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, 


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