It is with great sadness to report that Martin Garner passed away yesterday. Martin inspired so many people both in the birding community and beyond. Many of you will know Martin was a very active member of the obs, sitting on the committee as recorder several years ago and always helping to raise the profile of the obs. He will be greatly missed.
The observatory AGM was held on the 11th March at Bridlington Links Golf Club and was very well attended with over 35 members present. After an excellent buffet, there followed a truly mesmerising talk by Paul Stancliffe of the BTO entitled ‘Tracking Technology – let the birds tell their story’.
It was announced at this meeting that our long-standing secretary Chrys Mellor would be stepping down after eight years and we thank her greatly for her hard work, patience and diligence over this time. Chrys has vowed to take more of her excellent Puffin pictures now she has so much more free time.
Our new secretary is Tony Hood and his contact details are: 9 Hartendale Close, Flamborough, East Yorkshire, YO15 1PL. Tel: 07876022951 or email: email@example.com
New Committee Members:
The new recorder for east of the dykes is Andrew Hood and any sightings and records should be sent to the firstname.lastname@example.org . We would like to thank the former recorder Neil Parker for all his hard work and wish him well.
Treasurer: Max Webber is stepping down and Jo Hood taking over. We wish Max and his wife Paula all the best for their move to Aberdeen! Jo’s email is: email@example.com
A date for your diary: the 2018 AGM will be on Saturday 10th March at The Bridlington Links Golf Club.
On 1st April, an observatory work party convened at Old Fall Plantation to do some general tidying, including removing tree guards, some lower branch removal to let light into the pond area and making log piles for insects; which in turn are vital for the tired and hungry migrants making landfall.
If you were lucky enough to find a rarity on the headland last year and haven’t yet submitted your description, our rarity committee are waiting to hear from you. All your submissions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
All records pertaining to national rarities are submitted to the British Birds Rarities Committee (BBRC) prior to publication within this Report. A list of species for which descriptions are required by BBRC is available at www.bbrc.org.uk. Similarly, claims for species requiring a description at county level are all submitted to Yorkshire’s Bird Section Adjudication Panel; the list of species requiring a description in addittion to those listed on the BBRC website is as follows:
- Taiga Bean Goose
- Black Brant
- American Wigeon
- Ferruginous Duck
- Surf Scoter
- White-billed Diver
- Wilson’s Storm-petrel
- Black-crowned Night Heron
- Cattle Egret
- Purple Heron
- European Honey-buzzard
- Black Kite
- White-tailed Eagle
- Montagu’s Harrier
- Rough-legged Buzzard
- Golden Eagle
- Red-footed Falcon
- Kentish Plover
- American Golden Plover
- White-rumped Sandpiper
- Buff-breasted Sandpiper
- Ring-billed Gull
- Kumlien’s Gull
- White-winged Black Tern
- Alpine Swift
- Short-toed Lark
- Red-rumped Swallow
- Tawny Pipit
- Olive-backed Pipit
- Red-throated Pipit
- Aquatic Warbler
- Marsh Warbler
- Melodious Warbler
- Dartford Warbler
- Subalpine Warbler
- Greenish Warbler
- Radde’s Warbler
- Dusky Warbler
- Siberian Chiffchaff
- Woodchat Shrike
- Red-billed Chough
- Arctic Redpoll
- Parrot Crossbill
- Cirl Bunting
- Rustic Bunting
- Little Bunting
In addition, there are several species which are rare within the local context and these require describing in order to feature within the Flamborough annual Report. Such species include Great White Egret, Caspian Gull, Spotted Crake, Corncrake, Bee-eater, Nightjar, Woodlark, Richards Pipit and Golden Oriole.Copies of rarity descriptions and a list of sightings made by visiting birders will be greatly appreciated and will be acknowledged in future Reports.
On 8th July a work party was held at Thornwick Pools, which included clearing the overgrown paths and the pool margins to create muddy edges which the waders prefer as a feeding habitat. Also some hide maintenance was carried out, including re-waterproofing the photopod, so that members can now sit in comfort in order to capture the brilliant images that grace our blog and social media.
Further work carried out included the spraying the Marestail; this was done by an approved contractor with a specific herbicide which only ‘attacks’ the targeted vegetation and is safe for an aquatic environment. This has also necessitated the lowering of the water levels whilst the work was done and whilst the plant dies off, but it has meant for some terrific views of waders near the photopod.
On 15th July, the annual Moth and Storm-petrel ringing evening took place at South Landing. Organised by the East Yorkshire RSPB Local Group,with assistance by Yorkshire Naturalists Union Lepidopterist recorder, the East Yorkshire Ringing Group and FBO, including significant promotion via social media.
