The above photo shows the remarkable opportunity that exists at this Reserve, to get close to our large sea birds.
Each year, I make a visit to Bempton to see the breeding seabirds, although I have to admit, the fact that a Black-browed Albatross passed through the day before did have a lot to do with it!
The Northern Gannet is magnificent and I've tried to capture some interesting images on my visit.
Constant courtship going on at the moment.
A careful arrival at the cliff face.
A nice fly past.
The Puffins are settling in for the season. I haven't seen one collecting material for its burrow before, so this was something new for me.
A 'tubenose' Fulmar passing along the cliffs.
A Razorbill showing the yellow tongue.
The sun was quite strong on this morning and quite a few birds were adopting a 'gaping' posture, with the bill slightly open. Also at Bempton were 2 Short-eared Owls and a Barn Owl, showing well in the fields behind the cliffs.
There were many visitors on the Reserve, clearly due to the recent Albatross sighting. I was told it had been seen that morning (19th) and photographed but didn't see any subsequent evidence. I was there at 7-00 am and did seven hours watching, it was alarming how many people were shouting 'albatross' at two-year old Gannets!!
Additionally, an albatross was reported on the German coast, the same afternoon.
It's only half an hour's run from home in the early hours before the roads get busy, so another trip to Hornsea to find the over-wintering Iceland Gull would pass the morning nicely.
I caught sight of the Iceland flying down the sea, soon after arriving at the coast but it was at Hornsea's Mere where the gull showed spectacularly.
This 1st winter Iceland has been at various locations in the area and recently, has joined other gulls resting at the mere and taking advantage of the inevitable bread diet from the public.
At very close range, this was a great bird to study!
Never far away from the food supply are the local Jackdaws, looking good this morning.
On my travels this morning, warblers were in full song in the most welcome sunshine.
I don't know who was more surprised, when this Barn Owl came into view.
A change of venue today was brought about by two things - a complete lack of Swifts where I've been so far and, the possibility of an Iceland Gull sighting. So my destination this morning was Hornsea Mere on the East coast, where it's still cloudy and cold.
Poor weather and not school holidays, meant the Mere was quiet and I spent the first hour on my own. Fortunately, it was far from quiet on the birding scene. The water surface was alive with skimming Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins. Common Sandpipers and wagtails flew from the water's edge as I began scanning the lake's wildfowl. A good number of Tufted Duck are still present and I picked up a larger duck with a grey back among them, looking like a Scaup. Never coming really close, this Scaup? appeared to have a slightly tufted head and the bill markings resembled Tufted Duck more than a Scaup. I've reached the conclusion of Scaup/Tufted hybrid and some images are below.
This White Wagtail frequented the shore line all morning with a Pied Wagtail and, in the afternoon, two Yellow Wagtails arrived.
Far across the Mere, a Black Tern was flying and feeding, occasionally resting on one of the marker buoys. for a while, it came a little nearer but only for record shots!
One of three Common Terns seen, used the same buoy.
The hirundines mentioned earlier were quite a spectacle. The Common Swifts which began by flying high, joined the Swallows and Martins over the water surface. Swifts must have numbered many hundreds and were a joy to see after the winter. I attempted to photograph some of the feeding mass!
Not pleased with my images today. I experimented with spot metering instead of evaluative and don't like the results!
The Iceland Gull which has been seen here recently didn't make an appearance but by chance, I happened to find it on the coast, a short distance away.
Really pleased to see this gull and together with two Hobbies later at the Mere, a thoroughly enjoyable visit to the coastal town of Hornsea.
A visit to Spurn this morning to see the Wryneck, which has been feeding along the Kilnsea road.
I have seen Wrynecks before in exactly the same place, foraging in the grass verge for ants and being very obliging for those watching.
If disturbed, the Wryneck would fly into the hedgerow, sometimes remaining in view for a short time.
On my way into Spurn, I called in at Sammy's Point and found my first bird surprisingly, was this lovely Pied Flycatcher.
In a harsh NE wind, the flycatcher worked its way round the hawthorns, dropping to the ground for food rather than in the air.
Also in the same paddock at Sammy's this morning were 4 Wheatears, 3 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Fieldfares, 1 Redwing and a 'difficult' Ring Ouzel!
A Barn Owl and this Short-eared were also hunting at Sammy's Point.
Along the roadside at Kilnsea Wetlands, I found another Pied Flycatcher in hawthorn bushes. It didn't remain long before the wind took it over Long Bank.
Finally, at Cliff Farm in Kilnsea I had a brief glimpse of what I thought was a Wood Warbler. Judging by the tweets that are coming through now, I guess I was correct!
