Category Archives: Flamborough

Hume’s Warbler at Flamborough

but it wasn’t about that.

That being two days ago on 27th October. Johnny Mac and Craig T. had already planned a visit. We are in chaos as we land from my weeks stay in hospital (see here).

The house needing to be utterly re-ordered. Then Johnny messaged to say he’s got a Hume’s Warbler. Well we have been talking about these suckers since Johnny helped ID one (against some uncertainty from others) back in 1987. Another Flamborough Hume’s saw me planning to meet Johnny at Flamborough on a  foggy morning in November 2004 (I think). We both saw the Hume’s’ Warbler in OLd Fall. He found some Tundra Bean Geese I jammed a female Pine Bunting!

Anyway two days ago they showed up and proceeded to man haul me out of the house in a wheelchair and down to see the Hume’s’. I tell you what. My body is busted. I feel like a look really weird. I often feel unsurprisingly very vulnerable. Dependant. I even wonder, as you do, why these dudes would be bothering with me.

I did get a brief view off the Hume’s Warbler, and a Chiffchaff and a Firecrest. Way way more importantly I am in a state that leaves me very humble and weak.  In a topsy turvy world the product  of my weakness was and is a  sense of community here I wouldn’t swop for the world.

While we are out… Phil and Sue Cunningham are trying to make  our house work.  Gaynor C. comes over is keen to visit and help. Brett R. wants to get me on the bird.  I am a blessed man.

friends 1friends 2

Hume’s  watching with CT.  Johnny dodged being on the pic! I love my friends.


15-10-28 Humes Warbler Flamboro15-10-28 Humes Warbler image 2 Flamboro

Early shots of the bird by Craig. Great ID by Johnny who knows this one soooo… well.


Superb image by local doyen Andrew Allport. Make sure you see more on the Flamborough Bird Observatory blog where I poached this from! Andrew trumps the pics most of the time at Flamborough.

Meanwhile back at home this wee team tirelessly adding to our flipping brilliant sense of community. Fixing the house up. That was a day to remember!

a team



Eastern Subalpine Warbler ID

But it’s about way more than that!

Genuinely. It’s hard to contain the sheer enjoyment I get every day right now. Because every day there is migration magic. And behind so many species are extra-ordinary stories of avian derring-do.

Yesterday alone. Yes we had a good bird. A ‘Birding Frontiers’ kind of bird in a hedge that runs away from the end of my garden (though too far for a garden tick!) at Flamborough. But there was much more to yesterday.

Juvenile Swifts – Migration Magic

It was the Swifts. Magic views of juvenile Common Swifts yesterday. Unless there has been an upsurge that I missed these are seemingly very rarely photographed in this plumage. Can someone put me right?

Here a few snaps from yesterday. It’s an ID challenge covered in here but more these little waifs won’t land again for 2-3 years. They will travel from here, probably to Spain, down west Africa and perhaps across to Mozambique. Then back again to fly past Spurn next summer. 🙂 #migrationmagic

Common Swift 6 (1 of 1)

On the seawatch – Migration Magic

In the morning yesterday I saw my ALL TIME BEST bird: Sooty Shearwaters. More than one. Gliding past from their breeding home – an island in the southern Atlantic Ocean- bonkers! Viewed just down the road from my little house in East Yorkshire. Never mind the Pomarine and Arctic Skuas from the Arctic,  Balearic Shearwaters from the Mediterranean and Waders and Wildfowl, some of which are coming 1000’s of miles from Siberian breeding grounds.

Little Stint – Migration Magic

Like this juvenile Little Stint hatched form an egg on some permafrost in central Siberia and feeding on little invertebrates on a pond at… Buckton. Buckton (near where domestically I picked my daughter up from her train yesterday evening) ! I got thrilling alone time with another stunning, intricately pattern wee shorebird with a migration narrative that defied human logic. This one was a couple of days ago- but needed slipping in!

little stint 9small juv 27aug (1 of 1)


Wood Warbler and friends – Migration Magic

Back on the land little ‘songbirds’ which had crossed the North Sea- crossed the north sea? Have you seen how big … err. how small they are? Redstarts, Willow Warblers, a Wood Warbler….

wood warbler three (1 of 1)


Eastern Subalpine Warbler – Migration (and rare bird) Magic

Then the ‘what the heck are you doing here’ surprise.

