Thursday, October 22, 2020

What a (Mig)Week - 10th-18th Oct 2020

Hello, gorgeous - Rustic Bunting, Filey, 14th Oct 

Well, that was a blast. What would, in a pre-pandemic world, have been our local Ringing & Migration Week (Migweek) here on the coast was sadly impossible in its traditional form, but it was a least still very much a period to remember, for all the right reasons - great birding, birds, people, places and experiences. 

Firstly, the success of our virtual 'Mini' Migweek - an online substitute for our physical programme - was wonderful; thanks to the enthusiasm and participation of our partners (Flamborough Bird Obs, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, RSPB Bempton Cliffs and Yorkshire Coast Nature) we were able to deliver a suite of migration- and birding-themed content, the backbone of which was a series of live online talks.

Talking to the wall and not a live audience is an odd adjustment to make, but we all did our best, and from the reactions of our wider community, it worked - in fact, judging by that reaction (and the fact that it was truly accessible for all, wherever you are), it worked even better than usual in some respects. Huge thanks to my good friend and Mini-Migweek partner in crime Ana for all here hard work. You can still access all the live talks online, for a couple of weeks at least - well worth the watch here.
Pale- and dark-bellied Brents on the move through Filey bay 

Secondly, I spent pretty much every waking hour in the field, either at work or play (or, more often, both). A succession of my Yorkshire Coast Nature Migration Specials were wonderfully timed - migration resolutely did not disappoint, for me or, more importantly, the many lovely clients I've had the pleasure of guiding this week. Flamborough was, as it so often is, the great provider for the Specials; I keep the options open on where to hit within striking distance, and I'm able to improvise accordingly, but it's hard to justify leaving the Great White Cape when it keeps on giving as it has this week. And not just for the YCN tours, either; Rich and I even managed some birding together and had a blast as always.

It wasn't all about the Cape (although it would've been more than enough on its own); I birded the backyard here in Filey, too, for various sessions during the week, and - while it may be harder work in various respects - I struck a uniquely rich vein in a memorable 24 hours midweek.

Rocking-horse faeces (contextually speaking) - a Filey Barred Warbler, 13th Oct 

After deep-cleaning the Saint Catherine's Hospice Shop here in Filey at record speed (volunteering is even more fun when your Mrs is your boss) in the morning, the afternoon of 13th in the Carr Naze / Country Park area was quality. A variety pack of late-autumn migrants included Woodcock, Bramblings and thrushes fresh-in, wildfowl on the move in the shape of Barnacle Geese, Goldeneye, both Dark- and Pale-bellied Brents, Mergansers and more, not one but two Merlins (one in off the sea), and then, fluttering innocuously among a dip-feeding gull flock off the Brigg end, a Grey Phalarope - the first (and perhaps last) of the year here.
Spot the hardcore non-gull - Grey Phalarope, Filey, 13th Oct 

Another kick around the bushes in the Country Park yielded more 'crests and thrushes, and then, munching on rosehips within a Greenfinch flock, a secretive Barred Warbler. No great rarity perhaps, but more of a prize than it should be here, being less than annual and hard to catch up with (and I think only the third I've found here?). With additional Ring Ouzel, SEO and more Bramblings, a very satisfying session...
Red-flanked Bluetail, Flamborough, 18th Oct

... which turned out to be merely the opening act for the headline act the following morning. Finding undisturbed areas that hold migrants here is increasingly difficult in recent times, but a plod over to the Tip - hard to reach presently, and thus unusually peaceful - paid out in spades.....
"Why don't you sit down and I'll come a lot closer?" 

Standing at the gate and scanning the Meadow Pipits feeding in the marshy grass for a scarcer relative revealed not an interesting Anthus, but - better still - an electrifying Emberiza. A dream find, and everything was suddenly, blissfully well with the world. The pipits flushed, the bunting didn't, the sun came out, and we got to know each other very well indeed. Perfect.
Fieldfare - a small part of the cast that made a beautiful mess of my sonogram from the night of the 13th

An exceptional, unforgettable 24 hours on the home patch, right? But there were more wonders to be plundered, sandwiched inbetween those diurnal sessions. I'll provide a full summary of recent results with the overnight recorders soon, but it's fair to say - after some seemingly unbeatable returns a few days previously - the metaphorical bloody doors were blown off on the night of the 13th....
A record-breaking night of nocmig from the study window, completing a crazily productive 24 hours birding here in Filey... 

Back at Flamborough, and the roll-call of wonderful quality and quantity migration continued to grow daily, and then hourly: thrushes, Goldcrests, finches and more arriving en masse, and scarcer visitors for my groups over the week included Red-flanked Bluetail, Dusky Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Siberian Chiffchaff, Barred Warbler, Firecrest, Yellow-browed Warblers, plus Lapland Buntings, Ring Ouzels, and the always breath-taking spectacle of incoming Short-eared Owls (one dramatically dropping beside us on the clifftop out of a brutal storm).
Hmmmm; maybe karma exists, after all.....