Search This Blog

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Incredible falls of migrant birds on the East Coast ... Pallas's Warbler, Isabelline Shrike, Dusky & Raddes Warbler, Firecrest and more!!

What a stroke of luck I had last week ..... I'd arranged a house sitting engagement a few months back in the village of Flamborough and only hit on the best week for falls of migrant birds the East Coast has seen for many a year. Rarities everywhere and me cosily placed in a lovely little cottage with 3 adorable cats to watch over .... thank god one of them didn't bring in Yellow Browed Warbler as a little gift!

Thank you Antoinette ... I had a super 5 days and was sad to leave.

Met tons of other birders from all over the country ... a few who even read my blog. Most gratifying and humbling to be read by some of these birders, nearly all I met taught me a thing or two so cheers guys!

On to the birdies then and where to start! Well I didn't see everything that was about and for sure dipped out on a few photo opportunities but how's this for starters ... a stunning Pallas's Warbler .....

Pallas's Leaf Warbler, Flamborough, Oct 2013
I stayed around from the 14th - 18th and this little beauty was flitting around in a secluded gully near South Landing for ages along with countless Goldcrests, Willow Warblers and Chiff Chaffs. A 'lifer' for me and although I was aware of it's general location, even better to seek it out and see it on my own in such lovely conditions. Not quite as good pics but here's another 2 of the same bird....
Pallas's Warbler, Flamborough, Oct 2013

Pallas's Warbler, Flamborough, Oct 2013

Redwing & Blackbird freshly in off the sea, Buckton, Oct 2013
The day before I'd tramped around Buckton, land of the Buckton Birder, just a bit to the North of Flamborough and got my eye in with some visible migration. Stacks of Redwings, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Skylarks and assorted finches all streaming in from Northern Europe and beyond after prolonged North & Easterly winds.

Here's a terrific and very confiding male Brambling, one of 20 or so buzzing about in the late afternoon sunshine .......asking to be snapped!
Brambling, Bucton, Oct 2013

Brambling, Buckton, Oct 2013

Chiff Chaff, Flamborough, Oct 2013
Same day and thanks to a fellow birder, I had the briefest of glimpses of a Raddes Warbler in the same location, a couple of Redstarts and a Black Redstart, several Blackcaps, many Goldcrests (at least 80) and smaller numbers of Willow / Chaffs. There were birds flying in off the sea almost constantly early in the week ...  bloody marvellous!!


Goldcrest (cheeky shot!), Flamborough, Oct 2013

Goldcrest, Flamborough, Oct 2013
Robin, Flamborough, Oct 2013
Even if you don't see a rarity at such times just the obvious increase in the number common birds like Robins, Wrens, Dunnocks, Skylarks, Redpolls, Blackbirds and Chaffinches is always good to witness. They all come in about this time and to see them descending on our shores from further North never fails to engage me.

Lesser (Common) Redpoll, Flamborough, Oct 2013


Mealy Redpolls, Buckton, Oct 2013
In amongst there are always different races and subspecies that all birders love to differentiate between and debate. I'm pretty hopeless most of the time when it comes to splitting feathers (usually end up spitting feathers!) and happy to be corrected, but pretty sure these are Mealy Redpolls (the Northern race of our 'Lessers'

And so it went on.... 4 days of some of the best migrant birding the UK has to offer, ever looking skyward for stuff flying in and constantly checking bushes and hedgerows for warblers and other wee birds already in and 'skulking'. Hit and miss as far as the photographs went but I did ok. As well as the above I watched with others my 3rd ever Dusky Warbler at South Landing but failed to get a single shot at it. I stood for hours waiting for a Rustic Bunting to show but was disappointed along with the crowd .... turned up next morning and got all excited with this pic but on later inspection its just a Reed Bunting!
Not the Rustic Bunting!

This is the real thing (pic courtesy of AW Birder) ... see how how easy it is for a simple minded fool to get over-excited!
Rustic Bunting, Flamborough, Oct 2013

I gazed into someone's back garden (again I wasn't alone in this curious pursuit), and managed some ok pics given the appalling light of this star bird ... an Isabelline Shrike (Daurian race most reckon!)
Isabelline Shrike, Flamborough, Oct 2013

Isabelline Shrike, Flamborough, Oct 2013

Olive Backed Pipit? Surely not!!

I took a distant 'record' pic of a pipit that was in the general vicinity of a recently sighted Olive Backed Pipit and it is without doubt the worst picture I've ever posted ... it's probably just a Meadow Pipit but maybe, just maybe?

Closer, much more familiar and thankfully in focus was a Wheatear, one of just 2 seen all week, in the same field.

Northern Wheatear, Flamborough, Oct 2013

One day I forgot to eat till tea time and found myself salivating whilst I was taking a picture of a squirrel eating an apple!
Grey Squirrel ... very scary eyes but very tasty looking apple!

