Thursday, 31 July 2014

Spurn Day 22

Another quiet night on the ponds came and went, though we did have an improvement today as I did actually hear the fox barking over on the far side of Long Bank. Again though, it gave me no bother on the ponds. We had a new bird for the raft this morning though, just as Keiron arrived a Grey Heron dropped in on the ponds, attempted to land. So close, I remarked, to a new bird on the raft. No sooner had the words left my mouth than did the Heron attempt to land again and this time succeed. Yes, the funding for the bird raft is paying off.
There was also a Ponds tick for me in the form of a Migrant Hawker that was hunting around the hut. I did not have my main camera on me, but I managed a few shots with my compact, but it required the flash due to unfortunately low light, such as is regularly the case at 4.30 in the morning.
-Migrant Hawker
On the way back I thought I had round myself something a little special when I flushed a very pale lark from the path in front of me. It kept very low down and I failed to find it settled. I only saw the bird 3 times, each time it flying but it was pretty featureless with the exception of it being so pale. The limited views I was getting were frustrating to say the least, and not just because it was half 5 in the morning and I wanted to go to bed. I would have given up when it failed to show again, but instead I went back to grab some more kit and to sit it out, so I could find it and have peace of mind. Upon my return to the birds location I took some time but did re-find it. It was, as I had always though, just a very pale Skylark. But in my stakeout of this bird I had got to see a couple of Yellow Wagtails and a good build-up of Hirundines (Swallow and Sand Martin)on the fences in prep for the days passage. So it was not a total loss.
I woke up at 2.30 in the afternoon, feeling much recovered from the virus, though it was still giving me bother, and actually feeling ready to roll. I decided to do a little Seawatching, but that never got off the ground as it was completely dead due to a lack of wind. I then decided to go for a walk up Canalside to see if there were any birds in the bushes.
This paid great dividends, as I managed a decent haul of species and a few Spurn patch ticks. There are a number of bushes at the bottom of the Canalside and here is a good place for small birds. You can also see the waders on the Humber, so I set up here. There was decent stuff, with Yellow Wagtail and a few Swifts going over. The first patch tick came when I heard a sharp call overhead and looked up to see 3 Snipe going over. I lost them but they came back round not long after, and though they kept well down, prior to their landing I got some decent views and record shots.
The tide was well out so that was the sum total for the birds actually on the estuary. As for in the bushes it was a different story. There were very good numbers of Whitethroat all around, including birds of all ages. There was also a Accro warbler keeping low down, certainly a Reed, but at Spurn you can’t be sure. Fortunately it called and I was able to properly pin it down to Reed. I also got fleeting views of Sedge Warbler, a young Robin, patch tick, and Willow Warbler, which is also a patch tick. So that was time well spent I would have said.
-Reed Warbler
After dinner I opted to just chill and prepare for the shift. It was quite dark when I arrived, too dark to really make anything out from the mass of waders on the poolside, with the exception of the Oystercatchers. On the walk up the beach though there were good numbers of Dunlin again and tonight there were even a few Grey Plover, which are a novelty for the beach. The fox, once again failed to make an appearance.

The Daily Oystercatcher
My time with the Oyks was very low again. I noticed this morning that both chicks stood alone, independent of each other and of their parents, which is a good sign given that they are now quite old. However in the evening both chicks with one parent were all sleeping together on the crab pot island just off the coast.

Species List:
Beacon Ponds: Grey Heron, Cormorant, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Little Tern, Black-Headed Gull, Grey Seal, Migrant Hawker,
Seawatching: Sandwich Tern, Gannet, Oystercatcher,
Canalside: Whitethroat, Swift, Swallow, Robin, Redshank, Linnet, Snipe, Sandwich Tern, Reed Warbler, Dunlin, Whimbrel, Yellow Wagtail, Woodpigeon, Herring Gull,

