Sunday, 25 September 2011

Flamborough and Spurn, East Yorkshire - 10th-11th September 2011

Fin Whale at Spurn Point, East Yorkshire - 11th September 2011

Some months ago my friend and I booked this trip, based around an RSPB Skua and Shearwater Cruise from Bridlington. Alas, the winds weren’t quite with us – mainly warm southerlies rather than the northerlies and easterlies that would benefit the east-coast birder in September. That’s not to say we didn’t see anything interesting though…

We set off nice and early, to a soundtrack of In on the Kill Taker by Fugazi, and at 08:00 we joined the queue in the mild breeze on Bridlington Harbour. There were a few birds around to help us get our eye in, including 16 Common Scoter flying past.

The boat trip itself was very wet. It didn’t rain, apart from a brief bit of mizzle, but the sea was choppy enough to give those sat near the prow a good soaking throughout the voyage. I wasn’t smug that I had my waterproofs on. Really.

Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire - 10th September 2011

The bird highlights were: three Sooty Shearwater; two Manx Shearwater (including one very close on the water); maybe up to double figures of Great Skua; six Artic Skua; Eider; Black-throated Diver; Fulmar, etc. Some excitement came when we got on to a slim, long-winged, long-tailed, dark skua. A Long-tailed Skua would have been a great bird for the trip (and a life tick for me), but photos proved it was a juvenile, dark morph Artic Skua.

After a quick gander at three Purple Sandpiper on the sea wall north of the harbour, we went up to Flamborough Head and bashed the bushes, ravines, and stubble fields, including a futile search for a reported Red-breasted Flycatcher. A bit too windy for many birds to show.

Common Darter at Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire - 10th September 2011 (photo: Lyndon Marquis)

Then off to Spurn for the night, via Hornsea Mere, while listening to Big Black's Rich Man's Eight Track Tape really loud. We couldn’t pick out any Little Gulls on the mere, but we really didn’t stay late enough until the roosting birds turned up. We did get on to a probable Black-necked Grebe, but it was a bit distance to claim. Redshank, Wood Sandpiper, and Common Sandpiper was nice though.

We tried for the Semi-palmated Sandpiper at Beacon Ponds before we went to the Crown and Anchor in Kilnsea. We maybe two pints too many in the pub, meaning we got up later than most of the other residents at the Obs. The road down to Spurn Point was still closed to motor vehicles, so we decided to walk the 3.5 miles, while keeping an eye out for birds (not a bad idea when birding, I find).

There were few birds along the spit, for a September day, mainly due to the wind direction and strength: Wheatear, Tree Sparrow, Yellow Wagtail, plus House Martins, Swallows and Meadow Pipits moving south, and the usual waders on the western side.

On the seaward side of the Point we came across the most fascinating wildlife of the trip, albeit a dead specimen. A Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) carcass had been washed up that morning. It was a 20-foot long juvenile. It had originally beached and died across the estuary at Cleethorpes earlier in the week. Most of the black outer skin had gone, but it was quite a sight to see a practically fully-formed whale and get to study the whale's baleen up close.

Fin Whale at Spurn Point, East Yorkshire - 11th September 2011

Fin Whale at Spurn Point, East Yorkshire - 11th September 2011

Fin Whale at Spurn Point, East Yorkshire - 11th September 2011

Fin Whale at Spurn Point, East Yorkshire - 11th September 2011

We strolled back up to the Obs, and after calling in at all the usual places around the Triangle, we went back to Beacon Ponds to see if this Semi-p dropped back in again to roost. It didn’t, but we got a good couple of hours grilling the waders that did come in - very educational.

Fledgling Swallows at Canal Scrape hide, Spurn NNR, East Yorkshire - 11th September 2011

Unfortunately, we had to leave to get to West Yorkshire before it got too late, but a very educational and interesting weekend all the same. Special thanks to Lyndon for driving.

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