A great evening was enjoyed by 85 people. Introductory talks were given by Ana Cowie of YWT and Andrew Lassey of East Yorkshire Ringing Group/FBO. As well as the many moths caught, two Storm-petrels were caught; with the first one at 1am, so a late night all round.
A big thank you to Ana Cowie of YWT for hosting the event in Ant’s absence; also to the keen moth-ers Ian Marshall, Peter Dunn, Mike Pearson, Keith Barrow ,Gill Reid and Lenora Bruce. Another big thank you to Sal Cooke, Brett Richards and Andrew Lassey for the petrel ringing.
Our first ever members night.
And what a night it was! With huge thanks to all of our members who turned up and helped contribute to such an enjoyable and memorable evening. A talk by our chairman Craig Thomas kicked off events, with his personal perspective on birding the Yorkshire coast and especially at Flamborough, including a sneak peak of the revised plans for the seawatching hide.
Then with people enjoying and sharing the supper brought with them and by others, we launched into our raffle. The latter hosted by John Beaumont and ably assisted by Jo Hood, with many fantastic prizes from local businesses, members and a host of very generous birding and wildlife companies. The raffle raised over £500 for obs funds, so was a great social and financial success.
Finally, there was the launch of the new FBO branded clothing range. As the pictures show, the members couldn’t wait to try these on, with many of our stock items being snapped up and a book full of orders. As ever, many thanks to Ant of the Living Seas Centre for the use of the venue and all the help setting up.
2016 Flamborough Bird Report published
It includes: a summary of the sightings of all the bird species recorded on the Flamborough headland in 2016, including Bempton Cliffs RSPB; a gallery featuring stunning colour photos of some of the rarest and most spectacular birds to ever arrive at Flamborough; detailed breeding bird survey of Bempton Cliffs RSPB – find out what is happening to our Gannets, Guillemots, Razorbills, Puffins and Kittiwakes.
2016 Reports are available to non-members for only £10.00 (+ £2.00 p&p). Please contact Tony Hood for further details.
Our inaugural Ringing and Migration week
In mid-October, the observatory teamed up with Filey Bird Observatory and Scarborough Birders to host a series of free events along the Yorkshire coast. These included daily ringing demonstrations and guided walks designed to give visitors a taste of autumn migration. Often an exciting time of year, relentless westerly winds stalled substantial immigration from the east, although a Yellow-browed Warbler on the first morning was a great start. Many of the events took place at the Living Seas Centre and included a talk by Yoav Perlman on the wonders of migration through Israel.
As you can see from the programme below that it is chockablock with events on both sites from daily ringing to guided walks to an amazing list of talks by some of the areas leading birders. FBO will also have a pop up shop at the Living Seas Centre for most days of this week with our range of clothing and reports for sale and to hopefully entice more new members to the fold.
An Auction and Social Night extravagansa
A superb evening began with live music from FBO house band The Headlanders who provided an acoustic set of blues, folk and popular hits; the Discovery Room in the Living Seas Centre was rocking!
There was also a special guest appearance from our President Ian Wallace, who came from his Midlands home just for the evening. He was also kind enough to sign many pieces of his wonderful artwork that we had for sale.
The main event was the auction, with many amazing lots from birding companies, artists and members alike. Our auctioneer, John Beaumont, who had been doing his research by watching Flog It, was ably assisted by Karen Bradley. With John’s mallet ringing out the winning bids, we managed to raise an amazing £980 for obs funds; sincere thanks to the bidders for this. The aforementioned Wallace artwork raised £170 which will provide our growing ringing team with new FBO branded ringing smocks and new nets – hopefully to be filled with loads of migrants come spring.
Members celebrated 2017 with an end-of-year meal at the North Star. A 12 month period that produced: an almost doubling in membership; publication of two Bird Reports; three extremely successful social events; several well-attended conservation working parties; and the inaugural Ringing & Migration week.
Holmes Gut Work Party
Members of the YWT and the Bird Observatory working together to clear gorse from encroaching into the chalk grassland areas of Holmes Gut. Whilst the Exmoor ponies do a great job, they need a little assistance now and again. Hopefully a Wryneck will appreciate that bare ground in spring.
The 2018 observatory AGM was held on 10th March at Bridlington Links Golf Club. Despite roads near Bempton rendered impassable by flooding, a creditable 26 members braved the elements.
There were no changes to either the officers or the members of the working groups. In addition, it was pleasing to report that the finances at the end of 2017 were in robust health, despite the observatory publishing both the 2014/15 and 2016 Reports during a 12 month period. The compilation of the 2017 Report has recently been completed and is due at the designer/printer before the month-end. Clearly the surge in membership helped improve the financial position, with an incredible 60 new members joining over the course of the year.
