Saturday, 3 September 2011

Spurn, East Yorkshire – Saturday 27th August

I had an enjoyable day at Spurn NNR last weekend, in the company of Martin Garner. Martin runs Birding Frontiers and this trip was in the company of four other birders on one of his “Spurn Discovery Days”.

I arrived around 07:30, before the tour started, hoping to have a look around by myself first. I’d hoped to arrive earlier still, but I accidentally woke the kids before I left and had to entertain them before their mum got up!

Anyway, I ended up chanting to other birders for an hours rather than birding – as usual – so didn’t see much. Apart, that is, form the constant movement of Swallows and the occasional Sand Martin overhead, all heading south. In fact, throughout the day I noticed there were Swallows on most of the wires around the areas the visited, resting up before heading on.

Swallows at the Warren, Spurn NNR, East Yorkshire - 27th August 2011

After meeting Martin, and discussing the finer points of aging Swifts, we tried some sea watching from the dedicated hide behind the Warren (if you’re unfamiliar with Spurn, here's a very useful map). No easy first thing on the east coast (i.e. looking in to the sun), but we saw 8+ Great Skuas and 7 Common Scoters among the Gannets.

Sea Watching Hide, Spurn NNR, East Yorkshire - 27th August 2011

We wandered over to Clubley’s Scrape, and although it was devoid of birds, it was good to visit part of the reserve I’m unfamiliar with – the whole point to the day really. In the air we saw Stock Dove, Common Snipe and Meadow Pipit, and an attractive Wall butterfly.

Wall Butterfly, Spurn NNR, East Yorkshire - 27th August 2011

Before leaving the Warren area, we were invited to watch some of the guys from the observatory as they ringed some of the Tree Sparrow flock we’d been watching earlier.

Juvenile Tree Sparrow, Spurn NNR, East Yorkshire - 27th August 2011

The birds we were shown were juveniles, partway through their first complete autumn moult (something juveniles of only a few species do). One young bird’s original tail feathers were almost completely worn away. This feather weakness is attributed to a poor diet while in the nest. One new, full-length tail feather was present.

Juvenile Tree Sparrow, Spurn NNR, East Yorkshire - 27th August 2011

Canal Zone and the Humber were next, allowing us to compare Curlews and Whimbrels on the intertidal mud. During the day we saw a great range of waders on the western side of Spurn, including Knot, Ringed Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit, and Ruff, in addition to the Curlew, Whimbrel and Snipe. Not bad. Plenty of Shelduck, Little Egret, and Teal out there too.

A Pied Flycatcher in the garden of Cliff Farm (interesting name, as there’s not many cliffs around here) was a great to watch. The highlight of the day for me was soon to come: a Wood Warbler in Kilnsea churchyard. An absolute peach. One of my favourite birds (with one of my favourite calls). I’ve been lucky with this bird this year, having seen and heard several already, but I’m always happy to see more. Unfortunately I missed out on seeing the bird in the hand when it was ringed later - I was too busy chatting to the YWT staff… Some nice pictures on the Spurn Sightings page for August 2011 though.

A bright Spotted Flycatcher was another nice migrant to see, also in the churchyard.

We made our way back around the Triangle and called in at Canal Scrape. More Swallows on wires here.

Swallows at Canal Scrape, Spurn NNR, East Yorkshire - 27th August 2011

We headed for Sammy’s Point – a real migrant trap when there are easterlies blowing – calling in at a farm near Easington churchyard first. Then partway towards the Point itself, to check out the wader roost from Chalk Bank Hide. We ended the official session with some more sea watching from the Narrows – an area that was inundated by the sea only a couple of days later, damaging the road). From here: Kittiwakes on the groyne and Whinchats in the scrub, plus Arctic Skuas heading south and a Manx Shearwater going north. The Swallows by now were heading north, possibly to wait for the morning to make the journey over the sea.

Another hour’s sea watching from the hide was all I could fit in before having to head home. A really enjoyable day with the Birding Frontiers guru – something I would recommend to any birder, especially those that have yet to visit this fantastic site.

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