As I was leaving school just after 3 on the Thursday evening, I checked my phone for any notifications and I saw the word 'Siberian' come up on BirdGuides, as I saw it I just assumed it would have been a Siberian Stonechat but as I read along and read the word Accentor, I nearly burst out in excitement! The brilliant thing was that it was only just over an hour from me just outside the birding hotspot, Spurn. More or less straight after I got a text from my Dad saying that we could go that evening or the following day, considering its a bird you couldn't afford to miss, I easily chose the evening option. I walked twice as fast home and by quarter to 4 we were all ready to set off and hopefully see this magnificent bird! On the way we picked up my good friend Darragh Hudson who was also very excited about seeing the bird. This is the 2nd time the Sibe Accentor has occurred in the UK with the 1st being just a week before on Shetland. This would also be my 300th British bird, so as you can imagine I was really hoping to see it. It was a very nervous trip, the thought of it going to roost or just flying off was always going through my mind, being stuck in traffic in Hull wasn't a good sign either as we didn't have to much light left. After getting through Hull the traffic wasn't bad at all and thankfully we made it with just about a good amount of light left. We parked up and started walking to the spot, we passed a few birders on the way who said it was showing brilliantly, we rushed straight over and very kindly some birders put us straight onto it! It wasn't much more than 3 meters away, without doubt one of my greatest highlights ever in birding! Me and Darragh were absolutely ecstatic at the sight of this truly incredible bird! You could say its definitely not a bad bird for my 300th! I could have stayed and watched it all evening, its a day that will stay with me forever. I managed to get a few decent shots of it but just watching it was fantastic!
I hope to have another look at this little cracker at the weekend, it was truly an incredible experience.
On the 30th of July I had a quick look on RBA and it came to my surprise that a Western Swamphen had appeared at RSPB Minsmere in Suffolk. I instantly thought it would be an escapee but when I heard that it didn't have a ring plus the fact that it was feeding and flying well I began to edge closer to the fact that it was the real deal. If it was it would be a 1st for the UK! I couldn't really go for it until the weekend after but thankfully some birders I know from York had a spare seat and invited me down with them very early on the Tuesday morning.
At 3am my alarm went off and soon enough I was already for my trip down to Suffolk. After a couple of stops on the way we finally reached Minsmere. News was that the Swamphen was still hanging around so we rushed over to the spot and amazingly it was showing upon arrival! We watched for a good 5mins before it wandered back into the reeds. Fortunately we didn't have to wait long for another view, this time it stayed out a little longer feeding along the back of the pond. Through the bins and scopes it looked incredible, the cracking purple plumage stood out really nicely. I have seen many of these abroad but to see one in the UK is pretty amazing. I am very pleased I got the chance to see this wonderful bird.
After a good hour and a half or so looking at the Swamphen we decided to go and have a look at the Dartford Warblers on Dunwich Heath, although we didn't get good views we saw about 3 of these very striking birds. We then headed back to Minsmere to hopefully see some Stone Curlew. We saw one of them very nicely through the scope. After we had a walk to many of the hides which surrounded Minsmere, the highlights from these were about 24 Spotted Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Black Tailed Godwit and some Ruff.
Unfortunately once we had finished our lunch and walking round this brilliant reserve it was time to start the long 4hr trek back to York. It is most definitely a time I will never forget!
On the 6th of August instead of going for the Swamphen as previously planned we decided to head down to RSPB Frampton for the White Rumped Sandpiper. We set of just after 10am but due to traffic it took nearly 3hrs instead of 2. After a long and frustrating journey we arrived at Frampton. We headed straight for the Frampton visitor centre to were their staff very kindly pointed us in the right direction for the 360 Hide. We headed straight for this hide because this was were the White Rumped Sand was showing. Once again upon arrival the bird was showing well out in the open at a decent range, some very kind people let us look through their scopes at this cracking little wader. It was only on show for about 5mins before flying behind an island and out of view. While it flew though you could see its very distinctive white rump. This was lifer 295 for me and now i'm only 5 away from the milestone of 300! After missing the one at Spurn last year I am also very pleased to have seen this and to have gotten nice views.
White Rumped Sandpiper
This was my first time at Frampton so I wanted to also have a good walk round to see what else was about. We started by walking up onto the sea wall where the view over the reserve was incredible. From here we saw a Little Ringed Plover and a very nice Wheatear by a pile of rocks.
Apart from a huge flock of Godwits we didn't see much else from the wall. On the road back to the car park we constantly checked through waders for something more unusual but all we could find was a Common Sandpiper and a Ruff. Suddenly all the waders started lifting so I instantly started scanning for a predator. My dad then picked out a raptor flying quite low, I quickly got my bins on it to see it was a Female Sparrow Hawk! The murmuration of waders was truly spectacular and definitely a highlight of the trip. On the way back we had another quick stop in the 360 Hide in hoping the Sparrow Hawk maybe brought the White Rumped Sand back out but despite quite a bit of scanning there was no sign. I did manage to pick out a Spotted Redshank which was a welcome surprise. Many of the waders were now really close to the hide which gave great photo opportunities.