Attendees were shown detailed plans for the seawatch shelter; the latter now having been granted planning permission by East Riding Council. Construction will take place during autumn, once the seabird breeding season has finished. This success is due to the hard work of a dedicated team, with special thanks also due to the Garganey Trust, Green Future Building and Salts Architects.
The future of ringing on the headland also looks rosy, with an increase in both trained and trainee ringers able to benefit from our ringing lab within the Living Seas Centre, South Landing. In excess of 2000 birds were ringed during 2017; all this within a year lacking easterlies and substantial arrivals of migrants.
Thanks is due to Ali Barrett, Site Manager of RSPB Bempton Cliffs, who gave an excellent presentation on the population fluctuations of our local seabirds. The results of the full census in 2017 proved enlightening, as was the evidence of where these birds are feeding, revealed by tagging studies.
Following an excellent buffet, the evening ended with a quiz genially hosted by our Ringer-in-Chief Jim Morgan.
As part of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust ‘Puffin Festival’, the observatory held two seawatch events at the Fog Station on 26th/27th May.
There was a fantastic response from the public, with 227 people attending, all of whom were able to enjoy fantastic views of Puffins at close range. Other seabirds seen during the morning included Black-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Manx Shearwater and Bonxie. Thanks to our members who helped make this event such a success, particularly our secretary Tony Hood.
2017 Flamborough Bird Report published
It includes a summary of all the birds seen on Flamborough in 2017, including RSPB Bempton Cliffs; a gallery featuring stunning colour photos of the year’s highlights; and a selection of stunning colour artwork from some of the UK’s best wildlife artists.
In addition, it includes a detailed breeding bird survey from Bempton Cliffs RSPB – find out what is happening to our Gannets, Guillemots, Razorbills, Puffins and Kittiwakes; a detailed breeding survey of YWT’s cliff top reserve; and a detailed account of the adult Black-browed Albatross that visited RSPB Bempton Cliffs in summer 2017.
2017 Reports are available to non-members for only £12.00 (+ £2.00 p&p). Please contact Tony Hood for further details.
On 7th July, an observatory ‘work party’ undertook vegetation control at Thornwick Pools, clearing paths to the hides and improving sight lines from them. A great turn-out was rewarded by a group of 14 Dunlin and two Little Ringed Plovers dropping in to inspect the works – hopefully the start of much more to come.
The inaugural Observatory BBQ took place at the Living Seas Centre on Saturday 11th August. Just shy of 30 members enjoyed a great social evening and, despite the heatwave having ended, the weather was kind.
Sales from our Book Store and clothing range (hats & caps now available) helped raise funds towards the Seawatch Observatory appeal.
As part of our efforts to secure funding for the construction of the new ‘seawatching observatory’, we are very pleased to announce ‘An evening with Dr Robert ‘Bob Flood: Shearwater Identification‘. Bob is a leading expert on seabird identification, the author of several multimedia publications on the topic and synonymous with Scilly pelagics.
The evening on 29th September 2018 will also feature an auction to further raise funds. Booking is essential and tickets can be purchased from our secretary, Tony Hood.
Over 80 people were captivated by Bob Flood’s highly entertaining and informative talk on shearwater identification, held at the Bridlington Links Golf Clubhouse on 29th September. Concentrating on separating Barolo’s, Boyd’s and Manx Shearwaters, together with Short-tailed from Balearic and Sooty Shearwaters, the evening illustrated cutting edge technologies and identification criteria.
This was followed by an auction to raise funds for our proposed Seawatch Observatory. As a result of generous gifts from companies and birders alike, we managed to raise an amazing £3281. Click here for further details and how you can help our FBO SEAWATCH OBSERVATORY APPEAL.
Many thanks to all who donated so generously and, once again, for Bob Flood for such an enjoyable evening.
‘Migweek 2018’ had it all – ringing demonstrations, guided walks, an optics ‘drop in ‘ event and a series of inspiring presentations, all topped off by the privilege of watching Darren Woodhead ‘Painting from Life’ at the Living Seas Centre. Several hundred visiting birders were inspired by talks on topics as varied as visible migration, the ‘Champions of the Flyway’ and birding RSPB Bempton Cliffs and Flamborough.
