Pallas’s Warbler, Donna Nook, Lincolnshire.
What a cracking little entertainer.
A day out was promoted with a week to go, the night before I mooted making it an overnight stay. All who were keen to attend were flexible, brought an overnight bag. We had a very early start on Friday morning (0530hrs) and set off North up the M5. The decision as to which direction we should head in was made as we reached Birmingham, we turned to the East to meet the many migrants that were still arriving. Over the previous few days an Eastern Crowned Warbler had been showing at RSPB Bempton Cliffs and we gambled on it remaining just one more day.
with plenty of other birds about if it decided to move on it was to be our first stop. We had our answer well before reaching this East Yorkshire site, the bird had gone but carried on to see what else may have arrived. After passing through the swanky visitor centre we studied the adjacent copse and enjoyed good views of tired, grounded Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs and at least two Yellow-browed Warblers as they fed in the sallows, a few other common passerines were also seen around this site.
A good tristis Siberian Chiffchaff candidate was among the dozens foraging about the site. Five Barnacle Geese flew South and flocks of Redwings streamed inland. It was difficult to ignore the large numbers of noisy Tree Sparrows around the car park, visitor centre and copse, it was brilliant to see so many.
A short drive to Thornwick Bay followed and we took a cliff top walk above the chalk cliffs and stacks, two Wheatear, three Stonechat, a Peregrine and numbers of feral pigeons pretending to be Rock Doves were all seen, Gannets streamed by over the sea below which made the Black-browed Albatross seen a couple of days before something to dream about, sometimes it is all about timing. We didn’t see the Great Grey Shrike that had been seen an hour earlier but it was fairly breezy.
High above the sea cliffs a Short-eared Owl was flapping about being mobbed by Jackdaws, it hung in the air waiting to be allowed to descend and presumably hunt the grassland. At the North Marsh we had great views of a juvenile Taiga Bean Goose in the company of a small party of Pink-footed and Greylag Geese.
Moving on to the lighthouse we joined others who had seen a Ring Ouzel, the field and hedges were full of Redwings and Fieldfares, Linnets, Reed Buntings, Yellowhammers and Song Thrushes. After looking over the sea and lighthouse fields we loaded again up to head south toward Alkborough Flats to try for the Western Swamphen before dark.
Arriving at the site we overlooked the vast wetland area from a vantage point, the birds were distant but as the conditions were so calm it was possible to hear most of the birds calling. A few Marsh Harrier came in to roost. Large numbers of Avocet, a few Ruff, Greenshank, Dunlin, Snipe, Bearded Tits and other unidentified species busied about in the reeds and on the flood.
The light faded, it was too late to see anything else so we headed back to the car, twenty minutes of information gathering and a group decision to seek accommodation and stay in the East was made. We booked bargain rooms above a busy Scunthorpe pub hotel, checked in and settled down to a drink, bargain evening meal and a pub singer belting out tunes we all know.
We had an early night as we had to be up and out at 0630 to try for the Swamphen again, it was great to watch the sunrise at Alkborough Flats and see the birds waking. Pink-footed and Canada Geese stirred and headed out for the day, Water Rails were bold and ventured out to the open mud. Six Little Egrets left the roost for the creeks, scanning through the waders a couple of Spotted Redshank were seen chasing fish, whilst we all focussed on them the Western Swamphen came out of its roost site and flew across to its chosen feeding site to give us a variety of action views albeit distantly.
Happy with our start we moved off to the Lincolnshire coast with a quick stop at a pleasant tea room for breakfast near North Somercotes, a few late juvenile Swallows still begged their parents for food on the roof. I am glad to say our breakfast was a little more civilized. Getting back to the birding we drove the couple of miles to Donna Nook and walked out along the sheltered seawall scanning the bushes along the route. We racked up 40+ Goldcrest, 5 Redstart, a Ring Ouzel, 40+ Robins, 20+ Reed Buntings, 5 and 6 Brambling, thrushes, pipits and other common passerines including a female Blackcap. Neil spotted two Hen Harrier that were hunting over the rough grassland and a party of Common Scoter from the seawall, as we walked back toward the car park we had more views of passerines and a few flocks of different wader species flying over.
Back at the car park we saw three Blackcap feeding on berries and were soon all watching a stunning Pallas’s Warbler as it hovered to pick insects from the sallow. Yet another party of Tree Sparrows fed nearby. We decided to take on the walk to where a Siberian Stonechat was showing but it wasn’t straightforward to access, we tried a route through the dunes seeing more Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs along the way, the fields held Curlew, Golden Plover and flock of Starlings.
We gave up trying to get to this bird, MOD land and the Sea Buckthorn hedges being part of the reason, we decided to call it day seeing more Tree Sparrows and the Pallas’s Warbler again on the way back to the car, a good drive back saw us back in Whitminster by 5.30pm to conclude this ‘day’ trip.
Thanks to my three eager birding companions for the company.