I’ve spent the last two days at Flamborough and the surrounding area. Sadly it’s not been dripping in rarities, as it was just a few days ago – the SW winds have put paid to that. However despite some annoyinly quiet moments, some good birds have been seen (especially one, which I’ll come to!) and a good couple of days had. It’s going to be a long post so click below to continue…
On Friday I went for a day at Flamborough with my dad. We started off with a bash of Bay Brambles, which was teeming with birds, mainly linnet, goldfinch, tree sparrow and house sparrow, but also a few migrants such as spotted flycatcher, garden warbler, willow warbler and whitethroat. A walk along the coastal path yielded great views of a hobby lunging at one of the many swallows that were around, but failing to catch one. A couple of stonechats were another welcome sight, and a fulmar skimmed the sea, but it was generally very quiet indeed. We walked on to Old Fall Plantation, where we saw almost precisely nothing, bar a spot fly in the hedge.
A trip to Brid so I could check into the B&B and we could load ourselves up with chips turned up the usual turnstones doing their best impressions of scrap-eating pigeons, as well as a few kittiwakes on the harbour wall.
After eating, we had a trip to Bempton – my dad had never been before, and as a bit of a fan of gannets we spent a bit of time watching them as they swirled dizzily around the cliffs. There were a couple of commons scoter visible in the sea, and a few shag past, but otherwise there wasn’t much to report on the reserve itself.
We had a quick look at the Dell, a great little wooded dip by the car park, where we watched a rather perky spotted flycatcher for a while, and I noted this was a good spot where I could imagine myself catching up with a good rarity one of these days…
Back to Flamborough, we parked at South Landing, having a quick walk and adding a few mundane ticks like moorhen and pheasant to the day’s tally. I bid farewell to my dad and continued the walk from there to the Lighthouse, picking up curlew on the way. I had a look in Old Fall on the way, which at least this turned turned up two hunting spotted flycatchers and a redstart in the hedge. One final look round Bay Brambles turned up even more spotted flies… not one but three this time! Sadly no pied were showing though.
I then boarded my taxi from the Lighthouse, craftily booked just as it was going dark, and went back to the B&B, arming myself with a skanky Subway sandwich on the way.
An early start to meet the Yorkshire contingency of BirdForum members for the annual Skua Cruise meet. Assume anyone I mention from now on is one of them…
I got to the harbour for just after 7am, armed with a bacon butty kindly made by the B&B landlady at this reasonably ungodly hour. At 7.30 the boat set sail, in choppy waters which caused waves to crash over the side where I was sat, almost drowning me in the process and leading to a rather soggy journey.
The first good bird we saw was a red-throated diver, quite close to the harbour and a good sign we thought, although it was a rather birdless trip for a good while, punctuated only by a red-breasted merganser and a couple of sandwich terns. A fairly close black tern was a great bird to see (and a year tick), and a flyby from a group of common terns revealed the unexpected sight of four roseate terns tagging along behind (which I only caught the arse-end of, unfortunately!). After this it went very quiet for a while, but the return journey at least finally gave us some shearwaters (two quite distant Manxies) and a skua (a rather fine great skua which gave very good views).
Other birds of note include a flock of teal, two dunlin, two ringed plover, several fulmar, loads of gannets, a few kittiwakes and common gulls, a smattering of razorbill and guillemots, a few more red-throated divers, and some visible migration of meadow pipits and swallows flying out to sea.
On the way off the boat we were given vouchers for free drinks at Bempton, and this combined with a recent report of icterine warbler in the Dell led us to a decision to make the next stop (after the chippy) Bempton Cliffs.
Mat and I were the first to arrive Bempton, going straight to the Dell. The first bird we saw was (probably) the same perky spotted flycatcher from the day before, and the second bird… well a strange Phylloscopus warbler with browny/grey upperparts and very plain, whitish underparts. What the f*** was that?! We considered the common options, but none seemed to fit.
By this time Graham arrived and got on to it, and a penny dropped with him, but he teased out what Mat was thinking first. “Bonelli’s Warbler,” was his response, backing up what Graham was thinking (I’ll be honest to say all I’d got to was that it something “funny”!). To confirm matters two other birders arrived, and asked if we’d seen the Bonelli’s – apparently it had been seen by someone before us, but the news hadn’t gone as far as the news services.
The rest of the BF group arrived, and we all got cracking views of it, as it flitting around, calling loads and seemingly in a perky mood, joined by an uncharacteristically showy lesser whitethroat, and a garden warbler. I got a good scope view, revealing its faint supercilium, and the green tips to its wings – a very smart-looking bird indeed. We were almost sure it was a Western Bonelli’s and not an Eastern Bonelli’s (Western being the “commoner” of the two recently split species), and this seems to have been confirmed by the many birders who have seen it since.
We never got the icterine, but this would do!
Celebrating with our freebie drinks, it was then a trip to Flamborough. Mat, Jim and I squinted through Bay Brambles, which turned up similar stuff than I got on Friday, but this time finally giving me a pied flycatcher for the year. The three of us broke off from the rest of the group to give Old Fall a go, which was even quieter than my first trip on Friday. Jim scooted off home, and Mat and I managed two each of whinchat, wheatear and redstart on the way back up the path to the road, plus a nice sparrowhawk lunging from over the fence.
A quick look back at the Lighthouse area failed to turn up anything new, and we didn’t get chance to say goodbye to the rest of crew before we had to leave for the journey back to South Yorks, as they were visible as dots up on the edge of the golf course!
On the way back we managed red kite and a probable marsh harrier to finish the day off, a good way to finish off yet another memorable BF meet! It was a strange weekend in a way, with a mix of deathly quietness punctuated with absolutely cracking birds. One day I’d like to arrive at Flam during a big old rarity fall, but despite one or two dull interludes it was a none-too-shoddy couple of days.
All species seen during the two days (year ticks in bold, lifers in capitals).
- Canada Goose
- Common Scoter
- Red-breasted Merganser
- Red-throated Diver
- Manx Shearwater
- Red Kite
- Marsh Harrier
- Ringed Plover
- Great Skua
- Black-headed Gull
- Common Gull
- Lesser Black-backed Gull
- Herring Gull
- Great Black-backed Gull
- Sandwich Tern
- Roseate Tern
- Common Tern
- Black Tern
- Feral Pigeon
- Collared Dove
- House Martin
- Pied Wagtail
- Meadow Pipit
- Willow Warbler
- WESTERN BONELLI’S WARBLER
- Garden Warbler
- Lesser Whitethroat
- Spotted Flycatcher
- Pied Flycatcher
- Blue Tit
- Carrion Crow
- House Sparrow
- Tree Sparrow