Now and Happening!
review by David Campbell
Situated between Flamborough Head and Scarborough, Filey is coveted as one of the finest birding locations on the Yorkshire coast. The recording area list is peppered with a number of terrific rarities, and seasoned birders are quite likely to have visited, perhaps for Britain’s first Spectacled Warbler in 1992. Filey has a devoted band of enthusiasts in the form of Filey Bird Observatory and Group (FBOG) who work tirelessly to record and conserve the birds and wildlife of this important site by, among other activities, managing habitat, ringing and expeditiously producing an annual report. FBOG’s 2013 Filey Bird Report, the 37th edition, produced by a small team of volunteers, comes in a new large format and has been overhauled from cover to cover.
The front cover provides instant enticement to delve in, with a pleasing design driven by a collection of 14 high quality images of birds taken at Filey in 2013, both common and scarce. The Species List section is generously decorated with Colin Wilkinson’s charming and talented artwork, some pieces colour, and others monochrome; the written content of the Systematic List, meanwhile, is fascinating – 225 species treated in good detail when it comes to first and last dates, high counts and visible migration totals. The section is well-treated with tables presenting data predominantly covering peak day-counts, visible migration and seawatching figures.
Despite the report being published in full colour, none of its many high quality bird photographs are scattered within Species List; instead, ‘Birds in Profile’ includes 41 good-sized images including some of Filey’s commoner species along with many of 2013’s scarcity highlights. This section is at once beautiful and sickening to peruse – if only we were all lucky enough to have a patch like Filey! A number of other photographs are found in the ‘Annual Review’ – a traditional synopsis of the ornithological year at Filey – and in ‘A year at Filey’, a collection of well-written articles detailing some of the most significant finds of 2013, as well as pieces on garden birding, cetaceans and breeding auks. Among the articles are accounts of the discoveries of two firsts for Yorkshire – Black-headed Wagtail and Brünnich’s Guillemot – and these make for gripping reading, especially as neither bird remained for long.
Sections towards the back of the report deliver summaries of the other wildlife recorded at Filey in 2013. Butterfly records are looked at month-by-month while dragonfly records are organised by species. Overviews are also given for plants and mammals and it is heartening to see FBOG accumulating a wealth of data on an array of non-avian species.
A ringing review adds to the glut of information so neatly packed into the 136 page publication and includes details of recoveries alongside ringing totals. Although a key is provided for different types of recovery, an explanation for age/sex codes has been omitted and may lead to confusion for non-ringing readers. Although the general lack of migrants trapped is bemoaned in this section, crippling images of Red-breasted Flycatcher and Yellow-browed Warbler in the hand make you think that they could have had it worse!
The 2013 Filey Bird Report is, all in all, very aesthetically pleasing, accessible and jammed full of useful information, particularly for an east coast birder. The passion and skill that has so clearly gone into putting the report together is admirable and the new edition easily qualifies as the benchmark for other local reports to aim for. All proceeds from the sales of the report go directly to the work of FBOG, and at £8, the report is a steal for its professional-style quality. It is truly up there with the best bird reports, and is worthy of a slot on the bookshelf of any collector or those with an interest in the birds of the east coast and beyond.