Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Siberian Accentor Influx

Siberian Accentor Easington
Copyright Young Birder Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig

Sometimes strange things happen with birds. 

On Sunday 9 October 2016 a Siberian Accentor turned up in a quarry on Shetland, a “First” for Britain. They are extremely rare in Western Europe, and had come all the way from Northern Siberia and the Urals or its wintering grounds in South East Asia. 

Every single twitcher around the country was in what was practically physical pain. This was as a result of a combination of it being a “First” for Britain, hard to see even in its native habitat and they were not able to get to Shetland to see it. I was included in the they. I had various commitments; such as school that I wasn’t able to miss and it was a long way from Somerset to Shetland. In the end we braced ourselves for the situation and decided we’d just have to learn to live with it. However, it stayed for only two days and was gone before many twitchers could get up there.

However, there was a tiny bit of hope, a mini influx of Siberian Accentor had turned into a mass influx with around 80 arriving into Western Europe during the next few days.

Then as we had been praying for, another one turned up on Thursday 13th October 2016 in Easington near Spurn, East Yorkshire. A Second for Britain.

People couldn’t believe their ears, but the disbelief didn’t last long and almost everyone made their way as soon as they could. Unfortunately for me, I still had the pesky obligation of school. I was sitting at home that evening seeing everyone’s photos on social media. Eventually it got too much for dad, and mum and I sent him up on the Friday before he actually imploded. One parent had to stay home with me, though, as they couldn’t just leave me for a cross country road trip (as much as they probably wanted to), and so Mum decided to be the bigger person and stayed behind. Dad came home that evening on cloud nine, but wisely didn’t gloat.

The next day, Saturday, I had AONB Mendip Hills Young Rangers, which I can’t miss. I get a John Muir Gold Conservation Award at the end, but only if I don’t miss sessions. Dad didn’t mind too much, but mum certainly wasn’t happy. I had a great time finding out about ancient lead mines but I had an underlying sense of stress. Was the bird going to stay for just one more day?

Then came news of another Siberian Accentor near Teeside, a third for Britain. This one was being hard to see and not out first choice to try for.

Finally, Sunday morning, we left the house at 5.30 am. The entire drive up, the stress was almost palpable. During a trip to the Amazon in Peru, one evening Mum missed a bird that was new for us that Dad and I saw. She was not happy and it was somehow Dad’s fault (for not giving better directions). The next day, we went back to the same spot and Mum this time managed to see the bird well. Our bird guide, Gunnar Engblom exclaimed with relief that the “Craig Family Harmony Index” had been restored! So the phrase was coined. Right now, there was a high risk of the Craig Family Harmony Index remaining fairly un-harmonious. Dad wasn’t stupid and so wanted us to see the bird just as much as Mum and I. Otherwise a few years down the line Mum would have no recollection of agreeing to him going without her.

When I woke up a few hours later we had arrived, and it was raining. It was fine until we were out the car and it was like a switch had been flicked and suddenly it went from drizzle to torrential rain. That would have been fine as well, except when we got to where the bird had been seen that morning and discovered that we had missed the Siberian Accentor by 5 minutes. For over an hour we waited in this pouring rain, when finally someone started yelling for their mate to come over. There was a lot of confusion; did he just want to have a chat with his friend, or had he seen the bird and forgotten to tell everyone else? Everyone started frantically looking around and then we saw it!

It was a terrible view, my bins were foggy from the rain, rain was making everything harder and there was a large fence in my way. Besides all this, I was ecstatic. But, 10 minutes later, I managed to see it again! This time it was a bit better. Siberian Accentor basically looks like a Dunnock with a stripey head and not hard to identify.

After twenty minutes the bird disappeared again and so after a while we decided we should probably get back in the car before the rain completely soaked through our coats. 

Shorelark, Spurn
Copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

We then went to Spurn to see a Shorelark and bumped into our good friend Ruth Peacey. She had been thinking of going to Cornwall for a Red-eyed Vireo but my message last night telling her she was insane had swayed her to make the sensible decision. There is only one rule of twitching, always go to see the rarest bird that is least likely to turn up again, asap! We then all got soaked looking for the Shorelark on the beach. At this point we had enough and we retreated to the car. Eventually the rain stopped and we jumped out of the car to join people watching the Shorelark just a few metres away. I took loads of photos of it and enjoyed the close views. 

Shorelark, Spurn
Copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Shorelark, Spurn
Copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Young Birder Mya-Rose Craig  - birding with my Mum and Dad
Photograph taken by Heather Wilde

We birded around in that area for a while, but then decided to try our luck with the Accentor again to see if we could get better views.

When we got back to the site, it was sunny. The bird, again, had been seen just a few minutes before we arrived. But after a few more minutes of patient waiting, it flew out into the open a couple metres away. We got amazingly views in brilliant weather conditions and we all took lots and lots of photos.

Siberian Accentor Easington
Copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

So far, in the last few weeks just under 150 Siberian Accentor have turned up in Western Europe including a total of eight in Britain, 53 in Sweden, 44 in Finland and 9 in Denmark but nobody knows what has caused the influx. In the space of a week they had gone from "OMG, a First for Britain" to "Just another" Siberian Accentor.  Some really good friends Rob Lambert and Lucy McRoberts were on the Isles of Scilly and so missed the birds. Just hoping for another one for them!

About the Author

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig in Antarctica
Photograph copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Mya-Rose Craig is a 14 year old young British Bangladeshi birder, naturalist, conservationist, environmentalist, activist, writer and speaker. She is based near Bristol and writes the successful Birdgirl Blog, with posts about birding and conservation from around the world. She loved seeing Mountain Gorillas in East Africa and Penguins in Antarctica over Christmas 2015, her 7th continent.

Mya-Rose was a Bristol European Green Capital Ambassador along with Kevin McCloud, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Tony Juniper, Simon King, Miranda Krestovnikoff and Shaun the Sheep! See the full list of Bristol Ambassadors. She has also been listed with the singer songwriter George Ezra and actress Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones as one of Bristol's most influential young people. Please like her Birdgirl Facebook Page and follow her on Birdgirl Twitter

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