Monday, April 19, 2021

North York Moors Surveying - 17th April 2021

A few from today's surveying up on/off the Moors - highlights including a male Merlin (below), a singing Fieldfare (and other quiet ones), plenty of other thrushes (including Mistle Thrushes, above), countless Brown Hares, lots of Yellowhammers (also pictured) and plenty more on a glorious sunny day.

Monday, April 5, 2021

March 2021 (in random pictures)

Male Reed Bunting on Carr Naze. Reed Buntings are increasing as a breeding species locally and March is also a good month to catch them during visible migration.

As the North wind rages and temperatures plummet outside, time for a quick dip into the memory card for a few of last month's photo-orientated highlights.....
Little Egret on one of our surveys at Paull on the Humber. Look at those wing bones....
Female Teal, also on the Humber, where they congregate (with Wigeon, waders and gulls) at an outflow by the docks.
One of 20+ Bottlenose Dolphins off the North Cliff here in Filey on 28th. Following a recently predictable pattern, sightings increase in March and April and will continue through the spring and summer.
White-billed Diver off the North Cliff for twenty minutes on the 9th - any excuse to look at this vision of loveliness again.....
Always a joy..... the first Sand Martins battled through towards the end of the month, both on our Humber surveys and during vismig sessions at Muston Sands here in Filey
Finches play a major role in early spring visible migration, and it's always good to see Bullfinches bounding north along the cliff....
.... and where passerines migrate, Sparrowhawks follow
Pink-footed Geese are performing their stepping-stone migration back to the Arctic throughout the early spring, and I had an impressive 1375 heading north in four and a half hours on the morning of the 30th (these included)
Meadow Pipits - vismig stalwarts!
When the crowds descend on the town, we often head the other way, into the forests - where at this time of year our favourite spots have Kingfishers, Mandarins, Grey Wagtails, Goshawks and Dippers (pictured) all breeding
A migrant Short-eared Owl at dusk on the 30th up on North Cliff....
.. where no fewer than 12 Wheatears fed and hopped frantically together in the last of the light in a freshly ploughed field. My first of the year, and not sure I've ever seen this many together here?
Common Pipistrelle hunting by the house on the eve of the 30th
More from the Humber surveys - Curlews and Wigeon on the north bank (at Hull docks).....
..... and Avocets looking as aesthetically breath-taking as ever on the south bank.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Stonechats & Sunsets

From recent days here in Filey. A tame, subtly very sharp female Stonechat on Carr Naze, where a pair have set up territory over the last few weeks; other pairs are in the area, following a pattern which occurs most years in March. Due no doubt to several factors (disturbance from humans and dogs being the primary) they breed only erratically, and often move on in early April - fingers crossed for this year....
.... and a Magpie going to roost over the setting sun on North Cliff, where I'd just set my nocmig recorder and bumped into no fewer than 12 Wheatears and a Short-eared Owl in the field alongside it. For a brief second, it could almost have been the Negev.....

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Killingholme Avocets, 29th March 2021

The last visit of a long, entertaining, sharply contrasting survey season on the Killingholme stretch of the Humber's south bank last week. It's been the second full 'winter' (early Oct to late March) of our studies there, and species diversity and abundance is different on each visit, reflecting the time of year (and the point of each species' migration seasons), the state of the tide, weather conditions and other factors; but there is always something to enjoy, without fail.
This visit was all about the Avocets, which put on beautifully balletic performances over the Humber, and settled in close to one of my vantage points - allowing lots of time to appreciate their unique feeding techniques on the virgin mud, as pictured. I also noticed a few colour-ringed birds, for which I await details. It was also great to see my first Sand Martins of the spring, battling impressively upriver on strong winds.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Nocmig Update, March 2021 - Flamborough

"Greouw!" A first Flamborough nocmig Bittern, 1935hrs, 22nd March (recording below) 

After kicking off my Flamborough nocmig adventure back in August last year - see here and here - I started recording again in earnest (after a short midwinter break) in mid-February; and so this March was the first 'full' month of the year, and began the first spring of said activities on the Great White Cape.


Limited but consistent registrations in the first half of the month included regular Teal, Moorhens, Redwings and Song Thrushes on the move, with Curlew, Oystercatcher and Coot added in the second week, as well Skylark, Blackbird and Robin as the month wore on. Numbers were rarely high but both Curlew and Redwing clocked in with significant counts, echoing patterns for both species last autumn; on the 17th, for example, 82 of the former and several flocks of the latter passed over the garden.

As with the Filey results, species diversity increased as favourable conditions kicked in for several days from the beginning of the third week - Snipe, Grey Heron, Golden Plover and other early spring migrants were registered, before a busy night on the 21st, which included Knot, Dunlin, three Coots, and - halleluliah! - the first Common Scoters of the spring (migrating with Wigeon in the clip below).
With their overland nocturnal migration between the Irish and North Seas showing a steep spike in late March and April, Scoters are especially emblematic of early spring nocmig, and were the species that really kickstarted my beginner's adventures this time last year; I was hopeful, then, that my Flamborough recorder would see some action too, and that first beeping flock were bang on cue:


The bird of the month prize, however, indisputably went to the Eurasian Bittern, which croaked twice over the recorder shortly after civil dusk on the following night, the 22nd; a less-than-annual rarity on the Head. The same night saw plenty of supporting action, with 51 Redwings, Wigeon, Redshank, Robin and more all heading back to more northerly and easterly breeding grounds. 

