Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Overnighter at Spurn - new visitor centre, thousands of waders, terns and the summer heat!

New visitor centre, Spurn Point. (pic credit - Sally Henderson)
A trip out and overnight stay at Spurn Point last week was bang on for early returning waders and a good opportunity to check out the new visitor centre and other recent changes at this fantastic YWT nature reserve.

Spurn was as good as ever and we bagged a great haul of birds but have to say I was a bit miffed to have my stay at the campsite questioned just because I was displaying YWT car stickers! The much publicized dispute between local birders and the YWT over the citing of the new visitor centre continues to rumble on then! Both sides have a point and its easy enough to check out the issues on social media so not something I want to dwell on here, escept to say that as visiting birders we dont need 'awkward' situations on campsites. The sooner the whole thing is resolved the better!

Rant over and these are my personal views as a lifelong visiting birder to Spurn. Lets get back to celebrating the wildlife this place has to offer yeah?

This time of year and right through the autumn this has to be one of the best places in the UK to observe wading birds as they return from up north after breeding. Common and rare they all put in an appearance at Spurn - 3,000 Knot and twice as many Dunlin were the big numbers when we were there with big flocks of Golden, Ringed & Grey Plover, Sanderling, Turnstone, Curlew, Redshank, smaller numbers of Black & Bar Tailed Godwits, Avocet, Greenshank, Ruff & Whimbrel. Green, Common and Curlew Sandpiper around too plus the odd Wood Sandpiper - not many UK waders I haven't mentioned there!

Most photogenic were the mass flocks of Knot and Dunlin feeding at high tide around Kilnsea Wetlands and Beacon Ponds and when a passing Peregrine put them all up it made for a wonderful spectacle.
Dunlin flock, Beacon Ponds, Spurn, 03/08/18

Knot & Dunlin, Beacon Ponds, Spurn, 03/08/18

Knot flock, Beacon Ponds, Spurn, 03/08/18

Knot, Beacon Ponds, Spurn, 03/08/18

Best thing about waders at this time of the year is that they're nearly all still in breeding plumage and Knot in particular look great when the light catches their orange bellies, look at these beauties!
Knot, Beacon Ponds, Spurn, 03/08/18

 Just as impressive a lone Black Tailed Godwit in the flock that I managed to isolate ...
Black Tailed Godwit, Beacon Ponds, Spurn, 03/08/18
 Spending an hour or so with the Spurn Observatory 'counters' at the seawatch hide was a good insight into the dedication of these guys as they called out a steady southerly passage of waders, terns, Swifts and assorted hirundines ... "15 Swichers south" (Sandwich Terns), "6 Oycs south" (Oystercatchers) - love some these local colloquialisms! Reassuring too to hear their occassional misidentifications between passing Sanderling and Dunlin because we'd been doing that all day!

To be fair the light was 'glary' and when there's flock after flock, often mixed, it can be tricky. These are Sanderling with at least one in almost full summer plumage.
Sanderling south, Spurn, 02/08/18

"Swicher south" (Juv Sandwich Tern), Spurn, 03/08/18

Avocet (juv), Kilnsea Wetlands, 03/08/18
Poor views of both Wood Sandpiper and Curlew Sandpiper at Kilnsea Wetlands prevented any decent photo opps but to be honest it was the extreme heat in this crazy summer we're having that really prevented me from trying harder! This juvenile Avocet was easy enough though...right in front of the hide at Kilnsea, likewise a flock of returning Whimbrel from the camp site  ... what a luxury to be sat down and reclining, cold beer in one hand, camera in the other whilst scanning the skies for for passage birds!

Whimbrel south, Spurn, 02/08/18

Decent numbers of passing Common Swifts, Swallows and Sand Martins were a nice compliment to the more obvious southerly drift of waders and there was also a small influx of skulking Pied Flycatchers on the 2nd day we were there. Yellow Wagtails were present in good numbers, especially around our campsite, mainly juvs and probable local breeding birds but I also saw several south over the seashore.

Yellow Wagtail (juv) & Goldfinch (juv), Spurn, 02/08/18

Yellow Wagtail (juv), Bluebell campsite, Spurn, 02/08/18
Lesser Whitethroat, Beacon Lane, Spurn, 03/08/18

With temperatures approaching 30c mid morning the hedgerows and reedbeds were unsurprisingly quiet but warblers were there alright with both Common and Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warblers, Sedge and Reed Warblers all quietly going about their business.

