I had a rotten weekend. I had just arrived back at uni and was on my way back from town after re-seeing the sights when the local grapevine sent me a text informing me of a Masked Shrike at spurn. I had spent 7 weeks there and now, 2 weeks later, possibly the rarest bird of the year has turned up. Needless to say, my day way ruined.
That was Saturday. It stayed until Sunday, and as such I began to make preparations for a twitch up there. On Monday I began the biggest twitch of my birding career. I decided that no risks could be taken, and as such I went for the first train of the day; 5.30. This meant a 4.30 start, not what I am used to that's for sure.
I arrived in Hull for 7.15, just as the bus was pulling out. Not a disaster but did mean an hour wait for the next one. I spent my time chilling and drawing masked shrikes. I knew that I was to contact Paul when I arrived in Patrington, who had kindly offered to pick me up, and as such I had shaved plenty of time off my potential journey. Once I made it onto the bus it all ran smoothly and I arrived at Spurn itself for around 11.
Paul said that he would drop me off at the Shrike as soon as I arrived, avoiding the risk that I might miss it. I therefore arrived with all my gear but incredibly optimistic as Paul had informed me that the bird was still there. I struggled to pick it up at first it was so far away, so far I could not pick out any of the key features on the bird. I spent about an hour watching the bird, but I failed to pick out any features that allowed me to identify it as a Masked simply because it was so far away. Obviously my camera is broken, but I would have been unable to photograph it anyway.
What I saw was obviously a shrike but only when it was in flight could you really see the lack of colour on the bird that made it not a woodchat. After about an hour though I decided to leave and come back hoping the bird would have come closer. Do not get me wrong, having seen the bird I was over the moon, and I was so relieved given all I gone through to get there.
I headed to the warren to dump my gear and have a breather (and lunch). After a short break I wandered up to numpties watchpoint to have a look. Rob was there and as such I got to chat to a familiar face, while eavesdropping his radio.
I was not there long before his radio buzzed that there was a Yellow-Browed Warbler at the warren. I could see Nathan down by the roadside, so assumed that's where it was, so rushed down there. When I arrived I was informed that the bird had been lost but that it was still in there. It did not take long for it to make an appearance. Through the scope I got simply incredible views, though its movements were irregular and it was difficult to keep track of.
I was even more embittered about the whole camera situation now, the second lifer, as this one was more photograph-able than the previous. However, there was a photographer there who I spoke to and kindly let me borrow his, so here are a few photos of the Yellow-Browed Warbler.
I have to say, that I was possibly more pleased about this than the shrike, possibly because it was more unexpected and possibly because it was so much closer so I could identify it for myself. It was a simply stunning bird, and is hopefully the first of many.
-Yellow-Browed Warbler (Not my photos)
The warbler remained hit and miss, so after a spell of extended showing I decided to go back to the Masked Shrike to see what it was doing. This was a good decision, as it had moved significantly closer, possibly due to the change in wind direction. What this meant was that the bird was now on the northern line of the hedge as opposed to the eastern side. It was soon so close that the scope was no longer required and all the features could be made out with bins alone.
It was simply stunning, a really beauty. It was interesting to note that it had a pink flush, but only on one side. All the other features were equally as beautiful, the complexion of its plumage simply sublime. I was so grateful that it had come closer so I could fully appreciate it. Initially I was a little disappointed it was so far away, but now all my work had paid off.
Alas for my lack of camera, so as a result I have gathered the best photos of the bird from the internet. If I have upset anyone by doing this drop me a line and I will amend my mistake, but I would hate for the bird to only be remembered by memories, even if its not actually through my photos.
-Masked Shrike (Not my photos)
It soon stopped coming closer and began to move further away from the watchpoint. It would fly from the fence onto the floor with lovely fluttering and diving before coming back to the fence either closer of further away depending on what it had been doing.
Since it was moving off I too made that call and headed back. I had hoped to pick up red-breasted flycatcher in the churchyard. While I was there one bloke claimed to have one, but I checked out the same bird and it was pied, though I think some of the people there may have taken his word for it. Sadly I did not pick up RBF today.
I next headed to Canal Scrape where there was meant to be a Jack Snipe showing right in front of the hide. I arrived but could not see it. I got scoffs of discontent when I asked, but arrogance is their problem I guess. I was directed to a patch of grass but it still took a while to pick it up, remarkable given how close it was to us. As soon as it started bobbing though I managed to see it. In all the ticks of the day I failed to mention that I had now surpassed my life list at the start of the year in 2014 alone, and that Jack Snipe was my 202nd species of the year, the shrike being the 200th.
The Snipe showed incredibly well, the best views of the species I have ever had, the previous being only flushed birds. Now the lack of camera was a real issue, but since it was so close I decided to try with the compact. Not great but at least you can tell what it is, and that is an improvement on anything else I have had. It was a little stunner and photos are not necessary to remember that.
The evenings seawatch was not what it had been during my time working, but there were a couple of flocks of Barnacle Geese that came in off the sea. They flew right over us and up the Humber giving great views. It was just so nice to be back after being away, seeing old faces, re-seeing the sights and seeing new great birds, what a day and what a trip. It did wear me out, and I was in bed by 9.30.
Spurn YWT: Swallow, Redstart, Masked Shrike, Skylark, Reed Bunting, Song Thrush, Whinchat, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Blackbird, Pied Flycatcher, Chiff-Chaff, Yellow-Browed Warbler, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Starling, Carrion Crow, Little Egret, Jack Snipe, Arctic Skua,