October is the month that Jackie and I have our annual migration north for MigWeek run by Flamborough Bird Observatory. The week consists of Bird ringing demonstrations, walks and talks at Flamborough, Bempton and at Filey, plus VisMig (visual migration watching) at Hunmanby Gap.
So on the 12th October we left Dorset on our way north, but this year we decided to drop in to Frampton Marsh RSPB reserve in Lincolnshire to break the journey. We arrived at around 14:00hrs and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the reserve. By the time we left at 17:00hrs we had clocked up 46 species not to bad for a few hours birding. Highlights were 3 Little Stint, a Jack Snipe, a flight of 8 Whooper Swan, 2 Great White Egret and good numbers of Ruff.
|Flight of Whooper Swan _Frampton Marsh RSPB Reserve © Nick Hull|
|Great White Egret - Frampton Marsh RSPB - coming into land © Nick Hull|
We had an overnight stay in Boston leaving in the morning for Flamborough. We took a break at North Cave nature reserve en-route and whilst having coffee and a very nice burger from the mobile cafe we were able to do a little birding over one of the lakes. Jackie and I first visited this reserve many years ago when it had first opened but it hasn't changed much but has the added hides and facilities which is always a benefit. Also it has been landscaped where when we first visited it was a little raw without too much cover. We arrived at Flamborough a hour or so later and decided to have an easy rest of the day so we could be up early in the morning ready for a days birding.
14th October - We were at the Flamborough Obs bright and early next morning for the start of MigWeek 2023 and Tony & Jo, Jim and the others of the ringing team were just arriving back to the Obs after doing the first net round with a number of full bags. They had a nice selection of commoner species, which are always nice to see up close such as Dunnock, Robin, Goldcrest and Blackbird though most of these were possible migrants. In fact the young Blackbird was a certainly a migrant as it's wing length suggested it was northern European and the Scandinavian Blackbirds wing length measures a little longer than our British bred birds. (Remember it's nothing to do with them having black bills that just denotes they are juvenile Blackbirds).
|Juvenile Blackbird - Flamborough Obs © Nick Hull|
(This birds wing length suggested it was a migrant from Scandinavia)
|Male Goldcrest - Flamborough Obs © Nick Hull |
(It is sexed as a male by the orange/red feathers showing in the crest)
There wasn't a great deal of visual migration as the wind was in the wrong direction but there was the promise that this would change by the end of the week and to expect another movement across the North Sea.
15th October - Up half an hour earlier this morning to give us time to get to Hunmanby Gap to join Keith Clarkson and Paul for vismig even though the wind wasn't right for migration we hoped for some sea passage. I have to say it wasn't the best morning for the location we only saw 19 species. The highlight was two flocks of Pink-footed Geese moving south which we counted 225 birds. We also had Red-throated Diver and Common Scoter and a small flock of Lesser Redpoll which were obvious migrants. We left Hunmanby and headed for Bempton RSPB reserve and had a walk to see if anything was hiding in the dale and around the feeding station. The only birds of note here was a few Redwing and Blackbirds seemed to be in very good numbers around the berry bushes. After we went back to the mobile home at the campsite for a lazy lunch and warm up before heading back to Bempton in the late afternoon in the hope of seeing Owls hunting over the rough grassland clifftops and fields.
We were indeed lucky in seeing possibly 2 Short-eared Owl and a Barn Owl out hunting, though both were fairly distant for getting a good photograph.
|Barn Owl - Bempton Cliff RSPB ©Nick Hull|
|Short-eared Owl - Bempton RSPB © Nick Hull|
16th October - We started our day at South Landing with the ringing, recording 26 species not all of them were in the hand. It was obvious that it was going to be a slow day so Jackie and I left and headed to Hornsea Mere as there was a Long-tailed Duck there. The Mere can be good and we recorded 31 species including the Long-tailed Duck which I found at the far end of the Mere. Which looked to be a female in more or less summer plumage but it was very hard to assess at the distance we were looking over. After we grabbed some lunch we headed to the seafront for a little seawatching, the highlight here was several Red-throated Diver and a single Black-throated Diver which isn't that commonly seen here. We had a flight of Common Scoter flying towards Flamborough and I noticed a slightly smaller bird amongst them and as they came level with us it turned into a male Long-tailed Duck. We also had two dark-morph Arctic Skua which are always nice to see. We don't see very much duck passage from Dorset coast so it was a bit odd to see a group of 9 Teal fly-by and pitch down on the sea to rest before continuing on south.
17th October - We were due to meet up with friends at Tophill Low mid morning so we went to the Obs for the ringing first thing before heading off to Tophill Low. The reserve here is run by the Water authority with ponds, water reservoir and woodland, a lot of work has been done providing new hides and access. There had been Blue-winged Teal and Ring-necked Duck present but we managed not to find either on our visit but there were lots of water fowl present. Highlights here was 2 Brambling coming into the feeding station and a Black-necked Grebe on the main reservoir and a Migrant Hawker Dragonfly which landed in a tree behind us when we were having lunch.
|Male Migrant Hawker Dragonfly _ Tophill Low © Nick Hull|
We ended the day at Flamborough Fog Station (Lighthouse) for a seawatch and had a real surprise when a Puffin flew past a species that breeds at Bempton but should have left the area by now. We had several Grey Seals, Red-throated Diver, Scoter and lots of Gannet, Cormorant and Shags moving.
