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A great day in East Yorkshire (1 Viewer)

wolfbirder

Well-known member
I try to do a day-trip out once a month, even in the depth of winter. From my midlands base I can literally go in any direction in 3 hours.............North Norfolk, the south-west, coastal Wales, 'up north' including the East Yorkshire coast.

I had been thinking of doing a south-western trip to try and take in the Abingdon Pallas's Warbler, the 'difficult' Baikal Teal, and Penduline Tits nearby. But then I noticed the report of up to 80 Lapland Buntings on the East Yorks coast at Buckton (very close to Bempton Cliffs RSPB). So that took priority as it is years since I have seen them, including a couple of birds at Spurn, one briefly and the other with a damaged eye sadly, then 3 at Happisburgh in Norfolk, but my first ones were 8 difficult birds in tufty grass at Rimac in coastal Lincolnshire many moons ago - they generally always seem to be a tricky species to catch up with, and see well more importantly.

After an 8am departure, even a 40 minute diversion through Doncaster due to the M18 being closed between junctions 2-3 didn't dampen my enthusiasm too much, and I arrived at 11.15am. Weather was overcast but dry with literally no wind, ideal coastal conditions in my opinion even though it was necessary to wrap up reasonably. After parking at the busy Bempton Cliffs RSPB, I walked northward along the coastal path for about half a mile. The cliffs are empty at this time of year except Jackdaws and Rock Doves, though a couple of Fulmars, a couple of lingering Gannets, and a fly-through Red-throated Diver were seen, as well as a flock of 40 Linnets, and a showy pair of Stonechats. After a 15-minute walk I joined a few others 'scoping' ploughed fields immediately inland of the cliff. Up to 80 Lapland Buntings had been reported here the previous day, but I was told a photographer had just flushed them when I arrived. I walked further along and located a large flock of birds which eventually, after several circuits, resettled in the freshly-ploughed fields. These contained around 20 Skylarks, 25 Meadow Pipits, several Rock Pipits, whilst others saw a Corn Bunting and a few Yellowhammers, but there was no sign for anyone of the previous day's Shorelark. But amongst the flock were the prized jewels - I counted a maximum of 27 Lapland Buntings but there were probably considerably more in the divots and ruts of the fields. I watched the buntings closely down to twenty metres at one point, for about an hour. It was akin to sea-watching on a choppy sea, as you constantly refocussed to check movement in an adjoining rut, and after a while it actually made me slightly dizzy and I had to give a break to my increasingly-failing eyes which were struggling to keep up with the constant refocussing. Amongst the Lapland Buntings, were a couple of lovely males developing breeding plumage, with distinctive orange hind-necks and evolving blackish breasts. These were really handsome birds. They sometimes scampered along like Sanderlings on a sandy beach evading the incoming tide. As they ran over inclines and declines in the ruts, it reminded me of a hurdles race as they went up and down, over and onward etc. Having had my fill, I returned to the car to enjoy a hot cup of flask tea and a few chocolate bars. I always eat more when I am birding!

From there I headed the short distance to Tophill Low, off the A164 towards Beverley. Kestrels and Buzzards were seen on the approach road. You obtain a day ticket at the automatic pay machine in the car park (you can pay by credit card or cash). It is years since I had been here and there is an excellent new observation hide near the car park, but the hide keen birders were heading for was the east hide half way along the reservoir. When I got there people were leaving (maybe I didn't wash well enough), so I had to search through the thousands of ducks for the 1stW drake Baikal Teal. I was told it was on the far side to the right with the farmhouse in the background, but very elusive. I had forgotten how difficult this hide was to use, as it was built (like most hides in fact) 'pre-angled scope' era. If you are six-foot tall (as I am) you can stand your scope up but you are crouching low, uncomfortably so in fact, and alternatively if you take a bench seat, the height of the window ledge means you cannot view through your scope so you have to stand a bit, or bring a12-inch pillow to sit on. I compromised by laying my angled Kowa on its side, but this meant you lost any sense of direction. I was joined by several others and for half an hour none of us could find the prize, but I was pleased to relocate it, and then it flew closer to us and landed on the water around 50 metres away. From then on, everyone enjoyed excellent views of the Baikal Teal, which apart from crown colour looked like an adult. Really pleasing views. A pair of Red-Crested Pochard were also present, the male an eye-catchingly, stunning drake (perhaps all drakes are), also a Little Grebe, and plenty of Wigeon, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Coot, Shoveler, Goldeneye, and a few Cormorant, also plenty of gulls but I didn't really go through them (sacrilege some might say). I walked back to the car feeling very content with an excellent days birding and drove home, arriving 7.15pm where I had a curry and a few cans.

I love winter-birding days like this, no lifers involved, but still, there is still something magical about days out like this, for me at least.
 
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Steve Lister

Senior Birder, ex County Recorder, Garden Moths.
United Kingdom
I used to go to Tophill Low before it was a proper reserve, just the two reservoirs and a small pool. This was back in the early 70s when you had to get an annual permit from the water authority and then sign-in in the main building. I have not been at all in the last 15 years - must go back and see how it has been developed.
 

Steve Lister

Senior Birder, ex County Recorder, Garden Moths.
United Kingdom
And regarding Buckton, people might not know that the main birder and ringer there, Mark Thomas of RSPB species protection fame, is producing what promises to be a superb book on The Birds of Buckton. £15 pre-publication offer.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
And regarding Buckton, people might not know that the main birder and ringer there, Mark Thomas of RSPB species protection fame, is producing what promises to be a superb book on The Birds of Buckton. £15 pre-publication offer.
As of last year, Mark of twitchable Green Warbler fame - the latest in a line of good birds - and to think I used to give the lad lifts when he was on the conman course at Farnborough Tech!

John
 

wolfbirder

Well-known member
I used to go to Tophill Low before it was a proper reserve, just the two reservoirs and a small pool. This was back in the early 70s when you had to get an annual permit from the water authority and then sign-in in the main building. I have not been at all in the last 15 years - must go back and see how it has been developed.
Its quite impressive now Steve, I didn't check the main new viewing building, instead scurrying to east Hide. There is an office and wc's, by the car park and a boardwalk past a few feeders through the woods. The approach is just the same, feels like you shouldn't be there but its well signposted. Obviously the lay-out of the pools remains the same.
 

WACCOE

Marching on Together
When I was there last Friday had to vacate the east hide for a bit due an asbestos survey,the hide is going to be dismantle and replaced with one which will have wheel chair access.
 

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