Birdwatch: Lightweight pilots make rough journey for winter respite

Thousands of goldcrests have arrived on the Yorkshire coast. They each weigh less than a quarter of an ounce.
Thousands of goldcrests have arrived on the Yorkshire coast. They each weigh less than a quarter of an ounce.
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THE FIRST snows of the autumn in Eastern Europe have resulted in more birds arriving along the Yorkshire coast. Among them have been many thousands of goldcrests, each weighing in at less than a quarter of an ounce.

In the past it was decided that to reach here goldcrests needed to hitch a ride in the feathers of larger birds and they were given the old name of ‘woodcock pilot’ because both birds arrive here at about the same time.

But recoveries in Britain of goldcrests ringed in summer in Russia, Poland, Finland, Norway and Sweden prove that they come here in winter from a huge area and recoveries in Europe of goldcrests ringed here in winter prove that they also make the return journey, two flights over open seas for much of the way.

Some of the goldcrest’s slightly larger and more brightly coloured cousins, firecrests, have been reported, with up to five in the Spurn area, four at Flamborough and one at Filey while there have been more arrivals of redwings, fieldfares, bramblings, short and long-eared owls and woodcocks.

Spurn has continued its incredible run of rare birds starting with two juvenile American golden plovers seen on the Kilnsea Wetland this week.

American golden plovers breed in the far north of Canada and Alaska, and spend the winter on grasslands in central and southern South America. With such a long migration it is inevitable that a few are blown off course across the Atlantic in September and October.

A Radde’s warbler and red-flanked bluetail were caught by ringers at Kilnsea on Sunday and other sightings included a bluethroat, great grey shrike, two Richard’s pipits, a Pallas’s warbler, Siberian chiffchaff and black redstart.

The red-flanked bluetail was still there the next day. Another was seen in South Landing, Flamborough. Also seen at Flamborough were a bluethroat at Thornwick Bay, a great grey shrike at the edge of the golf course, Siberian stonechat and two red-breasted flycatchers.

More yellow-browed warblers arrived but in smaller numbers than recently.

Evidence is emerging of an east-west migration across England with a bird ringed at Gibraltar Point on the Lincolnshire coast, re-caught seven days later in the Nanjizal Valley near Land’s End, one of an increasing number of yellow-browed warblers now in Cornwall.

Will an English ringed one now turn up in Europe, more proof of an alternative western migration route for yellow-browed warblers, the majority of which still migrate east after breeding to winter in southern Asia?

Other winter arrivals included eight Eurasian white-fronted geese seen at the High Esk and Pulfin Bog reserve and a tundra bean goose at Tophill Low, East Yorkshire.

A glossy ibis was seen briefly at Swillington Ings, Leeds on Sunday and the following day at the Adwick Washlands reserve in South Yorkshire. A Temminck’s stint was seen at Swillington Ings on Monday.