Sunday, 22 May 2016

Spurn Safari

Today we joined a Spurn Safari, organised by the YWT aboard their Unimog, a large, all terrain military vehicle that allows to traverse the low-lying sand bar that now separates Kilnsea from the point itself. The day was lovely, warm, blue skies, and with barely any wind.
We arrived in the morning and pottered around the dunes near The Warren, before a picnic. I photographed a Nomad bee on the clay cliffs with the hope of identifying it later, it turned to be Nomada goodeniana. 
Nomada goodeniana.
A yellowish, large dragonfly passed by, settling on some the marram grass, a lovely four-spotted chaser, Libellula quadrimaculata.
I collected some brown-lipped snails, there is always a good range of colour variants in the dunes, pink and yellow are not rare.
 This is the temporary visitor centre, a container with a front of boards. The old buildings around the Warren have now been dismantled.

A sand-hopper, Talitrus saltator.
A well marked male wolf spider, kindly identified by Matt Prince at Twitter as Alopecosa pulverulenta.

 After a picnic by the seawatching hide, we met by the Unimog. It is an imposingly tall vehicle and I wondered how we would climb onto it. All sorted! some comfortable steps were pushed alongside the vehicle by our guide Andy. Before we got going, he gave us a brief talk on Spurn. The breach in the autumn storms of 2013, meant that the road was washed away and cars couldn't make the trip to the point, hence the Unimog.
After about 20 minutes of bumpy ride along the sandy spit - with some hair-raising moments where the vehicle wobbled on the sand inclines - we were by the light house.

Since our last visit the lighthouse has been restored and is now open to the public. We climbed the 145 steps to the top, peeping on each window along the way to admire the view.
View from the top of the lighthouse towards Kilnsea, the Unimog visible.
The view towards the point.
 Andy had warned us of the brown-tail moth caterpillars and their irritating hairs. These hairy caterpillars were about in plague proportions, hundreds climbed the lighthouse itself and the sea buckthorn and other bushes were stripped naked of leaves.
Brown tail moth caterpillar
 There were other abundant hairy caterpillars, like the woolly bears, the caterpillar of the Garden Tiger, Arctia caja, which we often saw feeding on nettles. These roll into a ball when disturbed.
Garden Tiger caterpillar.
And several very large final instars of the Oak Eggar caterpillar, Lasiocampa quercus on the move.

 A view from the other side of the lighthouse showing its windows, which allow viewing as you climb it.

Although not as many as caterpillars, there were some butterflies on the wing. A single male Common Blue near the lighthouse, several Peacocks, a Green-veined white and a Large White. We may (or not) have briefly seen a Green Hairstreak.
Male Common Blue butterfly
On the point visitor centre, I was pleased to find a thriving colony of Pholcus phalangioides in the toilets (where else!).
We had a guided walk around the point, which covers a surprisingly large area. Birds were quite scarce all day, but Whitethroats and Lesser Whitethroats were singing. Many swallows about, with a few House Martins and a couple of Swifts.
 Overall a lovely day out, the views from the vantage point of the unimog are fantastic, and there was the bonus of being able to climb to the top of the lighthouse.

More information
Check the YWT events website for dates and times for a Spurn Safari.
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