Spurn 2009

Spurn Trip Report - Friday 18th - Sunday 20th September 2009 

Friday 18th September

With alarms set at 4.15am we were on the road to Spurn by 5 with hopes of a weekend full of great birds. Our first port of call was Sammy’s point and we arrived there at around 9.15am. A short walk along the path looking through the waders quickly produced Knot, Redshank, Golden plover, Ringed plover, Curlew, Dunlin and Bar-tailed Godwit and in the horse paddock we soon picked up our first Redstart of the weekend. A local birder then appeared and told us that the Woodchat Shrike was showing well around the car park!! We were soon on the bird and it gave fantastic views feeding on bees and beetles just meters from us! What a start. While watching the shrike a Peregrine falcon and Hobby flew over with a Whinchat showing in the horse paddock. A Little Egret, Whimbrel and a single Barnacle Goose were on the estuary. After viewing the bird for half an hour we went for a stroll along the coastal path and to our amazement a flock of 4 Snow Bunting dropped in onto the path right in front of us. The birds were feeding on seed occasionally flying up and calling when they did. These amazingly confiding birds came to within 3 feet of us! An incredible experience. We continued along the path with the birds seemingly following us and glimpsed a Grasshopper warbler that was lurking in the bushes and Willow Warbler, Reed Bunting and Linnet were also seen.

After a brilliant start we headed for beacon ponds spotting 2 Roe Deer en route.



We walked to beacon ponds spotting Whimbrel, Oystercatcher and Dunlin with a flock of Meadow pipit also noted.

On returning to the car a birder informed us that a Rustic bunting had been caught at the Warren, so we hoped in the car and arrived minutes later to find the bird had been released. Although not showing, the bird was calling in a bush directly in front of the mist net.  The decision was made to re-catch the bird to release it away from the net and show it to a handful of birders. The bird was caught and it was great to see the amazing plumage of this handsome bunting. Upon release it flew away from the net and over a fence. A real bonus and a lovely bird! 

After this we drove to the crown and anchor to look for a Red Breasted Flycatcher and after a short wait and views of Pied Flycatcher the bird showed very well. A stunning male bird with bright red breast which even allowed us to get some photos!

We decided after this to head to the point. Whilst scanning the area a bird dropped in from height and landed on an old building near the heligoland trap. It was a Lapland Bunting! The bird flew up and ten minutes later was relocated on top of another building and was there long enough this time for us to get some photos. It was turning out to be quite a day.

After another cracking bird and life tick the elusive Red-backed shrike was picked up by Greg and gave good views before flying directly over our heads and out of sight. Also spotted in the area were a Pied flycatcher, Spotted flycatcher and many Linnet and Reed bunting.

As the day was drawing to an end we decided to give the scrub land around post 62 a go. After a short while and after adding Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat and Garden warbler to the list the Barred warbler was seen. The bird was extremely elusive flying between bushes and only giving very brief views. It refused to move or show despite me being directly under the tree it was in. Although not showing well it was interesting to see how large this warbler looks in flight and was the fourth lifetime tick to top off a fantastic day. 


Saturday 19th September 


With alarms set at 5.45 and bacon butties down the neck not long after 6, we were off. A walk around the observatory and a glance out to sea produced Common Scoter, a possible Jack Snipe over and a Redstart and Whinchat.We decided on a look around the crown car park next and when we got there a few people were watching the Red breasted flycatcher in the garden opposite. We watched this lovely bird again along with Pied flycatcher and a flock of Tree sparrow.


We had a look across the river after this and it produced a flock of Common Scoter and a flyby unidentified juvenile tern species close to shore.Next up was a scan over beacon pond and it produced a single Snow bunting feeding on the edge and 7 Yellow wagtails in amongst the cows which was a lovely sight.


After a few Teal and 3 Little grebe from the hide we headed for the point again, in the hope that things would hot up as midday was upon us. After a Great spotted Woodpecker on route, news was out that an Icterine warbler had been caught and was soon to be released. After a mix up with where it was to be released we found ourselves waiting in a large group near the heligoland trap and as we were waiting news broke that a Short-toed Lark was on the beach near the green beacon!! We decided that as they were waiting for a key to get to the ringing kit we would have time to get to the beacon pick up the lark and get back for the release therefore getting to see both birds!

