Friday, September 28, 2012

Filey, 21st - 27th September 2012

After famine, a feast of sorts. Something had to give, and as of this last week, the gloves came off in anger; seemingly endless low pressure systems finally gave way to an encouragingly messy chart. Initially that involved an encouragingly blustery northerly, and so the sea took priority on the 21st for a few hours from first light, with big counts of Manxies, Red-throated Divers and the two commoner Skuas, as well as a Great Northern Diver.

The 22nd continued in the same vain, with a moderate northerly producing a Pomarine Skua, five Sooty Shearwaters, and a good selection of wildfowl, including double figures of Pintail and pale-bellied Brents, Red-breasted Mergansers and Common Scoters in the hundreds. An entertaining morning seawatch, but finally the land justified some attention, and so into the Top Scrub.


With an hour or so to kill in the field and news of a Yellow-browed Warbler at the Tip, I camped out in a favoured sunny, sheltered corner and waited. Within thirty minutes, I was rewarded with both an Icterine Warbler (yep, another) eventually revealing itself in deep cover and then, flitting through the canopy of the sycamores, my first Yellow-brow of the season. A wonderful morning's birding, and a very welcome shot in the arm.

In contrast, a long session in the field from first light on the 23rd was promising but quiet, the lack of any cloud cover or precipitation no doubt preventing much action despite an easterly wind. By nightfall however, the wind had strengthened and the rain was pummeling down, and the 24th was another day.

Pied Flycatcher

The rain finally eased by around midday, and birds were obviously arriving in the misty drizzle, including   Bramblings, Siskins, Wheatears, Song Thrushes and Redstarts; but the worsening weather made observing nigh on impossible, and an ultimately prizeless several hours  - coming within a whisker of nailing what was surely a ........  - was excruciating, to say the least. A story for another time.

But then, there's always tomorrow, and tomorrow - the 25th - was an absolute blinder. The kind of day that amply justifies crawling out of bed before dawn on a cold and rainy morning, and the kind of day that provides the slow-burning fuel through the lean periods.

Red-breasted Flycatcher

The first couple of hours were encouraging, but hard work, as the rain again worsened and drove us into the cafe to sit out the worst. By 0930ish however, the torrent had reverted to light-ish rain, and we split up across the northern area. My choice of walking slowly north up Long Lane - an avenue of sycamores and hawthorn, joining into the Top Scrub at its conclusion - was a very good one.

Within the first few metres, I stood stock still as a wave of passerines flooded past - Redstarts, Robins, Blackcaps, and finches - topped off by a Barred Warbler, briefly appearing at very close range before spiriting away with its kin.


A few minutes later and the view opened out onto Short Hedge, instantly buzzing with activity; a flurry of migrants braving the conditions, including Redstarts, warblers, finches and more besides. And then, a heartbeat-skipping sprite materialised, flitting between the umbellifers and hawthorns within the feeding party; a bright, double-winged barred phyllosc of the Greenish kind.

After hastily summoning a couple of nearby birders, the bird showed again briefly, called several times and moved closer; at which point, the bird was disturbed (of which the less said here the better). Suffice to say, it looked like we may well have lost our chance at a conclusive identification, and there was every chance that a potential killer had got away, for the second time in 48 hours.

Tree Pipit

Retreating to the flat through heavy rain for a brief lunch break, the rain again appeared to be easing shortly afterwards; hence, back on with the waterproofs, and back onto Long Lane. Birds were evidently arriving all the time, and approaching the junction with Short Hedge once again, the show was back on.

Redstarts, Siskins, Bramblings, pipits, wagtails, a few common Sylvias and Phylloscs, a couple of Pied Flycatchers and various other species were busy feeding along the hedgeline, and within a couple of minutes, a pristeen Red-breasted Flycatcher alighted, tail-cocking and wing-flicking, in plain view in the nearest hawthorn. Already soaked but resolutely going nowhere (obviously), I'd barely exhaled before a Wryneck flew along the hedge and dropped onto the track, again in plain view. A scene to savour over and over again.

The Greenish in the hand

An hour or so later, still raining hard and still surrounded by birds (including a Merlin along the cliff top), I stepped into the stubble field at the top of Long Lane, crouched down to watch a movement nearby, and found myself face to face with, thank the gods, the Greenish Warbler, actively feeding and temporarily tolerant of my presence. A few minutes of unbeatable views and pretty decent record shots later, and I again put the news out.

Another RB Fly later (by the Top Scrub pond, presumably yesterday's bird), and again I bumped into the Greenish, this time on call, within nearby conifers allowing several others to catch up with it this time at least. 

By 1500, the rain had again become torrential and had set in; grudgingly, it was game over for the day, and time to start researching the finer characteristics of Greenish-type subspecies. The minutiae of which deserves a seperate post anon, but the upshot is, our bird failed to fit neatly into any subspecific bracket, showing atypical characteristics for each; still, a Greenish is a Greenish, and that'll do just fine.

juvenile Goldfinch

The 26th encouraged ten hours pretty much straight in the field across the recording area, with light to moderate winds (swinging from SE to N steadily through the day), bright spells, some cloud and the threat of (but sadly no actual) showers, skirting either side of us.

Which was more than likely a big reason why it just didn't happen; odd new birds here and there, including a momentarily-promising Reed Warbler, fresh-in Whinchat and Redstarts on Carr Naze, odd new Pied Flys and plenty of overhead migration - but, aside from the now sociable Greenish Warbler (which was even good enough to jump into a net just before the ringers packed up) and two remaining RB Flys, it was hard work.

 Redstart fresh-in on Carr Naze

As for the 27th, for once I'd prior commitments to keep, but still managed to steal an hour or so late morning. Light northerlies brought drizzle and then heavy rain, and heading for Church Ravine, expectations were not too high, with no reports from others in the field; but within a couple of minutes I'd connected with a Yellow-browed Warbler and two Firecrests, flitting through the foliage and regularly contact-calling. A fitting end to the kind of week that more than justifies living out here in the bleak, cultureless provinces .....