England - Yorkshire__________________________________
Our annual spring trip visiting the North York Moors and the Yorkshire coast was once again a highly successful enterprise. We began the tour in the heart of the North York Moors National Park where Dipper, Spotted Flycatcher, Goshawk, breeding plumaged Golden Plover, Curlew, Whinchat and Ring Ouzel were among the highlights. Explorations of the farmland landscape of The Carrs provided us with views of a number of farmland species of conservation concern including Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Linnet and five stunning Turtle Doves. Peregrine was seen very nicely and an amendment to the itinerary to visit Saltholme RSPB near Middlesbrough proved to be a wise move with two Whiskered Terns, Spoonbill, Little Gull and Avocet amongst a fine array of wetland species present. The spectacular cliffs of Bempton with their breeding seabirds that included Puffins rounded off the trip in fine style and a total of 110 species were seen during the break.
May 19th: Forge Valley, Troutsdale, Rosedale area, Wykeham South Lake.
With the weather forecasters predicting strong winds for later in the weekend, we decided to begin the tour with a visit to the woodlands and moorlands of the North York Moors National Park. The Forge Valley kicked off proceedings with Marsh Tit and Nuthatch the most notable species amongst more typical woodland fayre. A walk along the beautiful river at Troutsdale gave us good views of Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Grey Wagtail and a most obliging Dipper. A Kingfisher flying about at tree top level did not give especially good views.
Further along the valley we paused for Tree Pipit which gave excellent scope views, a smart male Redstart and then a brief but close sighting of a Goshawk chasing a Wood Pigeon; exciting but over all too quickly. Moving out of the valley of Troutsdale we headed deep into the moorland of the park with an exploration of the heather moors near Rosedale. Red Grouse, Curlew, Lapwing (some with well grown chicks) and smart breeding plumaged Golden Plovers all showed very nicely. An Adder was less than impressed with the chilly conditions and slid off back into the heather. A small gully and stream yielded a Snipe perched on a dry stone wall, a smart male Whinchat and Stonechat. Heading into the valley we embarked on a search for Ring Ouzel, which after a bit of effort was successful and we enjoyed nice views of a male foraging on the moor and then singing from an isolated tree. Returning back to base we paused at Wyleham South Lake, but where there was little of note.
May 20th: Potter Brompton Carr, Wykeham Raptor Viewpoint, Ebberston, Filey, Marine Drive.
We began the day in the heart of The Carrs, a low-lying area in the Vale of Pickering. Here we explored Potter Brompton Carr, where disappointingly there were no migrant waders present. However, we did enjoy some excellent views of Yellowhammer, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler, and Linnet. Breeding Curlew and a few Lapwing were present, plus Common Buzzard. As things were quiet we opted to try the Wykeham Raptor Viewpoint in the hope of Goshawk and maybe an early returning Honey Buzzard. Disappointingly there was no sign of either and we had to make do with a few Common Buzzards. A visit to Ebberston was rather more successful as we quickly found the hoped-for Turtle Doves on arrival and we were able to enjoy excellent scope views of this rapidly declining summer visitor, with at least five birds present.
We enjoyed a picnic lunch back in Troutsdale, with fine views and a few more Common Buzzards and a fly-by Great Spotted Woodpecker. A trip to Filey was a change of scene and a walk out into Carr Naze provided views of Gannet, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill, a few Puffins and a Shag. Distant Oystercatcher, Sanderling and Dunlin were new, but did not inspire! Sand Martins were also much in evidence with a Kestrel and breeding Meadow Pipits were also showing well. In the early evening we made a short stop along Scarborough’s Marine Drive en-route to dinner. Here we saw an obliging male Peregrine perched up on the cliffs. After dinner we visited an area of forest where as dusk fell we were treated to excellent views of a male Nightjar churring away, an excellent note on which to end the day.
May 21st: Saltholme RSPB, Greatham Creek, Scaling Dam, Harwood Dale Lake.
With a weather forecast of strong NW winds and frequent showers, a change of itinerary seemed appropriate for the day and a visit to Saltholme RSPB reserve near Middlesbrough was on decided upon. Although there was an initial drive of 90 minutes, we enjoyed a superb time on this excellent reserve and it was so successful that we will surely be adding this to our future tours in North Yorkshire.
The reserve itself doesn’t open until 10am, so we spent some time around the car-park area seeing Sedge Warbler and hearing Reed Warbler. The pool by the visitor centre hosted a colony of Common Terns with two vagrant Whiskered Terns hawking up and down being a superb bonus. Although they had been around for a 10 days or so, we hadn’t really banked on seeing this rare visitor to the UK. Once the centre opened we explored the reserve and enjoyed nice views of a range of wildfowl that included Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese, Shelduck, Pochard, Wigeon and Shoveler. Great Crested and Little Grebes was also on the deeper pools, whilst shallower areas attracted waders such as Avocet, Common Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit and Lapwing. Little Egrets and a Spoonbill were also seen as were a couple of 1st summer Little Gulls.
