Friday, 22 October 2010

Spurn; My Return

Anyone who knows me, or has read my second ever post on this blog ( will know Spurn was and is a very important place for me. I worked here for two years, I learnt and grew up so much as both a person and a birder. I am forever indebted to the place and the people here - and was so pleased that I finally had a chance to go back.

I arrived at 4pm on Monday 18th October. This is how my stay went....

Day One

The drive up was relatively painless. I left Seaton at 10:40, and was driving through Hull at 15:10. It was great driving from Hull to Easington, passing through all the places I have passed through so many times before - just not in the past five years.

I arrived at Kew Villa (the bird obs wardens house) at 16:00, and was greeted by Andy and Paul. With Adam arriving a little later. Great to see everyone again - and great to see none of them had changed one bit! It was getting dark and gloomy, but I did have time for a quick twitch. A Spurn tick for me - the only one I got during this visit....

An Egyptian Goose - don't worry, it does get better than this!

After log, a fine cottage pie and a glass of red wine or two, it was off to bed....

Day Two

With the wind coming from the west, and the clear skies, The Narrows was the obvious place to go. We were here by 07:30, and I left Andy to count alone at about 10:30.

Looking south from Narrows down the peninsula

There weren't loads on the move by all means, with less than 200 Goldfinches for example. There was some fine quality though with a Shorelark (which unusually for here flew north!), four Lapland Buntings and four Twite. Small raptors were also on the move with five Sparrowhawk and a Merlin south, there was also a large juvenile Peregrine hunting over the Humber, disturbing the thousands of wading birds.

The Merlin; am very pleased with my Lumix for this one - it is worth enlarging

At about 10:30 Adam shouted me over the radio saying he had just caught what he thought would be a ringing tick for me at Kew. So I went straight up there, and he was right! Two Mealy Redpolls 'in the bag'...

One of the best things about these Mealies were their 'fluffy' legs, I've never seen legs like this before on any finch-type bird! (by the way - that isn't my hand!)

After ringing a few more birds - including a couple of Tree Sparrows - I headed to the Warren. This is at the start of the peninsula, and is where the accommodation for the Bird Obs is located. I positioned myself near the sea watch hide, where I could over look the sea, the Triangle, the peninsula and the Humber.

That's the sea watch hide, and you can see the corner of the Warren heligoland trap. As you can see - nice blue skies

I watched here from 11:45 - 14:00. Pink-footed Geese were on the move in small numbers, I counted 285 in all, with flocks varying in size and flight-line. Most though flew past over the sea like this bunch...

A line of Pinkies - I just love the noise they make as they go over!

Three Red-breasted Mergansers flew in, as did a flock of 43 Brent Geese...

If you are sad and did count them, the 43rd bird is just out of shot!

With the clear skies I was hoping for raptors, and they came! At 13:00 a distant large raptor appeared miles to the south, but it was flying up the peninusla so I was just going to wait patiently. All of sudden though, it turned, and started getting even more distant! The light was awful and I couldn't make anything out on it, so just shouted over the radio "there's a large raptor flying south down the peninsula". Luckily Adam was down there, and about five minutes later he radioed that he could just make out a Rough-legged Buzzard over the Humber heading for Lincs. Why the bloody thing turned around I don't know - but very annoying!

25 minutes later another large raptor appeared in air just to the north of me - it was a cream-crowned Marsh Harrier. After being hassled by a Crow for a few minutes it flew south. The only other notable sighting during this watch was a late Sand Martin which flew south.

After a bite to eat, I headed for the Point to see if I could see the two Northern Bullfinches that had been hanging about here. Soon after I got to the end though it starting chucking down with rain - so no surprises that I didn't see them. In the outer dunes good numbers of Blackbirds, Redwings and Song Thrushes were flying up as I was walking through, plus a couple of Fieldfares and Bramblings. This chap was 'surfing' just off the Point Beach...

My seal ID skills leave a lot to be desired for! I think this one is a Common though?

I also took this (in my opinion) nicely composed pic...

Clear skies above Lincs, with the Humber Lifeboat in the foreground

It wasn't far off dark now, and I stopped off at Chalk Bank to look through the high tide wader roost where a lone Avocet was a bit of a surprise amongst the mass of grey!

This really doesn't do it justice; part of the high tide wader roost at Chalk Bank

I am always spell-bound by the numbers of variety of wading birds you can see at Spurn. It just shows how good this place is for birds, as they rarely get a look in as there always seems to be something else to look at! Over the few days, I must have seen up to ten thousand Knot, a couple of thousand Dunlin, hundreds of Grey Plover, Redshank, Oystercatcher and plenty of Sanderling, Turnstone and Ringed Plover. It really is amazing!

I returned to Kew, we did log, and then went to the Crown and Anchor for dinner. Nathan - one of the Spurn regulars - came down from Hull to join us. It was great to see Nicky too, looking well - she was one of three who I went to Morocco with in 2005. A few pints later, we were back at Kew and it was time for bed!

Day Three

A blustery north west wind, and over night rain, meant sea watching was the order of the morning. It wasn't long though until the clouds cleared and sun came out - so it wasn't all that ideal. That is one problem with sea watching on the east coast - in the morning you are looking towards the sun!

There were a few bits passing through. I picked a Pom up flying north, which at first did look quite petite and Arctic-looking, but it soon revealed huge amounts of white on the underwing, and as it flew more parellel to us it showed broad wing bases and nice slow and deep wing beats. Other Skua actioned was provided by three Bonxies south. A Sooty Shearwater only offered a few brief views as it flew north, but the four Goldeneye that flew south were much more obliging - one being a cracking adult drake.

