Champions of the Flyway!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

On A Roll - Flamborough & Filey, 29th Oct 2018

Long-tailed Ducks passing the Brigg at dawn
After a mad few weeks working several jobs, running a hugely enjoyable Migweek and generally not pausing for breath, suddenly I had a couple of days with the decks completely cleared, free of responsibilities, and free to bird. Better still, it's the end of October (arguably my favourite time of the year) and the conditions were encouraging - so time to relax, be selfish and indulge.

  After a productive final weekend running the Living Seas Centre at South Landing (see last post, here), I decided to start at Filey; a very smart move, and the gods smiled accordingly.

Up at Carr Naze for dawn, a few scans produced two Long-tailed Ducks, a Little Auk, a Red-necked Grebe and Eiders on the move, but with the wind in the east and signs of inbound passerines, I opted to check the Country Park area. While scrutinising a small group of redpolls which had just dropped into Arndale, I got a call from Dan, just a couple of hundred metres to the north of me - "I've just caught an interesting redpoll..."

Very interesting as it turned out, and what an absolute beauty. After plenty of deliberating, checking features, measurements, photographs and references, we cautiously put it out as a probable Coues's Arctic Redpoll until we'd recieved a wider spectrum of opinions and checked a few features a little more thoroughly.

Long story short (and thanks to all the learned souls who helped with an ultimately unanimous ID), we were very happy to remove the 'probable' after lengthy review; and while it was a pleasure to be in on the process, much more of a pleasure was the tangible, long overdue, very hard-earned reward for Dan. Top work my friend ;-)

Next stop, another favoured corner of the Filey recording area, Gristhorpe Bay. Far less disturbed than most local hotspots (despite being on the edge of the Blue Dolphin holiday park), it's a nice, contained site with a two productive coastal hedgerows and a patch of scrub, and a weedy set-aside field on the clifftop. A few Goldcrests were the best of the bushes, but the field harboured a Water Pipit and at least twelve Twite among commoner species, a decent return.

Black Redstart, fresh-in at the lighthouse
To Flamborough for the afternoon, where I'd arranged to meet Matt (@MigrationMatt) and daughter Amelie, and birding brother Rich (Baines) for a jolly around the outer head. Jolly it was, too, and in cold but pleasant conditions, we started with fresh-in Black Redstart and Siberian Chiffchaff right alongside us as we met in the lighthouse carpark, and continued with another Siberian Chiffchaff, a handful of Goldcrests and a scattering of thrushes and finches (including Bramblings and redpolls), and probably the greyest Robin we've ever seen (wonder how far it'd travelled to hop around in depths of Old Fall?).

Siberian Chiffchaff, lighthouse car park
A simultaneous ping on our mobiles as we were about to leave came from Trev at Bempton - Coues's Arctic Redpoll showing well on the nature trail. We hasten our stride somewhat, especially with the sun dropping fast, and power-walked back to the lighthouse car park before stepping on it towards the reserve.....

Another snowball!
A few minutes drive and few metres walk later, and we were in the surreal situation of watching this beautiful little fluffball feeding happily and avidly, literally within grabbing distance, in the grass by the path.

Who needs DSLRs when you can film it with a mobile at less than a metre? (thanks Tony for the pic)
Surreal indeed, with the bird not caring about movement, conversation, cameras clacking and whatever other potential disturbance just incheds from it; on more than one occasion it flew onto the ground at our feet, and I'd be lying if I denied briefly considering putting seed in my beard (I'd have put money on it working....). I'm not generally cut out for twitching and tend to avoid it unless it really feels worth the effort (which is rarely), but this was one of those few occasions that was just perfect: a ridiculously tame, charismatic little vagrant at our feet, in golden evening sunshine on the clifftop of our beloved Yorkshire coast, with just a handful of happy (and affirmingly non-dickheaded) locals sharing the experience. A cracking day.

Spot the bird.... (thanks Rich for the pic)