A hard day in Holderness

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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…

2,500 Blackwits later….

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Thought I’d spend a bit of time at Nels hide over the high tide today, in case anything dropped in, and besides it has been awhile since I’ve had my carbon monoxide medication courtesy of the Marshside through traffic.
Tony Baker was in the hide, WeBsing and working his way through the Blackwit roost – I counted up to 225 and began to lose the will to live, but there wasn’t much else from the hide, just four Dunlin and two Ringed Plover.

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Things were better up at Sandgrounders where the Cattle Egret was fishing at the back of the lagoon (I know, I know, bright sun and blue skies aren’t the best for photographing white birds, but it is a character…..)
Seven Ringed Plover on the banks of the lagoon and a few Snipe dropping in, as Alex Pigott WeBsed the other half of the reserve.

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A few Mipits bounded through in the unseasonal heat, alba wags too and a calling Yellow Wagtail.
There were about 300 Pink Feet on Marshside Two, with more small groups winging in from the south east, while up at Polly’s Pool, two box-fresh Little Stints were simply stunning, alongside four Ruff and even more Blackwits and Lapwings, Curlew and bathing Pinks.

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Called back into Sandgrounders to say “howdy” to Alex on the way back down, and the Kingfisher was fishing right at the back of the lagoon – long distance cute and safely outta range….

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A great start

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Great start to the first of our free “Vis Mig” walks at Ainsdale with Sefton Coast Landscape Partnership (facebook.com/seftoncoast) this morning – an Osprey flapped south over the surf while we were watching the Sarnie Terns at 0940.
Bingo.
I’m setting off each morning at 0900 each day till Friday for an hour or two to see what we can find – all welcome, we meet at Ainsdale Discovery Centre (PR8 2QB)
Cue blurry zoom shots of the morning’s buzz bird…

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About 12 Common Terns with a small (70+) group of Sandwich Terns on the sands, singing Chiffchaff and skulking Blackcap at Sands Lake.
Mipits, Grey and alba wags over too.

Cliff Swallow, Porth Hellick #2: What it should look like.

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Many thanks to the very kind Peter Moore for sending me these proper pictures of yesterday’s Cliff Swallow.
It was great meeting you and your son yesterday Peter, thanks so much for letting me use these wonderful shots.
They will come as a welcome relief to those who have to squint at my woeful efforts on here all too regularly.

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For all those who enjoy seeing pictures in focus (whatever next?), Peter’s excellent blog can be found here

Cliff Swallow, Porth Hellick

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The airstrip at Newquay in Cornwall is a strange place, but then most places are at 5am, especially after Neill has whizzed you down the tarmac from home overnight, and the cockerels on the next door farm are only just warming up their cockadoodledoo-ing.
No time for dawn farmyard fun yesterday though as we stuffed our tripods and ‘scopes down our trouser legs and waddled up to check-in with Jason Stannage and Alan Wright.
The day return Skybus flight to Scilly doesn’t allow any hand luggage you see, but needs must when a Cliff Swallow drives.
Once the lovely folk had squeezed us all into the Twin Otter we took off – Jason is apparently not very keen on flying, but he did seem extremely interested when the rocks below the airfield on St Mary’s sheared into view 20 minutes later.
Surprising what you learn about your friends on a twitch – I never knew Jase was a praying man…

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We landed on St Mary’s at 0830 and were bussed down to Porth Hellick and birding ten minutes later – the Lesser Yellowlegs was on the pool with Dunlins and Green Sands, a Peregrine powered through and Spotted Flycatchers, Willow Warblers and Whinchats were in the bushes – but the Cliff Swallow that has been zooming about here on and off since the beginning of the week was conspicuous by its absence.
Gulp.

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It was all a bit tense for awhile as we continued to sweep the skies with Paul Hackett (great to see you again buddy), Peter Moore and son and a small band of birders on the edge of a nervous breakdown.
At least the cloud was low and there were plenty of hirundines about, but it was a relief when I heard a roar from the beach at about 1045 and legged it round with Jase down the boardwalk to find about 15 people watching the Cliff Swallow hawking over the fields at the south west corner of the bay.
Bliss as it razzed over our heads for an hour or so – a real star.
I even managed some blurry dodgy pics of it through the P900 as it zoomed around on rounded wings and tail – a sexy blimp compared to the skinnier Swallows and House Martins.
Against a background it looked surprisingly brown, but was still very distinctive.
Up against the sky it was just a beast.
Gorgeous thing.

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Mr Hackett patiently tried to explain to me how to use my camera properly as the Yankee powered about over our heads, but I was too excited to listen closely (“Ooo here it comes again!!!!”).
Luckily he let me digi-poach this “bum and collar” image from the back of his camera, so ta for that Paul.