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Spurn Day 21 - LIFER ALERT

Today has been a quiet but exceptional day. I returned from the nightshift utterly grounded by my virus, crashed and went to bed. Upon my awakening I decided to not go out birding but to stay in bed in the hope that some rest would help clear me up for the days ahead. It was a quiet days birding anyway, with nothing much reported in.
At around 4.30 I decided that rather than waste the whole day I would go and do a little sea-watching. I was joined by Tim, and we watched the good old sea for about half an hour. It was pretty quiet. I managed to spot 2 Skuas, probably arctic but difficult to tell for the distance, and Tim found a couple of Arctic Terns. Nothing exceptional, but about 2 mins after Tim had left a juvenile Kittywake dropped in, so that made it a bit more interesting, something different.
I headed down to make some tea and to settle down in preparation for the evening ahead. Another birder, called Adam, was also staying in the Warren and he came in around 7.00 to get some stuff and said that a couple of guys were Seawatching, and that a black tern had been spotted further north and that it should be here within half an hour.
Black tern or no, any birding would be better than lounging round, so after dinner I headed up. All my days, Adam is the best birder I have ever birded with. He had birds all over the shop. In fairness, during our 90 min seawatch I did not do too badly, with a Yellow Wagtail, Fulmar and a couple of flyby Sanderling to my name. I have no idea where these birds came from, but Adam found Black-Tailed Godwit, Manx Shearwater, an immature Mediterranean Gull (My first of this age and at Spurn) and most importantly the Black Tern itself.
It’s almost August and I have finally managed to get one of my target lifers this year, finally. When a large flock of Common Terns flew past I naturally gave them a once over and then went back to my searching. I clearly overlooked the immature Black Tern among them, but such was my shock when Adam announced it that I nearly sent my scope flying in order to get a view. I did manage a view, but not a good one, as the bird had already past me when Adam spotted it. I got around 3 seconds of viewing before the bird was gone, but it was clear to see the dark upperside and generally stockier body compared to the Common Terns it was with. No record photos, sadly, as the whole thing happened very quickly and I opted to watch the bird rather than photograph it. But I can now finally tick this species, my 20 LIFER this year.
Buzzing from that, and the other stuff, I headed back to the warren to prep for the nightshift. The birds on the ponds consisted of the usual crowd, but I re-located the Avocet chicks this evening, their being dragged all over by their parents. They had grown far more than I had expected, though they still had their immature fluff. Other birds on the ponds consisted of the usual crowd of waders; Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Knot, Sanderling, Dunlin, Redshank and Oystercatcher.
On the face of it, a good day, even though it was wasted on the whole. Hopefully said virus will begin to clear up and some more birding will be in store over the next few days.

The Daily Oystercatcher
Today is also a monumental occasion in the lifer of our Oyks. It’s likely that this is not the first time, but today I saw the juvenile birds fly. They have probably been flying for a few days, as they seemed pretty competent, but since it’s my first time seeing them it feels like a first time. They flew from one of the spits, round and then down into the area behind the dunes where it is difficult to see. It was wonderfully rewarding to see, feeling safe now that they have made it.
In the evening both chicks were sat with one adult on the isolated crab pot, roosting up ready for the evening’s kip. They looked rather snug and content, a good sign. I am beginning to feel very much like a proud parent.

Species List:
Beacon Ponds: Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Little Egret, Mallard,
Seawatching: Gannet, Arctic Tern, Sandwich Tern, Little Tern, Arctic Skua, Sanderling, Oystercatcher, Linnet, Kittywake, Swallow, Sand Martin, Manx Shearwater, Black Tern, Knot, Dunlin, Fulmar, Black-Tailed Godwit, Herring Gull, Yellow Wagtail, Swift, Turnstone, Mediterranean Gull,

Beacon Ponds: Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Cormorant, Knot, Herring Gull

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Spurn Day 20

Today the virus began to really grab hold. As a consequence the birding has been limited. After I had awoken from my days slumber I eventually decided to go for a short walk along Canalside to see if any birds had dropped into the bushes. It was already mid-afternoon when I set off and as such did not expect to see much
The first bird I saw was a lovely Reed Bunting that was perched out in the open near the bottom of the walk. The only other time I have seen one here was a bird flushed that then immediately skulked again, so nothing worth reporting really. This time the view was obviously much better, so much so I have even included it in my blog.
-Reed Bunting
The tide was out and as such there were not many waders on show. There was a pair of well grown Cygnets on Canal Scrape and a few Sedge Warbler singing from the reeds. There were also a couple in the bushes, which gave better views but were still very skulky.
On my way back I found my highlight of the walk, which was a family of Whitethroat. I first noticed them as one of the juveniles had perched on a car window in a very unorthodox position. In fact I spotted 2 youngsters and an adult, which was tending to them and bringing them food. I grabbed a few photos to include on here, mainly because it had been a quiet walk but also because the young birds were quite cute.
And that was about it to be honest. Beacon Ponds was quiet for my shift, though there were impressive numbers of Dunlin on the beach. I also managed to sneak past them but once one took off they all followed suit, and then landed ahead of me on the beach, so I had to pass them again…

The Daily Oystercatcher
To be honest I can’t actually remember the Oyks actually doing anything today. I can’t recall if I saw them, though I probably did. They were probably just feeding or sleeping and so is not overly memorable.

