Monday, 27 October 2014

Couldn't make it four in a row

The Safari wasn't able to get onto Patch 2 until lunchtime. A grey sort of a day with a bit of a wind but nothing excessive apart from the temperature which was well above the seasonal norm. The tide was high and the larger waves were slopping foam ridden spray over the wall. Fair enough we thought we'll give it a go and we're glad we did. As soon as we looked down the scope there was a Little Gull flitting through the troughs and then four more - that'll do nicely!!!
Then the worst thing happened, when we're on limited time the last thing we want (without wanting to appear rude) is someone coming up to chat about nothing much in particular usual with an opening gambit something gormless like "av yer seen any of them there sea-lions?" Not so today the gentleman was reasonably knowledgeable and asking about the best lightweight scopes for his budget but still stopped us having a proper look at what might have been out there. 
However, if he hadn't stopped to chat we would more than likely missed the Kestrel (P2 #77 - getting closer to our target of 90) that flew along the promenade 'behind' us. Well that one took it's time to appear on the list and we're still waiting for Peregrine and Sparrowhawk to make it onto the list.
Not a sniff of a chance of a pic today.
Had a chat to our Extreme Photographer this evening and learned that he wasn't able to get out unfortunately - so no pics for you this week. Click the Pembrokeshire Birds link on the right to keep up to date with hat's been seen down his way.
Have you all seen this symbol?  Copy it and post it all around the place - legally of course/

Let's hope our favourite swan isn't headed down that route - 33% fewer in just 20 years isn't good!  
Where to next? Should be able to get an early morning look in tomorrow and a lunchtime look too with a bit of luck.
In the meantime let us know what nearly got away with sneaking round the back in your outback

Sunday, 26 October 2014

It's now three in a row

The Safari was a little perturbed by the windy weather this morning, old achy bones Frank wouldn't want to go out in it so we pottered around in the garage and garden for an hour or so, ending up finishing off a bat box the wood for which had been partially cut to size by our Extreme Photographer a while ago (He should have been out in the wilds of deepest darkest Pembrokeshire today trying out his new 600mm this space!).
The weather didn't deteriorate any more and there was no sign of any rain and finding an old mouse nibbled duvet in back of the garage we threw it in the back of the Land Rover for Frank to lie on in the hide and headed off to the nature reserve to meet up with BD (@scyrene)
He was already there by the time we arrived and showed what was thought to be an Alder Leaf Beetle he'd found.
The light this afternoon was 'variable' to say the least, sometimes good, sometimes harsh and sometimes almost dark! There didn't seem to be much about but sit and wait and you never know what might turn up so that's what we did. Frank ended up fast asleep and snoring on his 'new' comfy bed.
There were a good few Coots on the water along with some gulls, mostly Black Headed and Common Gulls with a very cold and wet/ill looking Herring Gull away over on the scrape.
1st winter Black Headed Gull
A large-ish flock of Woodpigeons went westwards over the trees on the far side, a closer look revealed that at least a third of them were Collared Doves, a proper count was interrupted three or four birds in as that one was a small wader. Away over the hospital it flew turning south and then north and at one point looked like it might have thought about turning round and coming back but it didn't. Whatever it was it would have been a new bird on the year's list for here.
Another flock of Woodies came by this one with fewer Collared Doves and no waders. One juvenile Woody landed in front of us for a drink and another flying south along the back of the embankment wasn't one at all but another Jay, annoyingly B was unable to connect with it before it was out of view beyond the nearby branches.
We hoped that a Water Rail might come out of the reed-beds but one never did, a Cetti's Warbler sang briefly a couple of times but didn't show itself.
The ducks looked reet dapper when the sun shone. We had a choice of close Teal and Shovelers with a supporting cast of in-flying Tufted Ducks and Mallards with a pair of Gadwall further out buy the scrape.
Aren't Teal just little stunners - displaying already too when the sun shone on them
OK so it wasn't the most exciting session we've ever had at the nature reserve but as ever there's always something to see and enjoy and you just never know what might drop in or fly through at anytime, so if you don't go and look you deffo won't see.
Where to next? Back on good old Patch 2w tomorrow but not until lunchtime.
In the meantime let us know what flew through unknown in your outback.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Two visits in two days - what's going on?

