Digression: Two English kings landed at Ravenspurn: Henry IV in 1399, on his way to dethrone Richard II, and Edward IV in 1471, on his way back from exile. The port of Ravenspurn was somewhere south-east of Kilnsea and the last remnants of Ravenspurn finally succumbed to the waves in the nineteenth century.
Workmen we were expecting failed to turn up for the third day running. To try to rescue a wasted day Sheila suggested we could still go to Spurn even if we didn't set off till late morning. So we went and it was 1.15 by the time we were putting on our coats in the windy car park at Kilnsea Wetlands. A long-billed dowitcher had waited for us, we hoped.
'It's gone,' we were told by a rather well-dressed and abrupt young man. Sheila suggested we walk on to the Beacon Ponds bank. Whilst we walked the pager confirmed it was indeed still present and to cut the story short we saw it distantly roosting on a spit out of view from the hide. Eventually it moved about a bit and showed its bill. A good year tick and it made our day seem worthwhile after the frustrations at home. The abrupt young man arrived after a few moments and stood silently by, a mouthful of humble pie stuck in his throat! Two birders I often meet [it's time I knew your name, please!] told me about the wryneck. We drove to the Blue Bell for a comfort break and then walked up Beacon Lane. Sheila spotted this common darter. A group of birders were spotted at the northern tip of Sandy Beaches caravan park. We hurried over. The rest is below...
Only a few times each year do I have unforgettable birding encounters - this year I would include the white-billed diver in Lincolnshire on the River Witham, the ptarmigan at Applecross and I think this wryneck deserves its place in the same group.
At first sight it might be a piece of dried up vegetation...
I think that's enough, don't you?
Title may make sense in the end!
Sheila wanted a walk at the seaside and suggested Hartlepool. She also suggested calling at Saltholme to see if the pecsands at Phil Stead's were any closer. They weren't really but with different settings and a gentler light I produced these...
The birds were never as confiding as this bird a couple of years ago at Swillington Ings! Greenshank at Saltholme
There was a seafront festival at the Headland and roads were closed. We stayed away and walked from Newburn Bridge. Here's a few shots from there.
Afternoon visit to Blacktoft Sands. The best waders had left during a heavy shower but some nice sightings of reed and sedge warblers, a few bearded tits at Marshland along with redshanks, lapwings and snipe. Single greensand at Townend where I ended my visit. Still trying for the marsh harrier photo I can clearly see in my mind! Here are today's efforts.
I went first to Alkborough. A lot of people around and the bearded tits were nowhere to be seen. Apparently over noisy birders had scared the spoonbills off - no great loss! I made do with the bigger picture - quite a spectacle really. A pale headed ruff was quite close.
Something spooked the avocets. Just in case you're thinking there's a marsh harrier coming over the reedbed, right of centre image, it's a lapwing! I decided to head further east, back to Tetney Marshes RSPB or the yacht club pools at Humberston Fitties to be precise. I had heard that the white-rumped sandpiper was often much closer to the car park than it was when I went the first time a few days earlier. It wasn't really close but it was just about photographable...
Can you spot it? It's pretty distant [left of centre in first picture]
It flew a fair bit closer.
To end the day, I called at Blacktoft. Roe deer. Man in hide said they were red deer. I dared to contradict him so he left. I suppose sometimes people see what they want to see.
Hobby and merlin reported so I decided to give it a go. Public hide enabled me to watch a few dragonflies from quite close and without disturbing them. Here's a migrant hawker - in flight! Next came the merlin: distant view as it perched for some time in a willow. [Hobby not seen]
Terrifying noise as this came low over the reserve. I wondered if it was about to crash land but it seemed to make it! Common terns were feeding over the main lake.
I walked to the newer section of the reserve. Storm ahead: by now the light was very poor. Feeling Jurassic?
By the time I arrived the greenish warbler that had performed well was proving more elusive. I was pleased to get these less than perfect images given how hard it seemed to see the bird at all. The wing bar is diagnostic.
A good year tick!
August 31st Sheila and I ended up [after a family visit in Pontefract] at Humberston Fitties to see a white-rumped sandpiper. Duly seen in my scope but too far for a photo. Probably only my second or third ever, so another excellent year tick.
Phil Stead hide for 3 pectoral sandpipers. Two in the first two photos. Breast band shows well here.
Fairly high tide. Oystercatchers and sanderlings put on a show.
Some ringed plover dropped in.
I had been down on the black sand to take my photos. Coming back up the ramp to the promenade I noticed something twitch in a wild buddleia that was managing to survive growing in the rock armour. I waited. This willow warbler put on a stunning display at close range.
Back to the north-east. I walked the common from the Zinc Works Road to the golf club clubhouse end and back. One whinchat, seven stonechats and two wheatear seen plus supporting cast of swallows, kestrel, gulls. This young skylark ran along in front of me sticking to the shady side of the track until eventually it ventured into better light. Click!
Wheatear I then went out onto the Snook. Lots of terns way out on their roost and I spent some time looking through them with the scope. Here's a few pictures.
I went to Blacktoft with the particular wish to get some good photos of green sandpiper. As it turned out they were never as close as I've had them in the past but overall I came away quite happy.
Before we get to the purple bit I took Sheila on Saturday 19/8 to Helmsley to see some owls. We just took Sheila's Canon with a modest zoom lens and set on automatic. Here are some of the shots...
Steller's sea eagle
Yellow-billed kite [if my memory serves me well!]
Griffon vulture Snowy owl
Common buzzard Flight shots of a race of eagle owl Barn owl Harris hawk
These place certainly provide a good opportunity to practice flight shots with several flight sessions per day with a variety of birds. On our visit the eagle owl was relatively easy to photograph, the barn owl was faster in flight, the buzzard flew into a tree and refused to co-operate [!] and the lanner falcon was impossible without a big lens as it flew out a long way at incredible speed.
Next day we went up to Silverdale to try to photograph the purple heron at Leighton Moss. The Grizedale hide was packed but we waited and stared at a patch of thistles and I got really frustrated as people said they could see the bird's head and I couldn't see anything even though I knew I was looking in the precise place!! Some black-tailed godwits dropped in. After an hour or so we were promoted to the front row as people left either in exasperation or to get lunch. We stayed on. After about two and a half hours the heron walked into full view.
So here it is.
Monday 21st August: a trip up to Saltholme area hoping for whinchat and maybe a roseate tern. Neither seen. Phil Stead hide was quiet and the reserve wasn't yet open. I drove slowly down the Zinc Works road. Plenty of young stonechats [about 15 stonechats seen!] but no whinchat.
The dell at the end of the road held a good range of butterflies: painted lady, whites, peacock and these...
Common blue; small copper; red admiral; wall
Out at Seaton Snook there were plenty of sandwich and common tern. The light was difficult. I approached the birds carefully but a couple with a dog scared everything off. I did snap this young kittiwake on the water's edge. A very nervous wheatear [my first autumn sighting this year] lingered along the fence line behind the dunes.