Sunday 28 April 2013


The laws of diminishing returns have really kicked in with my British list and new ticks are getting harder to come by. I've just gone six months without one, which is a record in my 15 year birding career. So a Rock Thrush at Spurn this week was too much to resist. Being a diligent public servant I was unable to leave Dorset's Council Tax payers to fend for themselves on Thursday or Friday, and needing to be back in Dorset for 1800 on Saturday evening meant that waiting on news that morning was not an option. It was a case of go and give myself a chance, or stay at home and have no chance.

Wheatear at Spurn: nice, but no champagne
So after an early evening kip I left home late on Friday night for the long drive north. My small circle of potential lift-sharers had either seen Rock Thrush, gone already or had more sense than to accept the offer of a lift, so a solo trip was on the cards. Not that I minded, it's sometimes good to be alone with one's thoughts, terrible singing and flatulence.

Yellow Wagtail: also nice, but still no champagne.
I was expecting a big crowd but was surprised to find I was only the second birder on site when I arrived at 0400. There was still room in the small car park at the Blue Bell by the time the sun came up, suggesting that many others were waiting on news before committing. Spurn was bitterly cold but wrapped up warm and full of optimism I scoured the area anyway. The Rock Thrush's favoured field held nothing but Yellow Wagtails and Wheatears. The neighbouring caravan parks which it had frequented held, well, mainly caravans. And neither was it on the beach, where failed sea defences lay broken and mangled like twitchers' dreams.

At least I wasn't the only one. I left shortly before this lot threw themselves off Spurn's low cliffs like so many lemmings.
By mid-morning there was still no sign. At this point a twitch can become something like a bad relationship: it's obvious it's over but still difficult to leave. But I had set a deadline of midday and stuck to it before retracing my steps down the motorway network to the south coast.

Grasshopper Warbler, Cogden
A big dip wouldn't be a big dip without missing something good at home so it was absolutely no surprise that a twitchable Red-rumped Swallow spent the day in Weymouth. So the less said about Spurn the better, and to happier thoughts of a brilliantly showy Grasshopper Warbler which was reeling in the scrub back on the Dorset coast early on Friday morning. There. Feeling better already.

Grasshopper Warbler, Cogden


  1. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on home liftIf possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me.

    1. Uncanny that you should know that after driving to Yorkshire and back in a day my hips were shot and that I could have done with a stairlift when I got home. However, I always get mine from Stannah: if it's good enough for Thora Hird, it's good enough for me.