The Safari noticed there's a new sold sign on this nearby house this morning. It's been on the market and empty for ages but someone has been round keeping an eye on it and tending the mature garden. There's loads of House Sparrows in that shrubbery. Will the new owners keep it or how long will it be before it's ripped out and turned into a car parking area?
This afternoon we had a bit of time to get out to the nature reserve again. On the way we passed the pond near the 'new' hotel and just had to stop!
OK it's a little bit childish but we've always wanted to get this pic, preferably with a Kingfisher but a Heron will do very nicely thank you - isn't wildlife fun!
Once on the path the bright sun catching the red berries made the Hawthorns look like they were on fire - where are the Fieldfares to eat them all, notable by their absence at the moment.
Our  mission was to go and find the Long Eared Owl again to suss out its favourite perches before next weekend, sadly it wasn't were it was yesterday and a thorough search failed to relocate it. Today was a lot quieter birdwise than yesterday, no Greenfinches and only one Redwing. We walked round to the 'other' side meeting PL on the way, he hadn't seen it either today. And now with two us us scanning every visible perch we still had no joy, there's still a lot of greenery on this side. Hopefully the strong winds over the next couple of days will knock most of them off.
We gave up and made our birdless way to the Feeding Station passing yesterday's Shaggy Inkcaps on the way. They hadn't survived, some numpty had stomped on them no doubt thinking cos they're a  'toadstool' they're obviously poisonous and must be destroyed - prats!
There was food at the Feeding Station which had attracted a few of all the usual 'garden' suspects, Great Tits, a Blue Tit, Chaffinches, a Robin and a Dunnock or two. A Goldfinch sang loudy from the top of a nearby tree. 
An old birdtable post now has a small Rowan tree growing out of the top.
All of a sudden the birds did one, the culprit was on the ground not in the air.
Who me? I never scared no boidies...
There wasn't just this one there were two! And one of them has discovered it can fit through the anti-Pheasant defences and get to the seeds
Once again we were time constrained and all too soon it was time to make tracks, a very pleasant hour or so in the sunshine even if we didn't find the Long Eared Owl.
Where to next? Back again tomorrow unless something twitchable has turned up locally, even then we'll probably put in an appearance at some time during the day.
In the meantime let us know who's got where they shouldn't have in your outback.

Friday, 24 October 2014

They're/it's back and a bit of luck

The Safari was able to get to the nature reserve for lunch today and had a wander down the main drag. As soon as we got out of the Land Rover we heard an unseen Skylark going over. 
Might be up for sale sometime soon
Not so unseen and definitely heard were the 35 or so Jackdaws going south. A few Greenfinches dropped in to the scrub to feast on the multitude of berries.
A walk to the Feeding Station gave us the last Bramble flower of the year perched between the shriveled remains of uneaten berries. 
Beneath it was a cluster of growing Shaggy Inkcaps, just right for picking and eating but not these - too close to a million and one passing dogs!
A brief visit to the Viewing Platform gave us a singing Cetti's Warbler and a shrieking Water Rail. Conditions looked good for Otter spotting but we didn't linger long - wonder if there's any still about.
Walking round the main drag we saw a couple of Redwings fly out of the Hawthorn scrub to our left. The further we walked the more we flushed, they were really skittish and wouldn't settle in view for a pic, probably at least 20 in all with a few more Greenfinches in the area too. 
For some unknown reason we went down to the hide, dunno why you can't see out of it just yet - needs more wind and the Starlings to knock the reeds down. We have had news of 5 - 6000 Starlings roosting of late but they won't have been in this part of the reedbed. Well worth the visit though as we sat on the bench and peered out three birds flew from the SE and over the mere, three Jays (MMLNR #89)! They were over us too quickly to get a pic and we dived out the door but at the rear of the hide there is a copse of tall trees which totally obscured our aim, so no joy.
Retracing our steps up the path we stopped at the Long Eared Owl watching spot and looked for said owl...without success, we looked and looked and looked but couldn't find it. On the point of giving up a regular friendly dog walker came past and told us someone had just told him it was there - but where??? We looked and looked again, again without success and then there it was or at least there were it's feet - we spotted the lower half of it in the upper quarter of our field of view. Phew! We'd been looking too low. Close to where it was last year but further back and in a different tree.
Shame the camera focused on the twig a yard or so in front of it...dohhh
Job done! Now let's hope it sticks around and remains 'easy' - there's a bit of an 'event' coming up.
Time to have a quick look to see if the Barn Owl was showing in its box. It wasn't but we did pick up a couple more Cetti's Warblers and Water Rails. A gang of Long Tailed Tits had worked along the hedgerow by the dyke and come to the end and were now 'stuck'; where to next???
Some more Skylarks and a few Meadow Pipits went over and then another Jay - and this one landed but dived into the back of distant Willow bush so again not pic.
Dashing back to the Land Rover we noticed the Woodpigeons feeding on the berries were looking rather dapper in the bright afternoon light.
Where to next? Might well be back for another look tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know what's lurking in the bushes in your outback.


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Out of fashion?

The Safari was able to get an early morning look at Patch 2 today but little was happening. 11 Cormorants flew along the advancing tide-line going towards the estuary and three more passed much further out. The Common Scoters survived the storm there were plenty of them flying this way and that – who knows why the go where they do. You have to respect and admire those little ducks for sitting it out yesterday – we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again they are seriously tough cookies! A lone Shelduck was the ‘best’ sighting of the post-dawn gloom.
Came across some Gorse in flower in the car park yesterday but it was being blown around something rotten in the hooley so we waited until this morning to get a pic, still a bit breezy but not as silly as yesterday!
There’s an old saying about gorse that kissing will go out of fashion when it stops flowering because if you find a patch of Gorse you can bet your bottom dollar there’ll be at least one flower on it somewhere.
Anyway it’s bright and cheery on an otherwise dull day.
Dreadful visibility and increasingly heavy drizzle at lunchtime so no joy at all on the seabird front.
Where to next? We'll try again tomorrow morning.
In the meantime let us know what turned up in the drizzle in your outback.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

It’s a bit windy out there

The Safari was out in the teeth of the gale this morning with winds approaching 70mph. But nothing we’ve haven’t seen before. We say pah in the face of these ex-hurricanes. 

