Champions of the Flyway!

Thursday, September 22, 2022

A Swift 1k - half-time update!

A running photo per month (or thereabouts): the beach here at Filey, my local 'track'....

So I'm (more than) six months into my A Swift 1K challenge: to run (and cycle) 1K - i.e. 1000 kilometres - in 12 months, raising money for the wonderful folk who make up the Sheffield Swift Network. (To find out why I'm raising money for them and what they do, have a quick read here).
The riverside track along my bird survey site at Killingholme, Lincolnshire - a regular and peaceful (and much appreciated) place to run between wader counts.....

So, how's it going? Well, the fundraising - which I only kicked off a few weeks ago - has been amazing. The reaction has been humbling and I can only thank all you good people who have generously coughed up so far. My initial target of £1k was surpassed in no time, and I'm now not too far shy of £2k! So, I'm feeling positive and hopeful enough to have just raised my overall target to £3000.....
Lerwick, Shetland - a great place to run last month
A frosty morning run in Masham out in the Yorkshire Dales in late April (my last run of my 40's....)

I was a little concerned that, off the back of raising money for Turtle Doves last year and several other projects just previously, that there might be signs of 'giving fatigue' - apparently not, which is kind of wonderful. But then I do still have a few months to really up the annoyance ante.....
Cold, hard runs in the woods of Western Massachusetts back in early spring.....

So how about the actual physical challenge? Good and bad. Thanks in no small part to motivation provided by so many lovely people giving so much brass thus far, the running - the hardest part, for me at least - is on course. To date I've managed just over 300km in six and a half months; i.e. not far off being on schedule for my overall running target of 600km in the 12-month period. The other 400km+, though, is another matter, and it looks like a I'm going to have a lot more time on the bike through the winter if I'm going to reach my target....
.... and hot, hard runs in the same place in midsummer

Since I began the challenge back on the 1st March, I've run anywhere and everywhere I possibly could; while this is most often the beach here in Filey, I've clocked up the miles on my Humber surveys at Killingholme, Lincolnshire (many times), in Greenfield, Massachusetts, at the family homestead in the woods of Warren, Massachusetts, at Spurn Bird Observatory, East Yorks, in and around Lerwick, Shetland....

A particularly enjoyable run in the drizzle on the north coast of Yell, Shetland in the summer

.... at Masham in the Yorkshire Dales, in the countryside of Dordogne, France, in the wilds of Aberdeenshire, on the north coast of Yell, Shetland, and in Saxton's River, Vermont. With a few more trips planned in the next few months, I'll be adding to the list further as the second half rolls on....
In the wilds of Aberdeenshire, against many a swaying carpet of vibrant Rosebay Willowherb

As an aside, the timing of this post is perfect - after several years actively running, I ran my first ever sub-25 minute 5K yesterday. For many fitter, healthier types reading this, it's hardly a big deal - but it's all about context, and to this 50 year-old asthmatic with osteoarthritis, (genetic) high cholesterol and a life history pointedly lacking any meaningful exercise, it's a very big deal.... when I started running, bringing in a 5K in under half an hour was a lofty but realistic target. We've come a long way since then :-)
... and back here on the beach, where I get to jump straight into the sea after running on warm days. Bliss! 

So that's where I'm at as we welcome in the autumn proper. I'm generally happy with my progress so far, but the tough part is very much still to come. I've hundreds of kilometres to eat up over the next few months, and it'll only get colder, darker and wetter from here. So, any guilt/motivation/inspiration - in the form of hard cash! - is very welcome at this point :-) Help save our Swifts here, and thank you!

Friday, September 16, 2022

Killingholme, Lincs - mid-Sep '22

Spotted Redshank, suddenly materialising from the masses of Black-tailed Godwits

From my last couple of days surveying at Killingholme, my long term study site for Wold Ecology on the south bank of the Humber, nestled innocuously amidst heavy industry on three sides and the big river on the fourth. As regular readers will know it's a special place for me, despite - and partly because of - its bleak and post-apocalyptic backdrop; there are always birds, big skies, and ironically, there is always peace there.
Pintail heading upriver

It's a time of year when there's lots of changeover happening, and waders - particularly Black-tailed Godwits - are hitting their peak; I had a high count of over 5,000 this week, which were wonderful to see (and a pain in the arse to count, trust me).
Common Buzzard on the river wall

