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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Migration magic: Autumn passage on the Yorkshire Coast

So many things I missed about the UK when I was in France and apart from the obvious one of being closer to my nearest n dearest I'd have to rank being able to visit the East coast of England in Sept / Oct to witness the annual spectacle of bird migration that us birders call 'autumn passage'. Yes it was an awesome experience to see thousands of Common Cranes pass overhead in France but for the sheer variety of birds and a more than even chance of seeing something rare or unusual you just can't beat a misty October morning at Spurn Point or Flamborough Head, especially if the wind has been blowing in from the East.

I can remember viewing many a TV weather forecast and thinking 'oh to be on the east coast in the morning' - but of course, as sod's law often dictates, this usually happened midweek when I had to be stationed in the office in the morning instead of on a beach somewhere at first light ... but now I'm retired, hurragh .. I can be anywhere, and this year, although I wouldn't go so far as saying I've filled my boots, I've certainly been able to take advantage of my new found freedom and get out and about on 'green light birding' weather days!

Spurn Point
My first foray out to the coast was on Sept 26th and I made the long trip out to Spurn Point. This is a slightly curious place, not least because of it's geography - it's a 3 mile long narrow peninsular that juts out into the North Sea along the Holderness coastline, in some places it is very narrow (50yards) and although its land mass is constantly being added to by sandy debris that drifts sown the coast, it is also prone to erosion in severe weather, so its shape is ever changing. Its a designated nature reserve that attracts many migrant birds in Spring and Autumn and is owned by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. You can read more and catch up on the latest sightings here - Spurn Point Observatory

On the day I was there there were plenty of common migrants about including several Redstarts, Wheaters, Stonechats, Willow Warblers and Chiff Chaffs, plus a few Whitethroats, Blackcaps, a single Yellow Wagtail and a late Sedge Warbler.

I also had a brief glimpse of a Red Breasted Flycatcher from the car as it dived back into the many gorse and buckthorn bushes so no joy with the camera on that one but I did manage a fairly decent shot of the single Red Backed Shrike (pic right) that had been present on the point for a few days.

It's always good to catch an Osprey on migration, they can turn up on almost any decent sized piece of water in Sept as they head South for their wintering grounds in West Africa. Looking for all the world like a big gull (it's quite likely that many get overlooked in this way) I nearly missed this one (pic left) hence this rather rushed and out of focus shot.

It was a bit early for winter thrushes but there were plenty of Song Thrushes about and although I didn't see any I found out later that there were some Ring Ouzels in amongst them so on reflection maybe I should have scanned a bit more diligently!

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