Successfully dodging the worst of the showers by being in the hides we were treated to further excellent views of the Whiskered Terns and then had a lunch stop in the café as the heavens opened in earnest.
Once we had finished with Saltholme, we drove the short distance up the road to Greatham Creek where a drake Garganey had the bad taste to fly off before the group could get onto it. Common (Harbour) Seals were rather more obliging and a small group of Ringed Plovers were new for the list.
We began the journey back to base, pausing at Scaling Dam where two Little Ringed Plovers showed nicely along with some breeding Redshank nearby. A final stop at Harwood Dale Lake added Mandarin Duck – a female with ducklings and a couple of loafing drakes, concluding what had been an excellent day.
May 22nd: Bempton Cliffs RSPB. Thornwick Pool, Flamborough.
The final morning was primarily spent at Bempton Cliffs RSPB, where we enjoyed some warming sunshine, light winds and the fantastic spectacle that is the seabird breeding colony here. Teeming with life we had wonderful views of Gannets, Kittiwakes, Razorbills, Guillemots and of course small numbers of Puffins. Other species included numerous Tree Sparrows, Linnets and Whitethroats plus two singing Corn Buntings. A short drive down the road to Thornwick Pool at Flamborough gave us some wonderfully close up views of Little Ringed Plover and a migrant summer-plumaged Dunlin, a very pleasant way in which to end the tour.
This tour was simply wonderful. It would probably be just about impossible to improve upon the superb, mouth-watering array of rare and scarce species that were on offer during this tour. The Yorkshire coast always delivers some great birding during easterly winds, but the period during which this tour operated was truly, truly exceptional and left us all bewildered at the continuing array of stunning birds on offer.
From seeing Britain’s fourth Eastern Crowned Warbler in the first hour (!!), to a supporting Asian Phylloscopus cast of Yellow-browed, Pallas’s, Greenish and Arctic Warblers (oh and Siberian Chiffchaff), through Bluethroat, Great Grey Shrike, Red-breasted Flycatcher there was an over-abundance of top-quality birds to be seen. Among the more expected species, we enjoyed encounters with Jack Snipe (bouncy bouncy), Ring Ouzel, Black Redstart, Purple Sandpiper, Short-eared Owl and Brambling along with a huge arrival of common migrants that included hundreds of Robins, Goldcrests, Song Thrushes and Redwings. This was an utterly compelling few days of superb birding that will live long in the memory and is an act that will be tricky to follow next year!
October: Bempton RSPB, Flamborough.
We met up at the B&B in Hunmanby and immediately adjusted the planned itinerary in order to make the first stop the RSPB reserve at Bempton. This location is a guaranteed crowd pleaser in the spring when breeding seabirds are here in their thousands, but I rarely include it in the autumn schedule. However, news that an Eastern Crowned Warbler (only the 4th to be sighted in Britain) was still present at the reserve car park was too good an opportunity to miss. So, we headed directly there and within an hour had enjoyed stunning views of this gem of a warbler from the east of Asia. Present in the same area were good numbers of Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs, a few Bramblings, plus more Asian arrivals in the form of Yellow-browed Warbler and Siberian Chiffchaff. A search for a Greenish Warbler (yet another arrival from Asia!) proved fruitless, but news that a Bluethroat had been found near one of the viewing platforms had us heading towards the cliff top. On arrival we were told the Bluethroat had flown, so we amused ourselves with the Gannets cruising past and a Razorbill sat on the sea. However, within 10 minutes the Bluethroat had reappeared and we were soon enjoying views of it as it hopped about on the coastal path.
Returning to the car park we opted to have a change of scene and visit the outer headland of Flamborough. A stop by the road gave us a brief flight view of the Taiga Bean Goose that had been present for a week or so along with the local Greylag Geese. The nearby hedgerows were lively with Song Thrushes and Redwings feeding voraciously and some Linnets in the stubble. A short walk near the fog station yielded Wheatear, a flock of three Eider past at sea, a couple of Red-throated Divers on the sea, Meadow Pipits, Blackcap, and more newly arrived Goldcrests, Redwings and Song Thrushes.
News filtered through that there was now an Arctic Warbler at Bempton, so we opted to return to Bempton in the hope of some more Asian warbler action. This we duly enjoyed in the form of the Greenish Warbler we had missed earlier in the day plus a Spotted Flycatcher and some more nice views of Yellow-browed Warbler and the Eastern Crowned Warbler. The Arctic Warbler remained stubbornly elusive. Deciding that the day had been sufficiently mind-boggling for now we decided to head back to base, pausing for a Snipe on Buckon duck pond.
