Trip reports

Spurn NNR

Spurn NNR
Paul Barrett

Monday, 17 October 2016

On the day before we undertook our planned visit to the Spurn NNR, a Siberian Accentor had been seen in the area. On our arrival, we were met by hoards of people carrying telescopes, binoculars and cameras of all shapes and sizes; the area around the Blue Bell cafe was teeming with people. We by-passed all of these and headed for the Visitor Centre.
We were met by our guides, Martin and Adam, and climbed aboard our transport and set off for the headland. After the bedlam that we had encountered near Kilnsea, the rest of the day was remarkably quiet - we had the place virtually to ourselves.
Along the shoreline were brent geese, dunlin, lesser black backed gulls, cormorants and curlew.
Parking near the lighthouse, we were immediately treated to a brilliant view of a goldcrest - the first of many sightings of this beautiful little bird (few of us could recall ever having better sightings).
Robins were everywhere! Martin explained that most of the birds that we were likely to see weren't at Spurn by choice, but because of the prevailing Easterly winds in the previous few days, had flown over from the continent. In the winter, resident birds are joined by immigrants from continental Europe, mostly from Scandinavia; these Robins are paler than ours, having a duller red breast. The immigrants are also generally less tame because they skulk in woodlands, only British Robins are a tame garden bird.
Martin was able to identify birdsong as we walked along, thus enabling us to spy stonechats, linnets, blackcaps, pied wagtails and skylarks, in the bushes and flying overhead.
Songthrushes, redwings and fieldfares were numerous, linnets were seen perching on overhead wires and as we neared the lifeboat station, waders including sanderling and bar tailed godwits were identified.
Standing quietly near the headland, Martin became very excited at the sound of unusual birdsong approaching which proved to be a flock of about 25 bearded tits flying across-a most unusual sighting, even for Spurn! Several ring ouzels also flew past in mixed flocks.
From our vantage point of an old World War 2 building, a woodcock was clearly seen taking off in flight - the first of 3 sightings during our visit and a 'first' for several of our group.
Although we didn't see the Siberian Accentor, we were rewarded with excellent views of another rarity, a Dusky Warbler. A small, dark warbler with grey-brown upperparts and grey streaked underparts, it has a distinct white eyebrow and faint eye ring. Foraging on the ground and in nearby trees, it constantly flicked its wings. Without Martin's guidance, it's very unlikely that any of us would have been able to notice such a rarity.
On returning to the Warren, we had half an hour to view waders on the incoming tide, including redshank and mixed flocks of knot and golden plover. A flock of teal flew past over the sea in front of the hide and our final sightings, just as we were saying our goodbyes, was of brambling and a black restart, perching on a post and flitting backwards and forwards not far from our coach. What an amazing day! Perfect weather, wonderful birds and expert guides. We are indebted to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust for guiding us and giving us their valuable time and expertise.
Birds seen (50): teal, rock pipit, fieldfare, starling, linnet, chiffchaff, carrion crow, wren, great tit, reed bunting, wheatear, blackbird, skylark, dunnock, sanderling, bar tailed godwit, chaffinch, herring gull, goldfinch, bearded tit, ring ouzel, siskin, robin, blackcap, dunlin, brent goose, curlew, stonechat, redwing, pied wagtail, goldcrest, thrush, lesser blackback gull, meadow pipit, black headed gull, cormorant, sparrowhawk, dusky warbler, woodcock, redpoll, rock pipit, kestrel, greater black back gull, redshank, knot, mallard, golden plover, brambling, black redstart.