Friday, 31 October 2014

Another first for Yorkshire: Eastern Crowned Warbler

Started off early doors at Flamborough. Walked my usual loop round Old Fall but in reverse. The brief patch of easterlies, plus poor visibility and rain was behind the torrent of Redwings and Blackbirds coming in out of the murk. The air was filled with the calls of Redwings and occasional Song Thrushes, with Blackbirds flitting out of the hedge every few metres. This is autumn East Coast birding at it's best and a real joy to witness.

Apart from a tonne of thrushes, the loop revealed little extra, apart from four Woodcocks flushed from various bits of cover, a couple of Bramblings, three Blackcaps and a couple of Chiffchaffs. Perhaps the big bird will arrive tomorrow, or at least so I thought! Mammals were much in evidence too, with a big, smart dog Fox seen a couple of times along with a Stoat hanging out near a pile of crab apples - perhaps they were both seeking a thrush for breakfast. The most bizarre thing was a Starling that literally fell out of the sky and landed at my feet on the south cliffs. I picked it up and walked down to Old Fall where I put it in a bush. It then flew off apparently oblivious to its encounter.

Late morning and the Fieldfares started arriving, coming in over the slightly surreal sight of the Dad's Army crew filming down on North Landing beach. I looked for Catherine Zeta Jones, but alas I dipped... Not much in Holmes Gut, apart from a couple of Blackcaps, with more Bramblings up the road by North Moor Farm.

Fieldfares coming in off the sea at North Landing

I decided to have a look for the Rough-legged Buzzard up at Grindale but it was still fog-bound up there, so I returned to Flamborough. I bumped into Andy D down at Old Fall who mentioned there was a rumour of an Eastern Crowned Warbler near Redcar! No sooner had he mentioned it than a message came through that it had been confirmed. Panic! I managed to scrounge a lift with Richard, Martin and Andy up to Brotton and shortly we were on site where it was apparent the bird hadn't been seen for a couple of hours. About 50 birders were on site most hanging out where it was last seen. After a bit, I wandered off and bumped into York birders Chris and Ollie. We headed out round the small patch of woodland checking everything that moved, but the only phylloscs proved to be Chiffchaffs. Dispondency crept in as the clock ticked towards 3.30pm. Suddenly, a call from Rich sent us running back to where we started. Rich and a couple of others had had a glimpse of the bird, but it had melted away. Oh no! I really shouldn't wander off. A calling Yellow-browed Warbler that remained hidden did not make us feel better, though showed how easily these birds were hiding from the gathering gang of birders.

Anyway, a short while later another guy relocated the bird at the opposite corner of the wood and we headed round to where he had seen it - five minutes ago. It was getting on for 4pm by now, so it wouldn't be long before the light would start to go. The chap indicated where it had headed. I asked if you could go over the fence and the chap replied that was fine, but there were no big trees down there. Well, I could see one, so Chris and me jumped over and walked along with a few others. We got to the first big sycamore and immediately saw a bird flick in the canopy. Bins up and there was a face with a huge pale supercilium and a big spiky bill poking out from behind a leaf. Surely that was the bird! I got Gary Taylor on to it, it hopped out and the rest is history! The bird then showed really well for several minutes hopping about in this large tree. It left for a moment but then returned. It really did look like an Arctic Warbler, but the greyish crown stripe was fairly obvious, when the bird was face on, or looking down. The stripe seemed to be more distinct on the middle and rear crown, fading out nearer the forehead. The bird was quite considered in its movements, not hyperactive like the smaller phylloscs. It hopped about looking around and gleaning insects off leaves and twigs. The greater covert wingbar was obvious but the median bar was a little trickier to see. The tertials looked plain. I couldn't really make out the yellow on the undertail coverts but that could have been the light.


The bird flicked out into an ash further down the bank and we left the arriving twitchers to look for  it. Rich Baines managed some awesome shots which he kindly emailed to me - see below. We were elated, but sadly it seemed Andy had gone the wrong way with half the crowd, so quite a few people didn't connect. Luckily Andy had seen the Durham bird so was fairly pragmatic about things.
By about 4.15pm it vanished again. So the big bird did arrive today! This ECW, if accepted is the first for Yorkshire and the third for Britain. Bizarrely, it's credentials are similar to the Spurn Masked Shrike, in that the first UK record was twitchable, the second was not and then the third turned up in Yorkshire. Freaky!

The twitch. Half standing around a bit dazed after corking views, the rest still hoping for that clinching view.

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