I had driven to Kirkkonummi already on Friday evening. I had left straight after work and on the way I had twitched a Hume’s Leaf Warbler in Helsinki Tähtitorninmäki. This bird was a typical looking Hume’s but it sounded more like “sweeo” Chiffchaff. In Helsinki I got also an idea to go to watch Finland-Georgia EM-qualification football match. The game was as boring as expected.
On Saturday I did some birding with my friends Andreas Lindén and Andreas Uppstu. We went to see the Hume’s Leaf Warbler again and visited a couple of other birding places. Espoo Laajalahti had lots of birds as it always does. In the evening I drove to Vihti where I left my car to service.
To England again
On Sunday 14th of October I visited Espoo Suomenoja briefly but I didn’t see anything special. At 10:45 a.m. my father drove me to Helsinki-Vantaa airport where I was already at 11:30 a.m. A couple of hours later SAS plane left towards Copenhagen.
In Copenhagen I had a more than 2 hours wait for the next flight to Birmingham. It was raining very hard so luckily I didn’t know anything about a Rufous-tailed Robin that was being twitched in some island in Denmark.
My plane to Birmingham left at 5:15 p.m. (local time) and again I managed to sleep for an hour. After 2 hours flight I landed to Birmingham airport at 6:15 p.m. (local time again).
My good old Catalan friend Oriol Clarabuch had arrived to Birmingham airport from Barcelona already a couple of hours earlier and he was waiting for me in the lobby. After I had found my luggage and got some pounds I found him and just a couple of seconds later I saw also Paul French who had just arrived to pick us up. It was so good to see two best friends I have! Oriol and Paul hadn’t met before but we knew we had plenty of time to talk when we get away from the airport and hit the road!
Soon we had got our luggage to Paul’s car and started our long way to south. After a couple of hours driving we stopped to eat, but then we continued again. The reason why we had flight to Birmingham was simple, now we had almost straight road south to Cornwall where we had ferry in the next morning to Scillies. Paul had just a couple of days earlier came from Foula, so we had tried to give him as much time as possible to relax and do everything he needs to do before this trip.
But we had never expected to drive this quickly to Cornwall – we were there already before midnight! We then drove to Penzance to se if there was any parking places free close to the harbour and found out that there were plenty. Se we decided to drive to Drift reservoir nearby to sleep in a car. There we could do some birding in first light next morning.
By Scillonian ferry to legendary Scilly Islands
On the 15th of October we woke up early and after some waiting there started to be some light. We walked along the lake to another end but found out that the water-level was too high for waders. So we saw only some Mallards, Tufted Ducks, Grey Wagtails and a Kingfisher and so on.
Pretty soon we were in Penzance harbour again and at 9:30 a.m. Scillonian ferry left towards legendary Scilly Islands. We of course climbed to the deck to do some seawatching. On the deck we met Ken Shaw who had asked Paul to Scilly and then asked him to get 2 friends with him. Paul had then asked me to get one of my friends and I had asked Oriol to join us. Ken had been in Scillies for about 30 autumns before! He had planned to fly to St Marys but the airfields was flooding because of the last days heavy rains so he had to come by ferry which he hated.
Luckily the sea was very calm and there were also some birds. We saw a Great Northern Diver, Gannets, Kittiwakes, Razorbills, Common Guillemots and in the end of 2.5 hours ferry trip we still saw some Puffins, 2 Sooty and 2 Manx Shearwaters! Finally we were in St Marys which is the biggest of Scilly Islands. In the harbour our luggage had already carried to a smaller boat that continued to St Agnes which was our destination but we changed our plans and climbed to a boat that continued to Bryher. There had been a Blackpoll Warbler for a couple of days in Bryher so we left to twitch.
Once we were in Bryher the warbler had been seen an hour earlier and we soon knew all the places where it had been seen. But it was clear that the bird had been extremely difficult and so was the island! There was too much vegetation and far too many gardens where it was impossible to see. After an hour searching it started to rain hard but anyway we kept on trying. But the only good bird we saw was a Hooded Crow – didn’t feel so good to me. After all we had to give up and we called a taxi-boat to take us straight to St Agnes. It was surprisingly cheap to book a Hurricane-boat; we of course got to St Agnes faster but also cheaper. The normal way would have been from Bryher to St Marys and then to St Agnes.
