A wonderful day out at Spurn, East Yorkshire (1 Viewer)

wolfbirder

Well-known member
Had a great day on Sunday at Spurn, what a fantastic place this is now, even though access to the Point itself is much more difficult to get to.

I've rarely seen the place so packed, a mixure of birders and day-trippers, but overall it has evolved wonderfully, with the new Spurn Centre and adjacent Kilnsea Wetlands providing new environments.

I set off from the Midlands at 6am, arriving via the A38, M1, and M18 at 8.45am. I always find the last 45 minutes driving slowly through a series of pretty villages frustrating but necessary of course, to ensure pedestrian safety. Flocks of Linnets flew from hedgerows as I neared Easington, and a Little Owl was perched on a barn's hay-bales.

After extremely strong straight-northerly winds the previous day, I was not really expecting it to be a red-letter day, and indeed the first hour after arrival spent in the Spurn sea-watching hide didn't produce much, with any birds being too distant really, way out towards the turbines, though I clinched a single Manx, Arctic Skua, Fulmar, Oystercatcher, & Bonxie, as well as a few Gannets, Sandwich Terns, and flocks of Common Scoters. Then the news came up of a juvenile Barred Warbler just a hundred metres away, so I popped out and connected with it, gaining two brief but clear views of it in the strong breeze, as it kept low. Back at the sea-watching hide, things were still sporadic but over the next hour I connected with a lovely, fairly-close Sooty Shearwater, 2 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Black-throated Divers, 2 Guillemots, 2 juvenile Kittiwakes, a fly-by Purple Sandpiper, a Kestrel and Sparrowhawk in off the sea, and 5 Sanderlings that were also in-off the sea, joining a Ringed Plover in front of the hide.

In 'The Warren' (just outside the hide), I joined several other birders in eventually connecting with a Wryneck that popped up in a bush, showing nicely. I always love seeing this species, with their intricate but bewilderingly-varied mosaic of colours and barring. A surprise Great Skua passed directly overhead, heading out to the North Sea. I then checked out 'the Triangle' and added Whitethroat, Blackcap, Blue Tit, a few Reed Buntings, and Goldfinches and House Sparrows. Hundreds of Shelduck were spread out behind me, across the Humber estuary.

I progressed onward, but was stopped in my tracks by the entrance to the Spurn Canal Scrape hide, by the presence of around 50 birders and photographers, some of the latter of whom were lying prostrate on the ground pointing big lenses. I soon realised that on the weedy edge of the entrance track, another wonderful Wryneck was affording views down to five metres as it fed on an ample ant supply. Cripplingly-close views were lapped up using bins and scope, and periodically it would look up at its 'intruders', before clearly assessing we were harmless and continuing with its late-morning breakfast! Twenty 'self-indulgent' minutes passed as I was immersed in the lifetime-best views of this enigmatic species.

Nearby, a handsome Wood Sandpiper was seen from Canal Scrape Hide itself, and Swallows swooped over the nearby fields, with 3 Whinchats on the adjacent fence providing good views.

Round the corner, and down the lane, I checked out the field behind the Crown and Anchor, but could not find the Icterine Warbler seen earlier, though 3-4 Willow Warblers, juvenile Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Great Tit, and more Swallows provided constant scrutiny. Frustrated though I felt, this feeling was replaced by sheer delight when the shout went up of "skua", and I ran across the road to the Humber Estuary side, and there flying in front of us was a superb, almost-'white-headed', pale-morph, juvenile Long-tailed Skua, providing quite superb views down to fifty-metres distance, as it harrassed a Black-Headed Gull flock on the estuary. In view for around half-a-minute, the quality of view easily surpassed those obtained of anything passing in front of the sea-watching hide, and for once I was in the right place at the right time! I returned to the field behind the pub, and eventually think I glimpsed the 'Icky' - but I had tried for 45 minutes and left this spot to check other things out, it wasn't a lifer for me anyway as I have seen several in the UK.

I checked out Syke's Field but it was very quiet, so returned to 'the Triangle' and again walked along the sea-wall. Another juvenile Pied Flycatcher was seen, and this time I connected with the 'stunning' adult Red-backed Shrike that had apparently earlier in the day only just escaped being snatched by a Sprawk. What a beauty, and excellent scope views were enjoyed.

As is always the case, when you are enjoying yourself, the day just passes by, but I was well overdue to eat lunch, so I parked in the car park of Kilnsea Wetlands and had a pastie, crisps, chocolate bar, and a 'nearly hot' cup of tea from my flask. On the opposite side of the road, over 150 Curlew were in their usual field, and I spent nearly two cracking hours late afternoon in the hide itself. I quickly located the 3 Spoonbills, an adult and 2 juveniles, 'sything' their way through the channel. Greylag Geese dominated the scene, with just a few dusky-face Canada Geese accompanying them, plus a pair of handsome Mute Swans. Swallows swooped over the water, plus single House Martin and Sand Martin, whilst a couple of Pied Wagtails were on the scrape and a nice male Yellow Wagtail at the end of a spit. Wildfowl species were in eclipse, comprising Mallards, Gadwalls, Shelduck, Teal, Moorhen, plus single Wigeon and Pintail. Waders were of key interest of course, and around 20 juvenile, streaked Dunlin were scattered around, along with around a dozen Black-tailed Godwits, as well as a single Ruff, Common Sandpiper, and Ringed Plover, whilst upto 200 Redshanks crowded on the bank along with 3-4 'paler' Greenshanks. Around 4pm, several large flocks of Knot and Grey Plover dropped into the adjacent Beacon Ponds, away to the right. A Grey Heron, a few 'wing-stretching' Cormorants, and 8 Little Egrets were present, and 3 Sandwich Terns were amongst the numerous gulls that were closely scrutinised. Many Black-headed Gulls, Herring Gulls, and Great Black-backed Gulls were present, with lesser numbers of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Common Gulls. I picked out at least 3 Mediterranean Gulls (many more usually come in at roost), and a juvenile Kittiwake and superb winter-plumage adult Little Gull were highly active, the latter 'tripping' on water petrel-style. Finally, a handsome Spotted Redshank showed well in the nearby channel.

It was hard to drag my self away, but a three-hour journey lay ahead, and with tired eyes and increasing age I always have to be mindful of this. Driving through Easington's 'back-fields' only produced corvids, gulls, and a dead Curlew by the roadside (I later learnt of a roosting Long-eared Owl there too).

But overall this had been a super, very enjoyable day, though it's not always like that!

88 species seen in total, and memorable views of Wryneck, Red-backed Shrike, Barred Warbler, possible Icterine Warbler, Great Skua, Long-tailed Skua, Spoonbills, various gulls and waders, and common migrants like Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, and Whinchat thrown in! Great camaraderie too, with happy birders all around!
 
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birdmeister

Well-known member
United States
A fantastic read, Nick! Well enjoyed and Wryneck would be right near the top of my wish list if I visit the UK. I've always wanted to see one ever since I saw an illustration of one in a Greek hunting "field guide" as a young child.
 

wolfbirder

Well-known member
I only get out about 3-4 times a month, so this was indeed a really enjoyable day.

Thanks both for your kind comments.
 

dragnil

Well-known member
Crikey, I wish I'd been with you just for the Wryneck. Super day, glad you enjoyed it.
 

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