Monday, March 18, 2019

Bay Whoopers - 18th March 2019

Have to admit that, with lots going on otherwise and tedius strong westerlies dominating, I've been keeping the powder dry of late, but with the wind dropping and the sun (temporarily) out, I couldn't resist an extended late lunch break up on Carr Naze / North Cliff here in Filey.

And a very enjoyable (if deceptively cold) ninety minutes it was, too - female Long-tailed Duck off the south side of the Brigg, a nice sharp Scandinavian Rock Pipit on Carr Naze, and 19 Whooper Swans (which had arrived earlier in the day) looking suitably angelic in the bay corner. A real joy to watch as they became increasingly restless, swimming in steadily faster circles, neck-pumping and calling before eventually taking flight, swinging round the Brig and heading north past Scarborough.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Bird of the Week #10 - Sanderling

The Brigg offers memorable opportunities to get close to Arctic shorebirds as they leave and then return from their breeding grounds. These Sanderlings were part of a small flock stopping off briefly in May on their long journey to the tundra, with the left-hand bird (also pictured below) looking particularly sharp. 
A little behind on this photo-sorting, blogpost-encouraging BOTW project (hey, it's a busy time), but back on track with the quintessentially sandy shoreline seaside stunner, the Sanderling. A (very) high Arctic breeder, Sanderlings soon head south for the beaches and mudflats of Europe and Africa for the non-breeding season, which is when we're lucky enough to host them here on the Yorkshire coast.

For me, they symbolise the close season here, when my adopted seaside seaside hometown of Filey becomes a near-ghost town after a summer of tourists and day-trippers; by October, the crowds have depleted to a meagre scattering on the beach at most, and Sanderlings - gleaming in their ghostly winter polumage - finally get to reclaim a little of their natural off-season habitat.

Which is where you'll find them, scurrying like wind-up toys, often in manic little parties, along the receding shore, for which they're specially adapted - look closely and you'll find they lack a hind toe, an evolutionary advantage that makes speeding along on the soft sand even more of a breeze.

A Sanderling in January on Filey beach, in more familiar, ghostly winter plumage. 

Juveniles are equally stunning, with a more contrasting, spangled plumage (pictured here on Filey beach in early winter). 

Friday, March 8, 2019

Happy Meds

It may have been dark, windy and intermittently pissing it down, but who cares when you've got Mediterranean Gulls at your feet? A quick detour with Pearson Snr to Holbeck car park on the seafront at Scarborough had us spoiled for choice, with at least seven in attendance, including five adults in various states of moult into breeding plumage.

Interestingly, none were colour-ringed, and so who knows where they're from - but in previous winters birds bearing colour rings have (I think) mostly been traced back to mainland / East European colonies. I did, however, manage to get enough photos of a Black-headed Gull's metal ring, which is Dutch; details to follow when they come through.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Buckton Whooper Swan

Stole a quick by-passing opportunity to get close to an adult Whooper just down the road at Buckton pond the other day - what a beauty.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Back in Business - The Local Peregrines

It's that time of year - the local Peregrines are back in business, kicking ass and taking names, along the cliffs and over the town; in fact it's about now when I start having the privilege of watching them bulleting over the chimney pots out of the study window in pursuit of feral Pigeons. These photos were taken on a quick break up on Carr Naze the other day, under dark skies and in strong winds, but still portray the inherent beauty in these super-slick raptors - such a joy to have them around.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Bird of the Week #9 - Goldcrest

A freshly-arrived Goldcrest in a coastal hedgerow here in Filey in late October. An active, healthy bird having made it to optimal feeding habitat after enduring the dangers of a sea crossing. Others are not so lucky.... 
They had to feature at some point, and it may as well be now, with these disconcertingly warm February days triggering their wheezily tinkling songs from local evergreens... as well as being anthropomorphically just as about as cute as a micro-dinosaur can get, Goldcrests are also arch exponents of the consistently mind-blowing miracle that is bird migration - the full spectrum of which is covered in the next few photos.

Another Goldcrest here at Filey, also in late October - this one arrived in off the sea, struggled to make landfall, and pitched up right next to me on this stone ledge, just a few metres from the waves, where I was seawatching on the Brigg. The bird was so exhausted as to barely register my presence - after looking up at me from just a few centimetres away, it promptly fluffed up and went to sleep. Despite being so tired and vulnerable, there's every chance this bird made it. 
While they're a common breeder the UK and we've a few scattered breeding pairs nearby, all the birds pictured here - like the overwhelming majority of Goldcrests that occur at Filey and other coastal watchpoints - are, incredibly, migrants, fresh in from perilous journeys over the North Sea. Incredibly, as in, they're barely any longer than your forefinger and the weight of a 20p coin, and yet they routinely make these journeys, sometimes in their hundreds of thousands, every autumn - and in fall conditions, they can be so numerous as to turn clifftop grasslands into a carpet of tiny mouselike movements foraging at your feet.

Another Goldcrest, also from the Brigg, just a few metres from the sea - this one not so fortunate. This bird must also have just arrived, and was still warm when I found it - sadly, after successfully navigating the sea crossing and its dangers, the trials of the journey were just too much.
Sadly, not all of them make it, of course (see photo captions); but enough do for it to be a successful migration strategy and a phenomenon which leaves me dumbstruck and open-mouthed with wonder every autumn.

Same species, same place, same time of year - a few metres further up onto the clifftop, where this bedraggled but successful migrant was hopping around in the weeds with hundreds upon hundreds of its brethren - every one a tiny miracle. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Goshawks (Take 2) - 25th Feb 2019

With another calm, sunny morning on the cards, Pearson Snr and I headed back into the forest for another crack at Goshawks, and had an absolute ball with them; a minimum of eight individuals were identifiable in the field and from the photos, with perhaps one or two more also involved, and it was a joy to be out in such peaceful, picturesque circumstances with such iconic raptors putting on a killer show.

Less enamouring was the youngster with missing flight feathers consistent with a gunshot (see a few photos down) - Welcome to Yorkshire, indeed.