On St Agnes we luckily found our luggage in the harbour building and soon we climbed up to High Town where our apartment was.
In the apartment we met the fifth member of our group Chris Pendlebury who had already been birding around the island. While we were making the house our home Chris cooked some pasta and after the dinner Ken and Chris left to a local pub to a log. We were absolutely too tired to join them and went straight to sleep.
St Agnes is the southernmost island of Scillies and the most remote too. There are about 70 people living and most of the people live from tourism but many also sell bulbs. St Agnes is connected to a small island of Gugh on low tide. There are only a couple of houses in Gugh.
Getting familiar with St Agnes
On the 16th of October I woke up at 7:30 a.m. and soon Oriol and Paul were up too. Chris had already left out but Ken was still sleeping – the first pub night had been long? Soon we were out and getting familiar with the island and its birds. Song Thrushes were tamer than anywhere else and Dunnocks, Robins, Blackbirds and Wrens were common. After some walking we found also some Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs and Coal Tits that were not normal birds in Scilly – there hadn’t been any in last 20 years but now we saw several right away! We continued walking around the island and soon with Oriol we heard an Olive-backed Pipit like calls from the sky but we couldn’t find the bird. A little bit later I found a big pipit on the grassy area and once I told about it to the others, it flushed and called “spriu” – a Richard’s Pipit!
Soon we met Chris and he showed us some of the best places of the island and later we met Ken too and he showed some of his favourite places. The best birds we found were a Lapland Bunting, a Reed Warbler and a Kestrel.
The island was so small that so we had checked all the best places and we stopped already second time in Middle Town where the biggest trees were growing in a place called Personage. There we ate pastries that we had just bought from the shop and watched a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers, a Pied and a Spotted Flycatcher flying here and there on the tops of the trees.
We walked around until 6:20 p.m. when the sun started to set. After 7 p.m. we headed to a pub to eat and at 9 p.m. was a log again. We had already met most of the birders during the day but there were still some new faces. There were surprisingly many birders in St Agnes – about 25. And many of them had been there for many years like Ken. It was nice to meet many famous birders like Alan Dean and Paul Dukes.
On the 17th of October it had been blowing very hard whole night and it was still very windy in the morning. So with Oriol and Chris we left to do seawatching to the southern point of the island, Horse Point. Unfortunately there weren’t that many birds, just some Gannets, Kittiwakes and Common Guillemots. After an hour we were already leaving but then Oriol saw a Sooty Shearwater. When also Paul arrived, we planned to keep on trying. Soon I found a Manx Shearwater and right after that a Sooty and soon also another Sooty Shearwater. After a half an hour more, we decided to walk back to our apartment, where we left some clothes and our scopes and had a good breakfast so we could keep on walking around the island for the rest of the day.
Then we got info that there was a Barred Warbler near Lowertown Farm. It was a good species for Oriol so we left to twitch it. Once we got to the right place, there were about 10 twitchers standing at least 200 metres from the bushes the bird had been seen. We had just left our scopes in so we were absolutely too far too see the bird well. Soon we found out that we were too far to see the bird at all as it was seen a couple of times for just some seconds inside the bushes. Those who could see the bird saw it always so briefly that the instructions weren’t very good, so we had no idea which was the right bush or branch or bracket? Luckily it was just a Barred Warbler, not an American warbler… After an hour we had missed the bird too many times and decided to go anywhere else. From the Big Pool we heard a Moorhen calling and near the lighthouse we found a Richard’s Pipit again – now it was showing extremely well and I started to think to carry the scope the rest of the trip with me…
We checked all the best places again but saw only the same Yellow-browed Warblers and flycatchers in Personage and also a Stock Dove and a Kestrel. In the afternoon we decided to get scope with us and left to try to see the Barred Warbler. It had still been seen but now the twitchers were standing even further from the bushes! I decided just to watch to the bushes by scope and after 15 minutes I managed to see the bird in flight and somehow managed to follow it landing to a branch and then I asked Oriol to watch it and luckily the bird stayed there for long enough.
