Monday 22 September 2014

Burying a ghost

Autumn has got off to a bit off a slow start bird wise - a blessed relief really as I haven't had much time to get out lately. Such is my relationship with rare bird news at the moment that when the pager wailed a mega alert on Saturday morning I was actually relieved to find it was a Masked Shrike, the first record for Britain of which I saw in Fife in 2004. I continued my otherwise uneventful walk around Swineham and thought nothing more of it.
1st winter Masked Shrike, Spurn - only the 3rd record for Britain
When the bird was reported as still present on Sunday morning, however, and Claire agreed to attend the Sunday morning kid's football match in my stead, the offer of a lift from Steve Smith and the chance of a daft day trip suddenly didn't seem like such a bad idea. Besides, as this was one of less than 10 birds that I have seen in Britain that Steve hasn't, I thought I had better tag along just to make sure he actually saw it, rather than spending his day at Rownhams Services on the M27 stuffing his face with vegetable samosas and stringing it when he got back.
A peachy wash could be seen on the Shrike's right flank, but not on the left
My only real reservation about joining Steve was that the bird was at Spurn. If Bridled Tern was my nemesis bird in 2013, Spurn was my nemesis rarity hotpost, leaving me empty handed after two long distance twitches, for a Rock Thrush in spring and a Great Snipe in the autumn. The tension mounted as we passed the bright lights and mysterious odours of Hull, and increased as we wound our way down the funnel of the East Yorkshire peninsula to the Kilnsea Road.
Barred Warbler
My fears were misplaced as, within minutes of arriving, Spurn had given up the Shrike, followed by a Barred Warbler and a Red-breasted Flycatcher in quick succession and all within a few hundred yards. It was so easy that we couldn't even be bothered to join the queue of birders looking in an empty ditch for an Olive-backed Pipit as it seemed too much like hard work.
Red-breasted Flycatcher
Spurn certainly seemed to be having one of those days, and a few common migrants were also mixed in with the rarities - Redstarts, Willow Warblers and a Lesser Whitethroat all keeping the Shrike company in the same hedgerow, such that by the end of the day the ghost of Gallinago media had been well and truly buried. I might even go back for another one day.

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