Spurn Head

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Many of Yorkshire's considerable number of rarities have been found in this area.

Spurn Head

Formed 10,000 years ago after the retreat of the ice cap, this magnificent curving spit of land (part of the Spurn Heritage Coast) stretches for three and a half miles across the mouth of the River Humber and is formed by debris washed southwards by the action of wind and water from the soft clay cliffs to the north. It is truly one of the great migration hotspots with many of Britains rare birds being recorded here. Ornithologists like John Cordeaux, and William Eagle Clarke, spent much of their time at Spurn in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and they were followed by Ralph Chislett, George Edwards, and George Ainsworth.In the 1940's Spun Bird Observatory was established and still continues today.(see bird observatories UK).
To give a flavour of Spurn's birds. This is an extract of sightings from October 2000;-

1st The month opened with an excellent day, following on from the 4 Radde’s Warblers seen on the 30th of September a further 4 were found today, equaling the number ever seen at Spurn. If this wasn’t enough there was also 7 Yellow-browed Warblers, a "Tristis" Chiffchaff and a little Bunting.Amongst other common migrants were 35 Robins, 7 Redstarts, 30 Song Thrushes, 6 Reed Warblers, 16 Blackcaps, 11 Chiffchaffs, 10 Willow Warblers, 110 Goldcrests and 6 Spotted Flycatchers. On the same move there were 1200 Swallows, 900 Meadow Pipits, 22 Grey Wagtails, 38 alba Wagtails, 300 Chaffinches, 150 Bramblings, 387 Gold Finches, 782 Linnets and 38 Reed Buntings all flying south.

2nd A large clearout of grounded migrants, with only one Radde’s Warbler left. A fair bit of stuff was moving though, with 67 Pink-footed Geese, 34 Kestrels, a Hobby, 800 Swallows, 575 Gold Finches and 437 Linnets flying south.

The church yard at Kilnsea is a well known site for migrants such as Yellow-browed warbler .Click picture for location map

The church yard at Kilnsea is a well known site for migrants such as Yellow-browed warbler .Click picture for location map

3rd Quite a bit of southerly movement again including 14 Kestrels, 1500 Swallows, 515 House Martins, 1200 Meadow Pipits, 277 Gold Finches and 320 Linnets.

4th A bit of movement again including a Honey Buzzard, a Hen Harrier, 7 Sparrowhawks, 30 Kestrels and 500 Gold Finches and a late Wryneck was seen.

5th Another day with a fair bit of southerly passage, including 6 Herons, 131 Pink-footed Geese, 7 Sparrowhawks, 55 Kestrels, 450 Meadow Pipits, 21 alba Wagtails, 950 Gold Finches, 600 Linnets and 30 Redpolls.

6th A quiet day, highlights being a Hen Harrier flying south and 2 good Spurn birds – a Little owl and a Kingfisher.

7th A Black-throated Diver flew north offshore and a little southerly passage included 400 Linnets, 10 Twile and 25 Redpolls. A few birds started arriving in the afternoon – a Water Rail and 20 Fieldfares, 25 Song Thrushes, 600 Redwings and 40 Goldcrests and an Arctic Warbler was found in the evening.

8th A scattering of grounded migrants – a Great Spotted Woodpecker, 4 Short-eared Owls, 3 Stonechats, a Ring Ouzel, 50 Redwings, 15 Blackcaps, a Long-tailed Tit, and the Arctic Warbler showing incredibly well down to a few yards. In the evening Little Gulls started pouring in off the sea onto the Humber where they spent a while bathing before flying back out to sea again, a total of at least 1400 birds, more than twice the previous maximum recorded at spurn. A late Black Tern flew south offshore.

Red-backed Shrike (juvenile)

Red-backed Shrike (juvenile)

Once a relatively common breeder, now just a scarce visitor, averaging 200 birds/year. Spurn is an excellent place for migrants as they arrive off the North Sea and filter down the Yorkshire coast and Red-backed Shrike often occurs there during migration periods.
© Copyright Hugh Venables and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
For Hugh Venables Geograph page visit http://www.geograph.org.uk/profile/3176
Where to Watch Birds in Yorkshire
A companion volume to Where to Watch Birds in North-east England, this guide now provides details of 105 sites, 12 more than the first edition. All previous site accounts have been updated.

Click here for ordering details and other site guides..
Where to Watch Birds in Yorkshire
Recent Bird photographs from Spurn
Birding video from Spurn Head
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Birdwatching Walks around Spurn head

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