No chance of an early morning look at Patch 2 but we were out braving the weather as soon as we were able at lunchtime. The sea was almost pure white with foam and some of the waves in the distance were scary - absolutely massive!
Visibility wasn’t as bad as we’d feared but holding the scope still was an issue, but not much of an issue as hold our self still – we were being buffeted about like crazy. When we went to the gate to take the pic the wind being funneled up the slade was horrendous easily touching 80mph it was difficult to stand up there never mind stand still.
Our watch point was a fraction calmer but still the odd gust made us sway.
Hopeful for a Leach’s Petrel we watched northwards towards the end of the pier looking down the troughs for as long as we dared. A few Great Black Backed Gulls were cruising almost defying the gale to blow them away from their desired course. A couple of Cormorants flew by, probably going to the estuary to roost now the tide was dropping – how on earth can they feed at sea in those conditions?
Local Black Headed Gulls, Common Gulls and Herring Gulls made up most of the rest apart from a flock of Oystercatchers heading out to sea – why??? And another single battling its way towards the estuary.
All too soon we ran out of time but just in time as a huge squall was about to dump torrential horizontal rain on us when we emerged from under the pulled down hood of our jacket.
Not enough time at all to do it justice today, Leach's Petrels, Sabine's Gull and Long Tailed Skua all seen down the coast aways - pair of gloves wouldn't have gone amiss either.
Where to next? Not sure if we've got a school group tomorrow or if they've shy'd off. 
In the meantime let us know what the white water was up to in your outback.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Long time no see

The Safari had arranged to meet up with our long time chums from the southern end of Safari-land for a days camaraderie and birding around some our regular haunts. We'd arranged to meet at the nature reserve with a sort-of plan to go north to a good birding spot then work our way back to the nature reserve calling in a few other locations as we passed them.
All was going swimmingly until we had a later than anticipated start and 'lost' one car load somewhere on the adjacent caravan site for several minutes. "Where are you?" we asked over the phone..."by the Sparrowhawk" came the reply...."Where's the Sparrowhawk? "By a laser thingy!" "What laser thingy?"
While waiting for everyone to get together, we didn't know everyone was already on site by now, we had five minutes in the hide and were lucky enough to watch a small flock of Whooper Swans (MMLNR #87) drop in, first alerted to their presence by their beautiful haunting calls we had just milliseconds to alter the camera settings find them in the viewfinder and blast off a few shots.
A call told us it was time to meet at the allotted place by the soon to be refurbished and enlarged, Ranger Base and as we The Gang turned up and got their kit out of their cars a Grey Wagtail (MMLNR #88) dropped on to a nearby puddle...two site year birds! Not a bad start to the day's proceedings.
We had another look from the hide but by now the Whooper Swans, 19 of them altogether IH told us, had been seen off by the still extremely territorial Mute Swans. A regular winter occurrence if slightly disappointing that the Whoopers rarely get a chance to settle and roost overnight.
A Ceti's Warbler sang on and off for us but wouldn't show unlike the Wren and Robin. Teal and Shovelers showed well but generally it was fairly quite and we couldn't find any Snipe, one of our team's target birds for the day, in the cut patch of reeds in front of the hide. Nor could we find any anywhere else! Well actually there were couple of other things of note, a couple of dragonflies were buzzing around and one stayed still enough to be identified by AB as a male Southern Hawker, the first 'record' for a good few years that we've heard off suggesting that they are seriously over-looked and consequence under-recorded. Across the hide window was a spider's web made by an Amorobius species, the male was in the centre of the web and the female was secreted at the top of the web under the window frame - his days are numbered, unless he doesn't mate of course!
More Cetti's Warblers were heard in the reeds as we walked round to the scrub where the Long Eared Owl had been seen for the first time this season recently. Being still only mid October there are still far too many leaves on the trees to make finding such a camouflaged bird easy - and we didn't! There were lots of Blackbirds enjoying the Apples but also plenty of signs that people have been breaking through the fences to relieve the trees of their fruit and the birds their winter food supply. This year there is an abundance of Hawthorn berries on the nature reserve for the birds to go at so all should be well. Unlike the drive to our next site during which we passed mile upon mile of flailed hedgerow with barely a berry to be seen.
We retraced our steps and then cut off of on the path out of the reserve to see if we could see the owl from the path around the outside of the reserve - even more green vegetation to peer through and again we had no joy - time to move on.
Our convoy headed north to the little estuary/saltmarsh which has now been renamed - with a name that is 'unsuitable' for a public forum which younger persons and those of a delicate disposition read but which will now not be able to be erased from our memory!
We didn't stop at the pub but headed strait to the adjacent cafe for a bite to eat.
Spot the deliberate mistake
While The Gang munched their way through variously filled panini and a spam and egg butty - didn't know you could still get spam never mind it being served in a reputable establishment! - a Ladybird was found on the table, this after earlier discussion at the nature reserve of copious or not numbers of Ladybirds turning up and had anyone seen any, the consensus was none of us had.
This one's identity was found to be one of those nasty cannibalistic, STD carrying native Ladybird killing Harlequin Ladybirds. They come in a bewildering variety of colours and number of spots but note the red/brown legs and the 'M' (or 'W') on the pronotum.
More calories than you can shake a large stick at devoured it was time for some birding. A look at the creeks gave us loads of Redshanks and Teal but the stars here were no fewer than three Common Sandpipers. They, or at least one, often winter here.
Out on the river there were shed loads of Golden Plovers and Lapwings, a good few Curlews with a nice flock of Wigeon thrown in for good measure.
The wind was picking up making passerines hard to find, which was shame as the old railway has 'interesting' bushes where a roving tit flock could easily hold a Yellow Browed Warbler but not today.
A herd of cattle decided to cross the river, we've visited this site many times but not seen this sign of John Wayne driving them so it must be a regular thing they do...the grass is always greener and all that.
Try as we might we couldn't find the Spotted Redshanks but the previously wanted Snipe showed up and showed up out in the open on the mud banks giving excellent scope views. A raptor shot through and landed on the marsh. Peregrine, Merlin? No a big female Sparrowhawk, a little unusual out there well away from any cover.
Another flock of Redshanks were searched through to reveal a large male Ruff but still no Spotted Redshanks.
The birding degenerated into general chat and banter with cursory looks at the marsh.
Sure they're pretending to concentrate
We closed the session with the tide coming in and the call of a Greenshank, Those creeks can hide a multitude of birds and did so quite quite effectively today.
We ran out of time to visit any of the other sites we'd planned to have a shuffy at.
All too soon it was time to say our goodbyes but sure as eggs is eggs we'll be birding together again sometime soon this winter, and we're sure it'll be a laugh a minute again - you don't want too take this birding too seriously, it's supposed to be fun and with this lot it certainly is.
Where to next? Family day coming up so our next safari-ing will be tomorrow lunchtime on Patch 2.
In the meantime let us know what's hiding in the mud in your outback.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Sounds from the sky

