The Red-eyed Vireo dip

Just after I left Spurn two weeks ago, another incredible American rarity turned up in the nearby Easington village on 12 October. It was one of the multiple Red-eyed Vireos in Great Britain this autumn.

The Sporn Red-eyed Vireo was well seen by many birders while stayed in Easington. This photo was kindly offered by Brian Martin. All rights reserved by the photographer.

I got to Spurn early, and with the first lights and I headed to the Spurn Point where the bird was seen multiple times in the previous days. Several birders tried to find the bird what was reportedly seen briefly at dawn, but no specific location has been given.

Drizzle clouds over the North Sea early in the morning. © Gyorgy Szimuly

After more than 4 hours zigzagging in the shrub and already 7 miles in my feet, I started my long and exhausting walk back to the carpark. Just before I started writing this piece, I realised that on the BirdGuides website, these observations were marked differently. The Spurn Bird Observatory staff kindly helped with a map on Twitter where the bird has been seen. Based on that, we have covered the area but had no luck to spot the bird.

It was nice to meet some nice guys and a very kind old fashioned local birder. We did not talk much, but when I said, “I keep looking” he had just the perfect answer, “It’s better to look and fail than not look at all”. How true.

Rainbow formed over the Humber Estuary at high tide. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Nevertheless, my first visit to Spurn Point has been an incredible experience. The morning was very productive from the dunes towards the tip of the peninsula with some surprising birds. A male Brambling with an obviously exhausted Redwing was on the trail just after entered the dunes. Delightfully numerous Eurasian Wren, European Robin, Eurasian Tree Sparrows, Goldcrests, Common Starling and Common Linnet were flying over the dunes and the point. Probably it was the first time I saw so many Common Blackbirds in one place and witnessing their visible migration was simply fascinating. Obviously, the Point was the most exciting part of this unique spit with all the cumulating birds in a relatively small area. Common Blackbirds, Redwings, Song Thrushes, Meadow Pipits and finches flew high up at the tip to cross the wide Humber Estuary and land again somewhere along the coast of Lincolnshire.

Common Blackbird by Dalia Račkauskaitė. The photo was legally embedded from the photographer’s Flickr stream. All rights reserved by the photographer.
This is the beautiful view from the top of the dunes towards the Spurn Point and the Lighthouse. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Among the exciting and surprising sightings, I have to mention a flying Merlin what was mobbed by Carrion Crows, a migrating Eurasian Turtle Dove with two Stock Doves crossed the dunes just in front of me. A Red-throated Loon flew south while a Pomarine Skua flew north over the sea. At the point, a surprising Eurasian Woodcock flew over and dropped down to the dense vegetation. Later it was flushed. On the way back to the car park, a Lesser Whitethroat was flitting in the short Sea Buckthorn. A long-staying ‘eastern’ Lesser Whitethroat has previously been reported from the area, but the bird I saw looked more like the nominate race.

The Spurn Lighthouse. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Brant Goose (Branta bernicla) 162
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope) 10
Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon?) (Columba livia) 4
Stock Dove (Columba oenas) 2
Common Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus) 7
European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) 1
Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) 1
Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) 4
Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) 25
Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) 1
Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) 2
Red Knot (Calidris canutus) 5000
Dunlin (Calidris alpina) 53
Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) 1
Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) 2
Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) 19
Pomarine Jaeger (Stercorarius pomarinus) 1
Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) 12
Mew Gull (Larus canus) 3
European Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) 41
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) 29
Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata) 1
Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) 17
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) 2
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) 2
Merlin (Falco columbarius) 1
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) 2 adults and a juvenile
Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) 3
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 6
Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) 2
Great Tit (Parus major) 1
Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis) 5
Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) 2
Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) 1
Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca) 1
Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) 8
Eurasian Wren (British) (Troglodytes troglodytes indigenus) 14
Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 85
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) 5
Redwing (Turdus iliacus) 25
Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) 45
Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) 32
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 14
European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) 4
Dunnock (Prunella modularis) 8
Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) 40
Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) 1
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) 3
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) 8
Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) 4
Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) 13
European Greenfinch (Chloris chloris) 2
Common Linnet (Linaria cannabina) 25
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) 10
Common Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) 1

After the long walk back to the sea-watching hide, I stopped for an hour sea-watching, hoping to spot a previously reported Leach’s Storm-Petrel. I saw Great Skua, nearly a hundred Alcids, mainly Common Murres, a couple of migrating Red-breasted Mergansers, 3 Pomarine Skuas and a male Common Goldeneye.

Juv. Pomarine Skua
Pomarine Skua by Richard Pittam. Photo was legally embedded from the photographer’s Flickr stream. All rights reserved by the photographer.

Just after I left the hide and walked along the beach towards the car park, a Little Auk flew northward over the swash zone of the sea.

Without a doubt, Spurn is one of the most spectacular birding sites in Great Britain. Anyone birding in this nature reserve all day during migration, still not being able to see everything. The bird traffic is just constant in the peak season, especially in good northernly or easterly winds. It’s time to look for jobs in Hull and move up north where thousands of shorebirds passing through each year.

Many thanks to Brian Martin for the usage of his great photo of the vireo and the other photographers for letting their photo embeddable on Flickr.

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