Monday, June 02, 2008

Spurn, East Yorkshire: 29th-31st May 2008.

I got more than I bargained for during three days at Spurn in the form of an appalling allergic reaction to the plague of Brown-tail Moth larvae currently consuming the Buckthorn along the Peninsula, covering not only my neck, but also, arms, hands, thighs, chest, sides.... and thankfully to a lesser extent, the 'crown jewels'!

It is the hairs from the Caterpillars that are responsible for the most irritating rash I have ever had, despite no known contact with the Caterpillars and my skin. The hairs are also blown on the wind so anyone vulnerable to this allergy would be lucky to visit the worst affected areas of the Peninsula and remain unscathed I reckon. If someone had offered decapitation as a remedy for the rash on my neck at the peak of the irritation, I would gladly have taken it! No doubt this will remain a problem for Myself and undoubtedly many other people in future years as long as this Moth remains a problem at Spurn, not a pleasant prospect! And to top things off, I also found a disgusting Tic embedded in my shin!

To further highlight the problem, I also heard of two small children who were hospitalised over the weekend due to this.

Nevertheless, in between the itching and scratching some excellent birds were had at what is in my opinion the best mainland spring & autumn birding site on the British mainland, with highlights of an overdue life tick in the form of a Thrush Nightingale, a female Montagu's Harrier that flew along the Humber shoreline at the Crown & Anchor, 4 Marsh Harrier, Osprey, Hobby, Ortolan Bunting (Sammys), 5 Red-backed Shrike, Golden Oriole, 4 Marsh Warbler (2 seen), 3 Icterine Warbler (Point, Palm, Rose Cottage), male 'Blue-headed' Wagtail type (briefly, flushed from the road at the Lighthouse), Wood Warbler ( a superb singing male in the Crown car park), Avocet (flew in-off the sea at the Point, then flew back out), 2 Turtle Dove and three species of Owl; Long Eared, Short-eared and Barn. Additionally, commoner migrants were also represented with nice numbers of Whinchat (inc. 10 together south of Sammys Point), several Cuckoo, 2 Redstart, 1 Tree Pipit, c15 Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Chiffchaff and a Goldcrest. Notable birds missed included 2 Nightjar, male Montagu's Harrier, Bluethroat and Grey-headed Wagtail.

Above: 1st summer Thrush Nightingale - Trapped and released back at Chalk Bank.

Above: Marsh Warbler, Sammys Point. This superb singing male was the most showy individual of this species during my stay. The same couldn't be said of the Ortolan in the same area which I finally connected with at the 5th attempt, and then only a close flight view was had.

Above: Icterine Warbler. Frequenting an isolated Gorse patch nr the Palm tree just south of the Point Car Park, this bird showed well for 30 mins until a Roe Deer ploughed right through the centre of the Gorse! - From conversation with Barry Spence, the previous spring record day total for Icky's at Spurn was 'just' two. The previous day, 28th, the observatory day total was an astonishing 10, truly record breaking!

Above: Golden Oriole, Wire Dump. Typically mostly showing only in flight, I fell lucky when the bird landed on the side of an Elder and remained in view for a couple of minutes.

Above & below: Red-backed Shrikes: Female in the triangle and a male at Wire Dump.

Above: What was presumably the same Hobby twice flew north over Rose Cottage within an hour as I scanned for more Raptors following the movement of 1 Osprey , 2 Monties and two Marsh Harriers earlier in the afternoon.

Above & below: Long-eared Owl. This bird was found roosting in the hedge on the Humber side of Rose Cottage, viewable distantly from the Canal Zone footpath at 21:30.

Above: This Short-eared Owl showed well as it sat on the Humber saltmarsh off the Warren mid-morning of 31st.