Friday, October 12, 2007

Spurn, East Yorkshire - 8th-11th Oct 2007

8th Oct: The weather forecast on sunday 7th Oct indicated that the following day would be the last of the easterlies for the foreseeable future, so a decision was made to head off to Spurn for a few days to hopefully connect with birds already present, with maybe the chance of a few new birds being found in the short window before the easterlies ended. Although I have visited Spurn for days only on numerous occasions in recent years, it is twelve long years since I actually stayed at the observatory.

Above: Barred Warbler - Canal Scrape car park, Spurn - 8th Oct 2007.

Whilst enroute on Monday morning, news came through on the pager of a Dusky Warbler on Vicars Lane, Easington, so this was my first port of call. After only a short wait the Dusky gave good binocular views and called frequently. A Great start.
Two vocal Yellow-browed Warblers were showing in the Crown & Anchor car park and a Barred Warbler gave excellent views in the Canal Scrape car park bushes. Once checked in at the obs and gear dropped off, a quick chat with the warden, Andy Gibson, as to where the recent Sibe Stonechat had been seen revealed that it had not been recorded for a couple of days. I still thought I would check the area just in case and so headed off down to the point.

On approaching the stretch of road at the Narrow Neck, I noticed a birder walking back north along the road and a small passerine at the roadside edge just beyond him. The birder was making no attempt to flag me down as I approached, but I still wound the window down to ask him if he had seen anything of note. Upon doing this, and without even stopping in his tracks, he told me in the most casual fashion " Little Bunt on the road" and carried on walking! - The passerine was still visible with the naked eye from the car, so I drove a little further, admittedly slightly scepticle given the birders extremely laid back attitiude and 'binned' the bird.... Strewth! It was a Little Bunting!! - I can only assume the finder has seen a few hundred more Little Buntings in his time than I have? The bird remained on the road for a further ten minutes before flying to the beach as other birders arrived, whilst the finder had long gone! For the remainder of my stay at Spurn the Little Bunting remained on the seaward side of the road, in the Marram Grass, as far down as Wire Dump, delighting many observers. A little Gem. Two Wheatear were on the Humber shoreline in this area.

Above: Little Bunting - Seaward side of Post 58, Spurn, E. Yorks - 9th Oct 2007.
Above: Birders search for the Little Bunting - 8th Oct 2007.
After feasting on the Bunting, I continued down to the point which fortunately coincided with the catching of a nice juv Common Rosefinch in the point Heligoland Trap late afternoon. The end of an excellent few hours birding.
The weather forecast for the 9th was heavy rain encroaching from the west, lasting for the majority of the day. Given the high pressure system was still over the north sea, I wondered if it would result in a few more grounded birds.
Above: Juv Common Rosefinch - Spurn Point - 8th Oct 2007.
9th Oct: The day initially dawned dry, but it was obvious looking to the west of the impending deluge. And so this is how it turned out to be. Birding the bushes was nigh on impossible for much of the day so after spending a futile hour trying to relocate the Blyths Reed Warbler at Southfield Farm in horrendous conditions, I retreated to the Crown & Anchor car park and watched a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers from under the shelter of the car boot door. This was followed by a seawatch, the only realistic option available given the deluge. From 12:20-17:10 the following were recorded:
Red-throated Diver: 3 > S.
Gannet: 1 > S.
Little Gull: 1ad 'in'.
Common Tern: 1 > S.
Common Scoter: 17 > N, 3 > S, 30 on the sea.
Teal: 1 > S.
Mallard: 4 > S.
Goldeneye: 1 > S.
Common Gull: 3 > S.
LBB Gull: 1 > S.
Herring Gull: 3 > S.
GBB Gull: 2 > S.
Brent Goose: 2 > S.
Knot: 10 > S.
Grey Plover: 4 > N.
Dunlin: 1 > S, 1 'in'.
Ringed Plover: 2 > S.
Sanderling: 1 > S.
Song Thrush: 1 'in'.
Redwing: 219 'in'.
Fieldfare: 10 'in'.
Blackbird: 11 'in'.
Brambling: 2 'in'.
Chaffinch: 1 'in'.
Some of the Thrushes coming in were literally exhausted, flopping down on the beach and on the cliff edge. As unfortunate for the birds as it is, this is what I come to Spurn hoping to see.... the awesome wonder of migration. I can only imagine how horrible the conditions must have been for these Thrushes, at least for the final third of their journey across 400 miles of open sea. Be it a Thrush or a Goldcrest, it is hard not watch in awe when land birds are coming in off the sea. A total of 1700+ Redwing were entered into the observatory log that evening. A final walk from the Obs to Canal Hedge for the last hour of light in the still torrential rain revealed plenty of Thrushes and a few Brambling. Some of the former were already moving on.
10th Oct: As forecast, the weather had cleared. It was immediately obvious that the majority of birds had indeed moved on. I walked from the Obs to Chalk Bank. There were some tired Thrushes feeding along the Peninsula, but the modest highlight of this walk was a juv fem Peregrine north over the Humber and just general good views of mixed wader species, c80 Brents on the Humber, a Goldeneye > S and a 1stw Sandwich Tern 'out'. A Common Seal was on the beach.
Further views of the Dusky Warbler, Little Bunting, Yellow-browed Warblers & Rosefinch were had and also several views of the Blyths Reed Warbler at Southfield Farm, however i would have liked better views of the latter, which did not call whilst I was watching it. A drake Common Scoter was on the pond by the Bluebell. A distant 'narrow-winged' Harrier in total silouette over Easington Riding School was likely to have been the same ringtail Hen Harrier which had flown north from the peninsula earlier. Two juv Little Stints were on flood water in fields just south of Easington and reasonable numbers of Thrushes were still present around the village.
The day ended with a final look for the Blyths Reed warbler revealing only a single Chiffchaff in the same area and a Barn Owl put on a good show just north of Kilnsea.
Above: Sanderling & Turnstone - 'New road', Spurn - 10th Oct 2007.
Above: Common Seal - Spurn - 10th Oct 2007.

