Champions of the Flyway!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Mr Big Stuff - Filey, 21st April 2013

Another excellent spring morning's birding, and it was all down to the big stuff today. An early session at the Dams was quiet, but just as I was about to go and kick a few bushes in the northern area, a Eurasian Jay flew north-west - a very tricky bird to nail generally here at Filey, let alone in the spring - which changed my mind for me, and within ten minutes I was back on my favoured cliff edge and sky-watching at Muston Sands.

Over the Brigg (and many unsuspecting day-trippers)

Despite struggling temperatures, the winds in the south-west and hazy high cloud offered some encouragement, and it wasn't long before things got interesting. A Red Kite north-west at 1030 continued what has already been a very good year for the species locally, but that was just a taste of things to come...

Aware of Crane activity further up and down the coast, I was hoping for some more good luck with this species here in my adopted manor (after the group of three which welcomed me almost a year ago to the day, and the single I had from the same spot a fortnight ago). With a lot of sky, land and sea to choose from,  I was fortunate to be scanning north-east at 1103, when in glided this beautiful beast, surprisingly low over the North Sea and for a second looking like it may pitch down on the Brigg....

For the next 25 minutes or so, the bird then proceeded to put on a stunning airshow over the bay and over the town, eventually heading high and directly out to sea at around 1130. Wonderful.

Back to the kites: I watched another two following the same path ten minutes after the first (when another two were simultaneously over the Dams, per JH), another single ambled north above me another fifteen minutes later, and then a pair - very likely involving two of the above birds - toured the town and seafront area a while later; a minimum of five thus far (assuming the very first bird was then involved at the Dams soon after, which is far from certain).

A little while later, and thanks to the wonders of modern communication, we were again able to ascertain that a pair in the southern area were in fact four - two over the golf course, and two new birds over Hunmanby Gap. So, a minimum of seven individuals between 0900 and 1300, a fantastic haul easily smashing the former local record.

With a pair of Red Kites looking on and laughing, this lady golfer smashed her shot into deep into the rough.

Other fly-bys included a Marsh Harrier (with a further two seen elsewhere in the recording area), plenty of Yellow Wags and corvids on the move, and a steady trickle of hirundines. April; love it.

One of at least five Common Buzzards moving through this morning

...and the game-changer, a Eurasian Jay early doors

Friday, April 19, 2013

Filey, 12th - 18th April 2013

Little Ringed Plover, Dams, 14th

Well now, that was entertaining. All this in the space of one week, but then, the privileges of plenty of spare time during migration seasons and living at an East coast bird observatory are far from lost on me. If last April (my first month in the field here) was blinding, then this April is hardly proving pedestrian; who says spring is hard work on the east coast?

Osprey, 15th

12th: An early circuit of the northern area in thick fog and cold north-easterlies was more late October than mid-April, with parties of thrushes (mainly Redwings, but plenty of Fieldfares, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds too) dropping out of the sky and pitching down onto the first available solid ground, often just a few metres away. Bird of the day, however, was a brief, first Ring Ouzel of the year, within a mixed flock on the Country Park, soon disappearing into the mist.

Willow Warbler, Dams, 14th

13th: Similarly trying conditions, although with sunny breaks within the rolling banks of sea fret; another thorough combing of the northern area produced a little more activity, with a few common waders moving, double figures of Chiffys for the first time this spring, and a first for the year, a fresh-in Willow Warbler on Short Hedge.

Tufted Duck, Dams

14th: A sea-change in conditions, and thus, avian action. Very strong winds from the south, milder air and intermittent brightness made for a day full of promise - fully described here - with Whimbrel and Sand Martin on the early morning northern circuit (both new for the year), an entertaining session at the Dams and East Lea with a close-up Little Ringed Plover (a personal patch first) alongside a smart summer-plumage Green Sand, plus confiding Willow Warblers, more winter thrush activity, Swallows, more Sand Martins and a first House Martin trickling through, and Lapwings and Golden Plovers on the move.....

Chiffchaff, Dams

15th: Not a day to forget in a hurry, and best enjoyed vicariously over here in full. Visible migration watching seemed a better call in these battering winds than yet more early patrols of exposed, bending hedgerows and coastal scrub, and so to my favoured spot on the clifftop for a delayed mid-morning session - which brilliantly produced an Osprey, two Twite, streams of finches and hirundines (many coasting at ankle level), plus Wheatears, Yellow Wags and more.

Whitw Wagtail, East Lea, 17th

More than enough, but then Flamborough called, and it would've been rude not to answer. Baikal Teal and a truly stunning Goshawk - well worth the short soiree southbound.

Green Sandpiper, East Lea

16th: More absurdly strong south-westerlies, and a steady day without really kicking into gear; lots of hirundines through at the Dams, more warblers (including an overdue first Blackcap), the first Common Sand.... but with reports of Alpine Swift sightings seemingly all around us, what else to do than return to the clifftop, and wait. Sadly no joy for several hours during the afternoon, and in truth, more finch, wagtail and hirundine passage didn't really cut it.....

