A CLASSIC WEEKEND AT SPURN KICKED OFF WITH NEWS OF AN OLIVE-BACKED PIPIT found at high tide near the Chalk Bank seawatching hide. Although there wasn't any rain the previous night, high pressure and light easterlies had persisted on and off all week, yet another record-breaking influx of Yellow-browed Warblers was taking place in the UK and particularly at Spurn. I wondered what was coming behind this wave of what was presumably thousands of birds from the Urals and eastwards. The third of October also marked the first time I saw YbW, on Holy Island in Northumberland when I was still a kid in 1981.
After a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers and a quick look at a nice Jack Snipe from the Canal Scrape hide (this is one of the best places to see them in the UK these days), alongside a Common Snipe, Robi Goder and Attila Simay and I trekked out to the point, crossing the breach just after the tide had fallen. The OBP was quite elusive and took quite a lot of folks to find it but occasionally it sat up in ancient elder bushes for a few seconds allowing some nice views.
Most people had drifted off back north towards the Warren again and I was still trying to get some photos of the pipit when news came through over the shortwave radios of a Pied or Black-eared Wheatear on the beach at Chalk Bank less than 1km to the north! OK I can leave this for a little while I thought until a short while later more news... a Citrine Wagtail on the beach at the breach. Wow! Black-eared is a much rarer bird in Yorkshire than the former but the wheatear was quite quickly decided to be a Pied and when I eventually caught up with the crowds I was pleased to see it was a smart male too! The wheatear was moving up and down along the stretch of beach and some people had even photographed both of these birds in the same frame!
Happily both the wheatear and wagtail stayed long enough for me to see them, albeit in dull afternoon light. There were not many other commoner migrants around though, except for plenty of Goldcrests and Common Reed Buntings plus a few Song Thrushes, Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap. What a day indeed! I don't think I had been on the spot for three birds of this rarity to turn up within walking distance since the two cuckoos and grosbeak on St Mary's in 1985.
After an enjoyable evening in the Crown & Anchor (another 30 years anniversary!) I hiked back to the Point with Dave Hursthouse but the OBP and wheatear were not to be found today, just a Jack Snipe and a few Northern Wheatears of note. The Citrine Wagtail had moved north to the triangle and we saw it a couple of times in front of the Canal Scrape hide. Amazing how different its appearance looked in the warm sun today! There were still some Yellow-browed Warblers around but first place went to an apparently new Arctic Warbler trapped at Kew. There was a mass gathering of twitchers for this one (even though Lee was worried that 'some people are missing'), all lined up along the fence in the Church Field as Paul walked it down but with so many people there wasn't time for much more than a quick glimpse before its release. Super smart phyllosc nevertheless! There were a few spots of rain and the wind had turned to the east again as redwings flew over calling.
While we were milling around after this, news from Adam Hutt of a Little Bunting flying around over the Warren. It was trapped there soon afterwards and he showed it next to the seawatching hide, encircled by a crowd of keen twitchers. Thanks a lot for some great work mate! The guys at Spurn try very hard to show the interesting birds they catch and use the opportunity to raise funds for the conservation and ringing efforts there. However, I did see some 2p pieces in the collection bucket. This is Yorkshire after all! Remember to take some £1 coins next time or better still, become a Friend of Spurn Bird Observatory, it's only £22 per year and a very worthy cause.
Attila and I spent the rest of the afternoon watching Yellow-browed Warblers among the Goldcrests. A Comma and Red Admiral brightened up things at the Warren, the Citrine Wagtail landed on the road on front of us at the Triangle and we enjoyed some great grub at the Bluebell. The Hungarian boys were late to rise and started drinking lager again immediately but Attila still managed a self-found UK lifer, a Great Egret flying south over Beacon Lane. Everyone else 'found' it too. A flock of Pinkfeet also passed over and a female Merlin was hunting shorebirds along the Humber of note. We finished with the Arctic Warbler feeding in a hedge at Church Field. A great way to end a weekend that we will remember for a long time. THANK YOU SPURN!