Wednesday, December 12, 2018

More Snow Buntings - 12th Dec 2018

A quick wander on a cold, windswept Carr Naze here at Filey and a quick session with these beauties. It's hard not to melt at the presence of super-tame, always alluring Snow Buntings, and despite the buffeting wind, I managed a few half-decent shots; nice to have a male (upper photos) and female (lower) close alongside each other, accentuating the more subtle beauty of the female.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Filey, 11th Dec 2018

We arrived back from a great week in Berlin last night, and with a frosty, bright morning and a couple of hours spare, I took the scenic route to the Brigg this morning along the beach and via the bay corner. No sign of the long-staying Black Guillemot (although it could well still be around), but plenty going on - Long-tailed Duck (pictured) and two Great Northern Divers pretty close along the south side of the Brigg, lots of Fulmars suddenly loafing offshore (with many auks also kicking around), Common Scoter, Eider, Goldeneye and Merganser in the bay and the male and female Snow Bunting (pictured) still on Carr Naze. Good to be back.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Diversionary tactics

After a great evening with the lovely folk of Teesmouth Bird Club last night, I got back home late morning with an hour or so to kill before responsibilities beckoned, and so nipped onto a frosty, bright Carr Naze to check on the assemblage along the sheltered bayside. Happily bumping into comrade Lombard, we descended the slope on the south side to get closer to the action - and (despite the glare of the sun) had a great selection within just a couple of hundred metres.

Will's Black Guillemot had returned, slotting back into its tidal feeding cycle, a Long-tailed Duck bobbed about between a few Eider and Scoter, and all three divers were viewable - including this Black-throat picked up by Dan a little earlier, which gave great views (though not for the camera) as it patrolled the shoreline. After a while, the Great Northern came in closer, too - and proceeded to exhibit aggressive and interesting behaviour towards its rarer cousin.

Initially approaching the Black-throat at speed with head bowed and bill lowered, the Great Northern then dived, disappeared, and ambushed the Black-throat from underwater - surprising it into a panicked, clumsy escape, which the Great Northern followed up with silverback-style profile-raising, splashing its feet dramatically on the water's surface and flapping theatrically. After this scenario panned out twice, the Black-throat sensibly did the right thing and buggered off out into the bay, looking over its shoulder frequently as it did so.

I can't recall watching any similar behavioural intercations between divers herw or anywhere else - there's always something new to learn....

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Scotland, Nov 2018 - Secret Squirrels

It's a cold, cold heart that doesn't melt in their esteemed presence, and we were always pleased to bump into them wherever we crossed paths in the Highlands; we even stumbled on a secret feeding spot in a quiet glen, where we had them to ourselves...

Well, secret apart from the clues by the road....

Monday, November 19, 2018

White-tailed Eagles - East Yorks & Speyside

Two White-tailed Eagles, just a couple of days but worlds apart - compare this immature (above and below) in Strathdearn, Speyside on our Scottish trip last week with the immature which sailed in off the sea and over Flamborough village just before we set off (just don't spend too long admiring the crap photos)....

Friday, November 16, 2018

Scotland, Nov 2018 - Crested Tits

A species confined to specific habitat in a small area of central Scotland, we stumbled upon them at various spots in Abernethy and Rothiemurcus forests, and the birds at RSPB Loch Garten were especially accommodating.... sneaking in with gangs of marauding Coal Tits, Cresties were just as tame, happily hopping around your feet and generally showing off beautifully.

Often the easiest way to locate them was by their unmistakable and characterful call - a whinnying trill, almost like a mini-Whimbrel. Photo opps were (as always) secondary to enjoying the experience, and with the light being poor (and my gear far from fancy) I was quite happy with the results, opportunistically grabbed between hand- (and head-) feeding Coal Tits and generally lapping up the scene.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

PS, I Love You

Occasionally - actually very, very occasionally - it all comes together. Today included one of those such ultra-rare moments and I'm suitably grateful, believe me. With the current late influx of swifts into the UK - (apparently) mostly Pallid, (at least) a few Common, some (many?) either/or - and having only just returned from a great week in Scotland late last night (see forthcoming posts), I took my time this morning, and after a late start, I headed out onto the Brigg here at Filey - but not before refreshing my memory re: Apus ID. Last June's British Birds article is especially helpful, and along with a few other sources, I (re)embedded as much of it in the front of my mind as I could before leaving the house.

Fast forward a couple of hours, and after a pleasant session on the Brigg (Red-necked Grebe, Black-throated Diver, over a thousand Pink-feet south, Snow Bunting etc), I was about to head up the slope when the unmistakable form of a swift appeared over the sea, in from the north and moving fast. Alright, keep calm.... and very fortunately I was blessed with good views in bright sunshine (luckily with the sun directly behind me), and as the bird swooshed back and forth a couple of times, I tried to nail the essential features:

Thankfully, the head pattern stood out a mile from the off, and actually lowered my heart rate as a result: a diffuse, pale, fairly uniform overall coloration, with no contrast on the lores or forehead, and a classic, stonking 'alien eye' - perfect. From there, the pieces fitted together nicely: warm greyish-brown plumage tones, which on the upperparts accentuated the darker flight feathers (with the 'blurred' covert-tipping also clearly visible when the bird whipped sideways); a classic underwing pattern incorporating dark coverts fading gradually towards the flight feathers, showing as a dark area confined to just the forewing before steadily fading; dark leading edges to the wings, above and below; and, while subjective, wings that looked noticeably broad and blunt (actually very strikingly), and even the tail fork appeared shallow.

After exhaling slowly I reached around for the camera, by which time the bird had picked up height considerably and looked like it may zip off at any second - which it did, but not before detouring back to hoover up a couple of insects (to whom I'm forever grateful - you did not die in vain, my heroic little friends).

Even sweeter is the fact that, after a lot of effort vismigging last autumn right up to leaving for Cape May at the end of October (and missing a Pallid as I left - you should've seen the number of notifications when I turned my phone on at Philadelphia airport....), this was an example of ridiculously perfect timing, holiday and all - it's great to be reminded that, sometimes, it really does all come together.

Friday, November 9, 2018

A Mealy Mealy

Redpolls are ace, and it was an ace few days for them on our stretch of the coast at the end of October. With back-to-back Coues's Arctics at Filey and Bempton the day before and intriguingly variable Mealies dropping into increasingly bare late autumnal canopies, it was a challenging pleasure getting onto as many as possible and running through diagnostic (or supposedly diagnostic) features.

Despite typically occupying poorly-lit treetops, most were straightforward; others, like this bird, were less so, and from certain angles briefly flirted with the prospect of being somewhat rarer. At a push, the seemingly unmarked under-tail coverts, pale rump, frosty overall appearance, buffy breast sides and combination of (briefly-observed) other features could easily lead down an Arctic path (slope?), but as other photos (below) illustrate, well, things aren't always as they seem, particularly where redpolls are concerned.