The windy weather made us to give up earlier than we had planned and we walked to our apartment to watch the last 20 minutes of a football qualification match Poland-England which ended 1-1.
In the evening Ken made curry and the log was at 8 p.m. because of after that there was a pub-quiz. We participated to the quiz but even Paul and Ken were pretty good (and me and Oriol didn’t really know almost anything as the questions were too British) we came second last.
During the night the wind stayed strong but the direction changed south, and it was raining a lot.
On the 18th of October we woke up at 7:30 a.m. again and before 8 o’clock we were already out and walking around with Oriol. In warm sunny weather we saw a Peregrine, lots of Goldcrests and some Coal Tits again. At 10 a.m. we walked to the harbour where we met Paul and some other twitchers and soon our boat came and we headed towards St Marys where a Solitary Sandpiper had been showing well on the previous day and there was also a Hume’s Leaf Warbler that would be a lifer for Oriol.
In St Marys we walked through Hugh Town and soon came to a forest at Dump Clump where 2 big groups of birders were watching up to the trees. We thought that the smaller group was watching a Yellow-browed Warbler that we heard and walked to the bigger group. Straight away we heard a Hume’ Leaf Warbler calling and this bird was calling sometimes typically but mostly like the bird I had heard some days earlier in Helsinki. But when we found the bird from the top of the trees it surprisingly looked exactly like a Yellow-browed Warbler! A big group of photographers were chasing the bird so I concentrated to listen to it and I am sure it called once almost like a Yellow-bowed Warbler too! We really wanted to see this bird better but first we decided to go to see the Solitary Sandpiper as some birders that had also came from St Agnes had told the bird was still present. We continued walking towards the middle part of the island and when we passed the second group of birders we heard a Red-breasted Flycatcher calling – that was what they were watching! We saw the flycatcher briefly but kept on walking soon.
We walked for about a mile and finally came to a small field which was along Old Town Lane where a Solitary Sandpiper had been seen, but there we met only a couple of birders that told that the bird hadn’t been seen at all during the morning. Anyway we checked the field carefully before we continued to the pools nearby hoping to find the sandpiper there.
From the first hide of Porth Hellick Pool we saw 3 Ring-necked Ducks that had been found a day earlier. And from the next pool we could see and photograph these young male and 2 females very well. Otherwise the pool was almost empty: a Gadwall, a Mallard and some kind of Mallard and duck hybrid. Soon we were out and walking again and we came to a place with some huge trees and we saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker looking out from a hole in one of the trees – it was a rare bird in Scillies.
Next we walked to another pool that was drier and there were only a couple of Snipes. Then we visited the secretary of BBRC who was of course Paul’s friend as he is a member of BBRC. We had a nice time talking with him but soon we decided to walk back to see if the Hume’s Leaf Warbler or whatever was still showing. We had heard that people thought it might be a montelli subspecies of Hume’s Leaf Warbler and it had now been recorded too. But once we got to the place there was no sign of it for an hour. We stayed there for some time but the bird was not seen or heard anymore. The Red-breasted Flycatcher was still showing very well so at least Oriol was happy to see it well.
Soon we had to start walking towards Hugh Town where we did some shopping and at 4:30 p.m. our boat left towards St Agnes. It had been quiet in St Agnes, but Chris had seen briefly some greenish bird that might have been a Red-eyed Vireo, but it hadn’t been found anymore. We still walked a little bit around the island until it started to get dark but didn’t see anything interesting.
And again to twitch
On the 19th of October we woke up in the normal time and after a heavy breakfast we were out again. We decided to start from the western side of the island and that’s why we had some new birds. We found 5 Red-legged Partridges, a Redwing and more some other species than earlier. At 10 a.m. we were in a harbour again and soon on our way to Bryher again where the Blackpoll Warbler had been showing well on the previous day.
