Champions of the Flyway!

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Mid-May pit-stoppers, Filey

After an early start surveying in warm sunshine up in the North York Moors, a couple of hours out birding on the doorstep patch this evening, where a blustery wind made it a bit of a challenge - but there was plenty to enjoy, including the year's first Whinchat fresh-in on North Cliff, the year's first Painted Lady north along the cliffs, and a tasty little selection box of Arctic-bound shorebirds feeding on the Brigg at high tide; Turnstones and a summer-plumage Grey Plover were the photogenic highlights.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Carr Naze Stonechat family

A check for migrants on the coastal stretch here at Filey this evening (easterlies, mist) produced, well, nothing of note, but it was well worth it for the family of Stonechats on Carr Naze - three fledglings and a very attentive and defensive dad on patrol.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

The Greatest Show in Town, (yet) again

Well, that was a pleasant diversion.... an afternoon off, lunch with the old man down the road in Flamborough, a wander down Old Fall (Spot Flys, Dolphins, almost no humans), and a spontaneous right-turn as I passed the Bempton Cliffs turn-off on the way home.
Cold and breezy up at Staple Newk, with no sign of the albatross, which had drifted east on the sea a while earlier; it being erratic and unpredicatable of late, my hopes weren't overly high. With no pressing reason to be anywhere else, however, I stuck around for an hour or so - no joy, but more than content pointing the lens at the commoner locals - until, well, a jaw-droppingly perfect performance, which ended with several eye-level, who'll-blink-first, ultra-close fly-bys.
After many times enjoying this beautiful bird in recent years, shockingly this was my first visit to pay my respects of 2022, but somebody clearly didn't hold my laissez faire attitude against me.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Spring surveys, summer visitors

A day of squally showers, rising temperatures and (eventually) sunshine on the Lincolnshire side of the Humber for my Killingholme surveys yesterday. It being mid-May there are far less birds on the river or reserve, but there were some nice waders out on the mud - a Ruff with summer-plumage Dunlins, Avocets, Ringed Plovers, Whimbrel and Curlew - and the bushes were alive with warblers.
Amazingly the Whimbrels were the first I've seen this spring (after regular nocmig records over the past week or more), and the storm fronts concentrated hirundines and (especially) Swifts - double figures heading upriver, and 62 feeding at Winter's Pond - where there was also this smart Marsh Harrier. On the way home I nipped in to the Dams, where a hailstorm had brought down a Spoonbill - a nice bonus at the end of the day.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Nocmig Update - Flamborough & Buckton, April '22

(Please use headphones for audio clips)
A Ring Ouzel chak-ak-aked over the village on 13th, a particularly productive night


Ring Ouzel and Redwing, 13th 

Again I ran recorders in a Flamborough village garden and up near the clifftop at Buckton - the former an mp3 recorder in a plantpot, the latter a pre-programmed Audiomoth - and again it was a month of mixed fortunes. Frustratingly, strong winds killed off seven nights at Flamborough and 14 at Buckton (the positioning of the latter meaning it's more susceptible to wind wipe-out), as well as negatively impacting plenty of other nights; however, April always delivers to some degree, and this month was happily no different.


A Dunlin meets a flock of Common Scoters in the darkness, 13th 

Flamborough village
After the record-breaking nocmig counts of Common Scoters and Redwings last month, both species continued to register regularly well into April. In the case of Scoters, a total of seven nights featured their welcome beeping, with a total of 28 flocks overall, peaking at nine on 5th, six on 3rd and five on 13th. All told, 141 flocks in just three weeks (between 23rd March and 13th April) made for an exceptional spring for this iconic nocmig species.


Redwings were also on the move regularly and often in good numbers, with plenty of double-figure and several triple-figure counts, peaking with 352 on 4th. In total, no fewer than 5451 Redwing registrations were recorded over the garden in spring '22 - a fraction of the number actually on the move, but an impressive fraction nonetheless!


Many nights featured a handful of 'regulation' spring species on the move - Golden Plovers, Oystercatchers, Teal, Snipe, Moorhens, Black-headed Gulls - as well as multiple showings of e.g. Coots, Curlews, Lapwings, Common Gulls, Wigeon, Grey Herons, Ringed Plovers and Water Rails. Passerines were dominated by thrushes, but also featured Robins and Dunnock, while a fairly modest eleven shorebird species were recorded - not particularly noteworthy, but with some good highlights:


A flock of Turnstones (a bit of a Flamborough nocmig speciality) went through on 8th, at least one Bar-tailed Godwit went over on 28th, a flock of Black-tailed Godwits headed over on 13th (see below), while fantastically a flock of Common Sandpipers - 91 calls from at least four, maybe (many) more, birds - were picked up by the recorder on 26th.
After no fewer than three last spring, I was secretly hoping for another Bittern in the darkness over the village this year, and happily, I got one (at 0035hrs on the morning of 11th) - very much within the peak period for them, as illustrated by wider nocmig data (and the Flamborough graph below, with thanks to Trektellen:).

As mentioned, the positioning (and design) of the Audiomoth mean it's particularly vulnerable to stronger winds - a necessary pay-off of suitable location and kit - and almost half of April's recordings were unfortunately unreadable as a result. However, a reasonable range of species were logged, some regularly, including Golden Plover, Teal, Wigeon, Snipe, Moorhen, Common and Black-headed Gulls, Blackbirds, and Redwings - the latter species again weighing in with plenty of healthy counts, peaking at 256 on 4th.


Flock of Common Sandpipers, Flamborough, 26th 

Fantastically, Common Scoters marched on throughout the month - 23 flocks over eight nights (again more temporally spread than at Flamborough or Filey) - with a peak of nine flocks of 5th; single flocks were still registering on nights late in the month, with the last on 29th.
Overall then, not great, but not so bad either - here's hoping for more productive conditions in May....

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Leucorhoama - Buckton, 4th May '22

Busy times of late, but managed to squeeze in a very relaxing and peaceful afternoon wander up Hoddy Cows Lane and onto the clifftop at Buckton today, where I'd the privilege of a really enjoyable session alone and up-close with a tribe of freshly-arrived O.o.leucorhoa-type (Northern) Wheatears.
Why leucorhoa? Well, the late date is a good clue, but the combination of pro-Greenland-type features are illustrated perfectly in the photos, thanks to the good nature of the five (four males and a female) birds present; all were amazingly approachable and accommodating. 
Large size, upright stance, long-legged and -winged, that lovely warm orange wash extending across most of the underparts, buff-brown admixed into the upperparts; and on the female, a warmer, darker, cinammon-buff appearance overall. All as 'classic' as you could hope for, and all surely bound for an Atlantic crossing in the very near future.