The Safari has been plagued by work this week and had only very few opportunities for getting away from the desk to do any wildlifing.
The other day a quick lunchtime look at Patch 2 gave us a skein of seven Pink Footed Geese (P2 #75) going south, at last they are on the patch list - was beginning to think the worst.
Today was a marginally better day in that as soon as we opened the front door to leave for work we heard the unmistakable tseeep of Redwings (174, Garden 44 (one short of our garden target)). Looking up we saw four going over the roof of the house, there could have been a few more we missed by not coming out a seconds earlier. At work the Land Rover door was opened in car park and in the gloom of a dreary dawn we heard a Wren, only the second of the year here.
Another brief look at the sea at lunchtime was quite productive. Two Whooper Swans (P3 #76) were well out resting on the sea, closer in there were numerous auks diving for fish the only two close enough to identify were both Guillemots. A couple of Red Throated Divers were out there too, the star was a Grey Seal making mince meat of a large flatfish the cast off shreds attracting several gulls. Not a bad day by recent standards.
In other news we've been involved in an exciting project we've not been at liberty to tell you about. The time for it to come to fruition is drawing close and we were starting on tenterhooks. However devastating news came in yesterday that we won't be making an appearance on the project after all - it will be aired on BBC 2 early in the new year. Must have a better face for radio than TV.
Hands hurting like hell today with a ll the typing at work so not gonna make them even worse woffling on on here so we'll sign off for now. No chance of any pics either - it's not good!
Where to next? Weather looks to be interesting for the next few days so hopefully something new will be in the works garden in the morning - Ring Ouzel please! Or a Yellow Browed Warbler or is that being greedy?
In the meantime let us know what's been migrating through your outback today.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Lack of time at the mo

