Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Filey, 14th - 30th April 2015

With May in full swing, time for a catch-up for the second half of April here on the patch. Conditions were unfortunately rarely very promising over the course of the fortnight, with no warm, gentle southerly airflows to inspire broad-winged wanderings, no classic passerine fall conditions, and little to encourage notable movements on the sea; hence, it was a question of mixing it up and hoping for the best.

Brisk west-south-westerlies for 15th looked good for visible migration, and three early morning hours later at my favoured clifftop vantage point I'd enjoyed a male Ring Ouzel (above) coasting north at eye level, two Corn Buntings (a locally scarce bird), plenty of Sand Martins and Swallows, the year's first House Martins, two White Wagtails on the neighbouring golf course and good numbers of finches on the move, including over 300 Linnets.

It wasn't to last, however, and the next few days were very quiet for migrants (but for a pair of Little Ringed Plovers dropping in at East Lea), and included lengthy, almost blank seawatches in strong northerlies, reinforcing just how quiet this time of year can be on the sea. Common migrants continued to trickle in quietly, plenty of firsts-for-the-year arrived, and two gorgeous male Greenland-type Wheatears on the Tip on 21st were a reminder of how far some trans-Saharan migrants still have to go after reaching us.

Despite trying to prove otherwise by hammering the patch with a robotic mania in recent Aprils, overshooting spring scarcities are a genuine anomaly at Filey; still, blind faith and/or dogged persistence were bound to pay off one day, and pay off they surely did on 22nd. A 'dark-headed' wagtail with a strange call dropping in at the back of East Lea was exactly the kind of reason I'd been camping out there with metronomic repetition, and to be confronted with a spanking male Spanish Wagtail was well beyond expectations. More on this to follow, but it's the kind of bird that instantly refills a gradually emptying tank in the blink of an eye.

The same day provided the first singing Cuckoo of the year and two more White Wags, before a quiet 23rd preceded a better 24th; warm sunshine encouraged warblers and hirundines to take centre stage, and high up in the blue above Carr Naze, two Red Kites and an early Hobby shared the same airspace in the late morning. Messier, cooler conditions over the next few days were generally unremarkable, but more patience at East Lea for several hours on 29th was again repaid in full by a cracking male Grey-headed Wagtail within a constant changeover of flavas, totaling at least 17 for the session.

Of the year list? Well, without going into too much detail, I'm unlikely to be breaking any records.... to do so I'd need some luck, swift and/or widespread co-operation, and ultimately more time in the field, and only one of those factors is realistically subject to change over the rest of the year (and here's hoping it does sooner rather than later!). The irony of two rare wagtails - very likely the highlight of the spring, and possibly also the year (re: iberiae) - not qualifying as additions isn't lost on me, but it is at least a humbling reminder of the arbitrary quirks of taxonomy...

Patch list (as of 5th May) - 127