Species List:
Canalside: Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat, Mallard, Mute Swan, Woodpigeon, Swallow, Sand Martin, Swift,
Beacon Ponds: Dunlin, Grey Plover, Oystercatcher, Cormorant, 

Monday, 28 July 2014

Spurn Day 19

Ah yes, the joy of the nightshift. Unfortunately I fell asleep for the last part and did not get to see any of the birds on the pond in the morning. Numbers were low anyway due to the number of tern chicks that had fledged.
I walked back groggily to the warren, under another beautiful sunrise, really spectacular. I may as well say now that I spent the whole day asleep, so the photos of the sunrise are all I took today.
Yes, I awoke feeling incredibly rough at 12.00, tried some birding at 2.00, but could not manage it and went back to bed, where I slept until 6.00. I think its fair to say that I have come down with something pretty grim.
At the ponds on the night there were the usual cast. There were still plenty of Dunlin in when I arrived, and a healthy number of Grey Plover too. In the gloom it was difficult to make much out, but I could clearly see 1 or 2 Red Knot, and a few Juvenile Little Terns.

The Daily Oystercatcher
Not much to report for them today. I missed them in the morning but in the evening spotted both chicks with an adult sleeping on a crab pot off from the shoreline. I don’t remember seeing this crab pot before, so it may well have been revealed due to the water level dropping. Either way, it’s a safe place for the Oyks to roost.

Species List:
Beacon Ponds: Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Knot, Little Tern, Oystercatcher, Brown Hare

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Spurn Day 18

So today is the nearest thing to a day off, and a chance to go and explore Spurn. As usual I headed first up to the Vis-Migging point, where there was an incredible amount of Swallow Movement. While I was there, for an hour and a half, I counted around 600 Swallows going south, and around 11 Sand Martins were going with them. There was also a few dragonflies hunting the area, including Migrant Hawker, one of which sat down very near to where I was standing, so I decided to grab a few photos of it.
-Migrant Hawker
I stayed until lunch. After lunch I decided to head off to collect my laundry from Kew. I headed up Canalside, but the tie was out and there was not much around on the walk. There were good numbers of insects with many butterfly species and a few dragonflies, such as Emperor and Common Darter.
Once I had gathered my kit I decided to walk back along the road and the coast, to complete the triangle walk. In the field next to Kew I got the days highlight when I found 3 Yellow Wagtails feeding in one of the puddles there. Initially they moved off, but they returned, though they kept skulking in the grass. After a bit they began to alight on branches and wires, giving better, but more distant views.
-Yellow Wagtail
It was a quiet walk overall, and as such did not really add much else along the way. At the end of the walk, near the seawatching hut I did find some more birds, in a flock of around 25 Common Scoter that were chilling on the sea. It was quite difficult to judge numbers because of the wave movement, and because they were quite far out, but I did my best and 25 is about right.
-Common Scoter
So that was the days fun over with, and of course the nightshift has begun. I was shocked to arrive to the sight of no birds on the edge of the pond. My initial concern was that something terrible must have happened, but checking through Keirons notes and it seems the opposite is true, with 28 juvs leaving today. I guess they must have just been waiting for the wind and then they were off.

The Daily Oystercatcher
Not a lot to write today, as I arrived too late to really get any views. I had a check when I saw there were no birds, and the Oyks were sitting by the side of the pond so were unfortunately disturbed by my checking. But since the chicks did not fly at this point I think its safe to say they have not fully developed their flight feathers yet, though it can't be long now.

Species List:
Vis-Migging: Yellow Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Swallow, Swift, Sand Martin, Migrant Hawker,
Triangle: Whimbrel, Curlew, Redshank, Common Scoter, Yellow Wagtail, Starling, House Sparrow, Whitethroat, Oystercatcher, Woodpigeon, Blackbird, Swallow, House Martin, 
Beacon Ponds: Oystercatcher, Little Tern, Sandwich Tern, Dunlin, Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover,

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Spurn Day 17

Last time on the dayshift for a week now. Once more it began in fog, so I took a power nap. I was awoken to the radio, the message of which I thought said something about ‘spotted redshank’ and ‘tern hut’, so I had a look. I later discovered this was not the case, but in looking I re-found the Curlew Sandpiper that’s been around, milling about with the Dunlins.
It turned into another really warm day, which I had been dreading given that it was a weekend in the school holidays. It was a quiet day though thank goodness. Nobody really bothered the terns, and there was nothing exceptional on the bird front. The highlights were a Yellow-Legged Gull on the beach, and a Yellow Wagtail that dropped in around lunchtime, the first time I have seen one on the ponds.
In the evening I had a bit more stuff. I had to take my laundry up to Kew, so decided to go via Canalside. There was a sea fret in, but that meant any birds would not see me. The first birds I saw were a flock of Shelduck that were over the Humber. They looked really mysterious in the fog, but since I had nothing else photographed all day I decided to grab a few pics.
The tide was still quite high, and as a result there were good numbers of waders along the shoreline. I got really good views of Whimbrel along the bank, as well as views of Redshank and Dunlin.
-Whimbrel, Redshank and Dunlin
And that was about it Birdwise. There was one other item of interest, and a lifer for me, in that near the top of Canalside I found a Puss Moth Caterpillar. Sadly it had been trodden on and its guts were spilled out, but it was still alive, just in a less than magnificent state. It’s the first time I have seen this species of caterpillar, and they are just as weird as they look in the books.
-Puss Moth Caterpillar
The Daily Oystercatcher
Pretty standard day for the Oyks today, much feeding and wing stretching. By the looks of it, it won’t be long until they can fly, and then will be free from the necessary protection that they get as a side effect of the tern project. It’s the last time I will see them properly for a good while now, given that I’m back on nights. By the time I get back to days they will probably be ready to roll.

