Champions of the Flyway!

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Review of the Year, 2022 - part two

White-throated Sparrow in the Western Mass garden 

This post covers April, May and June. For part one, see here; for later in the year, watch this space. 

Late March and early April saw our first out-of-the-UK, post-lockdowns trip in over two years; a planned early spring Israel trip again sadly fell through, and so - despite a summer trip to the States already booked - we Plan B'd it with a much-needed and enjoyed fortnight in the USA to visit family.
Dark-eyed Junco, ditto 

New England is still a long way from spring as we know it at that time of year, and so we were prepared for the low temperatures and bone-chilling winds we encountered; it was a family trip, after all, and any birds or birding would be bonus collateral. Still, the garden (and surrounding area) of the family homestead in the woods of Western Massachusetts always provides, and there were many common species to enjoy. (More here).
Immature Bald Eagle

We also managed a couple (very) sub-zero sessions at the local reserves of Silvio O. Conte and Amethyst Brook in NM Mass, and a session at Barton's Cove (near Greenfield), with raptors and ducks at least playing ball.
Harlequins (above - more here), and Surf Scoters (below - more here) in coastal Mass.
Later in the trip, a whirlwind visit (again to see family) at the opposite end of the state presented an opportunity to bird the Gooseberry Island / Horseneck Beach area in coastal SE Mass, which was a blast - Harlequins, Surf Scoters, loons, shorebirds, and gulls, including a fine adult Kumlien's...
Back home and straight into a full-on surveying season, with a mammoth Breeding Bird Survey across many sites in the North York Moors National Park spanning the whole spring and early summer, as well many days on both banks of the Humber with no less than four ongoing projects. Of the former, pretty much every day was a pleasure, with a wonderfully broad spectrum of locations, habitats and species to study and record.
Snipe drumming above me on one of many beautiful early mornings in the NYMNP. More here.

Almost too many highlights to mention, but every day was different - whether it was drumming Snipe, singing Tree Pipits and Redstarts, silently cruising Goshawks, alarming Lapwings and Curlews, territorial Whinchats, neon Yellowhammers, repetitive Cuckoos, surprise Turtle Dove territories, even more surprising Honey-buzzard activities (in a non-traditional area) or any number of other breeding delights.
This year was, amazingly, the fifth breeding season out of the last six I've had the privilege of working across the North York Moors, involving many hundreds of visits. More here and here.  
A 'White-winged Lapwing' that bred successfully on the moors - more here

Of the latter, surveying along the muddy banks of the Humber continued unabated, with the addition of a Breeding Bird Survey (over multiple visits) at an industrial site by KGV Dockside in Hull. Despite it being noisy, constantly disturbed, full of heavy machinery and working factories, crisscrossed by lines of juggernauts and next to a chemical plant (sounds grim, I know), it was the perfect illustration of how nature really can thrive pretty much anywhere, but also how you need time and patience to fully notice and appreciate (and therefore accurately record) it.
Breeding Black Redstart, Hull docks....

Over the course of my visits there I found breeding Black Redstarts (extremely rare in Yorkshire, and likely the only county breeding record of the year), two pairs of Little Ringed Plovers, Shelduck, Cuckoo, eight warbler species and plenty more
.... right beside breeding Little Ringed Plovers
Bee-eater at Spurn - one of many highlights during my spring guiding days 

Guiding consisted of a series of Coastal Birding Discovery Days from late April to mid-May up here along the coast, and also a week at Spurn at the end of May, staying at the Obs; happy to say there was plenty to enjoy on both, with a nice mix of common and scarce species at iconic Yorkshire coast locations. (More of both to follow in Spring '23 - see here).
Ring Ouzel (Filey) and Greenland Wheatear (Buckton) - late spring migrants during guiding days
What little time remained (was there any?) was spent birding locally and enjoying the season generally, and even welcoming guests for, post-pandemic, what seemed like the first time in years - which included a visit from our dear friends the Perlmans; better still, we just so happened to 'bump into' a certain returning albatross while they were here, which went down pretty well....
Black-browed Albatross, Bempton Cliffs
Another couple of local late spring migrants here at Filey - Grey Plover and Spoonbill
Part three to follow soon