Monday, September 2, 2013

Filey, 24th - 31st August 2013

Icterine Warbler, Top Scrub, 25th

With migration kicking in and prime conditions descending on the coast, it's been a week of relentless patch-hammering, interspersed with heavy doses of often idyllic sea-watching. The former has been undeniably disappointing, with scarcities raining down either side of us and yet a frustrating lack of quality here in the manor; the latter, however, has been a pleasure, with plenty of highlights and very worthwhile sessions down on the Brigg.

24th: Following overnight rain and north-easterlies, in the field pretty much dawn til dusk, despite (and because of) often thick fog and drizzle for much of the day. A decent selection of waders at the Dams first thing was followed by numerous circuits of the coastal zone; despite Redstart, Pied Fly, Tree Pipit, Willow Warblers, Wheatears and dozens of Painted Ladies on Carr Naze late morning, it never quite happened; but tomorrow surely had to provide.....

Pied Flycatcher, Carr Naze

25th: Onto Carr Naze for dawn after promising overnight conditions, and a small scattering of migrants hinted at a modest arrival; fine-tooth combings of here and all the local hotspots produced little more however, and so by mid-morning, the sea beckoned. With a brisk northerly blowing and the mist rolling back and forth, a stunning adult Long-tailed Skua, two smart Black Terns (a personal patch first) and a couple of Sootys refueled the tanks enough to justify the rest of the day again systematically digging for drift migrants.

A good scattering over the next few hours included twenty-odd Pied Flys, Whinchats into double figures, over thirty Willow Warblers, a few Garden Warblers, a juvenile Cuckoo, ten Lesser Whitethroats and more - all much appreciated and encouraging, but still no scarcity; time and mental energy were running down, and it seemed increasingly likely we'd miss out entirely this time round.

Curlew Sandpiper, Brigg

A little contemporary context: hard work at any time of year locally on account of both a lack of prime habitat and increasingly frustrating levels of disturbance, passerine hunting was further compounded over recent days by the masses invading for the (mainly warm and sunny) Bank Holiday weekend. This made for, well, interesting challenges to say the least - reflected neatly in the circumstances of finally finding a scarity in the shape of an Icterine a few hours later.

At that point (around 1800) I'd been in the field for twelve hours, by then engaged in a vaguely perverse battle to draw out the last few drops of almost-spent concentration and focus. Stood in the Top Scrub yet again beneath a dark, seemingly empty canopy, finally an encouragingly Hippolais-shaped movement shuffled forth against the light, mostly obscured by foliage; a challenge on its own, but with additional distractions within a few metres in the form of a sunburned beer monster belting out tone-deafeningly loud Elton John singalongs from his car stereo and thick black smoke billowing through the trees from one of many lighter fluid-flavoured barbeques, an altogether more demanding proposition. Ten minutes later and with further brief views obtained and a few record shots captured, I finally had it nailed, and against all odds, nobody had to die. This time at least.

Common Buzzard - one of at least eight on the 28th

Another full day in the field on the 26th was again disappointing, with a light sprinkling of common migrants but little else (although a Marsh Harrier over the Dams was a first of the season); a situation which looked like being repeated on the 27th, with slim pickings between dawn and mid afternoon. However, a distant Crane drifting high and south was a bonus (and the sixth of the year personally), and with other options exhausted, it was back to the sea.

Warm and sunny with barely any wind, conditions were hardly ideal for seabird passage; however, a brutish Pomarine Skua, a Balearic Shearwater (another personal first of the season), four Sootys and a pristine, supremely tame Curlew Sandpiper on the end of the Brigg made for a more than worthwhile four hours or so.

Willow Warbler, Carr Naze

By the 28th you'd have thought I'd have got the message, but with passerines still arriving along the coast I persisted with the land; a fruitless exercise but for another Marsh Harrier and a total of eight Buzzards through, and so once again, back onto the sea from mid p.m. onwards. Again, pure quality, in fact more so - a particularly beautiful adult Sabine's Gull, a summer-plumage Red-necked Grebe, no less than five Black Terns and a Velvet Scoter.

The last three days of the month were quiet but for a good selection of waders persisting at the Dams (including another Curlew Sandpiper, my fourth here this year), and with the in-laws over for the next while, transmissions will likely all but cease for a while.

"Are you ready, are you ready for love?"