Species List:
Beacon Ponds: Little Tern, Sandwich Tern, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Curlew Sandpiper, Knot, Common Tern, Black-Headed Gull, Sanderling, Woodpigeon, Marsh Harrier, Little Gull, Swallow, Little Egret, Meadow Pipit, Carrion Crow, Yellow-Legged Gull, Yellow Wagtail, Gannet, Kestrel, Sedge Warbler, Feral Pigeon, Blackbird, Linnet, Grey Plover,
Canalside: Whimbrel, Redshank, Dunlin, Shelduck, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat, Common Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Puss Moth Caterpillar

Friday, 25 July 2014

Spurn Day 16

 Once more the day started off with thick fog, and sleep. When I awoke the situation was improving for once or at least on the weather front. I had slept through the wader roost, but since I could hardly have seen them anyways it seems little loss. There was no sign of the curlew sand from the last few days, probably skulking in the fog until it cleared, then headed off to the Humber to feed.
The usual cast were all present, but I learned today that the Sandwich Terns on the pond are actually from a population in Holland. The things that ringing can teach you.
There was good movement of Little Gull all morning, with 6 birds moving at 8.45 but peaking to at least 11 by 9.30. Many of these were adults but there were a couple of first years around, one of which stayed all day. They are lovely birds Little Gulls, wholly underappreciated.
-Little Gull
I actually did not spend much time at the hide today, as a long haul shopping trip was required mid-day. I just worry about the amount of bother the terns were getting from the public, as there seemed to be an excess of blatantly ignorant people around, who simply ignored your requests to tell them to move.
The only thing bothering the colony besides the people was a Juvenile Greater Black-Backed Gull, with which the terns were fine if the gull sat next to them, but if it was in flight was a cause to rise and call and mob the bird. The GBBG must have been very confused. The only other predator was an Arctic Skua out to sea, but it did not approach the colony, probably as a consequence of the horse riders along the shore. I grabbed a few truly awful record shots, but they will do.
-Arctic Skua
The real fun of today occurred when Paul and Tim came up to the colony to do some ringing of the young terns. Our systematic searches failed to find any on the shoreline or in Area B, where we expected but in area A we found 3, one of which was old enough to ring. I was allowed to hold the bird too, a real honour, while it was photographed.
Since we had got a fairly poor turnout from the terns, not unsurprising given most were now juveniles, Paul decided to try and ring some Ringed Plover. These chicks were well on their feet and present slightly more of a challenge than the terns, which were very docile. There were 3 Ringed Plover chicks, so that was one each. I swear mine was the liveliest, as it darted around, Zig Zagging all over the place and going under frustrating fences. I eventually got it after about a minuet of chasing, involving dives and near misses, and despair. Once in the hand though they were very docile and easy to deal with. Tim rung them and then we let them go. It was one of the most fun things I have done since I got here, and that is saying something.
-Ringed Plover
I had intended to stay a little longer today, as compensation for the extended break, but at 5.00 the sea fret made a return and within 5 mins it had gone from decent visibility to hardly being able to see anything. As a result I decided to call it quits there, since there seemed little point in staying.
So despite it being quiet overall it was one of the most enjoyable days I have had and the chasing of the ringed plovers was something I will never forget.

The Daily Oystercatcher
Another fairly standard day for the Oyks, with much feeding and wing stretching going on. Once more the birds tended to stay in pairs, although one chick was left to wander on its own for a bit when its adult decided to go for a kip on one of the crab pots. Of course, as the chicks are unable to fly, the adults went bezerk when we were rounding up the plovers for ringing, but they tended to stay away despite the adults obvious frustration.

