Friday, 6 June 2014

Saturday 31st May 2014 - Spurn and Cleveland

The 31st May always traditionally means the end of the month of May, and so we decided to have a trip out of the county to celebrate it. There were, for a change, plenty of destinations to choose from. But the decision was a tough one, so I left it to CJW to ponder, agonise and stress over. There were two ticks for CJW; a ROSS'S GULL in South Devon, but apart from CIRL BUNTING, there wasn't much down there to see, and probably not much chance of a mega turning up in the area. The second tick was the BLACK-HEADED BUNTING in Norfolk. It was a female but again, there was very little else to see in Norfolk. 

The third area, and eventual destination, was the East Coast. There had been a bit of a fall on Friday, with RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER, 5+ singing ICTERINE WARBLERS, GOLDEN ORIOLE, RED-BACKED SHRIKES, a WOODCHAT SHRIKE and several BEE-EATERS along the coast. It was certainly a good selection, and in the end we decided on quantity over quality. 

We were going to head to Cleveland first for the BEE-EATERS, and work our way down the coast. But I decided that they would probably not appear until it had warmed up a bit (like on the previous day when they appeared at mid day and stayed around all day). So we headed to Spurn first.

As we headed east through Hull, we started to receive news from Spurn. There was an ICTERINE WARBLER still and a GOLDEN ORIOLE at Sammy's Point. As that was where the RBFLY had been, we headed there. 

The car park wasn't full at all on Sammy's Point, and we walked along to the paddocks. We spoke to several of the birders, who all said the GOLDEN ORIOLE had flown off into the distance, and there was no sign of the RBFLY. Not the start we wanted.

We walked back to the car, seeing very few birds at all, and met up with the Clayheads No1 stalker, Ian "the stalker" Burgess. He then told us that as they had driven into the car park, the GOLDEN ORIOLE had flown over their car. We stood around and waited again. We realised that we were only going to get flight views of the ORIOLE. It was going to be just a matter of how long we were prepared to wait.

We soon headed off over to the Warren where the ICTERINE WARBLER had been seen earlier. We met one of the locals (and a very nice man he was too, actually chatted to us), only to be told the ICTERINE WARBLER had been seen earlier in the nets, and not the bushes. Things were slowly unravelling on us. News of a Black Redstart from the canal scrape hide meant that finally we had seen something decent, and it was a fine adult male in full glory. We also saw a Spotted Flycatcher, but that was about it. It was an easy decision to head north to Cleveland, where the BEE-EATERS and WOODCHAT SHRIKE were showing.

The journey north took over two hours, but we were able to enjoy the scenary as we drove past Bridlington, Flamborough, Filey and Scarborough. We headed straight for the Woodchat Shrike at Hummersea. A fine 1st summer bird, showing well on the slopes below us.

A Yellowhammer also showed well

With no further sign of the BEE-EATERS at South Gare, we received news of a RED-BACKED SHRIKE at Saltholme. At least it was something to see and still remaining relatively close, so we headed off to find the Calor Gas pool at Saltholme. Despite being given directions from the visitors centre, we still struggled to find it. By a stroke of fortune, we found a bunch of local birders hidden up a track, and they kindly pointed us in the right direction. We were soon on site, and found a single birder in the distance. As we approached him, he walked further away, so we decided to wait until he walked back to us. We were pleasantly surprised when he did come back and announced that he had indeed been watching the RED-BACKED SHRIKE.  

We followed his directions and stood there. About an hour later, the male Red-backed Shrike finally reappeared. By this stage, there was a crowd of about 20 birders stood with us, including a volunteer from a well known birding organisation. It was quite amusing to watch her as she suggested we cross the railway line and enter the area, then she asked if anyone had a tape of its call. Maybe these large bird organisations are changing their stance a bit! It was certainly a stunning bird to see, and we even had a bit of singing from it. 

We wandered back to South Gare, hoping the BEE-EATERS were going to return, but alas they didn't. We did have a nice flock of 50 Sanderling to watch on the beach, but at 18:00hrs, we headed for home. The journey back was fairly straightforward, and we even stopped and had tea at a service station. Whilst driving there was plenty of time to think and muse.....after all, a mega had turned up in Dorset.