Champions of the Flyway!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

East Wind in the Willows

I'm in the process of putting together the next patch summary for the (very entertaining and productive) period of mid-September, and with so many migrants and quality birds I've happily more than enough material (photographic and otherwise) to fill, well, plenty of space - and thus it's worth singling out perhaps the most interesting species of the period, Willow Warbler.

This bird (also pictured above) was flushed almost from underfoot in the 'bomb crater' (a small, sheltered incline by the clifftop) and sat up briefly, allowing a few quick shots. Through the viewfinder of the camera, its pallid, washed-out overall colouration invited split second fantasies of perhaps an Iduna or similar.... next time perhaps...
A little context: 18th September, and the previous day had delivered me an early Yellow-brow and a candidate Siberian Lesser Whitethroat among a fine cast of fresh-in migrants. With easterly winds and thick fog dominating, an exhilarating session on Carr Naze - the very tip of dry land, and first contact for tired new arrivals after the North Sea crossing - produced a constantly changing roll-call of chats, warblers and more materialising in the sodden grasses and umbellifers of the clifftop.

This bird was feeding close by, and again momentarily sent the heart-rate speeding, mostly on account of its dark olive tones and particularly strong supercilium. Also pictured below. 
On high alert for something a little more left field, every bird invited scrutiny, and none were quite as simultaneously scary and fascinating as the Willow Warblers that skulked through the low cover. Although their subspecific identification (and indeed classification) is messy, it's still worth shining a light on the wide morphological variation between the simultaneous new arrivals. Great birds to study and chin-scratch over nonetheless, and its times like these when there's so much to learn and enjoy, you really don't need the rarity.

A bit more straightforward, and one of several lemon-yellow individuals in the same area of clifftop grassland. Photo taken on 18th.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Filey, 1st - 10th September 2014

Purple Sandpiper (right) and Dunlin on the Brigg
After what was a generally quiet August locally (see here), September 2014 began with the concern that it may follow the pattern of my previous two here in Filey - i.e., a frustratingly quiet first three quarters of the month dominated by a westerly airflow, finally kicking into gear for the final week of month.

Summer-plumaged Red-throated Diver over Carr Naze
As it happened, I needn't have worried, and the month has already broken with type on various levels. Perhaps straying elsewhere along the Yorkshire coast is healthy after all, with vaguely guilt-tinged forays to both Flamborough (well, the sea beyond it) and Spurn (for the excellent Migration Festival) during the first ten days of the month providing good birds, a good craic and perhaps a subconscious burst of extra enthusiasm for the patch.

Bonxie on the Brigg. Unfortunately the victim of some kind of pollutant and clearly unwell, but still able to fly (and thus evade rescue).
So while the 1st was spent rocking gently on a little boat off the Cape, the 2nd saw a full day out on patch. The morning was spent getting our hands dirty, creating a gravel island at our East Lea nature reserve (with the added bonus of four Common Buzzards drifting low overhead and impatient groups of Ruff, Snipe and Dunlin buzzing around our spades); the land was otherwise quiet, as was an afternoon seawatch, at least enlivened by a Sparrowhawk arriving in-off.

An over-inquisitive young Roe Deer which took an age to finally get the message from its tongue-gesturing mum....
Mild and foggy conditions with a light easterly raised anticipation for the 4th, but with scarcities arriving elsewhere on the coast, a full day produced little in the way of local rewards. Conditions for the following day (5th) held true, however, and persistence paid off - an early start patrolling the northern area finally broke the autumn's scarce passerine curse, with a very welcome Red-breasted Flycatcher in Short Hedge. It's been a great month for this always pulse-quickening continental waif, but at the time I think this was the first to arrive in the UK this autumn.

Red-breasted Flycatcher, Short Hedge, 5th
Along with an encouraging sprinkling of commoner migrants - a few Redstarts, Pied Flycatchers, Whinchats, and Grey and Yellow Wagtails - chalking up the RB Fly meant leaving my post and heading off for a weekend representing Yorkshire Coast Nature and the Obs at the Spurn Migration Festival was that little bit more relaxed, with the added bonus of being spoiled with a fabulous wealth of grounded migrants there. Quite a place.

Speckled Wood - an increasingly common species locally
Whinchat - a good autumn so far for this species
The 8th was quiet (although it was the first day of the autumn where the Goldcrest count crept into double figures), and so with little to inspire on the land, a seawatch was in order on the 9th (despite the unhelpful south-westerly breeze). At the end of Carr Naze and just before the descent down the cliff to the hide, three Great Tits came in off the sea - a reminder that, during September, movements aren't restricted to the 'right' conditions - and an entertaining four hours on the Brigg produced a wide cast of migrants, including various waders, wildfowl and passerines and both the commoner shearwaters; a Marsh Harrier picked up miles out over the waves eventually came in right alongside us, but not before (bizarrely) harrying gulls along the way, in a decidedly skua-like fashion.

