Champions of the Flyway!

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Twite, Carr Naze, Filey - 19th Nov 2020


A chilly, windy late autumn / early winter day here in Filey, and happily bumped into this flock of five Twite that I had briefly last week - good to see they've stuck around, and good to see them on the deck (most encounters being vismig fly-bys these days).

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Nocmig Update, Sept/Oct 2020 - Filey

Whooper Swans

It's been a while since the last Nocmig update here on these pages, but hey, it's been autumn and I've been busy (fortunately for me, in all the right ways); so here's a summary of September and October's nocturnal migration recording results from here in Filey, from both the North Cliff recorder and, to start with, the first-born - i.e. the one jammed into the study window pointing out into the alley here in the middle of town.... 

Filey Town 
For the first week of September, the gulls won the battle, with up to 75% of each night's recording's graffitised beyond recognition; after returning from a few precious days away in North Wales, however, suddenly the sono was much more inviting, and by mid-month maybe only 15-20% of each recording was unusable...


There were rewards even before that watershed, too, with a wonderfully conversational flock of Snipe on the night of the 2nd (above), a Grey Plover on 4th and another low-flying local Barn Owl - at the time, the second record of this unlikely urban rooftop skimmer.
The rest of the month was pleasantly varied and entertaining (especially with that comparatively clean sono to analyse) without being mind-blowing: highlights included Bar-tailed Godwits on 14th, a late Little Ringed Plover (23rd), the first autumn Robin (20th), a flock of Turnstones (28th), the first Redwings (28th), plus various expected species, from Dunlins and Oystercatchers to Curlews and Grey Herons.


October, however, would prove to be another trip entirely. A quiet first few days nonetheless included a late Whimbrel on 1st, Redwings and Song Thrushes, Golden Plovers and other commoner stuff, before a real revelation on 6th - almost hidden between bursts of random Herring Gull, the unmistakable churrs of a flyover Dotterel! True nocmig gold, and all the sweeter for being both harder to unearth and for flying over not the undisturbed clifftop recorder, but my humble abode, with its streetlights, alleycats and drunks.... more on that happy occurrence here.

The same night provided my first (nocturnal) house registration of migrating Pink-footed Geese, with a large, noisy flock over the rooftops; more Pinks followed on the 9th, before a seemingly dead night on the 10th suddenly sprang into life after heavy showers at around 0345hrs - out of nowhere, and within just a couple of hours, 1109 Redwings, 113 Blackbirds, Brambling, Grey Plover, Moorhens, Golden Plovers, Snipe and more....


 After a fine diurnal session here on the home patch in the afternoon (Grey Phalarope, Barred Warbler, lots of new arrivals), the night of the 13th was epic - minimum totals of 2318 Redwings, 783 Blackbirds, 16 Fieldfares, my first two Ring Ouzels (below), five Robins, 13 Dunlins, Snipe and plenty more - the after-dark, middle section to a wonderful 24 hours, bookended by finding a beautiful Rustic Bunting the next morning. Magical!


The latter part of the month was a little calmer, although thrushes were a constant feature, as were a host of classic late autumn shorebirds (including Curlews, Snipe, Oystercatchers) and passerines (Bramblings, Robins and Chaffinches), more Pinks yapped over in the darkness, and a further two Barn Owl registrations continued to make a mockery of local habitat barriers; better still, a much hoped-for nocturnal brass section kicked in emphatically on 22nd, with a large flock of Whooper Swans noisily navigating the Filey town sky. 

Continental Song Thrushes were a regular presence on autumn's recordings...

Filey North Cliff 
Meanwhile, up on the cliff top (about 1.3km north of my study recorder), a subtly different mid- to late autumn's recording was unfolding. As was evident earlier in the season, it was much more productive for shorebird variety, with (in additional to many registrations of the commoner species on other nights) a particularly strong pulse on 4th, which included Ruff, Whimbrel, Ringed and Golden Plovers, Curlews, Turnstones and Knot...


As hoped, it also scored much higher in the passerines stakes, with a much wider variety (and many more registrations): in September, for example, these included small but regular numbers of Skylarks (from 3rd), Robins (from 4th), Meadow Pipits, a Tree Pipit (12th), Song Thrushes, Redwings and Blackbirds, and a nocmig dream-come-true on 28th.... 

At 1855hrs - twelve minutes after dusk, with a bright moon rising and an otherwise long-silent recording rolling - two unmistakable tsooists of a Yellow-browed Warbler can be heard, from a bird presumably either having just made landfall, or, far more likely, giving a vocal starting pistol as it responds to its migratory urges (and the perfect conditions) before the next stage of its unfeasibly long migration from Siberia....

