Monday, September 12, 2016

White-rumped Sandpiper on the Brigg

From last Friday, sandwiched neatly between my driving theory test (in a booth in an office in Scarborough, message-ridden phone bouncing off the walls of a locker) and a fantastic Spurn Migration Festival (more of that to come). I've banged on a million times both here and elsewhere about the magic of the Brigg for uniquely close-up and heart-stopping experiences with ultra-tame, clockwork-toy waders - it was a major part of my talk the next day at Migfest too as it happens - and so regular readers will know how much pleasure I get out of communing with them on this magnetic tidal promontory.

Being otherwise engaged with breaking distances and hazard perception when the bird was found (by visiting birders - well done Simon and Kevin), we wisely dispensed with both as Rich and I tore it up back to Filey and headed down onto the Brigg, where a hot-out-of-the-blocks Dave (Aitken) informed us of the bird's buggering off 15 minutes before. A good scour of likely feeding places and small scattered wader flocks yielded nothing, and it wasn't looking at all promising. "Don't worry, you'll probably tread on it in a minute" was Dave's optimistic take on events, and amazingly, within a couple of strides, I literally almost did....

Like many other less-rare predecessors, it didn't care a bit, immediately carrying on feeding around us and trotting nonchalantly by our feet as we struggled to get far enough away for photos. Just a wonderful, wonderful bird, shared with good people (mostly from the greater Flamborough crew), at one of my favourite spots on the planet; and I know I've said it ad nauseum, but where else would you get so close to such a special little shorebird?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


A wonderful morning - one of those that makes you acutely, emphatically aware of why you bother to get up and roll the die. It started out innocuously enough, with the usual cycle to the Country Park, walk along Carr Naze and scramble down to the seawatch hide not suggesting much was going on overhead before training the scope on the sea. With a brisk south-westerly blowing and the northerly airflow of a couple of days ago long gone, the sea was predictably dead - in contrast to the last few days, when long sessions have yielded several Long-tailed Skuas, a Cory's Shearwater, a couple of Poms and other seasonal goodness - and so I wandered out onto the Brigg to check the waders (and my messages)...

I glanced up to see a flood of hirundines bombing down the same slope I'd gingerly negotiated an hour or so before, and then looked further up to see more at higher altitudes, heading south, south-east, and south-west.... clearly something big was underway, and within a couple of minutes I was back up onto Carr Naze and in position, facing north-west along the cliff-edge. For the next 90 minutes - roughly 0800 to 0930 - it was a constant, exhilarating barrage, with masses of House Martins and Swallows, a good few Sand Martins and regular Swifts whipping up over the cliff and past me in their droves, at all conceivable heights. Counting was fantastically difficult, with a mess of a notebook covered in arrows pointing to new pages and columns, with dozens becoming hundreds becoming thousands. Just a an absolute joy to behold.

Contact with Keith and Nick a few miles down the coast at the vis-mig bottleneck of Hunmanby Gap revealed a similarly excited and manic situation unfolding there, and between us we witnessed perhaps the biggest and most intense hirundine movement ever here in the Filey recording area. Full counts to follow, but my totals (0750-1050) - low as they are, having no doubt missed many - happily read:- 4470 Swallows, 3650 House Martins, 95 Sand Martins and 15 Swifts. Priceless.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Brigg me sunshine

With tides, light and solitude in your favour, there's nowhere quite like the Brigg in late summer (and indeed throughout the autumn, or at any other time of year for that matter...). With a bit of fieldcraft and patience it's often possible to get absurdly close to feeding waders. There'll be more to come over the next few weeks, but following on from the Little Stint the other day (I had two this morning as it happens, but the light is usually poor in the morning), here's a few standard bearers - Sanderling, Knot and Dunlin.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Little Stint on the Brigg

The now happily annual ritual of stint-whispering on the Brigg end came a little earlier than usual this year; for the third year running, sitting still for a while was all that was needed for the bird to come remarkably, sometimes catchably close.

