Trip reports

Field Trip - Spurn Head

Field Trip - Spurn Head
Wheatear at Spurn Photo: Helen Ensor

Sunday, 19 September 2021

After much deliberation and risk assessment, it was great to be up early on a Sunday morning waiting for a coach to Spurn with thirty other members of RSPB Sheffield local group. Despite a forecast for rain in the afternoon, we were all really excited to be going on a field trip again after an 18 month break.

Arriving at the reserve, coffee and cake as well as some bulging bacon sandwiches fortified members before they headed out. A south-easterly breeze held a promise of migrants and this was quickly realised when a red-backed shrike was spotted. Several members were lucky enough to see this in buckthorn and hawthorn scrub close to the Discovery Centre. A walk along the seaward edge of The Triangle produced tantalising views of small birds, but dunnocks and reed buntings couldn't be made into anything rarer. White tents of brown-tailed moths adorned the buckthorn. The warm morning weather and blue skies made the mud flats shimmer, while a group of pale-bellied brent geese grazed on the sea grass along with numerous shelduck.

Kilnsea Wetlands, which some of our members had got off the coach a few minutes early to visit, is an area of freshwater habitat and so provided a different mix of birds. Ruff, black-tailed godwit, common sandpiper, common snipe, little stint and avocet were among the choice waders while plentiful pintail were seen dabbling in the scrape and a few common terns and a solitary Mediterranean gull were among the lesser black-backed gulls. For those that went as far as Beacon Ponds, two northern wheatear were on the bank nearest the sea.

The weather forecast was right and a weather front came across in the early afternoon. The blue September sky was replaced with battleship grey, and windswept hawthorn bushes were silhouetted on the horizon like targets at a shooting range. Waterproofs were found wanting!

The rain drove people to shelter in hides and excellent views were had of two very confiding water rails from the Canal Scrape hide. Sea watching was also very productive, providing views of all four skua species, red-throated diver, sandwich, common, roseate and black terns, common scoter, gannet and several auk species.

Once the rain dried up, it was very noticeable how it had brought down smaller migrants including swallows, redstart, spotted flycatcher and more wheatears, all of which would presumably otherwise have passed unseen overhead. The returning tide pushed waders closer in meaning that golden plover, grey plover, ringed plover, bar-tailed godwit and knot were added to the group list alongside abundant curlew, redshank and dunlin.

Close to the coach, a spotted flycatcher was showing well to provide a great end to a fantastic day as we boarded the coach, tired and a bit wet but very satisfied.

31 attendees; 87 species seen