Monday, 20 April 2015

YWT Migration Walk

Saturday was the only Springtime YWT Spurn event with which I'm involved to take place in the afternoon. It was much more heavily subscribed with at least 15 people in attendance. It was a much brighter session than last weekend, but there was quite a strong, cold wind from the NE. The afternoon started well with some Swallows on the wires round the Warren area, but also twittering in the air. Some Linnets flew past, and what turned out to be the most numerous migrant of the afternoon - Meadow Pipits landing on the wires. In the shelter of a few bushes on the bank 3 olive warblers could just be glimpsed leaving the grass for a few seconds to snatch an insect before plunging into cover again. It was impossible to identify the species in the time we had, so we had to label them as "Willowchiffs." 
 Sedge Warbler - one of these sang out briefly, but we couldn't see it!
 Unfortunately, the only visible bird in residence at Pallas' Pond
There was very little to see on the mudflats as the tide was out, and the sun was reflecting on the wet estuary making viewing even more difficult. We heard a Sedge Warbler sing briefly from a manky pond near Spurn's entrance, which we learnt later is called Pallas' Pond. The only bird we could see was a Friday unmentionable. We carried on to Canal Scrape, which had been deserted by the weekending public. There was remarkably little to see, although we stayed long enough to examine every little corner. Someone spotted a Little Egret hunkered down at the back of the hawthorn bushes, and a few small migrants could be seen nearby. One of these was clearly a male Blackcap, and others were more Willowchiffs. A pair of Great tits were also flitting around the bushes, whilst a Magpie hopped on the ground. Some Shelduck flew over, as did a Reed Bunting.
Little Egret
 Blackcap - at another location
 There was so little to see, we had time to marvel at this Coot's Legs!
After 15 minutes we ventured on to the canal. A male Reed Bunting posed long enough for everyone to notice his clerical collar, and later his less showy partner disappeared low down in the vegetation. However, there wasn't a great deal to see along the rest of the hypotenuse, although a few Redshank punctuated the walk. As we neared the Crown and Anchor the twittering and wheezy song of a Greenfinch could be heard, but the bird itself proved to be elusive. However, we were later to get good views of an individual in the hedgerow and on the wires on the path to the Blue Bell. A few House Sparrows also called noisily from the hedge. 
House Sparrow
 Meadow Pipit - same place, but much closer than we managed!
We turned into Beacon Lane, but the Linnets and Whitethroats hadn't returned to breed in this area yet. A Peacock butterfly basking in the sun was one of the few sightings. I explained what a rich area this would be for butterflies, other insects, and flowers later in the summer, but there were few signs of the promise to come. Even the Sedge Warbler hadn't yet taken up residence in its usual spot. There were some pools in the pastures, and it was possible to see an Avocet, Shelduck, but most of the other ducks were just silhouettes. A sizeable flock of a Curlew were in the area. And they flew around the field a few times before landing in the longer grass. I think Gordon was hoping for a Whimbrel We travelled all the way to the fenced area, where I explained about the historic and more recent fortunes of the Little Tern colony, and pointed out the only listed building in the area. The closest Meadow Pipit we had yet seen posed on the barbed wire of the fence, and then on one of the fence posts. However, the best sighting was a Roe Deer Buck, which at first ran towards us completely unaware of our presence, before it realised its mistake, and then took evasive action. 
Roe Deer - running towards us
 Turning Around
 Staring Towards us
 Grey Plovers

On our return journey I pointed out a male Starling high on a roof, but as this was in the vicinity of a children's party taking place behind the building we were asked to move on. We walked on the low clay cliffs back to the start area, but didn't add much to our tally of species seen. When we neared the entrance we could see that the tide had almost come in, and there was the great spectacle of waders swirling near the shoreline. These were mainly Dunlin, Redshank, but we could also hear the distinctive "coo-ee" of Grey Plovers, and it was possible to discern their distinctive 
black "arm" pits as they changed direction.

Although the migrants seemed to be in rather short supply, I was able to fill in the time with anecdotes about the natural history, what you may expect to see at different seasons of the year and some of the military history of the area.  It was still well worth the very reasonable entrance fee. 

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