Friday 5 December 2014

Quick trip to North Yorks

Imagine opening your curtains one morning and seeing this hopping about in the road!

Popped up to North Yorkshire in the ever-delightful company of Dan Pointon to have a look at this gorgeous Eastern Black Redstart (P. o. phoencuroides), which had been busying itself about a housing estate on the north side of Scalby for a few days. I can't entirely remember why I didn't see either of the 2011 birds, though I suspect the reason was something list-orientated - not bothering to travel for a subspecies (or similar).

Male Black Redstarts are seriously brilliant birds and this one, with its brick-red breast and belly sharply demarcated from the black face and throat, grey forehead and brownish upperparts was one handsome beast. At times it looked remarkably Common Redstart-like but both behaviour and structure were much more reminiscent of Black Redstart. I'd actually go as far as saying this is one of the best-looking birds I've seen in Britain and the fact that it's not a species in its own right shouldn't detract from that.

Unfortunately behaviour didn't match appearance and while it did show incredibly well on a few fairly brief occasions, it was utterly restless and kept zipping off in to gardens. It appeared to be conducting a fairly loose circuit, ranging over a good few hundred metres (at one point it stormed off down the hedgerow of an adjacent field and didn't come back for a couple of hours). As such it proved a frustrating subject for the lens but there are some decent pics floating about the internet now. Here are a couple of my best, more on Flickr as always:

We also popped up to nearby Cloughton Wyke where we found the Richard's Pipit in its favoured field south of the Hayburn Wyke Inn. A really big and obvious bird that called frequently, it was also typically mobile and wary.

I suspect that will be it for the good birds now this year, unless someone turfs out a surprise passerine. Come to think of it, has there ever been a better year for a late, late autumn hyper-rarity? The mild weather seems to be encouraging a number of common migrants to attempt to winter here - think Swallows, Whinchats and two species of warbler on a Leyton traffic island, for example. A Siberian Accentor would be ideal, as would a Black-faced Bunting - though I'd settle for a Pine!

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