On the way we saw 2 Spoonbills with a flock of Little Egrets sleeping in on a small islet. In Bryher we started to check the same places again and it seemed there were no other birders in the area at all, but soon a boat came from St Marys and brought at least 40 twitchers more. The weather was really nice and soon I was wearing a T-shirt. But again there weren’t many birds in Bryher – we saw a Hooded Crow again and also a Garden Warbler and then Oriol saw a Yellow-browed Warbler but unfortunately Blackpoll Warbler wasn’t seen at all. Then some stupid had photographed a Buff-breasted Pipit on the southern side of the island but the bird was identified only some days later – but for sure there had been a reason to photograph the bird – he might have asked some help with it!
The best things that Bryher had to offer to us were fudges that were sold in one garden and cream tea that we had in local cafeteria – too sweet!
Once we were back in St Agnes we could easily find out that there were much more birds around! I saw briefly a Great Spotted Woodpecker in flight but it disappeared. It had just been found and then soon it was seen on the other side of the island. It was the first one in St Agnes for 17 years!
In the evening we ate well and talked a lot – we almost forgot the log, but were there just in time.
On our home island
On the 20th of October we had decided not to go to twitch very easily anymore and try to find something by ourselves. We left with Oriol to check some of the best places but soon Paul called with walkie-talkie that he had found something. The connection was bad as we were just on the other side of the island, but we heard that it was near Cove Vein and it was a warbler. Of course we hoped for some American warbler but Paul hadn’t sounded that excited – so we guessed that it was probably a Blyth’s Reed (worst option for me) or Subalpine (worst option for Oriol). Soon we met some other birders that were heading towards Cove Vein and heard that the bird was a Booted Warbler. Of course I was a little bit disappointed but anyway Booted Warbler is one of my favourite birds and I had never seen it anywhere else than in Finland and actually both Oriol had also seen it earlier only in Finland and of course with me. And it was a self-found tick for Paul who had seen it once in Britain and of course in Finland with me. I decided to get my scope from our apartment and then hurried towards Cove Vein. I almost walked too far but I luckily noticed that a couple of birders that had followed me had disappeared. I turned back and soon saw almost all birders of the island just behind one corner and the Booted Warbler was showing very well in front of them.
The Booted Warbler was catching insects together with 2 Willow Warblers. a Chiffchaff and a Reed Warbler. The place was very warm and they really had plenty of insects to catch. Soon the first boat full of St Marys twitchers arrived and some of them were asking what I was doing when I was looking to a different direction than the others – I don’t know what they were thinking when I told them that I was digiscoping a Reed Warbler as I had much less pictures of Reed Warblers than Booted Warblers.
Soon everyone had seen the Booted Warbler well so soon the island was too full of birders. There were maybe 100 birders walking around St Agnes. We realized that birds were now too difficult to find and walked to the eastern shore to wait the low tide to open the connection to Gugh.
About at 11 a.m. we finally could walk to the Gugh with Oriol and Chris. We walked around the island for alost 2 hours but all we saw were a Peregrine and a Merlin. It was a hot day and the time of the day wasn’t the best to find passerines. But the island was very nice and pretty different than St Agnes.
In the afternoon we walked in the western part of St Agnes where we still found some places that we hadn’t checked before. We saw 3 Sanderlings in a flock of 32 Ringed Plovers and bough some local ice-cream that was made in one farm. It was already getting dark when I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker calling near Personage. Nobody had seen it during the day but at least it was still present. 2 Pied Flycatchers, a Spotted Flycatcher and 2 Yellow-browed Warblers were also sill present but I still missed all Firecrests that someone saw everyday somewhere.
In the evening we ate in a pub and celebrated Paul’s self-found tick by ordering World best sticky toffee pudding as dessert. I had maybe never been that full!
Also we find something
On the 21st of October the wind turned to South-east and lots of finches and Redwings were moving. Also some Bramblings were seen. With Oriol we walked again all the best places very carefully and of course everyone else was doing the same too. There were again many twitchers from St Marys but the Booted Warbler was already gone. There were several birded in Personage when we went there but they hadn’t seen a single bird and left soon. Soon Oriol saw briefly a flycatcher and after some waiting I finally heard it – a Red-breasted Flycatcher! Finally we made some birders running as Oriol put the news about the bird through walkie-talkie.
