Spurn Trip Report 2015
Spurn bird observatory on Yorkshire’s South East coast is well known amongst birders as a mecca for migrant birds in spring and autumn. The national nature reserve, managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, consists of large sand and shingle spit protruding out into the mouth of the Humber River and contains a huge variety of habitats including wetlands, mudflats and coastal scrubland. The range of habitats as well as the reserves geographical position meant that it’s had a huge number of bird species recorded there, making Spurn an ideal location for the NGB's annual group meeting in 2014.
As last year’s event was such a great success, who could resist doing it all again? Therefore on the weekend of the 30th-31st May 2015 over 20 next gen birders met up together to bird, socialise and explore this incredible nature reserve. The following is what happened over the course of what was an absolutely fantastic weekend…
The morning was off to a slow start after what was for a few, one or two drinks too many at the Crown and Anchor Pub the night before. Although, who could blame them? It is always very exciting to meet new young birders and reunite with birding friends from across the country, and surely that is the main point of these trips (as well as the birds).
The weather was predominantly westerly winds and sunny, so less than ideal for migrant birds but nevertheless this did little to dampen the spirits of us very keen young birders. The usual migrants began to be picked out including Cuckoo, Spotted Flycatcher and Yellow Wagtail. A few of the resident species also put in appearances including the ever popular Barn Owls. While most NGBs stuck to birding around the warren and wetlands in the morning watching newly hatched Avocets, an adventurous few decided to trek out to point itself and they were well rewarded with a Golden Oriole! This species is a real treat to see these days and Spurn has a good reputation for attracting a few migrating individuals each spring. It was a lifer for many so was a very welcome bird in what was generally a slow day for migrants. The point team also came across a Jay, an unusual species for Spurn. The odd Wheatear and Little Gull was also found in the morning.
The afternoon sunshine brought out the butterflies on mass. Green Hairstreak, Holly Blue and Wall Brown were among the list of species we managed to find. Moth caterpillars were also abundant to including Garden Tiger, Pale-brindled Beauty and the somewhat irritating Brown-tips. Both Roe Deer and Grey Seals also showed well. The afternoon also signalled the time of the annual NGB Spurn football match. A good short break from birding and overall it was a very close game, ending 5-4 between the two teams. Both teams showed some rather questionable skills but nevertheless it was brilliant fun. By the time the football match had finished it was nearly high tide and wader watch began. Little Stint, Greenshank and Whimbrel were found alongside the more usual migrant waders including plenty of Tundra Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Sanderling. The Little Terns and Sandwich Terns also showed well.
The evening was also eventful as the Westmere Farm owners were kind enough to let us have a BBQ on their land. This was a great opportunity to catch up with other NGBs about the day’s events as well as to organise tactics for pub quiz at the Crown later in the evening. Unfortunately none of the NGB teams won the pub quiz and as it turns out, most of us know very little about kings and queens, alcohol or the life history of the quiz master! The raffle was more of a success with one particular NGB winning no less than 3 prizes. The rarity sweepstakes were also a success for another couple of people (unlike me who was given Great Reed Warbler, a species which has only ever been recorded 3 times at Spurn), a great way to end a fantastic day!
The day’s weather looked a lot more promising for migrants with south easterly winds and rain overnight, easing by late morning. The early morning was thought by most to be a total wash out so many of us used the opportunity to have a lay in. However, at about 9am, those of us sleeping in the warren were awoken by the shouts of “American Wigeon, a first for Spurn!” A few NGBs sleeping at the campsite that braved the early morning rain were well rewarded with a sighting of the drake, with a female Eurasian Wigeon, before it flew out of sight. What a brilliant record for the reserve. A few waders were also seen in the early morning including Curlew Sandpiper and another Little Stint. The morning also brought some more impressive numbers of auks including Guillemot and Razorbill past the warren. A large number of Swifts were also recorded flying though which is great to see. As the rain began to clear a few more birds began to show themselves including the Golden Oriole and Jay which remained on the point, luckily for me as I had missed the Oriole the day before and it was much to the delight of the person that got this species in the rarity sweepstakes.
A spot of moth trapping also took place before the majority of NGBs made their way back home. After a fairly quiet day for mothing, Sunday produced a lot better results with common species like Angle Shades and Flame Shoulder in the warren trap, as well as a few more unusual species including a Spurn speciality; the Sand Dart. A Heart and Club was also caught at Spurn and the moth recorder brought it along to show us which was much appreciated. All in all it was a very successful trip. It is always a pleasure to meet and spend time with other young and enthusiastic birders. There was also some excellent birding to be had with some exceptional species being seen. I truly hope that everyone enjoyed it as much as I did and cannot wait for the next trip. Bring it on!
Photo credit - Drew Lyness (Avocet) Danni Gilroy (football, Garden Tiger Caterpillar), Jake Gearty (golden oriole), David Nicholls (spurn landscape), Tim Cowley (American Wigeon).
By Drew Lyness