SPURN CLASSIC OCTOBER FALL

Northern Treecreeper, Warren Cottage, Spurn Point

SPURN WAS SO ALIVE WITH BIRDS TODAY. Joining the Accy boys Dodge and Budgie, Rocket, Gary Waddington and I headed east on the M62 to East Yorkshire. The weather’s timing was almost perfect with a combination of easterly winds for a couple of days, clear skies to the east over Scandinavia to encourage migrants to set off and rain late at night to bring them down on the coast. After a quick stop at a Scottish Restaurant deep inside the People’s Republic we arrived at the Warren, where the stunted trees were alive with Goldcrests, Common Chiffchaffs and robins, a soggy male Brambling was trying to feed on the ground just a couple of metres away and four Common Redpolls were barely further away in the small bushes around the cottage. Overhead hordes of Redwings headed south down the peninsula, along with smaller numbers of Fieldfares, blackbirds and Song Thrushes and a group of five crossbills flew past and north towards Kilnsea. They looked big! Thanks to old friend and Spurn regular Adam Hutt for inviting us to watch a frosty white ‘Northern’ Treecreeper foraging in a sycamore next to the Warren Cottage and at one time on the wall of the cottage itself. He commented on its white claws. This was a new form for me in the UK and it is amazing to think that this little bird had followed the Goldcrests across the North Sea. 

Yellow-browed Warbler, Spurn triangle

With even Rocket now tempted out into the rain we next checked the Canal Scrape where an amazing group of five Jack Snipe were skulking in the cut reeds by the hide – I have never seen a flock of them before. A juvenile Grey Plover made a few brief appearances on the scrape and a female Greater Scaup flew by as we walked along the Humber shore towards Kilnsea. The thrushes kept coming all morning, flying overhead, feeding under any bushes, in the surrounding fields or simply ditching into the marram grass of the sand dunes. Five Ring Ouzels over the course of the day and two or three Great Grey Shrikes provided added interest along with more Bramblings and Common Redpolls. We also saw a few late swallows today. They are long gone from the valley back home now. Continuing towards Kilnsea we noticed a small crowd had gathered and Dodge was quick enough to catch sight of a Dusky Warbler they had been watching. The Johnny-come-latelies had to make do with a Yellow-browed Warbler in the same ditch.

Jonathan 'Budgie' Slater at Spurn Point 

However, soon enough radios crackled with the news of a Dusky Warbler trapped at Kew Villa, which was to be released in the Church Field in 10 minutes. Then we got to see just how many other birders had decided to make the trip to Spurn today, including a couple of coach loads of happy folks. Very kind of the ringers to show the bird, walking it slowly down a long line of twitchers before it was released. As the weather cleared and midday approached there were fewer migrants on the move overhead and we got a chance to look at some other birds like the storm-blown gannets over the Humber and some of them on it. I counted 34 in a single sweep and still 32 about an hour later, mostly juveniles. These strong winds must have been bad news for this year’s youngsters. Lines of Dark-bellied Brent Geese headed upriver along with four eiders. The lads added a Blue Fulmar and a couple of Bonxies during a brief spell of seawatching but things quietened down a little in the afternoon as we searched without luck for a Pallas’s Warbler at post 31, just on the opposite side of the narrow neck, which is now breached and the makeshift road completely washed away. The point is effectively an island already now. A lovely tame Common Redpoll fed on Marram Grass only a few metres away here and clouds of Red Knot on the Humber shore made the walk worthwhile, as did a fine male Black Redstart at the Middle Camp. Having birded both Spurn and Flamborough in fall I much prefer the more open country and big skies of Spurn. 

Common (or Mealy) Redpoll, Narrow Neck, Spurn Point 

A walk up Beacon Lane past the site of last month’s Great Snipe produced little other than a few more tired Common Redpolls, Blackcaps, chiffchaffs and Goldcrests and we headed back towards the Crown and Anchor pub. I stopped to have a chat with Garry Taylor, at Kew Villa, where the garden was full of Goldcrests, chiffchaffs and Bramblings. After some time a Ring Ouzel appeared, its presence betrayed by its harsh tacking call, interesting to hear it here instead of in a valley in Bowland. Just as it was time to leave a young Barred Warbler showed up in a berry-laded hawthorn just above us, thirty-one years after my life bird at Spurn. What a fine way to end a great day! There is nothing like migration on a large scale and I am already wondering how the USA’s equivalent, Cape May is going to compare next week. 

Barred Warbler, Kew Villa, Kilnsea