Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Spurn Weekend: May 27 - 30

Having been away for so long, it was good to finally get back to my favourite birding site.

Having arrived the following evening I was keen to get out birding. I made a large loop including the Triangle, Beacon Ponds, Kilnsea Wetlands and Sammies Point. Sadly there was fairly little on display, the whole area feeling a little quiet. I had a Long-eared Owl at Sammies, which was Spurn tick for me (I think) but that was the best of it. In the afternoon we all headed to the pub to watch the FA cup final, but sadly the game was interrupted by a Red-footed Falcon, which, to add insult to injury, we all missed!

Today was a day that will go down in Spurn history for being exceptional. Sadly I missed half of it, but still had 3 extremely good birds. I walked round the triangle first but found nothing. Upon my return to the Obs I missed Alpine Swift and TWO Red-footed Falcons. at 11.00 I'd had enough and joined the masses at Numpties. Good thing I did, as not only did I then proceed to see another TWO Red-footed Falcons, but also found my first real description species; Red-rumped Swallow. The excitement, for me, of something like that more than makes up for the birds I missed:

The morning of the 28th of May was an exceptional day for visible migration. At 11.15 I arrived at the Numpties watchpoint at Spurn having already frustratingly missed 2 Red-footed Falcons and an Alpine Swift that had already gone south. There was a small crowd of Spurn regulars present, enjoying a steady trickle of House Martins and Barn Swallows going south, which continued all day.

At 11.40 there was a noticeable lull in the number of birds moving. I happened to scan left of where I was standing and saw two swallows flying south just over the heads of the left most crowd members. Through my binoculars I noticed that the second bird clearly showed a pale rump, and this immediately set alarm bells ringing. However I was looking into the sun and I wanted to make sure that the bird was not a House Martin. The bird banked clearly showing black undertail coverts and long tail streamers. I realised that I was looking at a Red-rumped Swallow, and panic set in. My immediate response was that I could have imagined the rump, but the bird banked again clearly showing that I had not.

At this stage, still only a fraction of a second after I had picked up the bird, I shouted ‘Red-rumped Swallow’ and pointed in the direction of the bird. The bird was probably level with the observers at this point, but everyone present was able to get straight onto it and watch it continued over our heads and fly off south. The bird was picked up again about a kilometre south at the Spurn breach by Rael Butcher, who was the last person to see the bird as it flew south. The bird was photographed by Jake Gearty, but he was the only observer present to do so.

The bird had noticeable long tail streamers which would suggest that it was a male. The overall structure was almost identical to the Barn Swallow that it was adjacent to, not squat and stubby like a House Martin. I was lucky to have spent the two months prior to this weekend at Spurn birding in Spain and Portugal where I was able to watch Red-rumped Swallows daily, often in the company of Barn Swallows. That said, this was a British tick for me.

It was a truly amazing day, and one that will go down in Spurn folklore. Not only was it a record day for Red-footed Falcon (Four!) but it was also a record day for Hobby, with seven individuals flying south. There was also a good arrival of Red-veined Darters, with at least seven males. An awesome day to be a part of. 
-Red-veined Darter
-Red-footed Falcon

The morning started wet, grey and overcast, and this was the theme of the whole day. Early morning Tim caught a possible Iberian Chiffchaff. He listed all the features and made a good case but we will have to see when we get the results of the DNA test. I tried my best to find some birds around the triangle but ultimately failed. A yeartick of Cuckoo was about the best I could managed. Not quite on the same scope as the previous day.
-Possible Iberian Chiffchaff

For my final morning of the weekend I decided to try my luck at the Point. My time would have been better spent in bed, as there were not many birds to be seen down there. A couple of Spotted Flycatchers and a Wheatear were all that I could manage migrant wise, and a Peregrine was all that I could manage otherwise. A fairly steady day to be honest.

Species List:
Spurn Bird Observatory: Mallard, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Shelduck, Greylag Goose, Mute Swan, Coot, Moorhen, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Hobby, Kestrel, Peregrine, Red-footed Falcon, Common Buzzard, Long-eared Owl, Dunlin, Sanderling, Turnstone, Curlew, Whimbrel, Oystercatcher, Little Tern, Sandwich Tern, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Eider, Red-rumped Swallow, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin, Common Swift, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Linnet, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat, Spotted Flycatcher, Northern Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Wren, Robin, 

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