Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Time to reflect ? 30th August, 2023.

Back home now following a very relaxing and enjoyable time.  Indeed, looking forward to the next session !!

Sadly, set against the number of migrants on passage, I get the uncomfortable feeling that an analysis at the end of the autumn will suggest bird numbers have tumbled yet again.  Whilst I admit there is a need for more scientific evidence ( which will emerge in due course ) collective opinion does seem to reach the same sort of conclusions!   Hopefully we'll be wrong and, for instance, the several evenings of clear skies have allowed a mini exodus of common migrants which has resulted in fewer being around during ensuing days.  

At the same time I hear that quite a number of the Cuckoos that have been tagged by the BTO are already south of the Sahara, so all is not doom and gloom.  What does need to improve immeasurably is the current Government's response and initiatives to environmental matters.  The fine words and promises of yesteryear seem to have been cast upon the wind in many cases with no sincere commitments currently being offered to wildlife policies, indeed DEFRA' 's profile appears to be at its lowest ebb ever. The skewed PR afforded the latest outpourings relating to the current season's brood management figures on Hen Harrier seemingly aimed at  bolstering up the grouse shooting lobby whose future increasingly appears to be under stress and strain.  Time will tell, but it would be nice to see a slightly more independent view coming forward from  the Government's senior advisor on wildlife matters, and equally a more robust position being pursued by the RSPB given the future of grouse shooting in the uplands is increasingly being called into question!  Time will certainly tell but with a General Election being held in 2024 now is not too early to be raising expectations of what might comprise future change ! 

Friday, August 25, 2023

Rewarding day ! 24th August,2023.

An extremely enjoyable day spent largely around or at kilnsea Wetlands and Beacon Lagoons or nearby.   A great variety of waders on offer (  Greenshank, Green Sandpiper,  Knot, Turnstone, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Ruff, Curlew Sandpiper , Dunlin, Little Stint, Bar tailed Godwit, Black tailed Godwit ) and additional goodies thrown in for good measure ( Garganey, Little Gull, ).

Later a Hobby zoomed south over our heads and gave tremendous views.

Locally the vast majority of cereal crops and oil seed rape have been harvested and some of the land even prepared for the next overwintering sowing. Some passage Wheatear and Yellow Wagtails have found the newly ploughed land attractive as have large numbers of gulls.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Rather routine throughout ! 22 August, 2023.

 Well, after all the excitement the winds have changed and things seem to have settled into the routine!  Whilst a look at the list of things that have been seen on any one day can be very impressive, from an individual's point of view , Spurn's recording area is very large stretching, as it does, northwards to Easington!!  That means that choices have to be made as to where you cover !  Alongside all this, dedicated observers covering sea passage or visual migration are on station for long periods of time and miss little. All put together, an individual observer looking out from Sammy's Point when something turns up at the Point way across the Bay has little chance  of connecting with it if it's on the move. But that's the excitement that surrounds birding and deciding on the "itinerary" for the day can be part of it ( or suggest your selection criteria needs revising! ).  

Deciding on coverage of the core areas around the observatory accommodation down to the Warren wasn't a bad choice followed by a visit to Sammy's Point.  Odd migrants were around ( Willow Warbler, Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher, Yellow Wagtail ) ,out on the Humber numbers of Golden Plover were present, several Whimbrel were around, Greenshank and a fine adult Mediterranean Gull.  And the weather was fine , so a very pleasant day in the end . It provided an opportunity for a good chat with friends  Robert and Sue Cookson and Dave Spivack and to catch up with family now that telephone reception has improved !!!

Sunday, August 20, 2023

A day of promise that never really materialized ! 19th August,2023.

Well, Storm Betty never seemed to materialize if set against the weather forecasts we'd received. Heavy rain and strong winds didn't appear to be a feature overnight  ( although I did close all windows and sleep soundly !! ).

The flurry of early morning announcements of newly arrived migrants being found never really happened. The best I could offer was coming across two rather tired and bewildered Common Sandpipers running around some large puddles on an area of wasteland used by heavy lorries and fishermen for parking and located immediately north of the Gas Terminal in Easington.  A period of seawatching produced nothing either !

Later I visited again the area near Skeffling that is being developed as a wetland. Again little of interest either over the area concerned or the adjacent Humber. Several parties of Golden Plover winged their way overland towards Spurn, a Greenshank flew south calling and a female Marsh Harrier hunted nearby with the weather proving to be fine but blustery throughout.   

Certainly a much better day ! 18th August, 2023.