Species List:
Beacon Pools: Grey Plover, Little Tern, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Little Egret, Swallow, Woodpigeon, Greater Black-Backed Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Cormorant, Skylark, Mute Swan, Gannet, Little Gull, Swift, Mallard, Sanderling, whimbrel, Arctic Skua, Pheasant, Sand Martin, Redshank, Grey Seal, Brown Hare

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Spurn Day 15

Well today I got very familiar with fog. I arrived on site at 5.00 to a blanket of fog. You could sort of make out some mass of waders on the ponds edge but that was about all. As a result I slept off the first few hours, finally waking for good at around 9.00, to still thick fog. The conditions did not improve much over the day and as a result birding today was very quiet.
Once I had awoken I set about seeing what was about. Given the fog counting terns would be a waste of time, as half of them I would not be able to see. I set about scanning the shoreline, and the first bird I came across, the very first bird, was the adult Curlew Sandpiper that has graced me with its presence for the last 3 days. Since today had the makings of a quiet day I decided to go down to try and grab some photos of it. It flew off before I even got close, but moved round to behind the hide to join a small flock of Dunlin. Now these Dunlin behind the hide were a very approachable lot yesterday, and so I hoped that it would remain the same with the addition of Curlew Sandpiper to their ranks.
It was indeed the case, and I spent most of the morning getting great views of the Curlew Sand as it went about feeding among the dunlins. In addition, I also got some great shots of the bird to add to my gallery that I have built up over the past few days. These are without doubt the best of those I have got so far.
-Curlew Sandpiper
There was not much happening otherwise, though the Curlew Sand did grace me with its presence for the whole day, even when the tide was well and truly out. I tried to do a tern count from Long Bank and got most of them I think, but there were areas that were just too foggy to work out, and that made it very difficult.
On my tern counting trip I flushed a Common Sandpiper from the bank, not especially common here, so I tried to grab a few shots of it as it was on the bank. However it saw me before I spotted it and flew off round and presumably over the bank as I never re-found it. However I managed a flight shot, which tells you all you need to know.
-Common Sandpiper
The morning passed and afternoon came on, just as quiet as the morning had been. There was only one assault on my terns during the whole day, from a Herring Gull, but they soon saw that off. Other highlights from the tern area were small numbers of Little Gull of a variety of ages which came and went during the day, always nice to see.
The best pics I got from the afternoon were of birds that came close during a Curlew Sand photography session, namely Ringed Plover and Little Tern. The terns were fishing quite close to the area, while the Ringed Plovers were just doing what the always do.
-Little Tern
-Ringed Plover
And that really sums it up. I left early there was so little going on and headed back to the warren to sort out some food. All in all a decent day by average standards, but the high calibre of days recently has made it feel a little quiet.

The Daily Oystercatcher
But at least these birds kept busy. Always running around and feeding, whilst pestering their parents for more food. Once more the chicks tended to have an adult each whilst going round in pairs. The parent also left the chicks alone at times today, and indication of how well their developing. The chicks also showed a lot of wing stretching, revealing that their feathers are becoming more and more developed daily. They are growing up fast.

Species List:
Beacon Ponds: Little Tern, Sandwich Tern, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Little Egret, Cormorant, Mute Swan, Dunlin, Little Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Arctic Tern, Common Tern, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Herring Gull, Great Black-Backed Gull, Skylark, Swallow, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Starling, Sand Martin, Curlew Sandpiper, Grey Plover, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Small Skipper, Wall Brown, Red Admiral, Ruddy Darter,

