Saturday 15 October 2016

A Tale of Eastern Promise - Yorkshire 14th October 2016

So, being stoic about that pretty little Dunnocky thing way up in Shetland at the start of the week and not despairing at the cruelty of the fates but reliving the glories of the preceding few days, appears to have been appreciated by the birding deities.

A proverbial second bite of the cherry was on offer come Thursday evening after a second Siberian Accentor graced our shores and was found grubbing around with Dunnocks in Birdersville – aka Easington on the Yorkshire coast and part of the hotspot around Spurn.

I am sure many people have the same tale at the moment but that very morning I had spoken of that second bite and that within the next few days there may well be another opportunity but hopefully on the east coast. With so many popping up around Europe surely we would continue to play a role in the story of the Siberian Autumn? When Mike Dent ambled back into the centre late afternoon and said ‘Well, you were right – one in Yorkshire’ I thought we were talking about Hawk Owls as I had been bigging them up too!

I was meant to be working Friday but after a bit of rota rearranging I secured the day off but with no idea of how I was going to get there but eventually I was left with no option other than to actually drive myself – an almost unthinkable prospect as long distance is not my thing. I was actually having dinner at Mum’s at the time all this was going on and still had to drive home, drop Andrea off and get myself sorted. What I was not expecting was the little black and white cat that we do not have to choose that evening to give birth to a litter of kits practically outside the back door. 

And so at 11pm I left Andrea in charge and a less fat cat and three tiny kittens and headed back north of the river to collect Sam, Jono and Bob.  Bob had had to bail by the time I got to Wanstead and just after midnight we hit the road proper for the drive north.

I think we arrived a little before 0430 and tried to grab a few winks but it was clear that birders were already arriving and walking down to the back garden viewing area in complete darkness and at just after six we did likewise only to find in excess of 400 variations on green already standing quietly in a huge huddle ten deep under a yellow sodium streetlight staring into some trees.  If it stayed like this it was obviously going to take some time to see it even if it was still there.  Not long after seven the first glimmer of light was visible and the trees were alive with birds with Redwings, Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, Robins, Goldcrests and Brambling all audible. We had driven up through terrible rain and it looked like it had dumped birds out of the sky. What else could be lurking?

At this stage there was an inexplicable surge from the hoard and they dashed into the little belt of trees and the fence now just visible but the local guys were now on site and turfed everyone back out onto the road where they were asked to form a queue on the pavement.  The pecking order was now completely jumbled up and surprisingly Sam and I were in the first group to be allowed in – of Jono there was no sign – and we saw it immediately perched up on the skip before it flipped out of view in the gloom. Five minutes later it reappeared and superb views were had of this dapper little Dunnock with its yellow throat and supercillium, bandit mask and stripy head. With so many people waiting for a look we soon pulled out and the next batch were allowed in before we rejoined the back of the ever lengthening queue for seconds.

The local Spurn crew then did a great job of making sure that everyone got in and had great views of the bird at just a few yards range before asking people to come back out and make room for more and we were soon in there for more views in better light.

Siberian Accentor - Jono Lethbridge

Fully satiated we ambled back to the car passing ticking Robins and zooming thrushes (including two silvery Ouzels) and Brambling erupting from the gardens. Kilnsea and Spurn beckoned and we hastened off that way.

The rest of the morning was spent trudging up and down the lanes and hedgerows and in and out of clumps of scrub and although we did not see everything on offer we did have possibly one of the most memorable vis mig experiences any of us had ever had. The first couple of hours after dawn were phenomenal with thousands of Redwings and quite a few Fieldfares scattered across fields and hedges interspersed with many more Ring Ouzels and Song Thrushes. Siskins, Redpolls, Chaffinches and the constant dweaking of Bramblings headed over and parties of Starling, Skylark and Meadow Pipit were on the move. 

Redwing - Jono Lethbridge
Goldcrest - Jono Lethbridge


Everywhere you looked there were Robins with their pure orange breast and more obvious grey surround, Goldcrests were zitting in the grass and every bush and several smart Wheatears were dotted about. Woodcock exploded from cover with about a dozen seen and one was found probing in a field and afforded magical scope views while a Jack Snipe bobbed like some demented Zebedee as it crossed the Canal Scrape pool. 

Common Snipe

Jack Snipe
Robin - Jono Lethbridge

Chiffchaffs and a few Blackcaps were seen even down on the saltmarsh and  we did not connect with any sprites but got very lucky with a Dusky Warbler that just been processed at the Obs ringing hut and was shown around prior to being exhibited to the masses down the road who were looking for a flighty OBP while a yellow faced Shorelark attracted a crowd on the beach.

Dusky Warbler

Dusky Warbler - Jono Lethbridge
Shorelark - Jono Lethbridge

A dull pretty un-yellow Yellowhammer had the pulse quicken as it bounded over but thankfully it landed and revealed itself while the paddocks at Sammy’s Point had more Ouzels hopping around along with an interesting late Pied Flycatcher and a carpet of Robins. 

Ring Ouzel

Ring Ouzel

Cracking Wheatear

Male Redstart

The seawall was alive with more Rock Robins and Boulder Chiffchaffs along with Saltmarsh Crests, Reed Buntings and a dapper Little Bunting that flew past me and David calling and immediately got pounced on. We frantically managed to get Sam onto it as this has been his bogey bird for the last 60 years (at least) and it seemed fitting that it should fall on such a memorable day with a self find at a namesake location...

Little Bunting - Jono Lethbridge
Little Bunting - Mark Murray
Little Bunting - Mark Murray

Little Bunting
Two Firecrests showed to a few feet and both Common and Black Redstarts were tail shimmying while we tried not to tread on Goldcrests in a manner not dissimilar to Sumburgh last week. 

Common Redstart - Jono Lethbridge

Common Redstart

Black Redstart


Pied Flycatcher - with large wingpatch

Pied Flycatcher - with large wingpatch

Stonechat - Jono Lethbridge

Russian White-fronted Geese were skeining in with over a hundred counted and a gaggle of nine Bean Geese on the mud had us guessing to whether there were all Tundra or not due to the variation in bill size and the wholly yellow orange bill on one of them but it would appear that all fall within the range of the more Pink-foot like of the two forms.

Bean Geese

Bean Geese & a White-front

White-fronted Geese

And so it was that we decided to head back to Easington for an untroubled look at the Accentor once again and spent some quality time with it as it shuffled like some short-legged geriatric across the mossy tarmac flicking and turning leaves in and a most Turnstony type manner! 

The weather was closing in and rain was in the air and we decided to call it a day at 3pm and get ourselves through Hull before the rush hour and over the Humber Bridge. 

Siberian Accentor

Siberian Accentor
Like many people i could not resist a little video...

Quite how I remained alert and awake to get us home I am not sure but it was a smooth journey home and I eventually crawled into my bed ay just after 10pm after 41 hours in some sort of waking state.

Mind you, I have paid for it today but was it worth it?  Oh yes and with a third Accentor now in Cleveland, it looks like the Eastern Promise still has a few surprises up her voluminous sleeves...

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