Champions of the Flyway!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Bird of the Week #9 - Goldcrest

A freshly-arrived Goldcrest in a coastal hedgerow here in Filey in late October. An active, healthy bird having made it to optimal feeding habitat after enduring the dangers of a sea crossing. Others are not so lucky.... 
They had to feature at some point, and it may as well be now, with these disconcertingly warm February days triggering their wheezily tinkling songs from local evergreens... as well as being anthropomorphically just as about as cute as a micro-dinosaur can get, Goldcrests are also arch exponents of the consistently mind-blowing miracle that is bird migration - the full spectrum of which is covered in the next few photos.

Another Goldcrest here at Filey, also in late October - this one arrived in off the sea, struggled to make landfall, and pitched up right next to me on this stone ledge, just a few metres from the waves, where I was seawatching on the Brigg. The bird was so exhausted as to barely register my presence - after looking up at me from just a few centimetres away, it promptly fluffed up and went to sleep. Despite being so tired and vulnerable, there's every chance this bird made it. 
While they're a common breeder the UK and we've a few scattered breeding pairs nearby, all the birds pictured here - like the overwhelming majority of Goldcrests that occur at Filey and other coastal watchpoints - are, incredibly, migrants, fresh in from perilous journeys over the North Sea. Incredibly, as in, they're barely any longer than your forefinger and the weight of a 20p coin, and yet they routinely make these journeys, sometimes in their hundreds of thousands, every autumn - and in fall conditions, they can be so numerous as to turn clifftop grasslands into a carpet of tiny mouselike movements foraging at your feet.

Another Goldcrest, also from the Brigg, just a few metres from the sea - this one not so fortunate. This bird must also have just arrived, and was still warm when I found it - sadly, after successfully navigating the sea crossing and its dangers, the trials of the journey were just too much.
Sadly, not all of them make it, of course (see photo captions); but enough do for it to be a successful migration strategy and a phenomenon which leaves me dumbstruck and open-mouthed with wonder every autumn.

Same species, same place, same time of year - a few metres further up onto the clifftop, where this bedraggled but successful migrant was hopping around in the weeds with hundreds upon hundreds of its brethren - every one a tiny miracle. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Goshawks (Take 2) - 25th Feb 2019

With another calm, sunny morning on the cards, Pearson Snr and I headed back into the forest for another crack at Goshawks, and had an absolute ball with them; a minimum of eight individuals were identifiable in the field and from the photos, with perhaps one or two more also involved, and it was a joy to be out in such peaceful, picturesque circumstances with such iconic raptors putting on a killer show.

Less enamouring was the youngster with missing flight feathers consistent with a gunshot (see a few photos down) - Welcome to Yorkshire, indeed.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Chiffin' Early

Mild, often sunny conditions of late (that look set to last into next week) are enough to inspire extended breaks from the laptop, and both East Lea and the Dams here at Filey are pleasantly full of avian life at the moment. Among the many signs of early spring are Chiffchaffs, which have increased from one to four in the last couple of days, with several singers, several enjoying the spiders on the reedmace, and one or two posing nicely in the sunshine.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Signs of Spring

A single Pink-foot with the ferals at the Dams - they're on the move at the moment, and the best chance of getting really close to one (above and below) is when they pit-stop here before the big push north. 

Male Common Pochard, also at the Dams - another early spring migrant here

Skylark singing on Carr Naze - lots more around suddenly over the last few days, including birds arriving in off the sea

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Low Tide Rockpooling - South Landing, 20th Feb 2019

Montagu's Sea Snail (no you're right, it is a fish, just with a stupid name)
Happy to hook up with our friends the Taylor clan over from West Yorkshire for half-term, and a quick check of the tide tables meant only one thing for this morning - rockpooling at South Landing: a low, low tide, barely anyone else around and so many beasts to uncover and enjoy.

The best - a huge Shanny that performed perfectly for us
(Note Brittlestar accessory)
An indication of size - as it tried to hide under my boot, which it was two thirds the length of... 
Common Grey Sea Slug
Sea Hare

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Goshawks, Dalby - 19th Feb 2019

A couple of hours free this morning and so a welcome run into the forests with Pearson Snr for a little raptor action. The light and conditions weren't great for photography but no matter, we had six species including a minimum six Goshawks and a Red Kite - not a bad haul at all.