Before midday some of the twitchers from St Marys saw a young Rose-coloured Starling between the lighthouse and the cafeteria but it disappeared immediately. In half an hour nobody found it so we decided to go to cafeteria to get some breakfast with Oriol. While we were waiting for our sandwiches the Rose-coloured Starling landed to the roof of the next building with some Starlings. It stayed there for a minute but then disappeared again.
As there were too many birders again in St Agnes, we decided to go to Gugh again. But now the connection was open half an hour later so we got there in the hottest and the quietest time of the day. Anyway we saw some flocks of Chaffinches and Chris heard again an Olive-backed Pipit like caller (it was already the 4th similar observation).
Oriol had some head-ache and went to rest to our apartment for an hour but I decided to walk along the south cost to the other side of St Agnes. I saw several big flocks of Starling but Rose-coloured Starling wasn’t with them. It had been missing all the time since we had seen it. But again when I got close to the cafeteria I saw it flying with some Starlings. Luckily then at least some of the twitchers, that had stayed there all the time, saw it too. Anyway still some didn’t see it.
The Richard’s Pipit had been behind the Big Pool almost whole day so I decided to try to digiscope it. Also Oriol was there and soon we found out that some photographers, Paul with them, still had the Richard’s Pipit in front of them. Soon they had got enough pictures so I decided to give a try too and walked close to the place where the bird had been feeding. Soon the bird started to walk towards me and I started to digiscope it but then a local birder with a buggy drove next to me and kept the engine running! He had a huge camera too so I thought that he was going to photograph the bird too so I shouted him to turn off the engine. Luckily the bird was soon again walking towards us and I managed to get some good pictures, but just some as soon there were some noisy birders walking next to us and the bird got enough and flushed to the shore. I had been carrying my scope for days and these had been the first digiscoped pictures I had taken that really mattered at all. I wasn’t very happy but at least I got better Richard’s Pipit pictures than I had earlier.
In the afternoon we did some seawatching but only better bird was a too distant skua which looked like an Arctic Skua. Of course some Gannets, Kittiwakes and Common Guillemots were seen too. Once we were walking back and next to the cafeteria again Oriol found the Rose-coloured Starling hiding inside a dense bush. It had maybe stayed there most of the day. The twitchers had left already so we left it there to rest. We also heard a Yellow-browed Warbler calling there so we thought it was our 3rd “ino” of the day. At 6 p.m. we were in our apartment where we cleaned the house and then Paul made us curry and at 9 p.m. we were gain in the log.
Goodbyes to St Agnes
On the 22nd of October we woke up at 7 a.m. again and after some more cleaning we still left to walk around with Oriol. We checked Cove Vein and Barbany Lane and once we were near to post-office we met some birders that told that there had been a Marsh Warbler. Paul, Chris and Ken had found it but we had already packed our walkie-talkies. Anyway the bird hadn’t been seen anymore so we also gave up soon and walked to Parsonage where Red-breasted Flycatcher was still around. Then we heard someone shouting “Spoonbill!” but we didn’t see anything so we started to walk towards the shout. We walked until the Booted Warbler place where we met Paul who told that the Spoonbill had flown over there and Ken had been the shouter. Amazing how clearly we had heard him almost a mile away!
At 10:15 a.m. our boat arrived and we left towards St Marys. From the ferry we still saw a Peregrine and in St Marys harbour we said goodbye to Ken and Chris who had their flight soon. We still had several hours before Scillonian would leave.
We walked around St Marys for some hours and checked the best places but all we saw were a Coal Tit, 10 Chiffchaffs, a Grey Heron, a Greenshank and 13 Snipes which 2 of them were faroensis sub-species.
At 4:30 p.m. Scillonian left towards Cornwall and we of course climbed to the deck to seawatch. We didn’t see many birds, only better ones were some Puffins, 2 Great Skuas and a Manx Shearwater but we saw lots of cetaceans! We saw about 100 Dolphins and 20 Harbour Porpoises and just before the sunset also a Minke Whale.
It was already dark when we arrived at Penzance and soon we had carried our luggage to Paul’s car and started to drive towards north. We drove until Exeter where Paul had booked us a room from a Youth Hostel (13£/person). At 10 p.m. we were ready to go to sleep.
