The albatross in the room

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!!!

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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.

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6 thoughts on “The albatross in the room

    • Some species will feed on Sea Buckthorn berries in very hard weather on the Sefton coast Paul, although most berry eaters generally prefer elder, blackberries etc as a first choice.
      Sea Buckthorn’s detrimental effects on the Sefton coast (where it is an alien) far outweigh any benefits as a food source in the dune system.
      It doesn’t tend to dominate the landscape as much in most areas of the east coast where it is a native.

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