Sunday, 17 April 2016

YWT Spurn Migrant Event

Every day of the week I kept an eye on Saturday's forecast with mounting alarm. This was the day of the planned YWT Migrant Event. The forecast looked increasingly unpleasant - gale force northerly winds, and wintry showers. I later learned that the participants from Leeds had even called YWT head office in York to see if the event was going ahead. Meanwhile, the York attendees contacted me to see if there had been any change.

My camera wasn't taken out of the car because of the terrible forecast, so these pictures are all from my archive.

My nephew and I set off at 8.50. We had a Curlew at Camerton, followed by a male Yellow Wagtail at Skeffling, and only minutes later Ben spotted a hunting Barn Owl. We stopped off at Sammy's Point, but everything looked very bleak, and there was no apparent sign of the reported Ring Ouzels. 
We met at the site of the former YWT Reception building and the prefab buildings, which have been levelled in the last few months. It looked rather desolate although Warren Cottage is still there, as is the Heligoland trap. It was so windy all the mist nests were rolled up, and out of use.  
As everyone gathered here, the lovely cheerful song of a Linnet gave a warm welcome despite the icy wind. A lisping bird flew very close to use, and landed at the edge of a puddle. We had to move our position slightly before we could visually confirm it was a Meadow Pipit. We headed up to the breach, but again the only birds seen were more Linnets and Meadow Pipits.
Meadow Pipit
We swung round 180 degrees, and headed to canal scrape. On the journey we heard distant Skylarks, and saw some Redshank and a few Brent Geese on the estuarine mud. The tide was still well out, but it was due to come in before we ended our visit. There were a couple of Reed Buntings in the bushes near the scrape, but very little from Canal Scrape hide on this first view. 
Reed Bunting
A report came over the radio of Ring Ouzels at Sammy's Point, so we decided to have a try for those. The wind was much worse at Sammy's, and the heavy overnight rain meant we had to walk very carefully. There was nothing to see on the riverside apart from a Pied Wagtail. There were more Brent Geese on the river, and a large flock of c.50 birds had flown southwards earlier. An elderly gatecrasher pointed out a male Kestrel hovering for the group, and later in the middle of the scrub a female Sparrowhawk soared over us for a few minutes. After much searching we did actually spot the silvery-edged wings of Ring Ouzels flying between some of the scrubby bushes. However, we had just climbed the stile to leave when one of the Spurn regulars pointed out a male Ring Ouzel on the muddy bank to the east of us. Unfortunately, 3 arrogant pony trekkers wouldn't wait for a few seconds, and they galloped past us to the ouzel, before everyone had managed decent views of it.
Brent Geese
 Ring Ouzel
On the walk back we spotted the tell-tale white rumps of Wheatears flying among the boulders on the riverside. Eventually, we were able to see 4 individuals, one of which was a very striking male bird. We were unable to see the reported male Yellow Wagtail, but we did spot a White Wagtail, and 2 female Bramblings flew north.
We then drove to the Blue Bell car park were we had time to snatch lunch. We then returned to Canal Scrape where a transformation had taken place. The bushes across the water which had been completely devoid of birds now had a good sprinkling of Willowchiffs, from the tail dipping it seems they were predominantly Chiffchaffs.
Grey Plover in breeding plumage
Finally, we walked along the Canal Zone. There were many waders roosting. The first group consisted of Curlew with a decent amount of cooo-eeeeing Grey Plovers, plus Knot and Dunlin. A further darker group of birds were shown to be Oystercatchers on a closer inspection. We passed the halfway point and Ben saw a distant movement 2 fences away. This was the star bird of the event - a stonking male Redstart. We carried on the Canal Zone for a couple of minutes, and although the bird was quite distant we got close enough for everyone to discern all the main features of its plumage. It was an excellent and appropriate climax to a morning which delivered well above the expectations the weather had led us to expect.

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