predictable pattern, sightings increase in March and April and will continue through the spring and summer.
White-billed Diver off the North Cliff for twenty minutes on the 9th - any excuse to look at this vision of loveliness again.....
Always a joy..... the first Sand Martins battled through towards the end of the month, both on our Humber surveys and during vismig sessions at Muston Sands here in Filey
Finches play a major role in early spring visible migration, and it's always good to see Bullfinches bounding north along the cliff....
.... and where passerines migrate, Sparrowhawks follow
Pink-footed Geese are performing their stepping-stone migration back to the Arctic throughout the early spring, and I had an impressive 1375 heading north in four and a half hours on the morning of the 30th (these included)
Meadow Pipits - vismig stalwarts!
When the crowds descend on the town, we often head the other way, into the forests - where at this time of year our favourite spots have Kingfishers, Mandarins, Grey Wagtails, Goshawks and Dippers (pictured) all breeding
A migrant Short-eared Owl at dusk on the 30th up on North Cliff....
.. where no fewer than 12 Wheatears fed and hopped frantically together in the last of the light in a freshly ploughed field. My first of the year, and not sure I've ever seen this many together here?
Common Pipistrelle hunting by the house on the eve of the 30th
More from the Humber surveys - Curlews and Wigeon on the north bank (at Hull docks).....
..... and Avocets looking as aesthetically breath-taking as ever on the south bank.