Even the weather relented and gave us migrant-inducing conditions for almost the first time this autumn – and the birds obliged, turning up en masse. Highlights included two Olive-backed Pipits, a Little Bunting, two Great White Egrets, a Dotterel, a long-staying Barred Warbler, four Waxwing, a Hawfinch and daily maxima of: 22 Yellow-browed Warblers, 10,350 Redwing, 1210 Fieldfare, 910 Song Thrush, 31 Ring Ouzels, 560 Tree Sparrows and 125 Brambling.
During the week, 435 birds of 30 different species were rung, including: seven Yellow-browed Warblers, 78 Blackbirds, 34 Song Thrush, 55 Redwing, 15 Blackcap, seven Chiffchaff, 16 Goldcrests, 74 Tree Sparrows and three Lesser Redpolls.
The 2019 AGM, held on 16th March at Buckton & Bempton village hall, was attended by 43 members.
It was pleasing to report that observatory finances were in robust health. This, despite the recent completion of our most ambitious ever project: the Seawatch Observatory build was completed in November 2018, with an official opening scheduled for summer 2019.
The compilation of the 2018 Report had been completed, with publication expected during May. A total of 244 species were recorded at Flamborough during 2018, although there were no additions to the list. Membership continues to grow, with in excess of 200 members (215) for the first time. Increased ringing effort had been rewarded with a record tally of birds (2928 individuals of 61 species), despite both spring and autumn passage periods being relatively quiet for migrants.
Particularly thanks are due to Ant Hurd from YWT’s Living Seas Centre who provided an update on the exciting local projects that YWT staff are working. In addition, Saskia Wischnewski from the RSPB gave an excellent presentation on the latest seabird tracking information facilitated by recent technology advances.
Following the loss of Fair Isle Bird Observatory to a devastating fire earlier in the month, the membership undertook a raffle to aid their rebuild costs: £615 was raised on the evening, a magnificent effort by all present.
Following food and drinks, the evening ended with an excellent and entertaining live acoustic session by John Law and Sharon Garner, who had very kindly travelled from Spurn.
Flamborough Spring Wildlife weekend
Following the success of our October Migweek, the observatory organised a Spring Wildlife weekend over 4th-6th May. A series of events were designed to engage both the local and visitor community with all things Flamborough wildlife.
Despite challenging weather conditions, the events were a collective success: a bat and moth evening complemented ringing demonstrations, an all day seawatch that included bit-sized introductory sessions for the less-experienced, as well as an excellent and inspiring talk by Keith Clarkson on the wonders of visible migration. In addition, Puffin-watching sessions organised adjacent to the new Seawatch Observatory were attended by over 200 visitors.
2019 Yorkshire Puffin Festival
For the second year running, Flamborough Bird Observatory helped Yorkshire Wildlife Trust ensure this weekend event was a great success. Based on the cliff top adjacent to our new Seawatch Observatory, we set up telescopes to show visitors frame-filling views of breeding Puffins sat outside their burrows.
Over the course of two three-hour sessions on 15th/16th June, we managed to show 260 visitors their first ever telescope views of the birds. In addition, 12 Grey Seals gave great views loafing on the reefs below the cliffs, whilst myriad breeding seabirds were augmented by passing Sandwich Terns.
2018 Flamborough Bird Report published
… a summary of all the birds seen on Flamborough during the year, including all sightings from RSPB Bempton Cliffs; a 24 page-long gallery featuring stunning colour photos of the year’s highlights; and a selection of stunning colour artwork from some of the UK’s best wildlife artists.
In addition, it includes a detailed breeding bird survey from Bempton Cliffs RSPB – find out what is happening to our Gannets, Guillemots, Razorbills, Puffins and Kittiwakes – and a detailed breeding survey of YWT’s cliff top reserve.
2018 Reports are available to non-members for only £15.00 (+ £2.00 p&p). Please contact Tony Hood for further details; also available at YWT’s Living Seas Centre or RSPB Bempton Cliffs.
No finer example of the Yorkshire Bird Observatories working together – Spurn kindly accommodating our stall at their fantastic 2019 Migfest event.
Migweek 2019 proved our most successful to date.
Over 400 people attended ringing events and guided walks at RSPB Bempton Cliffs, the outer head and South Landing. Our experienced ringing team were able to demonstrate the miracles of migration, including showing assembled visitors a few Yellow-browed Warblers. However, a Pallas’s Warbler at RSPB Bempton Cliffs proved to be the star bird.
A total of 1012 birds caught & ringed by the Flamborough Observatory Ringing Group, with 282 at RSPB Bempton Cliffs and 730 east of the Dykes. The migration walks were well attended by up to 40 people; even in the rain, over 12 hardy souls were guided around the headland by our experienced members.
