Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Brings a Lump to the Throat

On Tuesday the group arrived in good time to witness some birds being ringed at Spurn by Paul & Adam. We saw 3 young Tree Sparrows being ringed after they had been trapped in mist nets. Paul was able to show the group differences between a Tree Sparrow hatched much earlier in the season with one born more recently. The youngest one did not yet have a nice chocolate brown cap or its beauty spot. Both of them still had the remains of their yellow gape. 

 Juvenile Black Kite
 Meadow Pipit
 Sheep headbutting a Yellow Wagtail
 Juvenile Yellow Wagtail
 Common Lizard
 Hawker eating a fly

We travelled quite a way down the peninsula to a Heligoland trap to observe other birds being ringed. At wire dump there were about 4 ringers waiting, but no birds. We waited quite a long time and although several Meadow Pipits approached the trap they showed very little inclination to enter. However, eventually one was trapped and recovered. Its measurements we're taken and it was weighed, and then some of the salient points on why it was a young Meadow Pipit were made clear. The bird's extraordinary hind claws were also pointed out to the amazement of the class.

After the ringing we had a look from Chalk Bank hide, but the tide had long gone out, so nothing was very close. A man in the hide reported a Manx Shearwater being ripped apart from gulls, but he later changed his story to say it was a Guillemot. Some Curlews, Oystercatchers and Sanderlings were spotted in the mud, and in the far distance was a mass of what looked like white pebbles, which must have been Knot.
We cut our losses and went north to Canal Scrape hide. Three was very little here apart from a moribund juvenile Kestrel and a Meadow Pipit. Later, a Pied Wagtail and then a juvenile Yellow Wagtail were spotted. The latter was under the feet of the sheep at first, but when they moved nearer it followed them, so everyone was able to get a closer look. 
We were watching the Kestrel take to the air when a large raptor hove into view to the very right of our vision. At first it looked like a Marsh Harrier, but nothing fitted, and then I caught a quick view of an apparent vent in the tail, and i realised it was a kite.  It clearly wasn't a Red Kite, so I called it as a Black Kite.  I took a few shots, and then ran to the car for the radio.  It had been observed by the others, and they were frantically giving out its latest position to a Spurn regular who was speeding to the site, so he could get on to it.  It headed north, and as far as I know disappeared between Kilnsea and Easington.  Some of us at the time noticed what appeared to be in lump in its throat, or gizzard.
Just before the afternoon session started a Hobby zipped through, heading south. Then we went to Kew Villa to see any birds being ringed after being caught in their mist nets. Just before Kew Villa the group watched a large Hawker dragonfly eating another insect.  The first bird we saw being ringed was a Blue Tit. This was a young bird, and was probably born elsewhere, as all the local birds have already been ringed. Although the only other bird they saw being ringed was a Dunnock, they were able to ask plenty of questions and find out lots of information about birding. 
We walked the triangle and saw a couple of Wheatears being severely battered by the wind. There were Redshank on the estuary, and some Golden Plovers, but the light made seeing another birds very dissimulation, especially in the very uncomfortable winds. A visit to Canal Scrape was not very eventful, so we made our way back to the car park. To end on a positive note our visit raised £80 for Spurn Bird Observatory Trust.