Seriously seasick scoters.


Managed a quick look over the rising tide at Ainsdale today an hour or two before the rain swept in, the north westerly hooley went absolutely batshit crazy and it became impossible to scan the waves.
Common Scoters were flying around all over the place – no white wing flashes today though – and those that were on the water seemed to be having a thoroughly miserable time of it in the deepening swell.
More Red Breasted Mergs about than when I last looked too, which is only to be expected at this time of year, and a light southerly passage of Gannets out on the horizon.
The troughs probably hid quite a lot out there today…and yes, if the hooley holds up, it is strong enough to push a Leach’s or two in.
If the rain stopped, you may even be able to see ’em…

Ainsdale, 18/10/16, 1230-1330:

Common Scoter 350+
Red Breasted Merganser 14
Scaup 2
Gannet 23
Auk sp 5
Great Crested Grebe 3
Kittiwake 8

Siberian Accentor, Easington: God’s Holy Trousers.



It’s hard to over-exaggerate just how totally splendiferous it was to watch a Siberian Accentor shuffling around with Dunnocks in the half-light of a grey, dreary Easington early morning today – not as bright as the Shetland individual perhaps, but every bit as mind-blowing.


Slick marshalling by the team from Spurn Bird Observatory meant that despite Easington being busier than rush hour on the M62, Alan Wright and I managed to arrive at about 7.30am, allowing me to park in the outer suburbs of Hull, walk into the village, join the well-ordered queueing system, and watch the bird (MEGA MEGA MEGA) by 0830am.
We enjoyed it so much that we went to the back of the 300-strong queue and waited to watch it again in the grainy morning light.
You can’t have too much of a good thing.
Many thanks to everyone at Spurn Bird Observatory for their efforts – it was a superb job.



With the biggy safely trousered, I drove onto Spurn and Kilnsea, where scores of Redwings were zipping through, Fieldfares chack chack chacked away, Goldcrests and Robins flitted everywhere and a conveniently tame Shorelark took the edge off the cold easterly by the Bluebell car park.



Mealy Redpolls, Bramblings, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Redwings, Fieldfares and Robins, Robins, Robins were in the hedgreows between there and Kilnsea and a quick call to Church Field produced Yellow-browed Warbler and a fine Dusky Warbler on parade courtesy of the ringing team.



There were hundreds of birders on the ground (I heard an estimated 2,000 people filed past the accentor today), so it wasn’t surprising that more and more birds were turning up – Firecrests and more Yellow-broweds around Cliff Farm’s marvellous garden, a nice flock of about 20 European Whitefronts flying down the Humber estuary, Brents, Ring Ouzels on Beacon Lane and Redstarts in the rocks along the Humber shore.


A diversion to Sammy’s Point at lunchtime brought us many more Ring Ouzels (at least 8 birds in the scrub there), with Chiffchaff, Goldcrests and Robins everywhere.
A Pied Flycatcher joined them just below the car park.


After that I drove back onto the peninsula for a look at a flock of nine Bean Geese playing hide and seek in the marsh edge north of The Warren – eight Tundra and one Taiga apparently…one certainly had a great big bright yellow conk and was swishing its backside about like Mae West in her Sunday best bustle, so it may well have been a fabulous fabalis…(upper pic below).



Perhaps one of the best things about Spurn today was the fact that almost EVERYONE was there…I got to say hello to folk I ain’t bumped into for years.
Thanks everyone, great to see you all again (you know who you are, you were there).


With Redwing overload reaching critical mass there was just time to pop into the Crown and Anchor car park late afternoon to finally catch up with the hyperactive Pallas’s Warbler we’d been managing to miss all day – a vision in green and yellow scooting through the branches like a demented stripey hummingbird.
I pointed the wheels towards Hull and the road west by 5pm, wondering what else is going to pop up this weekend – it’s only just getting started after all……
Wouldn’t be surprised if more Sibe Accentors are on the menu (Scandi-Germany is infested with ’em), or at least something of an equally earth-shattering stature.


