Sunday, 8 January 2017

Michael Clegg Memorial birdrace 2017

I had never done a birdrace before and was looking forward to this one. The idea is to see as many birds in an area as you can over the course of a day. The money raised from this year's birdrace will go towards helping fund 'The English Twite Recovery Project'. The money is raised from sponsership/donations. Recording could start at 00:00 but we decided to start at 0730. In Filey there were two teams, our's consisted of my dad and I and George Day. The team wasn't originally structured like this but one member had to drop out so George came across from the other team to balance out the numbers so there were three on each team in Filey.

We decided to meet at the Dams at 0730 in the hope of getting the Barn Owl, we had no such luck. The darkness also made it a little difficult but as it got lighter we managed to pick out: Blackbird, Moorhen, Robin, Tufted Duck, Crow, Wren, Herring Gull, Teal, Starling and Pheasant. We decided it would probably be more productive to go to the Brigg to get waders and seabirds on the rising tide rather than wait for things at the dams.

We set off towards country park, where we added Black-Headed Gull. Our tactic was to walk along Carr Naze and go down the end onto the Brigg, and then continue to the end and do a brief seawatch. Looking down on Bay Corner we could see Oystercatchers and Redshanks running frantically around on the sand. Looking out over the north cliffs we got Fulmars wheeling around as well as small parties of Shag leaving the cliffs. Suddenly we heard the Oystercatchers fussing over something and we turned around to see a Peregrine dart past east towards the end of the Brigg, it then U-turned and shot back along the north side. We knew there was a long staying Snow Bunting on Carr Naze and this would be a great addition to the list. Walking along, my dad exclaimed that there was a Snow Bunting by mine and George's feet, surely enough there it was. It scuttled along ahead of us and retreated into the long grass. Unfortunately with the morning light remaining poor I couldn't manage any good shots but it was still an amazing bird to see close up. In the same area were both Rock Pipits and a single Meadow Pipit. As we got out to the end of Carr Naze we stopped and looked for a moment and picked up a few Cormorants and Red-Throated Divers. As the morning continued many more Red-Throats materialised and there were an estimated 170 in the Bay with a further 50 seen by us in the Brigg area.

The first birds we saw actually on the Brigg were Turnstones and a lone Curlew. The bay itself looked virtually empty with just a smattering of RT Divers. However as we watched, things started to appear. The first of which being a Great-Northern Diver off the Brigg with Red-Throats, a few minutes later another also flew north. Also off the end of the Brigg was a female Eider, a female Common Scoter, a Great-Crested Grebe, a few Great Black-Backed Gulls and a few Common Gulls. Hundreds of Guillemots and quite a few Razorbills were moving through with many landing on the cliffs. Out at the end we got a couple of Purple Sandpipers too. On return we walked alongside Carr Naze to go back up the steps on the side and we saw a few Knot, a Grey Heron, and a small flock of Goldfinch. Finally on Carr Naze pond was a pair of Mallard. we could see a bank of fog rolling in and we were glad we had got seawatching done even though we hadn't manage to see any Gannets.

Our next move was to walk along North Cliff to the Tip. We all had hopes of finding something like a Lapland Bunting in the mist but in reality we found a Skylark, a Magpie and a few Rock (Feral) Pigeons.

Once we got to the Tip we were in need of a few additions. In the fields we found a small gathering of Grey Partridge as well as two Snipe. Also in the same area were Dunnock, Reed Bunting, Woodpigeon and Blue tits. Leaving the Tip we entered Parish Woods. There was quite a lot of activity in the top of the woods with lots of Linnets, Tree Sparrows, Chaffinches, Great tits and singles of both Bullfinch and Greenfinch. As we got closer to the houses two House Sparrows also appeared. To get back to the car quickly we opted to walk back through the outskirts of Filey rather than back along the rather unproductive North Cliff. This paid off as we managed to add Collared Dove, Jackdaw and Rook. We then re-entered country park and went into church ravine, slightly in the hope of a Tawny Owl in the trees. We didn't manage to spot an Owl but did get two Chiffchaffs and a Sparrowhawk.

After a bite to eat we decided that we would venture into the south end of the FBOG recording area to Primrose Valley in the hope of some Geese and possibly a Grey Wagtail. Once we got to Primrose Valley we first drove past the lake to look for woodland birds but did not see anything we had not seen previously in Filey. On return to the lake we spotted the local goose flock. There were lots of Canada Geese, lots of Greylag geese and a single Barnacle Goose. Also in the vicinity was a Great Spotted Woodpecker and some Siskin.

After the success at Primrose Valley we went a little further south to 'the Bay' holiday village to see if we could find a Little Grebe on the pools, we had no luck there but we did stumble across the highlight of the day. 10 Waxwings which flew SW at just above head-height calling, a perfect view but typically I didn't have my camera ready.  In the gorse nearer the cliffs we also came across a Woodcock and a Kestrel. After this we headed to Reighton Sands to try and get Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and Sanderling but failed with all three.

Driving back to Filey was odd as you could actually see Filey as we were on the road above a blanket of thick fog. We knew finding stuff in this would be a nightmare and we were glad we had got our seawatching out of the way! We decided to head to East Lea. In the reeds at the back of the dams was a Coot and a flock of Long-Tailed Tits. On East Lea itself were presumably large numbers of Wigeon though we could only see a fraction of them (the rest were quite audible). A Shoveler also drifted out of the mist. It turns out that due to the visibility we had missed Lapwing and Dunlin.

We were now a little stuck for ideas we needed some common stuff such as Coal Tit, Grey Wagtail and Gannet. Keith Clarkson had advised we went to Reighton water treatment works. Surely enough once there we found a Grey Wagtail. After this we went back to the Dams. We couldn't see anything. We were about to leave when a Water Rail started calling from the back reeds. This left us on 72 species. We missed a lot of common stuff (Coal Tit, Gannet, Song Thrush, etc.) but we had a great time. We did get more than the other team (65) and I wonder how we fared against the likes of Scarborough...
Snow Bunting - Carr Naze
Purple Sandpiper - Brigg
Waxwing - The Bay / Hunmanby Gap
Grey Heron
Feral Barnacle Goose (with Canadas) - Primrose Valley


  1. An excellent post mate. I did a bird race today in the south of my county, Northamptonshire, ending on 73 species which isnt bad considering the fog and having no big bodies of water. We think we may have won but who knows until the big reveal. Our best bird was Merlin I should think. As I said before, great blog post.

  2. Great post Will, it sounds like great fun! Can't wait to go to Filey this year.

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