That was a fun garbled message and discussion with Phil C. What a star. Didn’t he do well in a spot we don’t really look hard at.

So why is it an Eastern (thinks me)? We haven’t  heard a call (at least not yet) or recorded any outer tail feather patterns. But, it’s an adult male. It’s already got a rather intense deep blue head more so than you get on Moltoni’s and Western (subtle) in autumn. Critically the underparts at first look are rather white, even silvery, the there is a subtle wash comes into view on the upper breast, weak, hard to make the colour. But stuck right in the middle of the throat and chin is a deep vinaceous-brick spoldge. It’s a dark Eastern Subalpine coloured patch. 🙂  Exactly the kind of colour and distribution of that colour you might expect for an ‘Eastern’. Then (perhaps less should be read into it) but them thar Easterns – even if the colour doesn’t but up to the white malars- so often have big broad long white malars that stand out in the head pattern- just like this one. So the sum of some bits are all very Easternish…

ad male Eastern Subalpine Warbler 900 (1 of 1)


Which is all by way of saying – birds and migration are amazing! These are a little handful of the kinds of things I ruminate on every day. and it thrills me.

I will be spending from Friday to Sunday at Spurn. At  the Third Migration Festival. Loving it!

Give Something Back:

Those three words encapsulate the Spurn Migration Festival. Andy Roadhouse and I conceived the idea several years ago we wanted to give something back. Guiding folk around Spurn we became aware that what had become familiar to us was a huge wow to our visitors. Indeed it was magical- almost like a kind of ‘best kept secret’ in British Birding. So the question was how to share the wonder of Spurn, it’s birds, its wildlife and the extra dimension of phenomenally accessible, very visible migration. As we approach the third festival we do so with great expectations!

Day Trip the Migration Festival

We have similar number of folk to last year booked for the whole weekend. It looks likes plenty are planning to ‘Day Trip’. Highly recommended! Two organisations have done a great job at putting together an overview of th festival with details; Please follow the links (with big thanks):


go >>> HERE <<<

Rare Bird Alert

go >>> HERE <<< 



Best Sites and Best Telly – this weekend!

The Long Good Friday

The spotlight falls on RSPB Bempton Cliffs and its neighbours this Easter, reflecting a quiet revolution of birder-led team efforts up here on the Yorkshire coast

Mark James Pearson (Northern Rustic)

After plenty of hard work and much anticipation, the all-new lip-smackin’ RSPB Bempton Cliffs re-opens this week, on Good Friday, 3rd April.

Coinciding with the relaunch of this most magical of reserves is a BBC Springwatch at Easter special, airing on the very same evening (at 9pm, with a repeat on Easter Sunday at 7pm, both on BBC2).

No doubt the BBC will do a fine job of transmitting the unique sensory overload of Bempton’s seabird city into the nation’s living rooms, resulting in that rarest of rares, an hour well spent in front of the TV

Sunset over Bempton by George Stoyle

Sunset over Bempton by George Stoyle

But what may not be so obvious to those tuning in over the Easter weekend is that the people, groups and projects featured on the show are part of a collective sea change along our beloved stretch of Yorkshire coast of late. Springwatch at Easter is set to showcase not only the drama of Bempton (justifiably taking centre stage) but crucially also the wider area, including both Filey and Flamborough Bird Observatories, as well as Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Living Seas Centre. Thus the show reflects what is, increasingly, very much a team effort these days, with a burgeoning connectivity between our respective manors.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that those involved in the projects highlighted by the programme are genuine, locally-sourced, dyed-in-the-wool conservationists; better still, you’ll be pleased (and maybe surprised) to learn that, perhaps first and foremost, many are straight-up obsessive birders, trying their stuttering best to communicate their passions to wider audiences. No fear, then, of bland script regurgitations and feigned careerist enthusiasm; style over substance is resolutely off the agenda, and (while not wanting to draw attention to any on-screen fashion crimes) I’m happy to report it’s very much the other way round.

