Spurn Light Trip (s)

With a lack of local rare birds just lately I have focussed on some common species in a more dramatic setting. This involved either firs light (on the sea) or last light (on the Humber).

I'm quite happy with these, its given me some more inspiration this winter to make the most of not so early morning sunrises. All photos taken at Kilnsea/Spurn.

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2017 Review

Well its getting to that thime of year when I look back at the highlights and despite mainly unfavourable conditions for rare birds it has been a remarkably good year.

It got off to a good start with the long staying pallid harrier continuing its stay at Welwick salt marsh and on occasion giving great views.

Pallid Harrier

Pallid Harrier

Pallid Harrier

Pallid Harrier

Another long staying bird was the Pine Bunting which stayed on the outskirts of the village of Dunnington in North Yorkshire for most of the winter. I was very lucky to only need one trip to get some good views and reasonable photos whilst others made numerous trips and werent so succesful.

Pine Bunting  

Pine Bunting

 

Another long staying bird and no doubt a hangover from the previous years excellent Autumn was a very showy bluethroat in deepest south Lincolnshire. On the day I went it performed very well and despite reports of bad behaviour amongst some of the observers everyone was well behaved (an added bonus!). It made the 2 hour trip well worth it.

I also started to look at some more arty opportunities and I am especially drawn to photography at first light which if conditions are right, can be quite dramatic.

Avocet and gull at Kilnsea Wetlands

Avocet and gull at Kilnsea Wetlands

Magpie at Holbeck Car Park

Magpie at Holbeck Car Park

Mediterranean Gull at Holbeck car park

Mediterranean Gull at Holbeck car park

I also had a ride up to North Yorkshire (Forge Valley)for the common woodland birds in early Spring and they didnt let me down.

Great Spotted Woodpecker Forge Valley

Great Spotted Woodpecker Forge Valley

The breeding Kingfishers at Tophill Low were also another Spring highlight.

Kingfishers Tophill Low

Kingfishers Tophill Low

Eventually the first good bird arrived at Spurn in the form of an Iberian Chiff-Chaff a first for me and only the second for Spurn. A lovely Springtime experience listening to it singing in the early morning sunlight was one of the highlights of the year.

Iberian Chiff Chaff Kilnsea

Iberian Chiff Chaff Kilnsea

The second good bird of the Spring arrived at Spurn a week later in the form of a subalpine warbler this bird gave me a great opportunity to photograph a nicely coloured male (my only previous shots weer one of a dull female).

Subalpine Warbler at Spurn

Subalpine Warbler at Spurn

Spring continued to deliver and on one particularly memorable morning arouns Sunk Island i saw some distant Dotterel but then had magnificent views of a male montagu's harrier then popped through to Spurn for a very showy grey headed wagtail.

Montagu's Harrier-Sunk Island

Montagu's Harrier-Sunk Island

Montagu's Harrier-Sunk Island

Montagu's Harrier-Sunk Island

Montagu's Harrier-Sunk Island

Montagu's Harrier-Sunk Island

Grey-Headed Wagtail-Spurn

Grey-Headed Wagtail-Spurn

Other good birds in the Spring at Spurn included hawfinch, wryneck, grasshopper warbler and a particularly showy and unseasonable snow bunting.

Grasshopper Warbler-Sammy's Point

Grasshopper Warbler-Sammy's Point

Hawfinch-Kilnsea

Hawfinch-Kilnsea

Pied Flycatcher-Sammy's Point

Pied Flycatcher-Sammy's Point

Wryneck-Kilnsea

Wryneck-Kilnsea

Snow Bunting-Spurn

Snow Bunting-Spurn

The last good bird of the Spring was a rather showy wood sandpiper on Swinemoor

Wood Sandpiper-Swinemoor

Wood Sandpiper-Swinemoor

As Spring gave way to Summer, I thought I'd try for the raptors at Wykeham. I was rewarded with very good views of Goshawk (my best ever) and distant but spectacular views of a displaying honey buzzard.

Goshawk-Wykeham

Goshawk-Wykeham

Honey Buzzard at Wykeham  

Honey Buzzard at Wykeham

 

Good birds continued to turn up at Spurn during the summer(predominantly around Kilnsea Wetlands). A superb adult white winged black tern was the cream of the crop for me. Other highlights included a buff breasted sandpiper and white-rumped sandpiper (both distant but good birds all the same).