... while Yellow-browed Warbler was the stuff of nocmig dreams


The following night's Goldcrest, an NFC in the early hours, may have been from a far commoner species, but was no less welcome and awe-inspiring for it. Spring up there is going to be fascinating indeed....


As well as the more expected species, September also provided regular flocks of Pink-footed Geese (from 14th), a couple of Common Scoter registrations, a Little Egret (15th), a late Common Sandpiper, Sandwich and Common Terns, and plenty more besides.

Unlike the study recorder and the almost zero effort involved, setting the recorder up on the North Cliff is dependent on conditions (strong winds and very heavy rain are best avoided) and opportunity - with windows for picking up and dropping off becoming an increasingly rare luxury as October rolled on. However, I managed most nights until the 18th, and while not quite rivalling the home recorder during the same period, it produced plenty of results.


Notable nights included the 6th, which featured a very heavy movement of Pink-footed Geese, and the 13th, which scored an impressive 1553 Redwings, 142 Blackbirds and 16 Song Thrushes among others. 

Passerines continued to be a feature, with Dunnock, another Tree Pipit, more Chaffinches, several Lesser Redpolls and a Reed Bunting (below) all bumping up the list as the month wore on; arguably even more interesting than the urban Barn Owl recordings mentioned above were the calls of argumentative Little Owls from nearby cover on the night of the 5th - a species which is on the verge of extinction locally, and hasn't been recorded in that area for many, many years.
What a fascinating ride it's been thus far; November was, well, hardly dull either..... 

(Flamborough Sep/Oct nocmig summary to follow soon)

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Lapland Bunting, Filey - Nov 2020

A Quick late morning break from the laptop and a lovely session with a Lapland Bunting on a windswept North Cliff here in Filey.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Scenes from Spurn, late Oct 2020

Scenes from a wonderful five days co-guiding a great team of clients at Spurn for Yorkshire Coast Nature a couple of weeks back - what a magical place it is....
Pictured: Brent Geese over the North Sea, Whooper Swans on the Humber estuary, Fieldfares and Redwings arriving from Scandinavia in the rain, more Whoopers and Brents (spot the 'blonde'), Bar-tailed Godwits, Knot, Redshank and Curlew

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Filey Brigg, 5th Nov 2020

Have I mentioned how much I love this time of year here? I know, I know... but it really is special, and it feels like every time you go outside, something good is going to happen. And it does - the day before yesterday, it was Whooper Swans (among many others); yesterday, a huge movement of Pink-footed Geese (among many others); today, plenty more, and all within a couple of hours.
There are many times when birding Filey can be frustrating, for a variety of reasons, but late autumn resolutely isn't one of them, especially on Carr Naze and the Brigg. It's a very special time and place, and it's never the same. Today's highlights? A perfect, crisp first winter Iceland Gull (pictured) cruising below me along the side of the Brigg and then quietly inland (my best ever views here of a less-than-annual species); Red-necked Grebe, Common Scoters, Goldeneye, Eider, lots of Red-throated Divers, Purple Sandpipers and no fewer than five Great Northern Divers (four in the bay, one south); big skeins of Pink-feet on the move up in the clouds; Fieldfares and Starlings arriving in off the sea, low over the waves; and a Merlin, also in off, high up in the ether and eventually over land.
All in a very small, very beautiful area, just a few minutes from my front door. Reasons to be cheerful.
Starlings arriving from Scandinavia....
... and very tired Fieldfares doing likewise
One of five Great Northern Divers
More Starlings arriving, with a Red-necked Grebe looking on
.... and a Merlin arriving, initially as a distant dot, from who knows where

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Seven Swans a-swimming - Filey Brigg, 3rd Nov 2020

I know I've said it a million times before (often on these pages), but I really love this time of year, especially here in Filey. Early November means the classic late autumn / early winter crossover of species against beautiful skies and seas, and the Brigg comes into its own - a rocky, tidal outpost that reclaims its wildness.
And one of the things I look forward to most during this wonderful window is the southbound passage of Whooper Swans. They start moving some weeks before (and carry on beyond), but every year, like clockwork, the first week of November provides this iconic and heart-flutteringly joyous phenomenon multiple times over - from the Brigg, Carr Naze, at local wetlands, or over your head, anywhere in the area. There's something about migrating swans - especially over the sea - that turns me into a five-year old, and down on the Brigg this afternoon, I got that thrill as intensely as ever.
After enjoying Great Northern Diver, Red-necked Grebe, lots of Purple Sands and a Great Spotted Woodpecker arriving in off the sea (more of which later), I noticed seven little white(ish) sticks bobbing around way out on the waves, and figured they'd be on their way southbound very soon, so I sat down on the very tip of the Brigg and waited. Five minutes later, up they rose and with much salty splashing, headed straight for Flamborough Head in the distance (via a very close encounter with a small biped with a big grin).