At the helm of the Springwatch coverage is RSPB Bempton Cliffs Site Manager Keith Clarkson. Responsible not only for the relaunch of the reserve but also for pulling together the disperate threads that made the programme happen, Keith is also a dedicated lifelong birder and pioneer in the dark art of visible migration. When not overseeing arguably the greatest show in Yorkshire, you’ll find him obsessively vismigging at Hunmanby Gap (in the south of the Filey recording area); if you do, be prepared to discuss the migration strategies of Meadow Pipits as enthusiastically as you would the virtues of toy Puffins in the reserve shop.

Puffins at Bempton by Steve Race

Puffins at Bempton by Steve Race

Most of the other key personnel (perhaps wisely) remained on the more flattering side of the camera. Out on the boat with Keith and Chris Packham was Steve Race, award-winning wildlife photographer, RSPB Bempton Cliff’s Education Officer, and co-director of Yorkshire Coast Nature, a local nature tourism company proudly putting its money where its mouth is by giving back to the places it celebrates – hence the bankrolling of local conservation projects, the sponsoring of the Filey, Flamborough and Yorkshire Bird Reports and plenty more besides.

Behind the scenes of the clifftop spectacle is Bempton’s warden, Dave Aitken; ever-helpful, highly-skilled, obsessively twitchy on the one hand and yet devoted to his adopted patch on the other. Just down the road is Rich Baines, finally seeing the rewards of years of patient toil in the face of indifference and hostility (modestly sharing such mind-blowing rares as Brown Flycatcher along the way); Rich’s dedication to conservation and a more open, welcoming culture at Flamborough are the foundations upon which the Observatory’s recent renaissance are based. Add the infectious enthusiasm of a certain Mr Garner and a growing team of forward-thinking, passionate birders to the mix, and it’s rosier than ever on the Great White Cape.

Breil Nook at Flamborough by George Stoyle

Breil Nook at Flamborough by George Stoyle

Here at Filey, meanwhile, a dynamic and multi-skilled team is ensuring the Observatory is in rude health. Membership is rising steadily (with a faithful hardcore augmented by many new members, including an encouraging percentage of younger people), our network of reserves are in fine fettle, community involvement is now an integral part of our work, and the overhauling and relaunch of our annual report happily received much acclaim recently. We’ve been working closely with RSPB Bempton (monitoring our breeding seabirds, hosting events) and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (at Filey Dams reserve), and we share plenty of skills and knowledge (and more in the near future) with our comrades across the bay at Flamborough Bird Observatory.

The great work being carried out by Kat, Ant and their colleagues at the YWT Living Seas Centre at South Landing, Flamborough is another example of localised collaboration working well. In addition to their day-to-day marine-themed endeavours, they host regular evening talks by special expert guests, maintain an up-to-date wildlife sightings board, and work closely not only with RSPB Bempton, but also with Flamborough Bird Observatory; to this end, they’ll soon be sharing their impressive new premises with FBO’s ringing team – the Observatory’s first ever physical presence, and a testament to the hard work of all parties.

Gannets at Bempton by Steve Race

Gannets at Bempton by Steve Race

Back at Bempton, and the opening of the new Seabird Centre is set to provide a new and much-needed hub for local groups, birding-themed events and activities, hosting talks, workshops and much more (as well as a catering for the more mainstream requirements of a flagship reserve) – a reflection of the focus and intent to keep the birding community very much in the mix at the relaunched reserve. There are many others who deserve a mention here, but space prevents a longer roll of credits.

All of which is worth celebrating; there’s a lot going on, and crucially, it’s all interconnected. Would any of this have happened twenty, ten, or even five years ago? Not likely. Being involved with much of the above, I’ll make no apology for shamelessly cheerleading here; it’s the prevailing mood of collaboration and cross-pollination that makes the groups and projects involved much more than the sum of their parts these days.

So when you tune in to Springwatch at Easter over this coming weekend, hopefully you’ll enjoy the spectacle and get inspired to visit this most awe-inspiring (and easily reached) of Britain’s natural wonders; but it’s also worth bearing in mind that, thanks to the efforts and vision of a dynamic bunch of birder-conservationists, we’ve never had it so good around here.

