Birds, Leps, Observations & Generalities - the images and ramblings of Mark Skevington. Sometimes.

Monday, 7 November 2011


On Friday night at the LROS meeting, John Hague asked me what my plans were for Sunday. 'Nothing much, why?' was my response, but it should have been 'A bit of gardening, sorting out a TV aerial and definitely not going on an out-of-county twitch'. And so it was that I counted myself in to a twitch to Spurn if the Isabelline Wheatear was still around on Saturday. I was not available on Saturday and neither was John - but the bird remained on view all day. So with positive news up until dusk, we left John's at 6am yesterday and arrived at Spurn after it was properly light and just in time to find out 'no sign so far this morning'. Arse, feck, bastard, bugger.

Back in the day when I used to twitch much more regularly than the current once a year or so, dipping was part and parcel of the 'game' although I was remarkably lucky and suffered very few momentous dips. Often I either came away happy, or was dipping with the whole twitching community (eg October 2000 Siberian Blue Robin at Minsmere). The only dip that really grated was driving up to Scotland overnight in June 1997 and spending c6 hours in the pissing rain looking at nothing, only to receive a pager message a few hours later on the way home that 'Roller still at Lochaber Loch'. The last bitter out-of-county dipping experience for me was back in October 2002 when I was already in the throws of giving up twitching. That was in bloody Yorks as well (White-throated Sparrow at Flamborough).

Anyway, back to Spurn. We duly ignored the negative info. and set about looking for the wheatear. In the process, we saw very little (lots of very distant waders, a few close in Knot, a Grey plover, some Redwings and a Wren .......). we certainly didn't see any rare exciting passerines. This was made all the more galling by the continued presence of another Izzy Whitearse in Wales. Bastard!

After walking and searching for a good while, we gave it up and headed off to grab a bite. With everything closed locally, we decided to head back the other side of Hull to eat and then go to Blacktoft Sands. At least we'd see something on the day out, and be within distance in the unlikely event that the Wheatear popped up again.

Click for big - typical view from a Blacktoft hide

Click for big - Shelduck Shoveler Island

I do like Blacktoft, and it provided some pleasing birding spectacles though nothing unexpected. 1000s of Golden Pover were constantly filling the skies, and we got superb views as a decent number of them fed in a field adjacent to the reserve along with masses of Lapwings . Sadly no sign of the recently present Common Crane though. We also had a few various-sized skeins of Pink-feet heading over in all directions (including some going back and forth for some reason), c200 being the biggest group.

Click for big - all those dots are Goldies and Lapwings

Click for big - aimlessly wandering Pink-feet

We stayed for the raptor roost, picking up anywhere between a conservative 10 and 13 Marsh Harriers including one or two superb full adult males. Also one, possibly two, ringtail Hen Harriers including a very close fly-by. But sadly no owls, no Merlin and no Bittern.

Click for big and spot the Marsh Harrier

Perhaps the least expected things we saw all day were a couple of Red Admirals and at least 6 Common Darters soaking up the late afternoon sun .....

Dipping was a pain, and Blacktoft was maybe not as great as it could have been, but the day out was still a whole lot better than gardening and sorting out a TV aerial!

Feeding Tree Sparrows

Feeding Shelduck

Incidentally, 'Isabelline' is a colour and though the etymology is inconclusive the theories about it's origin appear to relate to piss-stained underwear .......


beast said...

Hit or miss..twitching is always a good excuse for a day out somewhere different...[as far as i'm concerned]....

Rod Hull should have gone twitching instead of fuckin about with a TV aerial...RIP

Skev said...

Yes - know what you mean Beast and that's why we made every effort to turn Sunday into a worthwhile outing. But six hours sitting in the pissing rain seeing feck all doesn't tick any boxes (or birds).

Apparently an Eleonora's flew over Rod whilst he was up there, causing him (naturally) to flap about whilst trying to get clinching views just before the biggest dip of his career ......