12th April. Yes, the all weather birders have made the promised return. Up at some unearthly hour with only the Blackbirds singing in the darkness and into Doncaster before 7:00am, I met up with Tom and we were quickly on our way in the direction of Spurn. Not without ominous cloud to the west of us and the need to negotiate thick fog in places.
First stop was Easington village and the nearby Gas Works where we knew there was a good area attractive to migrant birds. We soon had Blackcaps and Wheatears on our list along with a very early and newly arrived female Whinchat found on the scrub near to the beach so probably having just arrived. Sand Martins were flying over the shore area. Skylarks song filled the air and was to stay with us throughout most of the day, as were the Meadow Pipits. I began to feel that our last visit had been only recent and not as far back as October. It was milder and less windy today.
Willow Warblers were around in large numbers today and a few Chiffchaffs also. Every so often I see a bird in a new light. Today it was the Blackcap. Incidentally all of the Blackcaps seen were males. One especially showed extremely well in wonderful light. We also heard an early arriving Sedge Warbler during the day, but failed to see this one. Without doubt the earliest Sedge Warbler I personally have ever heard.
Both Tom and I were sure we were in for a soaking at some point as dark grey clouds built up in the west, where there were clearly some storms. We made the most of the dry period we thought we had left. More Willow Warblers and Blackcaps were found and a few Swallows, but rather fewer than we had anticipated
A hide with a view. We never did get wet!
Initially the tide was at its highest so there were few waders around, but we picked up Oystercatchers, Knot, Dunlin, Curlew and Redshank. Numbers of dark bellied Brent Geese were on the water and in flight and Shelduck were present. We later picked up a couple of Ringed Plover at the lagoon, which also held three Wigeon, and later in the day added Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwit to the list.
Our seawatch list was a short one and included the one Gannet flying north, one Kittiwake and a few Herring Gulls or ‘sea gulls’ as I referred to them. Cormorant was seen and on our return a Lesser Black Backed Gull was seen in Hull.
We walked in various areas and picked up the likes of Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Tree Sparrow, thrushes, tits and finches. A White Wagtail was also found and seen very well.
Miraculously the dark cloud and rains it was carrying missed us and gradually dispersed leaving us with clear skies and sun. It was a true spring day and I found my first Speckled Wood Butterfly of the year. White species and Small Tortoiseshell were also seen.
Dark clouds dispersed.
Speckled Wood Butterfly
We missed a flyover Osprey by only a few minutes. We weren’t the only ones to do so. However the day ended on a real high note. As we counted the Wheatears, eleven seen together in one small area at one point and at least one just arriving off the sea it appeared, Tom got his eye on a male Yellow Wagtail. We eventually found a female Yellow Wagtail close by and the birds joined one another eventually. This was bird of the day for both Tom and I. I found our second White Wagtail of the day in the same small area. It seemed to fly in courtship display with a Pied Wagtail. A guy who was out with his family joined us and we were pleased to be able to show him his first ever Yellow Wagtail through the telescope. A real pleasure for him and us!
It had been a great day with RAF Tornados adding some excitement throughout the day as they turned in the skies above us. We ended the day overlooking a sunlit sea and with a day list of sixty-four species. The list reached sixty-five when Tom opened the car window on the way home and we heard a Pheasant calling.
So the All Weather Birders have made a return! :-) My thanks go to Tom for researching the day and doing the driving. It was a quality day. We’ll be back!
It wasn't easy to leave!