Coach Trip to Spurn - Sunday 16th October 2016

A trip to Spurn is always worth looking forward to. It is a magical place, wild and isolated, a peninsula pushing out into the North Sea with its three-mile shingle spit surviving despite the ravages of storms and strong waves driven from the North East. Three years ago the causeway was albeit breached destroying the narrow road to the Lighthouse. It is a haven and magnet for migratory birds, a first and safe landfall for exhausted birds on passage south, many blown off course by abnormally wild weather.

Such were the conditions for our Sunday visit. Three days before the car park behind the Easington gas terminal had become the centre of the UK birding world. A Siberian Accentor had arrived, the first recorded sighting on the British mainland, drawing reputedly 2500 people to see it. Those who were brave enough to get off the coach at Easington were soon to be rewarded for their efforts, a very fine bird to add to their UK life list. As for those remaining on the coach we went on to Spurn.

The weather gave us a day of two halves, wind and driving rain for the morning, and then as forecast but nevertheless magically the skies cleared and it was sun and blue skies for the rest of the afternoon.

A short walk took us past the churchyard, enclosed by trees and high overgrown hedges that provide food and shelter for the Blackcap and Goldcrests found there. Further along the lane Redwings were feeding and at a bend in the road the shore of the estuary opened up views across the mudflats exposed by the tide being out. Dunlin, Redshanks, Bar Tailed Godwits and a group of Brent Geese were all foraging in the mud whilst Turnstones and Ring Plover were probing the shingle.

Bedraggled looking Robins were everywhere. I had never seen so many in one place before. I had always thought of Robins as very much our own British bird, sedentary and fiercely territorial of a relatively small local area, but these birds must have migrated from Scandinavia, heading south to over-winter in a warmer climate and returning to breed in spring.

The afternoon sun bought out all the autumn colours, a real contrast to the drab grey light of the morning and the sightings continued. One of the highlights was a Pallas’s Warbler in a pub car park (is it just me or do car parks prove to be very fruitful places for bird sightings?) and a Shore Lark posing for photographers untroubled by the close proximity of humans. These two birds were personal firsts for me.

The total bird count for the day was a very creditable 66.

And included Lapland Bunting, Swallows, Snipe, Jack Snipe, Grey Plover, Chiffchaff, Fieldfares, Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart, Black Redstart, House Sparrows and many more.

Looking back we shall all have our highlights for the day, be it a first sighting or a good view of a personal favourite. For me there were three. Firstly, the Shore Lark, a first and excellent close view of this beautifully marked bird. Secondly, a group of about twelve Bramblings feeding on the ground in a private garden. Lastly and possibly my favourite, a group of Lesser Redpolls feeding on the low sunlit tops of the fluffy Rosebay Willow herb seed heads. It was a good ending to an excellent day.


Shore Lark


Redstart (female)


Lesser Redpoll



Photos by Robert D


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