Champions of the Flyway!

Monday, July 31, 2023

North Yorkshire pelagics, late July '23 - Bottlenose Dolphins

... and yes, we scored all three target cetaceans over the two trips: Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, and - right at the end of yesteday's five-hour sailing - this pod of Bottlenose Dolphins, which included a couple of boisterous young 'uns.
Curiously, after getting so used to them, in all seasons and along all stretches of the Yorkshire coast, they've been pretty much awol over the last few months, and so it was particularly satisfying to connect with this pod; and just to trumpet their return a little louder, I had a much larger pod of at least 28 off the Brigg here in Filey this evening. Welcome back!

Sunday, July 30, 2023

North Yorkshire pelagics - late July '23 (one)

It's that time of year - back on the boat out of Staithes for ouy YCN Seabird and Whale pelagic trips. Always at the mercy of the conditions (and forecast), both my trips sailed this weekend, with pretty calm seas on the first day and slightly choppier ones on the second.
Highlights over the two days included large numbers of auks - the vast majority Razorbills - and their still dependent youngsters; it's the best time of year to see them up close and enjoy their interactions, behaviour and various stages of development. This weekend was exceptional, however - we slowly approached and parked the boat in the midst of huge 'mega-creches' of many hundreds of birds, and the sights and sounds were overwhelming.
The latter was especially memorable, with a cacophony of squeaks and whistles from the young combined with the growls and barks of the adults being the only audible sounds several miles off the coastline - a special experience.
Migrants were also evident, with Arctic Skuas, Manx Shearwaters, a few waders and the like evident, but the standout species was Common Scoter. It's the best time of year for scoters flooding in from the north and east, but on the first trip we counted a mammoth 2177 in many flocks (some hundreds-strong).
Cetaceans? Happily, yes - tune in next time...

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Nocmig Update - Flamborough, January to June '23

This post is dedicated to Tom Johnson
A further two Bitterns were recorded over the village this spring


As described in the previous post, conditions for nocmig were frustratingly crappy throughout spring '23, and expectations were lowered accordingly; however, in contrast with the very limited returns at Filey during the period, my Flamborough recorder (still in a garden in the village) punched above its weight and against the odds. March and April were surprisingly productive, while May and June at least produced some occasional quality.


 Please use headphones to listen to the sound clips

A pretty much full month's coverage through March produced a good variety of early spring migrants. Rallids figured throughout, and Coot were particuarly prevalent (with a peak of five on 30th), while Moorhens were regular and Water Rails were sprinkled through the month. Golden Plovers, Oystercatchers and Curlews were the most well-represented waders, with Redshanks, Snipe, Dunlin and Knot also recorded. 


Thrushes were a feature throughout the month, with Blackbirds and Song Thrushes on many nights and Redwings often in double and sometimes in triple figures, with 231 on 22nd and 197 on 23rd the highest counts. Common Gulls were particularly numerous, and a single flock of Pink-feet headed back north on 27th; but two species stood out in the month, both classic and welcome early spring nocmig targets.


With so few picked up on my Filey recorders, it was a pleasure to find Common Scoters beeping on seven nights over Flamborough, totalling 19 flocks, beginning on 18th and continuing to the month's end (and beyond - see below). Not to be overlooked - although it can be easy to do so on the spectrogram - the growling nocturnal flight calls of Bitterns registered twice in March, on 17th and 27th - right on cue as wintering birds return to the continent. 

Bitterns recorded on Flamborough nocmig (since recording commenced in autumn '20)


April, while not a classic, was still productive. Common Scoters continued to move throughout the month, with 44 flocks recorded over a total of seven nights, with a peak of 21 flocks on 10th (and the last on 25th). Waders included flocks of Bar-tailed Godwits on 8th and 14th, a strong movement of Curlews and a flock of Black-tailed Godwits on 13th, Common Sandpipers from 22nd, and a Snipe giving an 'alternative' flight call (thanks Magnus!) on 9th (see below), as well as regular Redshanks and other common species.


Thrushes were dominated by Redwings, with 366 throughout and a clear peak of 188 on 6th, while a Ring Ouzel chacked over the recorder on the same night; the welcome 'nocmig-song' of a flyover migrating Blackcap on 30th was a satisfying way to end the month.

