The last few days have been incredibly busy in the birding stakes and have proven both rewarding and frustrating in equal measure. Contrasting greatly to my usual patch based forays, Friday found me embarking on a twitch to Yorkshire where the lovely Natalie Welden (@NatalieACWelden) and I set our sights on two lifers to kick start the new year. First on the cards was a trip to Swillington Ings where a wintering Richard’s Pipit had been showing well just that morning. Dick’s Pipit was a species I had missed on numerous occasions prior to this visit, both at home in Northumberland and while on placement in Scotland so to say I was keen to nab the lanky passerine would be an understatement. Around an hour into our visit things looked rather promising and indeed we found ourselves jumping every time a passerine lifted from the scrub. Though, to start with, our hopes found themselves dashed time and time again. First by a number of Meadow Pipits, then a female Stonechat followed promptly by both Skylark and Reed Bunting doing their best to give us palpatations. Surely it couldn’t be long until the correct bird poked its head above the sedge. Well, sure enough, around fifteen minutes a later a shout from another birder drew our attention to a bird a little further along the shore. Clearly a Pipit of some description but not like one I had ever seen before, lanky and hovering in an almost Skylark-like fashion. Gotcha! Richard’s Pipit in a the bag and a most welcome addition to my measly life list. A more leisurely scan of the reserve on route back to the car later threw up a number of other goodies including Pochard, Goosander, Siskin, Dunlin and large swirling flocks of both Golden Plover and Lapwing. These however only received a passing glance as we dashed back to the car and set off towards our next target on the coast.
Spurred on by our previous success with the Pipit, hopes were definitely running high when we arrived at Filey in search of the immature drake Surf Scoter that has been loitering of late. Though a tad disheartened by the negative news passed on by another pair of birders we soon set about scanning the waves and thankfully were not left wanting as we attempted to relocate the duck. First, a Great Crested Grebe passed by close to shore, as did a couple of Little Gulls. Next, a few Shag were picked up a little further out in the company of a handful of Cormorant and an incredibly distant Auk (no guesses on that front). Fast forward a few minutes and our attentions had wandered somewhat to a Kestrel hunting mere meters from our position, this lapse in concentration did not last long however when I caught sight a “dark duck” surfacing some 100m away . Natalie soon managed to get the scope on the blighter and quickly confirmed that it was in fact the Surf Scoter we had been looking for – Not that the others at the site believed us at first. Youth perhaps? This soon changed however when the bird in question sailed contently past us giving great views and providing my second ‘lifer’ of the day. Pottering back to the car, a handful of tame Turnstones were noted lurking around the carpark but before long it was time to hightail it back to York in order to catch my train North. A great day had all around it seems.