England - Yorkshire__________________________________
Our first spring break in North Yorkshire for a small group was amended slightly to accommodate their particular objectives and proved to be a great success. Although the first day was blighted by cool, rainy conditions, the second and third days were characterised by better weather and there were some quality birds throughout. Highlights included some wonderful views of stunning male and female Red-backed Shrikes, whilst other notable scarcities arriving on easterly winds included a singing Icterine Warbler, Little Stint and Wood Sandpiper. Unseasonal records of Whooper Swan and Pink-footed Goose supplemented the hoped for array of regional specialities that included excellent views of Ring Ouzel, singing Whinchat, a male Goshawk, Peregrine, Redstart, Dipper and the superb seabird spectacle that can be found at Bempton.
May 29th : The Carrs, Wykeham South Lake, Filey.
Weather: Grey and overcast with rain for most of the morning. Drier, but cool and windy in the afternoon.
We began the tour with an exploration of a number of sites in The Carrs, where we visited a number of farms that have entered Higher Level Stewardship schemes aimed at conserving and enhancing the wildlife of the area. A Wood Sandpiper and Redshank were on a flooded field at the eastern end of The Carrs, whilst there was a Common Sandpiper, two Teal and an unexpected Whooper Swan at Potter Brompton. Regular farmland species included good numbers of Skylarks, Linnets, Yellowhammers and Tree Sparrows plus three Yellow Wagtails. Swifts Swallows and House Martins were feeding low over the fields. A visit to some scrub and woodland close to the River Hertford failed to produce the hoped for Willow Tits, although the weather was doubtless at least partly responsible. However we did enjoy our first Whitethroats, Willow Warblers feeding young, singing Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. Lapwings were in nearby fields whilst a Corn Bunting posed on a fence post.
We picked up lunch provisions in a local store and then visited the Wykeham South Lake viewpoint. Here we saw an unusually late lingering Pink-footed Goose, Little Ringed Plovers incubating, a rather less than satisfying, distant Little Stint, which was nevertheless a notable local record. Also present were Dunlin, several Ringed Plovers, Sand Martins and single pairs of Grey and Red-legged Partridges. In the afternoon we headed out to Filey where a cool wind was blowing from the east. There were small flocks of Eider and Common Scoter in the bay, whilst we saw our first Gannets, Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Razorbills. We enjoyed dinner in a local pub and en-route back to the B&B we saw both Little and Barn Owls. An excellent end to a surprisingly productive day given the weather.
May 30th: Flamborough Head, Bempton Cliffs, Filey, The Carrs.
Weather: Cloudy start with sun breaking through in the afternoon. A cool NE breeze. Dry.
Today we began with a visit to the famous chalk headland at Flamborough. Here a mosaic of farmland with scrubby areas, hedgerows and small copses provide excellent habitat for tired migrants and a nice selection of commoner breeding birds. Our initial explorations were slow to produce much of interest, but we had good views of Reed Buntings, Linnets and Meadow Pipits, whilst a flock of 21 Common Scoters were on the sea. Swallows were common with many perching in the hedgerows. However the slow start picked up when we heard an Icterine Warbler singing with some nice views obtained of a rather elusive individual. Garden Warblers tantalised from deep in cover and refused to show themselves, but at least it wasn't the other way round! Lesser Whitethroat was also new along with our first House Sparrows!
We had lunch at Bempton Cliffs before heading down to observe the seabird city that spends the summer here. An amazing spectacle as thousands of seabirds go about the business of raising their young, it was great to linger whilst we enjoyed wonderful views of Gannets, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Guillemots, Razorbills and of course the ever-popular Puffins. Shags were at the base of the cliffs and we also noted Rock Pipit.
Our next stop was the Old Tip at Filey where the easterly winds had done their thing and drifted in a male and a females Red-backed Shrike, which we enjoyed at length with some cracking views in the scope. Finally we finished in The Carrs where additions to the bird list comprised two Egyptian Geese and two pairs of Shoveler. After a short break we headed north of the town for dinner, collecting Peregrine and Dipper en-route and then enjoyed another good meal before visiting the nearby forest where four Nightjars were recorded including one that glided straight over the bonnet of the vehicle. A fine end to another memorable day.
May 31st: Forge Valley, Dalby Forest, Rosedale, Troutsdale.
Weather: Cool and overcast for much of the day, but sunny later afternoon.
Today we explored a variety of woodland and moorland habitats within the North York Moors National Park. Our day began in the Forge Valley with Marsh Tit, Jay and Great Spotted Woodpecker soon added to the list and then a number of stops in the Dalby Forest produced enjoyable encounters with Tree Pipit, a smart male Redstart and a singing Spotted Flycatcher. A Turtle Dove called from cover and disappointingly remained unseen. Heading into the gorgeously scenic Rosedale our principal target was Ring Ouzel and we quickly found two males with prolonged views of them collecting food for their, no doubt hungry, broods. Up onto the moor proper and a smart male Whinchat and Grey Wagtail entertained whilst we ate our sandwiches. Red Grouse, Curlew and Lapwings were all easily encountered on the moor whilst Golden Plovers were surprisingly difficult to locate and I wondered whether the recent rains had affected them adversely. Nevertheless we enjoyed some nice views of this stunning bird and also added two Cuckoos, although the views could be described as less than satisfying. Finally a visit to the beautiful landscape of Troutsdale yielded a few Common Buzzards and a male Goshawk, rounding off our final rewarding day in North Yorkshire.
The Yorkshire coast offers some of the finest birding to be had anywhere in the UK. During migration periods the weather has a profound effect on what you might see, but unfortunately on this occasion we experienced a period of very strong winds from the south-west and then clear, sunny skies and relative calm. The hoped for winds from an easterly quarter never materialised and without cloud to ground migrants this particular break was quite hard work. Nevertheless we persisted, enthusiastically plugging away at each site and, as is usually the case, we eventually found some great birds. Highlights involved a superb performance by a very obliging Red-breasted Flycatcher at Flamborough Head and after some effort we enjoyed some lovely views of a cracking Yellow-browed Warbler at Scarborough Castle Hill. Other notable species included nice views of Scaup at Hornsea Mere, a Jack Snipe at Long Nab and there was an impressive passage of Pink-footed Geese heading south to their Norfolk wintering grounds.
October 9th : Filey North Cliff Country Park, Filey Dams.
Weather: Very strong SW winds, overcast skies, mild.
The tour officially started at lunchtime and the full complement of group members had assembled by early afternoon. In the morning an early arriving client enjoyed some pre-tour birding at a number of sites around Scarborough with highlights including Yellow-browed Warbler on the north side of Scarborough Castle Hill, three Great Skuas, Arctic Tern and Kittiwake past Long Nab and a Goldeneye at Wykeham South Lake. Unfortunately by the time all group members had assembled the wind had increased and our visit to Filey was blighted by near gale force SW winds and consequently the birding was very hard work. Offshore we located Razorbills, Gannets, Cormorant and the commoner gull species. A Blackcap on Carr Naze disappeared very quickly and the bushes yielded little in the very difficult conditions. At Filey Dams we enjoyed nice views of a group of Ruff, plus Snipe, Teal, Wigeon, House Martin and Swallow. Tree Sparrows lurked in the bushes and a Goldcrest played hard to get.
October 10th : Spurn - Kilnsea area, Easington Gas Terminal, Sammy’s Point. Hornsea Mere.
Weather: Strong SW winds with bright and sunny skies and mild temperatures.
After a lengthy drive along the winding roads south-east to Spurn we began with a visit to the Kilnsea Wetland. Waders roosting on the pools here included Knot, Redshank, Dunlin, Lapwing, Curlew and Oystercatcher. Overhead Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Tree Sparrows were on the move south. On the nearby Humber estuary we found Golden and Grey Plover, Little Egret and Shelduck. A few dark-bellied Brent Geese were flying about and a larger flock were feeding in the fields. A Jay was an unusual bird for Spurn. News of a Yellow-browed Warbler had us heading north to Easington, but this particular individual was feeling unsociable and didn’t want to perform. However we enjoyed nice views of Stonechat and nearby a couple of Wheatears were on the beach and a Kestrel was hunting. Moving to Sammy’s Point we had lunch and found more Wheatears and Stonechats plus Blackcap in the nearby bushes and a group of Roe Deer in the stubble fields. Out on the estuary spectacular wheeling flocks of Knot (perhaps totalling in excess of 10,000 birds) made an impressive sight.