By all accounts, the aforementioned prevailing conditions and cold north-easterly airflow wiped out May, with modest numbers and variety of common species, and few highlights; of the latter, a Greenshank on 10th, Turnstones on 17th, a Shelduck (a new nocmig species) on 2nd, a Swallow on 10th and a flock of Sandwich Terns on 18th were the pick.


Nocmig possibilities and expectations lessen greatly as June arrives, and running the recorder is more out of hope for a late spring bonus then anything - and so it was very rewarding to pick up my first Flamborough nocmig Quail, quip-whip-whipping over on 11th. Two flocks of Sandwich Terns (15th and 27th), a Little Ringed Plover on 13th, and a scattering of rallids, Little Grebes and Oystercatchers completed the cast.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Nocmig Update - Filey, January to June '23

Ring Ouzel - a feature of every nocmig migration season here at Filey

Year four of my nocmig studies here at Filey and our understanding of nocturnal movements locally is, well, many leagues beyond what we knew (or could've imagined) previously. One of the many educational aspects is the huge influence of prevailing weather conditions and wind during the key migration periods - as with diurnal migration, it's the key, and the seemingly endless cold north-easterly airflow throughout much of spring '23 can be politely described as, well, a very limiting factor....


Thus, this spring was especially quiet for nocmig, but I continued to run both recorders here, up on the North Cliff, and (opportunistically) one from my study window here in Filey town; there were some limited highlights and movements, and all data is good data, after all, as summarised below. As always, full counts and details of each night's recording can be found on


Filey North Cliff 
I recorded pretty much consistently from mid-March to the end of June (with occasional nights written off due to very poor weather / high winds), and the second half of March was, as it often is, productive: most nights registered multiple species, with many registering between five and ten. Of these, wildfowl included flocks of Wigeon on six nights, Teal on several, Gadwall on one (27th), Mallard on many, and, of course, Common Scoters: the first flock beeped over on the 23rd, followed by four flocks on 25th, and further flocks on 28th and 30th. 


Early season waders were represented by Golden Plovers (five nights, with a peak of three on 16th), Oystercatchers (nine nights), Snipe (three nights), Dunlin (one on 16th), Ringed Plover (17th), Lapwing (23rd) and Curlews (six nights, with a peak of four on 18th), while rallids were dominated by Moorhens (most nights) as well as three each of Water Rail and Coot.


Passerine activity included single Skylark, Robin, a handful of Song Thrushes, and decent numbers of Blackbirds and (especially) Redwings on their return flights to Scandinavia - peaks of the latter included 247 on 22nd and 156 on 24th.


April saw a diversifying of species (if not in any great numbers). Common Scoters featured on six nights, with a total of twenty flocks recorded, the best of which was eleven on 10th. Species recorded on multiple nights included Golden and Ringed Plovers (five nights each), Moorhens and Coots (in lower numbers than usual), Water Rails (six nights), Common and Great Black-backed Gulls, a few Grey Herons and Dunlins, Snipe and Gadwall, regular Oystercatchers, and Redshanks (on a total of five nights).


Thrushes were also down on the norm, with only two nights featuring Redwings into triple figures (138 on 6th and 104 on 7th) and small showings of Blackbirds and Song Thrushes. A more positive end to the month included a 'noc-singing' Blackcap on 26th, the same night the spring's first Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper and Sandwich Terns went over the recorder; a Greenshank on 28th was almost drowned by the cacophony of migrating Curlews, which featured several large flocks and plenty of singing practice en route.


If early spring was quiet, then May was, well, inkeeping with the theme. A period missed due to tech issues notwithstanding (10th-15th), it was a month of low diversity and abundance, with a few waders and passerines breaking the monotony - Common Sandpipers on six nights (including two nights with twos), Whimbrel on 4th, Green Sandpiper on 18th, a flock of Turnstones the following night and a small flock of Black-tailed Godwits on 31st were the pick of the former, while a Tree Pipit on 8th and a Spotted Flycatcher on 27th the best of the latter.


Except, that is, for one of those wonderful nocmig curveballs - a beautiful, unfamiliar, distinctive phrase repeated with some regularity for about 15 minutes after dark on 27th only became familiar when a series of tssips gave away its identity - a Redwing, practicing its song immediately before exiting back to Scandinavia!  