Each evening talk was fully booked covering ar range of subjects, including Urban gulls, Magic of Spurn, Migration journeys, Flamborough’s Seashore and Marine life, the fascinating story of tracking migrants using BTO technology. Finally, the fantastic Martin Garner talk by Jack Ashton-Booth covered his 20 years experience of studying raptors.
Following the recent very wet spell of weather, members blew away seasonal excesses by constructing a much-needed all weather access track to Thornwick Pools. The aggregate was kindly supplied by Bourne Leisure.
Following the government’s announcement on Sunday 10th May 2020, we would like to confirm that our Seawatch Observatory and Thornwick Country Park (including Thornwick Pools and associated hides) remain closed until further notice. In addition, we have regrettably cancelled this year’s Spring Migration weekend.
Governmental advice now states “You can exercise outside as often as you wish and you can also sit and rest outside – exercise or recreation can be alone, with members of your household, or with one other person from outside your household, while keeping two metres apart at all times. You may drive to outdoor publicly accessible open spaces irrespective of distance, but should follow social distancing guidance whilst you are there.” (gov.uk website, 13th May 2020).
Please pay careful attention to the wording on the Government’s website here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/staying-alert-and-safe-social-distancing/staying-alert-and-safe-social-distancing#visiting-public-places
”To ensure people are social distancing, the government has prohibited by law all public gatherings of more than two people’’ (gov.uk website, 13th May 2020). Please consider this statement and how necessary it is for you to travel or twitch, bearing in mind that Flamborough’s birding sites are often popular with tourists.
Brown Shrike 12th-14th May 2020
During the afternoon of 12th May, a Flamborough Bird Observatory member discovered a shrike whilst walking along the coastal path. Unsure whether the bird was a female Red-backed, he circulated an image on our closed Whatsapp group: it was soon clear the bird was a Brown Shrike.
A few local members visited the location and eventually relocated the bird. The shrike frequented thick scrub between two fairways on a golf course. Due to the lockdown, the course was still shut on 12th so it was easy to maintain social distance to view the bird safely. However, golfing was due to resume the following day, precluding viewing from the fairway edge. Anyone hoping to watch the bird would be restricted to observing from the narrow cliff top path, effectively blocking it for potential users.
The following government advice was consulted which states: ‘You can exercise outside as often as you wish and you can also sit and rest outside – exercise or recreation can be alone, with members of your household, or with one other person from outside your household, while keeping two metres apart at all times. You may drive to outdoor publicly accessible open spaces irrespective of distance, but should follow social distancing guidance whilst you are there. You should plan ahead to ensure that, where you are visiting places like National Parks, you have checked that they are open and appropriately prepared for visitors.’ (gov.uk website, 13th May 2020).
In our opinion, even a relatively small crowd would inevitably contravene this guidance given the limited viewing opportunities. The alternative would be for birders to step onto the golf course edge, potentially causing conflict with golfers from the local community. As with all bird observatories, maintaining a positive relationship between the obs and the local community is of paramount importance. We rely on the goodwill of local landowners and the Council for our access and conservation initiatives; jeopardising this relationship was not something we could countenance.
It was with reluctance that we decided to keep the news within the membership and asked them to refrain from propagating the news on social media. The presence of the shrike unfortunately leaked out the following morning. I contacted both national rare bird news providers to request that information be withheld. Both provided very polite and thorough responses; Birdguides very kindly agreed to withhold news. The shrike was last seen on 14th May.
Suffice to say, the last few days have proved to be very trying. Effectively we felt forced to suppress the news of a national rarity, albeit one that is now a more regular visitor. Indeed, this was the third Brown Shrike to have visited Flamborough, with the first in 2008 widely twitched from far and wide. Over the last 20 years, the headland has managed to accommodate several significant twitches including Baikal Teal, Crag Martin, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Brown Flycatcher (twice), Taiga Flycatcher and Black-headed Bunting (twice). We very much look forward to hosting many more, provided we can do so without jeopardising the health of our local community or our relationship with residents, landowners and local businesses.
2019 Flamborough Bird Report now available
… a summary of all the birds seen on the headland during the year, including: sightings from RSPB Bempton Cliffs; a 22 page-long colour photo gallery; and a selection of stunning colour artwork from some of the UK’s best wildlife artists.
In addition, it includes a detailed breeding bird survey from Bempton Cliffs RSPB – find out what is happening to our Gannets, Guillemots, Razorbills, Puffins and Kittiwakes. For invertebrate enthusiasts, the Report summarises 2019’s Butterfly, Moth and Dragonfly records.
2019 Reports are available to non-members for only £15.00 (+ £2.00 p&p). Please contact Tony Hood for further details.