Champions of the Flyway!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Portland Bill, Dorset - 17th - 20th September 2009

Details TBC

Walthamstow Marshes, east London - 12th September 2009

A day off, and so a circuit of the lower Lea Valley sites, straying over the border out Hackney briefly over onto the marsh on a sunny, clear morning. As well as Yellow Wagtail, Spotted Flycatcher, a Green Sandpiper on the flood relief channel, a few Meadow Pipits and other bits and pieces, the marsh held plenty of warblers - 15 Chiffchaffs, 10 Common Whitethroats, eight Lesser Whitethroats (including five in the same bush), 15 Blackcaps and four Willow Warblers.

Common Whitethroat, Grey Heron, Starlings and Lesser Whitethroats

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Filey Dams YWT, North Yorks - 31st August 2009

A gentle soiree a few miles north to this hidden jewel of a coastal wetland; Bank Holiday Monday at a popular seaside resort with an easily accesible nature reserve equals a rabble anywhere else, but mercifully not here - two relaxing hours of the place (and hides) entirely to ourselves, but for brief visits from two friendly local birders.

A perfectly managed site and almost shamefully easy to cover, the Dams had a few nice waders (including two Greenshanks and a Bar-tailed Godwit), plenty of wildfowl and a little cluster of passerine migrants by the first hide, including two Spot Flys, Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and a Lesser Whitethroat.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Flamborough, East Yorkshire - 28th - 31st August 2009

A much needed break back home for a few days over the Bank Holiday weekend; good to be out on land and sea, and despite relatively minimal returns, a pleasure to reconnect with the hallowed coast and its big skies after a hard-going August back in London.


A couple of hours in the Old Fall area with Rich B, in blustery westerlies and generally bright, mild conditions; most of the habitat was bent horizontally by the wind, but the willows along the northern edge of the plantation were relatively sheltered, and a cluster of migrants there included two Spotted Flycatchers, ten Willow Warblers and a Lesser Whitehroat.

Other notables included a pair of Peregrines low overhead, a Merlin whipping through the panicked hirundine flocks, about a dozen Swifts and a Curlew over. A brief scan of the field by Thornwick track produced two Whinchats and a Wheatear.


As 'spotters' on the RSPB mini-pelagic, the old man and I had the pleasure of observing from the upper deck of the Yorkshire Belle, on the three-and-a-half hour morning sailing out of Bridlington Harbour. Along the southern flank of the Head and then a few miles off the tip, the strong westerly made for a stomach-churning, white horse spraying rollercoaster, with the punters below suffering worse (plus It's A Knockout comedy soakings).

With the conditions as unpromising as they were, it was a relief the birds didn't let us down.... the targets / value-for money species were shearwaters and skuas - thankfully manxies were numerous, with several coming close to the boat; two bonxies were tempted in by the Gannets and gulls troughing the chum; and three adult Arctic Skuas - two pale, one dark - came close enough for everybody to connect. No sootys and no big surprises, but a good deal more than was expected.

Swifts, Sand Martins and Swallows were battling into the wind way out over water, Guillemots, Razorbills, Fulmars, Gannets, various commoner gulls, Sandwich and Common Terns, odd waders, and a Barnacle Goose were also recorded, and a Grey Seal and a Harbour Porpoise showed well. (Much of the time even holding the DSLR was victory, so the fact that any photos came out is a minor miracle).


An early morning seawatch in lovely conditions (for building sandcastles, not watching seabird passage) was, well, of limited appeal; forty-odd Manxies, a few waders and plenty of Swifts and hirundines were as good as it got, and so we sniffed around the outer head for migrants - weeks of strong westerlies tantalisingly promising a large fall and a host of class A rarities.

In reality really not too bad considering the conditions, with a loop around Old Fall - Raptor Watchpoint Hedge - Roadside Pond - the Golf Course providing 25 Willow Warblers, 2 Spot Flys, 3 Lesser Whitethroats, a Common Whitethroat, 20-odd Swifts, clouds of all three hirundines, about 15 Wheatears, 3 Whinchats, flyover Dunlins and Golden Plovers, and 2 Yellow Wagtails and a Tree Pipit on the golf course.

(Naturally, a Surf Scoter flew past the head late afternoon and an Ortolan turned up in the bay the day after I set off back - but having enjoyed plenty of both in the last few months - in New England and Extremadura respectively - melodrama is best saved for later in the autumn.)