A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Birding Gold – Siberian Accentor at Easington, Yorkshire – MEGA!!

Siberian Accentor in Britain – the stuff birding dreams are made of.

There are some birds that instantly send your mind in to absolute chaos and panic when flashing up as an alert – Black-billed Cuckoo was one, Short-toed Eagle another (Wallcreeper I imagine will be another should one ever alight on a south coast cliff). And so it was the case at 3pm on Thursday afternoon when “Siberian Accentor – Easington, Yorkshire. One by the school.” popped up on my phone on the back of a mega alert. 
Siberian Accentor - Easington, Yorkshire
Hot on the heels of the first for Britain found on Shetland just 4 days earlier (which sent the entire birding community in to a spin at the time), miraculously, lightning had struck twice and a small piece of Russian gold had now made landfall on mainland Britain, making itself available for the masses to twitch and a relief for those who just don’t have the time or funding to nip off to Shetland for a day every time a good bird breaks. 

Headless chicken mode soon ensued, along with the agonising realisation that with dusk now at around 6pm, a plane at the very least would be required to make the 3+ hour journey to get us there before dark after work. With the bird showing well down to a matter of feet for the rest of the day, all we could do was sit and watch as the tear-inducing close up photos flooded social media that evening (this bird must surely now win the award for most photographed Siberian Accentor of all time!)

Sleepless nights followed (including bizarre panic induced dreams consisting of Siberian Accentors being sliced up, roasted and served on a plate?!) – and with no records of Siberian Accentor in Britain before last week and very few in Western Europe before this autumn, the chances of any more occurring after this year’s remarkable invasion were very very remote indeed….
Easington, Yorkshire
The famous skip the Easington Siberian Accentor liked to hang out next to!
As expected, the crowds on Friday and Saturday morning were huge (it was almost a first for Britain after all), with birders photographed queuing up around Easington gas terminal in their hundreds way before even the twinkling of first light approached. Not quite as certain however, but hoped for by thousands, was that the Siberian Accentor was miraculously still present each day – it was - game on!

Luckily the bird turning up on a Thursday meant the agony of work was limited to just Friday, and we were soon well on our way to Easington, news that it was still there making it a much more relaxed affair than usual – with Siberian Accentors being night-time migrants and the bird being completely settled feeding on the same drive, the likelihood of it doing a bunk was slim.

With the dawn masses having already been and gone, we arrived on site to just a small handful of birders (less than 100 lined up along the fence) and we were soon gazing at this part of British birding history – one Siberian Accentor happily feeding amongst the gravel and leaves on someone’s drive right in front of us.

Surreal.
Siberian Accentor - Easington, Yorkshire
Siberian Accentor - Easington, Yorkshire
Siberian Accentor - Easington, Yorkshire
Siberian Accentor - Easington, Yorkshire
With the stress of seeing the bird now lifted, we could truly enjoy this Siberian wonder, and we watched on for around 45 minutes as it bumbled around in front of us, often coming to within 3 metres and providing out of this world views of what can be a difficult species to see anywhere in the world (never mind Britain!), completely oblivious to the absolute fuss and excitement its arrival had caused on the British birding scene.
Siberian Accentor - Easington, Yorkshire
Siberian Accentor - Easington, Yorkshire
Siberian Accentor - Easington, Yorkshire
Siberian Accentor - Easington, Yorkshire
Siberian Accentor - Easington, Yorkshire
Occasionally associating with one of the many Dunnocks also feeding on the drive, the difference between the two species was clear, the Siberian Accentor having its face dusted with gold and looking particularly smart wearing its tiny black and gold mask. An exceptionally classy looking bird and a very special visitor indeed.
Siberian Accentor and Dunnock - Easington, Yorkshire
The Siberian Accentor and Dunnock together
Siberian Accentor - Easington, Yorkshire
Siberian Accentor - Easington, Yorkshire
Siberian Accentor - Easington, Yorkshire
The gorgeous head stripe patterns!
Siberian Accentor - Easington, Yorkshire
Of course, Siberian Accentor as an addition to the British list was one of the most widely predicted and anticipated firsts for Britain of all time. An absolutely unprecedented influx of birds making landfall across Western Europe (Sweden holding 16 alone) and with individuals located in Latvia, Germany, Finland, Lithuania, Denmark and Poland, it was only a matter of time before these Russian strays found themselves on British soil. Indeed, in an incredible sequence of events, a further 4 individuals (possibly 6) have been found in the UK since (one in Cleveland, one in Durham, one on Lindisfarne, one on Fair Isle and two possibles in Northumberland and Lothian) bringing the total of European birds now up to over a staggering 100 individuals and counting.
Birdguides Report - Siberian Accentor
Monday's Birdguides reports - I didn't think we'd ever see the day that three separate British Siberian Accentors were all reported within minutes of each other!!
With the continuous easterly winds, this number is surely only set to grow, and it is now really a question of when and where, not if, the next British record of the autumn will occur.
Siberian Accentor - Easington, Yorkshire
Siberian Accentor - Easington, Yorkshire
Siberian Accentor - Easington, Yorkshire
Peekaboo - Siberian Accentor trying to hide...
With Siberian Accentors breeding in Northern Siberia on either side of the Ural mountains, and normally migrating south east to Asia for the winter, the past number of records in Europe before this autumn were very few and far between, the majority being in Sweden. The reason for this mass influx to Western Europe is unclear – although the most likely explanation is possibly a case of a successful breeding season in Russia combined with unrelenting easterly winds originating from Siberia for such a prolonged period of time, coinciding with their migration movements. A system of high pressure over Scandinavia will also have blocked the usual westerly Atlantic weather fronts that normally pose a barrier to travellers from the east. 
Windytv
The high pressure system over Scandinavia and easterly winds from Russia that are likely to have brought the Siberian Accentor influx to Britain
It is also possible that something else may be at play to cause such a mass influx of what was, until this October, an extremely infrequent visitor to Western Europe - perhaps an ecological event taking place in the Siberian Accentor's home range or a freak weather system displacing individuals en-masse. 
Alex's great little video of the Accentor happily feeding away

With no telling as to whether an influx of Siberian Accentors on this scale will ever happen again, it may well be the case that certainly in my life time at least, these golden Dunnocks may not grace British shores again. A truly special bird (and possibly one of the most awe-inducing I’ve seen in Britain) I for one am exceptionally glad that we, along with thousands of other birders, got to witness this little piece of golden birding history. Siberian magic indeed. 
Siberian Accentor - Easington, Yorkshire

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