Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Flamborough and Bempton birds and friends

Spent a highly enjoyable long weekend at Flamborough and surroundings. I went up there with my family, and we enjoyed a perfect combination of great friends, good birding and beautiful scenery. On a dull Sunday morning I went out with Martin and my elder son Uri to check out an Icky that had been found by Mark Thomas earlier on near Buckton. We joined Mark and by the time we got there the icky had gone quiet and didn't show, but we had a nice stroll around and I enjoyed birding with Martin and Mark. The only bird of note was an acredula-type Willow Warbler, that chose Mark's ringing site to forage in. Mark trapped it later on - image of it is here (on Twitter).
Sunday afternoon was slightly sunnier and warmer, and there were few more birds on the move. While having tea in Martin's garden with Mark and Amity, a European Bee-eater the radios went off when flew over and was hawking insects with hirundines for a few minutes before heading off south (towards real sun...). All the locals were chuffed off course, and I was  quite amused. Almost ran to get my camera out of the car but gave that idea up. Well, despite having tens over my house in Israel every evening between April and October, I still enjoyed watching this UK rarity and I could relate to the enthusiasm shown by the natives. And then a Turtle Dove flew past...
Monday morning started with a short seawatch off Flamborough with Martin and Brett. Tons of local breeding seabirds on the sea made spotting something interesting more challenging. However we had one semi-decent Pomarine Skua, a few Common Scoters and that's it really.
Then I went with my family to RSPB Bempton Cliffs. I had wanted to visit this reserve for a long time, and at last got the chance. We had a great time there. Luckily we got there early enough before the bank-holiday masses arrived. The number of birds was breathtaking; I really love sites that provide multi-sensual experiences - view, sound and smell. Never-ending chaos of birds coming and going, screaming, quarreling, pooping and puking, nest-building and mating. Tens of thousands of birds feeding out on sea just off the cliffs.  
Photography-wise the conditions were not ideal. Light was shit, and I had Libby on my back in a kid carrier, but I cannot complain. And now for some birds:
I enjoyed most the Fulmars - the only tubenose breeding there. Not in huge numbers but very cool birds, and I had great views of them. 

Northern Fulmar

Auk numbers were incredible. I assume that some decades ago they were even higher but nevertheless this is very impressive. Not too many Puffins around and not the perfect views I had wanted, but hey, they are stunning and hilarious birds.

 Atlantic Puffin

Razorbills are great fun too. Sadly the closest one to the viewing platforms had a bad eye:

I found photographing flying auks very challenging - need to improve these in the future:

A few semi-bridled Guillemots among the masses:

Please don't poop on me!

argenteus Herring Gull - pretty bird

I like Kittiwakes because they are scarce in Israel, and because they are such neat little gulls:

Black-legged Kittiwake

A few first-summers around the colony, and some immatures as well, like this 3cy(?):

Is this a 4cy? Still some black on PC:

Gannets are very impressive birds both from long- and short-distances: 

I am no expert in ageing gannets - is this 3cy? 



Lots of gannets

Lots of auks

As always when I visit RSPB reserves I am impressed by how well-organized they are. When we headed out Bempton Cliffs it was getting very busy but because of the very intelligent layout of trails, viewing platforms and information centers it never felt crowded. The clifftop section of the reserve is beautiful now and there were lots of breeding birds in the meadows. If I am not mistaken the pink flowering carpets are of Red Campion (Silene dioica).

Pied Wagtail

Thanks so much to our old and new friends at Flamborough, Buckton and Filey - you are all great! What a special place to live in. I find it amazing how friendship transitions from Facebook to 3D friendship often work like magic - I am so lucky that I have a bunch of new friends now.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Slow on the ground, massive on the screen

Before my talk at the Norfolk Bird & Wildlife Fair I had time for some birding with Quentin. With low expectations we headed off early. Started off at Stiffkey campsite. Not a true migrant on site. Some breeding Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, local Swallows and House Martins and that's it. This handsome Barn Owl displayed diurnal hunting attempts for a while - pity the light was crap:

Still several hundred Brents on the saltmarsh:

Mistle Thrush

Then we continued to Stiffkey Fen. Pretty quiet there as well. One islandica Blackwit among the nominates, one fine Mediterranean Gull and some Avocets where all the site could supply. At Cley the situation was not much better sadly. We had time only for the near hides - 3 Little Ringed Plovers, 2 Common Sands, some more Avocets, pretty grim.


Then we headed over to Mannington Hall. I really enjoyed the Fair. very well organized, the grounds are beautiful, and lots of people came which is good. Good to meet some Rutland Birdfair regulars, including the Wader Quest team. There were reports of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Firecrest near the lecture marquee but I didn't see them. Anyway, in my presentation migration was at its best:

Tomorrow it's expected to be even busier with the Big Guns coming to talk - hope to see more familiar faces tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The best migration in the world - in Norfolk?!?!

This weekend I will be taking part in the second Norfolk Bird & Wildlife Fair at Mannington Hall. I will give two presentations, one on Saturday and another on Sunday, with migration tales and a few more images like these. So if you're around, please come and say hello!

European Bee-eaters

European Honey Buzzard 

White-winged Terns 

Purple Herons 

Steppe Buzzards, Steppe Eagle and Lesser Spotted Eagle

Caspian Plover and Sand Martin