Thursday, 3 July 2014

The first 'official' NGB meetup- Spurn 2014

The first weekend in May was the proposed data for the first meetup on the Next Generation Birders, a 350 strong member group (and growing) of young birders, each of which have a common interest. birds and wildlife.
Luckily, I hooked up with local birder James from Shropshire, Justin from Carmarthenshire and Sam from Nottinghamshire, and these became my companions for most of the weekend.
As I'm sure many can guess, Spurn was chosen because of it very enviable track record when it comes to migrants, and despite being a little 'early' in the spring for passage at Spurn I remained hopeful, I was going to see birds I don't usually see in my Worcester homeland anyhow.

After a fairly uncomfortable and cold night camping, I was awoken very early on before the first few sheds of light started to appear to the sound of a Cuckoo'ing Cuckoo, my first of the year, and with the sound of 'Klupping' Avocets and piping Oystercatchers, I took that as my alarm to wake up! A couple of other NGB's, Dan and Sam, had took that as their wake up call also, so we decided to walk to the Beacon Pools via Kilnsea wetlands in the early morning gloom. We had barely got past the last house on the road before ahead of us we spotted a silhouetted SHORT-EARED OWL quartering the long grass and rape fields around us. It flew off fairly quickly though, and flew off towards Beacon lane.

Nearing the Wetlands hide, a stunning male Whinchat perched up on the adjacent rape field, giving stunning views, even despite their still being almost no light.
The pools were quiet, but we kept finding decent birds, a Marsh Harrier flew over, Lesser Whitethroats were singing everywhere and both 'Flava' and 'Alba' Wagtails were piling over in numbers.

One of the outstanding highlights of the trip on the first day however, the great numbers of both Bar-tailed Godwit and Whimbrel on the move, with decent numbers of both moving through the wetlands throughout the day, among these migrating wader flocks were smaller numbers of Curlew and a partially summer plumaged SPOTTED REDSHANK dropped onto the Kilnsea wetlands over high tide with a decent flock of Barwit and Whimbrel.

Throughout the day more birds dropped in, a Common Scoter and 4 Red-breasted Merganser dropped onto the Beacon pools in the afternoon, and the male Whinchat from the morning found a 2nd bird.
 A female Redstart was found, and that was duly located and seen, as was good numbers of Wheatear along the road between Kilnsea and the Warren.
High tide here was full of activity, with a large wader and Brent Goose flock showing on the adjacent Humber mudflats. Among the numerous Dunlin and Grey Plover were smaller numbers of Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Turnstone and a single Knot, most of which were in stunning summer plumage!
Terns were constantly moving around along the sea, and throughout the day 30+ Little Tern and 4 Arctic Tern were seen.

The rarest bird of the weekend was found in the afternoon, but was sadly not at Spurn, but a few miles up the road. However, despite the short time they saw it we decided to drive over there, we couldn't find it, but a lucky piece of mis-direction led us to find a stunningly plumaged male Pied Flycatcher.
We refound the location where the Wryneck had been, and instead head another Cuckoo and found a singing male Tree Sparrow, a fairly rare bird in my home county so I was very happy!
We returned to Spurn and saw the Spotted Flycatcher that had been found, which had drew quite a crowd!
For the sake of completeness, I walked out onto the point in the hope of relocating the Black Redstart seen earlier in the day. This drew a blank and food started to take over our minds, so we hotfooted it back to the Joly Sailers for food and drinks with the other 20 NGB's, via a very showy male Kestrel.
 As you can see, a full days birding left some very tired NGB'S strewn about on the raised track between Kilnsea Wetlands and the Beacon Pools.
As you can imagine, having had a good reward from getting up early the previous day, I chose to repeat that. A much better nights sleep left me feeling in a better mood, and I head out to find some birds! The wetlands held a flock of 4 Pintail, and the Pools had 2 Shoveler, a Common Sandpiper, and the female Common Scoter from the previous day remained. A number of Little Tern were feeding in the pools, giving stunning views from the raised track. A single Snipe was showing in fields adjacent to the road
Yellow Wagtails were moving en mass throughout the day, even from very early in the morning, and it is possibly the first time I have ever said "Just another Yellow Wagtail". 2 Marsh Harrier passed through during the day, one even hunting in the field, as view from our tent! A Greenshank flew in off the sea mid-afternoon. Migration in action!
While walking up the beach side of the Beacon Pools, I met up with Sam again, and we walked up Beacon Lane, and soon after, we were treated to great views of a male Lesser Whitethroat, and then a male RING OUZEL started 'chacking' in the hawthorns next to us, showing briefly in the grounds of the caravan site and in flight!
There really did seem to be Lesser Whitethroat everywhere, and while watching ANOTHER 2 near the Bluebell, a Tree Pipit flew low over our heads calling.
Just up the road, a late BRAMBLING was showing around the grounds of Kew gardens.
Down at the Warren, a repeat of yesterdays wader flocks was again a great sight, and it was spent scanning with Martin Garner of Birding Frontiers fame. The large Dark-belled Brent Goose flock had been joined by two Pale Bellied Brents (One shown in photo).
Wader numbers were higher than the previous day, and we enjoyed larger numbers of almost the full range of Arctic breeding waders in summer plumage. With news having emerged of a couple of migrant passerines out on the point, we dragged ourselves on the long walk across the sand out to the concrete track. The recent storm tides of winter 2013/14 had washed a significant part of the road out, making access difficult.
We managed to locate a male Redstart, and after texting Justin (who was already on the point) he came to have a look. While waiting for the bird to re-appear, we heard a 'Crest' calling from an area behind us, and immediately knew this was the FIRECREST we had been wanting to re-locate. Eventually, we all had great views as it came to the edge of its favoured bushes a few times.
With time now coming to a close on the NGB trip, we made our way back to the Warren, where we were told we had just missed a flypast Spoonbill, but a hunting Short-eared Owl gave us some compensation as we rested before starting our journey.
Despite no real rarities, (being from a midland county) I had a great time seeing decent numbers of passage migrants, and certainly saw more than I would in my home counties.
Thanks to James G for driving, and for providing the tent, I would have been a little stuck if it wasn't for you! Also, thanks to all NGB's that turned up, for the banter, and for sharing news on birds that were being found, it certainly made a great break to endless revision!

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