Champions of the Flyway!

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Nocmig Update, August 2020 - Flamborough

The Empire of Darkness expands; no, not the relentless, unstoppable late-stage capitalism neo-liberal apocalypse, but my nocturnal sound-recording stations (considerably more benign, but just as time-consuming, trust me). From a crack in my study window in downtown Filey, to a plastic bucket in a field near the North Cliff in Filey, and now, to a plant pot in a garden in Flamborough village.

Grey Plover

Birds and family are my two main reasons for regularly gunning down the road to Flamborough, and so it seemed like a logical extension to combine the two and begin running another sound recorder in my mom's garden. Logistically speaking this means that, while it's easier to run the two Filey locations, I can record a few nights a week there and analyse the recordings as and when I get the chance.

Despite being 'out' on the Great White Cape, the recording location is actually the most inland of the three, being a full 2km from the coast (the house in Filey is 300m, the North Cliff site 200m). Starting on the 10th of the month, I managed 17 nights recording in August, and it didn't take long to reap the rewards.


The overwhelming realisation from these early forays is that waders are more than happy to cut off the outer headland, and indeed may often choose the shorter, coast-to-coast, over-the-village route on migration. The species list grew quickly in the first few days, with Ringed, Golden and Grey Plovers, Knot, Common Sandpipers, Redshank and Oystercatchers all registering, a main highlight being some major movements on several nights mid-month.

The best of which involved a surge of waders on the 15th, involving many Oystercatchers, plus Ringed Plovers, Knot and Dunlin - but most impressively, several flocks of Redshank (above), including one very vocal, uncountable group which took a total of 2m 45s to pass over, calling constantly... how many were involved? Here's a short exerpt to illustrate....


Turnstones, Little Ringed Plovers, Sanderling, Whimbrel and Curlew were soon added to ever-growing shorebird roll-call, with another surge at the end of the month adding both Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits, with the added bonus of my first nocmig Wood Sandpiper over on the 20th.  


It wasn't all about shorebirds (well, with a few exceptions) - Sandwich Terns featured on several nights, as did Black-headed and Great Black-backed Gulls, but the best of the rest was definitely a Tree Pipit (above) on the 14th:- 


Pleasing returns and a promising start.....

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Nocmig Update, August 2020 - Filey



 Bar-tailed Godwit on the night of 7th / 8th Aug - one of many decent early autumn nights:
It may not seem like it - blame the pandemic for warping our timeline - but apparently, August was month five of my local nocturnal migration (Nocmig) adventures; the flipside, of course, being that you can also partially blame the pandemic for inspiring my toe-dipping into this addictive and fascinating aspect of my birding experience in the first place. Silver Linings.... 

The following night saw a major Oystercatcher movement throughout (the estimate doubtless a tiny proportion of the birds involved)

As described in the July summary, I've cast the net a little wider lately by running a second recorder, to the north of the town and close to the North Cliff here in Filey; not far away from the house as the White's Thrush flies, but a world away when it comes to circumstance (rural as opposed to urban) and Herring Gull noise pollution (or a lack thereof). From August onwards, it was time to expand the empire further still, with exciting and satisfying results (see next post.....); but for now, here's a summary of Filey's August results.

Sanderlings featured heavily, with a big movement of various flocks on the night of 11th:


Filey North Cliff
After starting recording ten days into July (and clocking an encouraging range of early season migration - see here), August was my first full month of nocmig up on the North Cliff here in Filey. My intention was to try and record a few nights each week, but it was entertaining and productive enough to inspire pretty much nightly efforts (only postponed when the weather/wind was especially poor or when circumstances got in the way).


Migrating flocks of Turnstones were a feature of several August nights

Happily, the extra effort of dropping off in the evening and picking up in the morning has been very much worthwhile - every night has produced (even in poor conditions), and the species dynamic was, as expected, dominated by numerous shorebird registrations. Of those, highlights included both Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits, Greenshank, two Common and four Green Sandpipers, a handful of Knot, plenty of Turnstones, Redshank and Sanderlings, lots of Dunlins, Whimbrels and Curlews, several Knot, and many, many Oystercatchers ....

Wildfowl were few and far between, but did include the telltale somewhat grumpy mutterings of Gadwall on 31st:


Grey Herons
featured eight times, four times more than in July and as might be expected with more birds on the move; Black-headed (many), Common (a single) and Great Black-backed (three) added a bit of class to the backdrop of (mercifully polite, irregular) Herring Gulls; and all three species of regularly-occuring Tern made the sonograms, with a healthy 11 Sandwich (insert obvious food-based gag here), four Common and a single Arctic (below) - the first for the site - on 9th.


Landbirds were pretty much non-existent, with just the odd errant nocturnal passerine call likely belonging to local birds, but an unexpected bonus came on the night of 16th, when a Short-eared Owl wailed over the recorder - coinciding with an influx of along the coast over the same 48 hours. Result!

Filey Town 
With the gulls at full, tortuous velocity, much of August was always going to be a trying exercise, and many nights were effectively void on account of the wall-to-wall banshee audio-hell. But, with perhaps more effort than could be justified from a mental health perspective, there were little diamonds to be found in the mine (or at least, a few semi-precious stones). 

