Sunday, 8 September 2013

Spurn Migration Festival 2013 - 6th-8th September 2013

I was planning on going back to Bangor this weekend, so ruled out going to the first ever Spurn Migration Festival at one of the best and my favourite birdwatching sites in the UK. During the week however, I discovered that a few of my mates were going and the weather was looking pretty good, so I made the bold decision to put the move back to Bangor a week later.
I joined Alex Jones, Chris Bridge and Matt Bruce in Ormskirk and arrived at Westfield Farm for around midday. We were joined onsite by Scott Reid and his girlfriend Samaya (Plus Liam Langley and Dave Campbell later on). We were on our way to the Warren when I picked up a phyllosc-like call from in a hawthorn. The bird popped out and I initially thought might be a juvenile Linnet. A finely streaked round-head and breast, with an expressionless face and a conical bill got my heart racing. It turned around to reveal to buff wing bars and I knew I was looking at a juvenile Common Rosefinch! I got everyone else onto it, just before it buggered off!

Moving round to Southfield farm, we tried to refind the Rosefinch and ended up refinding the Red-backed Shrike which had gone missing for a couple of hours. This was nice to see as it's the first non-male I've seen in the UK, so something a bit different. This was also a lifer for Matt and Scott Reid. Whilst watching the shrike, I thought I heard the Rosefinch calling just up near the Blue Bell. I walked over to it and it flew up high and over to behind the Shrike and was seeing on a wire fence by most of the people present looking for it, which was positive.
Moving to the Warren, we set up at the seawatching hide as a Long-tailed Skua was seen heading south half an hour up the coast. We were astounded by the number of Arctic Skuas and Fulmar moving south. We also had really good numbers of Great Skuas and for Spurn, there were fantastic numbers of Manx Shearwaters. :iam Langley managed to pick up a Black Tern flying south which was a plus. Late on in the seawatch, news came over the radio that there was a Balearic Sherwater in with 6 Manxies. We had several groups of Manxies coming through in this next 10 minutes but no sign, however we has a line of 8 birds: 6 Manx Shearwater, a Knot and a brown, pot bellied shearwater, with dusky underneath and rather dark underwings (with the exception of a thin white flash). This was a cracking prolonged view of a Balearic Shearwater. I've always wanted a Balearic from the land off the UK. Superb!
The following morning, Matt and I went to Beacon ponds as it was high tide so we checked the waders. The highlights were Little Stint and 2 Spotted Redshank (the latter were slightly hollow as I knew there had been one at Brockholes during the weekend, and this was the first record since 2005, so a real personal blocker!)
We tagged along to the seawatching hide after this and managed to bag brief views of a Sooty Shearwater moving north and then a Marsh Harrier flew out to sea and went south low over the waves which was one of the highlights of the whole weekend! Migration in action!
We all headed down towards the point after the seawatching dried up, but only managed to pick up a few Spotted Flycatcher, Wheatear, Lesser Whitethroat and Common Whitethroat. It was surprisingly dead, so we went to Chalk Bank hide and scanned the roosting waders, picking up 4 Curlew Sandpiper and 2 Black Terns moving around the Humber.
I wanted to do a spot of patching whilst I was there, so to encourage myself to do that, I decided I would challenge myself to see 100 species on foot during the weekend, mirroring the Foot It challenge I took part in, in January. I therefore walked everywhere including there and back to the Point and to Easington. Back from the point, I had the most frustrating bird of the trip in the form of a large pipit that sounded very good for Tawny Pipit flying south, however I didn't get a lot of features on it and no one else managed to pick it up on the point....the one that got away!
I managed to get a little following during the weekend who were keen to know how I was getting on with the foot it challenge, and this morning (Sunday), I walked to Easington with the aim of picking up species like Jackdaw and the two partridges. It was at about 11am, when I was stuck on 99 species and I kept scanning and scanning, and finding a Common Buzzard circling in the distance making my target of 100 complete! Excellent stuff! Thank you to everyone who tipped me off on common omissions that wouldn't have gone out on the radios or Twitter.

It was a little quiet during the actual birding event (Saturday/Sunday), but this by no means made it any less of a great weekend because it's such a brilliant place, with loads of cracking birders to meet and have some great conversations with in the Crown and Anchor and elsewhere. A real success of an event, and I'm certainly keen to go again!

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