Saturday, 22 October 2016

Isabelline Wheatear at Easington 20th Oct 2016

CJW was supposed to be on holiday this week, but he kindly volunteered to go into work on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The decision nearly backfired on him when an ISABELLINE WHEATEAR turned up at Easington. It was still present on Wednesday evening and so on his first available day off, Thursday, we headed off back to Spurn for my fourth visit of the Autumn so far.

We parked up in the old bus depot again and walked along the road to the sea front. We headed south along the cliff face and soon saw a small group of birders stood by a ploughed field. We started scanning in the direction they were looking but neither of us could see it. We asked for directions only for them to point at the Isabelline Wheatear literally a few feet away on the edge of the field. To say it was showing well was an understatement.  

We visited the same old haunts again; did a bit of seawatching and walked round the triangle but there just wasn't much around today. We even managed to form a small twitch when we found a Redstart on the beach!

Isabelline Wheatear at Easington

For those one bird wonders amongst you, well this is my 3rd Isabelline Wheatear in Britain. I ticked the Cemlyn Bay bird in 2006 and then saw the Spurn bird in November 2011.
Isabelline Wheatear at Spurn in Nov 2011
Well thats probably it for October. Not too bad a month with Siberian Accentor, Red-eyed Vireo, Stejneger's Stonechat, Isabelline Wheatear, 2x OBP, Dusky Warbler, 2x Pallas's Warbler, Red-breasted Fly, Yellow-browed Warbler, Shore Lark...

Now when you spend hours travelling up and down the country, you often have some wonderful conversations. Its all part of the birding experience. Well today I was walking round a local Staffordshire site which I visit quite frequently when somehow we started talking about this next song. I'd never heard of this song and so I was sent the link to view it. I just knew I had to include it in the blog. I've included the version with the lyrics for you to read. Its just bizarre..

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The Red-eyed Vireo at Porthgwarra

Following the exertions of Friday's trip, we decided that we would probably pop back over to Spurn on the Saturday, arriving midday ish after everything had been found. We had our usual leisurely stroll around Westport and then set the sat nav for Spurn. As we sat on the car park, CJW suddenly announced that he felt there was enough for us to see in Staffs and so why didn't we stay local today instead. Not wanting to cause an embarassing scene on the car park I reluctantly agreed. And it turned out to be a decent day in the county after all.

During the afternoon as we were watching a leaf fall at Branston as it was more interesting than the birds on show, news came of yet another REV; this time in Cornwall at Porthgwarra. For those of you who haven't been alongside me for the last 15 years, you might not know but REV is my second most dipped bird. I've managed to dip at least three times, maybe four over the years. The worse dip was probably the time in 2008. We'd dipped the Nanjizal ALDER FLYCATCHER on the Friday (having managed to get a legitimate day off as well!). Then the next day, a REV turned up at Trevilley Farm near Lands End. It stayed all week and was still present on the Friday evening. So off we headed for the second time in eight days to Cornwall. And we stood there for four hours. And then we drove home.

This year I almost contemplated heading to Scilly for the St Agnes birds but as the week went on reports gradually faded. And while we were at Bempton watching the Dusky Warbler, one was trapped at Portland never to be seen again.

So back to the Porthgwarra bird. There were a few more reports during the afternoon and I started to think about heading down. But there was always a nagging doubt that the same would happen this time. In the end CJW persuaded me to head down. We left home at 03:30hrs.

The journey down was fantastic. We even had a closed M6 from J10 to J7 only to be opened just as we arrived. It was wet though, and all the way through Somerset and Devon the rain was torrential; reducing our speed down to 70mph at times. 

We'd received no news by the time we dropped down to Porthgwarra, but we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of birders present. We also received the news that the REV had been seen at 07:30hrs but not since. The sun was out, it was warming up nicely, and we stood and waited. We had a spell outside looking in, and a spell inside looking up. And after two hours, most of the birders had headed off, leaving only a handful behind. 

