Tuesday, 26 August 2014


The Day dawned with high expectations when the easterlies blew all night with a little rain. As you have read in the title, it paid off for me, but it started slowly. I awoke early again and went for a stroll round the triangle to see what would be around. It was very quiet, but I managed to find the juvenile Cuckoo from yesterday which was good, and a nice start to the day. I had expected more migrants, little did I know that they don’t really show their faces until the afternoon.
Next time I headed up to the Seawatching hut to join the party up there. Even as I arrived things showed promising signs. An adult long-tailed skua flew past incredibly close as I arrived, but sadly too late, only in time to see its shape fly away. I decreed it not a significant view to tick and proceeded to add LTS to my list of bogey birds.
However, the skua passage was incredible, with over 60 Arctic Skuas moving, and a few Bonxies too, including the best view I have ever had of a Great Skua. 2 flew past really quite close giving clear views of all the features of the birds, especially the white wing patches which are so significant of this species.
But then, as the movement started to dry up, Jack spotted a smaller skua moving with 2 Arctics, and it was deduced that the 3rd bird was in fact a sub-adult Long-Tailed Skua, finally seen on what was my 3rd chance at the species. It was clear to see just how small it was in comparison to the 2 Arctics, so much slighter in flight. being able to watch it move from north to south the whole way, I got a full view, taking in the bird completely. I was unable to get any photos as it was so far out but obviously it was a lifer, and the first one of the day, what a way to start.
After the buzz of that I headed over to Beacon Lane to have a look for any migrants. On the way I bumped into Jack and Tim, who had just found a Garden Warbler which was skulking but could be seen. It’s only the 3rd time I have seen one. Next we wandered through Canal Scrape to see what we could find, and Tim found a Pied Flycatcher which I managed to spot under the bushes. The first one for me of the day and a fantastic spurn tick!
Throughout the day the number of Pied Flycatchers continued to increase, and I even found my own in the field at the bottom of Beacon Lane. It showed incredibly well as it scurried around the field foraging on the floor. It then moved through the hedge along the edge of the field flycatching as it went.
-Pied Flycatcher
 I moved along the lane to the ponds. Along the way I picked up 2 Whinchat and 2 Wheatear, one of which was an adult male, a stunning bird and the first one I have seen at Spurn. Both species showed quite well along the fence posts, frequently moving along as I walked down the path.
On the ponds I was disappointed by the lack of waders, but there were decent numbers of wildfowl, including a Pintail and a Wigeon. A few Teal flew in too, though they threw me into thinking they were Gadwall for some time. The other wildfowl gave nice views too, but they were too far away really to get exceptional photos.
 I moved onto the Wetlands to see what was there, but it was incredibly quiet. A few Dunlin, Yellow Wagtails and an injured Redshank were all that there was to offer. As a consequence I did not stay long. I headed back to the Warren along the road and Canalside, picking up the Pied Flycatcher in canal hedge but nothing else, in order to spend the afternoon relaxing.
…That’s when it all kicked off…
No sooner had my toast popped out of the toaster when the message came down the radio that a common rosefinch had been seen at Kew Villa. I immediately began to think about the prospect of a double lifer day, getting way too far ahead of myself.
I got a lift up there to find out that the rosefinch had been seen for a few seconds about half an hour before I arrived. It failed to show again, though I waited for about an hour until 3.00 before I decided to give up on the bird, thinking my time could probably better spent elsewhere. While I waited I did find another Pied Flycatcher in the garden, which served as mild compensation.
In the end I left and headed across to the Crown and Anchor car park where there had been a bit of stuff around. 2 Pied Flycatchers were in the car park, along with plenty of Willow Warbler, a Chiffchaff and another Garden Warbler.  I spent a good half an hour watching the Pied Flys, as they showed incredibly well along the bushes. In the sunlight they looked phenomenal.
After a bit I decided to call it quits and head back, but decided to have a quick last look in the villa to see if the rosefinch had turned up. It had not, but now apparently there was an icterine warbler too. This had been seen by a couple more people, but neither of them had a radio and as such it did not come down.
I decided to call it quits regardless. Then the message came through: ‘Wryneck, behind rose cottage’. I was all over the place, where was rose cottage, where was Andy (who had called it), where could I find someone who could tell me. In the end Jack asked Roadhouse where he was viewing from, he was on Canalside looking across. This was the one I really wanted so I dashed straight there, picking up another Pied Flycatcher along the way. Que Lifer number 2! The beauty of finally seeing a Wryneck, one of my first and most spectacular mis-identifications, was incredible. It sat upon the post and settled there for about 10 mins, sunning itself there giving incredible views. It then went down, then out to the top of a small tree where it spent some time, before moving across and hiding away in a small tree where it remained until it dropped down and was difficult to see. But I had still got great views, showing so incredibly well. It was the bird I had really wanted to see, so I was absolutely buzzing after that. The only down side was that it was too distant to get a great photo, but I managed a few record shots that will do, but they were not exceptional. 
 When the bird had gone down and seemed likely it would not be coming back up, I decided to go back to Kew to see if the birds there were showing. The icterine had now come down the radio so any personal doubts I had were laid to rest. As a consequence I headed on to Kew to see if the Icky was still showing, but of course it was not. We were stood there waiting and keeping an eye open for it when a few birds started to show all at once. It was one of those things. Apparently the icky did show at this point, but I was too distracted because a small finch like bird had come down and landed right in the open on the branch. It was pretty clear what it was given the circumstances so I grabbed the camera to hopefully grab a photo and lay al doubt to rest. It was very placid, just sat in the tree in the open and showing so well. I had a look at the photo and it confirmed what we all knew, the Rosefinch had made a re-appearance. Obviously I still had a little doubt but the 3 of us there decided we should radio it out. Sadly the radios were dead, so nobody knew about the re-appearance. The bird then dropped, but I had got great views and some photos for proof so I was chuffed to bits, lifer number 3. Not long after Jack came through checking his nets so I collared him and told him. He was also thrilled and went to go and get Roadhouse. He came out and asked to see the photo, which had fortunately come out very well. It was then confirmed as a Common Rosefinch and he commenced ringing all the people he knew to let them know.
The bird did show again a few times, often sitting out and not being skulky, but it would often disappear for long periods leaving arriving birders on edge. It showed significantly better than the icky though, and late arrivals only saw the Rosefinch. It was a drab individual but it the sun it looked fantastic, especially when it perched out in the open as it did initially. It mainly stuck to a plum tree in the garden, where it would sit before dropping down. I got fantastic views, of my four lifers it was the best shower and I got some pretty decent record shots.
-Common Rosefinch
 Of course, while the rosefinch was incredibly to see, it was not the only lifer to be had in the garden. Though it took a while and was incredibly skulky the Icterine Warbler did show on and off throughout the afternoon, before it disappeared in the evening. Sadly during its brief and intermittent showings I decided to watch it and view its key features rather than to photograph it. It was difficult as it was often obscured, but I did manage a few shots for record purposes, of which one was decent, though it was taken through a willow tree, hence the dull greenish tinge. Forth Lifer!!! Sadly quite a few people missed the Icterine due to its nature, but fortunately I was there all afternoon once it had been called and got the best of it. It was fantastic to see, and of course I was really buzzing now from all that had happened.
-Icterine Warbler
I stayed all afternoon taking the birds in whenever they showed. In addition there was also a very showy Garden Warbler which gave great views through the afternoon more often than either of the passage birds. The grey collar was clearly visible, the best view I have ever had of this species, though that in itself isn’t saying much.
By the time I left it was already early evening. The Icterine had not been seen for some time, and the rosefinch was starting to do the same. I walked back along the coast but there were no birds moving besides a few Oystercatcher, and as such I decided to not go to the Seawatching hut but to go back to the warren and celebrate an exceptional day. I was wrecked, but it had been worth it. One of the best birding days I can ever recall having.

