Rarity finders: Two-barred Warbler in East Yorkshire


Birding can be a funny pastime and such a moment happened to me on 16 October 2021. I'm a relatively new convert to more serious birding and, as a result, have spent the last three years combing the beautiful – but often birdless – county of Buckinghamshire. So, a trip to somewhere like Spurn always gets the heart racing.

My most recent visit to East Yorkshire didn't initially go to plan, however. Finishing work mid-afternoon on Friday, my idea was to drive up and score a number of ticks on the way. First up were two Rock Pipits in Milton Keynes – very much a rarity in Buckinghamshire. Sadly, I dipped. However, the thought of what was waiting further north tempered this county lister's frustration. So I headed on …

The next stop was St Aidan's RSPB in West Yorkshire for the Long-toed Stint that had been present for nearly a week. Arriving at 11 pm on Friday, my concerns when I realised it was a completely clear and star-filled night were justified with my second dip the next morning – no stint! Despite this, there was a juvenile Baird's Sandpiper a mere 45 minutes down the road, so off I went … only to dip again! Thank goodness that the White-tailed Lapwing was still at Blacktoft Sands, East Yorkshire.

The Two-barred Warbler was Yorkshire's second, following one at Filey found 15 years ago to the day of David's find (David Bevan).

Now that I finally had a tick under my belt, I felt ready for Spurn. On the way, news of a Taiga Flycatcher further up the coast were tempting but I'd had enough of driving – it was time for Spurn! Upon arrival I was struck by just how quiet it was. I managed to find a space on the side of the road for my first stop, the seawatching hide.

Content continues after advertisements

As soon as I got to the gate I saw a small bird working along the fence to my left. As I approached, it darted across the road and into an area by a pond. I could tell it was a warbler of some kind. Creeping up slowly, I was able to get onto the bird as it fed frantically in the roadside thicket. Through my binoculars I could see a strong yellow supercilium.

With my untrained eye, I ignored the (according to some) obvious, and I immediately assumed it was a Yellow-browed Warbler. But something wasn't right. So, I took some record shots and sent a back-of-the-camera photo to my local birding group. Initially I was given the thumbs up for Yellow-browed – I was over the moon and couldn't wait to report the news to BirdGuides. Despite not getting great views after my initial time with the bird, I left happy to have seen my first self-found Yellow-browed Warbler.

Later in the early evening while viewing a couple of Short-eared Owls, I received a call from an experienced birder from Bucks (who himself was on Scilly). "Hey Dave, just calling about that Yellow-browed Warbler you've posted on Twitter – I was thinking that it looked more like Two-barred Warbler! Do you realise one is being reported close to your find site?" Oh my god!

The warbler stayed overnight, and was twitched en masse the following day (Bethan Clyne).

With my heart racing and hands shaking I headed back to the car and drove straight to Kilnsea. There, I found a large group of birders in the gloom outside the visitor centre staring into a thicket, and the rest is history.

The Two-barred Warbler proved to be only the tenth for Britain – I was absolutely made up! I'd gone from dipping a county tick to almost falling over a national mega, all within 24 hours. Birding may be strange at times but I love it.

Written by: David Bevan

Related Locations