This all started at lunchtime on Thursday when I returned from lectures to see that the 3rd British record of Eastern Crowned Warbler had turned up in Cleveland. After a quick look I figured public transport would be possible but drawn out and very expensive. I did happen to notice on the NGB Facebook page that Matt Bruce had said he was going up. Having only met Matt once I felt a bit cheeky asking for a lift, but after my afternoon lectures I decided to just do it, the worst that could happen was that he would say no.
Matt very kindly offered to take me up for the bird, providing that it stayed. It was there on Friday night, so Matt, Zac Hinchcliffe and I sort out travel and times for a trip up on the Saturday. I awoke at half four after 3 hours kip, just in time to meet my flatmates coming back from Halloween. I began my journey but realised quickly enough I had read the bus times wrong and that my trip to Meadowhall could be closer than I had anticipated. It worked out well in the end, as it resulted in me walking down to the bus station so saving a quid and still making it in time to meet Matt at the interchange.
We set off for Leeds to pick Zac up, still in darkness, but had a 40 min wait in Leeds so had time to grab some caffeine to try and push me through. The rest of the journey up was unbroken, although I managed to get us lost twice, but in doing so allowed Zac to find a flock of around 16 Migrating Whooper Swans on a junction above our turn off.
We arrived at our destination after I sent us wrong 4 times. The bird was reported in during our trip and as such we were positive that today would not be a dipping day. When we arrived at the actual site the bird was not found, but there were more than enough birders looking.
Not 10 mins after we arrived the bird was apparently found and the chaos ensued. Of course it was a stringy Chiffchaff, but I did not even see that. This had clustered the birders in one spot around the base of the tree. It was 5 mins after this that the actual bird was found, further into the wood again. It had taken up in the seeming only leafy tree in the whole wood, and some of the descriptions filtering around to its location meant that it took about 10 mins before I had managed to pick it up.
My views then were obscure for a bit, but I saw the bird clear enough, only lacking the crown stripe. However, after some more watching and poor instructions the bird came and sat out in the open in incredible light for a good minuet or so, giving the best views I could have hoped for. The nature of the wood meant that the bird was already quite close, but it was still difficult to see the crown stripe as it was above us.
It took a short while before I was able to see it head on and properly see the stripe. From that I was satisfied with the bird, that I had seen it properly and that no matter what the trip had been worth it. Only the 3rd British record (Not the first time I have written that this autumn) and the first for Yorkshire (Also not the first time). I was able to get some great record shots, though not really of the crown but of all the other features, such as the bill and overall shape. What a bird, a real stunner.
-Eastern Crowned Warbler
After the bird showed so well and moved on we decided to do the same. We planned to find a Rough-Legged Buzzard, possibly going for the Grindale bird, the same one that flew over me at Filey. However, 3 were reported at Skelton so we decided to head there instead. We arrived to find quite a few cars there already, birders who had been for the ECW and had since moved on.
There were a few raptors in the sky, but most were Common Buzzards. However, it did not take long for a Rough-Legged to be found, soaring over the ridge but very distant. It soon became 2 birds over the ridge and they began to come closer but gained altitude all the way before deciding to go back away from us and across the valley. When they banked you could see all the features, another lifer, but sadly a little too distant for any good record shots.
After a bit when the Buzzards had moved on so did we. We headed down the road, following the direction of the buzzards with plans to get to Spurn. Just over the hill on the other side of the valley we spotted one of the Rough-Legged Buzzards flying above the trees quite low and looking good. It was flying so low and then came closer, flying almost over us.
The bird had been carrying a piece of dirt, but when it was much closer to us it decided to drop it and then try and catch it again. It failed to re-catch it but it did mean that the bird banked and showed off all its plumage so close to us. It meant I was able to improve on my record shots. What a stunner, and made all the better as an encounter like this what not what we had expected.
-Rough Legged Buzzard
The Buzzard flew overhead and then went down the far side of the hill, lost to sight. As such we decided to move on. We lost internet connection and as such ended up a little unsure of where to go for our little tour of the North Yorkshire Moors. In the end we made it to the main road and we were able to make our way down to Spurn.
Along the way we picked up a few bits and pieces such as Sparrowhawk, Redwing and other roadside birds. We arrived at Spurn with around 2 hours of daylight left for birding. As soon as we arrived we found the location of the bird that we all wanted, the Black Brant. However, it was in a flock of around 100 common Brents and as such we knew we had a task on our hands to try and find it. Fortunately Zac was on the ball and managed to pick it out after not too much looking. It had been sat down when we arrived but once it stood up the difference between it and the other Brents was striking. The neck collar was so much wider and the flanks so much whiter. Not quite a lifer lifer, but a sub-species lifer none the less, and another great bird to see for the day.
We soon left the goose and headed down to the warren. We walked along the cliff top to the Seawatching hut but it was very quiet and not much was about. It was only half 2 but already felt later, with the sun already setting. We called in at the seawatching hide but there was not much moving. Matt picked out a Red-Throated Diver and that was the highlight.
We then checked the estuary for waders, of which there were many, but nothing much different. We decided to do the triangle to hopefully find some stuff. As soon as we started we spotted a Sparrowhawk doing a mad one over the estuary, if hunting it was doing a pretty poor job. Next, on Clubleys we spotted a few winter thrushes feeding close to the ground. Of the birds I saw I got 2 Redwings and a Fieldfare, the latter being my first of the autumn. Already the walk was reaping dividends.
Along Canal Bank we spotted Reed Bunting, a couple of nice Goldcrests and a few Redshanks on Canal Scrape. The highlight of this bit of the walk was when we found a female Bullfinch at Rose Cottage, only the second record for Spurn this year, and also a Spurn tick for me. It was one of the days highlights seeing that, just to put it into perspective.
It was already quite dusky when we finished off. We finished off by walking along the beach to see if we could find any Snow Buntings. I was along the cliff top while Zac and Matt were on the actual beach, and it was they who found the single Snow Bunting hunkered up against the cliff edge. It was so approachable and easy to get great views of as it scurried on the cliff, even drinking from a puddle. We were able to get so close and got exceptional views of it. This was one of my worst misses on my yearlist so I was very pleased we had found one, especially one that was showing like this. What a little beauty.
That was the final bird that we saw, actually at Spurn. On the way out, but still in the recording area we found a group of about 8 swans of which 2 were Whoopers. Not a bad end to an exceptional days birding. Its great that my first NGB twitch and we got all the species we wanted. What a day. Thank you for Matt Bruce and Zac Hinchcliffe for taking me along, and helping me to see some great birds. Its one of the best days birding I have ever had.
Driving: Pheasant, Sparrowhawk, Woodpigeon, Whooper Swan, Blackbird, Redwing, Pied Wagtail, Moorhen, Coot, Kestrel,
Brotton Golf Course: Chaffinch, Carrion Crow, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Blackbird, House Sparrow, Starling, Jackdaw,
Skelton: Peregrine, Meadow Pipit, Rough-Legged Buzzard, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Red Grouse,
Spurn: Great Tit, Sparrowhawk, Dunlin, Redshank, Curlew, Little Egret, Brent Goose (Black Brant), Pink-Footed Goose, Graylag Goose, Goldcrest, Blackbird, Redwing, Fieldfare, Black-Headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Greater Black-Backed Gull, Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, Mallard, Oystercatcher, Snow Bunting, Bullfinch, Stonechat, Shelduck, Cormorant, Lapwing, Chiffchaff, Greenfinch, Starling, Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit, Red-Throated Diver, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Moorhen