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.
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!
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.