Sunday, 27 January 2013

YWT Spurn and Kilnsea Wetlands - 22 January 2013

A meeting at Spurn always gets me out of bed in a morning, as previous work trips have led to encounters with Roller, Subalpine Warbler and Red-throated Pipit among other things in between meetings etc.

The roads were largely clear of snow as I headed south towards Selby and then east on the M62. Beyond Patrington, they got a little worse though were still passable with care. After a productive meeting at the Blue Bell, I was chatting to my colleague, Harry, when I looked out of the window and noticed a large white bird heading towards the building . What was it? It was clearly large, but was flapping too fast for any swan. As it neared it conveniently turned side on, flashing black wingtips, a long neck and a huge spatulate bill - a first winter Spoonbill! This bird had been seen on nearby Kilnsea Wetlands earlier but having been in a meeting I hadn't heard the news. So this was a major surprise. Not the rarest of birds, but pretty unusual on a snowy mid-January day.

A little later, Harry and I headed down the peninsular enjoying close views of thousands of waders busy tucking into the invertebrates swarming in the glorious Humber mud; Bar-tailed Godwits, Dunlin, Curlew, Knot, Redshank and Oystercatcher. A throng of Shelducks punctuated the flats and a few Brent Geese flew by. Down at the Point a decidedly parky wind was blowing as we parked at the VTS and walked round to the gun emplacement where we are planning to build a viewing platform. As we approached, we flushed two Woodcocks out from under the Black Poplars. Standing up on top, I was surprised for the second time today by the Spoonbill as it came flapping past at close range and strangely decided to land on top of one of the ruined barrack blocks no more than 50 metres away. Bizarre! We took a couple of photos with our phones and then left this exotic bird to its snooze.

You always see something unexpected at Spurn! Spoonbill below the VTS Tower, Spurn Point.

On the way back to York I dropped in at the brand new Kilnsea Wetlands nature reserve. This is a brand new wetland site lying just outside of Kilnsea before you go over the Long Bank chicane. There is a good car park and a footpath which leads to a hide and viewing screen overlooking the main lagoon. To compensate for the loss of adjacent Beacon Lagoons due to sealevel rise, the Environment Agency built Kilnsea Wetlands last summer as compensatory habitat for roosting waders. With the support of a management group, the site has been given to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to manage. It is very early days and the Trust is working hard to establish a grazing regime for the grasslands around the lagoons and to control water levels. The site got off to a great start when Avocets bred immediately after work finished! On my first visit I found a Harvest Mouse and on the day of the Roller, I saw a Golden Oriole in a bush near the hide!
Today, the site was covered in birds. c500 Brent Geese were on the lagoon, whilst 50 Wigeon grazed on the grass in front of the hide. Over the road which is also part of the project area, hundreds of waders were present, including Curlew, Golden and Grey Plover, Dunlin and Snipe. Fantastic. The paths were waterlogged today due to all the snow melt, so I didn't get to the hide, though you can see plenty with a scope from the car park.

A very gloomy view of Kilnsea Wetlands nature reserve looking north from near the car park.

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