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East Yorkshire

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STEJNEGER'S STONECHAT AT SPURN

Stejneger's Stonechat, Spurn Point. 

THE PARTY WAS OVER at Spurn today with no sign of such as the two Red-flanked Bluetails, Pine Bunting and Eastern Black Redstart etc but at least the putative Stejneger's Stonechat was still present in the Sea Buckthorn bushes beyond green beacon at the point itself. Still worth the late drive from Norfolk and a night in the Hotel Honda though. Even better that it was Andy Roadhouse who showed it to me! Thanks mate. Some painful buckthorn bush walking got me a bit closer but it was generally quite unapproachable while I was there. The warm rufous rump looks spot on according to the literature, as do the other features but we will know for sure once the DNA is extracted from its poo. It is amazing that Dan Branch managed to find it! Stejneger's is already split from Siberian Stonechat so it will be another UK lifer if it is confirmed by the DNA, however, there is a view that, like most things once we know more about them, this species will be accepted from field observations/photos in the future. There's no place like Spurn!

16 January 2017 Update: Well it was worth the drive from Norfolk and sleepless night in the car after all, as this bird has been confirmed as a Stejneger's Stonechat by Doctor Martin Collinson's team at Aberdeen University. However, it is ironic that the folks who ignored it and then went to Dungeness for the grey morph Common Stonechat, which was reported as having been DNA-identified as Stejneger's, should lose their tick, the test results having been mixed up with the positive-tested Spurn bird. How's that for a kick in the stones? All I need to do now is to wait for BOU to recognise Stejneger's Stonechat as a separate species from Siberian! I was surprisd to see that Lee (Evans) doesn't split it yet given the number of heavyweight taxonomists advising IOC who do. Surely just a matter of time?

Stejneger's Stonechat - record shot of its small, warm rufous, unmarked rump.

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SIBERIAN ACCENTOR AT SPURN

Siberian Accentor, Vicars Lane, Easington.

SO IT HAS HAPPENED! We've all been waiting for this species in the UK for a long time and the disappointment of being unwilling to spend £600+ on seeing the first one for Britain in Shetland on Monday was well and truly washed away today. First of all a very big thank you to the finder, Spurn regular Lance Degnan, who must now be just about the most popular person in birding this week! I could hardly sleep last night, which is unlike me. I am usually much more relaxed about twitching but this bird is so rare that there may not be many chances of seeing it here in my lifetime. Last Sunday's was of course the first for Britain and even though there will probably be more over the next few days, on the other hand, when the wind swings to the south there may never be another. Riding with 'Sherbie' RocketRon Jenkins today we left Accy at 3.30am, where there was a queue of four cars at the McDonald's drive-thu!!!?? We arrived in Easington, near Spurn, well before dawn but there were plenty of other birders on site already and we stood in the dark near the place the bird was last seen the previous evening. Eventually there was a big cheer not long after dawn, when the accentor flew in to the moss-covered old school yard, although my first view of it was sitting on a skip. We watched it almost all morning and again in the afternoon as it became even more confident feeding actively in the open almost all the time. Rocket and I also caught up with a Pallas's Warbler in the Crown and Anchor Car Park and a showy Shore Lark by the Bluebell as well as a flight of white-fronted geese today but we spent most of the time with the accentor. After all, why go off and photograph something else badly before you've done as well as you can with the main course? The lanes and fields were full of thrushes, Goldcrests and robins and there were still a few chiffchaffs around. A late Common Redstart was along Vicars Lane and a Black Redstart was near Westmere Farm. Another big thank you to the Spurn Bird Observatory team who spent all day looking after the crowds and making things much more bearable. It was also great to see so many old friends today. We all crawled out of the woodwork for this one. Finally, I wrote last weekend 'Well it's still up for grabs as a first for Yorkshire and Spurn'. There you go. There is no place like Spurn!

Shore Lark, Kilnsea.

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I LOVE SPURN IN AUTUMN!

Pallas's Warbler, Easington

A GRAND DAY OUT AT SPURN started as usual at the Warren, with a hopeful seawatch. A few Red-throated Divers were on the move south, some Common Scoters went in the opposite direction and three eiders flew south, they have apparently become very scarce in Yorkshire now, which is worrying news. A Pallas's Warbler eventually showed at Easington, in some disused land near the church - found by Paul French, thanks! However, it was very lively and hard to get a prolonged view of, hence the poor record shot. Just like at Bempton during the week there were lots and lots of chiffchaffs here, as well as some goldcrests. Yellow-browed Warbler(s) were also calling frequently nearby.

In the absence of a better idea I found myself walking down the point, past lots of Redwings, Song Thrushes and particularly robins. A few swallows and skylarks flew south along the point and chiffchaffs, blackcaps and chaffinches were also here. A redpoll looked good for Mealy but I didn't manage to get a shot of it and there were Northern Wheatear and Black Redstart by the jetty at the point. As the summer visitors depart the brent geese have already arrived for the winter.

Adam Hutt was running a mist net at the point bushes beyond the green beacon and we watched a Little Bunting hit the net here, get in! A nice bright one. The point bushes were alive with Redwings, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds. A few Bramblings and chaffinches were also flying about here. Despite a bit of effort I didn't see much else as everyone walked around in disbelief at the news of the Siberian Accentor on Shetland. Well it's still up for grabs as a first for Yorkshire and Spurn and there's Black-throated to come one day as well...

Adam with the Little Bunting at Spurn Point

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BIRD MIGRATION NEVER STOPS

Common Crossbill (male), Gannow Fell.

MIGRATION CONTINUES. Although most birds are breeding in East Lancs at the moment, either incubating or feeding young in or out of the nest, some are still on the move and today it was crossbills again. I had another eight today in a tight flock that flew east over heather moorland at Gannow Fell. Fortunately they gave me plenty of warning they were coming, with their loud 'chup-chup-chup' calls, so I was ready for them with the camera. Crossbill flocks always potentially have something really rare amongst them but these were all clearly Commons and all appeared to be adults, at least four of them red males like the one last week from the same spot. Bill Aspin tells me that some crossbills have been reported from Darwen Moor lately too. I wonder where they are coming from to be heading east at this time of year? A male siskin and three Lesser Redpolls also flew east over the moorland here. I have even seen a raptor on Gannow Fell now, albeit only a kestrel. Stocks was very quiet part from some breeding activity. A mother Goosander had nine ducklings in tow, there were also at least six juvenile Grey Herons around the reservoir too. The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls fortunately do not appear to have produced youngsters this year and a lone first summer Common Gull was noteworthy. Alston Wetland was also very quiet with no passage migrants. Only a pair of LRPs and six Gadwall of interest on the pool and a Lesser Whitethroat singing from the hedgerow in the field behind the viewing screen. No new birds for the ELOC little year despite some effort, hopefully that will change soon!

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