Friday, October 1, 2021

The final week ( 21st - 27th ).

I'm actually completing this a few days after the 27th when I returned home ! After immodestly launching into what was intended to be a resumption in Blogging I hit problems via a visit from the Gremlin family and things came to a stop. Thankfully birding itself wasn't affected , which was good given a steady trickle of migrants, activity over the sea and Kilnsea Wetlands continuing to produce and shine !! May I take the easy way out ( apologies ) and refer readers to the official observatory sightings reports given they go into absorbing details of what was happening on particular days ( www, ). As for me I guess the verdict is , Can do better !! Thankfully I shall be back at Spurn fairly soon and intend to do just that !

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

A quite varied week 13th - 20th September

The first week of my stay has proved eventful and absorbing. Other than one late afternoon and evening with rain it's also been fine throughout, a real bonus. AS ever I've elected to do at least one period of seawatching each day and been rewarded accordingly.This time of year sees Red throated Divers making their way south and each day has seen birds streaking south, low over the waves or even in small groups at height. A sight I never personally tire of ! Other sightings have included Great Skua, Arctic Skuas and Long-tailed Skua, indeed one individual ( presumed to be the same bird ) has taken up temporary residency offshore of the seawatching hide and has been seen quite regularly. A rather poor sighting ( for me) of a Sabine's Gull was less rewarding, but numbers of Mediterranean Gull in the area have been more than welcome and a few Little Gull have been in evidence. A couple of days has seen duck on the move with Teal being by far the most numerous. Other species have figured including Velvet Scoter and also the first Dark bellied Brent Geese. A group of Light bellied birds has also been on the Humber for the past few days. One of the star birds of the last few days has been a Dotterel spending time within the Golden Plover flock on the Humber. As might be expected numbers and variety of waders have provided an ever welcome diversion at Kilnsea Wetlands in particular. With winds being mainly in the east each day has produced something good worth searching for, which is the real payback associated with a stay in early-mid September.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

SPURN 2021.

Spurn, nowadays, and the approach you have to take whilst birding there, has changed significantly compared to the situation that presented itself when first I used to visit and stay there in the late 1950's. I was still at school, of course,so visits were done on a day basis or during the holidays when we used to stay at Warren Cottage. The penninsula itself, facilities, ownership patterns and even the area covered are much different to those days when , for instance, two fields had to be crossed in order to get to the shoreline from Warren Cottage passing a small reed filled marsh on the way. One thing it has not lost and that is its magic, an aspect that ever increasing numbers of visitors are now begining to discover for themselves! One thing steadfastly remains and that is that it is one of the premier bird migration locations in the UK, an aspect that even seems to improve and assert itself further as the years go by! The observatory has independent status, has a modern residential facility, staff, a vibrant committee, an ongoing research programme and an ever expanding record of success. One major element has changed , however, and that is the bird recording area embraced by the observatory.
As can be seen from the map above , this area has a northern boundary which circumvents Easington village in the north. This "new extension" has , itself, produced a whole string of excellent records and has certainly enhanced the importance in ornithological terms of the extreme tip of south east Yorkshire. The village too has attracted an ever growing population of resident birders !! This "development" has emerged when another important change has occurred to the penninsula itself. Several years ago the penninsula was (finally ) breached and it is no longer possible to journey down to the Point by car. This has made coverage of the recording area for one individual somewhat of a challenge, although the advent of electric bicycles which are able to cross the sandy breached area has improved matters for the lucky few. Alternatively,simply determining a schedule of visiting several of the key areas and picking up on a good selection of what is around is a reasonable startegy. Short wave radios are put to good use , but the frustration of being at Sammy's Point and learning of something good which has turned up at the Point never fails to go away! The fact that such a selection of riches regularly graces the Spurn/Easington area is testament to its unique position and importance. With people seawatching,catching and ringing birds, carrying out visible migration studies coupled with a veritable army of enthusiasts combing the recording area from dawn to dusk each day such prominence is hardly surprising. So, taking a holiday here presents endless opportunities and guaranteed enjoyment. I've started paying regular visits again since moving back to Yorkshire, an aspect supported over the past couple of years by the ever changing lockdown arrangements. As the Observatory itself provides a very detailed report on line each day drawn from the activities of its staff and volunteers, my entries will simply reflect my own coverage ( considerably much less adequate ) from my stays! I'll also just present it as a weekly summary too, the first one of which is set out below.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The start of it all!!