There's also lots of Redshanks and Avocets, I had my first skeins of Pink-footed Geese through yesterday, and plenty of other visible migration; I also had both Little Stint and Spotted Redshank, the former gunning upriver and the latter in with the Blackwits on the reserve, and there's always plenty of other interest.
Black-tailed Godwits communting between the reserve and the river
Little Egret - a common bird in the area
Spotted Redshank and Blackwits (a lot of)
An accommodating Kingfisher

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

New England, USA, July '22 - Mass

Male Chestnut-sided Warbler

After the lovely five days in Vermont, it was back to the family homestead in the wilds of Western Massachusetts - hardly the worst of environments - and much of our time was spent with our family, travelling to all corners of the state; lots of get-togethers and quality time. As mentioned in the last post, birding was effectively off the agenda, and - like our last trip in late winter/early spring - it was during a particularly quiet time of year anyway.
Juvenile Cooper's Hawk

But, there's always the garden. Effectively a lawn-mowed clearing in the woods, it's always a pleasure to observe what's happening there, and it's been a long time since I've been there in the height of the breeding season - so it was fascinating to see which species were actively rearing families in the (often overwhelming heat of midsummer.
Of those doing so, perhaps the most surprising were the Eastern Bluebirds cleverly utilising the netting on the underside of the solar panels in the backyard - no hole necessary, and a pretty much predator-proof choice, as evidenced by their young fledging while I was out there.
Garden friends

Another constant and very welcome presence were just-fledged Cooper Hawks, which were remarkably tame, noisy and clumsy - to the point where other birds in the area effectively ignored them; that'll have changed before long, though....
Breeding Eastern Bluebirds
Red-tailed Hawk, American Red Squirrel
Male Northern Cardinal

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

New England, USA, July '22 - Vermont

Eastern Kingbird

A stealthy attack on the ever-deepening well of used flash cards from recent months (hopefully more to follow soon), this one concerning our last trip out to the States, for two weeks in July. It was very much a family trip, and as you'd expect for the time of year, birdwise it was very much breeding season doldrums anyway. But, there's always opportunities.....
Green Heron - several flyovers in the early mornings at the nearby marsh

Our first five days were spent with the immediate family in Saxton's River, a lovely, sleepy smalltown in Vermont. Surrounded by beautiful wooded hills and winding rivers, the aptly-named Pleasant Valley was a short walk to the west, and brother Ned and I spent a couple of entertaining pre-breakfast sessions there. 
Chimney Swift over the house - with nesting material, snapped off in the canopy in flight! 

All pics from within walking distance of our accommodation.
Hooded Merganser mom and kids
Plenty of Belted Kingfisher family activity locally
The ubiquitous Chipmunks 
Chestnut-sided warbler, looking rare even where it's supposed to be.... 
Great Blue Heron
Twigless Chimney Swift
Male American Redstart
Broad-winged Hawk
American Robins - everywhere
More Chimney Swifts.... 
Wood Duck
Eastern Bluebird

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Filey, 9th-11th Sep '22

Honey-buzzard arriving in off the North Sea

I was scheduled to lead our YCN Pelagics over the last few days, but sea conditions sadly put paid to those - so with favourable winds and unexpected opportunity, I hit the doorstep patch, here in Filey. It could've been any number of my favoured local haunts, but for whatever reason the divining rod decided to keep me (extra) local, and that worked out just fine.
... spot the Wryneck doing likewise

Over the course of the last three days, I've been up at Carr Naze and around the Northern Coastal Area here for before dawn, birded for a few hours, and then put in extra afternoon shifts in the local area - and there's been plenty of classic east coast migration to soak up and savour. In no particular order, highlights have included:
One of many Redstarts....

Sudden, big falls of Wheatears on Carr Naze, just after sunset (on two nights); a delicious, chocolate-coloured juvenile Honey-buzzard, in off the sea early morning of the 9th; Redstarts scattered liberally, including fresh-in on the clifftops; a candidate young male Tundra Peregrine in off pre-sunrise on the 9th; a juvenile Long-tailed Skua off the North Cliff yesterday; a first year Caspian Gull off the Brigg early this morning; a Wryneck on Carr Naze, deposited next to me on the clifftop by a torrential thunderstorm; lots of overhead wader and passerine migration; and a big Meadow Pipit movement today, with over 2,000 going through over my time in the field.
One of several Sparrowhawks which came in off the sea

Lots of effort, lots of fun, and lots of reward.
Another two of those Redstarts....
One of many Yellow Wagtails moving through
Well into four figures of Meadow Pipits today, most heading straight out to sea from Carr Naze
The first migrant Goldcrests are starting to filter through, every one a joy
A particularly dark Kestrel which shot through over Carr Naze this afternoon