A thoroughly pleasant morning despite the cold North Easterly, and good to catch up with a Spring Wryneck again.
A trip to the Spurn area began at Sammy's Point. The early morning was bright and calm, plenty of birds were singing and I had a good feeling about today. The paddocks weren't as productive as I've seen in early May but, in time I found 3 Wheatears and a colourful pair of Yellow Wagtails.
The bushes held a good number of birds. It was nice to hear Whitethroats back and what was more apparent, there seemed to be more Lesser Whitethroats than Common ones.
A large thrush 'chacked' as it flew out of a nearby bush and I wasn't sure if it was a Ring Ouzel, or one of the last few Fieldfares - I didn't see it again. A couple of Chiffchaffs were singing, 3 Blackcaps were seen and a Garden Warbler.
As I walked the path along the estuary, one of the local Short-eared Owls passed by and small numbers of Sand Martins and Swallows moved through. I met Justin Carr who told me there was a Grasshopper Warbler, 'reeling' away at the end of the bushes, and in the next field. After my unsuccessful attempts at seeing the 'Gropper' last week, I was keen to make contact with this bird and thanked Justin for the information.
I could hear the Grasshopper Warbler now, and after standing in two different locations, I was happy I had 'triangulated' the correct hawthorn bush - it was just a matter of waiting! The bird was singing almost constantly and it was a full quarter of an hour before it emerged.
Really enjoyed this Grasshopper Warbler performing in the open.
On the walk back to the car park, a Red Kite flew in an Easterly direction towards the Wetlands and a Cuckoo began to call. I found the Cuckoo, perching on power lines near Easington.
Arctic and Black Terns were still flying out of the estuary and I was contemplating going to watch them when, a report came out that Justin had found a Broad-billed Sandpiper on the incoming tide line.
It didn't take long to get there but on arriving, the bird was out of view in the mud channels. The variety of waders being pushed towards us included colourful summer-plumaged Grey Plover and Red Knots. There were Dunlins, Whimbrel and a Bar-tailed Godwit too.
Eventually, the BbS showed well for a while on the mud, before the entire wader flock kept being flushed by passing crows.
I heard the Broad-billed Sandpiper is the 3rd Spurn record and my 2nd (previous one at Flamborough), so a great bird to see today.
Back in Kilnsea, the Hawfinch which had been ringed the other day, was still in the village and I saw it briefly fly across the road. I caught up with it later, enticed to a feeding station!
It was shortly after 7-00 a.m this morning when I was alerted to the arrival of two Black Terns at nearby North Cave Wetlands Reserve.
A check on Twitter showed that in excess of 500 Arctic Terns and 7 Black Terns had already passed through Spurn and out to sea. Good numbers were being seen at other locations along the Humber, together with sightings throughout Lincolnshire and West Yorkshire.
By the time I arrived, Black Terns had increased to 8, Arctic Terns were passing through and Common Terns were settling on the lake sides. The Black Terns were constantly in the air, faced with a stiff breeze and feeding on the water surface.
The agility of these small marsh terns was amazing and made photography a real challenge. Here are some of the better ones, from 566 shots taken!!!
The following two images show a ringed bird.
It's always great to see these small terns making their onward journey and gives a real feeling of spring migration.
With a fairly bright start and little wind, I took a walk on the North bank of the Humber in search of Grasshopper Warbler. I find this particular warbler fascinating with its long reeling song, roughly giving away its position and yet being extremely secretive at the same time. On the other hand, every now and then, one will show really well and can be observed turning its head, as it lets out its prolonged song.
At my starting point this morning, I was lucky to hear a Grasshopper Warbler straightaway but realised it was singing from the depths of an extensive reedbed. Despite spending some time listening to its frequent song, it was clearly moving within the reedbed, but failed to show at all.
I decided to move on and found Sedge Warblers were much more showy and saw five, in a short space of time.
Also calling well and good to see on the North bank, were Bearded Tits. Strangely, these birds were happy to be in the company of Reed Buntings, feeding together in the reeds.
3 male and a female Marsh Harrier made appearances, gliding over the reedbeds and a Sparrowhawk quietened the Sedge Warblers down for a while.
An unusual appearance came in the form of 6 Barnacle Geese, coming off the estuary from the South.
No more Grasshopper Warblers unfortunately, but a Reed Warbler showed and Cetti's Warblers were calling in two locations.
Only a brief visit, my next stop was to be London Camera Exchange in Lincoln - yesss!!