Butterflies aplenty, almost clouds of them, was a very welcome sight with many Whites, Brimstones, Meadow Browns, Ringlets, Commas, Blues, and Small Heaths I wouldn't have been unsurprised at a Clouded Yellow but several Painted Ladies were a good second best!

Painted Lady, Spurn, 03/08/18
Emporer Dragonfly, Spurn Obs centre pond, 03/08/18
Lots of dragonflies floating around the patch too including this superb female Emporer ovipositing in the pond at the new Spurn Obs centre where I have to say the birding platform there is top class and provides superbs views across the reserve.

Little Tern, Spurn, 03/08/18

Last but not least here's a breeding success of sorts. The small colony of Little Terns has decreased year on year here, mainly due to disturbance and irresponsible dog walkers but at least one pair raised a youngster this year. I saw 20+ here a decade ago, 5 this year as I strolled along the beach adjacent to Beacon Ponds.

Little Tern, adult and Juv, Spurn, 03/08/18
All in all a very productive and enjoyable overnighter and with the autumn approaching I'm sure it'll be the first of several visits.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Titbits and the odd surprise as I stay local.. Black & Common Redstart, Lesser Whitethroats,Yellow Wagtail, Spotted Flycatcher, Great Egret, drumming Snipes, wild flowers and Damselflies.

Been so busy since getting back from Spain, busy and pre-occupied with all sorts of things and as often seems to happen, the spring was suddenly done and dusted before I realised it and got myself sorted! New camera gear, selling a house and a big personal project with a new website have all taken time away from the blog. Bit of a catch up then, no particular theme, just a 'potpourri' of pics from my local wanderings in April, May and June.

Got a decent rarity on my own patch here at Fangfoss Park back in April, a female Black Redstart. A real surprise and represented something of a local purple patch with a Ring Ouzel here the previous day!
Black Redstart, Fangfoss Park, 14/04/18
Male Yellowhammer, Fangfoss Pk, 21/04/18

Not rare at all around me but without a doubt declining nationally, Yellowhammers, especially the males, always look very smart at this time of year.

Grey Partridgees, 06/05/18, Fangfoss Pk.

Grey Partridges, another nationally declining bird but relatively common in East Yorks, were prominent around my local fields back in April .. so shy and tricky to photograph I was lucky to get a decent shot of this pair before they shot off.

Common Cuckoos, always easier to see when they first arrive, I was so pleased to see one whilst out with my daughter at Hornsea Mere where we also saw a Hobby hawking insects over the mere, Marsh Harrier and plenty of Reed & Sedge Warblers.
Common Cuckoo, Hornse Mere, 04/05/18

Ashberry, 20/04/18

 Here's a few landscapes I took on a fine and sunny day during a walk around the YWT nature reserve Ashberry, nr Helmsley. Precious few good bird photo opps but we did hear a singing Wood Warbler nearby and I got a reasonable pic of a Willow Tit.

Ashberry, 20/04/18

Ashberry, 20/04/18

Willow Tit, Ashberry, 20/04/18
Barn Swallow, Fangfoss Park, 10/05/18

Much talk this year about the lack of Swallows, Swifts, House & Sand Martins this year. They were certainly slow to return in numbers up here in Yorkshire and for what it's worth, I would say that House Martins and Swift numbers are most obviously much reduced from last year. Not an easy one to fathom but I've heard reports of a massive increase in the use of strong insecticides in some African countries which would certainly have an adverse effect on wintering populations of these birds.

House Martins, Fangfoss Park, 16/05/18

Barn Swallow, Pocklington Canal, 16/06/18

Common Whitethroat, Fangfoss Pk, 24/04/18

Conversely, Common Whitethroats, many of which winter in the same sub Saharan area as Common Swifts, arrived on time and in good numbers on my patch - an early May count of 8 breeding pairs along the common lane here at Fangfoss Park was better than any previous year. This was the first back.

....and this one gave me plenty of chirp as I was counting breeding territories!

