Wildlife Spectacle on Discovery Day

Visible Migration Extravaganza

When I plan for dates for guiding events, of course I never really know what might actually happen on the day. Only vague predictions based on time of year, weather patterns etc. Had a great time over the weekend of 10th/11th September on 4 hour ‘tasters’, and was expecting similar stuff for a‘Discovery Day’ on 14th. It turned out to be a visible migration extravaganza. From first light, birds began streaming down the peninsula. The first couple of hours was like watching a mega exodus. It was almost impossible to use binoculars, the sheer volume of bird and variety of species was staggering. Some  5,000 Meadow Pipits in the first 1.5 hours, together with hoards of Swallows and Martins, finches galore, Siskins, Redpolls, Linnets, plenty of flava (‘Yellow’) Wagtails, and Tree Sparrows. Then into the mix  (and it was often really ‘mixed’) the odd Tree Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Corn Bunting, Reed Bunting, Chaffinch and Goldfinch. You hardly knew which way to look!

Pink-feet Geese appeared in flocks at close range, gulls included several Mediterranean, as well as continuous passage of large gulls that barely got looked at. Waders , duck and seabirds put in an excellent south, and birds of prey are always a highlight with close Marsh Harrier, Merlin and 2 Osprey being the cream.

Meadow Pipit. The star bird. The British day record was broken the previous day at Spurn with 20,200 Meadow Pipits but the ‘Discovery Day’ did not disappoint with staggering total of some  15,750. Here’s just one of them flying past the Warren:

We got our first views of Pink-feet Geese of the autumn- always a great sight:

Besides the sheer mass of pipits, swallows, martins and finches, birds of prey put on a good show with the likes of this male Marsh Harrier (2nd summer/ 3rd cal yr?):

If you had chance to look, the stream of passing gulls held several Mediterranean Gulls, like this 2nd winter bird:

Osprey was my best find of the day. A juvenile bird which was flying over the caravan park as I went to lunch. Thankfully the radios are back up and running and most of our clients got views as the news quickly spread. I just didn’t have my camera with me- shame is it flew lovely and close right overhead. Here’s a Merlin past the Warren:

A calling Spotted Redshank (below) flew over head , and in a brief break we saw wonderful variety of waders species on the ebbing tide just south of the Warren.

Watching a wildlife spectacle rush by at the Warren, Spurn.

The nearby bushes and canal scrape didn’t  fail either, with migrant Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Whinchat, Redstart, and Wheatears. Close views of a couple of drake Pintail and a ‘drop-in’ Snipe were very nice:

Returning to the Warren late afternoon brought a fresh wave of 100’s of Swallows. Here’s a short (poor quality) video clip in my effort to give a vivid flavour of passing migration. You can just about see some of the birds passing near the camera. The clip ends with my friendly (honest!) banter with Adam Hutt.

The day ended for our group with some seawatching (and still visible migration) which brought e.g. Great Skua, Manx Shearwater, Shag, many Common Terns, and  both Arctic and Black Terns before we all had to (reluctantly) leave.

Here’s the full log from the Spurn Website of  a remarkable day.

Spurn Observatory Log: Wednesday 14th September 2011

Wednesday 14th
Migration/sea-watches 06.10-19.15. Same weather as yesterday with still a strong wind blowing and from the WSW, that eased a little in the afternoon, blue skies and clouds throughout the day, with just the odd very light shower.
Another superb day for passage and another excellent Meadow Pipit tally – 15,750, more hirundines and geese were moving today and similar numbers of finches. The totals for the day were 222 Pink-footed Geese, 1 Shelduck, 4 Wigeon, 10 Teal, 9 Pintail, 27 Common Scoter, 1 Goosander, 6 Marsh Harrier, 1 ringtail Hen Harrier, 2 Osprey (12.18, 16.10), 3 Sparrowhawk, 15 Kestrel, 42 Oystercatcher, 12 Knot, 18 Dunlin, 1 Ruff, 3 Whimbrel, 3 Curlew, 3 Redshank, 15+ Mediterranean Gull, 21 Lesser B.B.Gull, 5 Stock Dove, 8 Swift, 220 Sand Martin, 9530Swallow, 2480 House Martin, 12 Tree Pipit, 118 flava Wagtail, 1 Grey Wagtail, 14 alba Wagtail, 540 Tree Sparrow, 2 Chaffinch, 6 Goldfinch, 143 Siskin, 560 Linnet, 149 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Lapland Bunting, 11 Reed Bunting, 1 Corn Bunting.
There was a significant increase in grounded birds seen: 6 Yellow Wagtail, 1 Redstart, 10 Whinchat, 4 Wheatear, 1 Grasshopper Warbler, 11 Blackcap, 3 Lesser Whitethroat, 15 Whitethroat, 20 Chiffchaff, 14 Willow Warbler, 8 Goldcrest, 7 Spotted Flycatcher.
Seabirds seen included 79 Red-throated Diver, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 12 Manx Shearwater, 380 Gannet, 1 Cormorant, 4 Shag, 7 Arctic Skua, 9 Bonxie, 4 Little Gull, 4 Black Tern, 35 Sandwich, 2720 Common, 2 Roseate Tern, and 6 Arctic Terns.
Other birds seen included 2 Pintail, 1 Merlin, 1 Peregrine, 1 Spotted Redshank, 4 Greenshank.

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