Towards north-east and change of team members
On the 23rd of October we woke up at 6 a.m. and soon we were driving towards the coast and Dawlish Warren where in last 2 days had been a Bonaparte’s Gull. We were in the parking place too early, it was still dark. There Paul found out that the bird had been seen only in the afternoons so we thought to give up but then decided to have a look at the place anyway. Soon there was some light and we walked to the beach which was empty; a Whimbrel was only bird on the shore. We walked there for an hour and saw about 10 Black-headed Gulls, a Common Sandpiper and some Brent Geese but then we had to give up. We had to start driving towards London where Oriol had his flight in the afternoon. We would also pick up Hanna there. She had been in London for some days with her brother and sister.
So we started to drive towards Heathrow and soon realized that we had no time to try to twitch a Lesser Scaup which was almost on the way. On one of the flocks of Canada Geese we saw 2 Bar-headed Geese and later 2 Egyptian Geese flew over the road. Then we found out that the main road towards Heathrow was closed and we had to turn to smaller roads. We drove about 50 miles extra but luckily got to Heathrow just in time. Hanna had also just got there and we met in dropping place. Hanna and Oriol met after 6 years! We said goodbye to Oriol and started a long way again.
We continued towards Birmingham and saw some Red Kites on the way before we turned to Wolverhampton where we visited Paul’s mother. After a short stop we continued towards north-east.
It was a long drive but after we had passed Hull, we stopped to eat fish&chips and soon after that we were finally at Spurn bird-observatory at 8 p.m.
We carried our luggage to a room that was booked for us and then the rest of the evening we were talking with other birders that were staying there. Once again we met several nice people! But soon we were too tired to go on and we had to go to sleep.
On the 24th of October we woke up at 7 a.m. and I went straight away out to look what kind of place we had arrived. A Woodcock almost hit to my head when I opened the door! There was foggy outside and birds everywhere! Last 2 days had been on of the best ones ever in numbers of birds in Spurn and there were still thrushes everywhere!
After a heavy breakfast we left to walk along the Spurn Point which is 3.5 miles from the station. There were hundreds of Redwings, Bramblings and Fieldfares and we counted more than 100 Robins too. We also saw some better birds like some Ring Ouzels, a Black Redstart, 2 Pale-bellied Brent Geese in a flock of Brent Geese, 2 Stonechats, a Jack Snipe, altogether 7 Woodcocks and first we saw a strange looking dark pipit that was probably once again an unidentified Olive-backed Pipit and later I heard a clear Tree Pipit. Two Roe Deers were jumping in front of us while we were checking lots of bushes. The Spurn Point was a big area and there were far too many bushes but not that many birds. A few Mistle Thrushes were found but soon the weather changed much worse and we had to start walking back towards the station. Luckily just when it started to rain Andy Roadhouse drove towards us and soon he came back and picked us up. So we got a ride to the station and there we put up a fire and managed to get our clothes dry.
After a short relaxing the rain had stopped and we left to walk to the other side of the station towards inland. The weather had changed radically and it was freezing cold! With Paul we hadn’t got enough clothes, we had used to too warm weather in Scillies. We saw 1 adult and 3 young Pale-bellied Brent Geese but nothing else better. Soon we had to walk back to warm up. Then we decided to go shopping. We drove to a closest bigger shop that was some 15 miles away and on the way back we stopped to check a couple of garden areas which were empty and a couple of fields where we saw lots of Redwings and Golden Plovers and a flock of 7 Grey Partridges.
When it was getting dark the high tide pushed amazing numbers of waders and about 4000 Shelducks closer to the shore. But it was too dark already t watch these more carefully.
We had a log at 6 p.m. and after that we left together with all others to a pub to eat and celebrate Andy’s birthday. At 11 p.m. we came back to sleep.
