Sunday 10 November 2019

Late Autumn East Coast Magic!

They say nature is good for you. I have been immersed in nature all my life and so it is something I have taken for granted I guess. However, after a really difficult and stressful week, a morning birding around Flamborough Head mostly on my own, was just what I needed, to unwind and get things in perspective.

The morning started well, despite the early start, and I had a traffic-free journey to the Cape. Old Fall was, to my surprise, deserted. I wondered whether other birders were seawatching, given the lively northeaster' blowing, or perhaps enjoying a suppressed Siberian Blue Robin...Anyway, I was here to chill, so I put these thoughts out of my head and enjoyed the solitude and dawn at Old Fall, a truly magical place.

Five Snow Buntings with a Linnet flock were the first birds of interest. Siskins were bounding around, with some flocks arriving in from Bridlington Bay.  I counted about 70 in two hours. After an hour and a half of solitary searching, I finally heard the Hume's Warbler calling from near the pond. I had begun to think it had gone, so was relieved and headed round there. After a bit, I found it, loosely associating with a Chiffchaff and a couple of Goldcrests. A smart little bird, but in less than a minute it melted away again. A little later I saw another stripy Phyllosc; this one seemed brighter green and whiter underneath; Yellow-browed Warbler? Sadly it didn't call and I didn't get a good enough view to be sure. It is getting late for YBWs, but there could be an odd straggler passing through.

After another another half an hour, I was frozen and it was getting busy (I had seen two birders approaching!), so I decided to head off. The lure of a hot drink and another Hume's Warbler was strong, so I headed to Bempton RSPB where the Hume's Warbler performed really well, calling regularly and showing well at times. The bird was brighter than the Old Fall bird, but still dingy compared with YBW, with a sullied eyebrow, dark greyish crown (rather than green) only one wingbar, without the dark  'shadow' and darker bill and legs. The call - which you can hear just about on the video below was a bit Pied Wagtail-esque, but not as strident or high pitched as Greenish Warbler. Certainly distinctive from YBW. I celebrated this East Coast Magic and the healing powers of nature-immersion, with a vegan hot dog and a latte from the RSPB cafe. How very modern!


Listen very carefully!

Sunday 3 November 2019

Exotic Splash

Four drake Red-crested Pochards (found by Duncan Bye) at Aughton Ings provided an exotic splash of colour on a relatively drab autumn afternoon. Three were quietly hanging out on the edge of the Willow coppice, strikingly handsome among the monochrome vertical reflections, while another was mixed in with the Aythya flock and occasionally displaying to a female Common Pochard. This spectacular duck undoubtedly occurs as an occasional vagrant from the continent, but the picture is confused by many escaped birds and feral breeders, so it is impossible to know where this quartet came from. Nevertheless, they are a lovely bird to see. Also noted, 58 Pochards and c120 Tufted Ducks.

 RCP with two Common Pochards.

On to North Duffield Carrs via Bubwith Ings. The water levels are high in the valley now and attracting lots of birds; my highlights were two Marsh Harriers, an adult female Peregrine, 29 Ruffs, 3 Dunlins and c500 Golden Plovers. No sign of anything rarer among the plovers though one Goldie with a black belly was interesting.

Classic LDV scene: Golden Plovers and Lapwings, with feeding Ruffs in the background.

Saturday 2 November 2019

Kentish Glory

OK, well not the moth which is the real Kentish Glory, but a glorious Kentish Plover, which Duncan Bye and myself enjoyed, in autumnal sunshine on Redcar beach.

A declining species in Britain, KPs used to breed until habitat destruction pushed them out decades ago. So, despite them being named after the county of their discovery, they are no longer a native of that county, nor anywhere else in Britain for that matter. Illustrating their rarity perhaps, this bird is only the second I have seen in Britain, the first being many years ago in North Norfolk.

KP together with a Ringed Plover. Note smaller size, paler upperparts and differences in head and breast patterns.

This one seemed very content, feeding with Ringed Plovers and Sanderlings, among the kelp-strewn tideline. Good numbers of other birds were present including a smart Long-tailed Duck, c50 Common Scoters and c20 handsome Common Eiders, riding the rough surf.

Difficult phonescoping due to the strong wind! Apologies for the shake.

We headed on to South Gare, where a few Twite were with the local Linnet gang, two Snow Buntings flew around calling and a fine second-winter Mediterranean Gull had joined the local Black-heads to scrounge for crusts, from the car-bound picnickers.

Nearby, a Red-throated Diver was behaving strangely, coming close in to the beach. On closer inspection, it was apparent that this sad juvenile had hooked itself on some discarded fishing tackle. The hook was clearly visible in the bird's gape and the head was wrapped in nylon line. It was still fit, so we couldn't get near it to help, and the local gulls chased it into deeper water. I felt helpless; such a beautiful bird facing a grim and totally unnecessary death. Yet another victim of our carelessness. This put a downer on the end of an enjoyable couple of hours birding Teesside.