Saturday, 2 August 2014

Spurn Day 24 - LIFER ALERT

Tonight we returned to the usual night pattern which involves no fox, or rather, that I see no fox, but it could well have been there and gone as soon as I turned the torchlight on. On my walk back to the warren I did see the devil on Beacon Lane, but he turned into a field from the lane, and was well away from the colony at this point.
By midday I was awoken from my recovery sleep by the AGM going on in the lounge. I spent a good couple of hours in bed waiting for it to finish so I could leave, but it did not. I fortunately had no reason to leave as there was a torrential thunderstorm occurring outside, and that would therefore mean few birds. So was the theory, though birdguides was reporting a wood sandpiper at Spurn. I am bitter I slept through that to say the least.
Finally at around 2.00 I decided I had done enough and left my room. Without thinking I left without any of my kit, or even any socks, so when my breakfast was finished and the meeting was not I suddenly realised I would have to go back through the meeting in order to get my stuff to go out. I did not particularly like this idea. Fortunately I had left my scope in the kitchen the night before and as such I was able to take that, slip on my boots and go for a bit of Seawatching while I waited for the meeting to finish.
Naturally for that time in the afternoon the sea was dead. There was the odd bit of movement but nothing really, and you could count the number of birds at any one time on one hand. The highlight was a Bonxie that came and landed on the sea at mid-distance. Only the second time I have seen one this year, so that was nice to see. There was also a flock of Common Scoter (9) that went south, but they were the highlights of probably around a 15min stint.
 I had not got any jackets with me, so due to the cold and the lack of birds I finally decided I would have to disrupt the meeting in order to get any use from the day. I also found out the story of the wood sand, apparently it had been on Canal Scrape, but had been flushed as the guy who found it, his radio was on too loud and the bird cleared off. It landed in the triangle, so there was still the possibility that it was around. As a consequence when I had gathered my stuff I headed that way to see if it would return to the Scrape.
As I walked in I could see a couple of birders looking over in the corner at something. It was a Common Sandpiper, bobbing in the corner. I got to watch it for around 5 mins before it upped sticks and headed off on the Humber. It was a great start, considering the last time I had been on this scrape I could count the birds I had seen on one hand.
Gradually the other birders left, and I was soon birding alone. There were still some Swallows entering the hide to their nest in the rafters. As a result I got exceptional views of them, one bird frequently sat on the rafter above our heads just chilling, with the other bird entering and then relieving it of duty. What they were doing I do not know, as there was no calling from any chicks, the bird was not sitting, implying no eggs, and both birds were clearly adults, so what they were gaining I struggled to comprehend.
After about 20 mins in the hide things were not looking good. So far I had managed a Snipe and a Whitethroat. Things were looking a little bleak to say the least. However my fortunes quickly changed. I did not see it drop in, but at 3.40 I noticed a waders head sticking out of the shrubbery where the snipe had been. This was definitely not a snipe head, that much was clear. As soon as I got contact on it, I was in no doubt at all that this was the Wood Sandpiper I had sought after.
It was stunning bird, the eye stripe so striking and the speckles along its back glistened in the afternoon sun. It was a lovely bird to see to say the least. My only wish was that I could get some photos like the views I was getting through the scope. My wish was granted! The bird moved along the near shoreline the whole time, eventually coming to the closest point to the hide, around 3 meters max away from my seat. Its habit of keeping to the bankside vegetation made it difficult to get any clear record shots, but the birds close proximity meant I could get photos with all the birds features and beauty in a clear format.
-Wood Sandpiper
That is, or course a lifer for me, and it seems this year at least, with my 4 sandpiper lifers (Green, Curlew and Pectoral), that all have been exceptionally close and all have been adult birds giving exceptional views. Usually sandpipers are so skittish and hard to approach, so to have had such experiences with all four truly has been amazing.
The bird stayed with us for about an hour. Another couple of birders came in too, about 3 I recall, and saw the bird. I had intended to proudly announce the birds return down the radio, but when it came to it I found my radio was flat…
I got to watch the bird preen, stretch, sleep, even regurgitate a pellet (Which I would have loved to collect). I basically got a full house of its behaviours, which was more than I could have wanted. It came as close to the hide twice before it left. Its departure was due to a very sudden thunderstorm, a very heavy sudden thunderstorm, and when I say heavy I mean really really heavy. It was some downpour to say the least and I do not blame the bird for leaving, as every single other bird also made a break for shelter, even the ducks. The best bit of this, though slightly harsh, was watching the snipe run for cover across an area of short grass from the water’s edge. They looked unbelievably comical, almost like they were about to trip over their long bills.
It was as the Wood Sandpiper approached for the first time that I began to get spoiled for choice. A Yellow Wagtail dropped in on the short grass at about the same time (Pre thunderstorm) and began feeding there. It too began to move closer. So now I have a situation where I can photograph incredibly close Wood Sand and Yellow Wag at the same time, talk about being spoilt for choice.
-Yellow Wagtail
The yellow wagtails stay was not very long though, less than 10 mins for definite, and it had left before the wood sand reached maximum closeness. To say I had seen nothing while I had been there last time, this had been quite some day. But despite the suaveness of the Wood Sand, and despite the views of the Yellow Wag, what really got me truly excited was when a snipe flew across and landed in front of the hide. Snipe are one of my favourite birds. They are so comical, and yet seem to have so much character. And their plumage is also subtly beautiful, and that was what really caught me with this bird since it was so close and seemed so fresh. I did not really get any great shots, but post thunderstorm another bird dropped in and this one was a bit showier, though the light was now against me. I think though that it is safe to say that my love for the snipe has been re-kindled.
Once the thunderstorm had passed I decided to head off in order to download my pictures and gather my things before the annual Spurn BBQ. I spent a couple of hours at the BBQ before I had to leave for my shift. I actually left a bit early to see if I could catch any waders on the pond but there were very few there, only a handful of Redshank, Dunlin and Knot, but their numbers were very thin on the ground.
So now I sit in the darkness typing this up, reflecting on the day. Even though it was one of the shortest days I have had at Spurn I would say it was one of the best. Lifer, a favourite and dramatic conditions all make for a recipe for a great day. It does also mean that I now have a full house of British waders, with a few passage exceptions (Phalaropes, Temmincks, Kentish), who would have predicted that as the start of the year.

The Daily Oystercatcher
In all the excitement of the day it would be easy to forget about our beloved Oyks. But fear not, I have not forgotten them, though there is very little to tell. From what I have seen of them today they have no really done anything out of the ordinary, spending a lot of time feeding and moving about. The chicks are almost as big as the adults now and it is getting difficult to tell them apart in low light. My babies are growing up too fast…

Species List:
Beacon Ponds: Little Egret, Dunlin, Knot, Oystercatcher, Sandwich Tern, Mute Swan, Redshank,
Seawatching: Sandwich Tern, Great Skua, Common Scoter, Linnet, Sand Martin, Swallow, Oystercatcher, Common Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull,
Canal Scrape: Common Sandpiper, Snipe, Swallow, Mute Swan, Mallard, Woodpigeon, Whitethroat, Sand Martin, Linnet, Blackbird, Wood Sandpiper, Yellow Wagtail, Magpie, Feral Pigeon, Starling, Coot, Black-Headed Gull, Sedge Warbler, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Sandwich Tern, Little Egret, Whimbrel,

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