White Winged Black Tern at Kilnsea Wetlands

White Winged Black Tern at Kilnsea Wetlands

White Winged Black Tern at Kilnsea Wetlands

White Winged Black Tern at Kilnsea Wetlands

Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Kilnsea Wetlands

Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Kilnsea Wetlands

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White rumped sandpiper at Kilnsea Wetlands

White rumped sandpiper at Kilnsea Wetlands

A juvenile white winged black tern spent some time at Kilnsea Wetlands and what was almost certainly the same bird re=located to Far Ings in Lincolnshire where I caught up with it.

Another hugely successful Migfest heralded the start of the Autumn. Despite the unfavourable conditions for rare birds, it didnt disappoint with the highlight being a long-billed dowitcher found on Holderness Fields.

Long=billed Dowitcher at Holderness Fields

Long=billed Dowitcher at Holderness Fields

As Autumn progressed there was a high expectation following on from last year. Unfortunately easterly winds were very much at a premium. It didnt stop good birds coming though and one of the highlights was the unprecedented number of arctic warblers turning up at Spurn. One gave a particularly good photo opportunity. other good birds of the Autumn included a marsh warbler, red=backed shrike, rose coloured starling and hobby.

Arctic Warbler at Kilnsea

Arctic Warbler at Kilnsea

Arctic Warbler at Kilnsea

Arctic Warbler at Kilnsea

Marsh Warbler at Spurn

Marsh Warbler at Spurn

Hobby at Kilnsea

Hobby at Kilnsea

Red-Backed Shrike at Easington

Red-Backed Shrike at Easington

Rose-Coloured Starling at Easington

Rose-Coloured Starling at Easington

The highlight of the year for me was not a particularly rare bird but the superbly marked male red-breasted flycatcher at Spurn. I have never seen a 'proper' summer plumaged male before and this one was about as good as they get. Conditions were not conducive for good photography hence no stunning shots but a brilliant bird all the same.

Red-Breasted Flycatcher at Spurn

Red-Breasted Flycatcher at Spurn

The year ended somewhat on a quiet note but I still managed some nice shots of waders at dusk from the Crown and Anchor.

Waders at Kilnsea

Waders at Kilnsea

Waders at Kilnsea

Waders at Kilnsea

And so another fantastic year draws to a close. That just leaves me to wish you a very Happy, peaceful and wildlife filled New Year.

A Step In The Right Direction

Following Tuesday's much anticipated Spurn Liaison Group Meeting there are a few things to update you on.

Firstly the headlines.

I have recieved a response to my letter to the CEO of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

I understand that concerns regarding the future management and strategy at Spurn were discussed at length after the YWT's Annual General Meeting last week.

Positive action has been taken regarding wildlife disturbance. The works have been stopped for around 3 weeks and a more robust Construction Environmental Management Plan has been produced and works have resumed this week.

I am still awaiting a response from the Director of Planning and Economic Regeneration regarding my complaint about Planning Condition 21.

I am still awaiting a satisfactory response from ERYC regarding my concerns over public safety whilst the roadworks are being carried out (planning Condition 17)

I am still awaiting a response to my concerns regarding the design for the discharge of surface water to the car park area (Planning Condition 15)

 

Firstly, Tuesday's liaison group meeting.

It appeared that there was a genuine attempt, from the outset to ensure that the meeting remained positive and productive and on the whole this positive intention was reflected by the members of the group as the meeting went on. It was agreed that now was the time to draw a line in the sand and forget previous disagreements within the group.

YWT made an commitment that the Spurn Liaison Group will carry on once the development is complete.

The minutes of the previous were discussed briefly and given that the last meeting was in July there wasnt a great deal to discuss. There was one matter arising regarding the proposal to erect some small gazebos by Spurn Bird Observatory Trust at the Migfest festival. This was discounted by YWT at the time suggesting that the RSPB would object on the account of disturbance to waders. The RSPB had subsequently written to SBOT confirming that this was not the case.

We recieved a construction progress update. The building has been re-scheduled to be complete by the 21st December. Heavy construction work should be completed by the end of November.

We were given more information regarding the roof. YWT advised that there was some 'haste ' to progress the roof and the ' brown'roof  had been put on over what has turned out to be a non-watertight roof, resulting in the roof leaking. The brown roof has therefore been stripped back and the roof below will have to be properly sealed, the brown roof reinstated and the scaffold stripped. This will then allow the completion of the external works around the building.

