Some people that I know have been going almost religiously every autumn for the last 30 or 40 years - it really is a Mecca for birders when the time and conditions are right.
The annual autumn bird migration on the east coast of the UK has been amazing this year, with many rare birds been blown in by the strong easterly winds we've been experiencing.
We've had a few on the west coast too and this took my eye off the ball with some of the great birds being seen on the other side of the country. But the excitement that one mega rare vagrant created was too much to ignore, and so I really had to twitch it.
The bird was a Siberian Accentor which had been giving good views in Easington, north of Spurn Head for a few days. With reported crowds of up to 600 birders all questing up to see the bird, I didn't want to go on the first few days. I decided to wait and see if it hung around until after the weekend, and luckily it did.
I used a combination of Google Maps, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust map of Spurn (shown above) and the Spurn Bird Observatory map of Easington from their Facebook group page to find my way around. I first parked in the old disused bus depot behind the White Horse pub in Easington as recommended on the Spurn Twitter feed and Facebook page and then walked up Vicars Lane to see the Siberian Accentor.
I first saw it near a skip in the old school yard facing the gas terminal car park at the end of Vicars Lane. A kind birder let me look at it through his scope and I had a great view, but what I really wanted was a photograph. So hurriedly I unpacked my camera and whilst I was doing so it flew off into the gas terminal compound. It spent the next hour or more flitting around under the metal fence only occasionally giving a complete view. The above photograph is taken looking through the wire fencing which borders the compound and this makes it look a little blurred. Whilst I was there I met up with Tony Conway and his gang and we had a good natter about recent sightings in the area.
Whilst waiting for the Siberian Accentor to return to the skip area where the best views were had, I also saw a Spotted Flycatcher and Chiffchaffs as well as Robins, Wrens and Dunnocks in this area mainly along the gas terminal fences. There were armed police regularly patrolling the area in cars due to the gas terminal being a potential target of a terrorist attack. After a couple of hours of trying to get a better photograph, I decided to move on.
I first went to Sammy's Point which overlook the Humber Estuary to look for Ring Ouzels. The bushes along the roads to Sammy's Point are alive with birds - Redwings, Fieldfare and lots of LBJ's. Sammy's Point had a car park at the end of Humberside Lane and here I met up with Tony again who was just leaving and he told me where they had been seen in previous days. Unfortunately, he hadn't seen any, but I saw two a little while later. He did however mentioned that another mega rarity was in the area - an Isabelline Wheatear.
The muddy shoreline had many wader species including Curlew, Dunlin, Redshank and Ringed Plover and the fields to the left of the free car park were where I saw Ring Ouzel, Northern Wheatear, Redstart, Robins, Fieldfare and Redwing.
I'm told there can be lots of other good stuff down there, especially around the hawthorn hedges, but it was very windy today and so I decided to leave venturing further until another time.
From here I went to the free car park just past the Blue Bell Cafe. I just drove past the Kilnsea Wetland Reserve as nothing much had been reported there recently - I'll investigate this area next time. At the car park I was told there were distant Black Redstarts in the Sandy Beaches caravan site next to it, but I didn't look for them. After talking to another a birder I decided to do two sides of the area known as the 'Triangle'.
I started by backtracking and parking in the Crown and Anchor pub car park as it wasn't busy. There were reports of Pallas' and Yellow-browed Warblers in and around the car park but I didn't connect with any. However, in the hedge outside the car park I did get the faintest of glimpses of a Firecrest, along with a record shot which is far to poor to show even here! It was another lifer for me though.
From the Crown and Anchor I returned to the Bluebell Cafe and turned right to go on to the Canal Scrape in the hope of seeing the reported Jack Snipe, but I didn't see it. As well as the usuals there was a Water Rail, a drake Pintail and a Rock Pipit. I decided not to walk along the shoreline path as it was still very windy and people hadn't seen much, but I will do next time.
Finally, I went back to Easington to see the Isabelline Wheatear in a ploughed field facing Easington Beach, just past Easington Beach Caravan site.
On the way back in to the town I found the twelve Tundra Bean Geese in a stubble field on Seaside Road which someone had mentioned earlier in the day.
I then went back to have another look for the Siberian Accentor - well it was a mega rarity! It had moved to another side of the gas terminal compound and was still flitting around under the fence making viewing very difficult. And then, all of a sudden it flew out from the compound and onto the road barely two metres from me and several other photographers. The atmosphere was electric as we frantically snapped away. I had really great views but unfortunately my camera settings were all wrong and so the shot below is the best one I got. And then, almost as quickly, it flew off and away into the trees.
On my return I saw the two reported Shorelarks on the grass and path which borders the beach and a Woodcock also flew out of the longer grass near the cafe at about 5:30pm. The light was rapidly dying by now and so I decided to head for home.
On the same day the following birds were reported as being seen in the area: Bearded Tits, Radde's Warbler, Glossy Ibis, White-fronted Geese, Brent Geese, Grasshopper Warbler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylarks, Little Egrets, Stonechats, Reed Buntings and even a Hawfinch.
What a magical place - can't wait to go back!