Teal - a regular migrant on March recordings

The next night (23rd) continued the theme, with two flocks of Wigeon, Golden Plover, two Coot, Moorhen, Curlews and more, but it was the 24th that stood out for sheer volume of Common Scoter movements - a total of twelve flocks between 2100hrs and 0020hrs were a real treat, some of which were clearly substantial. Despite the stronger winds, Scoters continued to register, with another three flocks on 26th; almost as hardy as Redwings, which were pretty much a constant in small numbers every night.
Common Scoters happily lived up to their name in the second half of March 

The last few days of March saw an upsurge in Golden Plover numbers (with e.g. 11 on 29th, including singing birds on that date and the following night), further trickles of Redwings, Moorhens and other 'stock' late Mar species, and fantastically, yet more Scoters powered resolutely on during the night of the 29th, with a further seven flocks registering on the recorder - bringing the total for the latter part of the month to no fewer than 25 flocks.... 

(For full daily counts, see Trektellen here)

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Nocmig Update, March 2021 - Filey

Common Scoters - nocmig legends, each and every one, with 39 flocks recorded from mid-Mar

 A whole year on from the first tentative nocmig toe-dippings (more on that shortly), and for March I was rolling the tapes at not one but all three sites - two here in Filey, and one in Flamborough (the latter summarised here soon). The two Filey recorders were in their usual positions - in a crack in the study window here in town, and just over a kilometre away up on the North Cliff - and both provided plenty of decent early spring results. As usual the house recorder was running most nights (the exceptions being especially windy and/or very wet nights), and the North Cliff one as and when opportunity allowed (although inkeeping with the ongoing nocmig addiction, this turned out to be most of the time too).
Filey Town 
Species diversity was predictably quite low at the beginning of the month, although alongside regular Oystercatchers and Black-headed Gulls were equally regular Wigeon and Moorhens, with Golden Plover, Curlew, Grey Plover and Coot all added in the first week, Water Rail and Dunlin not far behind, and the first returning thrushes - Redwing, Blackbird and Song Thrush - all trickling through. And then, as is the joy (or one of the many joys) of nocmig, a total surprise on the night of the 13th - two plus Bean Geese, a less-than-annual species here in Filey - honking throatily over the chimney pots.


 A similar suite of species dominated the third week of the month, with a significant Redwing exodus (74) on 16th, and further Grey and Golden Plovers, Teal and Grey Herons over the following days. On 21st, the diversity improved further still, with Curlew, Knot, Dunlin, Redshank and Oystercatcher repping the shorebirds, the first house spring nocmig Robin of the year, and two very welcome wildfowl registrations - Whooper Swans and (bless 'em) the back alley's first Common Scoters of the spring.
A productive few nights followed, with a nice range of species, thrushes very much in full swing, and Scoters starring on several nights, reflecting the improved conditions (a warmer airflow and SW winds); in addition to the migrant action, another Barn Owl registration in the middle of the night on 24th was again very notable in this wholly concrete, urban area.....
The month ended with stronger winds and thus diminished returns, but passage continued regardless and Common Scoters very much kept up their end of the bargain, with further flocks on 26th, 27th and 29th, with a Whooper Swan also on the latter date. 

Filey North Cliff 
The effort involved in placing and setting the recorder - a bit of a drag after a long day's work and with the light going or gone - may be much more than opening the window and pressing record (as with the house set-up), but after the nocmig gold of late February's Stone-curlew, it didn't seem quite as much of a pain as it might've this month...

Teal, Moorhen, Snipe and Grey Plover were soon on the board, with Gadwall, Water Rail, Grey Heron and odd passerines (including Skylark) added by the end of the first week. After last month's surprise Pintail over the house, a second followed, this time over the North Cliff on 7th; a quiet mid-month was enlivened soon enough with the first Common Scoters of the spring on the 18th, their evocative alien beeps harmonising beautifully with the slightly lower freqency of vocalising Common Toads on the recording....


 .... and, as with the house recorder, it was a busy few days that followed - with, for example, Whoopers, Scoters, Pink-feet and Wigeon, plus more passerines and waders on 21st, a notable departure of 214 Blackbirds on 22nd, more scoter action among a wide range of species on 23rd, and a further ten flocks of scoters on 24th; allowing for duplication with the house recorder, a minimum of 13 flocks overflying Filey that night. 

After a good week or more of pleasingly varied nights, as mentioned conditions at the very end of the month weren't particularly nocmig-friendly, but a nice selection on 29th included four more scoter flocks, Golden Plover, Snipe, small gulls and Moorhens on the move among others, and a small surge of Redwings (41) the following night.


And in the midst of celebrating last month's big surprise in the February nocmig round-up, I somehow forgot to mention another magical recording from North Cliff at the end of last month - incredibly, a singing Great Northern Diver on 28th!
For full counts and more audio clips of every night's nocmig results, see here (town) and here (North Cliff)