Sunday, 16 October 2016

Siberian Accentor - MEGA

Another week, another twitch in East Yorkshire...

This bird needs no introduction...
Just after 3pm on Thursday afternoon I was notified that Britain's second ever Siberian Accentor had been found in East Yorkshire, sending me into an instant spiral of twitcher's panic. Luckily within half an hour of the news breaking I'd sorted a lift for the next day. With overcast conditions throughout the night I was hopeful that the bird would still be there in the morning, but that still didn't do too much to calm my anxiety.

Siberian Accentor
Siberian Accentor
After last week's individual on Shetland, which was the UK's first record, found on the 9th and stayed until the next day, I spent the rest of the week being very gripped, and dreaming of another individual turning up, preferably on the mainland...
I awoke shortly before 2am on Friday morning, got picked up at 2.15, and we subsequently began the journey northwards, ensuring that we were on site for first light.
We arrived at Easington at 6.40am, and although I expected quite a few birders to be on site already, it was a bit of a surprise to find around 400 people lurking around the bushes on Vicar's Lane in the pre-dawn murkiness. At about 7.15, the call went out that the bird was visible (it was still dark), and the excessive stampede of tick-hungry twitchers ploughed forth. A few seconds later and I was watching it perched on the skip, until it flew into the skip, then went on to the ground to feed. Surprisingly, the bird seemed pretty unfazed to all of the madness, pushing and running going on and continued to perform in the half-light. I was extraordinarily happy that it had stayed the night!

Spurn Bird Observatory volunteers did a very good job of efficiently organising the twitch and directed all twitchers into an ever-increasing queue. A few hundred birders were in the queue at any one time, and queuing time was about 20 minutes coupled with a few minutes of viewing the bird. The accentor was constantly on show, sometimes feeding with Dunnocks, so everyone who had queued was able to get good views of it. If visiting Spurn, please follow on-site directions from volunteers and parking instructions, which can be found here as well as recent sightings:

Siberian Accentors in the Western Palearctic this Autumn...

Siberian Accentor is a species which breeds predominantly across Russia and in parts of Mongolia and China, and winters in parts of China, North Korea, and South Korea. The past two weeks have seen an unprecedented influx of the species into northwestern Europe (excluding Russia) with apparently just over 50 individuals discovered in the past 13 days (04 October - 16 October 2016), with 12 new individuals discovered today (16 October) alone. As of today there has now been 4 British records of the species, with one found in Cleveland yesterday and another in Durham today. A map of sightings can be found here:

After about 9.30, the queue was fairly non-existent, and the accentor was still on show giving very close views in slightly better light. We moved on to Kilnsea, and on the way here I picked out a Woodcock flying past, seen from the car. We headed just past the Bluebell Cafe, where a confiding Shorelark was frivolously frolicking in the grass.

Shorelark  - my fourth this year
As I was watching the Shorelark, I was interrupted by a tweet notification from Spurn Bird Obs to say that a Dusky Warbler had been caught and ringed, and would be shown at Church Field in fifteen minutes. A quick sprint back and I was in Church Field, where I was joined by around 200-300 other birders waiting to see the bird. Due to the number of people wanting to see it, close views weren't obtained and it was subsequently released.

Dusky Warbler

We started walking back to Bluebell, when a second Woodcock flew past, and another birder informed us that an Olive-backed Pipit had been seen in the long grass near the Shorelark. Another quick sprint and I joined the crowd of birders looking for the OBP. Whilst waiting, a gaggle of White-fronted Geese flew over, calling.

Migrating White-fronted Geese

After about 15 minutes, the OBP was seen and took flight, calling once. I only had brief flight views but it was still good to see!

Olive-backed Pipit - photography at its best
The area was pretty much heaving with masses of migrant Goldcrests, thrushes, and Robins.

Migrant Fieldfares and Redwings
I had another quick look at the Shorelark before briefly checking two churchyards for previously reported Pallas's Warbler and Rose-coloured Starling, of which there was no sign. We also briefly stopped off at Canal Scrape, where a single Jack Snipe was bobbing in the cut reeds.
After this, we went back to Vicar's Lane, Easington, to have another look at the Siberian Accentor. The crowds here had massively reduced and there was no queue. The accentor was still constantly on show, and performed amazingly.

Within a few minutes of arriving here, the accentor hopped even closer and spent a few minutes tossing leaves around, c. two metres in front of me.

Not a good photo, but it's uncropped
Not a good photo, but it's unedited and uncropped just to show how close the bird was
A nice photo of  a Dunnock

Incredible views and quite possibly one of the best birds I've ever seen!
We left here at about 12:30 and began the journey home.

Spurn - it's a right place.


Saturday, 8 October 2016

Eastern Crowned Warbler

As my jolly alarm roused me into the realm of consciousness earlier this week at 1:45am, I pondered the question - am I really this mad? I quickly concluded yes, and set off into the night. Shortly after being picked up, we ploughed northwards (primarily up the A1(M)) for six hours. A few minutes before we reached our destination of Holy Island, at around 08:20, we were greeted with the dreaded pager message of 'No sign of White's Thrush this morning'. Disaster. We continued onto Holy Island where we concluded that there was in fact no sign of the White's Thrush.

Holy Island
The infamous willows
Migrating Barnacle Geese on the Northumberland coast
We then made the quick trip of just four hours to Bempton Cliffs, for the main target of the day - Eastern Crowned Warbler. This Phylloscopus leaf-warbler's home range is eastern Asia, and the Bempton Cliffs individual represents only the fourth record for Britain (ninth for Western Palearctic), well done to the finder David Aitken! Arriving in the overflow car park early afternoon, I quickly joined the gathered crowd of twitchers watching the bird and within a few minutes it was on show, spending the next couple of hours showing absolutely stupidly well!

Eastern Crowned Warbler

The assembled crowd of twitchers
Incredible views of down to five metres were had, and it was so great to finally grip back on this species after missing the two previous twitchable UK birds. It was feeding well all afternoon, catching flies at a near-constant rate, so it came as no surprise to me that it was gone by the next morning after it's three day stay (the same duration as the previous two twitchable birds). 

Gannets with a backdrop of Filey Brigg
Gannet gliding at Bempton

"Tseeoweet" - the distinctive call of a Yellow-browned Warbler. At the edge of the thicket where the Eastern Crowned was present, one or two Yellow-browed Warblers hopped out into view, providing my best views to date of this charismatic species, and a nice contrast to the usual obscured fleeting glimpse through sycamore foliage.

Yellow-browed Warbler
No albatrosses
At Bempton, neither the Arctic or the Greenish Warbler showed, and the Bluethroat seen earlier in the day had performed a vanishing act too. After quite a while watching the ECW, we moved onto Flamborough Head where the Taiga Bean Goose was still present on North Marsh, concealed in the midst of a throng of Greylags. It was nice to have reasonable views of this subspecies after dipping multiple times in the Norfolk Broads over the years.

Tree Sparrow - Bempton
Tree Sparrows
'Migrating' Feral Pigeons on the Yorkshire coast - vismig at its best!
Flamborough Cliffs
Taiga Bean Goose
Day 14... The Greylags still think I'm one of them...
Flamborough Head
We began the journey back, and I arrived home at 10pm, after what had been a great day out. But just don't mention White's Thrush to me…

Happy birding,