Thursday, May 3, 2012

Filey, 27th April - 3rd May 2012

Brambling, Short Hedge, 2nd

So much for the month ending quietly..... as mentioned in last week's summary, April was seemingly on course to sputter out under characteristically dark skies, low pressure, plenty of rain and unhelpful winds. Thus a mainly sunny (albeit blustery) afternoon in the southern area on the 27th was a welcome if pretty quiet break from the storms. Aside from a trickle of northbound Swallows and a Wheatear on the (closed, largely submerged) golf course, the action was limited to the bay, where there were a pair of Shovelers, 15 Common Scoters, two each of Velvet Scoter and Eider, around 15 Sandwich Terns and a couple of distant Common/Arctic Terns.

 Bullfinch, Parish Wood

The 28th saw the wind swing a little more promisingly into the north-east, although the dark skies, blustery conditions and showers made birding difficult. A full circuit of the northern area was notably quiet, until the last few metres of habitat - when a cracking male Ficedula Flycatcher braved the wind and announced its most welcome presence. A Pied would have done just fine, but after further scrutiny and subsequent feedback it seems it was a little more interesting.

Common Redstart, Church Ravine, 30th

Further lousy weather ruled out any activity the following day, but cross-referencing the various forecasts and charts for the 30th quickened the pulse significantly; hence, an early alarm was set despite a pre-booked session (and an obligatory skinful) into the early hours the preceding evening. And mercifully, the forecasts held true - the winds had duly calmed and swung easterly overnight, with torrential rain replaced first by higher cloud and then fog.

Avocets on a temporary flash by the sports fields, 30th

Fog, as in a full-on, dry-ice grey-out. Walking north along the cliff shortly after dawn, the sea was greatly amplified and yet completely obscured, and the two-hour window I had before having to bail out for prior engagements grew increasingly precious. Reaching a Carr Naze (the grassy plateau and its deep gorges that crown the Brigg) undisturbed by dog-walkers was a rare treat in itself, and in the beautifully calm, atmospheric gloom, migrants were suddenly everywhere.

Tame (and evidently knackered) Robins and Wheatears hopped along the path, unphased by my presence; redpolls and then Yellow Wagtails buzzed invisibly in gloom, followed by the first of at least three Tree Pipits. It was more than obvious it was game on, and with not a soul around, savouring the experience was a real pleasure. Next up, a Ring Ouzel - also the first of at least three - flashed across the path and into a gully, and the trickle of Swallows materialising from the fog became a steady, twittering stream.

A few steps further on, and bingo - a Wryneck, up from the path, along the cliff and out of sight just beyond the roman signal station. Further careful stalking (perhaps predictably) made for very limited success, and despite a second view and seeing exactly where it landed, the bird dissolved into the slopes within a second or two. No matter, a great bird at any time, especially in the spring.

More migrants followed (including e.g. Lesser Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler), but my time was up, at least for the rest of the morning. As the day wore on, the fog gradually burned away, leaving a bright and sunny afternoon; perfect. Back out as soon as possible by mid-afternoon, a Common Redstart on the entry path (a few minutes from the front door) was the harbinger of a Church Ravine loaded with fresh arrivals.

A particularly hygienic Wheatear, Carr Naze

A conservative count of 28 Willow Warblers here (a personal count of 62 for the day was doubtless a fraction of the overall total), as well as plenty of Robins, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps, Common Whitethroat, and two Yellow Wagtails on the neighbouring field were great value, and then a brief session at Long Lane and the Top Scrub revealed more of the same; brief on account of the arrival of two Avocets (a real local rarity) at a temporary flash nearby.

Back to the north-east area for the last couple of hours, and more migrants fresh-in included 12 Whinchats in the Totem Pole Field, another Ring Ouzel, and plenty more Wheatears along the cliff and in the Carr Naze area. Thanks to the frantic yelling of John and Frank (who needs walkie talkies?) I connected with an Osprey, just as it approached us, in off the sea in the evening sunshine. The kind of day that, if ever it were needed, reminds me why moving here was a very smart move. And then of course, to cap it all, there was this... hauling the DSLR around never seemed so righteous.

Osprey in off over the bay, 30th

As for the 1st of the new month, a return to blustery, dull, unhelpful conditions, and with a certain bird in situ at South Landing only about 15 miles away, it would've been rude not to stop by and say hello.

Back on patch first thing on the 2nd, and a full circuit of the northern area in cool, dark conditions with a blustery NNW was relatively quiet; but still, what few birds were around included some quality, not least in the shape of a tame, vocal and frankly beautiful Brambling, and an altogether more brutish Hooded Crow kicking around with the local marauding corvids around the old tip.

As honeymoon periods go, this is about as good as it gets. Bring on May.

Hooded Crow, 2nd