Flitting flutters: a landfall of Yellow-browed Warblers

Many of my birding friends have been saying the very same phrase: “Spurn never disappoints!” Following my second ever visit to Spurn, I cannot agree more with this. The unique coastal habitat complex with a stunning geographic feature makes the Spurn National Nature Reserve one of the most exciting migration watching destinations Western Palearctic. Together with the tidal zone of the Humber Estuary, Spurn offers a variety of habitats for birds and makes birders flocking in the area in the peak migrations season but most probably through the year.

Wonderful sunset over the North Sea. © Gyorgy Szimuly
YWT Spurn Discovery Centre in morning lights. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Failed to fall asleep, I left home in the middle of the night, and two coffees later I arrived at Spurn at 5 AM. Short snooze in the care and off I went for searching Yellow-browed Warblers. Fourteen were seen on the previous day, so the chances were quite high. Based on BirdGuides, Yellow-browed warblers invaded the east coast of England and Scotland, and now they are slowly moving inland as well.

Yellow-browed Warbler reporting locations from the 5th of October 2019. Courtesy of BirdGuides.

I walked around the YWT Spurn Discovery Centre, the Triangle, the Kilnsea wetlands and down towards the Sea-watching Hut, The Beach and the Narrows.

Spurn Beach. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Literally, birds were everywhere. The visible migration or #vismig in Twitter terms, was a great experience although, by luck, I witnessed the same about 10 years ago in Hungary as well. Common Reed Buntings, Common Chaffinches, Meadow Pipits, Barn Swallows, a few Eurasian Skylark and Redwings flew over the narrow land.

Spurn Beach. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Luckily, the incoming tide pushed hundreds of shorebirds towards the shore in the Humber Estuary. While looking for Phylloscopus warblers behind the visitor centre, a Snow Bunting was calling and flying north over the car park. I watched a Peregrine Falcon separating a Dunlin from the flock and chasing it over the Humber mudflats. It’s incredible how much power and speed advantage this predator has. The only chance for a small wader, like a Dunlin, for survival, is to outmanoeuvre its predator. This time the Dunlin won. On the Kilnsea Wetlands, a Mediterranean Gull was feeding with Black-headed Gulls. On the Canal Scrape, a Jack Snipe was reported and well seen, but during the half an hour, I sat in the hide, only a Common Snipe showed up.

Sadly, I couldn’t see the Amur White Wagtail in the morning, but it was relocated later in the evening. Bad luck.

Purple Sandpiper is a rare annual visitor to Spurn. © Gyorgy Szimuly
A flock of Dunlin with several Sanderlings. © Gyorgy Szimuly
Dunlins arriving to roost. © Gyorgy Szimuly
Roosting Common Ringed Plovers with the Purple Sandpiper. © Gyorgy Szimuly

On the bright side, I found a scarce Purple Sandpiper at the Narrows, roosting with Common Ringed Plovers. A juvenile Arctic Skua and an adult Little Gull flew over the Beach towards the estuary, and a Sooty Shearwater was flying over the sea.

One of the three Yellow-browed Warblers at the Spurn Bird Observatory. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Not finding any Yellow-browed Warblers, I moved on towards Kilnsea and stopped at the garden of the Crown and Anchor Pub. Still no sign of the little greenish flutters. At the Spurn Bird Observatory, however, with another birder, we found at least three different individuals of Yellow-browed Warbler. They were hyper-active with a company of Common Chiffchaffs and a very strange looking yellowish-lime-green Chiffchaff.

After editing the photos, I realised that this bird had been ringed. © Gyorgy Szimuly

My birding day was cut short due to work commitments, but it was still worth the 3.5 hours drive.

My eBird Trip list:

Number of Checklists: 4
Number of Taxa: 65

Checklists included in this summary:
(1): Spurn Point–Canal Scrape
Date: 5 Oct 2019 at 07:13
(2): Spurn Point NNR–Seawatching hut/Numpties
Date: 5 Oct 2019 at 08:39
(3): Spurn Point NNR–Narrow Neck
Date: 5 Oct 2019 at 09:30
(4): Kilnsea–Crown and Anchor pub garden
Date: 5 Oct 2019 at 11:59

6 Graylag Goose (1)
65 Brant (1),(2),(3)
15 Common Shelduck (1),(4)
12 Mallard (1),(3)
1 Common Merganser (Eurasian) (3)
29 Common Wood-Pigeon (White-necked) (1),(4)
7 Eurasian Moorhen (1)
191 Eurasian Oystercatcher (Western) (1),(3)
86 Black-bellied Plover (1),(2),(3)
305 European Golden-Plover (1),(4)
104 Common Ringed Plover (1),(3)
11 Eurasian Curlew (1),(2)
6 Bar-tailed Godwit (1)
1030 Red Knot (1),(3)
24 Sanderling (3)
692 Dunlin (1),(2),(3)
1 Purple Sandpiper (3)
4 Common Snipe (1),(2)
23 Common Redshank (1),(2)
1 Parasitic Jaeger (3)
94 Black-headed Gull (1),(2)
1 Little Gull 3)
1 Mediterranean Gull (1)
11 Mew Gull (European) (1),(2)
2 Herring Gull (European) (2)
1 Great Black-backed Gull (3)
4 Common Tern (2)
1 Sooty Shearwater (3)
4 Great Cormorant (1),(2)
18 Little Egret (Western) (1),(2),(3)
1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk (1)
1 Great Spotted Woodpecker (2)
1 Eurasian Kestrel (Eurasian) (1)
1 Peregrine Falcon (Eurasian) (1)
10 Eurasian Magpie (Eurasian) (1),(2),(4)
27 Carrion Crow (1),(2),(3),(4)
9 Eurasian Blue Tit (1),(4)
9 Great Tit (1),(2)
4 Eurasian Skylark (European) (1),(4)
2 Bank Swallow (2)
12 Barn Swallow (1),(2)
3 Yellow-browed Warbler (4)
1 Willow Warbler (1)
12 Common Chiffchaff (Common) (1),(4)
2 Eurasian Blackcap (1),(4)
3 Goldcrest (1),(2),(4)
13 Eurasian Wren (British) (1),(2),(4)
205 European Starling (1),(4)
1 Mistle Thrush (4)
4 Song Thrush (1),(2)
36 Redwing (Eurasian) (1),(2),(4)
17 European Robin (1),(2),(4)
1 European Stonechat (3)
10 Dunnock (1),(2)
13 House Sparrow (1),(4)
28 Eurasian Tree Sparrow (1),(2)
1 Gray Wagtail (1)
9 White Wagtail (British) (1),(2),(3),(4)
35 Meadow Pipit (1),(2),(3),(4)
7 Common Chaffinch (1),(2)
4 European Greenfinch (1),(2)
52 Eurasian Linnet (1),(2),(3)
17 European Goldfinch (1),(2),(4)
1 Snow Bunting (1)
38 Reed Bunting (1),(2),(3)

This trip summary was created using the eBird app for iPhone and iPad.
See eBird for more information.

A few useful link about Spurn

https://www.ywt.org.uk/nature-reserves/spurn-national-nature-reserve

http://spurnmigfest.com

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