Sunday, 16 December 2018

A windy circular walk around Flamborough with Hull Nats

I love the organic way in which walks are decided at Hull Nats. There is an already pre-arranged meeting point, this time in the centre of Flamborough Village. The wind, SSE strong and gusty, the clouds menacing, but no rain forecast until later in the day. A very cold wind chill too, not a walk we would have spontaneously set up on for a Sunday morning, but there we were, six members happy to take a walk in such a day. We initially thought on walking on the south part of the headland on the cliff path, as it has more possibilities. Then, as we walked towards South Landing we decided to try to walk on the foot of the cliff as it might offer more shelter from the wind, despite it's south aspect. We checked the tide, it had just started to ebb and it wasn't too high, so we set our walk at the bottom of the cliff to Danes Dyke and back to the village. The boat ramp was like a wind tunnel, the sea roaring, rough, and foaming. We sheltered behind the RNLI boathouse to take photos and a spot of seawatching. It crossed my mind to turn back. But then we descended to the beach and we realised that once we turned the corner by the cliff we were quite sheltered and at some points by the cliff base it was actually quite still. Helen found a plastic t-rex on the tide line, which I took as a good omen.
It is not easy walking on large rocks and chalk pebbles on the beach, but it's a bit addictive once you get going and clears the mind to have to focus on each step you take. A usual bird assortment on the beach and out at sea: Oystercatchers, Curlew, Turnstones, Rock Pipits, passing Guillemots, Fulmars gliding up and down over the surf and our heads, Herring Gulls. Harry pointed at an Eider and an oiled young Kittiwake.
 
Rock pipit.

Andrew Ch. with roaring seas, a Fulmar and foam.
Andrew A. pressing on. 
Turnstones are very cryptic when feeding amongst chalk pebbles on the strandline.
Looking back.
As on South Landing, Danes Dyke ramp was very windy. We quickly return to the village to complete our circular walk. We take a detour to try and see the Pied Crow that has been on residence there since the summer, without luck, so we find a pub, the Royal Dog and Duck, for our lunch, this the last trip of the year for the Hull Nats.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Sunny December at Spurn and Kilnsea Wetlands

After a very wet and miserable week, the sun shone yesterday and today. In search of broad horizons, as much light as possible and a lifer I headed to Kilnsea. As I drove past Easington, I scanned the fields for swans. Just as I was getting to Long Bank I saw two swan flocks at the other side of the field. After parking at Kilnsea Wetlands car park I approached, staying behind the cover of the WWII pillbox. The swans were 11 Whoopers and 14 Mute swans with plenty of young, feeding on crop tops. It didn't take long to spot the odd one out, a White-fronted Goose, which stayed close to the Whooper Swans as it fed. This was a lifer and my 221st British bird.
White-fronted goose and friends.
After watching the geese and swans for a while I moved onto Kilnsea Wetlands. Although frosty, it was calm and it didn't feel too cold. I noticed a loud roar, which I presumed it was the sea, but the lack of wind made it feel very strange. The only birder in the hide had stayed for a couple of days in the caravan park and commented of the loud noise all night, blaming the wind turbines offshore.
 Flocks of Brent Geese passed over one after the other, with their barking/purring calls. There were Lapwings and Wigeon feeding with the grazing sheep. A hare crossed the water onto the island, and, after a short nibble if pressed itself onto the ground, and tucked her ears in: a complete metamorphosis onto a lump of earth.
Lapwing and sheep.
Hare. Now you see it...
Now you don't.
Wigeon grazing.
I carried on, walking towards the beach. The origin of the roaring noise became apparent. Despite the light wind, the breakers were quite high and noisy, and the sea looked brown. Maybe the angle of the wind caused these puzzling sea conditions?
 After reaching the Blue Bell car park I walked towards the Crown and Anchor. Dunlin, Redshank and Grey Plovers fed on the mudflats. A curious mixed flock of Shelduck and two Brent Geese flew past. A good size comparison of a small geese with a large duck!
Shelduck and Brent Geese.
I continued my walk on Chalk Bank. The only sighting of notice was a flock of Yellowhammers, I counted 14 when they flew off. This was a site tick for me.
Yellowhammers.
Saltmarsh looking southwest.
 After a hot drink in the Discovery Centre and quick lunch at Canal Scrape I carried on. Two Stonechats were busy feeding on a stubble field.
 Female Stonechat.
The male, which was ringed, came to a closer fence post each time it fed, until it was just a couple of meters away.
Male Stonechat.
After this close encounter, I walked back to Kilnsea Wetlands with not much to report. Two Roe Deer walked along at the other side of the field. The swans had merged into a single flock and were a bit closer to the road, but the light was harsher than in the morning. 
White fronted goose and swans.

