Wildlife Photography at Spurn

I will be having a stand at this years Migfest at Spurn to showcase wildlife photography at Spurn. Why not pop in at Westmere farm on Saturday or Sunday to talk about the brilliant opportunities for wildlife photography at Spurn?

The following notes should hopefully give you some useful tips on Bird Photography at Spurn.

The first thing to emphasise are a couple of golden rules.

The first one (I'm sure you'll be familiar with) is that the birds welfare must always come first before your need to get a good photograph. Please don't harass the bird with constant flushing by trying to get an extra few yards closer.

Please don't use tapes or lures to entice the bird out of cover-this is especially important during the breeding season. Usually, with patience the birds will come out and show well.

Another thing to consider is the fact that a lot of people travel a long way to see the birds at Spurn. It us not really fair to flush or frighten birds away in pursuit of a photograph, please be considerate to other birders.

Finally, most of the area around Spurn is accessible but there are areas of private land. Please respect local residents, their privacy and private land. We are fortunate enough to have a good relationship with most landowners and residents and it is important that this relationship is preserved.

The next thing to bear in mind is that photographing birds at Spurn is not easy and whilst the log on the sightings page may look impressive the photographic opportunities rarely get anywhere near that. Its all about narrowing your options to give yourself the best chance of success taking into account time of year, species, weather conditions, location (and when waders are the quarry-high tide times)

The best thing to do is plan your visit- starting with the time of year in order of priority the best time is Autumn. Common, scarce and rare migrants can be plentiful in the right conditions. Rain with an easterly or north-easterly wind are almost ideal. Autumn migration at Spurn can start as early as mid August with common migrants such as flycatchers, whinchats and redstarts with the odd wood warbler and Iicterine warbler in favourable conditions. As we move into September wrynecks, shrikes, red-breasted flycatchers and the first yellow browed warblers begin to show. it when we get to October that the really impressive falls can happen huge numbers of thrushes, bramblings and gold crests often occur in the right conditions. These are sometimes accompanied by scarce and rare warblers, wheatears chats and robins in fact almost anything can turn up.

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The next best time of year is Spring again in favourable conditions it can be quite spectacular. Spring usually starts late at Spurn with very little happening in March, there may be the odd black redstart and the first wheatears and chiff-chaffs start to appear. April sees the first wagtails, warblers start to arrive and towards the end of the month the first of the scarce and rare birds start to appear. May is by far the best month in Spring and towards the end of the month again in the right conditions it can be brilliant with the chance of golden oriole, bee eater blue throat or even something rarer like a rock thrush.

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Winter can be good but options are reduced. Here the focus is more on wildfowl and waders. there is much less chance of a rarity in winter (but still an outside chance) but here the focus is more on the spectacular numbers of waders at high tide combined with spectacular sunrises and sunsets and the opportunity for something more creative. There is also wildfowl and the focus is on geese, ducks, swans and the odd scarce grebe primarily around Kilnsea wetlands, the Humber and the coast.

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Summertime is probably the least productive time at Spurn especially between mid June and mid July. However there are still some opportunities, again usually around Kilnsea Wetlands and Beacon ponds but nowhere near as diverse as peak Autumn. Also the light is particularly harsh in mid summer so it is best to stick to early morning or late evening for the best results.

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Once you have worked out when you are coming then it's time to plan what you want to see. The sightings page on the Spurn Bird Obs is a good place to start this is usually updated daily at peak migration time. Then there's the information services on the net-Birdguides, Rare Bird Alert and Rare Bird Network are just a few then there's social media Facebook and Twitter are great places to get a handle on what's happening. This information can be crucial to planning your visit so you get the most out of your day.

The site is also covered by a radio network and the licence is obtained when you join friends of spurn you will also have to purchase your radio but this is the best way to keep abreast of what is being found on the day.


The next important thing is deciding where to go when you arrive-some of the best areas for bird photography include Sammys Point, Beacon Ponds, The Crown and Anchor Car Park,Canal Scrape and bushes,  the Triangle, The Warren and anywhere down the peninsula (now involves a long walk!).However great birds can turn up anywhere at Spurn.


The weather also plays an important part ideally any wind from an easterly direction with rain will bring in the birds at the right time of year-if this is followed up with a bright spell immediately after, this can be perfect conditions. prolonged westerly or south westerly winds are probably the worst and they reduce your chances somewhat-in fact any really strong winds reduce your chances (apart from creative shots over the sea) quite dramatically.


Finally the last thing to think about is the time of day- mornings are usually the best and the earlier you arrive the better. Sunrises over the sea can be spectacular providing great creative opportunities also the low light of early morning brings out colour and detail, also the low light towards evening has the same effect (although birds can be less active) with the harsh light of mid-day being the less best for photography (go for a pint and lunch in the Crown & Anchor.



As with everything there are always exceptions to the rule- expect the unexpected at Spurn!


Some other points for consideration;

Light- simple rule the sun behind you gives detail, the sun in front of you gives drama! For good bird photography that brings out colour it is always preferable to have the sun behind you. Where the opportunity exists have that awareness a put yourself in the best position to capture the detail.

The sun in front of you will reduce dramatically the chance of getting detail but this is when creativity and drama comes in to play. Ideally first thing in the morning (shooting over the sea) or last thing in the evening (over the Humber) are the optimum times. Seabirds and waders being the main quarry. This is often a good strategy when there is little else about.

It makes a nice photo if you can isolate the bird from the distraction of leaves, twigs and anything else that takes your eye away from the subject ( not always easy when all they want to do is feed and carry on either their journey!) but it pays to observe behaviour, sometimes they have a favoured perch they return to.

Also the background can be equally important, the soft tones of brown and green can be far more pleasing on the eye than a harsh blue or white background when photographing against the sky, again positioning yourself with this in mind is all important.

Get down to eye level-being at eye lever with the bird creates a more intimate image. This may involve getting prone on the floor especially when photographing wagtails and wheatears in the grass-in fact any bird on the floor get down and dirty!

Spurn is not just great for bird photography –the insects and mammals aren’t bad either!

What to do with your photos when you get home.

I usually store and edit them in Adobe Lightroom (there's another whole series there!) then I post them on my blog with a write up of the days events.i also post them on twitter and Facebook and usually copy in Spurn Bird Observatory.

Ultimately it's nice if you can get your photos in print Spurn Wildlife is the annual report produced by Spurn Bird Observatory and it's always nice to get a few photos in there.

I hope these notes are useful for your visit.Spurn is a brilliant place for wildlife photography and great photographs can be taken all year long planing it gives you an even better chance -get out there and enjoy it!