The Safari hasn't had a lot of time to get out much over the last few days and our hopes for yesterday were dashed by a poorly Frank but that couldn't be helped and we stayed at Base Cmp attacking the garden and initiating the starts of a project we've been thinking about for some time - a green roof for the garage. Hopefully it'll turn into a huge wildlife haven almost doubling the garden size and not be a calamity ending in a collapsed ceiling and drains blocked with soil..
On Saturday morning we hoped to get up early and do some watching for visible migration but we couldn't get up. Well we did get up to take Frank out before dawn but then went back to bed, we're glad Frank got us up again and good job he did otherwise we might have missed FW and his ringing stint on TV. A great piece it is too well wort ha watch while it's still available.
Not much happened during the rest of the day, a Skylark was heard going over and a little flurry of Grey Wagtails, little being the operative word - just three in five minutes.
Right at the end of the day a couple of Small Tortoiseshell came over the garden in a rather delicate chase and circled around for a few minutes, a mating chase rather than the usual towering rival males 'fight' perhaps.
As we said earlier much of Sunday was spent in the garden but out pre-dawn with Frank there was a notable number of Robins calling from all over the place.
Before breakfast we were hopeful of some vis mig again but it didn't materialise as we hoped it might. just 11 Meadow Pipits, two Chaffinches and a Goldfinch went over, what the 14 things that came fast and low without calling were we'll never know, finchy rather than pipity.
After breakfast we had the very impressive spectacle of about 250 Jackdaws going south at some not insignificant height, their calls filled the mid-morning air - stunning! But there wasn't much else or we had our head down working so hard and missed everything. Just another Skylark and Chaffinch.
A small flock of Starlings flew NE not looking particularly like local birds.
A call from Young Un AB alerted us to three Common Cranes coming our way from the north. We kept a eye out on the western horizon (what little of it we can see). Eventually a Tweet came from Seaforth Nature Reserve, well south of us, saying they's passed over going SSW. The long legged b*ggers must have gone well behind us and not 'coasted'. A bit like this
Thanks to Google Maps for the 'lift'
A similar butterfly experience happened towards the end of the day when a Red Admiral flow over northwards at rooftop height just before dusk.
This morning work didn't allow an early nip across the road to Patch 2 but a mid-morning quick wander round the grounds gave us a Chiffchaff calling, a reasonable Patch 2 rarity!
Lunchtime came round and we did get out but it wasn't really worth it, deadly quiet.
That's all we can muster for today - tomorrow will be better!
Where to next? Again not many opportunities to get out for long again but we will be out and there will be something to see if we look hard enough - or listen hard enough late night Redwings can't be far away.
In the meantime let us know what local 'rarity' appeared in your outback.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Better than Spurn?

The Safari still can't quite get over the fact 'we were there' on a record  breaking day; in thirty years time, when we're nearly 90, and the Spurn Brent Goose record falls again we'll look at their website and see then note saying the record has stood since 2014 and reminisce that we were there and counted some of those as they came in off the sea and have great memories of a couple of cold wet days sat with LCV in a little wooden hut perched on a low cliff looking out to sea.
All told we had 84 species door to door excluding the 'brown' Fulmar and the 'possible' Richard's Pipit but it could have so easily been touching a hundred with a bit more luck with the weather.
Today a quick early morning look at Patch 2 at low tide didn't give us much at all, the most exciting was possibly three Lesser Black Backed Gulls on the beach with the hundred or so Herring Gulls, that good eh! A handful of Meadow Pipits had passed overhead but the bird of the session came as we turned to go back inside - three Lesser Redpolls came in off the sea only a few feet above us. Not a patch year bird but still a good record here.
Lunchtime came round soon enough and we were out again. It didn't take long for another patch mega to fly through. A really chunky dark barrel bodied diver a Great Northern Diver (172, P2 73) going south, it took a while to find a Red Throated Divers but find one we did sat on the sea in the chop not too far out summer plumaged too! Searching the sea for the diver we came across a Great Crested Grebe too. All the while we could see small flocks of Common Scoters bobbing around and there was a continual stream of flocks going south along the horizon, easily 500 probably many more. Also out there about a mile off shore there was a steady stream of passerines going south, too far to identify but most of them were probably Meadow Pipits, well over 100 and could have been seriously more had we counted them properly. Two Eiders were seen one going south then one going north, same bird perhaps? Another Red Throated Diver flew north in the middle distance. A couple of bouncy things way out weren't flying like the 'pipits' and became three Swallows when they drew nearer , again staying well out at sea rather than coming ashore. The bright sunshine caught two waders illuminating them with dazzling gold, a couple of Golden Plovers, somehow we've forgotten to add them to our year list so that's 173, P2 74 (oops). Three individual unidentified auks went south a way out about five minutes apart and that was all we had time for.
So that was about twenty minutes watching and not a bad return to the joys of Patch 2 after the excitement of the east coast.
This evening there was a cloud moment while we were helping (aka hindering) Wifey prepare dinner, so dropping the stirring spoon we grabbed our camera.

At the pub there was a wildlife charity badge box on the bar and LCV was kind enough to pop a quid in the box and treat us to one, a pertinent one considering our year list challenge.
Which (sub?)species do you reckon Monika - no saddle patch would suggest it's not a Southern Resident.
Where to next? Oooh the weekend, sure there'll be some wildlife looked at somewhere along the line.
In the meantime let us know if your outback was better than expected today.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Spurned by the birds?

