Champions of the Flyway!

Monday, September 12, 2016

White-rumped Sandpiper on the Brigg

From last Friday, sandwiched neatly between my driving theory test (in a booth in an office in Scarborough, message-ridden phone bouncing off the walls of a locker) and a fantastic Spurn Migration Festival (more of that to come). I've banged on a million times both here and elsewhere about the magic of the Brigg for uniquely close-up and heart-stopping experiences with ultra-tame, clockwork-toy waders - it was a major part of my talk the next day at Migfest too as it happens - and so regular readers will know how much pleasure I get out of communing with them on this magnetic tidal promontory.

Being otherwise engaged with breaking distances and hazard perception when the bird was found (by visiting birders - well done Simon and Kevin), we wisely dispensed with both as Rich and I tore it up back to Filey and headed down onto the Brigg, where a hot-out-of-the-blocks Dave (Aitken) informed us of the bird's buggering off 15 minutes before. A good scour of likely feeding places and small scattered wader flocks yielded nothing, and it wasn't looking at all promising. "Don't worry, you'll probably tread on it in a minute" was Dave's optimistic take on events, and amazingly, within a couple of strides, I literally almost did....

Like many other less-rare predecessors, it didn't care a bit, immediately carrying on feeding around us and trotting nonchalantly by our feet as we struggled to get far enough away for photos. Just a wonderful, wonderful bird, shared with good people (mostly from the greater Flamborough crew), at one of my favourite spots on the planet; and I know I've said it ad nauseum, but where else would you get so close to such a special little shorebird?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


A wonderful morning - one of those that makes you acutely, emphatically aware of why you bother to get up and roll the die. It started out innocuously enough, with the usual cycle to the Country Park, walk along Carr Naze and scramble down to the seawatch hide not suggesting much was going on overhead before training the scope on the sea. With a brisk south-westerly blowing and the northerly airflow of a couple of days ago long gone, the sea was predictably dead - in contrast to the last few days, when long sessions have yielded several Long-tailed Skuas, a Cory's Shearwater, a couple of Poms and other seasonal goodness - and so I wandered out onto the Brigg to check the waders (and my messages)...

I glanced up to see a flood of hirundines bombing down the same slope I'd gingerly negotiated an hour or so before, and then looked further up to see more at higher altitudes, heading south, south-east, and south-west.... clearly something big was underway, and within a couple of minutes I was back up onto Carr Naze and in position, facing north-west along the cliff-edge. For the next 90 minutes - roughly 0800 to 0930 - it was a constant, exhilarating barrage, with masses of House Martins and Swallows, a good few Sand Martins and regular Swifts whipping up over the cliff and past me in their droves, at all conceivable heights. Counting was fantastically difficult, with a mess of a notebook covered in arrows pointing to new pages and columns, with dozens becoming hundreds becoming thousands. Just a an absolute joy to behold.

Contact with Keith and Nick a few miles down the coast at the vis-mig bottleneck of Hunmanby Gap revealed a similarly excited and manic situation unfolding there, and between us we witnessed perhaps the biggest and most intense hirundine movement ever here in the Filey recording area. Full counts to follow, but my totals (0750-1050) - low as they are, having no doubt missed many - happily read:- 4470 Swallows, 3650 House Martins, 95 Sand Martins and 15 Swifts. Priceless.