With the recent flurry of amazing sightings at Spurn and along the East coast of Yorkshire, it seemed well worth a trip to the coast. But the report on the Spurn website that said ‘A disappointing exodus of migrants’ wasn’t promising, nor was a switch in the wind from Easterly to South-Westerly. Was there anything left to see?
Well, of course there was. Just not so many of the glamour birds that draw the twitchers.
There was a draw for the list-making fraternity, namely a Rough Legged Buzzard. This leads to a philosophical question on a par with the one about trees and woods, or chickens and eggs; if you see a bird, but don’t know what it is at the time, does it count?
Because I saw the Rough Legged Buzzard. But it was in poor light and purely in silhouette, so it was only by reading the reports when back home that I knew this was what it had been. I’m a bit tough on this one, if you cannot ID it at the time, you didn’t really ‘see’ it. So I have to be equally tough on myself.
There were a couple of other good spots that were not photographed.
We flushed a Jack Snipe, which tends to rely on camouflage so only bolted up pretty much as my foot was on it. We also had a fly-past by a Snow Bunting, and another flying visit, from a Short Eared Owl, just as we pulled into the car park.
It can be all too easy to get obsessed with photographing everything, which can make sightings like those above feel diminished. I don’t see it that way, and sometimes it’s better to just watch a bird and be sure of what you are looking at in the moment.
So what did get photographed?
Spurn is always popular with predators and both Sparrowhawk and Kestrel were on the prowl, in addition to the aforementioned owl and buzzard.
There were plenty of small birds about to attract them too, with numerous Tree Sparrows, Linnets, and Reed Buntings moving between the bushes and shrubs.
Along the shore Meadow Pipits, which came into the country by the thousand over the past month or so, were taking advantage of the bounty of assorted sand-based invertebrates.
There were also numerous ‘Woodcock Pilots’, or Goldcrests as they are more usually known. They are always very easy to spot at this time of the year as they have little fear and while feeding after landfall will happily flit about no more than a foot or two from an observer. That should make them easy to photograph but they move so quickly in and out of the foliage that you end up with a lot of blurred and missed shots.
But persistence can pay off, not with the best Goldcrest photos I’ve ever had, but a couple of decent pictures.
Another group of birds you usually guarantee at this time of year are incoming migratory thrushes, in particular Blackbirds, Redwings and Fieldfares.
There were a few Fieldfare on the move but nearly all at a distance in the bushes.
The Redwing and Blackbirds were more numerous. The Redwing spent a lot of time distant in the tops of bushes, flying past ‘tseeping’ as they went. That ‘tseep’ call can be heard at night as they migrate overhead, if you have a clear night and some patience.
Eventually a couple did settle and allow us to approach reasonably close. They are a really beautiful thrush, and much smaller than the bruising Fieldfare.
If it’s not obvious enough from those photos why this bird is called a ‘redwing’ then this slightly blurry shot as a bird landed really shows who red that underwing area is.
It wasn’t just birds coming in that you could spot, there were birds moving South too and a large skein of geese went overhead during the morning in classic broken ‘V’ formation.
There are always plenty of gulls and waders about too, and I was taken by an image that presented itself of a Black-Headed Gull seemingly walking on water.
I also love the backdrop of the E.On wind farm there.
As the tide rolled in through the afternoon the waders began to mass along the shore.
Picking much out of that is never easy, but there were plenty of Curlew, Redshank, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Sanderling, and a few Cormorant too.
At least one Curlew came unusually high up the sand bank. I’m used to seeing them at the shoreline, on mudflats, or in fields. Not on a beach.
There were also large numbers of Redshank moving up and down the shore, even when the tide was still out.
While many of the waders were settling into larger flocks for protection from predators, several were off in isolation or smaller groups taking advantage of the emergence of insects later in the day.
Possibly the highlight of the day for me was sitting and watching a small group of Sanderling. This pretty little waders are very relaxed around people, probably because they have supreme faith in two things. One, they can fly. Two, they run like the wind. It’s impossible to understate. They look like clockwork toys that have been filmed then sped up. They need the ‘Benny Hill’ chase music playing. The downside is you get a lot of pictures where they are shooting out of frame.
Fortunately they did stop every now and again to poke about in the surf, at which point you could get a pic of a bird that always looks wintery to me.
It wasn’t just birds at Spurn, and a couple of Roe Deer did pop out of the bushes briefly.
Okay. We’ve passed 1,000 words and a lot of photos, which is probably beyond good practice for blogging. So I will leave you with one last image, the spine and ribs of a sea monster, disappearing back into the water.