It was agreed that any information posted on the YWT website or the notice boards in future would also be shared with the Spurn Liaison Group.

It was also agreed that YWT would endeavour to provide local residents with more notice if weekend working is planned.

It was also agreed that it wouldn't be unreasonable in the future, for YWT to knock on the doors of residents in the immediate vicinity of the works to be visited by a YWT representative to advise of weekend working.

We were given an overview of the Spurn masterplan by YWT.

Without having the plans to show, I'll describe the main points as best I can.

YWT have acquired some more land in the Long Bank Marsh area known as 'Flight Pond' .This will be developed with a series of scrapes and wetlands to make the area more beneficial to wildlife.

YWT also proposed the introduction of a footpath to a viewing screen on Long Bank Marsh. The area could be enhanced further by the introduction of a wind pump to draw water from the adjacent dyke and improve the habitat for wildfowl and waders. YWT stopped short of committing to this suggestion.

A footpath will be created from Grange Farm to Kilnsea Wetlands. This positive move will prevent the need for pedestrians accessing the wetlands from Kilnsea village having to use the road and would remove the interface between pedestrians and vehicles (which will effectively be travelling at speeds up to the national speed limit). There will also be an introduction of a wildflower rich area on a section of long bank marsh.

There will be improvements to viewing the Triangle by the introduction of a new footpath and viewing screen with access from the North.

There will be a new access path from new car park heading east.

It does appear that the YWT have a desire to remove activity and disturbance at the Warren area.

There was some suggestion by YWT that the sea-watching hut may be relocated to the end of the footpath along Big Hedge. Given that the new footpath network draws people to the current location of the sea-watching hut, I'm not sure what the benefits of relocation would be.

YWT confirmed that the public footpath along Spurn Road cannot be diverted and as such will remain open.There will be 'kissing gates' at the entrance to Spurn and also a barrier. YWT did confirm that the kissing gates will not be locked. Just as a point to note if the gates were locked denying public access that would be an infringement of the rules associated with public footpaths. YWT dis confirm that people would be encouraged to take a different route (and reduce disturbance to wildlife ) by the creation of a new footpath.

YWT stated that a viewing screen would be created to watch waders on the Humber at the Warren.

YWT also confirmed that the footpath network at the Point will be reconfigured.

We also got some answers to some key outstanding questions.

The new car park will not be open for 24 hours. This is because, to keep floodlights on would be contrary to the Habitat Regulation Assessment, and to do so would cause potential disturbance to wildlife especially bats. It will therefore be locked between dusk and dawn. YWT are looking to develop a system to allow this car park to open at dawn. Crucially YWT confirmed that the Blue Bell car park will not have a barrier and as such access will be available 24 hours a day (effectively no change from the present). I'm not certain if the Blue Bell car park will be 'pay to park'.

YWT did confirm that the verges along Spurn Road will be ' landscaped ' to deter parking by the placement of excavated spoil from the management of drains and ditches along Spurn Road.

It was confirmed by ERYC that double yellow lines will not be put into position as part of this development. The Highways will be monitored on a regular basis and subject to that monitoring exercise further traffic regulation measures may be implemented as a result (and eventually double yellow lines could be placed)

There will be no traffic regulation measures in any case until at least 6 months after the development is complete.

ERYC also said there will be no restrictions on parking on the road when the development is complete ( but could be in future subject to monitoring as described above).

It was agreed that a separate meeting with the Highways Engineer will be held on site at a date to be arranged, with members of the Parrish Council and SLG in attendance.

YWT confirmed that parking passes will be available for local residents. (This will ensure the fulfilment of a commitment made during the planning process).

The use of the Unimog was discussed and the perceived disturbance to waders at high tide. No doubt that this will be debated further by the Recreational Disturbance Management Group (RDMG). One member suggested that disturbance of waders by the Unimog was not good practice and this point was agreed by YWT.

The RDMG has not yet met and a date is to be set for this meeting. One point for discussion is the potential disturbance around the Warren area. ERYC confirmed that alterations to the Spurn masterplan (as approved by the granting of Planning Permisdion) could be amended following recommendations by the RDMG as a minor planning amendment.