We had to head back to Kew to clear out the second bedroom as a new carpet was to be fitted. After this I headed up to Easington to see if I could see the Rose-coloured Starling that had been seen. I didn't - but had much more luck with the Yellow-browed Warbler in the church yard, a stonking little bird. Also here a cracking tristis-type Chiffchaff. It called several times - sounding more like a Bullfinch than a Chiff - but it wasn't a grey bird - more brown and buff. Not a hint of green or yellow on it though.

After hearing a few crackles on the radio about a Hawfinch, I returned to Spurn. A walk around the Triangle showed plenty of thrushes, with Redwings and Song Thrushes in almost every bush. Eventually the Hawfinch showed for me, it flew up and headed back north - always nice to see these monster finches in flight! At the Bluebell, another Mealy Redpoll was a nice treat, showing very well with a flock of Goldfinches...

Looks like it is going to be a good winter for this species

I returned to Kew to help put the bedroom back together. While I was here, Paul opened the nets and I did a bit more ringing, including a few more of these...

Tree Sparrows were everywhere - I probably saw over a hundred each day. Cracking birds though!

After some lunch, I fancied a wander north, up to Beacon Ponds....

This is the main lagoon - another high tide roosting site for wading birds

Literally as I took the above photos, two Short-eared Owls took off from the top of a bank that was no more than three metres in front of me! They flew over the ponds together for a couple of minutes before landing in a field to the south of me.

A Ruff was feeding in an adjacent field, with c100 Golden Plovers and several Lapwing and Curlew. As I walking alongside the second lagoon, a 'flash of white' turned out to be this...

A stonking adult male Snow Bunting! Again - bravo Lumix!

By the time I'd got back to Kew, it was getting dull and that was all the birding for the day done. But the garden was full of thrushes and Bramblings as darkness fell.

Day Four

My last day started how my second had, with a vis mig watch from the Narrows with Andy...

Me at the Narrows. I've seen many many good birds from here - and counted many hundreds of birds!

The south west wind (albiet very strong) ensured good numbers of birds were on the move. Totals of 122 Skylark, 40 Rock Pipit (with another 30 in off) 689 Goldfinch, 70 Greenfinch, 84 Siskin, 14 Linnet, 16 Lesser Redpolls, one Lapland Bunting and one Snow Bunting went in to the notebook. A major highlight were two Waxwing which flew low south - they nearly got through undetected too!

Wildfowl passage included seven Red-breasted Mergansers, a few Teal, Wigeon and Common Scoters, a Goldeneye, a Velvet Scoter and 46 Whooper Swans. The Swans flew past both over the sea and over land - in various sized flocks at various distance...

A distant flock of eight up the Humber - these touched down and rested on the exposed mud

A closer loner!

I left the narrows at 11:10 and returned to base camp, via a trip to here....

Easington shop - complete with a hot cabinet full of pasties/slices/sausage rolls!

After I stuffed my face - and a cuppa back at Kew - I went to the Warren and had another watch from besides the seawatch hide. I was here 12:30 - 14:45.

Over the sea, passing wildfowl included one Brent Goose, five Wigeon, two Pintail, ten Teal, a Red-breasted Merganser and another six Whooper Swans (taking the day total to 52). These really knew how to migrate - they were sat on the sea and let the tide to all the hard work! When I first picked them out they were white dots miles to the north, when I left they had just gone south of straight out!! The best the sea had to offer was a Little Auk which came whizzing through north at 13:55 - another two were seen later in the afternoon.

A few birds were still flying south, with a few more Rock Pipits, Goldfinch, Redpoll noted - and a nice flock of five Twite, their nasal 'duwee' call giving their identification away!

Most impressive though were the birds coming in off the sea - something I really love the east coast for. During my watch I counted nearly 300 Fieldfare - some single birds skimming the cliff-top as they hit the land - others in large flocks that dropped down from some height as they saw trees and bushes. Very few actually landed though, most continued on west. A few Redwing, Blackbird, Rock Pipits, Chaffinches and two Snipe came in also.

Although I felt sorry for the passerine I enjoyed watching a Merlin chase what I think was a Rock Pipit for over five minutes over the sea. It was a sad end for both - as the Pipit fell in to the sea, and the Merlin left empty taloned.

My stay here was coming to an end now. I returned my radio, which allowed me a last look at the Obs...

The Warren cottage - this building is still in use

And inside - this is the common room where log is usually held in the evenings

'Dunbirding' - this is where I lived for several months. It's now been closed down. (Probably as a result of me staying in it!!)

This large white building is also now 'out of bounds'

Paul and Andy kindly fed me up, then at 17:30 I left Spurn, and was home by 22:45.

I was very sad to leave - and had such an enjoyable time. Even if I had seen no birds - which could have well happened with the predominantly westerly winds - I would have had an excellent time. So good to see the place, and everyone again. Nothing has changed - except the fact I'm going to be a regular visitor again!

I've just a couple more photos to add to this MONSTER post. Time for just a little bit of gloating...

I've seen White's Thrush in this hedge!

And a Pine Grosbeak in this tree!

See you again soon Spurn....


  1. A very enjoyable read that Steve. Spurn`s a great place as you rightly say.
    I`ve seen some corking species there. Desert Warbler being the best, but that was at Sammies Point.

  2. Thanks Dean. Desert Warbler is one bird I would go some way to see in the UK.