Small mercies…


I didn’t get out yesterday – I went furniture shopping with the boss, lured in by the promise of sausages, or the potential of sausages, to tour tired “antique” outlets for the perfect thingumyjig across Lancs backways that were bathed in gorgeous autumn sunlight.
There were a few problems with this – firstly shopping in general blows big time, and secondly scouring a 1960s/70s piece of cheap crap with sandpaper to give it a distressed look does not constitute the creation of an “antique”.
While thirdly, and perhaps, most importantly, THERE WERE NO SAUSAGES.
So, as the country slowly sinks under the weight of megas, rares and class autumn migrants, the best thing to do today was take a stroll round Sands Lake at Ainsdale – that always puts things in perspective.
Redwings and Skylarks passed the tower during the course of the morning, with the winter Reed Bunting flock at Ainsdale already swollen to 30+ birds, and flat calm conditions offshore showed off the scoter horde very nicely (but as ever they were out of range).
This was enough to encourage me out of doors at lunchtime.


Sands Lake always feels like it should be good – look how rare it appears in the pic above – can’t you just imagine an Ovenbird popping out of that…????
But the best I could drag out of it today were five Goldcrests, a single Chiffchaff, two Siskins over, 11 Goldfinches and one of the local Common Buzzards getting battered by three Carrion Crows.


Four Shovelers were spinning around each other on the water and Gadwall were amongst the Tufties and Mallards.
A Little Egret circled overhead for nearly ten minutes – it must have had somewhere better to go than Sands Lake…


The albatross in the room


Autumnal perfect at Spurn this morning as Neill (Hunt), Alan (Wright), Pete (Allen) and I arrived at 0815, with large numbers of migrants flitting about, but I suspect there was only one bird that was really playing on our minds.
Despite the hundreds of Robins, Goldcrests and Redwings, I know I was still thinking about the whereabouts of this week’s crippling Black Browed Albatross – after all, the North Sea was right on the doorstep…and you can’t ignore the water at Spurn.
Sightings of the big boy just after 2pm off Hunstanton down in Norfolk got our hopes up, but despite a mid-afternoon seawatch, we knew it was a long shot and we soon returned to enjoying the fall, almost putting the big bird out of our minds for another day.
Luckily there was lots else to occupy us – Ring Ouzel and a fine Great Grey Shrike at Sammy’s Point, with stacks of Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Redwings galore – marvellous.



Hordes of Goldcrests, feeding inches away in the branches and through the grass ignored us as they tried to replenish lost energy, but looking at a few of them with really grey heads which contrasted with their green backs, I was reminded of a fascinating paper by Martin Garner and Stephen Menzie on Birding Frontiers about ’em a year or two back.
I wonder is the difference between these two I photographed today just about stance, angle and light, or something more?
Just like Martin to keep me thinking after his passing… thanks Mr Garner.



Plenty of other migrants for us to enjoy too today – Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and hundreds of Redwings with at least 300 Robins.
Redstarts and an exhausted Siskin, a hungry looking Weasel and a stray Barnacle Goose joined up with Whinchats, Mipits, Skylarks and steadily increasing numbers of Bramblings as we wandered around Kilnsea and down to Canal Scrape.






Some of the Bramblings were showing really well down Beacon Lane, alongside Tree Sparrows and more and more Goldcrests, Migrant Hawkers and Red Admirals.
Brent Geese yapped overhead as we turned back towards Spurn itself and in the easterly wind after a night of rain and cloud, we felt optimistic.


Whinchats, Redstart and Mipits perched on the fenceline as we walked to the Canal Scrape, while more Goldcrests and Robins popped up, and at the scrape three Jack Snipe were bobbing away right under the hide, as a Lesser Whitethroat zipped amongst the Redwings in the scrub.



Walking back to Kilnsea along the bank, Water Rails were squealing and a Yellow Browed Warbler (one of six today), fed in the saltmarsh beneath us.


A confused looking Woodcock was sheltering in the rocks below Cliff Farm.


