Sunday, 13 July 2014

Spurn Day 4 - LIFER ALERT

I managed to sleep in til 9.00, but awoke at 5 feeling completely awake. I guess that confirms that my sleeping pattern is screwed. However, I now had a full day ahead of me full of exploring and casual birding.
I decided to start with a little Seawatching as the weather was not exceptional. However, the sea was completely flat, no waves at all. I settled down to watch and see what would emerge. The highlight of my hour’s shift were 21 Common Scoter, which flew by in flocks of 10 and 11. The only other birds were the Gannets, but these were way out. It was a nice start to the day though, and the weather picked up during my stay.
Next I moved to join the small group of birders that was stationed near the seawatch hut. These were counting swifts and were made up of locals and regulars. Initially it was very daunting being among so many birders familiar with each other, but I got to speak to a couple as they started to drift. There were good numbers of Swift even while I was there, but the total for the day was already about 1000. The real buzz was regarding a certain bridled tern that was slowly progressing down the coast, and many were wondering if it would make it so far down to Spurn.
As the weather picked up, and I mean really picked up, I decided to head over to the ponds near the warren to see if there were any red-veined darters. The place was buzzing, with about 10 Black-Tailed Skimmers and 2 Emperor Dragonflies strutting their stuff along the pond. Another birder was also there looking, and we got chatting. He mentioned that there was another pond where there may be some, in Churchfields. We stuck around the warren pond though, and good thing too. I did find a darter, but I was unable to approach it very easily so was restricted to long range views and photos. However, it was very red, so I put it down as a Ruddy Darter and thought nothing much more of it.

However we now jump ahead in the story. I returned for lunch and filtered through my photos to see if there was anything funny about said dragonfly and also a couple of other things. I zoomed into my best photo and what do you know; Red Veins. However, the dragonfly lacked the blue eyes and had black legs. It was almost like someone had taken red-veined darter wings and stuck them onto a ruddy darter. Obviously the 2 ruddy features are more subjective to light than the very obvious red veins, but I was reluctant to call it.
That afternoon I spoke to Paul the warden and showed him the picture. He too was not confident with it, but we decided it was obviously an older insect as it had tatty wings. This supported the Red Veined school of thought as ruddys had only just started to emerge. This and the fact that it had a more red face (And Pauls opinion having seen them before) confirmed the dragonfly as my first ever Red-Veined Darter. 
-Red-Veined Darter
Unknowing this of course we continued to Chruchfields to see if we could find any there. Apparently four had been in the Heligoland trap the day before, but not today. We met Tim Jones there and he fished out 3 Ruddy Darters from the trap. There were also a few very fresh Ruddy Darters on the pond looking rather lovely. Add to that a couple of Emperors and Four Spot Chaser. But the lack of Red Veins made me wonder if I was actually going to get one. Tim said that they often get another influx, so it was likely more would appear.
  On my tour of Spurn the next stop was the Canalside walk. Along there was supposed to be a family of lesser whitethroat. Bob was already watching them, and said that he could hear them. Apparently numerous people had been past claiming these birds as Lessers. I heard the call and thought it was common whitethroat, but since so many had apparently claimed them as Lessers I assumed I was wrong, not knowing the call for a Lesser. As a result I claimed this as a great find for the day. However, I got home and checked just for good measure and they were indeed Common Whitethroat. The moral of the story kids is always trust your instinct and just because someone tells you something does not make it right. 
-Common Whitethroat
After lunch, having checked my photos, I decided to go to the pond and try to re-find the dragonfly to get some more photos to clear up my dilemma. It was around for about 5 mins, but the wind had picked up and it was chased off by a Black-Tailed Skimmer, so no answers were found at this point. I did grab some photos of the Black-Tailed Skimmers though, but they did not come out very well.
-Black-Tailed Skimmer
I decided to walk back up Canalside, have a look at Churchfields again and then come back down, doing ‘the triangle’. On the way up Canalside I picked up Reed and Sedge Warbler, as well as Reed Bunting. I am accumulating some great species for my trip here. However, it was another dragonfly that stole the show as I found an Emperor Dragonfly eating a Bumble bee of some description. Sadly it was not out in the open for a full body shot but I got some great close ups of the jaws. I got close enough to hear it crunching the bees carapace, but it was so loud that I did not have to be excessively close. 
-Emperor Dragonfly
Timing would have it that when I arrived at Churchfields it was raining so there were no dragonflies to be found anywhere. I continued along the road where there was an actual family of lesser whitethroats but did not find them. I did find a Blue Tit though, which was a much needed addition to my site list.
I headed back to the warren ponds but the wind had put all the dragonflies down, so nothing was happening there unfortunately. As a consequence I headed back to the Warren where I asked Paul about my dragonfly and had it confirmed as a Red-Veined Darter, my first. I decided to do some Seawatching but that did not last long, as after half an hour I had only managed one distant Gannet.
However, my time there was livened up when Paul brought a recently ringed Sand Martin juvenile to be released. It’s a different view of a bird when it’s in the hand and it was a real privilege to be able to see this young bird so close, and then watch it go on its journey south. 
I wandered back to the warren to work on this and to make dinner. During dinner Tim walked in and told me about a young Cuckoo that had perched on a post near the warren. I came out and had a look and it was still there. It had just been rung, so that was probably why it was sticking around, that and the fact that there were good numbers of cinnabar moth caterpillars in the area. It was lovely to see, and very docile so I could approach it and grab some photos. In the evening light the brownish plumage really shone, one of the best views I have ever had of Cuckoo.
-Juvenile Cuckoo
Thats the end of this post, but I'm on nights tonight which will be a new experience for me, so I will update this post tomorrow should anything happen during the night.
Nothing much happened in the night, as it was quite dark when I got there. I did however stumble across some Turnstones along the beach as I made my way to the hut, which were a nice addition to my daylist

Species List:
Seawatch: Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Gannet, Common Scoter, Sandwich Tern, Woodpigeon, Swift, Herring Gull, Oystercatcher, Common Gull, Linnet, Grey Seal, Meadow Brown, Large White,
Warren Ponds: Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit, Swift, Swallow, Sand Martin, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Linnet, Skylark, Starling, Emperor Dragonfly, Black-Tailed Skimmer, Common Darter, Red-Veined Darter, Common Blue Damselfly, Common Blue-Tailed Damselfly, Common Emerald Damselfly, Meadow Brown, Large White, Small Heath, Gatekeeper, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral
Churchfields: Sparrowhawk, Woodpigeon, Ruddy Darter, Four-Spot Chaser, Emepror Dragonfly, Black-Tailed Skimmer, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Oak Eggar,
Canalside: Common Whitethroat, Swallow, Linnet, Magpie, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Mallard, Mute Swan, Whimbrel, Reed Bunting, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Blue Tit, Emperor Dragonfly, Small Skipper, Small White, Large White, 6-Spot Burnet Moth
Warren: Cuckoo, Woodpigeon, Meadow Pipit, Swallow, Swift, House Martin, Rabbit,

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