Spurn Part Three – Bushes and trees

Yesterday I talked about shrikes and shorebirds, today I’m going to wrap up with the smaller birds we spotted ‘inland’ (not that there’s much ‘inland’ about Spurn!).

If you’ve ever visited Spurn Point, you’ll know you can drive the three miles down from the little admissions hut to the car park near the lighthouse. Not at the moment though. The waves have smashed up a chunk of the road, making it inaccessible. So you are left with the prospect of a minimum 6 mile round trip on foot. Fortunately,. the weather was inviting such a walk:

View across the estuary

View across the estuary

When you got down to the narrow sections, you could see the damage done:

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The walk was productive, yielding most of the wader photos you saw yesterday. Once we got down to the various thorn bushes, we soon hit the undoubted highlight of the day. Not the Shrike, but the Goldcrests.

I’ve spoken before about how I’m not a ‘lister’ and am happier seeing a bird I know, really well. So it was at Spurn. The bushes were full of our smallest bird, the Goldcrest, and they were entirely unfazed by human presence, happily hopping out just feet away from us. At times they came so close you could have picked them out of the air. One in particular came pretty close to landing on me!

You’d think this would make them very photographable, but the problem is, they are tiny, and constantly active. Hence many pictures ended up like this:

Goldcrest turns his back on the photographer

Goldcrest turns his back on the photographer

Fortunately persistence paid off, and I got a couple of decent shots of this lovely little bird:

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The natural habitat of these tiny birds is deep into dark coniferous forests, meaning even with binoculars they can be hard to see. So it was a treat to be able to just stand in broad daylight and have them hop about mere feet away.

Incidentally, one reason Goldcrests look so ‘cute’ is because they have large eyes to see in dark forests. This appeals to us as we have evolved to see certain characteristics as similar to our own babies. That’s what ‘cute’ is, an evolutionary response.

Plenty of Redwings, and a few Fieldfare, had started to arrive:


Redwing having a seaside winter holiday

They were feeding up after their trip from Scandinavia, and this tiredness showed in a particular way. We found numerous piles of Redwing remains where predators had taken advantage of this bounty of wind-swept prey.

The bird we saw more of than any other were Reed Buntings. Fortunately I love these dapper little birds, so I indulged myself with several photos:

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Generally the males get all the attention, with their stylish moustaches and dapper bibs. But I find the ‘little brown job’ females equally attractive.

Incidentally, I spoke yesterday about misidentification. One Reed Bunting briefly confused us, because it showed very distinct white flanks to its tail:


This isn’t a feature you encounter in bird books, because normally these feathers are tucked in, not even seen clearly in flight. But this one was being blown about, spread his tail right out for balance, giving the confusing appearance of being something unusual!

It was actually a good trip in terms of showing me my favourite birds. As well as the Curlews, the Reed Buntings, the Goldcrests, we saw one female Wheatear that seemed determined to be seen. She was walking along the path in front of us, possibly too tired to waste much energy flying. But like the Goldcrests, she wasn’t that bothered about us:

????????She soon hopped up onto a post, allowing an even better look at her upright bearing and delicate and beautiful sandy colouration:

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We got one last look at the same bird when she hopped out onto some of the old concrete blocks at the end of the point:


The sun here really hits her breast perfectly.

There were plenty of other small birds flitting about that I didn’t photograph, such as Blackbirds, Goldfinches, Brambling, Song Thrush, and Fieldfare. Plus one other, always ubiquitous, bird. As they always seem to want to be photographed, we’ll end on a Robin:


I’ll be back to Spurn in April/May to see what spring migrants we can find. Meanwhile, I highly recommend a trip if you can find time in the next week or so.

This entry was posted in Birds, Evolution. Bookmark the permalink.

I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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