So Saturday saw us at the Spurn Migration Festival, along with a good 100-200 others I would estimate.
We started the day brightly, arriving a little after ten and parking briefly just near Corner Field where the Red-Backed Shrike was happily showing himself. The sun was from the East and so he was in full light the entire time, ideal for photos. I already featured him extensively yesterday, but it’s worth another look.
We then moved on and parked up properly, splitting the group with one person heading for Darren Woodhead’s art session, and two of us off on a wader walk. Waiting for the wader walk we also found these four young swallows that had found a convenient and secure spot to wait for feeding. We’ll return to them later.
Unfortunately the wetlands were a little flooded, meaning the waders were elsewhere, and our walk along to Sammy’s Point wasn’t tremendously successful either as the tide was still pretty high. However, there was the odd Mediterranean Gull in amongst the Black-Headeds, and one or two Redshanks as the waters started to recede.
As the group got strung out I very briefly found myself spotting and identifying for a small gaggle of birders. This included plenty of Kestrels hunting along the path and fields (thank you to whoever said “You really know your stuff!” when I was pointing out a young male Kestrel on top of a bush!), and the small birds flitting around, mainly Meadow Pipit, Linnet, and Goldfinch.
It wasn’t just birds though, a few Roe Deer were spotted off across the fields. There were also some good butterflies around, including Common Blue and Painted Lady. Sadly I didn’t photograph the Painted Lady, as my brain only prompted me as to what it was the following day! Sometimes ID happens slowly!
Further along as the waters continued to drop we saw Greenshank, Little Egret, Curlew, and Whimbrel.
Ironically after a four mile round trip, the best bit of wader spotting came at the end of the walk, back just five minutes from the car, where a mini-flock of Dunlin, Sanderling, Ringed Plover, and Turnstone had gathered.
Lunch was taken in the car, where the swallows were putting on a display of aerial agility. The confidence of swallows never fails to amaze me. When playing cricket in the past I’ve had them swooping in and out of my feet, never doubting they are quicker and more reactive than I am. Plenty of Curlew were down the field, along with more pipits and Linnets.
After lunch we took a walk along the point, although only as far as the tidal break in the spit. The driving wind, added to the desire to make the evening hog roast, restricted our walk.
Near the YWT hut two young Pied Flycatchers were feeding up and sitting out quite happily in the late afternoon sunshine, apparently unaffected by the keen birders grabbing views and photos. Last time I was at Spurn a Spotted Flycatcher was being similarly open in the same area, so it’s obviously well planted for insects.
Along the point there were yet more kestrels, along with various waders including Little Egret, Knot, and Redshank. But most were so distant that they couldn’t be easily identified. There were also a few Yellow Wagtails and Meadow Pipits hopping about.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Spurn without a Wheatear playing follow-the-leader with me, and this female was doing the usual trick of posing, then moving as soon as you got closer, posing again, and so on down the beach. Always one of my favourite birds, so beautiful and striking.
On the way back we had another watch of the young shrike, before a passing volunteer told us a Kestrel had been caught in the Church Field mist nets and was being ringed. Not that regular a visit to nets, this youngster probably saw the trapped smaller birds and thought an easy meal was on the cards!
This was too good an opportunity to miss so we headed down. Unfortunately we missed the Hobby that apparently gave great views while chasing Swallows, but we did get the close-up of this young fellow. Docile he may have been, but when released the Tree Sparrows went for cover!
Heading back to Westmere Farm we did spy a few more waders on the estuary, but the light conditions were starting to make photography tricky.
The day ended with a plastic cup of complementary wine and a well-stuffed sandwich from the hog roast. While queuing, the young swallows mentioned earlier decided it was time to have a go at flying round the farmyard. Their youth, added to the ever-present wind, made this difficult. Having earlier praised the confidence and manoeuvrability of swallows, these three caused chaos. They landed on the floor, on cars, nearly on people. Watching a young swallow slide down a car windscreen and nearly into the engine space is a pretty sad sight. Fortunately all were fine.
A lovely eight hours out, nearly nine miles walked (burning off the calories the hog roast would put back into the system), and a good day despite the occasional rain and constant wind.
I’ll have a last few thoughts tomorrow.