I tentatively re-opened (figuratively and literally) on the 14th, again by jamming the recorder into the crack of the open study window, pointing up into the ether above the back alley here in the exclusively bricks-and-mortar environs of Filey town. The nightly sonograms were not pretty, and a less committed / more balanced soul would've deleted them at first sight and gone and done something arguably far more productive, but in amongst the haystack, there were needles to be found.


Not the impressive roll-call of the spring perhaps, but registations included Sandwich and Common Terns, Water Rail and Coot, Turnstone and Knot, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, Curlew and Whimbrel, Common Sandpipers and Redshank - but the highlight, right at the end of the month, was a single Tree Pipit - a much-anticipated (if hardly mega) long-distance passerine migrant and a welcome addition to the scorecard. 

You can find daily counts from my Nocmig efforts on Trektellen here, and my sound recordings on Xeno-Canto here.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

YCN Migration Special - Flamborough, 15th Sep 2020

Red-backed Shrike

It's been a crazy week so far (and will only get busier over the next few) so a quick one to summarise another excellent day's guiding: today, another one of my Yorkshire Coast Nature Autumn Migration Specials - the third of four this week, one of many this season, and not the first (nor no doubt last) that saw Flamborough taking centre stage.
Pied Fly

Three lovely clients, a full, sunny, beautiful day on the outer head, and great wildlife from start to finish. We kicked off with a pristine, accomodating and entertaining juvenile Red-backed Shrike not two minutes from the car park, as Siskins, Redpolls and Meadow Pipits streamed overhead (often vocal, and invisible); we continued along the clifftop, where we serendipitously bumped straight into 20 Bottlenose Dolphins frolicking close inshore before gunning north;
We then sauntered down a deserted Old Fall Hedge, where fresh-in Redstart and Pied Flycatcher gave us an impeccable show; we enjoyed lots more visible migration, with e.g. Grey Plover, Yellow Wagtails, more Siskins and redpolls and hirundines on the move in the blue; and finished up with a leisurely, entertaining seawatch from the clifftop at the fog station.

Arctic Skua, chasing an incoming Greenland Wheatear...

After the dolphin show earlier, it was the turn of Harbour Porpoises to entertain, with many fishing offshore. The stand-out highlight, however, was a unique episode that we watched unfold before us, featuring a pale morph adult Arctic Skua out at sea, skillfully chasing (and almost catching) a passerine in a Hobby-esque fashion....
Which survived, and pitched up in front of us

... which turned out to be a spanking Greenland Wheatear - which, after defying a grisly demise over the waves, proceeded to head landward and straight towards us, pitching up literally at our feet and feeding avidly as if nothing happened (and as if it wasn't in the throes of the most epic of songbird migrations between the Neartic, Europe and Africa).


Manxies, lots of summer-plumage Red-throated Divers, Whimbrels, Bar-tailed Godwits and other stuff added to the mix, and it's fair to say, we were all pretty satisfied with the dramas unfolding before us. Magic, as ever!

Bottlenose Dolphins enjoying the sun

Monday, September 14, 2020

Straight Outta Wykeham

A warm, sunny morning at our favourite picnic spot in the forests, and a noisy stream of Crossbills and Siskins exiting along the valley - some stopping off and performing beautifully on their way...

Friday, September 11, 2020

Anglesey & Snowdonia, September 2020

A much-needed getaway with the Mrs to North Wales - specifically Anglesey, and a static caravan air BnB in the middle of a field, in the middle of the island. Perfect; as was the trip, with the best part of five days in this genuinely stunning, beautiful part of the world. We spent much of it exploring the island - secluded beaches and bays, neolithic and medieval sites, abandoned Victorian brick and porcelain Works and other random places of interest - as well as two leisurely, long, oooh-and-aaah soundtracked drives through Snowdonia and a sunny day at Portmeirion.

Birding wasn't a priority for the trip (and, dare I say it, it was all the better for it) but I had the optics at hand for any collateral, which included wonderful views of up to 26 Chough at South Stack, tame and entertaining Ravens there and across the island, and Greenland Wheatears (again there and scattered around the coast).

A tip off from a local birder (cheers Andrew!) about a Rosy Starling hanging out with a Starling flock on the coastal path in the north of the island came good almost instantly, and we enjoyed a close-up show before moving on to more secluded bays and burial chambers....

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Early September Pelagics



 A quick one from last week's three Yorkshire Coast Nature Seabird and Whale Adventures, all of which I was fortunate to lead and all of which scored cetaceans and lots of other marine wildlife treats....
Bottlenose Dolphins (above) and Minke Whales (below) took top billing, including some incredibly close and prolonged views and interactions), and we enjoyed some fine seabird action - including close-up Sooty and Manx Shearwaters, Arctic and Great Skuas, wader and passerine migration, various terns and lots of by-the-boat auks, Gannets, Fulmars and other reliable companions.
Minke Whales
Sooty Shearwater
Arctic Skua