Monday, 21 May 2012

Golden Spurn

If you are a regular reader, you’ll know that I have this knack of turning up to see reported rarities after they have moved on – sometimes even hours after! I have come to think of myself as a bit of a ‘Jonah’ when choosing target species. Never one to give in to superstition, today I went off to Spurn hoping to see the reported Golden Oriole. The weather was not very inspiring with low cloud along the coast and strengthening north-easterly winds. But off I went; my enthusiasm steeling me against further potential disappointment.

I started my quest at Beacon Lane, where the bird – a first summer male – had been regularly seen. The Oriole’s nature is to seek dense cover or linger in the tops of trees. Those of you who know the area will know that there are very few tall trees at Spurn. So I was expecting fleeting glimpses if I was going to see anything at all.

After a couple of circuits, including a walk up one of the denser hedge boundaries, there was no sign of anything except Blackbirds, Dunnocks, an obliging Sedge Warbler, and a very hungry Whitethroat picking off the Brown-Tailed Moth caterpillars that were breaking out of their silky cocoons in their hundreds.
Emerging Brown-Tailed Moth caterpillars

Sedge Warbler

One hungry Whitethroat
So I decided to walk the ‘Triangle’ to see what else was around. The wind was keeping most things close to the ground, but I did find an obliging Skylark, a Wheatear, and a couple of Whinchats.
I stopped in at Canal Scrape, but all was quiet. However, as I walked the path back to the Crown & Anchor I was treated to some really good views of a Cuckoo perched in a hawthorn overlooking the pond and canal. Given the lack of any calls, I’m guessing it was a female waiting for the Reed Warblers to give away the position their nest sites.


Meadow Pipit with a hungry brood

Yellow Wagtail
Back to Beacon Lane for one final sortie. Still nothing – not even the Sedgie or Whitethroat! I was joined by two couples who had previously seen the Oriole. They commented that they had seen the bird at Sammy’s Point before it was reported at Spurn. I had had enough and decided to head home. Initially I was going to go to Patrington Haven, but changed my mind and went to Sammy’s Point on the off chance – and I am glad I did.

I had only been out of the car for a few minutes when a couple of horse riders came past. Suddenly there was a thrush-sized greenish bird flying towards me, diving into a dense bush of hawthorn near the car park. Could it have been the Oriole? I waited for a reappearance for what seemed like ages, but to no avail. Then, as a lady with three noisy dogs walked along the back of the horse pasture, there it was again. This time the Oriole offered some better, but still brief views as it moved from one hawthorn tree to another, before heading north towards Easington. Frustratingly I didn’t have the chance of a photo, but my view through the bins was good enough for a positive identification. The reputed likeness of immature birds to Green Woodpecker was not as strong as I expected. The back was green but paler; the breast a much paler yellow; and the rump also a much less vivid yellow. But a Golden Oriole it was, and means another tick on my list.
Hopefully this has now broken the ‘Jonah’ tag and I might enjoy more such good fortune over the rest of the summer.

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