Trip to Spurn on Sunday 8th October

Rather wondering if Spurn was going to be very quiet owing to the lack of easterly winds in the preceding week, sixteen of us nevertheless took a chance that something might be about. As the high tide was at 7.40 am we met up at Kilnsea Wetlands first, just after 8.30am, to enjoy the roosting waders there. A good decision as a flock of waders comprising mostly Dunlin and Redshank also contained Bar-tailed Godwit, a Spotted Redshank and two Little Stints. Two further Little Stints were then spotted running about under the feet of some Mute Swans standing on mud at the far end. Much to everyone’s delight a Slavonian Grebe was feeding up at the far end and a party of seven Whooper Swans were swanning about and calling to each other. Just over the road was a very large flock of over 100 Curlews and three Roe Deer. Common duck species were also about and several Little Egrets.

We then headed down to the Warren to watch the waders feed close by on the shoreline as the tide receded. The wader spectacle between the breach and the Warren Car Park was well worth seeing; thousands of waders coming in, flying up in swirls then landing on newly exposed mud. Golden Plover and Sanderling flocks were particularly striking while the Grey Plover showed their black armpits well in flight. Whinchat and Stonechat were also sitting up well in the bushes there. The first Redwings of the year were also coming in.

With regard to birders, it was a day for meeting friends from York and further afield; everywhere we went we seemed to bump into people we know. Andy Walker is a very rare UK sighting these days and it was great to see Martin Quinlan too. Tim and Ollie were being kept busy with ringing duties – we were able to see a juvenile female Kestrel in the hand which was much admired.

We then heard that Red-breasted Flycatcher was showing on Vicar Lane in Easington, so we headed off there – no luck with the RBF, but Brambling were showing well and I got a well-marked Yellow-browed Warbler. On then to the bird that many of us were desperate to see as it would be a lifer – a juvenile Rose-coloured Starling. Having seen it last week, Peter Watson said that he knew exactly where it would be (by bungalows on the road into Easington), even pointing out the very tree it would land in – and we were not disappointed as it turned up in a small flock of Starlings landing in full sight at the top of a tree several times so we all got a good look at it. Not wanting to be greedy or anything, but it wasn’t the most exciting tick ever! On then to catch up with the Red-backed Shrike in a hedgerow opposite Easington Cemetery and many thanks to Lance Degnan for his pin-point directions as to the hedgerow it was favouring. We had excellent views of that, then the news came through that an Arctic Warbler had turned up in Church Field so off we hared back to Kilnsea. We arrived to find a large number of observers already there and thankfully all of us managed to pick it out as it flitted about in the bushes, showing really well at times. A few minutes later it was trapped and after a short wait we were shown the bird in the hand too before it was released, allowing even closer views of its distinguishing characteristics.

Our lunch break provided the main dip of the day for those of us that did not drive the short distance to the Carpark by the Bluebell – Peter, Noel, Neal and Emanuela being the only ones to see a Lapland Bunting there, found in a flock of Meadow Pipits by none other than Andy W!
We then headed up Beacon Lane in search of Red-Breasted Flycatcher and were rewarded eventually with good views of both it and a Yellow-browed Warbler in trees just over the hedge inside the Caravan Park.

Walking the triangle produced Wheatear and more Meadow Pipits and Reed Buntings, but no further sign of the Lapland Bunting. However in the late afternoon sun we had fantastic, close views of up to eight Bearded Tits including three males feeding in the reed bed along the Canal.
A few of us finished off the day at Sammy’s point where we had at least five Stonechats perched close to each other in the second paddock and a flight view of a Great Grey Shrike which then dived into a berry covered bush and sat half obscured, presumably intending to roost there. Antony was also lucky to have a Red-backed Shrike sitting up on a bush beside the road as he drove in. A Mediterranean Gull was seen distantly on the ploughed fields behind the paddocks and the day ended with a Barn Owl hunting successfully then devouring its prey as it sat on a fence post.
A great day’s birding with the morning’s wader spectacle capped by a number of scarce and some common autumn migrants, with many of us achieving at least one lifer. We also had super weather for the time of year (mild, calm and no rain), and a stunning sunset. It was fun to see so many birding friends down there too.

Jane Chapman

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