Champions of the Flyway!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Scandinavian Herring Gulls, Filey Dams - 27th Dec 2017

A cold northerly blow and wintry showers overnight and during the day today, and a couple of hours free locally - firstly for an hour or so's bay/seawatch from the car on the seafront, and latterly for an hour or so at the Dams. Not a great deal on the move over the sea, although a smart 1cy Glaucous Gull and at least two Scandinavian Herring Gulls made it worthwhile, and with a big high tide and rough seas, the newly-expanded freshwater of the Dams seemed worth a shot for bathing gulls.

And it was. As well as the beast of Glaucous Gull that dropped in for 15 minutes or so while the sleet came straight into the hide (see next post), Scandinavian - i.e. argentatus - Herring Gulls were immediately conspicuous. Just to contextualise, they're a rare but regular visitor in the winter months (almost always during and after such conditions) here, although almost always in the lower single figures at best. It's likely more occur, but a combination of under-recording, under-awareness and the lack of opportunity to nail 'clear-cut' birds as they pass the Brigg means they remain a novelty in the annual report, and almost always from the coast.

However, a quick scan of the small Larid flock on the freshly-created main lagoon revealed at least five distinctly darker-backed birds, interestingly four of which were clustered together; over the course of the next hour, I recorded at least eleven clearly legit argentatus (on combinations of mantle colour, wing-tip pattern and size/shape) and several others were either too brief or not conclusive. And that's a lot - in fact a record away from saltwater at Filey - boding well for similar checks in similar conditions through the winter here.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Filey, December 2017

A quick update from the last couple of weeks.... after the occasionally productive sea-watches and bouts of strong northerlies in late November, this first half of December hasn't quite provided the kind of conditions that inspire early starts and pre-dawn windscreen scraping, but there's been a few enjoyable sessions of winter birding to enjoy. A couple of seawatches at the turn of the month produced single Pom Skuas, small movements of waders, odd Bonxies and plenty of divers - the latter of which involves Great Northerns with a pleasing predictability at the moment.

There are up to three at the moment in the northern bay, continuing an increasingly reliable multiple wintering presence over recent years; Black-throats, meanwhile - always the rarest of the trio - have put in two appearances, on 1st and 15th. On the land, one of up to three Chiffchaffs in the willows at the back of the Dams caught my attention briefly at the end of November, sounding like a tristis but giving less-than-satisfactory views; happily, presumably the same bird played ball on 4th of this month, showing and calling nicely.

Otherwise, a foray onto farmland near Gristhorpe Bay on 14th produced a field full of activity - 22 Snow Buntings were a pleasure (the first sign of any local flocks this winter), 16 Grey Partridges were encouraging, over a hundred Skylarks was a stand-out count and winter thrushes and Snipe were inbound in the weak sunshine.

In the same area, a flock of about 75 Pink-feet contained two birds of particular interest on closer inspection - one sporting a neck collar bearing the inscription VXA, and the other a GPS collar (with the number 41). A little research reveals both were ringed in Iceland in the summer during their annual wing moult, and 41 has so far commuted between Northumberland, the Solway Firth and North Yorkshire since arriving in the UK in October. More on these two to follow.