I visited Spurn Point on Monday. The wind was from the south-east, it was the end of October and I was on the east coast. It could only mean one thing – it was a bit nippy!
No, no, the only thing it could mean was that there was a chance of rare birds, and the most perfect of late October rare birds is the Pallas’s Warbler.
But the Heligoland trap had some Tree Sparrows hopping around in it, and the sea buckthorn was covered with hungry Starlings. The closest to a Pallas’s was a Yellow-browed Warbler down the road in the car park of the Crown. Except I couldn’t find it. There was a Chiffchaff and a few Goldcrests – but no Yellow-browed. A Yellow-browed Warbler is a bit like a hybrid between a Chiffchaff (dull greenish grey warbler) and a Goldcrest (tiny crested wing-barred non-warbler) but since I didn’t see one I can’t say much more about it. This bird, was found by a more skilled birder across the road and down a bit, a little later in the day.
The tide was out and there were a few Knot, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Redshank and Curlew footling about in the mud, and a larger roosting flock of Golden Plover a long way away.
There were now more Redwings and Fieldfares with the Starlings.
I had a look in the Canal Scrape hide and there was what a birdwatcher on the east coast would say was ‘nothing’ there, which of course wasn’t strictly true, as there were Dabchicks, Mallards, a Little Egret, Moorhens, a Sparrowhawk and other birds to be seen. But nothing ‘special’.
As I left the hide a warbler flew across the path between thick bushes and then up the path past me. Both times it offered the briefest of views but it looked like a small warblerish thing – probably a Goldcrest. Then, probably the same bird, hovered briefly against the sky. Could well be a Goldcrest but was that a yellow rump? Not sure, probably not – because Goldcrests don’t have yellow rumps but Pallas’s Warblers do. Most probably a Goldcrest. but then something called, out of sight, but from where the bird might be – and it wasn’t a Goldcrest’s call, and it wasn’t familiar to me either. Hmm. I waited a few more minutes and nothing was seen and nothing called. Probably a Goldcrest.
Walking back to the car a few moments later I met a man who asked whether there was any sign of the Pallas’s that had been reported here. Ah! I said I’d seen something that had made me wonder, but not well enough, and it might well have been a Goldcrest. We went back a few paces to where I’d seen it and then the man, a nice man, said ‘it’ had been seen in the Dell.
At the Dell there were several people looking at where the Pallas’s had been and then we found it again and got brief views as it flitted and flew. Sometimes one could see its wingbar, sometimes one could see the stripes on its head and rarely one could see the yellow rump. Never could one see all three together, and precious rarely two of them. But we did see it. And then it flew off back in the direction it had come.
The small group of us waited for it to come back – as they often do on a circuit. And had the usual conversation about how ‘smart’ they are, and how you can’t see all the fieldmarks at once and, as usual, the phrase ‘better than sex’ was used.
And then we heard ‘it’ had been seen back in the car park so off we went. I always think it is the depth of uncoolness to run after a tiny bird – sauntering is cool. So I sauntered, and luckily it was still there and ‘showing well’.
For the next 20 minutes or so we had ‘it’ in view in fits and starts in the sunshine on the edges of hawthorns, sycamores, willows and other bushes and trees. We saw ‘it’ hover and point its square yellow rump in our direction. We saw it from just about every angle and out in the open. We had ‘crippling’ views (as we say).
Every time ‘it’ was in the open then it was applauded by a chorus of motor-driven camera shutters.