Champions of the Flyway!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Orange-breasted Green Pigeons, India

It's not so often the words 'beautiful' and 'pigeon' sit comfortably together in the same sentence, but in India, things are always that bit more gaudy and stylish. These stunningly psychedelic Orange-breasted Green Pigeons were attracted to the fruiting trees just behind our guest house at Agonda Beach in Goa.

Six months have somehow passed since we were kicking back out there, but there are still a few entries worth of shots to edit and upload, so hopefully I'll be wrapping up the trip over the next week or two.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

North Cave Wetlands, 20th July 2012


 male Greater Scaup

An afternoon jolly with the old man and Lenora to North Cave Wetlands, the latter being the operative word - the sunny-intervals-and-zero-chance-of-precipitation forecast seeing the Met Office sink still deeper into the realms of farce as we drove through blankets of rain and sat out heavy showers in the hides.


But, a pleasant first visit to this small but impressive-managed YWT reserve tucked away off a minor road in the East Yorkhire countryside, about 45 minutes south-west of Flamborough (more about the reserve here).


Yellow-legged Gull

The place was buzzing with birdlife despite the conditions, with the pools alive with much just-fledged and just-about-to-fledge activity (especially Black-headed Gulls and Shelducks).

Which would've done just fine, but two unexpected bonuses awaited at the last hide, both conveniently on show right in front of us - a Yellow-legged Gull and a Greater Scaup. Nice.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The sea provides

19th July: With a blustery north-westerly throughout, pretty much all day staring at the waves was a constant pleasure. First up, monitoring the bay from early on - a dark morph Arctic Skua heading south, a good trickle of Manx Shearwaters heading north (all skirting the Brigg) and, most impressively, a silver-and-chocolate Sooty Shearwater, direct from the southern oceans and the first of the year, all keeping interest up throughout the morning.

Velvet Scoter 

And then as luck would have it, my time was my own from mid-afternoon, and so out onto the Brigg for a few hours seawatching. A half hour walk from the front door, via the beach, the rocky southern flank of the Brigg and into the hide (I know, what a commute) just in time to beat the incoming tide, and birds were on the move from the start.


 Sandwich Tern

With the waves smashing dramatically against the disappearing rocky shelves of the outer Brigg and a swell that made dry land especially precious, movements were clearly underway and there were plenty of gems in amongst the throngs of commoner seabirds.


The highlights included two Sooty Shearwaters, close in and gliding into the wind, over seventy Manxies, a Velvet Scoter, an adult summer Little Gull in with a Kittiwake feeding frenzy, and an impressive northbound movement of 38 Arctic Terns.

female Eider

Back-up was provided by small numbers of Teal, Whimbrels, Common and Sandwich Terns, Common Scoters, and on the Brigg, a skittish Sanderling, four Turnstones and Common Sandpiper  in  amongst the seals, Shags and Oystercatchers.


Teal heading north

Highly entertaining, and doubtless a modest cast compared with upcoming sessions over the next few weeks. Happy days.

young male Eider - semi-resident on the Brigg

Monday, July 16, 2012

Purple Sands and Golden Seals

Purple Sandpiper 

A gentle stroll out onto the Brigg this evening after high tide - with the sea like a millpond, the wildflowers especially pungent and the temperatures distinctly summery - primarily in search of waders, which have just begun returning from the northern tundra, resplendent in breeding plumage for a short while.

Happily, well worth it - a subtly stunning Purple Sandpiper pottered about in rock pools below the main ledge and a flock of Dunlins allowed ultra-close approach, with a Ringed Plover, the requisite Oystercatchers and a few Whimbrels and Curlews making up the numbers.

And the seals are, well, almost strokable (if you want to lose a hand in a split second, that is).



Saturday, July 14, 2012

Filey, 1st - 14th July 2012

The lull is almost over, signs of migration are a daily (if still modest) blessing, and while there haven't been any scarcities or surprises, a trickle of early migrant waders and seabirds (and even a few passerines) have kept up the interest.


Most observations have come from the vantage point(s) overlooking the bay, as the monitoring work continues. Hence, species that habitually move on more open flightlines are generally that little too far out, like shearwaters for example; but with Manxies beginning to move, the last few days have nevertheless provided single figures heading north, with a maximum of four on the 13th.