Common Sandpiper, East Lea

17th: Anticipation undimmed and back onto the clifftop for first light, and several hours sky-watching in temporarily abated southerly winds. Plenty of action - Marsh Harrier and Little Ringed Plover in off in the first half hour, Arctic Terns fishing below me, two Tree Pipits through, impressive numbers of  finches, Woodpigeons and more.... no swift again sadly, but you can't have everything.

Goldfinch, Church Ravine

Scours of local wooded ravines and cover after mid-morning showers provided scant evidence of grounded new arrivals, and so to the Dams and East Lea, where kicking back in the hides and waiting for something to happen with the winds again increasing seemed a good plan. The Dams was quiet but for a drake Baik... er Mandarin, but an always pleasurable, undisturbed session at East Lea produced brief cameos from another Little Ringed Plover (three in three days), two White Wagtails, seven Yellow Wagtails, and a (the?) Mandarin. Again, no sign of a white-bellied scythe in the darkening skies, but having been in the field for the best part of nine hours, duties called and my time was up.

Redwing, Dams

Come 7pm, with the Mrs about to get back from work and dinner ready to roll, the phone shows an incoming call from Syd.... guess what's battling the 40+ mph winds along the Brigg? Out in a flash, apologies yelled and graciously accepted, onto the bike and drawing on reserves I never knew I had, I was there maybe five minutes later, and there, against storm clouds and then down against the white horses, an Alpine Swift. Hallelujah.

Alpine Swift, Carr Naze, 17th

18th: The week ended on a relatively quiet note, with the gale force westerlies continuing; sessions at the Dams and East Lea produced four Common Sandpipers, four Dunlins and the Mandarin amongst others, and a good showing of all three hirundines battling the conditions. A timely breather after an excellent week, with the best part of the month still to come....

Peregrine & (ex-) Eurasian Teal, North cliff

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Peach melba

What time do you call this?

Finally, perilously late this evening on the Brigg, in 40+ mph winds and with the half-light fading fast...... a call from Syd, a coronary-inducing cycle to the Country Park, and I made it in the nick of time. After 48 hours of T. melba reports from all around us, but frustratingly not here at Filey, and after many of those very hours dedicated to clocking one, resolutely on patch..... there it was, against the suitably dramatic badlands topography of the Brigg, just as dusk descended. Beautiful.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Manic Monday - Filey & Flamborough, 15th April 2013

Osprey heading north over the bay

A rollercoaster of a day in the truest sense, with the highs ultimately and happily outranking the lows. Omitting any further mention of the unholy trinity of estate agents, Freemasons and broken promises, over to the birds, and the rest for another time. From the beginning....

... and a delayed skywatch from my favoured spot on the cliff edge overlooking Filey Bay, in the continuing, absurdly strong south-westerlies, from mid-morning. An hour and 45 minutes of constant passerine action, with the wind forcing the stream of southbound migrants just below clifftop level, and therefore just below (and close to) my feet:- two Twite (a big deal here, and a fine surprise) within no less than 178 Linnets, over a hundred each of Swallow and Sand Martin, plenty of Goldfinches, Meadow Pipits and various other bits and pieces, all topped off by a soaring Osprey, heading north and making light of the near-hurricane.

Bird of the day (and that's saying something)

All of which would've been more than enough for a blustery April day, but news of a Baikal Teal at Flamborough - picked up by Brett on a seawatch, and then confirmed by him as it somewhat incredibly did the right thing and materialised on Northcliffe marsh soon after - came through, and thanks to ever-accommodating Rich, further hesitation was put aside and it was filthy twitch time.


But first..... heading east along Bempton Lane, approaching the village and just beyond the Dyke, we passed a large raptor, gunning low in the opposite direction. Screeching to a halt, jumping out of the motor and clocking stunning views as it cracked on westbound, Rich's expletive-ridden initial prognosis turned out to be bang on, and the incredibly rare sight of a genuine, larger-than-life, way-out-of-range Flamborough Goshawk rocked us way back on our collective heels.

Buzzing with satisfaction, we made straight for the outer head - where the Teal had taken flight just a few minutes previously from its chosen roadside flash, nervously pitching down again back out on the marsh. So, a quick change of plan - to North Landing, and then the required clifftop hike out to the hide. Suddenly not to be, however, curtailed at the last by an urgent, strictly non-avian-related call and a subsequent quick return to Filey.

Looking north-east from the sky-watch point towards the Brigg

Which would otherwise have been a truly crappy end to an otherwise exhilarating day; but it wasn't over just yet. A frenetic trouble-shooting session re: said issues unexpectedly left a late afternoon window still half-open, and - thanks to positive news from the marsh and John H about to pass Filey en route to the teal), a second and fortuitous bite of the cherry was on offer. And so, back to North Landing in the evening sunshine, across the fields, into the (busy, but well-behaved and jovial) minor throng in the hide, and.....

