So I did, trying not to dwell on the effects of still more socially isolated twitching that range from sucking liquid Mars Bars out of overheated wrappers to that awful moment when you realise the internal conversation you’re having with yourself in the traffic jam is actually an external one and the other motorists are getting nervous.
Oh dear. Ben Gunn wth a buzz-cut.
Pulling up at Bempton Cliffs just after 1230 today (let’s not go in to when I set off) I was in time for a brisk stroll to the crowded cliff edge, a bit of ‘scope jockeying and there it was on the sea a few hundred metres away – Black Browed Albatross.
Through the ‘scope I could see the beast’s great sweep of Amy Winehouse mascara and was pondering why it was playing a yellow recorder until I realised it was its amazing bill.
More so when it occasionally unfurled its super-long thin black wings for a flap – I may have travelled in smaller planes (slight exaggeration, but y’know).
How do you fold those up again???
No matter, I’ve have waited my whole life to see you.
I ‘scoped the bird for the next three and a half hours as it preened, flapped, dozed and gently drifted further out towards Filey Brigg until my eyes burned and it was no more than a black and white speck.
Even at that range when it opened its wings it looked like someone had lost a black paraglider out there.
It held my attention so much that the jarring sounds and smells of Puffin Central barely registered.
Sadly I had to go before it returned to the cliffs in the early evening (I feel a second visit coming on), and my images barely register a pixel or two of it the range got so great, but it’s out there somewhere over towards the Brigg, so much more than a bird and completely seared into my memory…
Fortunately Neill Hunt got a stunning shot of what is presumably the same bird at Bempton last year as it sailed past him (24 hours before I dipped it), so you can see what all the fuss is about. Ta Neill.
Although given the beast is still standing proud on the cliffs as I write this I’m sure there’ll be a lot more pictures tomorrow morning!
All a bit gloomy this afternoon by the time I got to Lunt, so not the best conditions for trying to photograph the Wood Sandpiper, which was a little distant too as it fed on the Egret Pool.
Pleasing to hear so many warblers in full song still – Cetti’s, Whitethroat, Sedge and Reed Warblers were chuntering away, and although I was hoping for a Hobby in the humid conditions, I had no luck and the Black Tailed Skimmers enjoyed a stress free afternoon.
A second summer Med Gull was straightforward enough – other year two gulls on the reserve had me scratching my head a bit.
I watched the Wood Sand for 45 minutes or so as it strode about amongst the Lapwings and Ringed Plovers but it never came any closer, even when it was spooked once or twice (like everything else) by passing Marsh Harriers or Grey Herons.
Typical, like everyone else I’ve been checking any groups of Starlings I come across for Rosies given the huge influx this year, but this one is taking things way beyond the pale as it were.
I can’t complain, having been treated to a fly-past by a fine adult Rose Coloured Starling at Spurn earlier in the month, but a sweep of the Starling flock around the office (Ainsdale Discovery Centre) this afternoon revealed this freak feeding in the Sea Buckthorn with the more normal 50 odd Starlings (mainly youngsters).
With the hard summer sun blasting off the bird it was hard to determine just how leucistic/albino this Common Starling was and shooting a bit of video (on YouTube here) didn’t really help.
Not surprisingly it tended to keep a low profile, generally sticking deep in the bushes, because this thing is a sitting Sprawk target!
Interesting to watch, but a bit more black on the head, wings and tail would have been appreciated…
A trip up to Hesketh Out Marsh to see Stuart Darbyshire’s fine, if distant American Golden Plover seemed the best course of action on a warm, sunny Sunday in June.
It was either that or bugs and plants, and I imagined the dune system would be busy in the good weather.
The bird was at the back edge of the first lagoon on HOM East (right where Stuart had left it) at 1230, and while ‘scope views were okay, the heat shimmer over the water made photography ill-advised at best.
Revisiting the shape and jizz of these leggy Yankees whenever the opportunity arises is always good hygiene of course, but closer would have been better!
There are worse places to wait for a wader to perform than HOM though especially with the summer sun burning your neck and Arctic Terns dipping and swooping around the channel right in front of you….
Very peaceful (if you blot out the Sunday clay pigeon massacre blasting away in the woods behind).
Yellow Wagtail, squadrons of Avocets, a calling Siskin headed west and Blackwits, Oycs and Lapwings passed the time.
At 1345 a helium balloon (stop using these bloody things please) drifted across the site and spooked everything. Presumably on its way to choke livestock or wildlife somewhere.
