2018 – The Birding Year

With its fantastic mix of habitats and exceptional geographical position for migratory birds, Filey is a very special place to enjoy and study birdlife, and 2018 was no different. Here’s a quick look back over another great twelve months in the FBOG recording area.

Early winter was characterised by cold-weather movements (birds fleeing plunging temperatures and harsher conditions on the continent or inland), with flocks of up to 26 White-fronted Geese among our feral Greylags and Canadas in January (with plenty of Pink-footed Geese also on the move). Up to 30 Snow Buntings graced Carr Naze in the same period, with Waxwings recorded on six dates, peaking with four on 8th. In the bay, Great Northern Divers were a regular treat, with up to 210 Red-throated Divers, while over the sea, odd Velvet Scoters and Northern ‘Blue’ Fulmars were noted.

Fieldfare, Filey town (Mark Pearson)

February saw a similar cast of specialities, with a Velvet Scoter wintering in the bay and odd Snow Buntings on Carr Naze, but the big story was the Beast From The East, which brought lots of winter visitors to our area – including many hundreds of Fieldfares as well as Redwings, Skylarks, Snipe and Lapwings. A Water Pipit at East and the Dams and a Black Redstart at Hunmanby Gap were notable too.

Common Snipe, Dams (Mark Pearson)

Things quietened down a bit in March, although a Great Egret over the Dams on 9th, a Red-necked Grebe in the bay on 11th, a Long-eared Owl over Muston roundabout on 25th and a Black Redstart in the churchyard on 17th kept things ticking over until April, when spring migration really picked up. A Nuthatch on 19th was a real local rarity, while at least four Firecrests made it an excellent month for this species. Several Ring Ouzels, Red Kites, Ospreys, Mandarins, Black Redstarts, Marsh Harriers and Little Egrets were also recorded, and five Bottlenose Dolphins were off the Brigg on 5th.

Red-necked Grebe, bay (Mark Pearson)

May provided further highlights including a Hawfinch on 1st and a Hen Harrier on 4th, as well as another Firecrest and Long-eared Owl; several Little Terns, Hobbies and Marsh Harriers also moved through before another Osprey enlivened a quiet June. A Spoonbill at the Dams on 5th and two Long-tailed Ducks in the bay on 1st were July’s bird highlights, although five White-beaked Dolphins, several Minke Whales and a White-letter Hairstreak butterfly were just as exciting!

Roseate Tern, Brigg (Mark Pearson)

The Dams was often the place to be in August, with a brilliant variety of waders (including Wood and Curlew Sandpipers and a Spotted Redshank among many commoner species) and a Bittern on 28th, while over the sea, several Yellow-legged Gulls, Black and Roseate Terns and Balearic Shearwaters were noted. Minke Whales were regularly seen, peaking at an impressive five on 9th.

Balearic Shearwater, Brigg (Mark Pearson)

September was generally quiet for landbirds with the wonderful exception of a Nightjar, which took up residence in a small garden in the middle of town for several nights mid-month! More Black and Roseate Terns made it a great year for both species, with Whooper Swans and Pink-footed Geese on the move overhead by mid-month as well as another Osprey, several Kingfishers (Dams and Brigg), the odd Long-tailed Skua among commoner cousins and several more Balearic Shearwaters, Velvet Scoters and a Red-necked Grebe over the sea.

Kingfisher, Brigg (Mark Pearson)

Always the most hotly anticipated month, October started perfectly with Black Guillemot, a pair of Slavonian Grebes (plus two more later in the month) and a Hawfinch in the first few days, followed by the (belated) first of many Yellow-browed Warblers on 7th and lots of action leading up to and throughout Ringing and Migration Week, characterised by some huge arrivals of migrants from Scandinavia and beyond. Thousands of winter thrushes peaked with 3600 Redwings on 16th, Yellow-browed Warblers and Ring Ouzels were particularly numerous, and Brambling counts were unprecedented – with hundreds of new arrivals on several days!

Brambling, Top Scrub (Mark Pearson)

39 Pintail north on 19th was another day record with an Avocet on the beach on the same day and a Hen Harrier through the Gap on the next. A northerly blow meant great seawatching at the end of the month, with a Leach’s Storm-petrel and 26 Pomarine Skuas past the Brigg on 26th and 32 Poms and a Glaucous Gull past the Gap on 27th, daily Little Auks, and more and more owls arriving over the sea – ten Short-eared and three Long-eared in 48 hours alone!

Long-eared Owl, Top Scrub (Mark Pearson)

The best was yet to come, however, with a beautiful snowy Coues’s Arctic Redpoll caught by the ringing team on 29th – with Water Pipit, Waxwing, Long-tailed Ducks, Velvet Scoters, Great Northern Divers, Red-necked Grebe, Mealy Redpolls and more relegated to back-up on the same day!

Coues’s Arctic Redpoll, Top Scrub (Mark Pearson)

November started well with Rough-legged Buzzard, Waxwing and Firecrest in the first week and continued with a Richard’s Pipit over the Gap, Black-throated Diver and Red-necked Grebe hanging around in the bay and Snow Buntings on Carr Naze, but the real highlight was our second national rarity of the year – a Pallid Swift over the Brigg on 13th.

Pallid Swift, Brigg (Mark Pearson)

The rest of the month, and December, has continued the quality, with long-staying Black Guillemot, Long-tailed Duck, Black-throated and Great Northern Divers in the bay, Kingfishers at the Dams and the Brigg, wonderfully tame Snow Buntings on Carr Naze and an influx of White-fronted Geese – completing the annual cycle perfectly!

Male Snow Bunting, Carr Naze (Mark Pearson)

Words and pictures – Mark James Pearson