Champions of the Flyway!

Friday, July 25, 2014

A lesson in picking one's battles

Crappy photos in poor light, but too good an episode to ignore at the Dams a little while ago.... a juvenile Shelduck pointlessly provokes an adult Herring Gull - multiple times - before inevitably getting put in its place, with comedy results.

Unhurt, but for pride - and a Mallard rubbing it in.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Full House

A timely opportunity to complete the Hirundine set - after close encounters with both Swallows (here) and Sand Martins (here) in the last fortnight - with several family parties of House Martins collecting mud in the Country Park the other day.

These fabulous, characterful birds are the subject of an across-town survey I've been co-ordinating this summer, which (thanks to the involvement of the local community) is providing the first ever comprehensive dataset of breeding birds here in Filey.

(and a photobomber for good effect)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

I'm Waiting For The Manx

First thing you learn is that you always gotta wait.... A hugely enjoyable day spent sea-watching in humid, pleasant conditions here on the North Yorks coast, with the stars of the show being Manx Shearwaters. I arrived at the hide at 0745, with BP and JS already there (and with little to report); cue the timely entrance stage-left of processions of Manxies (amongst many other species on the move), with groups into double figures gliding elegantly past the hide on an increasingly regular basis.

By midday we'd clocked up more than 400, but with the others having left and with pressing matters to attend to back at the ranch, I decided to stay put for a while longer and enjoy the first really impressive day of sea-watching this year instead. Surges of Manxies continued, with flocks of up to 20 not unusual - and one of 36 - until a general ebbing of movements around 1400. A joy to watch, and a notably high count for recent years.

Common Scoters numbered over 300...
By 1445 the rolling total had reached 616 Manxies (and a cracking 203 Whimbrel), and after seven hours straight, it was time to reluctantly bail. Although conditions weren't especially promising - light variable winds and thunderstorms - the temptation to return for an evening session was too much to resist, and so I was back in position for 1820 for a distinctly relaxed couple of hours on a perfectly deserted Brigg.

.... while the few Arctic Skuas were all scruffy non-breeders, boding well for upcoming tallies
With no expectations, Manxies (and Whimbrels) were thankfully still on the move, and thus those arbitrary milestones came in to play - 700 Manx before dark? A series of large flocks happily took the total beyond, and with a half hour or so of light remaining, it seemed churlish not to gun for 800....

A small portion of today's 264 Whimbrel - possibly a record count
Bonxie - a couple this morning
..... a target just nailed as the dew settled on the scope and the light faded. 805 - the biggest tally since 2008, and every single one a pleasure to behold.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Red-veined Darter!

A hot and sunny day here on the east coast, with plenty of interest and a welcome sting in the tail. It began with a flock of seven Little Egrets coming in off the sea and over the house first thing (perhaps a local record count) and a juvenile Goldeneye at the Dams (very unusual), continued with decent wader passage over the sea and lots of butterflies and dragonflies on the wing - and culminated in the finding of this cracking Red-veined Darter hunting at the Tip late this afternoon.

Stoked to find this rare migrant from southern Europe here on the patch, with just a handful of previous records; doubly stoked to get half decent shots - while it often does the job for birds, my pretty basic non-pro DSLR and fixed 400ml lens don't exactly lend themselves to close-up macro / detailed wildlife photography, but just occasionally persistence pays off.

With the Death's-head Hawk-moth a couple of weeks back, I'm starting to think my luck is in with non-avian rarities, and maybe it's a message to cast the net a little further generally.....

Ruddy Darters from the Dams yesterday, for comparison:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Foxes at the Dams

An entertaining family at our local wetland last week.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The great escape

After a rogue pair pioneered an unnervingly accessible nest site at the foot of Carr Naze last year (see here), this spring saw fifteen pairs choosing the same area of strata within which to painstakingly excavate their nest chambers. Nervous weeks expecting the worst followed, but against the odds, pretty much every pair had either fledged or were close to fledging young, and a few days ago I spent some time watching and photographing the colony - with an unexpected twist.

An adult digs furiously, confusing the nestlings below
Concentrating on three siblings together in an entrance hole, after a while I noticed two adults digging furiously with bills and feet at an apparently unremarkable part of the bank just above them (showering the tenants below with comedic effect). The same manic excavating continued, not just with the (presumed) parents, but with a another bird, too; it being so late in the season I assumed it was perhaps a behavioural dummy run, but as the activity continued, a small hole appeared in the mud, and I was amazed to see a small part of a nestling's head just visible.

At least three birds taking turns, and a nestling now just visible
The re-excavated hole top left, plus two other occupied holes and fledged juveniles
The previous night and morning saw violent storms and persistent heavy rainfall, causing a mudslide that had evidently completely blocked the hole and left no trace of its existence. Incredibly, rather than desert the nest, the parents - with additional help from at least one other bird - somewhat heroically managed to dig through, with an amazing determination. How long they'd persisted is hard to say, but judging by the depth and extent of freshly excavated mud, they'd begun a long time before I'd arrived.