5th October 2013 – SARDINIAN STONKER! and Subalpine Warbler on the same day…

At last a weekend off work and an opportunity for the family to get away for a couple of days. I’ve always wanted to go back to the coastline around the St. Abbs Head area, the scenery and birding here on my previous visit eight years ago made a lasting impression, and with a promising weather forecast I was keen to head back. And by a strange coincidence there was also the temptation of a Sardinian Warbler there too! It would appear that I’m the only birder in Britain who hasn’t seen 1000’s of these abroad (I’ve only ever seen one in Norfolk in 2002), so I was really quite fired up to see another one.

We drove up to Berwick-upon-Tweed on Friday evening, I figured this was an ideal location for a dawn raid on St. Abbs the following morning. With my alarm set for 0630hrs I was on site at Mire Loch just as the sun was rising, it had been a clear night but I felt optimistic about my chances of connecting.

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I made my way along the west side of the Loch until I arrived at what I thought was the birds’ favoured area – I could see where the long grass had been flattened by birders over the previous days! With no-one else there though I suddenly realised that I was going to have to find this myself. I kind of liked that. This was far better than turning up and having it pointed out to me – and it also meant that I didn’t have to listen to prats with no fieldcraft loudly discussing every twitch they’ve ever been on before, or how many millions of Sardinian Warblers they’ve seen abroad. But then after what seemed like ages of searching and waiting I began to wonder if I was in the right area, or worse still – had it departed overnight? All I’d seen and heard was a Dunnock, a Robin and a Wren, but then I heard an unfamiliar short burst of song coming from somewhere within the gorse. I was pretty sure that was it. I waited for it to appear but nothing. Another ten minutes went by before I heard the same song again. I was almost startled when it suddenly flew out of the gorse and directly towards me – almost flying into me in the process – I think it was probably as surprised to see me as I was it! It landed in a small bramble patch that I was stood beside, perching on an exposed twig for a second or two before disappearing inside. Get in! But in that couple of seconds I hadn’t even had the chance to raise my bins! I stepped away from the brambles and waited for it to show, it was only a small patch of cover so I knew I’d see it again. But within a couple of minutes it flew straight back into the thick gorse cover from which it had originally appeared. Bum! Thankfully, and rather surprisingly to me, it then flew into some small Spuce trees, calling almost continuously as it did so. It was here that I had my best views. What a marvellous little bird it was, and I thoroughly enjoyed having it all to myself on this beautiful morning. Lovely jubbly.

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Amazingly this bird had been trapped and ringed at Mire Loch back on the 30th June, but had then gone missing until it reappeared on the 25th September – bonkers.

Anyway, the bird duly disappeared into the darkness, and then I heard a Yellow-browed Warbler calling so I kind of got side-tracked into finding that. I soon had this little gem in my bins, they are proper gorgeous little things and I never tire of seeing (or hearing) them. I decided to wander my way back around the Loch to the boathouse end to see if I could find anything else.

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In this area I had another 3 Yellow-browed’s, a chiffy or two, and a Spotfly…

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Pleased with my few hours birding we headed south to pitch the tent at Budle Bay for the night…

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Next stop was Druridge Bay, with it’s perfect combination of a superb beach for the family, and a Subalpine Warbler for me!… Unfortunately though this experience was in complete contrast to the Sardinian that I’d had to myself earlier in the day. I joined about 10 or 12 other birders/photographers who were gathered peering into a clump of blackthorn. Within minutes of standing there it was clear that the bird was being very elusive. I soon found out why – the volume of chatter coming from one particular ‘photographer’. I heard him say how he’d been there a while, and how he’d got good photos of it earlier on – so good that he wasn’t even stood by his camera should the bird show for goodness sake. Instead he was chatting at an incredible volume – all just yards away from where other birders were hoping the Subalp might appear. And then it got worse, a lady ‘birder’ arrived with a dog, and then she also began talking at a stupid volume to the other loud guy, honestly, it was unbelievable. Her dog barked loudly when a chopper flew over, and they continued to chat about their elderly parents driving abilities so that everyone within a mile of them could hear. Seriously, what is it with some birders? Talk about a complete lack of fieldcraft. If you’ve seen the bird and want to just bloody chat, move away to a more appropriate distance – or shut up, and give others a chance. Unsurprisingly whilst all this was going on the Subalp had made one brief appearance before diving back into cover. Thankfully the two loud people finally got bored of listening to their own voices and disappeared, and then what do you know, the Subalp started to show on and off… however it was always skulky and elusive whilst I was there so only record shots…

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Back up to Seahouses then for fish n chips and a good nights sleep in the tent…

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Sunday was spent chilling out on various beaches making sandcastles etc, I did have a Red-necked Grebe off Stag Rocks and visited Low Newton but saw nowt there.

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