Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Spurn Day 8

I was kinda supposed to go home on Tuesday but with the oncoming easterlies I decided to stay and cancel my driving lesson. This turned out to be one of my greatest calls in my birdwatching time, as Wednesday turned out to be one of the best days birding I have ever had.
It was a muggy, overcast day, but as per usual the day started at 6.00 for me. Paul was down ringing and there were five of us up at Seawatching, one of those being Tim who was commuting between Seawatching and Ringing. Ducks were the only things really moving, but numbers were down on the previous seawatches.
Tim called out to get on this at around 7.20. The bird he had seen was very Fulmar like, but was flapping far more frequently. He quickly followed up his initial alert with his identification of a probable pterodroma petrel. It was about three quarters of the way out, but even at that distance, as it approached north, you could almost make out the ‘W’ mark on the wings, and the black underwings were obvious. After a short while, as it came further north we all watch and discussed, until Tim made the call that it was indeed a Feas-type petrel. He began to film it, so I decided to borrow his film rather than try any photos of my own. It sheared only occasionally, but was clearly a Feas Petrel. Tim ran down to get Paul and wake Ed and when Ed arrived I lent him my scope so he could see it, but by now it was well north and had moved further out, and whether he got it or not is not overly clear. 
-Fea's Petrel (Video and Screenshot: Tim Jones)
To say we were all buzzing after that was an understatement. One of the lads in the hide had come up from Southampton for a meeting, but that had been cancelled and had gone to spurn instead. Apart from that we were all Spurn regulars. It’s a bird I never expected to see, and never as well as that. Obviously you can’t twitch them, so it’s all down to luck. And thanks to Tim we had indeed got that slice of luck.
Buzzing after the morning, and with easterlies in the air, I decided to wander around to see if any migrants had dropped in. The birds were a little thinner than I would have hoped, the only real migrants were not Autumn but Winter, with 2 Brent Geese on the ponds being the highlight. I thought it was a Pale-bellied and a Dark-bellied but was not sure, so I was pleased when Tim confirmed my identification.
-Pale Bellied and Dark Bellied Brent Geese
I decided to walk along the beach by the ponds to see if any snow buntings had dropped in. They had not but a large flock of gulls up by Easington Lagoons drew my attention. There were a few Mediterranean Gulls but no others of any note. I had a quick look round the boatyard and then set off back. A few more large gulls seemed to be arriving on the beach, so rather than return by long bank as had been my initial plan, I set off back via the beach again.
This was well founded, as on my first scan through the gulls I picked out one which seemed to had an odd shaped bill and white head. I immediately thought Caspian and as I approached my suspicions did not dim. Sadly though all the gulls were then flushed into the water by dog walkers, and the subsequent bird then got up and flew south leaving me with nothing expect a few poor photos to go on.
I called it out, rather timidly, and set off for long bank. Doubts were running through my head. And though I felt confident about my identification I remained unsure. Imagine then, the horror I felt when the bird I had called out thinking would now be in Lincolnshire rocked up on wetlands. I was mortified. I called out its new location rather reluctantly, followed by a request if someone could come and check I was right. 
Ian Smith came up, more to photograph it than anything else, and together with a few others in the hide, we discussed the points of the bird. The more we looked the more points we saw for Caspian, but the more we saw against it too. In the end, we took a tonne of photos and decided to ask Tim.
The first person I saw who asked was Rael, and when he looked at the photos he thought Yellow-legged. My heart sank. And when I showed Tim in the evening he said the same thing, although when I mentioned we had flight shots he requested a look, as they would prove conclusive. And conclusive they did, as the bird clearly showed an extended white rump and white underwings, which are diagnostic for Caspian Gull.
I had kinda hoped when I lifered Casp, I would get a stonking and obvious first winter bird with small eye and long beak, not had a dubious bird that around 10 birders couldn't work out for sure. That being said, I learned an awful lot from it, especially now I had more diagnostic features to go off for future. In addition to it being a lifer, my first truly self-found lifer for a long time, its also my first Yorkshire description species and my name in the Spurn report. All in all, its been a very exciting, nerve wracking and educational day... 
-1st Winter Caspian Gull
Still unknowing the true identification of my gull I headed back down the canal for a bite to eat at the Warren. Half way down Tim collard me. He had caught yesterdays kingfisher and asked my to run it up to Churchfield. I was pretty thrilled, so delayed lunch. My surprise when I heard a kingfisher calling a little way back up the canal, was perhaps a little uncalled for given what was in my bag, but all became clear when I spotted a second Kingfisher hunting the top of the canal. That makes two Kingfishers in one day, and just yesterday it was a new bird for me at Spurn. Of course it goes without saying that in the hand it looked simply fantastic. Beautiful.
I spent the rest of the afternoon eating my lunch/dinner, before heading up for a relaxed spot of seawatching. Not so. Soon after we arrived we saw a aisled fulmar on the water, and it eventually crashed into the beach. Ed collected it as we assessed its health to see if we could revive its fortunes. Sadly, it died during the night.
It was quite a day, with 2 lifers and a host of other goodies. I think its safe to say that staying on an extra couple of days was a very good idea...

Species List:
Seawatching: Wigeon, Teal, Fulmar, Common Scoter, Fea's Petrel, Arctic Skua, Gannet, Red-Throated Diver, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Common Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Herring Gull, Swallow, Dunlin,
Canal: Woodpigeon, Swallow, Mallard, Wigeon, Magpie, Meadow Pipit, Kestrel, Reed Bunting, Turnstone, Redshank, Little Egret, Greenfinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Blackbird, Shelduck, Dunnock, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Spotted Flycatcher, Robin, Gadwall, Teal, Graylag Goose, Mute Swan, Greenshank, Lapwing, Curlew, House Sparrow,
Ponds, Lagoons: Peregrine, Curlew, Dunlin, Cormorant, Black-Headed Gull, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Little Grebe, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Yellow Wagtail, Starling, Brent Goose, Mediterranean Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-Backed Gull, Ringed Plover, Sandwich Tern, Sanderling, Wheatear, Kestrel, Pied Wagtail, Caspian Gull, Reed Bunting, Kingfisher, Whinchat,

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