Sunday, 12 September 2010


In anticipation of having to head over to East Yorkshire once again, I took the decision last night to remain up north instead of heading back down to the West Midlands. The trouble was I didn't have a change of clothes. There was no way that I was going to face the indignity of borrowing a pair of Stevie Dunn's briefs or Mike Feely's socks so I had no choice but to twitch like a tramp if required. I've been spending so much time in Yorkshire just lately that I'm not only starting to look like Zak Dingle from Emmerdale, I'm also doing my best to smell like him too.

Low and behold, as the sun came up I received an early text from Mike Stokes who was already on site. The WESTERN BONELLI'S WARBLER was still present at Bempton Cliffs RSPB and it had been showing well just after 6.00am. I quickly awoke the the Mansfield duo of drunkards who had polished off no less than four bottles of wine the night before. It would have been easier to resurrect the tideline corpse of a Brunnich's Guillemot. Whilst waiting for them to get ready I had time for a spot of birding at Old Moor RSPB first. An impressive selection of fourteen different wader species were quickly bagged including Northern Lapwing (85), European Golden Plover (26), Ringed Plover (2), Little Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit (2), Common Snipe(10), Common Redshank (2), Spotted Redshank, Greenshank (3), Ruff (2), Curlew Sandpiper (4), Dunlin, Green Sandpiper (3) and Common Sandpiper.

Western Bonelli's Warbler - Bempton Cliffs RSPB, East Yorkshire - September 2010
Another work of art by John Harwood

We finally arrived at a jam-packed Bempton Cliifs RSPB and our luck was in. The bird had not been seen by anyone for nearly three hours but just as we headed into the overflow car park the elusive Phyllosc' had been relocated a short distance away. Within a few minutes I caught a brief glimpse of a gorgeous WESTERN BONELLI'S WARBLER (274) glimmering away like a precious gem in the early afternoon sunshine. It then continued to show well every now and then but could prove elusive at times, especially during cloudy spells. After missing out on this species quite a few times over the years, it was nice to finally connect with one on the mainland. My previous sightings have been on the Isles of Scilly in the autumns of 2005 and 2006 and on Shetland during September 2008.

The only other species of note were the 3 Common Raven overhead, a healthy population of Tree Sparrows and a single Common Redstart.

The Western Bonelli's Warbler twitch at Bempton RSPB, East Yorkshire.
Photo by Stevie Dunn


Between 1970 and 1989 there were five records of Bonelli's Warbler in the County, however none of these have been assigned to either the Eastern or the Western species. The accepted records of WESTERN BONELLI'S WARBLER for Yorkshire are as follows:
  1. 1991 - Spurn, East Yorkshire - 24th October - first winter - trapped
  2. 1992 - Filey, North Yorkshire - 19th September & 27th to 28th September
  3. 1993 - Scarborough, North Yorkshire - 17th August
  4. 1999 - Spurn, East Yorkshire - 2nd June - first summer - trapped
  5. 2003 - Kilnsea, East Yorkshire - 30th September (I dipped this bird on the 1st October)
  6. 2004 - Bempton Cliffs RSPB, East Yorkshire - 30th to 31st August (I dipped this one too)
  7. 2010 - Bempton Cliffs RSPB, East Yorkshire - 11th to 12th September (finally scored)
After a brief stop off at Flamborough Head for a nap and stuff, we then made our way down to South Landing whilst we waited for the excellent, local chippy to open. It was here that I experienced the frustration of a highly mobile group of Long-tailed Tits. I've alway thought that autumn Tit flocks should be banned due to the bad influence they have on rarities that latch onto them. Amongst this particular group were a couple of Common Chiffchaffs and another more elusive Phylloscopus species. Unfortunately I failed to get enough on the bird but I am pretty positive that it was either an Arctic Warbler or a Greenish Warbler. Typically the mystery bird followed the rest of the flock onto private land towards the top of the ravine and was never spotted again. I was pretty gutted to say the least.

On the way back home we paid a brief visit to the excellent North Cave Wetlands YWT, west of Hull. This newly created reserve looks very good indeed and is well worth a visit if you happen to be passing by. From the Turret Hide I eventually managed to pick up a juvenile Red-necked Grebe (275) as it roosted on the edge of the reeds.

This is me trying to 'keep my head' whilst looking for a Red-necked Grebe at North Cave Wetland YWT.

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