18 October 2015

Spurn! 10/10/2015

Every year I get to have one day where my Mum agrees to get up during the small hours and take me to which ever birding hot-spot I desire, it used to be Cley and Titchwell, but that was before I knew the wonders of Spurn Point. I tried Spurn for the first time last year on the 4th of October, but picked completely the wrong day: it rained, we got soaked and I didn't see much. So this year I kept a close eye on the weather patterns and picked my day carefully! I think it's safe to say, I chose the right day!

I had packed everything the evening before, so it was up at 3:30 and off by 4:00am. We had a 2 and half hour drive, most of which I slept, although I was awake to my first bird of the day - a flyby Tawny Owl. Something else of note en route was the view of Venus, Mars, Jupiter and the Moon almost perfectly aligned! We arrived at 6:40. Whilst I went off to the sea watching hide, my mum caught up on a bit of sleep. I was there for a couple of hours with not much going through apart from a small trickle of Common Scoters, Red-throated Divers and the odd Gannet, accompanied by a pair of Seals pretending to be sharks! News of both Olive-backed and Richard's Pipit at the point came through on someone's radio, unfortunately I was stuck around the Warren until my mum woke up, so been as nothing much was moving at sea I decided to have a wander around. There were a good few thousand waders on the mud-flats, it was hard to identify the distant birds, but there were some closer in, such as lots of Little Egrets, Curlew and a Grey Plover. A Merlin was circling the area whilst 3 Swallow went south, and I heard flyover Siskin and Lesser Redpoll. By now it was 9:00am so I woke my mum up and had a second breakfast! Suddenly news came in of a Little Bunting in one direction and a Richard's Pipit in the other! I chose the Richard's Pipit and after a quick drive up the road there it was, just sat in the field! Lifer #1...

Record shot of the Richard's Pipit
We then returned to the Warren and set off on our walk to the point, by now it was turning into a lovely day with the sun shining down on us as we wandered across the breach, the scenery was beautiful.

The view out to the North Sea
I then got news of a Firecrest at Old Narrows, but having only ever been here once before, I didn't really know where to look. Luckily nearby was Steve Routledge, a local birder, who kindly pointed out the area in which it had been seen before finding the bird itself. It called a few times from within the bushes before showing itself for a little while, in which I got good views of one of the most stunning little birds I've ever seen! Lifer #2...

We continued down the point for a little while before we reached Chalk Bank, it was here that a Yellow-browed Warbler had been reported. I looked for a little while and saw quite a few Reed Buntings but no warblers, so I asked some nearby birders if they'd seen it and they pointed me to the bush in which it had been seen. After another 5 mins of looking with no results, the bird decided to do me a favour, it flew from one bush to another, completely revealing itself! It took another half an hour before it showed itself again and I got some very close views, Just like the Firecrest, it was a stunning little gem. Lifer #3...

We continued all the way to the point with a pair of Stonechats and a flock of Redwing, my first of the autumn, being the only things of note.

Male Stonechat
After experiencing the spectacular views from the point, of Hull to our right and the North Sea to our left, we turned around and started to head back.

We had to walk fairly speedily to ensure we weren't cut off by the incoming tide, we had got to just past Chalk Bank when someone pointed out to us the amazing patterns in the sky. He was able to tell us the names of all the different shapes that were visible and instructed me to Google 'Atmospheric Optics' when I had the chance. It was amazing to see!

A 120° Parhelion with Anthelion and Diffuse Arcs (Apparently!)
A 22° Halo
Back to the world of birds! The next bird of note was a Lesser Whitethroat sp. at Old Narrows which my Mum accidentally flushed as she walked by. I've put it down as 'sp.' because at this time of year you never know what rare Sub-species are about, but I got very poor views of it and no photos, so it will have to remain unidentified!

We finally arrived back at the warren, and drove to our next port of call; Kilnsea Wetlands. Although en route we had a quick stop to see what everyone was looking at in someone's garden. It turned out to be a rather fine Black Redstart! Not a lifer but only my 3rd ever!

Black Redstart
We got to Kilnsea Wetlands at 16:00, I had been in the hide for less than a minute and someone had already put me onto a Spotted Redshank. Which later turned out to be 1 of 4 hidden within the Redshanks. Lifer #4...

A Blurry Spotted Redshank
There were a few other bits and bobs on the lagoon with 3 Greenshank being of note, then the sound of someone's radio came from outside the hide, I didn't hear what it said but luckily someone else did. The words were enough to get me straight out of the hide, and up to the growing crowd, who were viewing a juvenile AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER!!! Lifer #5!
American Golden Plover (!!!)
So while me and a few others had been viewing the majority of the lagoon, someone else had found a rarity, on part of it that wasn't quite viewable from where we were sat! The bird took off and flew towards the Humber showing it's dusky underwings, and returned not 2 minutes later, calling as it did so. Although now, somehow, there appeared to be TWO! Although there was much discussion about this, as one appeared to show more characteristics of a Grey Plover. But from what i've read online, the general consensus seems to be that they are both American Golden Plovers, but "at almost different ends of the variation within the species".

Unfortunately we now had a 3 hour car journey home, but a Barn Owl on the way out was the icing on the cake of what I believe to be my best ever day of birdwatching. Of course that's mostly down to the fantastic 76 species and 5 lifers, but I also met loads of great people from Next Generation Birders and A Focus On Nature, I bumped into Kane Brides who I've seen at the Birdfair and met Tormod from Biotope. When you add in the amazing weather, scenery and atmospheric optics, it easily equals an amazing day, I couldn't have wished for any more! Until next year Spurn... I'll be back, for sure!


  1. nice one Sam, hadn't seen this till now. A good day in a good week at Spurn! Give us a shout next time you're heading to the obs.

  2. Thanks Jonnie. I'm in awe of the Orca shots on Twitter, they look incredible. Will do, looking into going up and staying either at the end of summer hols or October Half Term hopefully.