Saturday 25 May 2024

York's first Great Reed Warbler

We have been talking a lot about Great Reed Warblers during the last few springs and the hope that one might finally grace the York area. A record seemed to be on the cards, but so far we had been disappointed. One-day birds at Staveley and to the south at Idle Valley a couple of weeks ago, hinted that this year we might get lucky, but without extensive reedbeds in the area, perhaps there just isn't enough habitat to attract a passing migrant.

After some really early starts this week, I needed a lie-in on Saturday (well, until 7.15am!) before heading out birding. Turning my phone on, it bleeped repeatedly as 17 messages in a Whatsapp group flashed through - this must be some big bird news from York! Sure enough, the day had come - Adam Firth had found a Great Reed Warbler! The bird was singing in willows by the River Derwent between Bank Island and Wheldrake Ings bridge. Panic!

I grabbed my gear, apologised to the dog and promised Vicky I'd be back in an hour (we were due to head south for my mother-in-law's 80th birthday mid-morning). Arriving in quick time, I scampered down the path from the car park in the beautiful early morning sunshine. Within moments, the loud grating 'trak trak trak' reached my ears - it was still here! I met Chris Gomersall, Duncan Bye and Adam, and together we listening to the monster acro singing from the nearby trees. Frustratingly, we couldn't get a view, but after a while, it flew further up the river towards Bank Island. Still out of view, it sang again before flying further. Perhaps it was heading for the small reedbed on Bank Island? Adam and Duncan left and Chris and me went round to the hide. Sure enough, our hunch was right and the bird's grating song could be heard from the reeds. Moments later, Chris announced he could see it and training my scope on it, we both got fantastic views as it sat on top of the reeds in the morning sun. After a couple of pics, I took a short video before it dropped into the reeds at about 8am. It stopped singing and I needed to head off, so left Chris to it. An expected York first, but still a fantastic surprise first thing on the Bank Holiday weekend! Well done, Adam!

The bird went quiet hereafter and briefly sang unseen in riverside willows early afternoon and then again in the evening, but had gone the next day.

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