Lashings of seawatching, good birds and ginger beer were the formula for another successful trip to Flamborough Head and the Village of the Damned with Bazzo this weekend.
A drive through the night had us seawatching just before 7am on Friday morning, in fairly calm conditions, a light northerly blowing and very crisp light.
Unfortunately the rain started mid-morning and continued all day, so the wheels fell off somewhat.
Excellent seawatching nonetheless, and while numbers of shearwaters, auks and skuas were all down on previous years, the quality and species range was still there, as we completed two sessions from the cliffs, from 6.30am to 9am and 10am to noon.
Manx Shearwater 6
Red Throated Diver 10
Arctic Skua 16
Pomarine Skua 1
Sooty Shearwater 5
Balearic Shearwater 1
Little Gull 37
Grey Heron 1
Common Scoter 43
Arctic Tern 3
Common Tern 70+
Sandwich Tern 8
The persistent rain drove us off by midday, and as good numbers of Meadow Pipits and Siskins had been going over ahead of the rain earlier, we went to check out South Landing and then the Old Fall Hedge and Plantation.
Whinchat, Wheatear, Tree Pipit, Redstarts, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Spotted Flycatcher and Lesser Whitethroat were among the birds flitting along the hedge and stubble fields in the constant rain - enough to keep you believing that the real biggy was lurking in there somewhere.
However it was time to call it a day and head back to the pub mid-afternoon as the rain was seeping over the top of my boots, and was showing no sign of letting up....
Several hundred beers later and the next morning we rose somewhat unsteadily from our pit in the Ship - a great pub in Flamborough which I heartily recommend, to find it had stopped raining at last, and time for a pre brekkie seawatch.
While the rain stayed off, thick mist drove us off the cliffs at 12.15pm, but we'd had some great birds by then.
Initial seawatch (7am-8am) was fairly quiet, with one or two shears, skuas etc, but after a huge fry up, we returned to the cliffs and met with what can only be described as classic Flamborough birding behaviour.
As we walked down towards the fog horn no less that 8 locals smiled and nodded as they came the other way, some even telling us how their seawatch had gone - strange how none of them remembered to mention the Great Snipe that was hiding in the wet grass less than 100 feet from us..
Luckily one local finally did the decent thing and asked if we knew about the bird - typical Flamboro', some of these guys would make Trappist monks look like a bunch of blabbermouths.
Waiting for the rest of the Flamboro' glitterati to arrive took a good 20 minutes, but the bird was just where two silent types had watched it drop in to the long, wet grasses of the headland set aside - superb views four times as this big fat rarity lumbered slowly into the air showing a cracking wing pattern before pitching down again into the grass.
Only the second one I've seen.
It's future looked to be a series of flushes for the morning so we left and got back to seawatching - and five minutes after sitting down I picked up a Honey Buzzard coming in off the North Sea, one of several that day - Saturday was proving to be a good day...
Red Throated Diver 3
Honey Buzzard 1
Arctic Skua 5
Pomarine Skua 2
Sandwich Tern 60+
Manx Shearwater 6
Sooty Shearwater 10
Common Scoter 80+
Good birding with two nice Poms and Bazzo had a Roseate Tern, which I managed to miss completely, but the mist rolled in on a southerly remarkably quickly just after noon to effectively end all seawatching for the day.
A Little Stint had dropped onto the grassy area by the car park as we were leaving (see pic at top of entry) - more birds on the move.
In the mist the Old Fall Hedge and Plantation, and South Landing held more Pied Flycatchers and Redstarts, Blackcap, squadrons of Whinchats and a few Wheatears.
Murky conditions meant digiscoping was difficult, but the birds were great to just watch anyway, especially in the Old Fall Plantation, where Spot Flys and Pieds were zipping about amongst Willow Warblers and Chiffies all hunting midges.
There was nothing left to do but to prepare for Saturday night in the Village of the Damned, with mucho beer, good scoff and a quite unique performance by none other than the superbly named Bon Jordi, singer extraordinaire (aka Danny McCoy), whose covers of rawk n roll classics had the clientele of the Ship headbanging like it had never gone out of fashion.
Being veterans of his performance the previous year, we both knew that hangovers of stupendous proportions loomed, so it was no surprise that Sunday morning's seawatch was short and sweet, from 7.05am to 8.05am....
Arctic Skua 1
Long Tailed Skua (juv) 1
Red Throated Diver 4
Common Tern 20
Sandwich Tern 12
Walking back up the cliff we met another birder who'd just flushed a Corncrake, but as is typical with this species we couldn't refind it, so went back to the Ship for a restorative breakfast.
A final walk down the Old Fall hedge, and warm sun brought more Redstarts, 2 Tree Pipits, Pied Flys, Whinchats etc before I turned the Baby Black Death west and came back to the relative sanity of home.
Another memorable trip to the Village of the Damned!
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies....