Filey – 24 March 2024

While looking for information about Filey in preparation for this trip, details were surprisingly scant.  I wondered why for such a well-watched birding spot but maybe capturing the magically wild spirit of the Brigg in words isn’t easy.

A first stop for those willing to make the 30-minute walk from Filey Dams to the Brigg, or those not anxious to miss anything at the latter, Filey Dams is a small, natural oasis on the edge of a suburban housing estate.  Three hides provide views over a couple of freshwater pools.  While the pools mainly offered up common water birds, Little Grebes were in dapper breeding plumage and Chiffchaffs, fresh in from warmer climes, added their two-note song to the early spring chorus.

Little Grebe Photo: William Bennet
Little Grebe Photo: William Bennet

The real draw of the Dams was a chance to see Tree Sparrows.  Although birds were seen checking out nest boxes or visiting a vivid blue bird feeder, they remained fairly elusive.  That was until we decided we weren’t going to see them and started to leave only to find a good chunk of the colony in an elder tree next to one of the houses!

Tree Sparow Photo: Mikk Murray
Tree Sparow Photo: Mikk Murray

The fabled March winds whipped across the Brigg bringing tears to our eyes and small birds hunkered low.  The Brigg itself provided shelter to the beach below, and it was well worth risking the steep path down, carefully navigating the weather-worn steps near the bottom.  Here Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones picked through the seaweed at the water’s edge, perfectly camouflaged amid the purple and brown hues.  Now and then, a solitary Knot or Redshank joined the banquet.

Purple Sandpiper Photo: Helen Ensor
Purple Sandpiper Photo: Helen Ensor
Turnstone Photo: William Bennet
Turnstone Photo: William Bennet

Out in the bay, the water was relatively calm and singles of Great Northern Diver, Red-breasted Merganser and Common Scoter gave good views as did a Harbour Porpoise close to the shore.  A male Eider was seen near Cobles Landing while on the North side of the Brigg, rafts of Kittiwakes rode the waves and a Puffin was a surprise addition to the day’s list.

Great Northern Diver Photo: William Bennet
Great Northern Diver Photo: William Bennet

Small passerines, as mentioned, were harder to come by. Early in the day, Swallows and Sand Martins were seen battling the wind while Rock Pipits could be found among the more numerous Meadow Pipits. Venturing out for a last hour before leaving, Lapland Buntings managed to remain out of sight somewhere in a stubble field. A small flock of Yellowhammer made up for that though, nuggets of gold in the late afternoon sun. A parcel of Linnets exploded from the field and landed in a windswept hedge as a Peregrine shot through heading north. Shortly after, a Sparrowhawk chased along the thorny scrub looking for an easy meal.

Linnet Photo: William Bennet
Linnet Photo: William Bennet

The real rewards of a great day by the sea were reserved for one or two lucky members who were treated to cameo appearances from Black Redstart and Snow Bunting.

Sean Ashton

Attendees:      43

Birds seen:       73