Sunday 13 October 2013

Flaming Bog Horror

12 October
The wind veered round to northeast early the previous evening and mist and drizzle rolled in. I could barely sleep for anticipation and arriving at South Landing early morning to set up for our event and it was immediately apparent that a major fall was happening. Redwings, Fieldfares, Song Thrushes, Blackbirds and Bramblings poured in over the headland, diving into the ravine to shelter from the strong wind. Ring Ouzels chucked, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker piled in off Bridlington Bay. I thought I would have a quick look down the ravine before our event started. I bumped into a guy who said they had had a Dusky Warbler in the hedge here about 30 minutes ago but had lost it. They thought it had gone across the road into the deep cover where the Desert Warbler had been all those years ago. Good luck finding that in there!

Our first guided walk started at 10.30, with a tour of the mammal traps with my colleague Jon. Two exquisite Common Shrews, Wood Mouse and a House Mouse later (this latter species brought from Jon's house!) and we headed off on our South Landing loop. Stacks of Goldcrests were in the bushes and the air was full of the calls of thrushes. It was great to be able to effervesce to the guests about migration with it happening all around! Coming out of the woods near the Timoneer and a Hawfinch flew over whilst the local Crows were relentlessly hassling a Sparrowhawk. Chiffchaffs were flitting along the hedge as we walked. This is electric birding!

I was with Andy Gibson at the head of the group as we turned west at the end of the track around the sheep field. Suddenly a dark brown bird shot out of the hedge just in front of us and swerved over the top and back in. It called a slightly-lip smacking 'tack- tack'. 'That was a Dusky Warbler!' I exclaimed - Andy said 'Don't be daft'. To which I replied 'No, it really is a f*****g Dusky!' (I hope the guests didn't hear that! I then played him the call on my phone. 'Yes, it is' was his response.

I gathered the group together, and told them to wait as I crept up the hedge. Sure enough there it was again in the straggly hedge flicking it's wings in the shadows and calling repeatedly. As I got nearer, desperate for a clear view, it doubled back enabling many of the group to see it. Awesome! This was a good half a mile away on the opposite side of the ravine, up in a wind-blown hedgerow near the cliff top. Surely this was not the bird seen on the west side of the ravine three hours ago? Anyway, it felt as good as a find, unexpected as it had been. I rang Rich Baines and left him with the news.

We had to press on with the group and headed along the cliff, down the steps and back up the ravine.
I bumped into Craig Thomas and others coming the other way and gave them the details. They headed up the steps to have a look. A few hours later and we went back for seconds. About twenty birders were in the sheep field watching the Dusky in the hedge. After a little while of listening to the occasional tack, the bird finally gave itself up and showed well two or three times, so I finally got to see its features. A smart little bird. Hopefully one of the big lens boys might have got a photo.

After the excitement of that, not a lot else happened. A flock of c30 Crossbills was seen whilst waiting for the Dusky to appear and then later another was flying around in the ravine which sounded very odd, though I didn't see it well....

11 October
Back to Flamborough with work. A walk round the Old Fall Loop before our meeting with York Press revealed much more activity than earlier in the week, a result of the wind going round to the north. The Old Fall hedge was quiet at the north end, but the plantation was busy with Goldcrests and Bramblings. A large flock of Redwings erupted out of the south end of the hedge and headed inland. This seemed to be the start of something big. At the corner of the Gorse Field and a pale bird in the low brambles surprised me by revealing itself as a very confiding Mealy Redpoll. At first it's startlingly frosty appearance against the dark bramble leaves made me think of Arctic sp, but sadly the streaked rump and undertail ruled that out quickly. A brief look at the sea whilst scoffing a bacon butty revealed a steady passage of Gannets and at least one Sooty Shearwater. The passage was impressive, though sadly I had work to do...
8 October
The weather was too lovely today, with a brisk SW wind and sunshine meaning we were not going to be in for a deluge of scarce and rare at the Great White Cape.

Nevertheless, we had a fab time sorting through Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps in the Bay Brambles early on and our blood pressures rose as I saw a larger pale brown bird in the Willows and then in the Privet on the edge of the golf course. James had heard some tacking from that vicinity too. My second view was of the rear end of a bird which dipped it's tail down... surely not just a badly seen pale Chiff?

Following a cup of tea chez Baines and then a fry up nearby, we did the Old Fall loop. Only a handful of migrants, including Wheatear, Stonechat and a few Chiffchaffs. At the plantation, a Yellow-browed Warbler seemed very pleased to see us, announcing it's presence with a strident tsee-weest from close quarters. The little sprite zipped around calling constantly, but avoided James' long lens. Last night's beer caught up with us and we had a lunchtime snooze by the willows, with Siskins calling overhead. A fine day.

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