We went for it and marched off towards the beach. As we arrived the lark fortunately flew over and dropped down in front of us. We watched the bird for a couple of minutes before a walker flushed the bird. Another tick and it was off for the warbler! We managed to get back just before the bird was shown to the crowd and saw its release. We had done it getting both birds.



Things really had picked up and after a short breather we headed for the beach again in the hope of some photos of the lark. Sure enough the bird was located and we watched it for about half an hour taking a few record shots and watching it feed before it flew up with pipits and headed for Lincolnshire.

On the walk back to the car we picked up the Red-backed Shrike again getting better views of this cracking bird along with Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat. Once back at the car we decided to have another look at the Barred warbler and saw this elusive bird again along with 6 far more obliging Whinchat and a Redstart.

It was another lovely day and again being full of birds. Pondering what to do next neither of us could resist another look at the Woodchat shrike at sammy’s point. We relaxed here for a while watching this superb bird as it performed well along with Spotted flycatcher. A Redstart was in the horse paddock along with a cheeky Stoat scampering around a horse jump much to our delight. A Peregrine and Curlew Sandpiper were also seen over the river.



It was a lovely evening and we drove the short distance to Skefling where 2 Wrynecks had been seen earlier in the day. Unfortunately we didn’t find either but it was a nice walk. After another cracking day we got back to the Crown and Anchor for a well deserved pint, wondering how we were going to drag ourselves away from this place!


Sunday 20thSeptember

Today started in unfortunate circumstances as a female Redstart was found exhausted outside dunbirding. We tried to help the bird but it unfortunately died.  

We decided on heading for the point at first light but due to the extremely high tide covering the road we couldn’t take the car. Walking towards the point produced some cracking birding however as a Kittiwake was seen perched close to the beach and thousands of waders were giving us a brilliant display. Knot, Dunlin,Grey Plover (1 still in full summer plumage), Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover and a Redshank were noted. A Hobby flew over putting the waders up and a Wheatear was flitting along the road.

We carried on walking to chalk bank hide where the waders were very close in. Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Oystercatcher, and Curlew were among the Knot and Dunlin with a Great Black - backed Gull also noted.

Continuing on to post 61-63 we had great views of Whinchat (3) Redstart (3) and Stonechat (2). We decided to head back to the car now but after being informed of a common rosefinch at the point by the passing warden we changed our mind. On arriving by the green beacon there was no sign of the rosefinch but we did get brilliant views of the Lapland bunting flying around us and landing on the dunes to feed. It showed to a couple of metres allowing us to get some great shots.  This cracking bird made it well worth it. We also picked up Garden warbler, Lesser whitethroat, Linnet and a flock of Tree sparrow.

We started the walk back to the car and when we arrived near post 41 a Firecrest was flitting and showing well in the buckthorn. This fantastic little bird gave some good views and was yet another first for us! A real gem!

On arriving back at the car weary from the lengthy walk in the heat we could see a group of birders looking over the saltmarsh. They had picked up a Richards pipit. We managed to see the bird briefly before it flew up and headed towards the point. Yet another new bird for us both.

After another amazing morning of birding it was time to have a bit of lunch and head for Bridlington. We left with just enough time to have another look at the lovely Woodchat shrike at sammy’s. What a bird and what a weekend at Spurn! It’s a difficult place to leave.

On the drive to Bridlington we watched a Kestrel catch a vole and a probable female Merlin flew low across the road and over arable fields.

Just before the cruise we had 2 Purple sandpiper by the harbour and heard the chants of “united” “united” resounding from a pub as Owen bagged a last minute winner to sink city. Magic.  

The cruise was always likely to be a quiet one but we did manage to see 1 Manx shearwater and good views of a Great Skua harassing the gulls which is always a thrill to witness. A few Razorbill and Guillemot and a single Puffin were also seen along with Kittiwake, Fulmar, Gannet and 2 Red throated diver.

It was a great end to a fantastic trip. We managed 8 life ticks, not including the probable flyby Merlin and after a sausage and chips we headed for home arriving back at midnight.

Does it really have to be another year before we return!