A busy day from the onset with packing the car , a supermarket shop and other errands even before setting off. I'd decided to detour from the direct route to Spurn by calling at the RSPB Blacktoft Sands Reserve to try and see the WHITE-TAILED PLOVER. It's an easy option to simply turn off the eastbound M62 and go through Goole to the reserve. It wasn't that busy and the bird was actually showing from the first hide next to the Centre. How convenient!!!! After having my fill of what is an extraordinarily elegant, even shy looking , bird I visited the other hides as it's some time since I was last here due to all the Covid restrictions.
As I understand it this is only the ninth time this species has been recorded in Britain, so it's quite a significant occurence. ( Yorkshire is somewhat blessed today with a Green Warbler turning up at Buckton and the Black-browed Albatross sporadically returning to Bempton ). As I moved on Cetti's Warbler called loudly from nearby cover and proved to be the best of very few passerine species in evidence and recorded. As might be expected at this time of year waders were in good numbers. It was good to see numbers of Common Snipe , Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Green Sandpiper, together with a few Greenshank and Lapwing. An adult and immature Water Rail dodged about on the edge of one of the extensive reedbeds, three Marsh Harriers put in an appearance and several duck species were present ( Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Teal.). Conscious that I'd been there for three hours I retraced my steps to the motorway ( the only downside of this cunning plan! ) as I wanted to miss the Friday night exodus from Hull. It proved to be even less busy than previously, despite the roadworks affecting the centre of the city and I managed to reach Spurn by the end of the afternoon. This weekend coincides with that of the Spurn Migration Festival ( again I believe its ninth anniversary ). Its location has changed this year to the large field on the left immediately before the bad right angle bend at the Blue Bell. Previously held at Westmere Farm ( where I always stay in one of the self catering units) it had proved easy in the past to leap out and intercept old friends that had been spotted amongst attendees. A bit more ingenuity might be required this time around! Having unpacked the car some nine hours after the reverse process I got sorted out, ate and went to bed!

Thursday, September 9, 2021

To Blog or not to Blog?

When I look at the last Blog entry I made ( 1.1.21.) it's full of some certainty and resolve. A handful of days after writing it [ and after a really great morning of birding with Matthew ( my son ) to celebrate the new year ] we were in lockdown again! Great, I thought, here goes, back to following the intentions set out in the previous Blog dated 20.4.20 and accepting the limitations. Well, it's not turned out quite as bad as I thought it might as lockdown restrictions were lifted to some extent during the Spring and Summer such that birding might tentatively begin again and I managed to enjoy periods at Spurn in May, July and, more recently, late August. It's not until very recently though that I've felt a sufficient level of certainty that's then allowed a bit of forward planning to emerge. An enthusiasm for following up a few survey ideas has returned together, this time, with sufficient confidence to believe it might prove possible to see things through to the end! I'm just about to go back to Spurn for 2/3 weeks and then, similarly, from mid October to mid November, so life has certainly begun to take on shape again. Caution is still the word in many respects if a sensible approach is to be followed as I'm sure we'll face one or two "Covid challenges" over the autumn and winter but , nonetheless, I believe we've now reached a point where we can look forward with increasing confidence whilst embracing this new normality. In my case it hasn't yet reached the point of considering foreign travel !! So, the answer to the question posed in the Blog title is an emphatic "yes" and an accompanying expressed hope that opportunities to put words on paper and share the excitement and wonders of the outside world will now emerge. Watch this space !!

Friday, January 1, 2021

It seems a long time since I committed to producing a Blog on a regular basis (too long!). In the meantime, much has happened to affect all of us and the outcomes are most certainly not a cause for celebration ! So here we now are at the onset of a New Year with a large measure of uncertainty hanging over us. To me, the only way forward is to work within the official parameters made available and to make the best of things. Whilst I've remained at home today, setting up various things, I'm still looking forward to what the next twelve months will bring and to the inevitable surprises. Way back in the autumn of 2018, whilst in Cornwall, I had a bad fall down a steep, cliff footpath , took a battering, injured my left knee, which then took some time to mend. By 2020 I was recovered, starting off the year in Scotland, seeing a few nice things, including White-winged Scoter, and was ready to engage with a year of promise. Later, a week in Norfolk was something of a washout and, shortly after that, the problem with the Covid 19 virus emerged and lockdown restrictions followed on soon afterwards. Short periods at Spurn in July, August and October, when restrictions eased, revived the spirits and intent and, now, here I am again looking forward to future birding, but with the whole UK enduring various levels of restriction. It seems likely that this situation is going to apply in some form or another for a while yet and, therefore, the challenge is to construct activities within the regulations and get on with it ! For my part I've abandoned all plans to go abroad until at least well into 2022. I've decided to concentrate primarily on local birding, travel within the County as regulations allow and adhering to all the guidance and, then,more widely as restrictions are lifted. Easy, unequivocal and stripped bare of " what if's" and "if onlys". Given my home area is still in Tier 3 I feel very lucky having the opportunity to travel around in what is a countryside area where it's not difficult to avoid people entirely ! I've decided on a personal recording area of two 10 km squares ( OS areas SE 10 and 20 ). Large....yes, ambitious....yes but an area overall with a large variety of opportunity and challenge on the eastern flanks of the Pennines up onto the open moorlands themselves. Reservoirs, woodlands, moorlands, swathes of agricultural land combine to provide a rich variety of habitat. Whilst the current situation gives rise to serious concerns, there is room for hope once the vaccination programme really gets underway. In the meantime I think everyone should do their level best to accept the disciplines of the guidance and help to minimize the pressures on the NHS to whose staff our heartfelt wishes should be offered. Take care, stay safe and have an enjoyable year.