Tuesday, 1 November 2011

All Weather Birders Avoid Arrest at Spurn!

31st Oct. I was up before the larks and down in Yorkshire meeting up with fellow all weather birder Tom before the light of day had fully developed. Before traveling to Spurn we had a date with a great bird. We just had to find it first which in the event didn’t take too long. It was the Great White Egret at Sprotbrough Flash, just outside of Doncaster. It gave us a very nice sighting to begin the day. I’ve been on foreign trips where this bird is often passed over as birders search for other interest. I don’t understand why! As well as the Great Egret other interest included good sightings of Kingfisher as it flew across the water and perched in the reeds, at least forty/fifty Gadwall, two Little Grebes and Grey Herons. We both agreed to re-visit this site in the future and give it a little more attention. It was a very nice area.

We were soon heading in the direction of Spurn, passing through Hull and past the Humber Bridge. It was during this journey we saw a small skein of Pink-footed Geese and started counting our first Kestrel sightings. At least nine Kestrels were seen during the day. It was now we began to notice a police presence which seemed to remain with us throughout the day. Even during the quietness at Spurn we were passed a few times by police cars, and call me paranoid if you want, but I could swear they were weighing us up. Surely it isn’t unusual in the area for guys to be seen prowling in the bushes with binoculars and telescopes?:-)

We searched Easington Village thoroughly for Firecrest and Pallas’s Warbler, but had no success. We did have a Lesser Redpoll calling as it flew overhead and landed giving us a good sighting. We walked the hedges of the terminal as well hoping for Yellow-browed Warbler, again with no success. The hedges were busy with tits, Blackbirds and Goldfinch. Driving along to Spurn we found Merlin flying near to the road.

Once down on the shore we were impressed by the wader flocks which included thousands of Knot, some of which took to flight in typical Knot fashion. Some Grey Plovers (a favourite of the all weather birders) gave fine sightings along with the likes of Oystercatcher, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit and Curlew. In the distance, a Little Egret was seen.

The scrape was quiet, as was the area in general, but we did get a brief view of Water Rail and good sightings of Redwing. Although there were no large numbers of migrant birds, this didn’t take away anything from being in this area. It is a very atmospheric and to my mind a mysterious spot. I could feel a novel coming on, but I believe that has been done before! The now dark clouds overhead added to the atmosphere and mystery as we watched some individuals working out on the sand and mud flats with the sun occasionally breaking through the clouds and adding patches of light to the wide expanse of wilderness. It recalled a scene from Dickens. Calls of Curlew and other waders were occasionally picked up, all adding to the atmosphere. It’s several years since I was last at Spurn. I don’t think it will be so long before we go back!

We did watch the sea from the hide for a short period but there appeared to be no passage of seabirds. Reed Bunting, Linnets and Meadow Pipits were all picked up as was the odd Red Admiral Butterfly.

We came back to Easington to search the hedges again. I’ve done a lot of hedge watching in October! We did see at least three Great Spotted Woodpeckers during the day. Fertiliser had been added to the fields and I commented that it wasn’t the sort I’d like to use as aftershave. Goldcrest was heard calling from deep in the hedge way and some excitement was caused when we found a warbler. After some patient watching it turned out to be a female Blackcap and we also found the accompanying male bird. Another bird which teased us from deep in the bushes, turned out to be a House Sparrow.

The time came for us to return to Doncaster via industrial Hull. I thought Hull looked nicer in the dark! Seriously, I like industrial sites, especially when lit up at night. By now we seemed to have shaken off our police escort although I wondered whether I might be followed onto the train.

It had been a great day and I had added a couple to my year list in Great Egret, which in fact is a UK tick, and Merlin. I’d like to thank Tom for the driving and company and also keeping me updated as to the Magpies progress during my journey back to Newcastle. The second goal went down very well with my can of lager. I was home in time to see the victory sealed.


  1. It sounds like a very good spot! (Even with the Police keeping a close eye, lol).

    Yeah I'd be excited by Egrets and am surprised that some birders would not consider them to be anything special.

    Great that you had also such good views of the Kingfisher too!

  2. Re the Great Egret. It's simply the fact that they are quite common in some areas of the world Mark. What is perceived as 'common' can quickly be over looked in the birding world, as well as anywhere else. Place something common in place where it is uncommon and people will quickly take note. Cheers Brian

  3. Yeah that's a good point.

    We will probably have a number of regularly seen birds which would attract huge crowds abroad.

    Cheers Mark.