The Safari had a call form our best boy LCV a few months ago "Do you fancy a few days at Spurn in the autumn?" Our reply involved something about bears and woods!
The days kept changing with his work commitments but were finally settled and two night accommodation booked, Monday to Wednesday. As the trip drew closer we kept an eye on the sightings from there - only Britain's third Masked Shrike tuned up and showed well. It stuck around for days, then a week as our departure date grew closer until three days before pointing the car east it went just before the weather changed - bummer!!!
Not to worry there would be other good birds to find, maybe not quite in that league but we were confident of adding six or seven new year birds in our Year list Challenge with Monika.
We set off at stupid o'clock aiming to get there for first light, excitement grew as the first fire of the new day was breaking the eastern sky and we were only half an hour from putting our boots on and getting stuck in to some serious birding. (LCV does read our blog very often - says we woffle on too much - - after reading that back he might have a point!)
Arriving at out destination we got out of the car and my oh my was it cold and very windy. Suitably togged up against the elements we had a look round the car park treees and tiny churcchyard - those trees were shaking like a 50's teenager listening to Chuck Berry, if there were any dicky birds in there we weren't going to see them! And we didn't, A Woodpigeon and a Blackcap were all that could be mustered.
Rain threatened and we decided that on the strong southerly wind something might drop when it started so we worked our way along the hedgerows hoping not to be too far from the car when the rain came. A Blue Tit and Robin, a Blackbird, a Song Thrush and a Great Tit were found and a Goldcrest was heard - not earth shattering yet!
We had to have a look across the field to the hedgerow where the Masked Shrike had been for 12 whole English days, well there was a one in a million chance it might have come back but instead there was a nice Roebuck grazing in the paddock.
It was nonplussed at our presence no doubt being totally used to blokes wearing green - Robin Hood might have given him a bit of a shock!
It wasn't until we'd got back to Base Camp and downloaded the pics on to the big screen we realised we've never seen a Roe Deer havng a pee before.
A wander up the track to the pond took us past the the caravan site that is rapidly being eroded into the sea and the World War 1 anti-aircraft listening dish...a horrendously simple version of radar in which a bloke would sit at the epicenter and wait for the amplified sound of approaching aircraft which he would hear a few miles further out than anyone else.
Taking of planes three F-15s were doing a training exercise during breakfast on our final morning and later in the day we heard one had crashed, maybe one of the same? LCV got some pics of them over the river to show his young lad so we might be able to cadge on  off him. Noisy blighters they are but they did give us a trip-bird when they flushed a Black Tailed Godwit from the mudflats - along with everything else!
Anyway back to Day 1 - said caravan site held a Wheatear but the hedgerows and fields were very quiet, Tree and House Sparrows, Green, Gold and Chaffinches, another Goldcrest four more Roe Deer but it was far from exciting and getting windier.
A look overf the sea saw us add passing Dunlin, Teal, Common Scoter, Wigeon, Shelduck,  three Brent Geese and two plus two Pintails to the notebook. Then LCV got on a chunky skua away in the gloom towering and swooping along, it looked very much like a Pomarine Skua (168), amazingly confirmed by a post on Twitter from @Spurnbirdobs - we say amazing as mobile reception was patchy at best - only a few minutes later.
Our next sighting was more bizarre, we reached the end of the track and turned round to see a middle aged woman dragging a suitcase along the beach - there's nothing there it's miles to civilisation that way - where on earth could she have been going?
In the distance you can just make out the turbines and chimneys of the huge gas complex - that's the nearest thing there is - bonkers these Yorkshire folk!
Apparently there is method in her madness - it's quicker to walk down the beach than the lanes to the nearest bus stop - but it's still a helluva walk!
The rain started and a couple of Song Thrushes, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits came out of the cloud but it wasn't a mass fall and we thought it would be wisde to high-tail it to the best shelter, the sea-watching hide, so drivng down to the Observatory we paid our car park and had a chat to the lad in the visitor centre who showed us some finds from the beach - part of a Mammoth tusk, Wooly Rhinoceros vertebrae, the horns from a Wild Ox aka Auroch, the sea in the pics was a huge swampy river delta at the end of the last Ice Age before sea-levels rose. We found our own fossil in the form of a Cockle emebedded in a lump of sandstone on the beach
We got to the sea-watching hidse as the heavens opened to find it full to busting and several folks sitting out shelter! After a wet half hour people left the hide and two seats were very gladly taken up by a pair of wet nellies. Visibility wasn't great, a wind farm is being constructed on the horizon but for much of the time the ship, turbines and huge riig were obscured by the murk.
Settling in to the searching, counting, recording routine we joined the banter in the hide, such a friendly place. We got a Snipe mixed in with a small flock of Dunlin, it looked weird out of context flying down the beach! We dipped the Purple Sandpiper but LCV found another distant skua, this time an Arctic Skua.
All the while flocks of Brent Geese, Wigeon and Teal came in off the sea and headed south along the coast past us, eventually a hoped for bird did the same, a pair of Velvet Scoters (169) nice and close in over the surf.
It was good to feel accepted into the fold when main Obs seabird recorder SE allowed LCV to be in charge of the Wigeon and Teal clicker counters when he left for an hour or so on an errand, a very responsible job!
Nine and a half hours we were in that hide listening to the rain rattle off the roof!
Here's what was seen (copied from their website)  With SSE winds from the Continent, we were expecting a good ‘wildfowl day’ and we were not disappointed as nearly all attention was spent watching the sea and it’s passers by! Although the highlight for many was the first Leach’s Petrel of the year as it spent about 15 minutes offshore mid-distance, slowly moving north.
Moving offshore were 213 Brent Geese (5th highest passage count), 1 Shelduck, 1898 Wigeon (2nd highest Spurn count), 2 Gadwall, 831 Teal, 34 Pintail, 1 Shoveler, 3 Tufted Duck, 145 Common Scoter, 4 Velvet Scoter, 1 Red-breasted Merganser, 6 Red-throated Diver, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 1 ‘brown’ Fulmar, 87 Gannet, 2 Ringed Plover, 5 Grey Plover, 4 Lapwing, 38 Knot, 8 Sanderling, 93 Dunlin, 14 Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Pomarine Skua, 10 Arctic Skua, 1 Bonxie, 20 Little Gull, 40 Kittiwake, 17 Sandwich Tern, 109 Common Tern, 10 Arctic Tern, 6 Guillemot, 1 asio owl sp in off the sea and 32 Starling in off the sea.
We missed three year birds by faffing around up the track instead of going directly to the hide forst thing in the morning, namely the Leach's Petrel, the Bonxies, and the owl had it been a Short Eared Owl which it was at first but then 'downgraded' to Asio sp so we wouldn't have been able to count it anyway.