Mostly for the sake of completeness of coverage, I ran the audiomoth throughout June, and while it was predictably quiet, there were a few notable returns - Greenshanks on 9th and 10th, Little Ringed Plovers on 3rd and 12th, odd Water Rails and Little Grebes, and a (very) late Redwing on 11th being the best of the month.


Filey Town 
Regular readers will know the drill by now - a recorder trapped into the gap of my study window and out into the back alley here in downtown Filey, opportunistically and before the Herring Gull colony I live within (literally) calls time on my efforts. Always challenging, but always worth it....


Six nights were attempted mid-month during March, and a couple were productive. The 16th produced ten species, which included Golden, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, 175 Redwings, nine Song Thrushes and 43 Blackbirds, as well as Dunlin, Robin, Common Gull and Moorhen, while the 18th was a classic early spring night of migration, with a healthy 14 species:
16 nights recorded in April from the 6th were increasingly and predictably affected by the gull colony, which wiped out up to 70% of the spectrogram by the end of the month, but there was plenty to keep efforts worthwhile in the meantime; indeed, often more than the North Cliff recorder, as is often the case in spring.


Of those nights, a good proportion were pleasingly varied (between the gulls screams...), with a wide suite of species involved. Common Scoters featured on four nights, with 16 flocks, involved including ten on 13th; other wildfowl included Teal and Gadwall on several nights; thrushes were regular, with a clear peak of 109 Redwings on 7th, a scattering of Blackbirds and Song Thrushes throughout, a single Fieldfare and a Ring Ouzel 25th; rallids were regular and reasonably abundant, especially Moorhens

Waders included Common Sandpipers on various nights after the first on 16th, multiple Redshanks, regular Oystercatchers, two Little Ringed Plovers (9th and 16th), multiple Golden Plovers, and a particularly good night for them on 28th, with a big Curlew movement, Turnstones, Knots, and two Common Sands; and passerines included no fewer than three Blackcaps 'noc-singing' over the rooftops, plus single Meadow Pipit, Dunnock, and a Tree Pipit on 19th. 

A handful of hopeful nights in May were predictably patience-trying, but rallids and Oystercatchers were evident between the banshee wails, as were Common Sandpipers, a few other waders (including Dunlins, and flock of Turnstones at 2317hrs on 19th - picked up just a minute later over the North Cliff recorder!). 

Monday, July 17, 2023

Garganeys at Filey Dams

Two pairs of Garganey have been at the Dams here in Filey for some weeks now, and when they arrived, the males were almost perfect breeding plumage - now, they're in perfect non-breeding plumage, and arguably just as smart in their own, more subtle way. As can often be the case here, they're extremely confiding, and are usually the tamest ducks on the reserve.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Global Birdfair 2024 - come and see us!

A quick one to mention where (and when) I'll be at the upcoming Global Birdfair, next weekend.... we're around for the duration, and please do come and say hello if you're passing by or fancy a chat! I'm representing Yorkshire Coast Nature, Zeiss Birding, Champions of the Flyway and The School of Birding, and I'm happy to chinwag about these and all manner of related or unrelated subjects over the course of the three days - but here's my schedule if you want to collar me: 


all morning - Yorkshire Coast Nature stand (106, Swallow marquee) - call in for a chat about our varied guided wildlife trips in Yorkshire and beyond! 

1400-1500hrs - Zeiss stand (F1, Falcon marquee) - Migration chats and more.... come and talk to me at the Zeiss stand about all things migration (vismig, nocmig, seawatching, whatever!) as well as our new School of Birding and the new Champions of the Flyway campaign in 2024... 

SUNDAY 16th 

1000-1100hrsZeiss stand (F1, Falcon marquee) - Migration chats and more.... come and talk to me at the Zeiss stand about all things migration (vismig, nocmig, seawatching, whatever!) as well as our new School of Birding and the new Champions of the Flyway campaign in 2024... 

1500hrs - Whinchat Podcast Station - I'll be talking all things migration, nocmig, vismig, School of Birding, guiding, Champions of the Flyway and more with the estimable Hannah and Erik Go Birding LINK podcast. 

1230-1430hrsYorkshire Coast Nature stand (106, Swallow marquee) - call in for a chat about our varied guided wildlife trips in Yorkshire and beyond!