Black Tailed Godwit
After a while of photographing the mass of waders we headed back home. Thankfully this time the traffic was fine and we made it in just under 2hrs. Its been a fantastic week with many highlights I will never ever forget.
Up in the Cleveland there had been an array of unusual species spotted during last week so we took the opportunity to visit there on Saturday morning.
We started our day off at Saltholme in hope of seeing the 2 Whiskered Terns which had been present for about a week or so. As we entered the visitor centre we briefly saw them through the windows so we walked round the reserve to try and achieve better views. We reached a part where we could see most of the lake really clearly and thankfully both of the Whiskered Terns were whizzing around just in front of us! Occasionally they would fly to the back but sometimes they flew past just a few metres away, giving brilliant views!
Once we had finished watching these we moved on to try and see the very elusive Great Reed Warbler at Haverton. After just a couple of minutes the warbler started singing like crazy but even though it sounded just a couple of meters away no one could spot it. A pretty amazing call! We waited a good half hour to an hour but we didn't see anything. On the way to Paddys hide we saw a Little Ringed Plover in a little pool and a Female Stonechat but amazingly on our way we had 4 Spoonbill fly straight over our heads!!
Little Ringed Plover
From the Paddys hide we saw nothing but Black Headed Gulls so with news of a cracking male Bluethroat at Hartlepool we made that our next destination. Surprisingly we found the place without getting lost and very soon the bird came out right into the open! It kept creeping in and out of the bushes but when it showed it was within about a metre!
We left a bit early so we could have a look at the Dotterel on Danby Beacon. They were on show upon arrival. They are definitely one of my fav birds! We counted 10 of them and all showed pretty well. We also spotted Red Grouse and a pair of Wheatear.
Once we arrived home I was invited to go for the Thrush Nightingale at Spurn on Sunday by some Yorkshire birders I know. They picked me up at quarter to seven but with negative news on the Nightingale we decided to have another trip up to Cleveland. We arrived fairly early in Haverton to try and see the Great Reed Warbler but once again no sign plus this time it wasn't even calling so presumably it had moved on. We then moved on to look for the Grey and Blue headed wagtails at the Zinc Works. We got the news that we had just missed them both! Not a brilliant start! We had a little walk round and eventually we had very brief views of the Blue Headed Wagtail. Once it flew off we went to Crimdon to see some Little Terns. There was about 50+ around the beach. The sound which came from them was incredible!
We then made the decision to go up to Holy Island for the Subalpine Warbler which was either Western or Moltoni's. I think its been confirmed as a Western now though. We arrived in perfect time for the crossing so we could start birding straight away. Just before the car park we saw some birders at the end of the track so we thought that's where it was probably hanging around. We arrived at a very small group of birders who appeared to be looking at a brick wall, we asked what was around and we found out that it was another Bluethroat! It hopped along feeding in the grass just below the wall. This time it was a female bird.
After watching this for a bit we were told that the Western Subalpine Warbler was showing just up the track so we dashed over. Within the first 5mins we had very brief views of it in the back of a bush and just a little while later it did a nice circuit where it came out in the open! This is one bird I have always wanted to see so I am very happy that it showed really well. It often stayed hidden in thicker parts but always eventually came out and showed well.
Western Subalpine Warbler
Someone then told us of another Bluethroat at the end of the track we were on. We had a quick walk down and even though we waited a while it showed quite well on a few branches. It showed briefly a few more times before going missing in the undergrowth.
Unfortunately we now had to leave. On the way back we had a Female Stonechat show nicely on a fence and a Peregrine flew over. It was the first time I had visited Holy Island and I really enjoyed it. Its a cracking place to go birding. This is one of my best weeks in birding ever, my totals were:
I had just recently broke up for the Easter Holidays and a fantastic way to start it was by going to Spurn for the grand opening for their new Bird Observatory! The new Obs looked amazing and another good thing was that we got to stay in the new Obs too!!! We set off early Sunday morning and we arrived at Spurn at around half nine.
Before we took a look at the new Obs we had a quick look around Sammy's Point as we heard a Firecrest had been showing well around the area. In the first paddock we saw a White Wagtail which was a very start to our trip. We had another look in one of the Paddocks and flushed a very nice Woodcock which was my first for about a year! Out on the Humber was a good number of Brent Geese where I managed to pick out a nice Pale Bellied Brent amongst the Dark Bellies. We made our way to the third paddock where the Firecrest had been seen. A man called us over and put us straight onto the Firecrest. It was flitting around a few particular bushes and at some points it came right to the front and showed amazingly! After a while I spotted another small bird just next to the Firecrest and it turned out to be another one! Self found Firecrest! A truly amazing start! Also in the paddock where Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests.