Of most interest was the 'brown' Fulmar. The call went up Balearic Shearwater coming north - we were on it straight away, a Lifer! It was horribly distant in the murk but sure enough was brown and not black and white so deffo not a Manx Shearwater, another very experienced seawatcher said it's not flying like a shearwater, an intense discussion followed until he said "I can see white wing flashes - it's a Fulmar!?!" Not a 'blue phase' but a brown one. He'd seen similar birds in the North Pacific but between the few highly experienced seawatchers there there was still no consensus to what it actually was and we were denied a Lifer. It wasn't until the website was published (above) that it's true identity was revealed - they still weren't quite sure!
with the rain still set in it was now time to go to our digs and get some scram. We stopped at the Canal Scrape on the way adding a bathing Rock Pipit to our day's sightings but not the hoped for Jack Snipe.
Tuesday dawned brighter and calmer but we overslept and only got out for a short walk before breakfast - doh. The feature of that walk was a notable number of Song Thrushes - never seen so many in one place! Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were also in much higher numbers than yesterday. Walking down the bank we had a few birds in the hedge, a Wren, a Robin, a Great Tit, a Reed Bunting, then a 'What's that???' Turned out after a few palpitations to be 'just' a leucistic Reed Bunting - certainly got the juices lowing for a moment when we saw it dart from bush to bush.
Some Skylarks and Meadow Pipits got up out of the paddock to join an overflying flock when we heard an unfamiliar call, 'shreeee.' we got on the bird a large long tailed Skylark sized pipity thing but was it 'the' Richard's Pipit that was in fields half a mile to the north yesterday, a different one or something else, we're just not experienced enough with this species to claim it but we'll have nagging doubts it was one for ages.
Out on the river stuck in the World War II tank traps was a young still with it's white fur, probably a Grey Seal, washed off from the colony across the estuary in last night's storm, sadly unless it's already weaned it's chances aren't good.
Time for a full English! And what a breakfast, eaten looking out over the mudflats at the morning sun glinting off the backs of hundreds of Golden Plovers - beautiful.
After breakfast we went back to the Canal scrape where there was a Redshank with only one and a half legs, seemed to be doing alright though but still no Jack Snipe.
Off to the sea-watching hide we went to the banter of where have you been? Was expecting you hours ago, you've missed it all etc etc.  We had missed it, the three species of skuas including the now all important Bonxie and half a dozen Woodcocks  coming in-off the sea! It was soon obvious that there was some serious wildfowl passage going on as wave after wave of Brent Geese, Wigeon and Teal came by in the far more clement conditions than yesterday.
Here's what the Obs wrote up about the session. With the wind lighter and from the western quarter, we wasn’t quite expecting the wildfowl passage that occurred, the Brent Goose day passage record was smashed when 1114 flew south, (previously set at 824 in 1982), also Wigeon totaled 2487, just short of the record of 2540 set in 2009. Other wildfowl, seabird and wader totals included 3 Greylag Geese, 90 Pink-footed Geese, an adult White-fronted Goose, 1726 Teal (3rd highest passage count), 4 Mallard, 16 Pintail, 23 Shoveler, 6 Tufted Duck, 2 Eider, 265 Common Scoter, 2 Velvet Scoter, 1 Red-breasted Merganser, 50 Red-throated Diver, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 166 Gannet, 1 Kestrel, 3 Grey Plover, 52 Dunlin, 5 Curlew, 1 Pomarine Skua, 2 Arctic Skua, 2 Bonxie, 3 Little Gull,, 371 Black-headed Gull, 550 Herring Gull, 11 Sandwich Tern, 46 Common Tern, 81 auk sp, 31 Guillemot, 4 Razorbill.
So our trip might not have coincided with all the scarce and rarer birds we'd have liked to have seen but we did hit on and were part of the recording of an historic wildfowl day, so we're well chuffed - look at that Brent Goose record, almost 50% up on the previous record and that from when LCV was just a toddler! Here's four of the 1114 coming past the hide.
Our claim to fame was being the one who picked out the White Fronted Goose (170) from the flock of Pink Footed Geese it was in with, their first of the season.
More and more Song Thrushes were being recorded coming in off but one ditched in to sea a couple of hundred yards short of the beach, it got out but went in twice more, the final dunking proving fatal, really sad to witness such a heartrending scene, so close yet too far.
A shout of "Jays" went up and there was a mass exodus from the hide to see six come towards us down the peninsular then turn back, so this must have been a 'good's sighting. They are part of this years mass arrival but will they bring a Nutcracker - that was the question on everyone's lips.
The wind was picking up and before the weather turned we took a walk down across the Breech, where the sea had cut the peninsular in half last winter, to the Narrows to see if we could find anything else. As soon as we set off LCV found a Weasel hunting through a pile of rubble next to a parked up Land Rover, no prizes for guessing what we were looking at when he called it! Not a lot of birds were seen on our walk, a few more Song Thrushes and Meadow Pipits and a Rock Pipit on the shingle was about the lot. A flock of Ringed Plovers and Redshanks huddled out of the increasing wind and we saw a large flock of feeding Brent Geese so decided to get a look at those before turning back so as not to get cut off by the tide.
Plenty of youngsters this year was good to see - the ones with the wing bars.
We had to hide in the dunes to avoid flushing them hence the out of focus grass blowing in the wind
On the way back we searched for fossils in the rocks and pebbles but were unsuccessful although we did find a nice patch of Sea Rocket still in flower
The westerly wind was picking up and the sky started looking ever more threatening we hastened back to the hide
LCV copped a few glimpses of a Harbour Porpoise which continued rto show quite well on and off. 
A Heron was spotted way out at sea well to the north of us battling into the wind, they aren't made for windy sea crossings like the Teal and Wigeon. It struggled to keep a straight line coming ever closer and eventually past us, must have flown a few miles more than it had to - it's tough this migration thing! The absolute shortest crossing from the continent here is just short of 200 miles, from the southern tip of Norway or the Danish coast it's more like 375 miles!
Apologies for the poor quality it was a still a good way offshore and the weather pretty gloomy by now.
In the pub in the evening we were 'entertained' by a lovely barmaid, a bit scatty but she loves Giraffes so can't be all bad!  We were chatting for ages but she didn't seem to have a good word for birders thinking we were workers at the nearby gas plant or some such. She considered birders to be either a bit weird at best or personna non-grata at worst...then we let her in on our 'secret' to hoots of laughter and "you two aren't like those other birders!" Not sure if that's a good thing or not!
Off to bed to see this through the window
A couple of minutes later
We almost overslept again but got out quickly but still missed a Bonxie! It just wasn't going to be for that species. With the light being better and the wind lighter there was a bit of passerine passage so we stood at 'Numpties Corner' and watched the vis mig unfurl in front of us. Nothing over-exciting but reasonable numbers of Tree Sparrows, Greenfinches, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were passing by. A male Stonechat popped up briefly along the fence-line but soon popped down again, while a Stock Dove flew past - ohh that it had been a Turtle Dove.
The arrow thing is a microphone with a digi-recorder to catch any calls the spotters might have missed being too high or whatever - and LCV is stood next to a rather large dollop of Fox do-do.

