Monday, 18 August 2014

Spurn Day 40 - LIFER ALERT

I was unsure whether the 4.00 start was still required but decided to head up at that time anyway just in case. It was not but since I failed to get any on duty kip it gave me the chance to get a full days birding in, and what a day’s birding it turned out to be.
I started the morning trying to count the Black-Headed Gulls moving north, but there were just too many and their movements were very confusing, so after a bit I gave up on that and started to watch the waders that were about. I counted 2 Turnstone, 7 Redshank, a few Knot and a few Dunlin, as well as 1 Black-Tailed Godwit. There were also a few of the latter moving out to sea, with a couple of flocks going south, 1 of around 7 birds, the other of around 15.
The first of the day’s highlights appeared at 08.20. Mick Cunningham had told me I had missed a year-tick when he had been up and been watching the ponds. He had recorded a female pintail among the mallards, but since then I have been on nights and I had been unable to find it at any point. The group of 5 Mallards had been around all morning but their numbers swelled at around 8.00 and from the distance I thought I noticed one that could have possibly been the bird. I upped sticks and moved round Long Bank in order to get a better view. The closer I came the more convinced I became that I had indeed found one of my years tart ticks. And sure enough, just as I was getting to the best view the inevitable happened; the birds flew. I grabbed the camera hoping to catch some helpful secondaries. Luckily the birds settled again on Kilnsea Wetlands on the other side of the bank. My last doubts were laid to rest here, and I gratefully added a lovely female Pintail to my year list. It was a great sighting and I got some decent views before the ducks flew off again, this time for good though. I managed some decent shots too, given the distance the light.
I headed back to the hut, very satisfied with my days work. Not long after I returned a female Wheatear fluttered in front of the hut, and I tracked it down on the beach. Though it did not give exceptional views it was still a delight to see, one of my favourite birds. 
Not long after that and another lovely bird showed itself on the poolside. It was a Ruff, but only one and it was the only one I saw today. I tried to grab some record shots for Spurn but it was too far off and I was unable to get any of note.
During my nightshifts there had been one record that I had been seriously gripped by, but I asked Paul and he said it was likely to be a one off. But at 9.30 said bird, or one of its species, made an appearance along the ponds. Purple Sandpiper! It’s the first time I can report seeing one since I set up my blog 7 years ago, and since my prior views were absolutely impeccable it’s been too long. Sadly this time the views were less than impeccable. I followed it from the hut for about 10mins before mounting long bank and heading round to see if I could do any better from there. I had hoped it would do what the curlew sand had done, but alas it did not, and the views remained too distant for the camera, though through the scope I got really good views. It took up with 2 Dunlin and 2 Turnstone and they slowly made their way round, but they did not make it close enough for me to get any really good shots. 
-Purple Sandpiper
I have waited so long to see another of this species but alas the view was too short and by 10.00 the bird had decided to move on. It could be some time before I see another, so that was much appreciated. After the bird had left and I was left in a post-purp mode, I had a look around to see what else was around. There was a pair of Roe Deer in the field behind the bank, they stood out a mile now the field had been cut. I grabbed some shots just because they looked so striking. The pair of Turnstone had also remained put and they too were striking, only more so than the deer.
-Roe Deer
I stuck around for the wader roost given that it was the kind of day where I might muster some other yearticks. Alas that the wader roost was very quiet, with 2 Whimbrel, 1 Bar-Tailed Godwit, 1 Curlew and 25 Grey Plover. Impressive but sadly lacking in numbers! As a result I headed back to lunch later than usual. I picked up a few willow warblers chilling along Beacon Lane, and a lovely Yellow Wagtail.
My lunch break was short as there were birders sleeping all around the warren, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. As I was heading back up Beacon Lane I continued to see Willow Warbler and Whitethroat, and then I spotted another warbler chilling on the edge of a bush. I raised my bins and got a good view of it. My first thoughts were ‘that’s a funny coloured willow warbler’, but then it did the decent thing and turned revealing the only feature on Britain’s most featureless bird, a grey collar. I’m not sure it was excitement, or relief but I had finally added Garden Warbler to my yearlist. You forget this is only the second time I have ever seen one, and that the last one was found through a photograph and not really seen at all. But in my excitement the bird decided to do the indecent thing and dived into the bush and was replaced by a Whitethroat. It took some time before I re-located it and it put on a show, but in the end it did put on as much of a show as Garden Warblers do and I was able to enjoy it and grab some photos, an improvement on my last efforts that’s for certain. Given that I was so convinced I would miss one this year, this is possibly the species with the most relief attached to it on my yearlist. To say it’s so bland it does have something about it, and I am quite taken to Garden Warblers, despite their sneaky ways.
-Garden Warbler
The afternoon was very quiet just like I expected and seems to be the norm. I did pick up a Spurn tick in the form of Wren, but it was a fleeting glimpse.
And so the shift ended, with 3 year-ticks, not something I had predicted. What could make it better? A Lifer? Cue Seawatching! Given the calibre of the night before tonight’s total of Common Terns was quite low, but still impressive, 2480 went by. We had a whopping 44 Fulmars though which was pretty nice, and 8 Arctic Skua and 41 Manx Shearwaters. Besides Common Terns, numbers of all other seabirds seemed to be on the up, which was more than ample compensation.
But what about the lifer! In all honesty it was nothing compared to the days year-ticks but it’s still a lifer. It was Sooty Shearwater, but when I saw it I was surprised by how little shearwater behaviour it expressed. If I had seen it on my own I would have it down as a skua of some description. It moved rather fast, but when its identification was explained by the guys I could see why it was a Sooty, and perhaps the fact that my scope is lacking meant I could not pick out many key features too, not that I’m blaming my tools. It was nice to have another seabird added to my life list, but I think a better view may be in order, so I don’t have to take other birders words for it. But its still a lifer, and a nice one to have, a real seawatch speciality. Sadly It was too far out to get any photos, that record lasted up to the 22nd lifer this, a photo of them all and then the 23rd and it all falls apart. Never mind, it was still great to see.
And that was that, not night shift so I could enjoy the evening relaxing and get a decent kip. I have been informed that my last chicks are flying, which I had not seen but Paul tried to ring it and it flew away apparently, so as of now the operation is over and the decontamination of the fence will commence tomorrow. I guess this is the beginning of the end for my time at Spurn. If the last chicks fledge fully we will have fledged 60 young this year, a record year!

Species List:
Beacon Ponds: Oystercatcher, Cormorant, Kestrel, Black-Headed Gull, Sparrowhawk, Greater Black-Backed Gull, Knot, Black-Tailed Godwit, Redshank, Turnstone, Dunlin, Sandwich Tern, Feral Pigeon, Curlew, Mallard, Yellow Wagtail, Gannet, Common Gull, Swallow, Mediterranean Gull, Woodpigeon, Little Tern, Fulmar, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Arctic Skua, Mute Swan, Pintail, Little Egret, Ringed Plover, Ruff, Wheatear, Grey Heron, Marsh Harrier, Purple Sandpiper, Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, House Martin, Grey Plover, Greenshank, Linnet, Sanderling, Whimbrel, Bar-Tailed Godwit, Starling, Dunnock, Blackbird, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Willow Warbler, House Sparrow, Wren, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Goldfinch, Reed Warbler, Herring Gull, Avocet, Sand Martin,
Seawatching: Arctic Skua, Common Tern, Oystercatcher, Fulmar, Manx Shearwater, Great Skua, Gannet, Common Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Sooty Shearwater, Swallow, Common Scoter, Sandwich Tern, Little Gull, Black-Headed Gull,

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