We had our dinner and decided to walk up the valley to where we saw the YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO. It was quite pleasant still, and we were spurred on by the fact that just round the next corner, we could find an American passerine. We dropped down into the valley and walked deep through the cover. Northern Parula, Waterthrush, Ovenbird....there was no sign of any, but we still dreamt.

Faced with yet another REV dip, we headed back towards the car park with the intention of driving out of the valley to where we could find a phone signal and sit and ponder our next sorry move. I tried not to get depressed but it was sickening having been in this exact situation so many times before.

We walked past the wood and I was quite surprised to see a large crowd of birders all standing inside looking up. I stood next to one and half-heartedly asked if it had been seen again. "Yes" she said "about ten minutes ago but we've sort of lost it now".

I stayed quite calm, and ask in which direction it was moving. It was heading inland, so I walked back up the road to the next section of wood that you could enter. There was just me and an old lady present. She was looking up in some trees and she beckoned me over. "I think its up here" she said. And sure enough there was a bird flitting about. On my first view I just saw gleaning white underparts, but with the wind and the swaying trees the views were only fleeting. I carefully tried to call CJW over without causing a mass stampede. I waved, and then whistled and finally he saw me. "He's got it over here" he announced to the crowd.

And then it came out into view. It was a Red-eyed Vireo sat in full view in front of me. It was an odd experience really. And at the moment I was only thinking of one thing. My co-pilot on all those previous dips to Scilly and Cornwall. You go into battle when you go twitching. Sometimes its easy. Other times its hard. Sometimes you feel its getting personal and someone is picking on you. And then sometimes you win. I'd not felt like this at a twitch for a long long time.

I stood next to my old lady friend and patted her on her back. I even made sure she didn't fall over and CJW found the bird again for her so she could get a photo. I then turned round to speak to her and she was gone. I looked all over the place but she had simply vanished. Who was this mysterious women who had helped us? Was she sent by someone maybe? 

Here endeth the quest for the REV.

CJW with our saviour
What was left of the birders after 3hrs searching
A photo by someone of the REV. Thanks for letting me use your pic on my blog

This blog entry is dedicated to GAS.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Autumn finally gets going - Siberian Accentor at Easington

During the afternoon of Thursday 13th October, news was released that there was a SIBERIAN ACCENTOR at Easington in East Yorkshire. It had been wildly predicted that more would arrive following the first Shetland bird, but no one expected it only a matter of days after the first for Britain. 

There were no issues at all in organising everyone for this twitch. Amazingly everyone was available. Except for CJW who was due to meet a friend in York for the day, and PLo was at work, and PJ was heading down to Norfolk for a few days. Oh and it was my last day at work before being off for a week. 

I arrived with CJW at 06:00hrs and we parked in the old bus depot just off the square in Easington. The place was already rammed even at this hour, and when we walked up Vicars Lane to get in position, we were met with a crowd of 200+ already crammed round a small gap in the hedge. It was six or seven deep at this stage and I couldn't even see the floor. If it was still present, and on view, then it would have to be eight foot off the ground for me to see it.

Tensions were already running high. Two lads next to me had a very intense argument, only for the bloke standing next to them to get involved as well. There were also rumblings that other birders were wading into the hedge and getting too close. The wardens arrived but nothing was done about it. 

Then, all of a sudden, the large crowd that we were stood in moved forward en masse into the hedge. It was the weirdest co-ordinated thing you'd ever seen. Then more arguments erupted; my favourite was the one when someone accused the person next to him of leaning on him. Apparently he didn't like it. Forget the scopes permanently being banged in your face, its the leaning he didn't like! It was becoming a fantastic spectacle.

This made the volunteers move in. They started telling everyone to move out of the wood and start to form a queue by the fence. I quickly thought that if I was first in the queue, then I would see the bird first, and so I stood where I was supposed to. A queue was slowly forming, and the wood/hedge was slowly emptying until.....the Siberian Accentor came into view. Everyone legged it back into the wood. Fortunately I managed to see it straight away perched on the skip, but CJW, who was stood in front of me, was just slightly too short to see over the crowd. I was trying my best to find him a gap, and (bizarrely when we discussed it afterwards) I even tried to pick him up so he could see it. 