Friday, August 26, 2016


I still can't seem to get enough of Fulmars, to the point where I'm still constantly distracted by them during sea-watches (and thus they may well be responsible for me missing the Bulwer's as it sweeps by in front of the hide). But there's few more beautiful sights than one approaching at close range out of a storm and into the evening sunshine, and the end of the Brigg is the perfect place to experience them.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Birdfair 2016

Well, that was fun. Amity and I are just back from this year's Birdfair, and what a blast it was, on every level. We were there to represent Yorkshire Coast Nature, our local wildlife tour company out here on (you guessed it) the Yorkshire coast, with company directors, close friends and all-round top geezers Rich and Steve.

It's been a real pleasure to be involved with YCN since its inception a few years ago, and it's hard to imagine more lovely people to work with; long may it continue to prosper, and I'd recommend the tours and workshops to anyone.... (and we won 2nd prize for best tourism stand - quite an accolade with so much quality competition!).

With the boys working it hard on the stand, we had plenty of opportunity to explore, although any good intentions to catch lectures during the day went out of the window - with so many people to talk to, it could take an hour or more to make it out of one tent and into the next. But we made it around most of the stands and around most of the site eventually, and it was better than ever.

Come Friday afternoon and it was time to deliver my lecture - a quickfire, super-distilled, bespoke Birdfair version of my (typically 90-minute-plus) 'Filey International - Arrivals and Departures at North Yorkshire's Bird Observatory' talk. As anyone familar with Birdfair knows, there's an overwhelmingly international bias to the lectures, and the vast majority involve far flung and exotic places - and so to be representing not only a British location but a small Yorkshire bird observatory was a real privilege. Better still, it was a full house, and a great audience - plenty of whom tracked me down afterwards with some lovely feedback.

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of Birdfair is indeed the people - re-acquainting with old friends and colleagues, connecting in the real world with virtual brethren, and making new friends from often unexpected places. I'm not always great with crowds - especially not for three solid days - and have a habit of zoning out periodically when immersed in such environs (and so apologies if you were a victim of such a wide-eyed blackout), but for the most of the time I think I managed to pay attention... I did consider an attempt at roll-calling all those who made it such a great weekend, but soon realised they really were too many, and all I'd achieve would be the accidental omission of various lovely people - so I'll just have to pull the old 'you know who you are' chestnut out of the fire. You know who are.

Special mention must however go to our dear friends the Perlmans - Yoav, Adva, Noam, Uri and Libby feel like family these days (and were also the bargaining chip that ultimately persuaded Amity to pull the many strings to be there!), which is all thanks to a much-missed mutual friend of ours, a certain Mr Garner. Yoav (and Keith and Paul) did Martin proud at the RSPB Friday evening lecture dedicated to him, and there was inevitably and hearteningly an awful lot of love and respect in the room. Maybe we can work on a more permanent event or suchlike to honour our friend? We'll see.

So - thanks to everyone who made it such a blast, to Tim for being the perfect host, and to the awesome Tina for going the extra mile. Here's to next year!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Dams Spot Red

It's picking up nicely over at the Dams, with lots of mud pulling in an increasingly interesting cast of waders. Among small handfuls of Ruff, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwits and Dunlins, this very smart juvenile Spotted Redshank dropped in the other day, and unusually has stuck around since. I've had them annually since arriving here, but they're a tough bird to get on a local year list and most are flyovers - so, a nice treat and a bit of extra inspiration for the coming weeks.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Rain hard, Reynard

Out here in the countryside, our foxes are far less trusting of humans (for good reason), and so any episode which involves getting close to them is a rare treat indeed. One such episode occurred early this morning, when - in a torrential downpour that soaked everything (including me) to the skin - I was drying out in the hide at the Dams, when I noticed I had company arriving from over the reserve. Expecting the new arrival to bolt when confronted with me, instead, the noise of the camera shutter proved too much of a curiosity. Beautiful.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Cliff Riches

A few from yesterday's weekly Kittiwake productivity plot - above, adult and below, just fledged juvenile, plus Fulmar and a smart, fresh, local juvenile Peregrine.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Too much to Swallow

A joy to spend time with here on Carr Naze, Filey this morning, several Swallow families were quality entertainment, especially when the parents fed the young (successfully or otherwise - note last shot).