Owls, some better birds and a rare one too
On the 25th of October we started early and walked to inland side again. But then it started to rain so we went in to a Canal Scrape hide. A Jack Snipe was feeding along the pool and on the closest bushes there were 6 Ring Ouzels. When the rain stopped and we continued walking we found out that there weren’t that many birds around anymore. On the church yard we found, with help of tits, a Tawny Owl hiding on a tree. And from the shore we found a lonely Purple Sandpiper and soon we saw a Short-eared Owl coming from the sea. The owl started hunting along the shore and we saw it later several times. The rest of the walk showed us some more Ring Ouzels. Once we were back at the station the ringers had just caught a Black Redstart which we went to photograph.
Then we heard that there was a Dusky Warbler in Flamborough which is about an hour from Spurn but we decided not to go to twitch it even though it is my easiest lacking WP-tick. I felt that I just had been too unlucky with twitches in this trip that it was cleverer to try to find something by our own. And we met Jack Taylor in the station and he had seen a large pipit some time ago on the fields nearby and he thought that it hadn’t been a Richard’s Pipit. We followed him and thought that it would be great to find a Blyth’s Pipit. We walked through the field and soon a couple of pipits flushed in front of us. The first bird was a Meadow Pipit but the second one was bigger and much darker, it looked like the dark pipit we had seen migrating a day earlier. The bird called once and immediately we had an idea what it was – an Olive-backed Pipit! The bird landed pretty far close to Pallas’ Pond but we flushed it soon again and this time Paul managed to see it very well and we all heard it calling a couple of times – finally we had managed to identify one OPB! Now the bird flew very far to the other side of the big field area but we decided to follow it as it was an extremely rare bird in Spurn and there would be many twitchers soon. While we were walking along the shore towards the fields we had seen the bird landing we heard a Lapland Bunting and saw a flock of 11 Twites. But the Olive-backed Pipit wasn’t found anymore.
We were already walking back towards the station when some twitchers had found the pipit again from the other side of the field area. We walked to the place and soon saw the bird hiding behind the grass. Anyway I managed to get a short video of the bird before it flushed again and left towards Spurn Point. Soon we were walking towards the station again and then we heard again familiar calls from the sky and the pipit flew over us and landed to the field next to us but just behind some bushes. There were still more twitchers coming so we decided to leave the bird and walked to the seawatching hide that was behind the station. It was of course empty now.
We spent a couple of hours in the hide and saw a few Scaups, 4 Pomarine Scuas, Arctic Skuas, more than 10 Great Skuas, about 200 Kittiwakes, tens of Little Gulls, Red-throated Divers, Common Guillemots and a Manx Shearwater.
At 6 p.m. we had a log and it took an hour and 40 minutes before all the observations and ringed birds were counted. The rest of the evening we were cooking, eating and talking.
On the 26th of October we started with morning seawatch which started with a Sooty and a Manx Shearwater. The wind was stormy so we really expected to see something better and soon someone shouted “a storm petrel!” – and a Leach’s Storm Petrel was flying north not far from the hide. Soon the first Little Auk was seen and then 2 more. But otherwise it was surprisingly quiet, of course some flocks of Common Scoters and Eiders and some Red-throated Divers were seen but only skuas were a couple of Bonxies.
After a couple of hour’s seawatching we decided to drive to Spurn Point where we immediately found a Waxwing that was calling from the top of the highest mast. It came down to the bushes and ate some berries but the left towards south before the first twitchers arrived. Luckily soon a couple of Waxwings were found in the village so twitchers had an opportunity to see them there.
It was quiet at the point; just a flock of 28 Pink-footed Geese were migrating over us so at midday we drove back to the station. After a short break we continued close to the village where twitchers were still running after Waxwings that were flying around the area. Almost all birders had walkie-talkies and they were calling too many birds through them which was a little bit frustrating. We concentrate to photograph some common birds and Goldcrests were amazing tame! The best bird we saw was a migrating Marsh Harrier.
At 4 p.m. we went to seawatch again and the weather was really stormy. A couple of times it was hailing. Anyway a Sooty Shearwater, a Little Auk, 2 Razorbills and a Great Northern Diver were seen but after and hour we were absolutely freezing so we had to get in to the station. Then our old friend Gavin Thomas arrived too, he had been birding on the inland places of Spurn already during the day.
