Saturday, 29 October 2016

East Coast falls and rarities

After a rather slow start, autumn migration, the annual event that all birdwatchers look forward to has swung into overdrive over the past few weeks with some momentous sightings and 'falls' all along the East coast. Rarities galore and my 2 closest hotspots of Spurn and Flamborough / Bempton have been a magnet for 'twitcher's' with the undoubted star being this little fellah, a Siberian Accentor 


Never seen before in the UK until a few weeks ago when one turned up on Shetland (10th Oct), followed a few days later by this one at Spurn (Easington gas terminal). It drew huge crowds to which it was seemingly oblivious and has even been featured on the BBC! Since then at least 4 others have been located along the northeast coast of the UK. Alas I didn't see it, should have made more effort I suppose but, same as nearly all my nature pals, I remain a 'reluctant twitcher' but I kind of regret not going to see this one because it has the feel of a once in a lifetime bird!

We've seen plenty of migration action though and with a few semi rarities in the bag, I'll not be losing sleep over missed opportunities despite some gentle ribbing from some quarters of the 'twitching' fraternity! So with no further natter from me, here's some of my September / October migration pics and a few selected landscapes from our visits to the Yorks & Lincs coast this autumn....

Fieldfare, Alkborough Flats, 06/10/16
The first Fieldfare through my bins; such an atmospheric moment to see and hear this bird flying in over the saltmarsh at Alkborough Flats and landing conveniently atop one of the dead trees there. A distance shot and cropped hugely, these captured the moment for me, especially the completely fluked one of it calling!

Fieldfare calling, Alkborough Flats, 06/10/16
1st winter Ring Ouzel, Buckton, 12/10/16
Persistent East / Northeastly winds for much of October were just perfect for our winter thrushes to arrive on our shores and there's always the odd Ring Ouzel in amongst the usual suspects of Fieldfares, Redwings, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds.

Adult Ring Ouzel, Donna Nook, 06/10/16

Fieldfare, Flamborough, 10/10/16

Song Thrush, Flamborough, 10/10/16

Redwing & Fieldfare, Old Fall hedgerow, Flamborough, 12/10/16

Redwing, Bempton, 10/10/16
The very same winds and perfect weather conditions over Scandinavia for such things also brought in all the rarities I alluded to earlier, grippers like Red Flanked Bluetail, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Desert & Pied Wheatear and many more are all here -  Rare Bird alert if like me you missed them all. I was more than happy with Red Breasted Flycatcher, Shore Lark, Great Grey Shrike and Pallas's Warbler, the latter 2 especially because they were 'found' birds, ie birds we didn't know were there!

Not bowled over by the picture quality on any of these to be honest - poor light at the end of the day for a Pallas's that spent most of its time in the bottom of a bush, the RB Flycatcher was very 'flitty' and both the Shrike and Shore Larks I never got closer than 50 metres so had to crop the images (severely in the case of the Larks!)

Pallas's Warbler, Donna Nook, 07/10/16

Pallas's Warbler, Donna Nook, 07/10/16

Red Breasted Flycatcher, Bempton (rspb), 10/10/16

Great Grey Shrike, Flamborough, 14/10/16

Great Grey Shrike, Flamborough, 14/10/16

Shore Larks (2 out of a flock of 6), Flamborough, 14/10/16
The main attraction of 'Autumn watching' for me though is the sheer number of birds on the move, birds of all kinds - ducks & geeese, raptors, passerines (small birds), waders and seabirds, all generally moving from north to south. Some stay here in the UK, many more just pass through en route for warmer climes - either way the Yorkshire coast, especially the Humber estuary, is one of the best for visible migration.

Curlew Sandpiper, Spurn, 13/09/16

Generally speaking, most of the wading birds we see turning up on our shores and estuaries in autumn breed way up north and east of the UK (Iceland, Scandinavia & Russia) and some, like this Curlew Sandpiper, undertake mammoth journeys all the way to Africa.

Curlew Sandpiper, Saltfleet (Lincs), 07/10/16
Waders such as Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Golden Plover have always favoured the UK as good places to spend the winter months.

Sanderling, Spurn, 14/09/16

Ringed Plover & Dunlin flock, Spurn, 13/09/16

Golden Plover, Theddlethorpe (Lincs), 06/10/16

Greenshank, Buckton pond, 08/09/16

With our winters becoming increasingly mild increasing numbers of waders such as Black Tailed Godwits, Avocets and even Greenshank are choosing to stay put in the UK.

Black Tailed Godwit, Alkbrough Flats, 05/10/16

Avocets, Alkbrough Flats, 05/10/16
Northern Wheatear, Spurn, 14/09/16

Smaller birds on the move in Autumn are less visible and birding trips to the coast involve lots of scrutinizing of the bushes and fields for wind blown migrants. Northern Wheatears, are by now almost certainly well on their way to Africa but many of the tiny Goldcrests that flooded in mid Oct will stay here.

Northern Wheatear, Spurn, 14/10/16

Goldcrest, Flamborough, 14/10/16
Goldcrest, Flamborough, 14/10/16
Northern Wheatear, Spurn, 13/09/16
Common Whitethroat, Spurn, 14/09/16

Although there are increasing numbers of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps choosing to over winter in the UK, most have now departed, I had my last Chiff a few days ago on the 24/10 and my last Common Whitethroat was weeks ago!

Chiffchaff, Bempton, 10/10/16
Common Swift, Flamborough, 09/09/16

For the record my last Swallow was on the 15th Oct at South Landing, Flamborough, last House Martin was here at Fangfoss on 13th Oct and here's my last Common Swift

Yep, the summer has long gone, the leaves are turning and falling - I don't mind, it makes it easier to see and photograph things! Global warming or no, many forecasters are predicting a harsh winter and I don't mind that either because I'm heading to Spain again come January, but if it does get bitter here's couple of hardy finches that will surely flock in.
Brambling, Flamborough, 11/10/16

Siskin, Spurn, 15/09/16
Ok, that was a snapshot of my autumn birding. I'd have liked to have seen a few more rarities, more than just 1 Yellow Browed Warbler for instance, but hey I got out and witnessed plenty of migration action so I'm happy! Here's my usual 'end of blog' selection of pics from our various East coast trips.

Spurn Point landscapes & other
The old jetty in the mist, 15/09/16

The old jetty in the mist2, 15/09/16
Late for the ferry?

Sunset over the Humber estuary, 14/09/16

Segment of the new viewing platforms recently erected by YWT on the point
Sunset at Sammy's Point, 13/09/16
 Small Tortoiseshell on Sea Aster, 1 of c200 feeding on the foreshore, 13/09/16

Dragged up in fishing nets during a beach clean at the point - thought to be a component part of an old 'Sparrow 

Flamborough & Misc bird pics

Scouring the headland for migrants, 10/10/16

Camping out nr Danes Dyke, 09/10/16
Massing waders at Spurn, 14/09/16
Juv Peregrine, Buckton, 08/09/16

Same juv Peregrine being harassed by a dark adult

Avocets mobbing a Marsh Harrier, Alkbrough Flats, 05/10/16