Sunday, October 28, 2012

Filey, 19th - 26th October 2012

Short-eared Owl in off the sea

A later bulletin than intended, especially at such a time of year; but so it goes, and so a slightly more truncated update this time around. October hadn't been kind regarding encouraging conditions up until the beginning of its third week, when the charts held true and what looked like a near-perfect weather system developed.

Goldcrest, Carr Naze

Fast-forwarding to the 23rd, and there was high pressure over Scandinavia, a north-easterly airflow, and thick fog enveloping the coast - lacking only intermittent rainfall to complete the ideal scenerio, but still, very promising, and a thrilling day in the field ensued (see the last post here).

 Yellow-browed Warbler, Top Scrub

Come the 24th, and another wholly exhilarating dawn-til-dusk session, tracing and retracing throughout the northern area, in even thicker fog throughout; it's been many, many years since I've had the privilege of witnessing an arrival of thrushes to such a massive and constantly overwhelming degree. Numbers are practically meaningless, and we'll never know how many were involved, but many thousands is about as good as it gets.

Along with the multitudinal swarms of Fieldfares, Redwings and Blackbirds, Goldcrests were littered throughout the hedgerows, trees and within the weeds and grasses of Carr Naze, the first dry land on this side of the North Sea; otherwise, Robins were very numerous, and several dozen Brambling, small numbers of Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Snipe, Redpolls, Mistle Thrushes and Ring Ouzels, a single Yellow-browed Warbler in Top Scrub, and hundreds of fresh-in Starlings and were also recorded. A brownish-grey Phyllosc hiding in the foggy Sycamores of Long Lane was momentarily pulse-quickening, but turned out be another late Willow Warbler; it'd be interesting to know exactly where from.

And then, finally, after several days of barely being able to see beyond one's hand, the fog lifted at around 1500hrs. It seemed impossible that there could be more thrushes than we'd imagined, but there were - many thousands more, carpeting every field, hedgerow, cliff slope and open ground in the area. A walk to the end of Carr Naze before darkness drew in produced a run of good birds - a Slavonian Grebe and a Little Auk off the Brigg, a Short-eared Owl in off the sea, and a Lapland Bunting buzzing overhead. An entertaining end to another wonderful day of migration.


The following day (25th), and hopes were still high, despite the best of the weather system fading; at least observing conditions were much improved, with light winds and good visibility. A majority of migrants had predictably shipped out, leaving just a few thousand (!) thrushes, but waves of all the key species continued to arrive, Ring Ouzels were easier to find amongst congeners (and numbered at least eight), and there was surely a sibe gem somewhere....

But, despite constant best efforts, and an aforementioned weather system to quit a job for, not a hint of a rarity, or even a scarcity; proof that even near-perfect conditions don't necessarily always deliver. Even a rapid response to a report of a brief Pallas's Warbler in Parish Wood resulted in the appearance of, guess what, another Yellow-brow.... not to disrespect such wonderful little birds, but quite how we managed to avoid the real prize that was surely lurking here during these three or four ultra-promising days is a mystery.

 Brambling, Top Scrub

So for some reason, it wasn't meant to be. Still, there are worse ways to run oneself into the ground, and October still had some juice left in the tank, especially out on the water.....