Other tasks took me north of Spurn in the morning but sometime after 0900 hours I had the opportunity to do some seawatching. Several flocks of Teal went through and a quite large pack of Common Scoter  along with a gentle procession of terns and Gannets. A single Whimbrel went through before the bully boy form of a Great Skua went south mid way offshore.  After an unproductive interval a single Black Tern went through south quite close in , which lifted my spirits, but proved to be the end of passage for a while. By then time was creeping on so I headed off for some lunch back at my unit at the farm.

With tea and sandwiches made a report on the radio then threw things awry ! Icterine Warbler at the Warren heligoland trap area , so guess which won out !  In fact there proved to be two not one. One bird was noticeably more grey on its upperparts than the other, a more typical specimen with light lemon /yellow on the underparts and a distinct greenish appearance above. It was great to have the time to study them in detail and to get good views from time to time of one out in the open. Not a species that is always co-operative during the breeding season , if seen on the continent, where they can spend time in the tree canopy and be obscured.

Back for what was now a late lunch ! A freshly made mug of tea was then interrupted by a report of a Red-backed Shrike not very far from where I'd been !!!!  So off again to gain what were quite good views of a bird present along the hedgerow line of the drainage ditch running east from the canal zone. The bird was quite mobile, but with a bit of patience it showed well, occasionally making forays out to adjacent areas to secure prey. 

I hung about the area on the off chance something else might turn up (it didn't !! ), but I was rewarded nonetheless by entertaining views of a Barn Owl standing for quite a time in the circular entrance of the nest box which is on an elevated pole not far from the YWT Visitor Centre.  Besides stretching periodically the bird seemed captivated by the Swallows which kept zooming past over the tops of the nearby bushes. By now it was after 1700 hours so time and hunger were creeping on ! 

Reports of some Pied Flycatchers in the tree cover adjacent to the Crown and Anchor pub couldn't be ignored. Sometimes totally lost to view, occasionally one individual of three perched out on a bare branch and provided excellent views.

And so, finally back for what now was moving into a late and  formal teatime treat !!  New cup of tea made, sandwiches devoured, I then confess I sort of  "lost" an hour, but that's another story !!

A good day.

A pretty good morning ! 17th August, 2023.

 Went across to Sammy's Point on Humberside where a brisk easterly wind was blowing across the very "root" of the peninsula below Easington. Clearly birds were cutting across from their southward passage down the North Sea or being deflected by the strength of the wind itself. Noticeable were small groups of terns which kept passing downriver. I kept monitoring those which took short rests on the tank blocks and had some super views of both Common and Sandwich Terns.  A little later, as a small group was shifting around choosing spaces, I went through all those present.  Imagine my delight as , amongst several Common Terns and a couple of Sandwich Terns, a single Roseate Tern stood out whilst preening itself. Soon they were gone to be followed shortly by a call on the radio reporting two Arctic Skuas over the Humber. I managed to find one, which appeared to settle on the water somewhere off Chalk Bank, but confess that I then lost contact. 

Time went on and the tide level began to recede leaving exposed mud where Dunlin and Redshank fed . Later still, and going through the waders present, I found a Little Stint amongst the Dunlin at the same time as a Whimbrel moved through up river. Fairly soon the whole gathering moved off . As time went on gull numbers , chiefly Black headed Gulls , picked over the exposed mud but not before four Little Gulls  revealed themselves. It would have been so easy to miss them as they stood immobile for quite a time until, as with the waders, the whole collection moved on.

Despite best efforts nothing else of note appeared other than a couple of parties of Golden Plover moving high over the Humber.  Such proved to be the end of the excitement as an examination of two or three different nearby areas produced nothing of note, but the day left nothing to grumble about ! 

Friday, August 18, 2023

A day of drama ! 16th August, 2023.

 When first created the Spurn Migration Festival was held at Westmere Farm, where I stay. The farmer, Andrew Wells, built an observation platform at the eastern end of "the big barn" mainly, at that time , so that exhibitors of optical equipment could be afforded views over to the North Sea. Since then it's been extended up to another level and provides open views of the whole area.  A morning spent looking out for birds migrating through can be well spent along with a pot of tea to hand.

I'd decided to have a morning session and was able to take advantage of a warm, virtually calm morning with good visibility. The session provided a good selection of bird species including a dispersed party of Whimbrel calling excitedly as they made landfall. But, on this occasion , it wasn't birds that stole the show but a Brown Hare and a Stoat. The hare was feeding on an open area of grass just below the platform, the Stoat put in an appearance and proceeded to stalk the hare using a variety of strategies and cover. The hare seemed oblivious to all this as the drama enfolded.  The whole episode took on a military element of contain and strike except the hare continuously moved its position and frustrated things!  No drama set in the savannahs of Africa could have been as spellbinding as the drama continued, eventually being almost half an hour in duration. The Stoat tried so hard, but eventually the hare moved away into open space even further away  and the whole thing fell apart!!