Marsh Harrier (and Gannet) off the Brigg
Pick of the day, however, popped up on my final scan, just as I was about to pack up - a first year Black Guillemot in the bay, constituting the second quality scarcity of the month so far. A rare bird anywhere on the Yorks coast (even here at Filey, where we do quite well for them, they're less than annual), the bird obligingly returned to the same area for the rest of the week, allowing a steady procession of admirers to enjoy it (and presumably swell their county lists in the process).

Black Guillemot (right, with Cormorant)
So, a far from discouraging first part of the month locally - and there was plenty to come around the corner....

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Birding Frontiers review the Filey Bird Report

'The passion and skill that has so clearly gone into putting the report together is admirable and the new edition easily qualifies as the benchmark for other local reports to aim for. All proceeds from the sales of the report go directly to the work of FBOG, and at £8, the report is a steal....'

David Campbell has reviewed the new Filey Bird Report for the Birding Frontiers website - read it  here 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Spurn Migration Festival 2014

Representing Yorkshire Coast Nature and Filey Bird Observatory, I had a blast at the Migfest, and highly recommend it to anyone interested in bird migration - see the full write-up here.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Flamborough pelagic - skuas and more

Juvenile Long-tailed Skua
with Arctic Skua (above)
More from the boat trip a couple of weeks back.

Pale morph Arctic Skua
Common & Arctic Terns

The team at Brid harbour


Beckoning in the Caspian (it worked)


"What's that Lucy? There's a candidate Baltic Gull heading that way?"

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Flamborough pelagic - Caspian Gull

From a couple of weeks back... a bespoke Yorkshire Coast Nature pelagic out of Bridlington harbour and off Flamborough Head on 1st September, with great company and great birds - a real highlight of which was this exceptionally accommodating juvenile Caspian Gull. More to follow.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A terning tide

Catching up: these from ten days ago on the end of the Brigg, with warm evening sunshine, a choppy sea and a rapidly encroaching high tide leaving me perched on the outer rocks with an entertaining group of Common Terns. Getting back was interesting, but well worth it of course....

(Plus one of 'our' colour-ringed Turnstones for compamy)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Filey, August 2014

Little Egret - a permanent late summer / early autumn presence
Ok, so bear with me - a lot has happened of late, but instead of letting it all slide, I'm committed to catching up (even if it results in a temporary lowering of the bar regarding quality of content)....

Swallow, Carr Naze Pond
First up, then - August. With plenty more going on besides straight-up birding (fieldwork, reports, weekends in London and a long-overdue trip back to Berlin), it came and went in somewthing of a flash from an avian perspective; arguably no bad thing, because in truth, even when conditions were promising and the decks were clear, it hardly set the world on fire.

An oddly pale Kestrel frequenting the Top Fields at the end of the momth
The sea had its moments, as it always does in early autumn. An always impressive Cory's Shearwater cruised effortlessly north on 19th (the same day as a Blue Fulmar and five Sootys), several small groups of Little Terns passed the Brigg (in a particularly good year here for this only-just-annual species), and all four skuas were present and correct (thanks in no small part to two Long-tails and three Poms on a great evening seawatch on 26th, which also included a Black Tern, 20-odd Arctic Skuas and big numbers of gulls and terns).

Greenshank - pleasingly regular at the Dams and East Lea

The Dams and (especially) East Lea attracted a rich and varied cast of waders to their muddy fringes, where up to ten species per day became an impressive norm; numbers of Ruff were especially notable, often in double figures and reaching 16 on one ot two dates. Despite reasonably good coverage, no scarcity as yet; still, they have a better track record for attracting oddities in Sep and Oct, so plenty to play for yet.

A brief Common Tern - far from it at the Dams
Talking of scarcities, for the first August since moving here I had no luck with finding a rarer passerine this time round, despite potentially promising conditions towards the end of the month; I must've used up my annual Icterine quotent in the spring, and if there were Wrynecks and Barred Warblers out there (which there surely were), they beat me this month. No matter, September has already redressed the balance, and most of the autumn is still to come....

Wall - a good year for this species locally
Small Copper
Arctic Skua in the Bay Corner
A Wheatear showing off its sense of direction in the caravan park
Blue-morph Budgerigar in the coastal hedges....
A fantastically tame and inquisitive Wheatear on Carr Naze
Marsh Harrier - happily an expected August fly-through these days
Fishing competitions continued to bring in the punters at East Lea...
....while hirundines fed on insects on the dry mud cliffs of Carr Naze