Above: apparent Atlantic White-sided Dolphin washed up just north of Spurn Lighthouse - 9th Oct 2007.

11th Oct: South-westerlies forecast indicated that there would be some visible migration on offer, so I spent three hours at the Narrows from 09:40-12:40 logging the following:
Gannet: 1 > N.
Herring Gull: 41 > S.
Little Egret: A juv flew up the Humber landing at the Narrows, gradually moving north along the saltmarsh to the Tank Blacks at least.
Sparrowhawk: 1 juv > N.
Golden Plover: 2 > S.
Carrion Crow: 4 > S.
Great-spotted Woodpecker: 1 > S.
Swallow: 11 > S.
Starling: 14 > S.
Redwing: 3 > S.
Blackbird: 1 > S.
Meadow Pipit: 103 > S.
Rock Pipit: 8 > S.
Skylark: 56 > S.
Pied Wagtail: 2 > S.
'Alba' Wagtail: 3 > S.
Chaffinch: 4 > S.
Greenfinch: 87 > S.
Goldfinch: 161 > S.
Redpoll sp: 1 > S.
Linnet: 16 > S.

Above: Little Egret - 'Narrows', Spurn - 11th Oct 2007.

Above: Visible migration watch - 'Narrows', Spurn - 11th Oct 2007.
Weasel & Common Lizard were noted whilst stood at the narrows, whilst a distant object offshore could have only been a largeish Cetacean sp in my opinion which appeared to lounge on the surface interspersed with submerging for c10 minutes at a time. The poor grab below doesnt do the brief video footage obtained much justice which created a talking point when shown to people at the observatory log that evening.

This was followed by another look for the Dusky Warbler which although still present did not show in 2hrs I was there. The Little Bunting again showed well and the day ended with a walk around the point where 10+ Fieldfare and 50+ Redwing were present in the buckthorn, along with a only my 3rd Goldcrest of my time at Spurn. The Rosefinch and 5 Brambling were present at the mouth of the point Heligoland trap.
Above: female Great Crested Newt - This was brought to the obs by a visitor from Skeffling. It's staggering to think that these impressive little beasts can live as long as 27 years!!
So, overall an enjoyable and varied few days with some good birds seen. It was also good to meet some of the 'new' bunch of 'regulars' at the obs, indulging in some enjoyable 'birdy' banter in the evenings.

Spurn rarely disappoints and this visit was no exception.