Like riding a bike…

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.

Results on You Tube here.

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.

Apologies for the video of one of the birds here.

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.

Double brilliant.

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.

See you again soon I hope.

2 thoughts on “Like riding a bike…

  1. Managed to get back to South Stack on Thursday, having missed out last year.

    Good numbers of Guillemots, Razorbills and Kittiwakes. Only 2 Puffins seen. 3 Chough along the top of the cliffs, and a couple of Gannets and 1 Peregrine about.

    1 Black Guillemot at Holyhead harbour.

    Several hundred Little Terns were active at Gronant. Oystercatcher, Dunlin and Ringed Plovers also on the beach.

    Liked by 2 people

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