Monday, 11 October 2010

2 Red-flanked Bluetails, 1 Dusky Warbler, and 31,564 Goldcrests

Or so it seemed over this weekend!

I was out on Friday down at Hartlepool and we had a cracking day at the headland with the now resident Woodchat Shrike putting in a show again for my mate, it was a lifer for him. Also a distant but elusive Yellow-browed Warbler was a nice year tick for me as time was running out for me to see this species in 2010. I also had at least 8 Brambling including a male at Saltholme RSPB whish was also a year tick for me. The weather was superb with thick mist/fog/cloud or whatever you want to call it. It all looked very good for Saturday.

So as Saturday dawned I picked up a few lads and we started at Whitburn Country Park but we had missed the Great Grey Shrike and I had to contend with a single Ring Ouzel, Stonechat and Whinchat as a consolation. The Ring Ouzel was flirting with the nets but never went in I don’t think. On getting back to the ringers hut one of the lads told us there was a Red-breasted Flycatcher on the other side of the country park and so we made out way, enter Martin Finey! He pulled into the entrance just in time so we jumped into his car and got to the area where the Red-breasted Flycatcher was pretty quickly. There was no sign for a while but after some patience I and two other of the local lads got onto it briefly for about 10 seconds when it was high up in the tree flitting about. We had pretty good views and enough to confirm that it was the flycatcher. LIFER! Some others thought they had it a while later feeding on berries but I was very sceptical when looking at it and the general consensus after I had left was that it was a Blackcap and not the Red-breasted Flycatcher. I was pretty happy that I actually saw the bird in the end and saw it reasonably well to claim it as a lifer; I have had less showy birds in the past that’s for sure! We should have hung around for another couple of minutes as after we had left it showed again pretty well I believe, drat! Then another Red-breasted Flycatcher was caught minutes after. Double drat!

Our next port of call was the Red-flanked Bluetail that had been seen at Newbiggin. We parked up and took the never ending walk along the side of a gold course to a small jungle that held a Ring Ouzel and a few other things such as Brambling. After a good hour or so we left and headed of when I turned around and saw some guys waving us back. We ran back and managed some fleeting glimpses of it in the bushes as well as in flight. Minutes later I got it in the bins perched up for about 10 seconds to which I said something like “Choar! Look at that!”, Red-flanked Bluetail has been one of those birds I have really wanted to see in Britain, it’s nice it has now become a reality. After this we left for Tynemouth where we stood for a long time whilst we looked at a small jungle of undergrowth and saw nothing but it was good to have a chat and catch up with Duncan Fraser.

I spent most of yesterday in Northumberland with a brief stint at Whitburn later on in the afternoon hoping I could find my own rare/scarce bird hiding away in the now famous Trow Quarry. We started off paying through the nose at St Mary’s Island for a parking ticket, we put in 70p for 1 hour but I thought we might have needed more to have a chance of seeing this Red-flanked Bluetail. We waited for a while and then the wave came from a guy who had seen it going about its business in some undergrowth. I had good but obscured views until it flew past us. I signalled to Martin to go back to where we had come from because I thought it would be seen there. I was right and it appeared pretty quickly, I was looking in the undergrowth in this distance but discovered it was sitting on the fence post and wire fence pretty close! We had some stunning views as the pictures below show. What a bird, far better than the views we had obtained the day before when we were at Newbiggin. Also we had some amazing experienced with Goldcrests literally only feet away and not scared at all of us, they were right out in the open. A few people could have literally picked them up. Doubt I will ever get as good views of this species in the UK again.

We were both keen to see this Dusky Warbler having dipped it the day before. So we pulled up at the car park in Tynemouth and were greeted by news that a Shorelark was in the car park only feet away from my car on the top of the hill feeding amongst the grass. I decided I would put some money in the meter before going to see it, whilst doing this it took flight and I never saw it! Martin managed to see it but thanks to the councils putting parking meters at these car parks I missed the bird, does my hate for car parking meters show at all in this post? I put £2 in thinking we would be there for a while but as soon as we arrived it was tacking and we picked it up nearly straight away. From then on we had some fantastic views as it went about its business feeding and moving around in the undergrowth allowing the masses to view all the distinguishing features of Dusky Warbler though the legs appear to not be quite right for Dusky and more similar t that of Radde’s. However the uniform underparts with the undertail coverts looking perfect for Dusky it was clear that this was the species we had been looking at.

Our last port of call was Whitburn where we had to fork out more money to get through the Tyne Tunnel; I really hate giving my money away to causes which I don’t think need the money! We didn’t see much at Whitburn apart from loads of Goldcrest and a few Siskins. I was gutted to read this morning that if we walked south for about 500yards there was a Great Grey Shrike and 2 Red-breasted Flycatchers present whilst we were there, still we had a good day and I couldn’t grumble.

(Red-flanked Bluetail - © Derek Charlton)

(Red-flanked Bluetail - © Craig Shaw)

(Red-flanked Bluetail - © Craig Shaw)

(Dusky Warbler- © Craig Shaw)

Until next time, Foghorn out!


  1. Come on Andrew get your sums correct. There was 31,565 Goldcrests. Sounds like you missed the one on the island that shared lunch with me. Quite a day yesterday. Cheers Brian.

  2. "70p for an hour" think yourself lucky Andrew, we tried for Radde's yesterday afternoon (dipped but got YBW as consolation) and Craster cost us £2 TWO POUNDS!

  3. We too had a Red Breasted Flycatcher and Red Flanked Bluetail at South Gare and Saltburn. We could not manage a photo of the bluetail however. Missed out today on a Red Eyed Vireo at Seaton Carew and a Hoopoe which had been seen at South Gare not long before we got there.