In the evening we were watching amazing number of waders that came to the shore with the high tide. Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey Plovers, Redshanks, Knots and Dunlins were amazing numbers and Curlews, Sanderlings, Turnstones and so on were really numerous too.
After the log and dinner we left to a pub where we stayed until it was closed at midnight. It was snowing outside then!
More old friends
The next night was really stormy and when we woke up on the 27th of October it was still really hard wind. We woke up earlier than normally at 6 a.m. and found a wet and cold woman from the living room where she was waiting for a tractor to pull her car away from the destroyed road. The road to point had really destroyed and soon it was completely closed. So there were not many options what to do so we weren’t the only ones that started the morning with seawatching. The hide was full already at 7 am. even though it was still no light to see any birds. We stayed on the corner of the hide where we managed to get the best places and actually the view was much better than from the hide but of course the weather was worse. Anyway there weren’t too many birds moving on the stormy sea but in 2.5 hours we saw 12 Little Auks, 6 Pomarine Skuas, 5 Bonxies, some Arctic Skuas, 2 Long-tailed Ducks and so on. A couple of hale storms went over us and then our old friend Garry Taylor visited us briefly before he continued somewhere else along the road to seawatch. But finally we gave up and went inside to warm ourselves.
When we had warmed up, we left to inland close to the village to walk but a heavy rain changed our plan and we called to Garry and together we decided to go to eat good breakfast to the pub. Surprisingly the pub wasn’t open yet, it was only 11:50 a.m. It was the first time ever that I had been leaving the pub after it had been closed and then knocking the door next morning before it was open! Luckily the door was opened soon and we got in to order some food.
After some good food we birded some time near the village and then first Garry, and then after we had photographed a tame Jack Snipe from the hide, Gav had leave towards their homes. In the afternoon we spent again 2 hours in seawatching hide while everyone else were twitching an Olive-backed Pipit that had been found again. We saw again more than 10 Little Auks and 2 Sooty Shearwaters. Meanwhile Hanna was photographing waders.
After the log we packed our luggage, had a shower and ate a lot again. Then we watched our Morocco pictures from spring. We had been there together with Paul and he hadn’t seen most of the pictures. We also listened to some of my recordings (there were some good quiz-recording) and before we went to sleep we luckily remembered that during the night there would be a change to winter-time.
Back to home
On the 28th of October we woke up 6:30 but it was winter-time now so we woke up later than usually. We packed the rest of our luggage and then walked to see how badly the road had damaged. While we were working towards south and the point, we saw plenty of flocks of Siskins, Linnets, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Lesser Redpolls, Tree Sparrows and so on. The wind wasn’t that good north-west that had been promised so anywhere there weren’t that many migrants that we had hoped.
Once we had been wondering the destroyed road for some time, we left to walk back towards the station. We still saw 3 Snow Buntings, a Little Auk and 2 Long-tailed Ducks, but we heard that there was almost nothing else moving on the sea so we decided to leave towards London and do something on the way.
The drive to London was long but anyway we stopped only once to buy something to eat and then we continued to the eastern side of London until Rainham Marshes. This place had been one of Paul’s favourite places when he had been studying in London and it had been shortly renewed by RSPB (Royal Society of Protection of Birds). And it hadn’t been cheap! There was a huge 4 kilometres long wooden path and several huge hides! And of course there was a big information centre with shop and restaurant and so on. And most importantly there were also lots of birds. We saw Gadwalls, Little Grebes, 2 Stonechats, Swallows, 2 House Martins and the best ones were 2 Green Woodpeckers.
We bought some souvenirs from the shop and the packed the rest of our stuff to our luggage and then left towards Gattwick. We still ate in a service but then at 4:55 we were at the airport.
We said goodbye and many thanks to Paul and hoped to see him next time in Finland! In the airport we did some more shopping and then finally walked to our gate. Our Norwegian plane left a half an hour late but was anyway in Helsinki on time just before the midnight.
After we had found our luggage we walked to the parking place where my father had brought my car that had been in service. Then we still had a long 4 hour’s drive to Parikkala and we were at home at 4 a.m. Then we had a couple of hours to sleep before the work…