Monday 13 March 2017

Another site, another country, another birder

Monday 13 March

I wrote last week about my friend back in the UK doing all his birding by use of public transport.  I have just received a report of his birding adventure last Saturday (11 march) which involved a somewhat convoluted rail and bus, not to mention the use of "Shanks' pony",journey from Worksop to Bridlington and then on to Flamborough plus, naturally, the return trip - and all on the same day.  So when did you last go on a distant birding mission without your car?  No, I don't mean utilising a lift from a friend or even a trip on the local Number 9 bus down the road.  I mean a real, distant journey.  Perhaps you (or did not) enjoy the experience but, at least, thought it was a little adventure by way of a change.  But now imagine being a keen birder without a car and undertaking such trips two, three or four times a week.  Well, you would certainly get to know the local train times and important exchange links!

Having read Chris's report as below, I realised that there were at least eight species seen on the day that I have still to see this year and, realistically, many of which will not be seen by me in Spain nevermind Andlaucia.  But it works both ways from Chris's point of view.  Read on and enjoy, especially the flavour of the wind, cold and rain whichhy, I am led to believe, is something that we may have to contend with for the next few days.

Saturday 11 March: Bridlington and Flamborough

 I did make my visit to Bridlington/Flamborough on Saturday, despite, my still not shaking off the cold that I have had for a few days, and at least one weather forecast trying to discourage me with the threat of showers which never materialised.  Real birders look for strong winds from the sea for coastal visits, but being an old softy, gentle weather to take in the scenery is my thing, and Saturday has been one of the few opportunities occurrences of  this there so far this year.  Quite a timely break on the east coast weather as my year list has been in the doldrums of the 120s for too long as we wait anticipating, inland, summer migrants.

So with the train on time, arriving at 10 AM at Bridlington station, one is immediately greeted by the call of Herring Gulls and there they are standing around in their breeding plumage just feet away, proud and defiant. They are cracking birds but I wouldn’t choose to live with them, as the people of Bridlington have to.

A few minutes’ walk, passing  many Herring Gulls taking up claims on house roof top potential breeding spots, you are soon at the south arm of the harbour and looking down at the rocks on the outer side, and 20 feet below you among the 40 or so Turnstones, 10 Purple Sandpiper busily inspecting every nook and cranny, and you can just make out there gentle contact calls.  Too soon one of the dog walkers that have managed to clear most of the  birds off the beach, comes along, and they are gone.

Herring Gull Gaviota Argentee Larus argentatus (PHOTO: From Internet)

Looking onto the harbour with lots of mud showing, perhaps 60 Redshank, a few Turnstones, and two groups of 4 and 5 Dunlin, and of course  Herring Gulls.  Making my way round to the north arm of the harbour, I note as yet only a single Kittiwake having decided on where it was going to nest, on the outside plumbing of one of the harbour side properties, and that some of the Redshanks are bathing in the fresh water stream running through the harbour and that just now and then the streams turbulence tumbles an odd one over but they soon recover.  A couple of Cormorants are swimming  in the water at the harbour entrance.  From the end of the north pier viewing on the outer side of the south pier, 25 Kittiwakes have claimed their breeding locations for the season.  Scanning the sea for possible “white winged” gulls revealed nothing new except the odd Black-headed Gull.

So with the 2 year ticks (Purple Sandpiper and Kittiwake) I make my way to Flamborough North Landing where whilst there is still no rain, though overcast with some darker clouds about.  The mist limits the view but not of the rafts of perhaps 100 Razorbill (year tick) and further out 80 Guillemot (year tick), and probably similar numbers of Kittiwakes on the water at the outer end of the inlet, but does preclude sighting the Gannets which must be making their way offshore.

Shags  Phalacrocorax aristotells with a quintet of Razorbill Alca torda (PHOTO: From Internet)

After a refreshing cup of Cappuccino at the local cafe I set off on my cliff top walk south to Flamborough Lighthouse, quickly establishing the flock I pass through is House Sparrow, but then being quickly regaled by the first  Skylark, many of  which are going to accompany me on my journey.   Reaching the cliff top proper it is not long before I hear a cacophony of Razorbills close to me on the cliffs.  Further on the kittiwake-Kittiwake; hundreds and hundreds of them having staked their breeding sites. Scanning the birds on the water most are species already seen but here and there the odd Shag (year tick), and at the edge of one a couple or so of Puffin (year tick).  And then the first Gannets of the day some making their way north, and some south low over the water.  Looking inland a partially flooded field, has attracted Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Starling, Grey-lag Geese and Mallard  with Meadow Pipits showing themselves and some jousting Skylark.

Kittiwake Gaviota Tridactila Rissa tridactyla (PHOTO: From Internet)

The next inlet has an attraction to Herring Gull and  Rock Dove (year tick), some of which are more likely to be the genuine article (I withhold year ticking them until my first sighting at Flamborough).

The next inlet is one for Guillemots crowding the cliff side and on the southern side the first handful of Shag of the day, perhaps on their nesting sites.  Here and there on the cliffside are more Herring Gull and just a few Fulmar (year tick) having found a suitable breeding spots.

The parade of birds continues; 17 Shag on a flat rock which was just  being wetted by the sea and some on the water, some gracefully flying  Fulmar and, as I approach my immediate destination, a male Stonechat, a Kestrel, but mainly more sea birds.  Making my way up to the road to the Lighthouse I spot probably my first genuine migratory Chiffchaff of the year busily feeding, and in the adjacent bushes Tree Sparrow and Dunlin.

Other than a Meadow Pipit nothing noted in the grasslands on the way to the fog station (which was not hooting then but was 40minutes later) with nothing particular being on the sea.  Having had my picnic lunch in the lee of the fog station, where it was much warmer out of the wind, I set off for Flamborough South Landing noting first many Razorbills nesting on the cliffs and more Shag on the water and a single Grey Seal.  With the tide in there was no beach showing and hence no waders on view but, in addition to more Shag and Herring Gull, I noted a single Great-crested Grebe in the surf. A dozen Linnet flew up ahead of me and a Wren was sounding very angry close by.  Inspecting some gulls in the water to my south, I quickly realised that there was a male Eider (year tick) with them which looked super when scoped.  Later I spotted a male and a female together and another male  when I was closer to South Landing.

Inland there was very little action, and odd Magpie, Crow and somewhere a Curlew was calling.  On the coast it was Herring Gull and Fulmar that were probably nesting on the cliff but only being seen when they made short flights.  The fog horn was indicating that the mist was thickening but that didn’t stop me picking out a winter plumage Red-throated Diver (year tick) on the water with some gulls.  I was able to see at least 5 of these as I made my way south.  Interesting from the cliffs above South Landing I could clearly see at least 2 divers on the water but when I made my way down to sea level the chop on the sea made these impossible to re-locate, and the best I could manage there were  a few Black-headed Gull .

I made my way to the Royal Dog and Duck in Flamborough village for horse watering and Strongbow downing before making my way home with my year list boosted to 135.  Bring on the summer migrants.

Chris Bell

Having now completed the upload of Chris's report and re-read the text, not only does it leave me feeling quite exhausted (and did not have to stagger home at the end of the session!) but I also noted that I had not included Puffin and Wren in the list of birds missing so far from my 2017 list.  I think now, perhaps, a coffee and lie down.

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

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