On the way back to the car I saw Findlay Wilde who I have met a few times before. it was great to catch up with him. We then headed to the crown and anchor and saw Darragh Hudson, another young birder I have met before, it was also great to see him. My Dad spotted 2 Chiffchaff next to the car park of the crown and anchor. Me, Darragh, his uncle, Carl and my Dad went looking for a Black Redstart in Sandy Beaches but we failed to find one. We then walked down to the Obs to have a look around, it looked awesome! The Obs was opened by the Patron of Spurn, Mike Dilger and after saying a few words, he opened the Obs! I am really looking forward to staying there in the future! I arranged to do some birding with Fin and Darragh after the opening so firstly we went to Kilnsea in search of the Black Brant but there was no sign of any Brents around Kilnsea. We then walked all the way to Sammy's Point to try and see the Firecrest again, after 5 or 10mins of searching 1 was picked out showing at the front of a bush, it showed very well. We also saw some Redwing in the paddock.
After we had a good luck at the Firecrest we headed back to the Obs area. We walked back along the bank next to the estuary in hope of getting a Black Redstart or a Wheatear on the rocks but we had no luck. We stopped off at the Obs to get a bit of food and drink then headed back off to Kilnsea as the Black Brant had been seen again. The bad thing was that the group of Brents were very flighty and kept flying to the wetlands and to the fields so it was hard to pick out. We headed to Beacon Ponds to get a good luck at the field and the wetlands but still the Black Brant was hard to spot. After searching for a while, it was time for Darragh to leave so we said our goodbyes after a great birding session. Me and Fin headed to the Crown and Anchor with our parents to get some food and then after that too, Fin also had to go back home, I had a very enjoyable day birding with some great people and birds.
After the food me and my Dad headed to Kilnsea again hoping to see the Black Brant hoping it had been pinned down. We arrived to see that all Brents were now down so I started scanning but first a nice Marsh Harrier over the car was great!
The Brents flew a little closer which made it easier to pick out and soon enough, thankfully the Black Brant waddled to the front of the group! Once out in the open it was quite distinctive and easy to spot.
After seeing the Brant we went to the obs to see our room which was very nice. After that we went to the Crown and Anchor to put a great end to the day, it was nice to have a chat to many people such as Jonnie Fisk, Matt Bruce, Nathan Pickering, Lizzie Bruce and many more.
The Monday morning was very miserable where very little seemed to be about so we spent mostly all of our time looking for the Siberian Chiffchaff which was seen next to the Easington playing fields. We had a look round the whole of the field but other than a couple of Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests we saw nothing.
After a while of looking we decided to was time to leave Spurn after an awesome couple of days. I never tire of coming to Spurn its a truly incredible place!
Early Saturday morning we had the chance to do a bit of birding. It was a good chance to get the year list for the new year up so I really couldn't wait! We chose a place which could provide different habitats so we had a bigger chance of boosting the year list. We went up to the Cleveland area in hope of seeing some different bits and pieces.
We started our day in Hartlepool in hope of seeing definitely one of my favourite birds, the Shorelark. 3 had taken up residence on a small patch of waste ground just behind the Jewish Cemetery. Upon arrival there was quite a few birders looking and soon enough they helped put us onto the birds, a great start!!! They came pretty close which allowed us to get nice views of all 3.
After we decided to have a quick look around the Hartlepool Fish Quay where we managed to find 4 Guillemot on the water and on a small bit of shoreline we found a group of Oystercatcher and Curlew roosting together. Next to the waders was 3 Eiders also roosting on a wall. Once we could find no more we headed to the Marina in search of a Glaucous Gull. Once we arrived we started scanning through the masses of Gulls which surrounded the Marina. We started our search at Jacksons Landing which seemed to be the birds favoured spot. We scanned a few Gulls at the other side of the water and pretty quickly the Glauc came into view! It stood out like a sore thumb! After a while of flying around the bird then eventually landed on the water but the problem was that it was miles away! It was very close to the other side of the Marina so we quickly drove round praying it was still there and thankfully it was! It was walking around the car park only a couple of feet away!!! An incredible experience!! In the Marina was also around 7 Red Breasted Mergansers.
After that incredible moment we headed to Seaton Snook in search of some Twite. On the way down we saw a very nice Stonechat sitting on a fence. Just as we were reaching the end of the walk some of the Twite flew across the water and landed right next to us! They were feeding on a small patch only a few feet away! They didn't seem bothered by us one bit! Of the shore some people also pointed out a Great Northern Diver to us which was also pretty nice. On the way home we also stopped off at Seal Sands just to quickly tick of a few bits of Wildfowl.
A top day with everything showing incredibly well, its a day I will never forget!! At the end of the day the yearlist ended on 70 species which I am quite happy with!