Saturday, June 23, 2012
Kicking back in the study, working on an article, listening to an excellent adaptation of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance on R4 and avoiding a blustery outdoors littered with multitudes of day-trippers, when a call came through re: a Red Kite heading low towards the seafront from the north cliff (thanks Julie).
With Red Kites being much scarcer up here, and with the seafront being 20 seconds away, a slippertwitch* inevitably beckoned. Grabbing the camera, swerving chip-munching holidaymakers and scanning the bay, I happily got onto the Kite immediately as it approached from the north, predictably harried by gulls and corvids.
Forced out over the bay, the bird lost height and at one stage plummeted unnervingly close to the surface of the water, before battling upwards and eventually making its escape by heading way out to sea.
A treat made all the sweeter by the old gent playing 'Oh I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside' via a crappy casio keyboard (and a deafening P.A) in the bandstand alongside me. Couldn't agree more.
(* = when time spent changing into outdoor footwear is time critically wasted)
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Filmed a while ago (before the world tour and subsequent exile on the Yorkshire coast), this BBC Natural World - titled The Unnatural History of London - was broadcast on Monday. It's available to watch on the iPlayer here for another few days, and it's worth watching if only for the beautiful shots of my then patch, Stoke Newington Reservoirs in Hackney. Happy days.
Saturday, June 16, 2012
As implied by the lack of posts of late, the first half of June has been predictably somewhat lean for notable records; and as intended, during such lean periods these dispatches will go fortnightly to avoid filler-style boredom. After a decent run of scarcities in late May, the shutters came crashing down on migration activity at the beginning of the new month, and have remained closed since; however, the summertime blues are likely to be pleasingly brief, with the range of habitats accessible here providing a choice of options over the coming weeks.
While passerines are unlikely to figure again until autumn migration commences in August (with the flogging of hedgerows and scrub providing ever-diminishing returns), there is the bay, the sea, and the Dams in the meantime, all of which will hopefully steadily come into their own as the weeks pass.
So, never a better time to be distracted by the necessities of gainful employment, especially when said employment involves monitoring the bay and its birdlife, which unsurprisingly has been the source of the few highlights so far this month.
A Bonxie, a single Knot and two Common Sandpipers were on the brigg on the 1st, but beyond then, the roll-call has been reasonably stable - a few Red-throated Divers, Common Scoters, Eiders, Sandwich Terns and Great Crested Grebes are all often present amongst the masses of locally-breeding seabirds.
More recent highlights include a summer-plumage Great Northern Diver on the morning of the 12th, and a fresh-in Hobby later on the same day, which after a couple of unsuccessful shots at the nearby Sand Martin colony, proceeded to head directly out to sea, disappearing from the 'scope somewhere north of Flamborough.
With the worst due to be over soon, for now it's a case of riding out the next few weeks and hoping for the occasional highlight in the meantime until possibilities increase during July.
Tree Sparrow adult and recently fledged juvenile
Sunday, June 3, 2012
Welcome to the East Yorkshire summer
A choice this morning over breakfast - head out into the rain on another initially hopeful but ultimately fruitless search for a (very) late spring killer on the patch, or accept a ride with Dan and Rich the 30 miles or so down the coast on a pleasant jolly to twitch the European Roller. After a minor wrestle with guilt the latter won out, and we were soon on our merry way onto the Holderness Plain - the flat, monochrome expanse of farmland and glassy-eyed tory intolerance dividing the North Sea from the Yorkshire Wolds - and towards Aldbrough, the present village of choice for confused spring overshoots.
As filthy twitches go, this was perhaps the most painless and inoffensive; onto the verge, window half down, bird in situ, exactly where it was supposed to be - hunched disconsolately on the only available perch a short distance from the road - with the added bonus of not having to tolerate the ticking masses, who were either put off by the weather or mercifully inaudible within vehicles.
Aldbrough - it's just like Extremadura
A colourful part of the world
Friday, June 1, 2012
May's final week or so brought some late spring rewards, with a couple of generally forgettable preceding weeks happily exorcised. After the winning streak of late April and a promising beginning to the month, a pattern of increasingly slight returns from almost daily circuits followed, with no significant arrivals of quality or quantity to speak of; but the end of the month went some way to redressing the balance.
juvenile Long-tailed Tit
Come the 19th, a scheduled four day trip back to London fell, somewhat nightmarishly, just as a north-easterly airflow settled over the North Sea, bringing a healthy scattering of scarce drift migrants to the east coast.... Something had to give, and a brief Rustic Bunting had unfortunately come and gone by the time I was back in the ring; timely inspiration however, with a clear run upcoming in the field.
And so the high pressure-inspired northerly airflow continued, with the mornings of the 23rd and 24th shrouded in dense, fast-moving fog (not unlike birding with a smoke machine as a constant companion), with the afternoons clearer but still prone to irregular sea frets. Both days were also, despite lengthy efforts, almost migrant-free, with a single Spotted Flycatcher in Arndale the highlight of many hours covering the northern area.
The 25th seemed to be following the same script, with thorough searches yielding nada under clear blue skies; however, a diversion to the obscured north-eastern lip of (the tiny) Carr Naze pond in the afternoon sun to photograph accommodating Sand Martins instantaneously swung fortunes around.
A Temminck's Stint rose from almost underfoot, and then behaved impeccably by alighting just a few metres away on the opposite edge of the pond instead of heading into the ether, and sticking around long enough to have its picture taken before rising over the Totem Pole field and heading west. A wonderful bird, apparently the first Obs record for eight years, and just the reward needed to keep the faith.
Otherwise engaged for much of the 26th, which was again largely sunny, with a variable (but mainly easterly) wind; we did, however, head back in easily enough time to catch up with a particularly talented Marsh Warbler, a masterclass in expert mimicry in the scrub and cow parsley of the East Spur. A good hour or more there also provided several brief but nice views as the bird roamed around its small, temporary territory.
The 27th was another full day in the field with much ground covered, but with little to show for it under more clear skies and a gentle (but cool) northerly. The 28th was likewise sunny and blue-skied, but with the rare distinction of being officially hot; another Osprey through at around 1015hrs was the pick of the bunch, but with a precious dash of genuine summer, it'd be churlish to complain too much.
And so to the 29th. After countless recent false dawns at the hands of inaccurate forecasters, a bona fide easterly wind took hold, however temporarily, raising hopes and focusing minds on the possibility of something special. Hence, multiple fine-tooth combings of the recording area, with efforts as usual focused on the northern / eastern coastal section, as well as a full loop of the south; hedgerows, fields, scrub, golf course, ravines, woodland, clifftops and the rest.
A probable Icterine Warbler (found by Frank) in the Top Scrub gave us the runaround before a quick spate of good views and diagnostic song did the job just fine just after lunchtime; a fine bird, and while not quite the late spring killer that threatened, a final quality scarcity in a late month flurry. More signs of movement were evident on the day, not least in the lumbering form of yet another Osprey, which appeared over Carr Naze (and my head) early in the afternoon, making it four for the spring so far.
Of the 30th and 31st, well, not much, despite more constant attentions to detail. But the Dams provided plenty of family entertainment, hosting fluffy fledglings from Tree Sparrows to Mute Swans, plus Barn Owls, Cuckoos, Sedge and Reed Warblers, Foxes, Roe Deer, and plenty of hirundines and Swifts, making for a very affirming early summer scene.
Easterlies for the beginning of June? Anything could happen.....