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Spurn Day 14

I arrived at the hut for 5.00 in the morning as per, ahead of another long but enjoyable shift. As soon as Keiron had left I evaluated the situation. It was foggy, so I could hardly see the far side of the pond, there was a North wind blowing, so it was freezing cold, and I was absolutely knackered. The solution, I decided, was to sleep off this grim morning in order to better appreciate the rest of the day.
I awoke from slumber at around 8.00 to see, much to my delight, that the day had cleared, though the wind had not dropped. The reduced fog meant that it felt much warmer so I set up for a morning check. First I headed over the Long Bank to do a morning Little Tern juv count, and registered a very poor 8, though the tide was out and there were possibly some on the beach.
Both Oystercatcher families were still out, as were 3 Little Egrets and 3 Little Gulls, 2 adults and a Juv. The decline in weather conditions meant that the Seawatching had improved and there was a steady stream of gannets moving to sea.
The first of the morning’s events occurred at 9.30. Still feeling groggy from my kip I was sat in the hut with the front open sorting out some notes when I heard some frantic squawking from outside the hide. I looked up to see a Sandwich Tern being mobbed by an Arctic Skua. I had never expected a Skua to actually enter the colony, only ever pass it by near the sea. Here was one actively hunting in my colony, meaning I would have to deal with it. But at the same time it’s an Arctic Skua right in front of me, and I hardly ever see this species. So I decided to spook the bird, with my camera. As soon as I saw it I jumped up and grabbed the camera. But the bird must have seen me as it immediately gave up its pursuit and headed seawards, where I managed to get a couple of record shots. Consider my duty done.
-Arctic Skua
That left me very satisfied with my mornings work, but also very surprised that such a sea-going bird had come into the colony to hunt my terns, very concerning. But I considered it a one off, a chance to get great views of the species. Wrong! At 10.00 the terns all went mad, flying all over the place, and who should fly straight through them but the same Arctic Skua. It must have gone back south out to sea and then come back up through the colony. Here though I failed to see it actively bother anything.
It just glided through the colony with a handful of angry Sandwich Terns on its tail. It followed the line of the pond straight up towards the hut, and after flying around the northern end of the pond decided to fly right over the hut, and over me. I could not believe it, how close it came, gliding some gracefully over me. It is possibly the best view of the species I will ever get. I was fortunate enough to grab a few shots of it as it drifted over, before heading out to sea. An experience I will never forget. I saw it a little later heading back south out to sea, and wondered if it was going to try a third time, but it never did.
-Arctic Skua
The birds were left in peace following the skua’s departure. But not for long though. At 10.20 all the birds went up again, and I mean all the birds. Even the Egrets went up, everything was up. I already had a worrying suspicion as to the cause of this disturbance but could not see it. I did see it though, in its usual spot, sat on the beach. The female Sparrowhawk had returned again, and was once more causing havoc among my terns. I scared her off, but I do not think she caught anything. Hopefully they will begin to get the message.
It was really not the terns’ day. We then had more bother from Kestrels, but fortunately only by their presence and not their hunting. And then the juv Marsh Harrier made an appearance. Last time the only thing this bird had upset were the Crows, but this time all the terns went up. Fortunately it did not come close and all quickly settled down, while the harrier dealt with its old adversaries up a the north end of the pool.
-Marsh Harrier being mobbed by Carrion Crow
The next hour was spent watching irresponsible birders, making sure that they did not disturb my terns. Once they had cleared off I headed back to the Warren to pick up some lunch. When I was almost back I spotted a large flock of Common Scoter flying northwards near the Seawatching hide. They were quite close to shore too, allowing me to grab some shots that were a slight improvement on what I had in the past. 
-Common Scoter
That was a very busy few minutes for me, as no sooner had the scoters gone than did another, or possibly the same, Arctic Skua come flying along the shore. It then took a turn inland and started flying over Clubleys towards the Humber. Half way across it found a Sandwich Tern with a full beak which it decided to mob. So far as I could tell the Tern got away. The Skua continued towards the Humber where I saw it turn south and then disappear below the tree line. It’s been quite a day for Skuas.
-Arctic Skua mobbing Sandwich Tern
I did not stay long for lunch, it being a busy predator day I wanted to get back to my terns as soon as possible. I made it back for 1.30 having not seen much on my walk back, only a Painted Lady in the same place as yesterday, so presumable the same one. It was still sunbathing despite the lack of sun, obviously still suffering from whatever it was that made it shiver when I saw it yesterday.
-Painted Lady
The ponds were very quiet when I got back, not a lot happening. I went round to Long Bank again to do another count. I swear I got corn bunting while I was over there, but I cannot be sure, as is usually the case when small brown birds whizz past you. I also counted a record 5 Kittywake on the bank with a few Little Gull. I’m getting good at this Kittywake spotting business.
On the way back I spotted a Knot among the small group of Dunlin feeding at north end of the pond. Since all my photos of summer Knot so far have been relatively poor I decided to take a few here, to boost my Knot gallery. They are not (!) bad. 
With the tides changing the times that the waders arrive every day is getting later, and today it was around 4.00 that the first waders arrived. Until then I had not much to do at all, as a sea fret had come in and was making things difficult. Seawatching was out of the question and tern counting would be biased since I could hardly see half of them.
I did get some drama though when a familiar foe made another appearance. The female Sparrowhawk is really beginning to get on my nerves now. Again it left empty handed but once more made all my terns very on edge, making my job very difficult.
I was on Long Bank when the waders arrived, a very poor showing indeed, only a couple of hundred dunlin showing. There were 3 Grey Plovers among their ranks and the Summer Turnstone from yesterday. There was also the Curlew Sandpiper from yesterday, which was still looking lovely. Once more it came fairly close, and so I grabbed some more shots, though they would do well to add to yesterday’s photos. 
-Curlew Sandpiper
The final count of Little Tern juvs got a very respectable 30, not bad at all. There was too much movement though, as the terns were frequently being flushed, so much so that most of the Dunlin actually left, taking the Curlew Sand with them.
I decided to call it a night after the tern count at 4.30. The fret had made things very difficult, half the pool obscured. There had not anyone to send away during the entire afternoon shift and as a result there was little I could do besides watch the fog. As a result I drew the line and headed home. On the way back I spotted one of the Grey Seals near to shore, and since I have not taken any photos of them yet I decided to grab a few, since they are a regular feature of any day at Spurn.
-Grey Seal
And that was that. The fret came and went through the evening, but I remained exhausted so I did not go out again. Another birder was in the warren and he said that he had got nothing, so once more it seems I had the best of it up at the pools. Man, I love my job.

