Champions of the Flyway!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Injury-time Shrike

Truth be told it's been hard work here on the patch this spring, with very few windows of opportunity for anything a bit tastier to make it through, and no good fortune to speak of (despite being out pretty much every day). But when the forecasts for the last few days of the week spoke of an easterly airflow with accompanying messy weather set to kick in just as I'd submitted my last major assignment for this year's degree module, the decks were duly cleared.

The initial (and potentially only) view....
Out for dawn on 26th in fog, drizzle and a light easterly and hopes were high; nine hours in the field and virtually no new migrants later, a little less so. But with Icterine Warblers and Red-backed Shrikes turning up along the coast, one or the other had to be out there somewhere; another dawn circuit and another full day later, and the 27th proved otherwise...

...... but then close enough to ID comfortably.....
With guests arriving and other priorities taking over in the afternoon, the morning of 28th was a last throw of the die; and thankfully, finally, a reward, with an initially distant shrike-like shape (how many of those have I checked over the last few days?) morphing satisfyingly into a smart female Red-backed. Hardly earth-shattering, but a hard-fought and very welcome find that made the effort worthwhile.

.... and then enjoy properly at closer quarters. All's well that ends well. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

May so far at Filey's wetlands

Well, it's not exactly been a vintage spring thus far, and real quality has been hard to come by (although there's been plenty to enjoy of course). In addition to breeding activities, our neighbouring wetland reserves of the Dams and East Lea always produce some interest at this time of year - despite the necessary maintenance of high water levels to give nesting birds the best possible chance - and the last week or so has seen a Spoonbill drop in for an evening, a pair of Garganey for a few hours, the odd Little Egret, a constant presence of Common Sandpipers (with three together at East Lea), the odd Green Sand, Dunlin and Snipe, and a regular changeover of up to 11 Mute Swans.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Famous Five

As of yesterday, our American friend unwittingly passed yet another improbable anniversary, having been in situ for no less than five months - an amazingly long stint by any standards, and an almost unthinkable possibility when he arrived back on 15th December last year. It's reaching the point where (as a first-calendar-year on arrival) he's spent as much of his life in Filey Bay as he has in his native Nearctic.

Recent weeks have seen him getting a little more jumpy, making sojourns to the north side of Brigg and even Flamborough for a few days, and with increasing disturbance in his favoured area from fishing and pleasure boats, it may not be long before he finally bids us adios; probably not before getting personal with various other bay dwellers, however, another illustration of which can be found below - in which he gave male Eiders plenty of aggro and females unrequited affection.

(Thanks to my talented wife Amity for the above....)

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Dunlin on the Brigg

Fair-weather opportunities to enjoy waders dropping in on their way north have been few and far between so far this month, but this cracking Dunlin was suitably tame the other day, and is hopefully the first of various summer-plumage shorebirds to occupy the memory card over the next few weeks.

Friday, May 13, 2016

American Beauty

It's that time of year when - often after a short gap in transmissions - Wheatears reappear on Carr Naze and North Cliff here in Filey, and although some are far from cut and dry, many show characteristics consistent with the Greenland and north-east Canadian race Leucorhoa. Identification criteria vary depending on where you look and who you listen to, and less distinctive individuals are no doubt better left alone, but there are several cracking males kicking around presently that fit the bill as well as any and invite a bit more attention (especially with there being pretty much f.a else to look at lately).

This bird has occupied the same spot for several days (discouraged from moving on by the brisk northerly winds?), and is pretty much as close as one can get to a classic Leucorhoa - big, pot-bellied, long-winged (with at least seven and perhaps eight primaries on show - see lowest photo), messy upperparts with much brown admixed, a broad terminal tail-band (see flight shot), a very upright stance (apart from when hunched into a strong wind) and most obviously, extensive vibrant orangey-peach below extending along the flanks and beyond the belly.

I was showing it to a few locals the other day and trotted out a few facts about them, including for example how it has one (if not the) longest migration of any passerine and how it routinely crosses thousands of miles of open sea, and it struck me yet again just how magical this is - and what a privilege it is to have what are in reality North American breeding birds routinely hopping around against the modest backdrop of the local patch.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Spring flycatchers

Never easy to catch up with in the spring here at Filey, both British flycatchers have put in welcome appearances over the last few days. The male Pied was an interesting bird, with a large forehead patch and a peach flush across the breast-sides. There's still time to add a third species to the spring list, of course, and if the gods are listening, I'm hitting the circuit daily this month....

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sunday Morning Coming Up

Parading like a chorus girl from 0600 this morning to 2020 this evening in the spring sunshine, up in the Top Scrub and Rocket Pole Field..... what a beauty, and just rewards for the FBOG ringing crew's increasingly inspired efforts.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

April shower

Yellow Wagtail, East Lea
As in, a somewhat random selection from last month. Not the most inspiring of Aprils for oddities or major incidents, but it's always a month of uplifting incomers from distant climes, from hirundines to Yellow Wags and waves of warblers.

Blue-headed Wagtail, East Lea
As usual I split my time between the Brigg and the sea, the vismig point at Muston Sands, the wetland sites of the Dams and East Lea, and the northern coastal area. The first option barely registered a pulse but for a trickle of waders as the month wore on, and vismigging was fairly uninspiring - although it at least kept my eye in and there were modest surges of common migrants to enjoy (and a bonus Woodlark mid-month). Not a great deal to report from the wetlands either - although the office (i.e. East Lea) once again paid out beautifully regarding Yellow Wagtails.

Goldcrest, Top Scrub
After providing me with Spanish and two Grey-headeds last spring, it pulled in two cracking Blue-headed flavas on 15th (one with a little flavissima influence - see above) - what next? I'll keep you posted.....

Shelduck, Dams
Otherwise, there's been plenty to enjoy on top of the aforementioned waves of commoner new arrivals, including a couple of very handsome male Redstarts (hard to catch up with here in the spring) at Muston Sands and the Dams respectively, a couple of Black Reds, a few Marsh Harriers and an Osprey (see last post), an Egyptian Goose (yes I know, but they're less than annual....), a couple of LRPs, and last but by no means least, a certain American seaduck, present throughout in his favoured spot off the Brigg.

Chiffchaff, Top Scrub
Wheatears, Rocket Pole Field
Fresh-in Chiffy on Carr Naze
Black Redstart, Carr Naze
Willow Warbler, Dams
Goldcrest, East Lea
Redstart, Muston Sands