October: Spurn area – Kilnsea, Canal Zone, Kilnsea wetland,
A Whinchat was along a fence line. At the Canal Scrape we enjoyed views of two Jack Snipe with their distinctive bouncing feeding action. A Common Snipe was available for comparison. Along the Humber shore we paused to enjoy the roosting waders with Curlew, Knot, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit and Turnstone all present. A crackle from a radio being carried by a nearby birder alerted us to a Short-eared Owl heading our way and we enjoyed views of it as it flew towards us and ditched into the saltmarsh and rough grass nearby. Wonderful! Brent Geese, Shelduck and Pochard were out on the water, with a Barnacle Goose briefly with the Brents. A Water Rail squealed from the reeds nearby and a Sandwich Tern flew past. Further along the counter-wall we flushed a Woodcock and then located a Black Redstart and Siberian Chiffchaff. A Purple Sandpiper feeding along the shore was a slight surprise at this location. Redwings and Song Thrushes were feeding busily in a hedgerow and careful viewing revealed the presence of a male Ring Ouzel, which eventually gave good views. In the Crown & Anchor pub car park we saw a Yellow-browed Warbler and then slowly headed back to the vehicle in the light rain.
After a bite to eat we opted to visit Kilnsea wetland. Here we saw Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Golden Plover, Lapwing, the Barnacle Goose and a few Dunlin. A couple of Wheatears were also near the hide. Deciding to make a visit to Sammy’s Point we quickly found that this was a good decision when a Great Grey Shrike flew across the road in front of the car and then landed in a hawthorn and gave very nice views. From the car park at Sammy’s we had further views of the shrike, before news of an Olive-backed Pipit filtered through at Kilnsea. So, we headed back to Kilnsea where the pipit had been lost and after a half hour of not much happening we decided on finishing the day’s birding and we headed back to base a very happy and contented group.
The day started with a visit to nearby Filey, where we took a walk out onto Carr Naze at the North Cliff Country Park. Here there were a few signs of visible migration in action with flocks of Skylarks moving S, plus a few Reed Buntings. Meadow Pipits, Goldfinches, Greenfinches and a few Linnets were in evidence as well. New for the bird list were a few Rock Pipits. Out in the bay was a Great Crested Grebe and three Common Scoter. Roosting on the Brigg were a few Curlew, Oystercatchers, Knot, Ringed Plover, Turnstone and Purple Sandpipers.
News of a Pallas’s Warbler at Thornwick, Flamborough prompted us to head back to the car and head off in that direction. On arrival at Thornwick we soon found the relevant group of birders looking for the warbler and it was not long before we were also enjoying views of this marvellous little sprite, yet another visitor from the heart of Asia. Utterly superb!
We had a look at the nearby pools and scrub, where a Great Grey Shrike had been seen, but failed to find this bird, despite lingering whilst we had lunch. At South Landing a walk in pleasant sunshine yielded a very brief Lapland Bunting, yet more Robins and Goldcrests, male and female Peregrine and a distant Buzzard. Our next location was a return visit to Bempton where a Red-breasted Flycatcher was now present (in the same set of trees as had hosted the Easter Crowned Warbler!!). On arrival we had a brief view but not entirely satisfactory. We lingered and then news broke that the Arctic Warbler had reappeared nearby. Wow! So we headed off in search of that, but were confronted by some apparently birdless bushes. Newly arriving birders said that the Red-breasted Flycatcher was showing again, so we headed back there and secured nice views of that.
We then returned to the Arctic Warbler spot, where after a few minutes it promptly appeared in bushes close to us and we had a good if fairly brief view. Amazing! A visit to the feeding station gave us views of Bramblings but we had once again had our fill of amazing birds for the day and headed back to base happy and contented once again!
October: Forge Valley, Harwood Dale, Long Nab, Holbeck, Wykeham South
After such high-octane birding over the previous few days it was a quieter morning with which to finish. In the Forge Valley we visited some feeders where Coal and Marsh Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Treecreeper were seen. At Harwood Dale we rather belatedly added Canada Goose to the bird list, whilst Long Nab offered us poor views of four Lapland Buntings in flight, Skylarks and a few Goldcrests. The Holbeck car park was reliable and delivered an adult winter plumaged Mediterranean Gull and nice views of the Scarborough harbour. Scarborough Mere was quiet and we finished at Wykeham South Lake where the final list additions took the form of Coot and Tufted Duck, with a ‘kettle’ of Buzzards a fairly low key, but nevertheless very welcome way in which to conclude what had been an amazing few days of birding along the Yorkshire coast.
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