Set aside the Mustelids and enter the Lionesses !

Well done , girls !  Just as dramatic, I enjoyed every minute.

The afternoon provided a phenomena worth experiencing too. The NE wind had strengthened and a quite dense sea fret had formed over the coast and inland for 200m or so. The alternative was to go on Humberside which, by contrast, was quite hot and produced very little.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

A general day. 15th August, 2023.

The weather forecast proved its worth and provided a sunny, warm and pleasant day, albeit with a blustery wind at times.  I decided to take advantage and visit a range of areas within and around the Spurn recording area. 

Called in to the Outstrays development which can be overlooked from the Skeffling pumping station. The site is located between Skeffling and Welwick/Outstrays and will eventually involve the breaching of the Humber embankment to allow the river to enter the various areas which have been constructed/prepared in this vast enclosed area. A large site and one with huge potential for the future and conservation of wildlife.

Again spent the afternoon seawatching and whilst nothing exceptional was seen it was nice to see an almost continuous stream of terns moving south, some waders on the move and numbers of Kittiwake offshore.  By way of an ending a Greenshank flew, calling, over the accommodation unit as I cooked an evening meal, a reminder that I'd never made my visit to the wetlands !

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

14th August.........the begining !

Sadly the morning proved unproductive as the only opportunity I had coincided with rain, I got wet through and the only " bonus" on Humberside was a Whimbrel !!

Thankfully I had the afternoon free and so could "dedicate" my efforts into seawatching. Located north of Easington I had most of the afternoon and early evening available, which coincided with the high tide and, hopefully, would catch much of the passage of terns moving southwards to their roost in the marshes of north Lincolnshire. 

The time proved absolutely enthralling with a quantity of passage southwards into the strengthening southerly wind. Species I logged in the almost four hours of attendance were as follows ; Gannet, Cormorant, Little Egret, Common Scoter, Whimbrel, Oystercatcher, GBBG, LBBG,  Herring Gull, Common Gull, Mediterranean Gull,  BHG, Kittiwake,  Guillemot , Puffin, ( on the sea ), Arctic Skua , Sandwich Tern , Common Tern, Black Tern ( this latter and the Arctic Skua being the stand out bonus birds)!.

The "formal" counts undertaken by the observatory over the day had a number of wader species on the move and almost 3000 Common Terns heading south.   A spectacle to behold.!!


Monday, August 14, 2023

Some general background !

Last week I travelled to Glasgow to attend the World Track Cycling Championships. The journeys to and from Glasgow provided an ample amount of time in which to have a think about various things including resuming Blogging!  Recent times, despite firm intentions, have seen renewed attempts simply fade away and fail.

But , to be quite frank, I've suddenly had an urge to start Blogging again, not simply to relate wildlife experiences, but, given the disgraceful record of our current Government as far as environmental matters are concerned , to use the medium to draw attention to these shortcomings and lend an additional voice of criticism and objection , particularly in advance of the upcoming General Election in 2024.

What may have provided a lifetime's interest and enjoyment to many is now being disregarded, if not trashed, in favour of an agenda which seems to have no empathy with the natural environment and to have scant regard for the serious threats which are begining to engulf the planet. To ignore such matters is not just foolhardy, but ignores our contribution to a collective global responsibility which might just have some chance of alleviating disaster. Kicking things into the long grass is a sure route to disaster ! Raising impossible deadlines simply to transfer reality into another administrations term of office is adolescent politics at its most blatant. Sadly, this appears to be the approach which has been embraced on a number of fronts, not just on matters relating to climate change, but also on air quality, water quality, habitat degradation and much more.

So, while the intent and objectives of all of the above might be plain, the decision caused me a dilemma !! Should I create a separate "environmental/political" Blog  or amalgamate more of the latter content alongside the conservation and wildlife focus of Birding Odyssey  ( comments please ).  Finally I decided that, as I was unlikely to stray into social or economic maters very often, I would leave things as they are, although things can be changed.

So, there you have it, the  " new approach ".

However, given I'm staying in Kilnsea, East Yorkshire at present, which is immediately north of Spurn Bird Observatory and adjacent to both the North Sea and the River Humber, I think you can infer the main emphasis will be on birding activities in the immediate future. How long my residing in such an idyll will maintain my being able to resist venturing into commenting on ever deteriorating circumstances remains to be seen!!