18th October - Up early to join Keith Clarkson for a vismig session near Bempton but it became obvious that not much was happening through we saw some Redwing and Fieldfare moving though not in big numbers. So we headed to the South Landing Obs and as we arrived they had just completed a net round and we were lucky to see a male Brambling in the hand. We then headed out to the clifftop viewpoint for some sea-
watching. We scanned through the Common Scoter flock which were riding the surf off shore and found a Long-tailed Duck amongst them. We had a flight of 8 Turnstone with a single Purple Sandpiper tagging along with them. We had a dark morph Arctic Skua, Razorbill and Guillemot, several Red-throated Diver and lots of Gannets and just as we were about to call it a day I spotted two Velvet Scoter flying in and joining the Common Scoter which was a nice end to the mornings birding, we ended here with 46 species in total. Then we were off to Bempton Cliffs RSPB for a late lunch.
As we were leaving Bempton we ran into local birder Will Scott and he said "do you know they have just found a White-billed Diver off South Landing". We replied with a "no we didn't" and jumped in the van and headed off. So three quarters of an hour later we were walking or in Jackie's case using her scooter up the coastal path and joined two other birders who had just picked it up in the surf below the cliffs. After a minute or two it surfaces right below us but dived again, and this it repeated continuously as it headed north along the edge of the rock shelf very close in to the undercliff. It was a stunning bird still in more-or-less summer plumages.
|Sum/plumaged White-billed Diver - off South Landing © Nick Hull|
As we retraced our steps back to the Obs car park we had a male Long-tailed Duck with fifty or so Common Scoter resting on the sea, possibly the same one we saw pass Hornsea a few days before.
19th October - We went to Flamborough Obs ringing station to start the morning the wind had changed but it was going to increase as Storm Babet was on her way. There was some movement but most were birds that we assumed had some across the North Sea in previous days and were slowly making their way south and inland. The only species added for the day was a Blackcap in the willows at the head later in the afternoon. During the night the storm hit so we had a restful day on the 20th without any real birding and popped to Bempton to have lunch in the RSPB's cafe and picked up a gift or two for the grandchildren. That evening we went to a talk by Simon Gillings from the BTO about how all the information gleaned from BirdTrack, eBird and Trektellen is used and how it helps them to understand population trends etc, It was a most interesting talk. Which ended a very restful day.
21st October - We were up bright and early, maybe not that bright, but we were up and out to the Ringing station at the obs but then had a message to say that Keith Clarkson was doing vismig at the Bridlington Links so we headed there and joined him and just in time. Standing along the entrance road to the Golf club gave a good surrounding view to the north, east and west. Keith said we had just missed possibly upward of 1000 Starling moving south. We didn't have to wait long before a small group of Fieldfare then Redwing flew in over us. This continued for some time with Redwing, Fieldfare and Song Thrush all in pretty good numbers passed over not in large flocks but a steady stream which kept us busy counting. Then later in the morning we started to get Blackbirds, Redpoll and Goldfinch over. We also had 7 Sparrowhawk go through towards the south along with Brambling, Chaffinch, Siskin, Meadow Pipit, Pied and Grey Wagtail, Skylark and a single Great White Egret, two Snipe plus several large skeins of Pink-footed Geese. I think the oddest sighting of the morning was picked up by Jackie she called Hen Harrier going along the woodland opposite we all got onto the bird but we all realised it wasn't a Harrier but an immature Harris Hawk which had obviously escaped from somewhere.
After a visit to the supermarket and having lunch it was late afternoon before we headed to Bempton to see if we could find a Wood Warbler that had been found there but I have to say though we had very brief views Jackie or me haven't counted it. But we had good views of two Short-eared Owls quartering the rough grass area by the old RAF buildings. We also had the usual Tree Sparrows and a pretty large Linnet flock and the common species expected at this location. As we were leaving and drove up the hill out of the car park I noticed an owl to the left and pulled into a gateway to have a better view and we found two more Short-eared Owls quartering the area in fact I'm pretty sure I had a third which disappeared behind some scrub heading along the clifftop ending a very nice days birding.
|Another of the Bempton Short-eared Owl © Nick Hull|
22nd October - Our last days birding and the last day of Migweek 2023. We started at the ringing station and saw a good selection of birds in the hand ie Redwing, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin, Wren, Blue, Coal and Great Tit, Tree Sparrow and Lesser Redpoll. The best of the morning was one of Jackie's favourites a Woodcock.
|Male Lesser Redpoll Flamborough Obs © Nick Hull|
After everything quietened down Jackie and I went of to investigate a small reserve called Filey Dams as we hadn't been there before. We found the reserve at the far end of a housing estate, parked up and the first birds we saw were Tree Sparrow which seemed to be everywhere. We went on to visit the three hides, there wasn't a great deal around but you could see it had potential. After we went back to the campsite for lunch. Just after finishing lunch news came our way that there were four Waxwing at a Bridlington Church so off we went to Brid. After navigating round the houses we eventually found the church and joined a few other birder's on the pavement and one of them said they had been flushed by a Sparrowhawk and they were waiting for them to return then another said there is one in the centre of that tree. With a bit of moving one way and another we managed to get in a position to see it amongst the branches.
|Waxwing _ Bridlington © Nick Hull|
We were watching it move around in the tree for a while when it suddenly flew up calling excitedly and we were just wondering what caused it to do so when it was joined by three others and they all perched up in a row of cypress tree.
What a way to finish a birding holiday with Waxwing for the year list. In fact I'm going to make a little prediction I think if you live where there are berrying trees near your home keep an eye on them as I think it might be a good year for this species to turn up here in Dorset.
So the holiday brought us up to 202 species for the UK so far and we had 118 species on the holiday with a total so far 127 species for the October which I don'e think is to bad being we don't twitch as much now as we used to trying to keep our carbon footprint down as much as is practical.