We spent a bit of time in the Church Field with more point blank Goldcrests, Chiffies and our fourth or fifth Rouzel of the day, but we never got near the Rustic Bunting here, or for that matter, the Little Bunting down at Sammy’s Point.
The hours were passing and at 4.30pm we pulled out and headed back up to Easington, where, as we waited for an unco-operative Red Breasted Fly, Andy Roadhouse suggested we should check out the Olive Backed Pipit viewable through the security fence at Easington Gas Terminal.
Good call as ever from Mr Roadhouse – it was a beautifully marked bird, pumping its tail away in the failing light and creeping around in slo-mo like a crrr-azy crake.
What a cracker, cheers Andy!!!



Lots of “bang” today, with some wonderful birds and great laughs, even without the hoped for MEGA “boom”.
Undoubtedly the busiest of our day-trips to Spurn so far this autumn, and the season may only get better.
Thanks for the driving shift Neill.

Egret indigestion


Getting seriously full of egret now – after the gut-busting nine Great White Egret fly-by on Wednesday morning, the Persil-white score was further swelled by two new Cattle Egrets joining the long stayer at Marshside this morning.
Popped in as I was passing for the Cattle Egret hat-trick and to say “hi” to Terry Meehan (howdy Terry).
The Cattle Egrets were at the back from Sandgrounders, mooching around the coos as they should.


Angels on broomsticks on Wednesday, three white chickens today.
Elsewhere quiet today, although a Chiffchaff was in full song at Queen’s Jubilee Nature Trail at Southport, before the sea frets flopped in this morning, and Redwings, Mipits, Grey Wag, Skylark and smaller numbers of Swallows were on the move south over the dunes at Ainsdale early doors.
Still a few Sarnie Terns at Ainsdale, hordes of scoters and a few Gannets offshore.
Anyone else seeing anything?



Super-sharpened, blown-up, cropped and Lord knows what else…all nine Great White Egrets flapping past Ainsdale on Wednesday morning.
But you’ll need to squint hard, even if you click on the pic to see it bigger.
Six and (in the top centre) a tight group of three.
Apparently six GWEs made it to the roost at Leighton Moss this evening (as per Pete Marsh)…

Quite a fly-past


Long range and a blurry series of “point and press” shots from the tower at Ainsdale this morning, but the sight of nine Great White Egrets plugging north high over the surf reminded me of just how much egret action there is around here now…


A loose group, they came by just after 10am, and frustratingly I never managed to get a decent shot of them all in frame at the same time (although I have got one image I’m going to monkey with that shows “8+”), but as white blobs on a blue background go, they’re quite fetching.


Ashley Baines had them come off the Ribble to the north about 30 minutes later.
Can’t remember seeing so many GWEs at once in the UK before (and that includes Ham Wall in Somerset).

Yellow Browed Sunday


The first were calling loud enough for us to hear them as I drove out of Patrington at 0830 this morning and spontaneously prompted an irruptive chorus from Neill (Hunt), Andy (Pryce) and myself of “Yellow-browed!!!”
I pulled over just a few miles short of Spurn and we quickly found at least three calling Yellow-browed Warblers on the edge of Patrington, with many Robins, squadrons of Redwings and smaller numbers of Blackbirds and Chiffies.
A good start.
I know they’re getting commoner every year, but they still scream “autumn” almost as much as a shrivelly Sycamore leaf. Little stunners all.
We pushed on to Sammy’s Point, where we had another Yellow-browed Warbler, about 180 Redwings, Blackcap, Wheatear, Skylarks, Mipits, Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs in a strong north easterly after early morning rain, while hundreds of Pink Footed Geese came down the wind.
It set the theme for another fine day at Spurn with Neill and Andy.
There were Yellow-browed Warblers in the shadows around the Crown and Anchor.


There were Yellow-browed Warblers in Church Field and around Kew Villa (and Bramblings and ‘crests).


Up at the Canal Scrape there were two or three Yellow-browed Warblers, with Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Lesser Whitethroat and Goldcrests, 3 Stonechat and 5 Whinchat nearby and on the walk down from the Bluebell a very nostalgic encounter with several singing Roesel’s Bushcrickets.