Saying our good-byes and thank yous to everyone around our time at Spurn had come to an end - We had a great time made all the better by the camaraderie and banter of the regulars.
Almost home back in Lancashire we needed a comfort spot where we picked up Bird Guides on the phone and learned that there was a Night Heron (171) only a short detour away...had to be done didn't it! A sign at the exit of the service area at a cordened off area said INVASIVE WEED KEEP OUT it was Himalayan Balsam, never seen that before - the sign not the plant, have you?

Being a Night Heron it spent most of its time asleep!
Occasionally it would wake up and have a quick look around before nodding back off

The return journey in daylight gave us only one Buzzard compared to four Kestrels but these were beaten by six Jays.
Of course we would have liked to have seen some or all of these, they were all seen in the few days before we got there:-
Barred Warbler, Black Redstart, Bonxie, Firecrest, Jack Snipe, Lapland Bunting, Long Tailed Skua, Red Breasted Flycatcher, Redstart, Richard's Pipit (did we?), Ring Ouzel, Sooty Shearwater,  Common  Rosefinch, Yellow Browed Warbler, oh and the Masked Shrike. But you can't have everything and we were involved in some seriously significanty counts at this iconic birdiong site so all's well that ends well.
Have to say a mssive thank you to LCV for organising our trip and doing all the driving, the lad's a star!
We're already making plans for the same time next year.
Where to next? Back to Patch 2 tomorrow - how will it feel after the 'other' side?
In the meantime let us know hat was a couple of days the wrong side of you in your outback.