Monday, 31 October 2011

Pallas’s Warbler and Firecrest at Kilnsea, East Yorkshire - 28th October 2011

Looking west towards Hull from Kilnsea - 28th October 2011

I took another day off work on Friday 28th October, giving me another chance to catch up with some migrants on the east coast. The plan was to spend the morning around Spurn and the afternoon treating the kids to a meal in Leeds and trip to Tropical World. Everything went swimmingly.

An early start (05:00) and I was in the Crown and Anchor car park for 07:30. I hadn’t been out of the car two minutes before the high-pitched squeak of Goldcrest came from the bushes. Two Goldcrest made their way along the hedge from behind the smokers’ shelter, and with them was a superb Firecrest. Its size, its striking facial stripes, those bronze “shoulders”, and of course the fiery crown stripe, always make this bird a joy to see.

If I had to choose a favourite bird, it would be the Firecrest, ever since I saw my first ones near Carcassonne, France, in 2006. I saw my first in the UK near the local sewage works while on my way to work on 21 January 2007 – an overwintering bird that was perhaps overshadowed by the presence at the same time of an American Robin just 400 metres away! I found lots of them while on holiday in Andalucía, Spain, last year, including several in the gardens of the Alhambra in Granada, and some in the fir trees in a playground in Trevélez - Europe’s highest village – on the southern flanks of the Sierra Nevada.

My daughter and I did some drawing the later in the day. I drew a Firecrest, for which she drew me a “Well Done” sticker…

Firecrest - 28th October 2011

While at the car park I saw a few other birds of note, not least a very late Swallow going south, directly overhead, a small group of Dark-bellied Brent Geese, also heading south, loads of Redwing, Fieldfare, and Blackbird, and lots of Blackcap plus the odd Chiffchaff.

I actually got a “lifer” while at Kilnsea: a lovely Pallas’s Warbler. While I was in the churchyard, looking into the garden at Kew (between the Crown and Anchor pub and Kilnsea Church), another birder called me over, saying he thought he had it. Flitting between the branches, not much above head-height was a small, olive-green warbler with a clear, wide, yellow supercilium (more orangey near the bill), and a very obvious black eye-stripe. It also had one clear yellow wing-bar (the bird was very flighty, and so the wings were difficult to see for any length of time) and it spent a lot of its time hovering hummingbird-like when searching for food. It didn’t catch the crown-stripe, but did catch hat looked like a yellow rump. The other birder was adamant he’d seen this.

Soon it was gone. I was pretty chuffed with the bird as a Pallas’s, but still wanted better views before ticking it. It wasn’t a Yellow-browed Warbler, the black eye-stripe and orange tone to the front end of the super made that obvious (I only recently saw my second Yellow-browed Warbler, while at Flamborough 12 days earlier). Fortunately, after some searching, it was relocated in Church Field, and me and 20 or so other birders all got decent enough views (and photos) to confirm it.

Looking south towards Spurn Point from Kilnsea - 28th October 2011

I had a quick look out over the estuary at the waders - mostly Knot, Redshank, and Curlew - before heading to Leeds for lunch with the family. On the way I listened to Composer of the Week on BBC Radio 3. Some wonderful music form various Finnish composers: most notably Einojuhani Rautavaara's Cantus arcticus (Concerto for birds and orchestra) Op.61 (with taped birdsong, including Curlew, Skylark and Whooper Swan), and Kaija Saariaho's Notes on light for cello and orchestra (Translusence). Brilliant stuff, and perfect for a bright, clear, cold day, post-birding.

So, not bad for a morning’s work: a lifer, taking me to 288, and another 2011 tick, taking me to 212 for the year so far. Having bought an old, decrepit house in need of much work this year, plus having started an RSPB youth group, and having been so stressed at work I’m now on medication for depression, plus having two brilliant kids taking up a lot of my time, I think I’ve done well getting to see what I have so far this year.

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