And best of all there were at least 5 or 6 Yellow-browed Warblers around Cliff Farm at Kilnsea, chasing each other through the tree-tops with an astonishing amount of energy given the journey they have just undertaken, while clouds of Migrant Hawker dragonflies patrolled in the warm afternoon sun and shelter, and Grey Wags and Bramblings passed through.


Reckon I had 18 of the stripey critters from Patrington to Spurn in total today – gotta love Yellow-browed Warblers, and ya gotta love Spurn…another great day fellas, thanks.


A hard day in Holderness


Even with the wind clearly in the wrong direction you should never miss an opportunity to visit Spurn, but it was tough going today searching for goodies from Sammy’s Point to the Warren and back.
Neill “Shangri-La” Hunt picked me, Alan Wright and Andy Pryce up in the godless hours and we sped cross country, so that we were stumbling around the lane at Easington Cemetery by 0830 in a strengthening south westerly that allowed startlingly white Med Gulls to sail over the fields.
It was quiet, and while Sammy’s Point had 1 Yellow Browed Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Greater ‘Pecker, Whitethroat, Goldcrest, 2 Whimbrel, Golden Plover and overhead Skylarks and Siskins, none were showing particularly well (apart from the waders), and after meeting up with more windblasted visitors from our side of the Great Divide, we pushed on to Spurn proper to check the area between Kilnsea and the Warren for the rest of the day.
There were Yellow Browed Warblers calling by the Crown and Anchor and in Church Field, but as they were hiding in the strong south westerly, it was more fun to say “howdy” to everyone’s favourite birder, Andy Roadhouse (not really relaxing after completing his masterwork, “The Birds of Spurn”) again as we renewed our annual subscriptions to “Friends of Spurn” – if you haven’t signed up, you should, it’s a great deal and the support helps the best mainland birding site in the UK.
Walking down to the Canal Zone the sun broke through a bit and up to 11 Whinchats were zipping about the fenceline, albeit distantly.


A few Yellow Wags went through with a scattering of hirundines, but it was quiet and sunny spell Commas, Red Admirals and Migrant Hawkers got more attention than they should have.



The hide at the Canal Zone was packed, yet the pool was hardly jumping, apart from a ridiculously close Common Snipe, more Whinchats and Little Grebes.


A seawatch was a good opportunity to take the weight off, and a handful of young Gannets (birds of the year), Common Scoter, Teal, Fulmar, and a Red throated Diver went through as we scanned the waves.



Then we headed to the Crown and Anchor for a restorative in the car park, while listening to an invisible Yellow Browed Warbler and a male Blackcap gorged on elderberries.
Church Field had Yellow Browed too (inevitably keeping out of sight) and a Willow Warbler fluttering around the stonking great Heligoland trap there.



The cruise back over the Pennines was predictably subdued – but there will be other days at Spurn when the wind will be in our favour and it will feel like the best place on earth again.
Thanks all, over and out.

Grilling black puddings


A fine big calm high tide meant the beach car park at Ainsdale was closed to traffic today, and so the place was pleasantly quiet, and even though there was barely a f2-3 westerly blowing it was still rewarding enough seawatching over lunchtime, an hour or so before the high water.
For once the Common Scoter horde was scattered and remarkably active – no “black puddings” floating motionless on the swell today, they mostly were diving, preening and flying about all over the place.
Close enough to work through too, but after 45 minutes of ‘scoping there wasn’t the slightest hint of white plumage amongst them – ah well, that’s the way it goes.
An increase in the number of Red Throated Divers was good, and a few were still in superb summer plumage, while surprisingly large numbers of Razorbills were fishing reasonably close inshore.

Ainsdale 20.9.16, 1230-1325:

Razorbill 16
Guillemot 1
Gannet 5
Great Crested Grebe 7
Wigeon 1 north
Red Throated Diver 11
Common Scoter 1,000+
Red Breasted Merg 1f
Sandwich Tern 75+

Impossible to say how many scoter were in the bay, they were visible on the water right down to the bend in the coast at Freshfield and up to Birkdale from the top of the dunes, but there was worse ways to spend your lunchtime…