Species List:
Seawatching: Red-Throated Diver, Arctic Skua, Great Skua, Common Scoter, Fulmar, Manx Shearwater, Common Teal, Oystercatcher, Long-Tailed Skua, Sandwich Tern, Gannet, Swift,
Mooching About: Coot, Woodpigeon, Shelduck, Snipe, Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, Greenfinch, Magpie, Common Scoter, Knot, Mallard, Linnet, Common Gull, Yellow Wagtail, Cuckoo, Swallow, Whinchat, Wheatear, Pied Flycatcher, Willow Warbler, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Whitethroat, Wren, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Ringed Plover, Herring Gull, Common Tern, Linnet, House Sparrow, Starling, Wigeon, Pintail, Gadwall, Grey Heron, Pied Wagtail, Redshank, Dunlin, Chiff-Chaff, Garden Warbler, Wryneck, 

Kew Villa: Garden Warbler, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Woodpigeon, House Martin, Swallow, Icterine Warbler, Common Rosefinch, Willow Warbler, 


  1. I need to step up my physical training just to read stuff like this! What a great day

  2. Brilliant stuff Dan, fantastic read

  3. This blog and the story from Spurn is a credit to you, keep up the good work Dan.

  4. First the quality seabirds and shorebirds and now the landbirds are making an appearence, great stuff and great photos - they don't have to be frame fillers to be memorable.

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