Champions of the Flyway!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Filey, 6th - 31st October 2013

Mealy Redpoll

So October 2013 finally idles to a halt, after plenty of highly enjoyable, always pleasurable and occasionally exceptional birding here in Filey. Another lengthy period to cover in a single bulletin, but with several of the more special days having already been amply covered of late, not quite the insurmountable task it may first appear to be.....


The first five days of the month, generally pretty subdued, were previously covered here; the 6th, however, was unexpectedly memorable for the impressive passage of 1,850 southbound Pink-footed Geese, which we enjoyed over a couple of warm and sunny mid-morning hours from the nearby clifftop. The 7th, 8th and 9th were equally mild, with winds remaining stubbornly in the west; hence, two Yellow-brows in Parish Wood and a Curlew Sand at the Dams were appreciated bonuses, and a Balearic Shearwater feeding offshore was as good as it got on the sea.


Which all changed dramatically on the 10th, with howling, gale-force northerlies, raging seas and torrential, squally showers all battering the Brigg hide, happily occupied for an extended seawatch through ubiquitous filters of foam and spray. Six entertaining hours - and two Leachs' Storm-petrels, 150 Sooty Shearwaters, five Pomarine Skuas, plenty of Manxies, Bonxies and ducks (including Velvet Scoters and Long-tailed Ducks) - later, and sadly the light began to fade and it was time to bail out.

One of many flocks of Bonxies during the northerlies....

But tomorrow is a new day, and the 11th was arguably even better; more howling northerlies and raging seas, but better light, and even better seawatching - including three Long-tailed Skuas, another Leach's, over 250 Sootys, two Balearic Shearwaters, over 150 Bonxies, and ten Blue Fulmars (including the darkest I've ever seen), amid plenty of quality back-up. Absolute bliss.

... and one of many hundreds of Sootys

With the winds veering gradually into the east, intermittent mist and drizzle arriving and seawatching quietening down, I turned my attentions to the land on the 12th and 13th. Constant arrivals of passerine migrants and a healthy changeover of birds meant there was plenty to entertain throughout, with highlights including a Woodlark calling and coasting at head-height along Carr Naze, a small arrival of Mealy Redpolls in Top Scrub, single Twite and Short-eared Owl in-off, and good numbers of common migrants including plenty of Bramblings, Redwings, Robins, Fieldfares, Goldcrests, Wrens and finches. All well and good, but surely there had to be something special hidden amongst the more expected fare?

Little Gull at the Dams

Come the 14th, and still the winds kept an easterly component, still the cloud banks came, and still the birds arrived; but still, the pursuit of more glittering prizes remained challenging, and a Red-breasted Flycatcher fresh-in on Long Lane (plus a couple of Ring Ouzels and Mealy Redpolls) was the best I could do. So it goes.

Whooper Swans

It may not have been quite so clear at the time, but something had to give, and on the 15th, it finally did. What looked like being another initially promising but ultimately anticlimactic morning session patrolling the coastal circuit was turned on its head with a single, isolated, indignant tac from the depths of a hawthorn hedge, and after a few silent and anxious minutes wait, I was up close and eye-to-eye with Filey's fifth-ever Dusky Warbler. Bingo.

you little beauty

Promising conditions continued on the 16th, but aside from a Merlin, more Ring Ouzels, Mealy Redpolls and plenty of common migrants, it was hard work; not that it mattered too much, with the previous day's reward still strongly resonating. The sunny and clear 17th, then, was to be a day reluctantly dominated by chores and errands, and I had to wait until mid-afternoon to hit the patch.....

you little beauty #2

.... and what a blinding couple of hours then unfolded. The trail of events is best absorbed here, but in brief, I was presented with an Eastern Lesser Whitethroat, a Siberian Chiffchaff, two Yellow-browed Warblers and (almost unbelievably) another Dusky Warbler, within barely an hour, and all scarcely ten minutes from my front door. Ultimately, it really is worth the effort.

Eastern Lesser Whitethroat

The latter part of the month has been steady without threatening to hit the same kind of higher gears - more new Yellow-brows, Snow Buntings, a couple of Merlins, more Mealy Redpolls, a few more Twite, superb close encounters with Whooper Swans, more Pink-feet on the move, a cracking Pallas's, and various others notwithstanding - and the dreaded south-westerlies continue to maintain a stranglehold for now. Still, if it's all over for autumn 2013, I can hardly complain. It's been a real blast.

Pallas's (ta Nick!)

One of many migrant Wrens during the easterlies - big, dark, leggy and long-billed.....