We went to Finland in 2014 to see the northern lights and spent a week looking at thick cloud. Since then it has become an obsession for Karen, staring at the sky every time the Aurora Watch app suggests there might be some activity. (The facts that we’re in the south of England, and it’s cloudy seem not to deter her). At 0251 on Monday morning in Flamborough, we finally managed the combination of latitude, solar activity and starry sky. Obviously I had all the wrong cameras with me, so all we managed were some rubbishy shots on our phones, but they’re still way more impressive than you can see with the naked eye. You could definitely see columnar structure and colour wash, just not the detail and saturation the camera manages.
Elsewhere on our trip up north, there were two lifers. We twitched the Brown Booby on the Tees: it left the close perch just before we arrived, but at least it hung around for us. A few days’ seawatching at Flamborough proved productive, with four species of Shearwater, including Cory’s, a UK lifer, and four species of Skua. It’s a good job that the seawatching was good – there was nothing at all on land.
A plan for a lazy Sunday fell to pieces at lunchtime, when a report of an Aquatic Warbler at Beeding Brooks arrived. It was in walking range, but this was a world lifer, and a really tricky bird to catch up with – they don’t turn up reliably anywhere, and they don’t hang around when they do appear. A drive over got us to within 200 yards of the bird while it was showing beautifully, unfortunately on the wrong side of a bridge that had been closed, unbeknownst to us, leaving a mile detour. Needless to say, being greeted quarter of an hour later with the words “it showed brilliantly 10 minutes ago” was galling. After a false alarm with a Sedge Warbler, I eventually found it and had a superb view at close range for a few seconds. Karen missed it, and when it appeared on the other side of the bush, where we couldn’t get to without flushing it frustration levels went up another notch. The next couple of hours yielded only a few very brief flight shots, but eventually we got a few half-decent views, although it was never easy.
A return to the scene of the crime this evening yielded more of the same: rubbish views in flight and occasional half decent views across the river, but always brief. Nevertheless, a beautiful and very tricky bird to catch up with made it a special day.