Thursday, 29 August 2013

East Coast Drifting

The fall continued throughout Monday with drift migrants continuing to litter the east coast from Kent to Shetland. Austin had managed to book a day off on Tuesday so together with Alex we planned an early morning raid on Spurn. This hallowed peninsula had seen a fall of 25+ Wryneck on Sunday and still held a number of relatively easy ticks for all three of us. After some questionable navigation, the guys picked me up around 05.30, slightly later than planned, and we headed east along the M62 arriving at Spurn some time after 08.00. Upon arrival we made a beeline for Beacon Lane in Kilnsea as both Icterine and Barred Warblers had already been found there. Alex staked out the Icterine near the entrance to the caravan park while me and Austin headed up the lane after the Barred. True to form the Barred was a skulky little bastard, only showing intermittently in flight or perched up for a split second, and to my utter frustration several other birders managed to see it while we were searching. After half an hour of missing the bird I was at my wits end and was punctuating every sentence with a few choice expletives. News of other good birds further down the peninsula had me keen to move on so we met Alex where we'd left him and decided on a plan of action.

Alex was in a much more positive frame of mind than me and as he needed Icky he encouraged us to stick it out on Beacon Lane. Begrudgingly I agreed and me and Austin trudged, rather dejectedly, back the way we'd come. About half way up the lane however our luck changed as we met a guy watching an incredibly settled Wryneck, perched up in a tree at the edge of the caravan park, giving great views! Knowing that he needed it, I rang Alex who hotfooted it up the lane and got good views before the bird flew out of view. Elated he mentioned that he thought he'd been watching the Icky near the caravan park entrance so we decided to sack off the Barred Warbler and go and help him look. With a group of birders in tow we made our way down Beacon Lane to the correct spot and sure enough the Icterine Warbler duly popped up giving great views as it perched up on a dead stem.

Icterine Warbler (c) Austin Morley

Both Alex and Austin were over the moon having already bagged 2 ticks, however I was starting to feel rather antsy. The number of ticks in different places around the peninsula kept distracting me leaving me unsure of which direction to head it. Once again it was Alex who calmed me down agreeing to my suggestion that we head down the peninsula stopping to bag the Red-Backed Shrike at the Warren. This was music to my ears and after a short drive we pulled up at the Warren to find a guy watching the bushes where the shrike had been a couple of minutes prior to our arrival. After a few minutes wait the nerves began to set in but my worries were unfounded as the juvenile RED-BACKED SHRIKE duly arrived, flying down the fenceline from the direction of the obs. After hiding in the dense vegetation the bird showed well before heading north from bush to bush in the direction of Kilnsea. A really smart bird and one that I've longed to see since I started birding all those years ago. My day was finally on the right track!

Juvenile Red-backed Shrike (c) Austin Morley

Feeling more relaxed, we headed down towards the point stopping at post 61 to look for the apparently showy juvenile Red-breasted Flycatcher. We met a birder who had seen it 5 minutes prior to our arrival but despite an hour spent searching the area with a number of other birders we could only locate a Pied Flycatcher and a Redstart for our trouble. Amazingly while we were searching one area another birder had the RBF, a male Red-backed Shrike and an Icterine Warbler less than 100m away from us but for whatever reason the shout didn't reach us. Slightly frustrated we decided to head down to the point to look for the apparently showy Barred Warbler that had been seen earlier in the day. I should've known this was a mistake from the off and as I arrived at the Barred Warbler twitch I was informed, by Steve Webb no less, that the bird typically had only been seen intermittently giving brief views. At this point my stupid decision was compounded by a report of the Red-breasted Flycatcher showing well at the wire dump. At this point I was kindly offered a lift back there by a local birder and decided to cut my losses leaving Austin and Alex birding around the point.

Almost immediately after my arrival, another birder located the juvenile RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER which proceeded to give cracking views as it made feeding forays from a favoured perch in the shade at the base of a hawthorn bush. The bird was incredibly pale underneath and the bold white eye ring and diagnostic black and white tail pattern made it unmistakeable. My second tick of the day and incredibly my 10th in August! After watching it for a while I wandered slowly back down to the point picking up Spotted Flycatcher and Wheatear, only to find that Alex and Austin had somehow driven past me and were watching the Red-breasted Flycatcher! I therefore made the long walk back to post 61 where I found them photographing the flycatcher which was still perched in the same hawthorn.

Juvenile Red-breasted Flycatcher (c) Austin Morley

Whilst speaking to other birders we had learned of a couple of Wrynecks that were giving incredible views as they fed along the verges of Easington Road between Kilnsea and the Crown and Anchor. Austin and Alex were keen to get some photos so we headed up there and after a short search we were whistled over by Steve Webb who had located one of the bird on the verge right next to the pub. I wandered over and was astounded to see a Wryneck feeding on the grass no more than 30ft away! The bird did not seem at all fazed by our presence and fed away happily allowing us to appreciate the intricate cryptically barred plumage in all its detail. At one point, the bird even perched up woodpecker style in a small dead tree, a behaviour I was thrilled to witness in the field. It was also nice to have a chat to Steve Webb, an absolutely lovely guy and a true legend of the twitching scene! Satisfied we headed back towards the car only to find a group of birders watching a second Wryneck showing just as closely! This bird also gave stonking views and it was at this point that I decided that Wryneck had probably managed to pip Manx Shearwater as my favourite British bird. Both birds were astoundingly showy and I doubt I'll ever get better views of the species again! Austin managed to capitalise on the occasion getting a series of stunning pictures, a selection of which are shown below.

Wryneck (c) Austin Morley

Wryneck (c) Austin Morley

Wryneck (c) Austin Morley

After appreciating the Wrynecks in all their glory we headed back to Kilnsea with the aim of doing a seawatch. However while Alex was getting a drink at the Bluebell news came through of an Icterine Warbler in the garden off Beacon Lane so we headed down there for a look. After a short wait the bird duly appeared constituting what could easily have been our second Icterine Warbler of the day. I only watched the bird briefly before learning that the Barred Warbler had been showing again further down Beacon Lane. Off I went and predictably an hour of frustration followed during which the bird remained incredibly elusive. I did manage brief flight views of it as it dived into a bush but these were in no way conclusive enough to allow me to tick it. I have a feeling that Barred Warbler is going to be a very difficult bird to get on to my British List but at least this dip gives me a target for next weekends Migration Festival. At this point all three of us were flagging so we decided to call it a day, stopping briefly to chat with Lee Evans on our way down the lane before heading to the car. On our way out of Kilnsea both Wrynecks provided us with a parting gift as they showed down to under 10ft out of the car window. A fitting end to another great days birding on the east coast! Thanks as always go to Austin for driving and to both guys for their great company! I'm likely to be out of action now until the migration festival although there is a small chance of a trip somewhere in the North West in the coming days with Grandma and my younger cousins. Hopefully the winds change for the migration festival as the current forecast of moderate westerlies leaves little hope of a plethora of birding delights. However I guess that the beauty of birding is that there's always a chance of a surprise or two!

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