However, the birding was undeniably quiet in the windy conditions and with little evidence of many migrants being present we decided to head north to Hornsea Mere. This large lake is home to significant numbers of ducks with Tufted Duck, Pochard, Gadwall, Shoveler all present and with a bit of persistence we eventually located a female Scaup with a second seen a little later. An Egyptian Goose was perhaps a little too obliging and a Black Swan was certainly not a wild bird! A sizeable flock of Barnacle Geese were a nice sight whilst other new species included Great Crested Grebe and Lesser Black-backed Gull.
October 11th : Flamborough Head (outer head, Old Fall, North Landing, Thornwick Pools), Scarborough (Holbeck, Castle Hill), Flixton and Flotmanby Carrs.
Weather: Chilly with moderate SW winds and clear skies.
We began the day with a short seawatch at Flamborough. Weather conditions were far from ideal for seabirds to be on the move so there were slim pickings, but Red-throated Diver, Shag, Cormorant and a steady stream of Gannets were seen passing by. Overhead visible migration of passerines included Tree Sparrows, Skylarks and a heard but unseen Brambling. News of a Red-breasted Flycatcher at the nearby gorse field had us heading quickly in that direction and soon we were enjoying excellent views of this attractive scarce migrant as it fed and sat preening in the morning sunshine.
A walk around the headland via Old Fall hedgerow and plantation added Snipe, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Mistle Thrush, Coal Tit, Yellowhammer and Great Spotted Woodpecker. An elusive Yellow-browed Warbler was heard calling a couple of times but again refused to give itself up. We had lunch at North Landing but there was little of note here and a check of Thornwick Pools was also quiet although we enjoyed nice views of Snipe, Teal and Little Grebe.
Opting to head north to Scarborough we visited the Holbeck area on the south side of town. Here we quickly saw the hoped for Mediterranean Gulls whilst waders included our first Turnstones, some of which were colour-ringed as part of a scheme operated by the East Yorkshire Ringing Group.
Scarborough Castle had hosted two Yellow-browed Warblers the previous day, so we decided to try and find these. On arrival at the favoured area we failed to find any and initially had to settle for a few tits, Goldcrest and Blackcap. However, not to be beaten we searched the south side of the castle at a point where it was possible to look at the canopy almost at eye level. Here, almost immediately, we located our quarry feeding in the canopy with a Chiffchaff. We enjoyed some lovely close views of this ever-popular and attractive species and so it was smiles all round. As we headed back to base we made stops at Flixton and Flotmanby Carrs, areas which are often frequented by Barn Owls, but disappointingly late afternoon rain was probably responsible for us failing to find one.
October 12th : Forge Valley, Long Nab, Hackness, Wykeham South Lake.
Weather: Chilly with clear skies and sun, although foggy in low lying areas.
The final morning of the tour was spent visiting a number of sites in the Scarborough area. First stop was a rather misty Forge Valley where feeders attracted two or three Marsh Tits, Nuthatch, Chaffinch, Great and Blue Tits among others. At Long Nab the weather was beautiful and there was a stunning view south towards Scarborough Castle, Filey and Flamborough where mist seemed to be flowing off the land over the coast at the latter two locations. As was becoming the norm, we failed to find significant numbers of birds offshore although close Guillemots afforded nice views and a few Rock Pipits were feeding at the base of the cliffs. Our walk across a stubble field yielded little of note, but another birder had flushed a possible Jack Snipe, so we headed off in the direction of where it had flown. We had a slow walk along the hedgerow where it had dropped in and it soon took off at close range offering a typically short view of this skulking species. Overhead two sizeable flocks of Pink-footed Geese totalling 396 birds headed south and made for an impressive sight. Reed Buntings showed nicely in a cover crop whilst Yellowhammers and Linnets were also noticeable.
A drive inland took us through an attractive wooded valley to Hackness Lake where Mandarin Ducks were roosting on the lakeside underneath the overhanging tree branches. Our final stop was Wykeham South Lake, which disappointingly was shrouded in mist and there was little new to be found. A covey of four Red-legged Partridges were new for the list but sadly time was up and it was time for everyone to head for home with a Redwing deciding to appear once most of the group had disappeared.
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