Champions of the Flyway!

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

North York Moors surveying, early April '24

'Drumming' Snipe - check out those tail feathers

I've just finished the first three days of surveying for breeding waders up on the North York Moors (for Wold Ecology, on behalf of the NYMNPA) which we're carrying out throughout the spring, and it's been a joy.
We're revisiting many squares that we surveyed five years ago, ostensibly for upland waders, but we're also recording all red- and amber-listed species and anything else of note.
It's early in the season, but there's plenty already on territory, and over these last few days I've plotted plenty of Snipe (ah, that noise!), Curlews, Golden Plovers and Lapwings;
Male Stonechat in singing display flight (above) and staring me out (below)
There's always more to enjoy, too - which so far has included my first singing Ring Ouzel of the year, a Goshawk today, and most surprisingly, not one but two unexpected early summer migrants in an equally unexpected situation:
Redstart, Levisham Moor

Parking up at the end of a 'spur' of farmland, on high ground, jutting into Levisham Moor, I opened the door to hear the familiar flight call of a Tree Pipit, which dropped into an arable field nearby; very early, out of breeding habitat, and a total surprise.
Within about thirty seconds and while still getting my kit together, I glanced up at the last, puny bush just before the beginning of the moor, where a cracking male Common Redstart was perched - crazy! A second very early trans-Saharan migrant, in what can best be described as suboptimal habitat...
Golden Plovers

... aside from the fact both are by far the earliest of each species I've ever seen in Yorkshire, it was additionally fascinating when taking into account the circumstances. Early migrants were ariving across the country on the back of a low pressure, south-westerlies and regular showers, and both birds must've found themselves grounded in these conditions, on high-ish ground, on the edge of an uninviting expanse of moorland, and so hung around to fuel up and wait for a better time to keep moving.
A thrilling few minutes of spring migration in microcosm, far inland, and far from anticipated. Joyous!
Meadow Pipit in a tree. (The Tree Pipit was in a meadow, obviously.)