All the waders including the AGP flushed and I lost it to view – the bird could have cleared out, or it could have dropped into one of the many bays and creeks obscured by the vegetation…
I checked HOM West in case it had gone there, but there was no sign, although five Eider were feeding on the first lagoon, occasionally diving, occasionally dabbling and often clashing with the Little Egrets…
Ah, a sunny afternoon at HOM in June, that fickle tickle of Horseflies on the back of your leg, before the bulldog clip pinch and there’s another chunk of your calf heading west….
There’s only so long you can scan through the creches of Starling at Marshside hoping for a pink waistcoat, and apart from the zippiness imparted by the Little Ringed Plovers, the site felt a bit summer sleepy.
I think the Stinkys tend to prefer garden feeders anyway, so I drove up to Hesketh Out Marsh for an hour or two of Arctic Tern watching.
Elegant as ever as they chased off Herring Gulls and LBBs that came too close to the nest, tut tutting and screeching before wafting off over the marsh.
At least two Great White Egrets on HOM East, with numerous Avocets and Little Egrets.
As the afternoon dropped cooler a few Swifts came in zooming about low over the lagoons – I gave ’em a good grilling but got nowt but Common, as is usually the way.
Pairs of Stock Doves swept in from the farmland behind the bank to drink, wary and distant.
Best bird was certainly the male Black Redstart that flew across HOM East in front of me, jet black face and chest, and lovely orangey red tail.
I kept the bird in my bins as it flew south west low over the marsh.
I was hoping it would perch up, but the Black Red kept going and the last I saw of it was as it disappeared over the inner embankment.
I tried ‘scoping back up the bank from the old shelter site, but there was no sign – plenty of driftwood and branches along the distant fenceline for it to hang out in though.
Many thanks to Tom Tams for allowing me to publish his breathtaking images of the Red-Necked Stint at Blyth in Northumberland today – and to Jason Stannage for contacting Tom and passing my request to use them on to him.
Tom’s brilliant images of this mega-wader illustrate why a long drive north was a no-brainer this morning.
Although I’ve seen the species by the flockload in Thailand in winter dress I never quite realised how badly I needed to see a breeding plumage bird until the first images of the Blyth bird emerged last night.
Gasp. I am in love.
The bird was feeding across the river from me when I arrived at lunchtime today and through the ‘scope showed off that lovely red face, streaked breast band and white undercrackers as it scurried along the edge of the water amongst Ringed Plovers.
As the tide rose and the heat shimmer kicked in, the tiny wader became harder to watch from Cowley Road, although still visible whenever it broke cover on Sleekburn Spit, so I stuck around for a few hours hoping it would come closer to our position.
It didn’t, but obviously Tom was sitting in the right place!
Just to contextualise how fine Tom’s images are, here’s the best I could get with the P900 through the heat haze…
I should have realised video was a bad idea too, but no, I never learn – scurrying blur on YouTube here
A few Eiders on the river and plenty of Ringed Plovers.
Some of the guys down from me thought they had a Kentish Plover, and I must admit the bird seemed good through the wibbly wobbly heat haze – bright white face and chest with no band, dark bill, big head, white forehead etc, but video from the other side showed it to be a female Ringed Plover.
That’s the way it goes sometimes – if you ain’t learning you ain’t having fun!
A stint-tastic afternoon.
Thanks once again to Tom and Jason for sparing you my usual blurs….
They say you never forget, but I must admit I can’t remember falling off as much – although in my defence it has been 37 years since I’ve been in the saddle.
Such are the leaps forward, lurches sideways and steps backward of modern technology and the rise of the e-bike.
Thank God the brakes work the same, but the electric arrival at Spurn means the long unattainable territory of the Point is now accessible once more to those with a steady nerve and assist set to “5”.
Don’t stop peddling.
It made an already eventful three days back at the place all the more exciting if a stream of quality birds and persistent easterlies wasn’t eventful enough.
I arrived for a cold, grey 7am on Bank Holiday Monday, with a Greenish Warbler fleeting, but welcome, around Cliff Farm, before it flitted out of the Beech trees and plunged into thicker cover around the Crown and Anchor.
Marshside’s finest began to emerge from their pits and I met up with Neill Hunt and together we headed across the breach and down to the Point, pausing to enjoy a fly-by Osprey heading down the Humber and out over the Narrows.
A Hobby scorched in over the grave of the Spurn Bite, and although initially quiet the cover at the Point yielded Lesser Whitethroat and eventually the superb Grey-Headed Wagtail which has been lingering here for a few days.
Remarkably flighty, I managed reasonable views of the wagtail as it fed in the Hornwrack of the tideline and later around the Parade Ground.
I shot a bit of video, but frankly the bird was so hyperactive the shaky footage gives me a migraine (and I don’t suffer from migraines). You can watch it on YouTube here if you want to risk it.
