A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Black Stork Stakeout - Sunk Island, Yorkshire

With a Black Stork turning up at Spurn just under a month ago, I sadly never got the opportunity to make it up there due to a combination of work and a week’s holiday to Scilly, and the bird had unfortunately moved on before I had returned. Since then, there have been sporadic reports around Sunk Island and Stone Creek, just half an hour to the west, but these were merely flight views – never at a nailed on site to twitch like it was at Spurn. However, this all changed on Friday, when photos on the Yorkshire Birders Facebook page showed the bird in question frequenting the fields and creeks in the Sunk Island area, with the posts seeming to suggest that it had been settled for some time, having favourite haunts around the Old Hall area. With one poster even reporting that the Black Stork had come back to one creek in particular to roost for two nights running now, I knew this was the best opportunity I had to catch up with this often hard to connect with species.
Black Stork - Sunk Island, YorkshireGetting precise info on exactly which creek it was, me and Alex made the 2 ½ hour journey to Sunk Island to see if we could track it down. With no sign in the creek at half 2, we turned to plan B – driving slowly up and down Cherry Cobb Sands Road to see if we could spot the Stork in one of the fields or ditches there. This was where the majority of flyover sightings on the bird reports had originated from, as well as some of the photos from just a few days earlier, and I hoped we could either jam in on it in flight or find it stood in one of the fields. Unfortunately it wasn’t that easy, and whilst a flyover Grey Heron got our hearts racing early on, there was no sign of our Stork. Several Curlew feeding in the fields were a nice consolation, as were 2 flyover Green Sands, and 7 Whinchats in just one small patch were clear evidence that autumn migration was well underway.

Knowing that our best shot was the Stork coming in to roost that evening, we headed back to the small creek at half 6, hoping the bird would return here again. A tidal creek, with water levels controlled by the Humber, the water was now much higher than earlier on in the afternoon, although there was just a single Little Egret and a Common Sandpiper taking advantage of the tidal pickings. The owner of one of the cottages told us that he had seen the Black Stork that very morning making its way up the creek, and we wondered whether the bird had remained feeding in the channel all day, out of sight at the other end of the field.

Alex’s theory was proved correct, as at around half 7 I spotted something large, black and white creeping around the far corner – the Stork!! We watched as it slowly crept through the reeds and in to view – the whole of its body now on show, along with the exceptionally long legs and bill. Eventually, the Stork worked its way down the channel, feeding on the morsels that the tide had brought in and coming to a patch in the open, giving us great views of this continental visitor.
Black Stork - Sunk Island, Yorkshire
Black Stork - Sunk Island, Yorkshire
Black Stork - Sunk Island, Yorkshire
With a bit of an influx of Black Storks this summer, this particular individual was a juvenile, ringed in France before making its way across the channel with at least 1 other sibling – the bird that had frequented the Loch of Strathbeg for some time. An extremely hard species to catch up with in my opinion, with the majority of sightings as flyovers in different parts of the country, it has been a few years since the last twitchable bird.
Black Stork - Sunk Island, YorkshireBlack Stork - Sunk Island, YorkshireWith the light now fading and the Stork seemingly settled down for the night in the creek, we left it in peace and headed home – 5 hours of searching had definitely paid off and I had finally caught up with a bird that had been tormenting me all summer!

With news out later that evening of its whereabouts, the bird was still there in the creek early the next morning with reports at dawn, before flying off at just after 7am. After a brief return, it flew off again at 10:10am, circling high over Stone Creek before gaining height and disappearing off south over the Humber where it was lost to view. With no reports on the Sunday afternoon or the bank holiday Monday, it was clearly a stroke of luck that I managed to catch up with it on the Saturday, and I’m exceptionally glad I made the effort! 
Sunk Island, Yorkshire

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