Sunday, April 20, 2014

Filey, 15th - 20th April 2014

Sand Martins and Swallows brave the cold winds at the Dams
A short, sharp round-up of a short, sharp week; guests staying + a heavy cold + the Easter weekend masses descending = very limited time in the field, but even with all that in mind, a few brief but decent sessions to report.

The first Whimbrel of the year at East Lea
A couple of hours at the Dams on 15th were enjoyable if only for small, buzzing flocks of Sand Martins and Swallows over the water, as well as my first Lesser Whitethroat of the year and a couple of soaring Buzzards to the west, but falling asleep in the hide in a pool of your own snot is generally a fairly good indication of when to withdraw promptly; I failed to take my own advice a couple of days later however, and couldn't resist another extended session at the Dams and East Lea on the morning of 17th.

Little Ringed Plover, East Lea
Having just received news of a flyover Serin a few miles south at the Gap (nice work boys), I didn't expect much in the cool, windy and dull conditions, but as it turned out, a productive couple of hours followed. The fringes of East Lea's pool held both Little Ringed Plover and Whimbrel (both personal firsts for the year), and amongst a surprisingly steady trickle of passerines heading north-west (including various finches and a Wheatear), a vaguely familiar toy-trumpet call cut clearly through the wind.

Northern-type Bullfinch
Thankfully the bird was approaching, allowing me to pick it up easily as it swept through - a male Bullfinch, repeating its tell-tale tooting, indicative of the Northern / Eastern race. Aware of the subspecies' relative paucity - not least in spring, when I can't remember ever actually hearing of any records - a quick chat with Martin at Flamborough regarding the call (and whether it is indeed diagnostic) confirmed its apparent rarity value. About the least expected scarcity of the spring so far, but no complaints....

As the sky grew darker and the wind stronger, hirundines began to assemble behind me over the Dams, and so the next couple of hours were spent embedded in the East Pool hide, enjoying the show and, theoretically, being in pole position for when the Red-rump dropped in.... it didn't, of course, but it mattered little, with the first real surge of these always uplifting trans-Saharan travellers making for a fine session - at least 60 Swallows, 50 Sand Martins and a single House Martin within it.

The next couple of days were mainly spent riding out the worst of the cold - except for an almost blank sky-watching session early afternoon 18th, saved by a Great Northern Diver in the bay - before a similar Dams / East Lea session (sitting in a hide being do-able, walking for very long not) today, 20th; again no real expectations, but again a nice surprise, this time in the shape of a Jack Snipe, flushed from my feet in an otherwise unaccessible corner of the reserve.

So, it could've been worse, but it's time to step it up a couple of gears for the coming weeks - wish me luck and watch this space.