Friday, September 26, 2014

Filey, 1st - 10th September 2014

Purple Sandpiper (right) and Dunlin on the Brigg
After what was a generally quiet August locally (see here), September 2014 began with the concern that it may follow the pattern of my previous two here in Filey - i.e., a frustratingly quiet first three quarters of the month dominated by a westerly airflow, finally kicking into gear for the final week of month.

Summer-plumaged Red-throated Diver over Carr Naze
As it happened, I needn't have worried, and the month has already broken with type on various levels. Perhaps straying elsewhere along the Yorkshire coast is healthy after all, with vaguely guilt-tinged forays to both Flamborough (well, the sea beyond it) and Spurn (for the excellent Migration Festival) during the first ten days of the month providing good birds, a good craic and perhaps a subconscious burst of extra enthusiasm for the patch.

Bonxie on the Brigg. Unfortunately the victim of some kind of pollutant and clearly unwell, but still able to fly (and thus evade rescue).
So while the 1st was spent rocking gently on a little boat off the Cape, the 2nd saw a full day out on patch. The morning was spent getting our hands dirty, creating a gravel island at our East Lea nature reserve (with the added bonus of four Common Buzzards drifting low overhead and impatient groups of Ruff, Snipe and Dunlin buzzing around our spades); the land was otherwise quiet, as was an afternoon seawatch, at least enlivened by a Sparrowhawk arriving in-off.

An over-inquisitive young Roe Deer which took an age to finally get the message from its tongue-gesturing mum....
Mild and foggy conditions with a light easterly raised anticipation for the 4th, but with scarcities arriving elsewhere on the coast, a full day produced little in the way of local rewards. Conditions for the following day (5th) held true, however, and persistence paid off - an early start patrolling the northern area finally broke the autumn's scarce passerine curse, with a very welcome Red-breasted Flycatcher in Short Hedge. It's been a great month for this always pulse-quickening continental waif, but at the time I think this was the first to arrive in the UK this autumn.

Red-breasted Flycatcher, Short Hedge, 5th
Along with an encouraging sprinkling of commoner migrants - a few Redstarts, Pied Flycatchers, Whinchats, and Grey and Yellow Wagtails - chalking up the RB Fly meant leaving my post and heading off for a weekend representing Yorkshire Coast Nature and the Obs at the Spurn Migration Festival was that little bit more relaxed, with the added bonus of being spoiled with a fabulous wealth of grounded migrants there. Quite a place.

Speckled Wood - an increasingly common species locally
Whinchat - a good autumn so far for this species
The 8th was quiet (although it was the first day of the autumn where the Goldcrest count crept into double figures), and so with little to inspire on the land, a seawatch was in order on the 9th (despite the unhelpful south-westerly breeze). At the end of Carr Naze and just before the descent down the cliff to the hide, three Great Tits came in off the sea - a reminder that, during September, movements aren't restricted to the 'right' conditions - and an entertaining four hours on the Brigg produced a wide cast of migrants, including various waders, wildfowl and passerines and both the commoner shearwaters; a Marsh Harrier picked up miles out over the waves eventually came in right alongside us, but not before (bizarrely) harrying gulls along the way, in a decidedly skua-like fashion.

Marsh Harrier (and Gannet) off the Brigg
Pick of the day, however, popped up on my final scan, just as I was about to pack up - a first year Black Guillemot in the bay, constituting the second quality scarcity of the month so far. A rare bird anywhere on the Yorks coast (even here at Filey, where we do quite well for them, they're less than annual), the bird obligingly returned to the same area for the rest of the week, allowing a steady procession of admirers to enjoy it (and presumably swell their county lists in the process).

Black Guillemot (right, with Cormorant)
So, a far from discouraging first part of the month locally - and there was plenty to come around the corner....