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As midday approached the skies began to clear and the hirundines started to drift higher and higher, and we soon lost track of the mega, but it didn’t matter. Job done.
We wandered back round the cliffs towards Old Town past Wheatears and Stonechats, bouncing over the broccoli head landscape of maritime heath in hot sun – ahh, Isles of Scilly magic.
A de rigueur stop off at the Old Town Inn for a few pints of Guinness before the flight back was as part of the schedule as Hummingbird Hawkmoths in a Scilly flower border…

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All we had to do then was lie to Jase about how serene the flight would be and stroll down the lane to check in and leave the Fortunate Islands.
Always hard to go.

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Back on terra firme early at 1515 and off we went on up the road.
Taking a well-earned break from driving, Neill very kindly offered to share his passion for iffy prog rockers Marillion, at Volume 100, accompanied by storm force karaoke as I steered north.
It was certainly a unique experience – thanks Neill, it definitely kept me awake in a “startled rabbit in the headlights” kind of way.
I can safely say it’s the first time I have ever seriously contemplated leaping from a moving vehicle I was driving at 80mph.
Roundabouts? Magpies? Jesters????
Whatever happened to ’77 baby?
Nerves in tatters we pulled over at Upton Warren on the edge of the southern Yam Yam territories for a quick look at the beautiful little Baird’s Sandpiper there in the last dying rays of the evening sun.

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At least I could use fading light and “prog rock poisoning” as an excuse for the crap pictures – but just look at the projection on the wee gem…wonderful to watch one again as yelping Green Sands and Curlews dropped into roost.
Another truly splendiferous day fellas – thanks Neill, Jase and Alan….

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Blowin’ yer own trumpet

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I don’t usually use the blog to promote events at work, but if you’re in the Ainsdale neck of the woods (or rather dunes) next week, you’re all most welcome to join us at the Sefton Coast Landscape Partnership office for free “Vis Mig” mornings, Monday to Friday (September 12th-16th).
I’ll be heading out from Ainsdale Discovery Centre (PR8 2QB) at 9am each morning for an hour or two to see what we can find.
The more sets of bins and pairs of ears the better.
Five bites of the cherry to score some decent autumn passage around the office and frontals – got to be worth a bash, and if all else fails, it’s always fun showing folk Mipits and Pied Wags.

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More details and lots of other stuff at:
facebook.com/seftoncoast
I’ll post what we get each day.
Now, how much did you say the plane ticket to Scilly was????

Dickens was not a seawatcher.

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Nice force 4 westerly and rain moving in overnight; 9.3m tide at 1330; day off, friends up for it – gotta be a Tobacco Dump seawatch.
Once I’d picked Bazzo and Neill up, we were on site from 1115 this morning under brightening skies and a weakening summer breeze, sun cream out, shades on.
“Great Expectations” my ass.
“Something will turn up” – pah!!!
Dickens patently never tried a seawatch off Formby during his sojourn in Liverpool.

Tobacco Dump, 4.9.16, 1115- 1355:
W’ly 3, cloud, sunny periods.

Arctic Skua 4-5
Razorbill 1
Auk sp 2
Sandwich Tern 300+
Common Tern 120+
Arctic Tern 23
Gannet approx 100
Common Scoter 800+
Red Throated Diver 2
Great Crested Grebe 2

Best head back to Dempsey Towers to hack the garden accompanied by a soundtrack of autumnal Goldcrests and Robins….

Right back down to earth…

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Tried a quick seawatch at Ainsdale over the lunchtime high tide. Seemed like a good idea at the time.
Wasn’t.

Ainsdale, 2.9.16, 1230-1330, SWly 3, cloud:

Red Throated Diver 1
Common Scoter approx 2,000
Fulmar 1 (v. close in)
Gannet 8
Common Tern 17
Sandwich Tern approx 180
Kittiwake 2

…and the terns were all local commuters from the roosts further up the shoreline…

Finally Wryneck – better late than never.

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Finally got round to popping down to the NNR at Ainsdale after work to say “howdy” to the long staying Wryneck that is hanging around the grazing enclosures there.
In my defence I only got back from Ireland in the early hours of yesterday, but I should have made an effort before this evening….
No sign around it’s fave dog rose patch for an hour, then the Wryneck materialised on the fenceline about 50 metres away.
This was hardly surprising as Dave Hardaker had just arrived and he has seen it each time he’s visited.
Three for three, Wryneck-Meister.

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The bird was perched up looking as bewildered as only a Wryneck can for a few minutes before dropping down into the Creeping Willow as the light began to fade.
It has been a long time since I last saw one around here.
Lovely ‘scope views of this all too scarce visitor to our coastline, but probably a bit too overcast and grey for me to zap it with my P900 – as should be obvious from these pix!