Monday, 26 November 2018

November at Alkborough Flats

A forecast of showers coming from the East made me decide to visit Alkborough Flats, a place where I can happily spend some time entertained in a hide. Not long after parking a skein of Pink-footed Geese flew overhead and a Bearded tit 'pinged' as it flew into reeds. As I approached the main hide, large flocks of Lapwing rose over the flats. A crescent of Lapwing were roosting in front of the hide, sprinkled with Teal and Shoveler and a few distant Golden Plover. A group of Black-tailed Godwit and Spotted Redshank were resting near the hide. A shower started and the birds appeared even more hunkered down. There were at least two Marsh Harriers about, which regularly sent frenzied flocks of Lapwing into the sky as they quarterer the wetlands.

A large boat, being watched by a Marsh Harrier.
There were only two Avocets today, one of them fitted with plastic rings, which looked a bit worn. I couldn't read the letters on them if they had any.
Spotted Redshank.
More Lapwing.
The Marsh Harrier resting on a dead tree.

More Lapwing commotion.
Drake Shoveler.
A few Ruff amongst the Lapwing.
 A movement in the corner of my eye: a Water Rail in a gap between the reeds. I manage just one focused photo before it dives into the reeds again.
Water Rail.

 The shower passed and a few sunny spells on the go, I leave the hide, and I take a walk toward the trent hide. Eight Whooper Swans fly over, quite low. I follow them expecting them to land in the fields but they appear to carry on.
 Sheep are still grazing the pasture, and this time there is no Barnacle Geese to be seen.
 I'm pleasantly surprised to spot a pair of Brent Geese grazing amongst the sheep.
As I return towards Alkborough I see the Whooper Swans feeding on a distant field.
Whooper Swans.
 I climb to the village via the path to Julian's Bower and then return to the car park. At Low Wells I check for Water Crickets, Velia caprai. Not the best light conditions, but I managed some shots.
 On a field next to the pond, 20 Curlew are feeding with Woodpigeons, and by the car park a Chiffchaff calls, putting an end to the trip.
Curlew.

Monday, 19 November 2018

Wintry Flamborough

A cold, cloudy day with intermittent drizzle and a relentless easterly wind, it felt like the first day of winter. We head to Flamborough, first to the headland, for a spot of sea watching. The Flamborough Bird Observatory seawatching hide is almost complete, and it's looking great, the materials waiting to go on its green roof. It's so windy it's very uncomfortable atop the cliffs so we walk down to Selwicks Bay for some shelter. The tide is flowing and some Oystercatchers, a few Turnstones and a Curlew feed on the beach. Off shore, we spot Brent Geese, a flock of Eider north (my first this year), many Gannets and Fulmar and a few Red-throated Divers and auks. A Shag feeds close to the shore and a Grey Seal approaches and watches curiously.
Seawatching hide.
Red-throated diver.
Eider.
Shag.
Grey Seal.
Grey Seal.
Mid morning we move to South Landing, where the birds of note were two Common Scoter, a drake Eider north and a few Red-throated divers and a Shag.
Common Scoter.
South Landing.
Eider.
Redwing.
For lunch we move to Bempton Cliffs. There is little about offshore, a few Gannets is the only thing we pick up. The wind is picking up and in the viewing platforms I need to hang on to my glasses! We set off before a long shower starts. 
Tree Sparrow.
Tree Sparrow.
Filey Brigg from Bempton Cliffs.