Saturday, 11 April 2015

YWT Wonderful Waders Event

A few weeks ago I was asked if I'd step in at short notice to lead 3 YWT events at Spurn. Luckily, I had three free Saturdays, and today was the first. After a week of glorious weather it was a little annoying to see the glowering clouds and strong winds. I hadn't reached Hedon when my orange engine warning light came on. Spurn isn't the place you want to go if your car is playing up! 
All photos from the photo archive - the camera remained in the car because we started in driving rain 
A Wonderful Wader at Spurn (Bar-tailed Godwit)
What I was hoping to see before I saw the forecast!
We got there in plenty of time only to find the start time coincided with the arrival of the squally weather system. After a 7am start in Sproatley Spurn Heritage Officer Andy Mason arrived with the unimog. He opened up the YWT centre and we waited out the worst of the weather for 10 minutes. Andy then suggested we start in the Seawatching hide, so we decamped to there. The wind and rain whistled and pounded the back of the hide as we stared out over a rather misty ocean. We did see a few fast-flying Dunlin and Oystercatchers, plus some very distant Gannets heading south. The only other birds were some immature gulls mainly heading north. The system began to pass over, and the previously invisible new sea turbines started to loom straight ahead of us. 
Grey Plover & Dunlin (ignore the Knot)
 Male Pied Wagtail at Canal Scrape
Once the rain had subsided we retraced our footsteps and tried looking over the Humber at the waders. Unfortunately, the wind was so strong it was very difficult to keep one's optics steady. We could just vaguely make out Grey Plovers, Curlews and Dunlin. To avoid the worse of the wind we travelled to Canal Scrape, and from here we saw the differences between male and female Pied Wagtails, plus a Meadow Pipit, a Reed Bunting, Mallards, Magpies, a Coot and Moorhens. A large flock of Curlews flew south along the Humber bank, plus a few Shelduck and the usual suspects.
Meadow Pipit at Canal Scrape
 We decided to brave the weather and walk along the Canal Bank, part of what is called the Triangle. We took shelter behind a large bush, from which we had good views of Curlews, Grey Plovers and Dunlin. The walk along the floodbank was horrendous with gale force head winds. Despite this a Skylark could just be made singing - above the crazy wind. There were a couple of Turnstones, but the conditions prevented everyone from spotting them in time. Near the tanks blocks were 2 large flocks of Oystercatchers and Brent Geese with a single Redshank. A single Linnet flew north as we walked along the hypotenuse.
 Oystercatchers at Sewerby (ignore the Ringed Plover)
Brent Goose

We turned right at the pub and walked along the main road. A noisy Greenfinch was the most noticeable bird along here, apart from the large flock of Curlew in the field on the left. A Great Tit sang a weird song, a Wren sang loudly and near the gate to Church Field a Dunnock sang its pleasant quick warble, whilst one participant spotted a Blue Tit and then we turned right at the Blue Bell. 
White Wagtail [at Tophill Low]
We don't normally walk along the road, but because of the wind I thought we'd better avoid walking along the sea front. This was a fortuitous decision because Ben Identified a White Wagtail & shortly afterwards I spotted a Wheatear near the long-horned goats. Then the radio crackled into life informing us about 2 Buzzards heading our way, one of which was allegedly a Rough-legged Buzzard. We span round and spotted them. One of which was an obvious Common Buzzard, the other was a little different but didn't look like a typical Rough-legged Buzzard. They headed south and their progress down the peninsula was covered in detail. I voiced my concern a few times, but said the observers here were the experts, so they must be certain what they'd seen. One chap was going to add it to his life list when he got back. As we neared Canal Scrape another Wheatear was spotted hunkered down on a post with yet another Pied Wagtail on nearby barbed wire. 
Common Buzzard
 Genuine Rough-legged Buzzard at Skeffling (c) 2015 Phil Jones
When we entered the reserve itself several small leaf warblers could be glimpsed trying to feed on insects in the long green grass near the small bushes and barbed wire. Some of these looked very green, so they may have been Willow Warblers or Chiffchaff, but it was very hard to be sure to the exact species as they only left the safety of the long grass for very brief periods. 
Despite the atrocious conditions especially at the beginning of the session, and on the riverbank where the waders reside, we saw a good selection of species, and everyone left pleased with what we'd seen. However, 20 minutes after the participants had set off home, the radio spluttered to say that the Rough-legged Buzzard was actually only a Common Buzzard, so some life lists will have to be marked down again!! 
The next event, Migration Walk, is next Saturday afternoon. More details here
Whilst the final event, Wader and Migrant Walk Is on 25th April: here

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