As requested, after seeing the bird we walked to the back of the queue, and eventually the whole twitch became a well organised event. On every visit, the light became better and I even managed a bit of video. As to the other Clayheads, well PLo eventually turned up at 07:30hrs following his lie in, and PJ had stayed the night in Easington on the way to Norfolk and we eventually caught up with him. It was another fantastic and memorable occasion.  

We headed off to Kilnsea where we enjoyed quite a decent few minutes of birding. A Shore Lark was showing well by the Bluebell Cafe. Then we met up again with the @AngryYoungBirders from earlier in the crowd, and they had just found an OBP (thats Olive-backed Pipit for those who struggle with abbreviations). We stood and waited and eventually it flew out of the grass calling. A Jack Snipe was showing well from the canal scrape hide and then we had a Woodcock in flight.

We met up with Russell B and wandered up to the churchyard but in the end we decided to head back up to Vicars Lane. By now, the crowds had died down, and we could have as long as we wanted at the front of the crowd. The light was better and with the bird showing down to a few feet, we had quite good views.

Siberian Accentor at Easington

Exhaustion was now setting in, so we headed off to Hull for some dinner. As we drove back, news broke of a PIED WHEATEAR on Flamborough Head. With the chance of a "Basil Brush" for CJW, we headed off as soon as the sat nav was reset. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived, it had flown off and there was no further sign. We headed over to Bempton where we spent an hour or two chasing a vocal Dusky Warbler. Another fantastic day out on the East coast.

CJW's compilation video follows


Monday, 10 October 2016

probable Stejneger's Stonechat at Donna Nook

Thursday 22nd September 2016
I had a day owing so I decided to join CJW in his trip to Devon to see the Lesser Grey Shrike on Mount Batten Point, near Plymouth. A part of the world we had never visited, and with blue sky and flat calm sea it made it an extremely picturesque location. We even managed to have a go at a photographer for getting too close to the LGS and flushing it. What more could you ask for.

We then visited Prawle Point where we eventually found a family party of Cirl Buntings following an hours search.

Female (ish) Cirl Bunting at Prawle Point
The following weekend was spent in Staffordshire where I finally managed to add an extremely elusive Pectoral Sandpiper to my Branston GP list having been on holiday for the last bird.

Saturday 8th October 2016
Following an extremely good week for the east coast, there was just enough birds still left for us to see. A full car containing PJ, PLo and myself headed off to Lincolnshire first and to Donna Nook. Our target was a probable Stejneger's Stonechat. It was a bit of a gamble for insurance purposes but the bird is a decent potential future split. And when it is split, then Johnny Comelately will be shooting off to see one. While we will just back and say "Not even a Lincolnshire tick". I did as much homework as I could for the site, and we even had directions from Dave Hursthouse who we met in the car park. We set off, following the directions as closely as we could and we still ended up stood on the beach waiting for the next seal to come along to help us. Then we spotted our saviour in the distance. He was walking quite purposefully straight towards us. We held our breath and asked him. "Sort of" he replied. "Its the semi-blind leading the blind" he said. 

But within a few moments we were watching quite a smart Stonechat sp, with a fabulous pinky rump and white throat. There was also a Whinchat present. 

A couple of video grabs you can study and say Hmm

Stejneger's Stonechat probably

Having had our fill, we set off on the 1+ mile plus walk back to the car park. And soon after our arrival, we were watching one, then two Pallas's Warblers showing extremely well. Autumn had arrived!

Pallas's Warbler at Donna Nook by PJ
Despite being only 11 miles across the water, we opted to use the roads instead and drive round to Spurn. There had been a bit of a clear out, but at our first stop in Easington we saw a Red-breasted Flycatcher and YBW, and straight afterwards fantastic views of an Olive-backed Pipit in the gas compound. A second YBW was in the Crown & Anchor and we then relaxed and enjoyed the sun. As with Norfolk last year, we were literally falling over Goldcrests. In fact, we managed to catch three ourselves with our bare hands, and they made a very tasty snack. 

videograb of OBP at Easington
Goldcrests at Kilnsea - so tasty! by PJ