There was a suggestion that the hide at Kilnsea Wetlands is to be replaced by a hide twice the size. The smaller hide could be relocated on Long Bank Marsh.

There was also some talk (but nothing defined) about the car park at Kilnsea Wetlands being enlarged.

The other point that was discussed was the first draft of an anglers charter. This was welcomed by YWT and requires some further refinements before being issued to the wider angling community.

There was a debate about the signs that remain in the village. I offered my opinion on that matter and it is this. The meeting on Tuesday was positive insofar as there weren't many (if any) major disagreements and YWT came armed with a lot of outstanding information, so on that basis it was a positive meeting. The residents of Kilnsea and Easington are perfectly within their rights to display their dissatisfaction in any way they see fit. One positive meeting today will not result in the signs coming down tomorrow.The first line of the agreed protocols document reads ' the purpose of the Spurn Liaison group is to rebuild and maintain relations with the local community' it therefore goes without saying that if we achieve objective number one, then and only then are we likely to see any possibility of the signs being removed.

On to other matters. I escalated my formal complaint regarding a breech of Planning Condition 21 to the Director of Planning and Economic Regeneration at the ERYC.Hopefully we may find some common ground in our interpretation of the condition.

The East Riding of Yorkshire council, following complaints from others including myself found it necessary to stop the removal of concrete bases around the Warren area on the basis that the works were causing disturbance to wildlife (primarily roosting waders) The CEMP has since been twice revised and as I understand it, it has now been written to the satisfaction of the necessary statutory bodies including Natural England. The document is viewable on the ERYC Planning Portal  and as long as this is strictly adhered to by the Contractor and rigidly enforced by YWT there should be no further issues.

I have written to the ERYC voicing my concerns regarding Planning Condition 17. It states quite clearly within that condition that 'This pre-commencement condition is imposed because it is considered that the existing public highway is inadequate at present to safely accommodate the traffic that the development is likely to generate. However it is considered that the development can be allowed to proceed if the road is first improved'.My interpretation of that condition is that it was imposed on the grounds of public safety. Currently we have a situation whereby the road is being used by visitor traffic, construction traffic, pedestrians ( there us currently no footpath along Spurn Road) and roadworks are being carried out. In my view there ought to be some consideration to segregation, sequencing or road closure to traffic on account of public safety. Currently ERYC are happy to allow things to continue as they are so I guess we will have to hope for the best.

I have also voiced concern with regard to the drainage design. The planning condition highlights the need for percolation tests ( this is to prove that rainwater will drain away naturally as opposed to draining into a watercourse or sewer). The current proposals seem to suggest that the new car park is bring designed for rainwater to soak away naturally. I have therefore questioned with ERYC as to how they can grant planning condition discharge for a drainage system that requires water to percolate naturally but there are no percolation tests that have been carried out that prove the system works. Either percolation tests are carried out as per the planning condition or an alternative system should be proposed. This is important with it being in an extremely sensitive flood area.

Finally I am aware that the future of Spurn was discussed at length at the end of YWT's AGM last Saturday. I posted an open letter to the chairman on Twitter and sent out the message that Yorkshire Wildlife Trust ought to fulfil their obligations more as the guardians of Spurn and less as the majority shareholder.

I also received a response from the CEO of YWT he confirmed agreement with me that more stringent methods were required regarding disturbance to wildlife and that the revised CEMP ought to make things clearer to the contractors carrying out the work.

He also said

'Thank you for highlighting a range of concerns in relation to the Spurn Liaison Group. We are committed to improving understanding and relationships within the local community and the Spurn Liaison group should offer a valuable route to achieving this. I understand that the issues you list have been discussed at the Liaison Group meetings. Of course, passions at Spurn run high, we have tried very hard to work positively with the Liaison Group and I would ask that you try and work with us to set out a positive track.'

My response is whilst I don't particularly agree that passions are running high, I do think that there are a lot of people  who care passionately about Spurn. I quite often think about the mirror principle whereby if you are surrounded by positive people, you naturally think and behave in a more positive manner. Conversely if you are surrounded by negativity unfortunately the natural reaction is to feel the same. I am therefore heartened by this commitment from the CEO of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

The meeting on Tuesday had a positive theme that gave me the feeling that we might have turned a corner.

Tuesday night was a step in the right direction.

Thanks for reading.

The views on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Spurn Liaison Group.