Ducks have included Velvet Scoters and Wigeon (two north of each, 13th) and Red-breasted Mergansers (2nd and 6th), as well as omnipresent Eiders (a handful) and Common Scoters (up to 90 on 6th). Curlews and Whimbrels have been an almost daily feature, with the latter outnumbering the former, and peaking at 14 on 11th and 12 on 12th; otherwise, small numbers of Redshank and a couple of dozen Oystercatchers are the daily norm.

Impressive numbers of auks have been on the move, including peaks of over 200 Puffins on 11th and 13th; Sandwich Terns usually made double figures (with 38 on 13th), and the odd Red-throated Diver, Great Crested Grebe and Bonxie have put in appearances. Occasional Siskins and, increasingly, Yellow Wagtails are also moving.

I finally got the chance to sea-watch from the hide today (14th), and while it was a quiet one - 12 Manxies and a pale morph Arctic Skua being the highlights - it was a pleasure to get my eye in and begin the learning / re-learning curve before autumn sea passage really kicks in over the coming weeks.

With the extraordinarily wet conditions persisting, quality freshwater wader habitat is effectively non-existent; thus, it's all about salt water presently, and hopefully opportunities to sea-watch off the Brigg between days overlooking the bay will provide....

(Photos - Common Blues, Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnets and Latticed Heath)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Read Punting

In the absence of anything particularly entertaining to share, a cynical shot of self-promotion instead. Follow the link below to my wordpress site, which contains, amongst other things, various bird-related articles I've been commissioned to write recently, with plenty more to be published over the coming months. Enjoy.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Filey, 16th - 30th June 2012

Well, what should've been arguably one of the dullest fortnights of the year happily turned out to be far from it. One of the obvious advantages of spending several days a week monitoring the bay (from early morning to late evening) is being in the right place at the right time for early movements and potential long shots, of which there have been both over the last few days.

Long-tailed Duck in the bay corner, 27th

While on the one hand it'd of course bring greater avian returns during main migration periods, on the other there's the benefit of being in such a situation when coverage, and inclination, are otherwise at an absolute minimum. To spend 14 hours straight on a late June day on the off chance of something flying by would otherwise be borderline lunacy, but when you're there anyway, something has to give.

The two main highlights have both been brief visitors to the bay, each present for just seconds. Nothing less than a Long-tailed Duck settled briefly in the bay corner in the squally morning showers of the 27th before disappearing just as quickly - extremely rare outside of the winter months (when typically there are a handful of records annually), and thus fabulously off-the-radar. Arguably even harder still to catch up with locally, a Little Tern heading north along the Brigg on the 25th was another very pleasant surprise.

The Brigg from Arndale

Eiders and Common Scoters are ever-present, with a handful of the former and up to 75 of the latter in the bay; three Teal were also in the bay corner on the 20th, and two Shelduck headed south on the 25th. Odd Great Crested Grebes and Red-throated Divers are still around, and a dark-bellied Brent Goose spent a couple of hours loafing with the Shags and seals out on the Brigg on the early morning of the 25th.

Skuas have been represented by Bonxies (overland on the 18th, on the Brigg on the 20th) and a single dark-morph Arctic south on the 25th; gulls have included a trickle of Black-headed and Common as well as the usuals; and the animated shrieks of Sandwich Terns are a ubiquitous sound.

Red Kite

Aside from Oystercatchers (and odd Dunlins, Redshanks and Ringed Plovers) on the Brigg, waders have begun to move, with Curlews heading the cast; single figures became routinely double, with up to twenty going through on several days. Whimbrels have also sneaked through with their larger congeners, with a peak of three on the 25th.

 A crappy place to live

Of raptors, local Peregrines, Kestrels and Sparrowhawks put in regular appearances, while both Red Kite (23rd) and Hobby (27th) were unwelcome and duly driven out to sea. Preceded by an immature Grey Heron an hour earlier, a Little Egret came in off the sea on the 19th; the same morning was memorable for a huge passage of Swifts, numbering at least 600 in the first three hours.

Bonxie heading overland

Migrant passerines have been predictably thin, but occasional Siskins have coasted and a Crossbill flew low and north, calling regularly on the 27th. So much for June being dull, and as July begins, the possibilities begin to broaden again. If only I year-listed....