Common Whitethroat, Fangfoss Pk, 10/05/18

More often heard than seen, at least 2 pairs of Lesser Whitethroats have also established territories here and generally seem to be present in good numbers including this nice one at North Cave.
Lesser Whitethroat, North Cave, 02/05/18

Water Dropwort, Askham Bog, 19/05/18

Late spring is the undeniably the best time of year for emerging wild flowers with new ones sprouting every few days  - here's a few of my favourite wild flower pics from May going into June ...

Water Violets, Askham Bog, 19/05/18

Pink Campion, River Derwent, 09/05/18

Wild Garlic (Ramson), River Derwent, 09/05/18

Lesser Periwinkle, Foggathorpe, 17/05/18

Wild Poppy & Barley, Thornton Ings, 07/06/18
Marsh Woundwort, Pocklington Canal, 27/06/18

Marsh Orchids, Thornton Ings, 06/06/18
By all accounts 2018 has been a generally poor year for butterflies and although the recent warm weather has brought an upsurge in numbers back in May I certainly struggled to find any to photograph apart from this nice Green Veined White on my local patch.
Green Veined White, Fangfoss Pk, 22/05/18

There are 20 species of Damselfly to be found in the UK ...Wow, I never knew that and it's made me look a bit closer at these smaller relatives of the more familiar (to me anyway) dragonflies. They're a nice challenge to photograph!
Large Red Damselfly, Askham Bog, 19/05/18

Female Blue Tailed Damselfly, Pocklington Canal, 27/06/18

Banded Demoiselle, Pocklington Canal, 27/06/18

Red Eyed Damselfly, Pocklington Canal, 27/06/18
On the look out now for an Emerald Damselfly and pretty sure I saw one the other day in my parent's back garden of all places but of course no camera!

Scarce Chaser, Lakenheath, 21/06/18
I went down to Norfolk last month with a few mates for the Summer Solstice and got a couple of 'lifers' - Stone Curlew at Weeting Heath, sadly no pic, and continuing on the dragonfly / damselfly theme there were several Scarce Chasers at RSPB Lakenheath where we also saw at least 4 Bitterns. More of that next post but in the meantime here's the Chaser and a few more local pics from late Spring / early Summer.

Great White Egret, Wheldrake Ings, 25.04.18

Probably classed as a semi rarity these days such is there onward expansion into the UK, this 'big white flapper' flew over Swantail hide at Wheldrake on the same day I recorded my first 2 Swifts of the year and I saw the same individual a week later over Thornton Ings.

Common Snipe, Thornton Ings, 21/05/18

The eastern side of the Lower Derwent Valley around Thornton / Melbourne Ings is only 5 miles away from me and has become a regular haunt for me lately. Great for scarce local breeding birds such as Snipe, Corn Bunting and Yellow Wagtail and the wild flower meadows have been something else this year!

Yellow Wagtail, Thornton Ings, 06/06/18

Corn Bunting, Thornton Ings, 06/06/18

Wild flower meadow, Thornton Ings, 31/05/18

Wild flowers at Thornton Ings, 31/05/18
 Snipes a drummin!
Common Snipe, Thornton Ings, 21/06/18
Such an unreal sound they make with those tail feathers as they zoom around like tiny helicopters over their breeding grounds and I reckoned on at least 6 pairs here at Thornton Ings.
Common Snipe, Thornton Ings, 21/06/18

Common Snipe, Thornton Ings, 21/06/18
Redstart, Newton Dale, 12/06/18
I helped out with the North Yorks Moors Turtle Dove project again this year and although no Turtle Doves present on our first outing there was plenty of breeding birds on show including a nice pair of  Redstarts.

Common Whitethroat, Newton Dale, 12/06/18
Yellow Wagtail, Fangfoss Park, 07/06/18
Back around my spot at Fangfoss Park, Oystercatchers have been in and around the local fields since early spring and have probably bred somewhere nearby with up to 3 flying around together. I keep hearing brief snatches of Lesser Whitethroat song so maybe they've bred too and this looks like a juv Yellow Wagtail to me.

Oystercatcher, Fangfoss Park, 08/06/18

Juv Common Whitethroat, Fangfoss Park, 16/06/18
Spotted Flycatcher, Thornton Grange, 27/06/18
Spotted Flycatchers bred here 2 years ago and I saw another one a few weeks ago but none since. They're breeding not far away though near to the Pocklington Canal - this is one of a pair at Thornton Grange.