A spluttering Cetti’s Warbler in the dense cover was my first for Spurn.
Enjoying a sundowner or eight with Neill and Andy Bunting outside the Crown and Anchor gave us Barn Owl looking oddly incongruous at it flapped out over the exposed Humber mud of low tide, but presumably it swung back in at Sammy’s Point as the sun sank into the estuary
And before consciousness was completely lost a Long Eared Owl perched up in the Hawthorns in the Triangle in the last of the evening light.
Magic, if a bit floppy in the ear department.
Tuesday meant a full day in the field from 7am to 9.30pm, starting with thick mist that couldn’t hide a Cuckoo from a local Meadow Pipit, or us from a Long Eared Owl which glared at Neill and I before flying out of the roadside hawthorns at Kilnsea and out of view behind Kew Villa.
Once more across the breach and a Red Breasted Flycatcher was ridiculously elusive, despite many birders checking the scrub for it. I only managed brief flight views of the critter in the Potato Fields.
We pushed on to the Point again as the mist burnt away and summer came to say howdy…
In the growing heat the area was kinda quiet, with a squadron of 40 odd Swallows hawking over the waters where the Humber meets the North Sea, but the sun did bring out a fine Green Hairstreak which fed at our feet. It’s not often I get to shoot video of butterflies – there is a reason for this of course.
Hoped for Bee-Eaters failed to materialise out of the blue sky.
Luckily this situation only persisted for as long as it took to get annoyed at the elusive RBFly again, then the radios crackled and two Bee-Eaters dropped from the afternoon heavens to take up temporary residence on the wires beside Southfield Farm.
Spurn’s birders converged from all points to gawp at the beauties for the next couple of hours. Stunners.
With the sun behind them viewing conditions weren’t ideal, and they appeared as shadowy shapes occasionally revealing splashes of unbelieveable colour.
This is precisely what the Bee-Eaters intended of course as they swooped down from the wires to glide, twist, pivot and snatch any bee foolhardy enough to break clover.
Thanks to Neill for this superb shot below of one in flight – an image far beyond my battered old P900. What a bird.
Although not if you are a bee.
They were settled enough, calling and at one point mating in between as Andy Bunting put it, dealing death from above, below and sideways to the local bee population.
Such was their aerial excellence one even grabbed a Four Spotted Chaser – the first time my initial dragonfly encounter of the year involves one disappearing down a Bee-eater’s gob.
The birds were much better to watch in the early evening from Sykes Field, even if they were a bit further away.
The sun was low enough by then to light them up perfectly and an appreciative crowd ‘scoped them to bits.
Yesterday morning (Wednesday) dawned bright and sunny, and bestowed on me one of those rare sequences of pure birding joy.
As I necked the first Java of the morning outside Neill’s, a fine adult Rosy Starling (I still prefer Rose-Coloured Starling as names go) scudded by over the caravan rooftops before u-turning somewhere near the Bluebell and swung back past me up towards Kilnsea Wetlands and out of view.
This would have been good enough, but about five minutes later as we walked north up Beacon Lane I heard the distinctive call of a Bee-Eater, looked up and one streaked through heading south in the clear blue sky.
A smiley morning turned into a broad beaming one when the radio crackled with news of a Long Tailed Skua moving east over the peninsula and we were able to watch, albeit at range, as this most graceful of seabirds headed out into the North Sea, its streamers trailing behind it and was lost in the glare of the morning sun.
Thanks again to Neill for letting me use these two record shots of the skua he managed, taken at incredible range.
Even at interstellar distance, the slender frame, long streamers and flat belly are obvious.
The local Little Owl was out, although I think using the listening dish to pick up the sound of worm movement below is frankly cheating.
A Red Kite moved down the peninsula a short time later after picking up Carrion Crow hassle at Sammy’s Point and passed low over our heads outside the Crown and Anchor, then the female Black Redstart put in an appearance by Rose Cottage.
This was all before 9am – classic Spurn.
I can’t think of many other places on the mainland that can deliver like this…
The rest of the day was somewhat muted by comparison, but plenty of Small Heaths were out at Sammy’s Point and a spell at Numpties revealed a steady passage of Swallows south with smaller numbers of House Martins with them.
With Holderness turning rapeseed oil yellow in the summer heat I had just enough time for another quick check around Kilnsea, and in the Obs garden a Grass Snake slid like liquid over the warmth of the compost heap.
The second picture shows that either the big sizzly had enjoyed a large lunch, or a batch of little Grass Snakes maybe due soon.
One for the snakeologists to explain for me.
Then home across the M62.
As ever thanks to Neill Hunt for his hospitality and to all the Spurn regulars for the laughs and birds.