9th February 2014 – MYRTLE MADNESS!…

What a mental day! A Myrtle Warbler, or if like me you still prefer to use the old name Yellow-rumped Warbler, was found back on the 27th January during the RSPB’s ‘Big Garden Birdwatch’. It had been seen and photographed in a garden somewhere in County Durham, but I’d pretty much forgotten about it to be honest as the original message said that it hadn’t been seen since. But then out of the blue late last night RBA put out a message saying that it was still present and that access was being negotiated.

Soon after having my breakfast this morning the all-important directions were out  in the public domain and it was ‘twitch-on!’. With Col quickly bundled into the car we headed east and arrived just an hour and a half later at High Shincliffe. The news that greeted us wasn’t too encouraging though, it hadn’t been seen since mid-morning and birders were spread along the length of the road searching for it. It’s always a bit of a lottery knowing quite where to stand when the trail has gone cold. Initially we decided to watch opposite the garden that it had been seen in yesterday and earlier in the day today, but then birders suddenly began charging around the corner – so I decided to join them, it must’ve looked pretty comical for the bemused residents! Not quite sure what went on there though, a couple of Redpolls were seen with some Goldfinches but there was no sign of the Warbler – but it was a nice surprise to see 3 Waxwings here!…

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With pretty much all the birders now congregated here and some confusion as to whether it had actually been seen or not I decided to head back to the original garden. This was a rather fortunate move as I’d only been stood there a few minutes when a guy close to me said ‘there it is!’. I raised my bins and sure enough there it was, in a tree at the back of the garden, but just as I was getting my scope onto it, it dropped down out of sight. After a nervous few minutes it flew over us to the scrub and trees on the other side of the road where a couple of feeders had been placed by the ‘negotiators’. They had been placed there in the hope that the bird would be attracted away from the gardens, and it seemed to have worked rather well as within minutes the Myrtle Warbler was happily feeding on them. For most of the birders present this was their first view of the bird so there was the usual tension and anxiety at first, and it was rather claustrophobic as all the birders bunched up tightly trying to get views. Things soon calmed down though as the bird seemed to quickly settle by the feeders, unfortunately I seemed to have picked a spot that had lots of twigs in the way of a clear view of the feeders, nevertheless I was proper buzzing just to be watching this fabulous bird. As usual I was torn between watching it and wanting to get my own record shots – which is all these photos can be described as…. but I genuinely don’t care! It was just an awesome bird to see and a fantastic experience to be part of…

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Told you they were crap! They’re so shabby it might give me a good excuse to have a second look in a couple of weeks or so when the initial excitement dies down a bit.

Although this is the 20th British record, it’s only the 3rd time the species has been seen alive on mainland Britain – and the first on the mainland for nearly 20 years! The other mainland records were in Somerset in 1994 and Devon in 1955 (and a dead one in Hampshire in 2013).

After our fill of the bird we headed for home – but we were still proper buzzing – after all we’d just seen a Myrtle Warbler less than 2 hours away from home – and in February! Ain’t birding great? Always full of surprises. Big thanks must go to the birders who negotiated access, none of us would’ve had this opportunity had it not been for their efforts.

A bit of a Brucie bonus were these 3 Tundra Bean Geese seen on the way home near Whittle Dene Reservoirs…

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3 lifers so far this year, which is already better than the whole of 2013 for me – bonkers…

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2 Responses to 9th February 2014 – MYRTLE MADNESS!…

  1. Mike Mills says:

    What a nice one! Good to know what one looks like, ‘cos I doubt I’ll be seeing one! 3 lifers so far – are you going open a book on the years final total now? Could be a good one.

    • Probably end up being 3 Mike! It makes a nice change for some good quality rarities that are within ‘easy’ reach on the mainland. Glad you could tell what it was, they’re probably the worst shots of a rarity I’ve ever taken!

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