Thursday, December 31, 2020
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
Review Of The Year, 2020 - Part Three
Summer plumage Red Knot, back from the Arctic in a flash of rust
Part one is here, and part two here - part four to follow soon
So despite everything, spring was, from a birding perspective, actually really productive, enjoyable and wonderfully theraputic - but with such a rip-roaring finale at the end of June, it was only to be expected that July would, as usual, see a natural calming of proceedings. Right?
Wrong! When news broke of a (the) Black-browed Albatross having returned to Bempton Cliffs on the afternoon of the 2nd, I was at my desk, working; thirty seconds later I was in the car, and a few minutes after that, legging it along Carr Naze here in Filey. Not Bempton, like most others, but - after catching up with this very bird there a few years ago - I instead decided to gamble on the (hugely) longer odds of connecting with it on the most local of my local patches... here and here.
Bottlenose Dolphins bow-riding with us (stick with it to the end)...
Our Yorkshire Coast Nature Seabird and Whale Adventures have grown increasingly popular in recent years, and this season - no doubt through a combination of lockdown lifting, lack of international travel options, and a general hunger for life-affirming nature fixes - they (and all our other local wildlife tours) went through the roof, to the point where we could've booked them all many times over.
... and Minke Whales provoking beautiful reactions
And of course, the wildlife didn't disappoint. I had the pleasure of leading the many of pelagics this year for many lovely clients, and we'd the company of Bottlenose Dolphins and Harbour Porpoises on various occasions and a wide variety of seabirds, many offering close-up photo opps for our clients; but to be honest, it's the whales that usually steal the show, and the Minkes again performed admirably on the majority of our trips.
Bottlenose Dolphins in Filey Bay - a regular sight from dry land in the summer months
And as July wore on, so the seasonal opportunities to enjoy cetaceans from dry land increased - Minkes, Harbour Porpoises and (especially) Bottlenose Dolphins were on view from the shoreline here in Filey (above and below), with the latter species particularly prevalent, and increasing in numbers and sightings every year.
The lifting of restrictions inevitably also saw an unprecedented flood of visitors to the coast, however, and with the pleasant weather, Filey was (understandably) swamped; so we did what we usually do in the height of summer - while others head to the coast, we head inland, especially to the forests.
Dunlin, Ruff and Redshank at the Dams
A few of the Black-tailed Godwits that illuminated the Dams three Black Terns among hundreds of congeners in mid-August -
September became increasingly busy, with the resumption of our Humber Bird Surveys, the continuation of our YCN Pelagics and the beginning of my YCN Autumn Migration Specials - the latter all happily booked up well in advance and spent guiding small teams of clients around the best of the day's migration action on the coast. Flamborough was, as ever, particularly productive, and we had some excellent days in the field there and elsewhere (see, for example, here).
Red-backed Shrike - one of many highlights on our Autumn Migration SpecialsLong-planned trips further afield were cancelled one by one, and so much-needed five-day getaway with the Mrs to North Wales - specifically Anglesey, and a static caravan air BnB in the middle of a field - in September was wonderful. We spent much of it exploring the hidden corners of the island, as well as two leisurely, long, oooh-and-aaah soundtracked drives through Snowdonia and a sunny day at Portmeirion. Birding was largely as collateral, but did include many Choughs and Ravens, plenty of Greenland Wheatears and a smart adult Rosy Starling:
Looking back over this period now - ie July, August and September - it conjures many memories of relief and reprieve (however temporary), and of just being grateful to work, bird and play in a manner that looked unlikely even a month or so previously; sacrifices were relatively few and manageable, and seem increasingly irrelevent when reviewing what was a great three months of keeping it local, enjoying good weather, spending a lot of time doing things I love with good people, and jumping in the sea at any given opportunity....
Posted by Mark James Pearson at 17:22
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Review Of The Year, 2020 - Part Two
For all the fear and loathing in the air during the spring, I was acutely aware of how fortunate I was to be marooned out here in our little corner of the North Yorkshire coast - for general wellbeing, and of course, for birding (rarely, if ever, mutually exclusive). Living in Filey has its drawbacks and the sacrifices are many, but as the plague took hold, I'd never been more grateful for living somewhere with such easily accessed habitats, wildlife and migration-related kicks.
A juvenile Long-tailed Tit, born and raised during lockdown (hence badass expression)
Existential, health and societal anxieties aside, Lockdown 1.0 provided an opportunity to adapt and get creative with my spring birding (and the luxury of spare time in general), and to rediscover the joys of full-on local patch immersion. In many ways, this worked out very much for the best, and as is so often the case, limitations can be advantageous if you look at them from the right perspective....
After a promising start to the early spring at my recently-favoured visible migration point of Reighton Sands - Woodlark, Hooded Crow, Red Kite and other decent returns - access soon became impossible, it being via a holiday camp which was shut down as lockdown began. Fortunately, plan B was still very much open for business and arguably just as productive - Muston Sands, the spot I favoured for some years before experimenting and casting the net wider. It being no more than a twelve-minute walk from my front door (south along the seafront), I spent many hours there during the spring, enjoying a seriously productive, hugely enjoyable season in the process.
I put in a fair few early (and some late) morning sessions there between late March and early July, which immediately began to pay out handsomely. April began with a Common Crane high and in off the sea on 4th (later enjoyed by birders further up the coast, as with various vismig highlights in spring), and then got even better on 6th, when a Red-rumped Swallow bulleted by - formerly a nemesis bird locally, now a beautiful part of the family.... more on these sessions here and here.
All more than enough reward overall for a season confined to the immediate area - but unexpectedly, the best was still to come.....
Crossbills coasting south in the pre-dawn light at Muston Sands
The last two weeks of June were about as good - actually, significantly better - than it's ever been for sheer migration drama and spectacle in the spring / early summer locally, and it was all about the overhead flow at Muston Sands. Ridiculously early starts resulted in ridiculously wonderful vismig unfolding before our eyes, and while there was plenty of highlights to enjoy (including some scarcer highlights), it was really only about two species - Swifts and Crossbills.
A minute's taste of one of the standout highlights of 2020 - and it went on for hours and hours....
It's hard to describe the events of the morning of the 28th without sliding into hyperbole, but my post of that day, and the above video clip, hopefully provide a brief insight into the thrill of watching the 16,500 that whipped past us in the five and half hours from 0410 to 0950hrs that morning.... as you might expect, it smashed local records by a long way, and it was a real pleasure to share it with good friend and vismig legend Keith C just a couple of km south at the Gap.
A more in-depth look at that session can be found here, but suffice to say, it was a thrill, of which there were many during this usually doldrumy, end-of-the-season period here on the coast. As mentioned there were plenty of bonuses, and one of the best was the beautful, chocolate-barred male European Honey-buzzard that drifted in off the sea and nonchalantly right over my head on 28th....
And then, of course, there was nocturnal migration recording, or Nocmig. There's way too much to talk about (and way too many highlights) to fit into this post, and so I'll be posting a seperate Nocmig 2020 summary shortly, but with lockdown taking hold, dusting off an old hand-held sound recorder, jamming it into the crack of my open study window and pointing it into the back alley here in downtown Filey was one of my easiest, and yet most profoundly game-changing, decisions of the year. (You can read about April's highlights here, and May's here).
Barn Owl at Flamborough Lighthouse during early morning Breeding Bird Surveys there
So, for the (small) sacrifices necessary to keep it (very) local throughout the spring, it was a memorable and indeed record-breaking season here in Filey.....
Part 3 to follow soon.
Posted by Mark James Pearson at 16:07
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