On my last day but one and with sandwiches in tow, I finally got to grips with a Firecrest that was harbouring in Old Fall Wood but alas too flitty and too dark to snap, and away from the throngs of birding enthusiasts and general hubbub there was always the North Sea itself, and being not a stone's throw from Bempton cliffs Gannets always loom large around here and I guess they've seen it all before!
Gannet, Buckton, Oct 2013

Gannet, Buckton, Oct 2013

As have the Peregrines around here ..... this one was very interested in the Thrushes at Buckton ....
Peregrine Falcon, Buckton, Oct 2013
Somewhat disappointedly I didn't see a single Yellow Browed Warbler and dipped out on a Bluethroat but you can't have it all ... I saw close on 80 bird species including what surely must be my last Swallows and House Martins and even saw a fair few butterflies that also seemed to be coing in off the sea, mainly Red Admirals and Tortoiseshells but at least a couple of Commas too.
It wasn't all birds, birds and more birds ..... I ate, slept and fed cats too, entertained my best mate for a day or so and strummed my guitar regularly; my only regret was that my kids couldn't make it up for a few hours  ... I guess for the young, in reality, the bright lights of Driffield are in fact more appealing than this! The weather was great for mid October and if I get another chance I'll be back on the east coast for more migrant hunting before the Winter sets in .... you simply can't beat this neck of the woods at this time of year for birdin!
Autumn sunshine at South Landing, Flamborough, East Yorks.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Migrant strollings around Gibralter Point... first Redwings and last Swallows

With strengthening winds from the East all week the signs looked good for some visible bird migration but where to go? Had to be the East coast of coast but having done Spurn and Flamborough recently I fancied a bit of a change of county and headed off down to Gibralter Point on the NE coast of Lincolnshire.

Walkway across the dunes


Gibralter Point is 4.5 square kilometres of coastal saltmarsh and buckthorn covered sand dunes. Long famed as a migration hotspot and bird ringing activity, it's quite rightly the jewel in the crown for the Lincs Wildlife Trust gang, a few of whom I met during my brief 2 day trip over the 1st & 2nd of Oct.

Its a cracking spot to just wander about in, a lot more open and accessible than Spurn, less birders too and with its many paths through the dunes it has a very laid back 'get away from it all' feel.

The first day of October, like much of the UK Summer before it, brought warmth and plenty of sunshine - great for warming my bones but sadly not always good for watching migrating birds. Yes the wind was fresh and blowing in from contintental Europe but with clear skies and nothing to 'down' passage migrants, most will simply fly right over and onwards.
Up with the larks bright n early at 6.00am I had many Meadow Pipits and finches, mainly Chaffinch Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Linnets in the sky. Then my first good bird, a male Redstart sheltering from the wind in one of 'dune valleys'. If I'd known that it was to be my only one I'd have tried harder to get a pic but he was skulking and I was sure I'd have more.
Not a migrant but certainly passing by was this rare old bird... at 7.00am with I thought the whole of the point to myself, the last thing I expected was to pass an old lady with a walking aid!

 Completely random!

I was quite chuffed with myself for picking out a single Brambling in amongst a small flock of passing Chaffinches... yey! In fact, up until midday, although nothing rare, there was a pleasing numbers of common migrants making their way down the coast and in off the sea... scores of Meadow Pipits, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Skylarks, about 50 or so Song Thrushes on the point were good to see but best of all was my first Redwings of the Autumn. 12 in total, they stayed only briefly, alighting at the top of a conifer tree for a minute or so before flying off.

1st Redwings of the Autumn, Gibralter Point

I saw 3 Swallows beating South just minutes before and it would be kind of neat to get my first Redwings of the season on the same day as my last Swallows!


There was a Red Breasted Flycatcher and 3 Yellow Browed Warblers on the reserve whilst I was there but a little frustratingly I dipped out on both. I did manage a male Blackcap and several Goldcrests but that early Redstart that promised so much was more of a 'red herring'!
No worries though ... it was pleasure enough to be out walking this landscape on a bright & breezy day. There were even a few butterflies on the wing, mainly Whites and Tortoiseshells but a few nice Red Admirals too. 
Red Admiral, Gibralter Point
 The light was good and I managed some pretty decent shots of some of the waders present in and around the scrapes.
Avocet, Gibralter Point
Black Tailed Godwits, Gibralter Point

There were 85 Black Tailed Godwits in all, one of my favourite waders to catch in flight ... those white underwings are simply stunning!

The Avocets (16 of them) were hanging around in front of one of the hides and doing that funny feeding frenzy thing .. so rapidly were they swishing their bills in the water most of my shots came a bit blurred but this one was ok and caught the moment well enough

Feeding Avocets, Gibralter Point.

I managed 15 wader species in all. Not bad going. Apart from the 2 above I also had Green Sandpiper, Curlew, Knot, Greenshank, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Lapwing, Sanderling, Oystercatcher, Snipe, Redshank, Ruff and heard a Spotted Redshank.

The Greenshank picture is one of only a few pics took on the next day. As you can tell by the picture it was dull, and spitting with rain too. Apart from a few more Blackbirds and Robins  hanging about, good and different birds were thin on the ground and the only thing that looked any good through my lens was the Sea Buckthorne!

I'd like to have stayed on here for a couple more days, I'm still waiting for my first good Yellow Browed shot and sure I would have got it, still ... there's always Flamborough and I'm up there for a few days soon so that's this month's photo target sorted!