Baikal Teal, Northcliffe Marsh, Flamborough

Thanks for hanging around

All's well that ends well.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Seasons greetings - Filey, 14th April 2013

A day of outrageously high south-westerly winds, suddenly milder temperatures and intermittently sunny skies, and a day of quality early spring birding here in the adopted manor. Nothing particularly rare or scarce, and yet wonderfully entertaining from start to finish.

An early loop of the northern area was hard-going, what with hedgerows bending like taught catapults and the fields and coastal strip woefully exposed, but a Whimbrel west, a Sand Martin south and a Sparrowhawk in off the sea (the former two year firsts, the latter unusual) were ample reward for a quick whip-round.

Onto the Dams, where there was little in the way of new arrivals out on the water, but: a Yellow Wagtail (first of the year); no less than four fresh-in Willow Warblers, three of which were feeding frenetically along the sheltered boardwalk, giving fantastically close-up views in the process; two Swallows through, another first for the year; and numerous Redwings continuing to shreep from all available cover.

Wren, Church Ravine

Next stop, East Lea, and a case of regular attention paying off beautifully. As recently intimated, it was only a matter of time before the glorious mud produced, and after just a few days drawing blanks and praying for a Little Ringed Plover, I arrived at the sheltered hide and there, almost as close as it could possibly be, was a little beauty trotting around on the nearest island.

Chiffchaff hanging on for dear life, Dams

A new Filey bird for me (another positive side-effect of a new patch is just how long it takes for the returns to become overtly diminishing), I had it to myself - alongside a smart Green Sandpiper and several Redshanks - for a good hour or more. Add in several more Swallows and Sand Martins, and all was more than well.

Willow Warbler, Dams

An afternoon session in Church Ravine and around the adjoining churchyard produced more, despite the winds; a couple more Willow Warblers, at least eight more Swallows, a first House Martin of the year, another Golden Plover over, and yet more departing winter thrushes. Enough action to finally anchor the notion that spring is truly underway.

Redwing, Church Ravine

Green Sandpiper, East Lea

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Filey, 1st - 11th April 2013

Chiffchaff at the Dams - a sprinkling arrived this week

Finally enough action and enough time in the field to kick-start the local patch summaries again, and if there's half as much drama as last April here at Filey, entertainment and inspiration shouldn't be too hard to come by. The first six days of the month remained in the grip of the same bone-chilling, relentless north-easterlies which effectively wrote off the previous month, but finally conditions changed on the 7th. As described in the previous post, it was a fine day in the field, and suddenly, the doors were blown open again.

Goldcrest, Church Ravine - outbound migrants well scattered locally

Grey Partridge - happily unavoidable at the moment 

The highlight was a Common Crane, picked up circling high just a couple of minutes into a mid-morning sky-watch, with entertaining back-up from a Red Kite, several Common Buzzards, and tons of passerines coasting north (including 360 Meadow Pipits in two hours). Last but hardly least, the first Wheatear for the year here kindly popped up on the 18th green of the neighbouring golf course, ushering in spring proper.

Harbour Porpoise, sadly washed up on the beach

A female Red Crested Pochard at the Dams caused a stir amongst the more undiscerning local listers on the same day (bless - perhaps a spot of London birding would temper the hype afforded this widespread feral wanderer), and grounded passerines included Chiffchaffs, Redwings, Goldcrests and plenty of Blackbirds and Robins, no doubt itching to crack on back their breeding areas.

Reed Bunting, belting it out at Carr Naze pond

The 8th saw a return to the cold, dreary, blustery conditions and the tortuous NE wind, and a circuit of the northern area was predictably hard work; until a Firecrest briefly materialised in a windswept hedge by the Tip, that is (the only bird in 200 metres of hawthorn and blackthorn....). A scarce bird here, I've been lucky enough to bump into last year's only record and this year's first, hopefully with more to come.

Brown Hare at the Tip

Rabbits on Carr Naze - an essential part of a special eco-system 

The 9th, 10th and 11th were all relatively quiet, with the same species in the notebook - Chifffys, Redwings, well scattered Snipe, a squealing Water Rail at the Dams, the odd Siskin - although the daily quest for a Black Redstart or a Ring Ouzel is far from over.....

Meadow Pipit - can't move for 'em round these parts

The Dams and East Lea - two neighbouring local wetland reserves, a five minute cycle from the front door - are looking very good habitat-wise, with plenty of exposed mud and marshy areas; yet to provide so far this spring, but they inevitably will, hence almost daily rounds of both at the moment. Hence a lack of notables from both sites during visits on each of the last four days is an irrelevence, and I'll happily keep the routine up over the coming weeks.

Stock doves, Church Ravine - subtly beautiful, underrated birds