The temperature was hovering around 5C when I arrived at Spurn this morning. The light wind was off the sea and had a cold feel to it, not ideal for the arrival of Spring migrants.
Despite that, a Chiffchaff was singing in the canal bushes and a Wheatear was in Well field.
The Canal Scrape was quiet, until a Sedge Warbler sang briefly from the car park bushes - my first this year. The usual Linnets and Goldfinches were about and only the Wrens seemed to have something to shout about.
Over at Sammy's Point, it seemed equally quiet. A noticeable Easterly movement of Curlews took place throughout the morning, flying out to sea. On the ground there wasn't a single Wheatear, Ring Ouzel or Yellow Wagtail in what is a good area for them.
Fortunately, a nice encounter with a Short-eared Owl (one of two present) passed the time, as it hunted the area repeatedly.
Whilst watching the owl, a cream crowned Marsh Harrier flew East towards Kilnsea.
I walked the clifftop around Sandybeaches in case a Black Redstart had shown up, but only found this pair of Swallows. One of them is ringed and I wonder if it is a returning Spurn bird.
A further pair of Swallows was on Canal Scrape, joined by this Sand Martin for a while.
A Whitethroat and two Lesser Whitethroats were seen by others, I found a male Blackcap and two Willow Warblers along the canal. We need some warmer weather!
Without question, Tophill Low reserve in East Yorkshire has a wonderful range of habitats with two reservoirs, marshes, areas of scrub, woodland walks and a river through adjacent farmland. Consequently, a visit in early Spring will reveal the remaining over-wintering birds along with the newly arriving migrants, giving a substantial number of species to be found.
The sound of bird song in the car park alone had to be believed this morning. High in the conifers, Goldcrests were calling with Mistle Thrush, Tree Sparrow, Great and Blue Tit, Robin, Blackcap and Chiffchaffs all in the vicinity. A Brambling wheezed and Great-spotted Woodpeckers were drumming alternately.
Walking in the direction of South Marsh, I saw another Brambling and my 'first of the year' Willow Warbler, one of three this morning.
The marsh was already busy with numerous Black-headed Gulls settling in to the colony and a drake with two female Pintails, was a pleasant surprise. A familiar call alerted me to two Little Ringed Plovers - early migrant waders.
Little Grebe close to the hide.
A Redshank was present and among the wildfowl were a handful of Shelduck, a pair of remaining Wigeon and small numbers of Teal, Shoveler and Gadwall.
No sign of Sedge Warblers yet but, a Whitethroat was singing at the back of the marsh as was a Cetti's Warbler.
Moving on to Watton NR lake, the Garganey didn't seem to be about (seen yesterday morning) but a Snipe showed well and several Grey Herons and Cormorants arrived. A Willow Warbler was singing here and a male Bullfinch was in trees by the hide.
The walk through D Woods started with a look from the South Hide over the reservoir. Winter wildfowl numbers have decreased though a good number of Goldeneye were still here - the drakes displaying and looking splendid.
D Woods was also full of bird song - another Brambling was high in a conifer, more Chiffies and a further Willow Warbler. Two Treecreepers were busy high up and Blackcaps were very obliging in full song!
On North Marsh, I struggled with the Kingfishers this morning, A couple of Greylag Geese were messing about in the channels and the Kingfishers wouldn't come to the perches. They kept at a distance, flying about the reeds and being very mobile.
The biggest photographic challenge by far this morning was at the new hide where, a female Long-tailed Duck which has been around for a while, was in the opposite corner of the reservoir. It would surface for around five seconds before diving again, repeatedly.
You can see from the very varying images, what a great day or year list can be had at this Reserve. When you include the four Common Buzzards and Sparrowhawk overhead, the Geese, Crow and Pigeon families, the species number is an admirable one.
I arrived home at 1330, in time to witness the Red Kite passing through again, the second time in four days. I hope it becomes a regular visitor here. It was pursued by one of the locals!
Half of the rear garden.
I commented a few days ago that, at the new bungalow, I'm struggling to get birds in the garden. The 'list' has gone up three last week with a brief appearance from a Chaffinch, Greenfinch and two Goldcrests shot through, which was a surprise.
Fortunately, the raptors are still turning up. Yesterday, a Red Kite flew low over the Close but I didn't have the camera with me.
This morning, a Kestrel was the first seen over head and this afternoon, no less than nine Common Buzzards were in the air together.
The male Sparrowhawk seen a couple of days ago.
Three of today's Buzzards, all high up but I might get to tell them apart if they live around here.
Looking forward to a day out on Monday.....