Wykeham… and elsewhere

The intrepid 12 headed east from York just after 7am, on a fairly clear, cold Sunday morning. With a roadside Buzzard the only bird of note on the journey to the coast, we arrived at Filey Country Park not long after 8. Heading along Carr Naze the sound of Skylarks was in the air and a dapper male Reed Bunting sang from near the small pond. Further along, we looked north into the biting wind, noting Guillemots, Fulmars, a couple of Kittiwakes, Gannets and a Razorbill or two. We stopped next at the steps and after descending out of the wind, Jane picked up a seaduck close in off the rocks. Through our scopes, we immediately identified this as the wintering immature drake Surf Scoter! Great stuff! It was starting to become more adult like with a fine white nape, pale eye and reddish tones on the bill. He busily dived for his breakfast before drifting east and out of sight due to the bright sunshine reflecting on the sea. We turned our attention to the shore: Curlew, Knot, Turnstone, Oystercatcher and a couple of Purple Sandpipers, a Filey speciality.

9am and ticket inspection time was approaching, so we quickly headed back to the cars to avoid being caught. We headed for Wykeham Forest noting a male Peregrine powering east over the road near Leberston. We arrived at the head of Troutsdale and formed a rank along the roadside. The early spring weather was glorious, though a chill wind reminded us of the winter we never had. Both Mistle and Song Thrushes sang beautifully and shortly the first shout of ‘raptor’ went up, a male Goshawk which proceeded to put on a fine switchback display over the valley towards Langdale. A number of Buzzards got up and soared around. The original male Gos was shortly joined briefly by a female. Over the southern ridge another female Gos got up doing a bit of slow stiff winged flapping, before soaring round high up into the sky and giving everybody a chance to get on it. Soon there were two birds together. A female Sparrowhawk moved quickly west along the ridge. Another male Gos came across the head of Langdale, seemingly an immature male with clearly buff underparts. So probably five birds and ten or so Buzzards. Two Lesser Black-backed Gulls headed east out of Troutsdale.

We headed up Langdale End and turned off into Langdale Forest looking for the Great Grey Shrike. Sadly despite an extensive search, it failed to perform, though we did find two York birders – Mark and Nigel! A couple of Crossbills chipped about along with one or two Siskins and another pair of Goshawks distantly over Lun Brow. Most unusual was a gelatinous pile of Toad spawn in the grass. The female had not quite made it to the nearby puddle! Lunch called and the snow arrived, so we sheltered inside our cars for a well-earned rest and bite to eat.

Back to the coast via a brief stop at Hackness to look for Mandarins. This failed, but we did see half a dozen Little Grebes and a pair of Tufted Ducks, plus a few common woodland birds: Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Marsh Tit.

Next stop was Scalby Mills, where after worrying that there wasn’t a duck in sight, we went round the corner to find approximately 300 Wigeon loafing on the rough sea. We soon found the smart drake American Wigeon which though showing in the nearest part of the flock, spent most of the time sleeping, only revealing his head a few times. Nevertheless, it was still good viewing, though not quite as exciting as when he chose to visit Castle Howard in the York recording area a few weeks ago!!

Castle Howard was to be our final stop and we wound our way west back into the York area. As is often the case, the Great Lake was covered in birds. A few hundred Wigeon were present, along with six Goosander, an impressive 60 Mute Swans and 68 Goldeneye, 4 male and 3 female Mandarins, two Pochard, c20 Teal and c30 Tufted Duck. Another two Marsh Tits were along the lake edge and a couple of Greenfinches were our only sighting of the day.

We wandered back and headed home after a good, varied Yorkshire day.

Cheers, Jono Leadley