Come on in, the water’s lovely.

Scandinavian Rock Pipits

littoralis coming into colour at Flamborough

It’s that time of year. Especially at certain locations on Britain’s east and south coasts, on migration flyways inland- those Rock Pipits from further north and east prepare to head off. But before the do some ‘colour-up’. Specifically they flush beautiful tones of peachiness on the underparts and blues on the head, grey on the uppers and lose some of the streaking below. A stronger whitish supercilium appears. Flamborough probably as some figure well into double figures between a North and South Landing flocks. At least 6+ at South landing are showing colours:

Some of ’em are going to get even more colourful before they go.

litoralis srp10 march s (1 of 1) litoralis srp10 march t (1 of 1) litoralis srp10 march v (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march b (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march c (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march g (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march i (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march j (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march k (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march m (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march n (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march o (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march p (1 of 1) littoralis srp10 march  b (1 of 1) littoralis srp10 march  c (1 of 1)



The Redpoll Code

by way of Thank You!

… a personal and quite unofficial THANKS to all who came and took part in theIan Wallace and MG Flamborough Bird Observatory AGM and evening events on Saturday Night. I just really enjoy being a part of all that’s going on. Great community, great birding! There was an excellent turn out. Always a joy to encounter Ian (DIM) Wallace- and I got to put on the legendary ‘Tam o’ shanter/ Balmoral Bonnet’ :).

The AGM brought grateful thanks for lots of hard work and so many advances over the year- new website, new twitter account, new recording system with BTO’s Birdtrack, rare and scarce bird assessment, fantastic conservation work, new partnerships and vision vision vision for the future.

To have folk like Anthony Hurd of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Living Seas Centre and Keith Clarkson of RSPB Bempton reporting so enthusiastically on their new centres and our working together over Flamborough Headland, to the benefit of all the wildlife– bloomin’ marvellous!

So for this who came to my wee talk, and who now know a little of the new ‘Redpoll Code’- you should have no problem identifying these two. I subject- taken at previous Gullfests in Arctic Norway 😉

redpoll 3 (1 of 1)


redpoll 2 (1 of 1)

This Weekend. A guest appearance by…

Ray Scally!

Delighted to say Ray Scally, artist for the Challenge series: AUTUMN will be joining us at Flamborough this Saturday evening at 7:00 pm.

He will be bringing samples of work-in-progress for the new book in the CHALLENGE SERIES.

ALL WELCOME- Hope to see you there!

PS we might dip into, redpolls, auks, Old Flamborough records, new gull stuff, tricky falcons and among other things, predict the drake Steller’s Eider fly-by date 😉

Flamborough AGM 2014 poste


Blasts from the past…

indigo (1 of 1)

ID Challenges

ad male Arctic redpoll a


What next?

drake stellers 2 (1 of 1)

Well we’ll make somebody laugh!!

You’re Invited! Flamborough Bird Observatory

My Personal Invitation to You

(from Martin Garner)

Saturday, 7th March 2015.


Flamborough AGM 2014 poste

“I don’t normally do this, but feelin’ the need to say…”

We are Celebrating!

There’s a special buzz here right now. A bunch of ordinary people  with extra-ordinary vision for working together. On a personal note Sharon and I have found such a warm welcome and genuine open community here. Our family has hugely benefitted from those involved in the well-known organisations locally, like the YWT Living Seas Centre,  the staff at RSPB Bempton, the Yorkshire Coast Nature team, the Thornwick Vision with Green Future Buildings…. sheesh I am easily gonna forget someone.

I want to honour these people and celebrate some great progress this last 12 months. There are also some very juicy looking plans for the future.

So to help do this I am showcasing a whole bunch of new material of bird ID, vagrancy and what might turn up next all part of forthcoming ‘Challenge Series’ books.

So I invite you personally to come along and be part of the party…

Main evening gig start at 7:00pm prompt.

The Observatory AGM starts at 4:30 pm followed by a pre-booked Supper from 6:00pm. Come along to whatever you fancy! Just contact Chrys Mellor for more info (as per poster).