The Daily Oystercatcher
As mentioned both families were seen today. My family spent most of their time in their chick adult pairs, occasionally coming together to do some feeding. I managed to upset them multiple times while checking the fence and moving between Long Bank.
I was interested to note that when the above marsh harrier made an appearance, instead of the parents going off to mob them, they immediately ran to their chicks, as if to protect them. I don’t really see what an adult oystercatcher would have been able to do against a marsh harrier, but this was a different response to that seen to the Sparrowhawk over the last few days, a bird which was violently mobbed by the oystercatchers.

Species List:
Beacon Ponds: Little Tern, Sandwich Tern, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Little Egret, Cormorant, Mute Swan, Dunlin, Gannet, Kestrel, Little Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Arctic Tern, Common Tern, Arctic Skua, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Herring Gull, Great Black-Backed Gull, Skylark, Sparrowhawk, Sanderling, Swallow, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Marsh Harrier, Common Scoter, Kittywake, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Knot, Starling, Sand Martin, Curlew Sandpiper, Grey Plover, Turnstone, Wren, Grey Seal, Brown Hare, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Small Skipper, Painted Lady, Wall Brown, 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Spurn Day 13

Day 11, a day that finally begins at some kind of reasonable hour, as in not 00.00. But 4.00 is not much better. I crawled still half asleep to the hut, relieved Keiron of duty, then sat in the chair and went to sleep for 2 hours on and off. If anything were to happen I am reliably informed the birds would wake me, and they did. I kept checking during my waking breaks and nothing was happening. There were not even that many Juv Little Terns about. There was my Oystercatcher family though, and they always provide fun. There were 3 Little Egrets in too at 5.20, as well as a juvenile Little Gull preening itself on the shoreline.
When I finally awoke and decided to stay awake it was already 7.30. Completely wrecked I set about counting the days birds. I managed 218 Sandwich Terns at 9.30, 11 Arctic Terns and 2 Common Terns at the same time. Not bad really. The first birds that I crossed paths with that were not pool regulars was a large flock of Common Scoter out to sea, that went north at 9.50. I decided to take some photos of these, as it was looking like a quiet day and something photographed may be needed for said blog I decided.
-Common Scoter
To be honest that was about it until lunchtime. It was a very quiet morning and I get the impression that I did not miss much by having a power nap.
On the way back from lunch things really started to pick up right from the off. Despite the fact that the sky was overcast it was incredibly humid and warm so there were plenty of insects around on Beacon Lane. Today had 2 Wall Browns and the regulars, plus a Small Copper. Having seen spurns first of this species this year last Thursday I decided to grab some pictures to commemorate this find. I had the wrong lens on, so it’s not great, but it’s a site record shot.
-Small Copper
There was still and Emperor Dragonfly ovipositing on the small pond, but that was about it. There were a couple of darters in the pathside vegetation, which I assume are Ruddy. I inspected one female and that was the case.
On the beach there were more Sanderlings in summer plumage. There had been one on the way to lunch, but it had seen me first and taken off with a Ringed Plover, before I knew what was happening. This was a larger group, around 10 birds, but they were difficult to approach. Waders on the beach have been fairly approachable, with the exception of Sanderling. Since I have to get past them it’s not usually an issue in that they will be approached regardless, so may as well try and get some snaps while I am at it.
Over lunch I had seen yesterday’s sightings log. Adam had been up to the ponds, while I was there, and managed to count 38 juvenile little terns. Yesterday I managed to count 13. I asked where he got the numbers from and said that the best spot is on the long bank behind the pond. I have previously tried to do this but failed to find a real path, so did not make it. But since finding a way looks like it would make the difference between me doing my job properly and not meant that I had to find a way. I did find a way, an overgrown path so covered in vegetation it looks little more than a natural sea-break, but it was a way onto the far bank.
It was well worth it, as I counted 24 juvenile Little Terns. The number is unsurprisingly lower than Adams, because at 1.55 before I set off the male Sparrowhawk made another appearance at the lagoon, sending everything crazy and many terns took off out to sea. The Sparrowhawk had the nerve to land on the beach again before I saw it off. I don’t think it got anything but the fact that it came back suggests that it is using the pools as one of its regular haunts. Well, it will have to get through me if he wants any dinner from here!
But it was not the Little Terns that stole the show from up on long bank. It was nearing high tide and the days Dunlin were all it. I set the scope up for a gander through and immediately, immediately I tell you, landed on a SUMMER PLUMAGED Curlew Sandpiper. It was feeding among the sleeping Dunlin, moving around near the back. Since yesterday’s bird had been a proper pain to photograph, constantly moving and hiding, I rattled off about a hundred record shots of this bird out in the open, where it was little more than a small blob with legs and a curved beak.
But I need not have bothered. The bird kept coming closer, but still far away, when it upset a Ringed Plover, poor choice to upset of birds on this pond. The Plover gave the sandpiper a good chase, but the sandpiper came round and landed on the near bank, as close as I could possibly hope to get from Long-Bank and as close as I could realistically hope. I got some good record shots of the bird as it fed among a small company of Dunlin. And as if any more proof was needed, when it flew I got some shots of that white rump.
It stayed close for around 15 mins before it upset another Ringed Plover and flew back to the main bunch of Dunlin, probably around 700 in today. I took a few more shots later, when it was feeding alongside a Knot and a single Dunlin, to serve as a comparison shot between the species. Having said that, if I see a summer plumaged Curlew Sandpiper there will be little doubt as to its identity, it being a stunning bird to say the least. 
-Curlew Sandpiper
-Curlew Sandpiper mobbed by Ringed Plover
-Knot, Dunlin and Curlew Sandpiper
Also among the ranks of Dunlin were a few Knot, a single Turnstone, but a lovely adult in summer plumage and around 6 adult Little Gull on the small island. But the highlight was a Kittywake that had taken up among the Sandwich Terns. Finding it once again proved to myself that I would be able to identify species outside of their expected environment. 
-Kittywake (Center)
I headed back to the hut. I would have to stay on the bank to watch the birds as the views were so much better, but I needed to be on duty in case any photographers, irresponsible birds, irresponsible dog owners or tourists decided to ignore the signs on the beach. The clouds were beginning to clear, though the wind did not drop, but it was peasant enough to set up outside atop my dune and watch, there was not long of my shift left.
Late on in my shift I got the horror I did not need, almost confirming my worst fears. The Terns had been on edge all afternoon, very flighty, due to the Sparrowhawks appearance. So late in the shift when the terns went mad I assumed they were overreacting. You can tell how serious their panic is whether or not the Dunlin go up too, this time they did. I spotted a female Sparrowhawk flying through the colony. It seems then that a pair is using the site for hunting. Fortunately this time the bird just passed through as it was mobbed violently, unlike the male bird which was left largely in peace. I will have to be extra on my guard from now on.
I spent the last half an hour of my shift looking out to sea hoping for a Skua to appear. I did find 2 families of Guillemots on the sea, 2 adults with young chicks bobbing on the waves. I decided then that I rather a Skua not turn up, as these looked primed for Skua snacking. In that sense, fortunately one did not turn up. I also wondered if the Grey Seals might try to snack on them, but so far as I can see they did not.
And that was the sum total of my Seawatching that afternoon, very little movement. On the way back though I picked up another nice species when I flushed a Painted Lady from the path at the bottom of Beacon Lane. It moved into the bushes, where I photographed it. I noticed that the butterfly was shivering quite rapidly, which is the first time I have seen this outside the early morning. It had obviously been sunbathing when I inadvertently flushed it. 
-Painted Lady
And with that I made it back to the Warren. I did not go out again as the tiredness was beginning was to catch up again and I had 2 days blog posts to do. It’s been another great afternoon, even if the morning was not up to much, more Curlew Sands, more Oystercatchers, More chasing off hungry Sparrowhawks, I love my Job!

