Here, There & Everywhere: Part II- Spurned by Rares

So, after a day of rest at home, I set out for my second adventure…

Now, what I am about to write will almost certainly not be repeated in my birding career (barring a visit to Scotland), and certainly not of this quality I don’t think.

A Day Out in Yorkshire

Having got up at 6am, we got straight into the car & drove straight to Spurn. My dad was taking me, and we were really pleased to have Malcolm Davies, a good birding friend, tagging along. I was extremely excited, not least because I finally got to go to Spurn Point, the fabled rarity attraction, but there was a very real chance that I could get five lifers today! Unfortunately, overnight two disappeared (a Red-flanked Bluetail & Sibe Stonechat in Lincolnshire), but even three would be remarkable…

Having adopted a strategy to drive halfway there in case the bird we wanted to see had disappeared, our luck paid off when we heard that it was still present. Much more chuffed, we pressed on to Spurn, to Easington village. We parked up, got out & walked up the road to see a part of Europe’s greatest ornithological event this year… SIBERIAN ACCENTOR!!!! Unfortunately it didn’t show very well initially because it was very windy. After standing around & watching it flit around a gas terminal for a few minutes, the news came out on our pagers… there was an Isabelline Wheatear just down the road!!!! Mass hysteria broke out amongst the twitchers and we soon made our way to the beach, scrambled onto the sea wall, and there it was, sat in the field.

Here it was- my first Isabelline Wheatear. Though I didn’t know it yet, it wouldn’t be the last that I would see of this species…
The bird frequented the field near the sea wall, offering a comparison with a Northern cousin
It often hunkered down far out in the field, but occasionally came close.
Here in flight!

This Isabelline Wheatear was not extremely similar to ones in field guides, though with a striking black terminal tail band much thicker than any Northern, the ID was a no-brainer.

Pleased with an excellent start, we made our way back to the accentor, where it was showing much better. Basically a Pallas’s Warbler crossed with a Dunnock, it proceeded to sit out in the open not more than three feet away from us.


The magnificent Siberian Accentor-
a wonderful bird for the British List

Having delighted ourselves with this bird for a while, we finally made our way towards Kilnsea Wetlands, which, despite having our only dip of the day (on Jack Snipe!!), we still managed to see my third Glossy Ibis fly out of the wetlands & south towards the Point… our next destination. Spurred on by reports of Dusky Warblers & an OBP, we made the long (but very scenic) trek down the Point.

Spurn is basically the Yorkshire equivalent of Blakeney Point, except Spurn is sandy (Blakeney is shingle) and sticks out over a major estuary. As such, it is extremely good for rare birds, with the Point & surrounding areas attracting Siberian Accentor, Audouin’s Gull, Bobolink, Baillon’s Crake, Great Snipe, Pine Bunting, Rock Thrush, Masked & Brown Shrike, White’s Thrush, Pine Grosbeak, Blackpoll Warbler and Sharp-tailed Sand, along with multiple Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers, Isabelline Wheatears, Pacific Swifts, Fea’s Petrels and Black-browed Albatrosses… ALL IN THE LAST 15 YEARS.

On our way down we saw nothing but Robins for most of the time, interspersed with the odd Blackbird & a couple of Kestrels: presumably the remnants of a fall there two days ago. Some of the birds were extremely showy indeed, especially the Robins.

Super showy Robin at the Point!

But that wasn’t what we were here for. A walk round to the green beacon saw us obtain directions from a local, and soon we found the warbler site… complete with DUSKY WARBLER!! It proceeded to show fairly well with ring on leg (this was presumably one of the birds ringed earlier in the fall when there were EIGHT).

Dusky Warbler!! Normally skulking, we were very privileged to have it a few feet away.

After one final walk round we had to make our way back to avoid the tide. Having arrived back at the car (getting soaked on the way), we had one final bit on our agenda…

We had dipped on it near the fabled Crown & Anchor Pub only to realise it was near Kilnsea church instead. We parked up, ready for one last bit of birding. Having glimpsed a couple of Phylloscs in the trees above the cemetery, I went around the other side with Dad… to see a stunning PALLAS’S WARBLER in the tree!! We sat there watching the bird flick through the trees for a good 10 minutes before we made our way back to the car. It was only as we were making our way home that today sunk in…

It has always been an ambition of mine to build up a big list without going on ridiculously long twitches. Fortunately I have only had to make five so far (two to Dorset, two to Yorkshire, and one to Southern Suffolk), one of which was a dip, but the other four were monumentally good birds: Brunnich’s Guillemot (with Black Guillemot & Great Northern Diver as other lifers), Short-toed Eagle, Pacific Swift & now this.

The last time I got four lifers in a day was 8th May 2011 when I had a life list of just over 100, when I saw my first Garden Warbler, Nuthatch, Treecreeper & of course the Collared Flycatcher at Holme. 17th October 2016 changed all that: Siberian Accentor, Isabelline Wheatear, Dusky Warbler, Pallas’s Warbler. Never shall that be repeated again in my lifetime.

I would like to take this opportunity to give a huge thanks to the locals at Spurn & surrounds for keeping this area so good for birds, and I would also like to voice my discontent over the new YWT visitor centre in the Triangle. I visited the area & the location is both unsuitable & disruptive to wildlife. Personally, I’ve found visitor centres often quite good for larger reserves, of which Spurn is, but other reserves don’t have nearby buildings. So YWT, please don’t build it, for nature’s sake.

Stay tuned for Part Three, which I hope won’t be too Scilly…


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