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.)