A busy working week since getting back from the States on Sunday night - two days surveying on opposing banks of the Humber (see last post), and the last three days leading our YCN Pelagic trips out of Staithes, at the very opposite extreme of the county.
Conditions haven't been ideal (although by no means awful), and cetaceans are as yet thin on the ground (despite best efforts, naturally) - although we did have Harbour Porpoises on all three trips, including some great close views. However, seabirds are always good value at this time of year, and we had some fine experiences with them out on the rolling ocean.
Common Scoters were northbound on the move in big numbers, with 484 today and a mammoth 1178 yesterday; Arctic and Great Skuas gave good views, while all three commoner terns put in appearances, as did Med Gull, migrating waders including Black-tailed Godwits and Dunlins, all the auks (with many young 'uns), many Fulmars and Gannets (right by the boat), and arguably the stars of the show, Manx Shearwaters
They featured heavily on all three days, but today was particularly special - we had at least 70 in total, often around the boat, both on the sea and cruising around us, giving stunning and very close views. I'm back on the boat next weekend - more to follow.
We got home from the States late last night (see following posts) after the Red-eye from Boston to Dublin, a delayed connection Dublin-Manchester, a fully missed night's sleep (sometimes it just doesn't happen on the plane...) and a blurry drive back to Filey - and then back to work this morning with a whole heap of jetlag on top of the above. Nightmare, right?
Well, not if you love your work, and not if there is, incredibly, a Caspian Tern calmly waiting for you on the mud of the estuary at King George Dock, one of my Hull riverside Vantage Points (thanks Chris and Will)... this continues a theme at this superficially unattractive, urban, industrial site this year, where I've had Great Northern Divers, breeding Black Redstarts, Little Ringed Plovers and Cuckoo, Little Gulls and more, but where the aforementioned beast was, well, far from anticipated.
After giving good scope views from my VP, the bird took flight - surely to head south-east, away from the city and narrowing river and towards the open landscapes and salty banks of the widening Humber? Nope, instead, it flew directly towards me, over my head, straight over the ferry terminal and er, into Hull....
As if that weren't enough for the day, with plenty of shearwater action reported from the east coast during the day I decide to forsake any rest (or dinner) and drive straight up to Carr Naze for a post-work seawatch; maybe an hour or two. Which, inevitably, turned into four hours - for the simple reason of it being such a joy to be back, at the start of the seawatching season, with the sun shining and seabirds moving again.
Amazing photos of the Cory's (above with Manxie)
In those four hours, I'd 126 Manxies, a 2cy Little Gull, a Bonxie, a juv Yellow-legged Gull, some wader passage, and a few other bits and pieces - good enough for me - but then, at the death, what should sail past at relatively close range but a brute of a Cory's, effortlessly gliding north in the golden evening light.
Some shots from our recent trip to the Dordogne - a week-long family get-together for the old man's 80th. Happy to say it all went swimmingly well, and a good time was had by all; a beautiful part of the world, mostly sunny and warm conditions, a lovely holiday home in the middle of nowhere with perfectly tranquil, wildlife-rich grounds, and lots of relaxing.
Birds were by no means a priority, but were naturally a regular distraction, and all the photos here were taken in the garden - where species present included Cirl Buntings, Western Bonelli's Warblers, Woodlarks, Golden Orioles, Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, (lots of) Firecrests, Black Redstarts, omnipresent purring Turtle Doves, Serins, Short-toed Treecreepers, flyover Honey-buzzards, Hoopoes and more.
Pics (from the top): Golden Oriole, Honey-buzzard, Hoopoe, Firecrest, Western Bonelli's Warbler, Woodlarks, Turtle Doves, Black Redstart, Serin, Short-toed Treecreeper, Cirl Buntings
Well, you would, wouldn't you? Having turned up ten days ago just down the road at Bempton RSPB, this Bobby Dazzler was, very considerately, still present when I dropped in on the way back home from survey work today.
It seemed unlikely it'd stick around long enough - we only got back from the Dordogne a couple of days ago, and the interim has been mostly taken up with family stuff and work catch-up; and to be honest, the now-usual photo-overkill on social media and stories of mobs of fieldcraftless photographers somewhat muted my prioritising of catching up with it.
But... surely most of the crowds would've ebbed away after ten days; it is just down the road; it would be educational; it's only a minor diversion on the way home; and it's a shrike, for Christ's sake (and oh, how I love shrikes....).
So I bit the bullet, and I'm very glad I did - after about five minutes wait by its favoured haunt, it hopped out onto a close, exposed perch and tarted around perfectly for a few minutes before eventually disappearing into the hedge. Twenty minutes later, I was on the other side of the bushes when it gave a repeat performance, again ridiculously close, and again completely fearlessly.
A great bird, a nice, calm twitch (with just a handful of others in the area), and a very useful lesson for when I find one myself, any year now....