The Daily Oystercatcher
When I arrived both chicks were feeding behind the hide, each with an adult. But once again it was clear to see that one chick was becoming more independent, as it wandered along from the other 3. It re-joined later and I frequently saw each chick with one parent throughout the day. I also saw both chicks feeding together without the adult. So it had to be when the female Sparrowhawk flew through, as the adults went mad, the first time I have seen them leave the chicks in the event of a predator, with the exception being when I have to check the electric fence and they are nearby. I got a nice photo of one of the chicks being demanding/fed for today's slot. Shows just how well they are doing.

Species List:
Beacon Ponds: Little Egret, Greater Black-Backed Gull, Little Gull, Dunlin, Mute Swan, Ringed Plover, Little Tern, Oystercatcher, Sandwich Tern, Arctic Tern, Cormorant, Avocet, Common Gull, Common Tern, Gannet, Woodpigeon, Redshank, Meadow Pipit, Common Scoter, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Sanderling, Sparrowhawk, Curlew Sandpiper, Knot, Swallow, Linnet, Reed Bunting, House Martin, Starling, Blackbird, Whitethroat, Turnstone, Mallard, Guillemot, Sedge Warbler, Herring Gull, Grey Seal, Common Lizard, Emperor Dragonfly, Ruddy Darter, Southern Hawker, Small Skipper, Large Skipper, Common Blue, Small Copper, Peacock, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Large White, Small White, Green-Veined White, Meadow Brown, Wall Brown, Ringlet, Gatekeeper, Small Heath