A wonderful five days birding (mostly) at Spurn, where it is easy to slip into the rhythm of Kilnsea life, reminded me of a few home truths from arguably the best place on the British mainland for birding.
Firstly it is simply not possible to pop into the splendid Crown and Anchor for “just the one”.
It is important to remember this when planning your day, but “I need to use the Wifi” is as good an excuse for calling in as any.
Also whenever feasible, try to speak in as gravelly a voice as you can (gargling with coal may help), as this will make folk think you are from Yorkshire.
Growling “Thy’s a ****” (insert expletive of your choice, the saltier the better) appears to be a normal greeting too that may also make others believe you are from the land beyond Lancashire’s eastern border.
And never miss an opportunity to plug the excellent work of Spurn Bird Observatory, the reason why most people are there.
I drove over on Saturday afternoon before the weather got colder, although south easterlies had been blowing for a day or two.
As usual Neill Hunt kindly put me up at the Hunt Hacienda at Sandy Beaches – thanks as ever my friend.
A Snow Bunting was at the top of Beacon Lane just above the beach when I arrived, and a presumed Eastern Lesser Whitethroat (Blythi) was scoffing hawthorn berries at point blank range by the path.
Nearer to the Bluebell tired Redwings, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs, Robins and Bramblings were also stuffing their faces after making the journey across the North Sea.
After a few liveners in the Crown and Anchor on Saturday night, Sunday dawned wet and windy, with pretty much constant rain for the most of the day and a good south easterly.
Conditions had obviously brought in more birds, with many commoner migrants – thrushes, Robins, Goldcrests – interspersed with smaller numbers of Yellow Browed Warblers (I thin I had four different birds today), a Short Eared Owl and fine Ring Ouzels dropping in through the rain.
Drenched having checked Beacon Lane, Kilnsea and the Triangle, we called into the Canal Scrape Hide to see if there were any Jack Snipe about (two were bobbing away in the reeds), and as we sat down another birder picked up a gorgeous Little Bunting as it dropped down right in front of us to feed in the cleared area in front of the reeds on the left!
We got superb views of the bunting before it shuffled back into the taller reeds and out of sight, a great wee bird…
Fans of awful video clips will be delighted to know I got a few seconds of footage of it in the wind and rain and you lucky people can watch it here. Sorry.
Moments later a Siberian Stonechat pitched up down by the Crown and Anchor (fancy that…) and Tim Vaughan kindly gave us a lift down to watch the sprite as it was buffeted about by the wind and rain, but still gamely perched up on fenceposts.
It seemed the best thing to do was retire to the hostelry to dry out and while we did this the Obs team managed to trap the chat.
All the ringing, weighing and measuring jiggerypokery gave us just enough time for a couple of beers then we sauntered down to Church Field to admire the bird before its release…
We checked the Crown car park, where a greyish Chiffy may have been a Siberian, but didn’t call (and it was way back in the shadows anyway), Yellow Browed Warblers and Goldcrests scooted through the branches, and watery beams of rare late afternoon sun set a Redstart ablaze.
It being music night at the Crown, our presence was only polite.
Monday dawned mercifully drier, with an easterly and cloud, more common migrants, Yellow Browed Warbler, Siskin and Redstarts.
The Obs team trapped a Kingfisher, that seemed to think it was a Wryneck in the hand, slowly turning its head and fluffing up its nape feathers…colourful, but a bit weird.
As we pondered the behaviour, the radios crackled to announce a probable Olive Backed Pipit was flying up the peninsula, and within a few seconds it was circling above our heads before it swung back south – you can hear the alert on my weird Kingfisher video here.
Rain swept back in early and after walking along the bank we sheltered in the Canal Scrape hide again, where another bouncy Jack Snipe was doing its thing and three or four Bearded Tits (a group had arrived earlier in the week) pinged through over the Phragmites.
We drove down to Easington. Here a Red Breasted Fly played hard to get behind the White Horse and Yellow Browed Warblers, Chiffchaffs and ‘crests called in the Sycamores.
After that things got a bit strange, as we had to pop over to Northern Ireland on Monday night (Nighthawk related hi-jinks on a subsequent post) – it could have been worse, the original plan was to strike out Fetlar to try for the Rufous Tailed Robin, but mercifully it didn’t stick (they never do).
Hundreds of miles, ferry crossings, bad “Nrn-Iron” impersonations and a great big tickety tick later, Neill and I got got back into Kilnsea just before midnight last night.
Groggy we emerged into a south westerly and blue skies this morning, and stacks of birds heading through Spurn – Redwings, Meadow Pipits, Swallows, House Martins, finches, Skylarks etc etc.
A Yellow Browed Warbler lurked amongst the Chiffies and ‘crests in the Willows at Sykes’ Field and a Redstart zipped about nearby as squadrons of Redwings sighed above us.
With a lunchtime dart home planned, Spurn had one last treat for us, when two Common Cranes came powering down from the north, calling as they went over our heads.
The big galoots turned back north again in blue skies once they’d seen the sea spreading out at the end of the point ahead of them.
Superb to them and everyone else at Spurn again.
Thanks to Neill for putting me up and being his usual self in the field…time to get some shut-eye, then chimp 200 Nighthawk pictures and videos…