Setting off pre-dawn for Holy Island on a morning much more reminiscent of December than October I had high hopes. Sure there wasn't much in the way of easterlies but a 1st-winter red-breasted Flycatcher yesterday was proof, if any were needed that good birds don't always need good conditions.
With light just breaking at 7.15 I had bagged the free parking space by the footpath before the car park and I was beginning an hour long neck straining session in the sycamores and assorted garden shrubbery between the car park and hotel. One or two of the gardens need a little work to improve the viewing conditions for the visiting birder.
An hour later and four-five Brambling along with small groups of over flying thrushes another birder appeared and provided my only tick of the day in the form of Durham birder Ross Ahmed. Staying over in Berwick whilst engaged on some survey work he had taken the morning off for a little birding.
Separately and together over the next couple of hours we covered the Snook and the Straight Lonnen, behind the school and the Vicar's Garden. Yesterday's supporting cast of Common Chiffchaff, Blackcap and the odd Goldcrest were joined by a few tens of grounded thrushes. Mainly Blackbirds with a sprinkling of Fieldfare, Redwing and Song Thrush amongst them.
Ross casually dropped the bombshell that a Red-flanked Bluetail had been trapped minutes earlier at Whitburn and was to be released imminently, "Surely there should be something here" I thought. Turns out there was, a Barred Warbler on the Straight Lonnen by 1.00pm, fresh in late morning or missed? The Whitburn vacuum also managed to suck in a Red-breasted Flycatcher and news of a Tawny Blyth's Pipit on North Gare later managed to complete a cracking Durham hat trick.
A drake Scaup on the sea at Stag Rocks along with four Purple Sandpiper nearby was scant consolation.