Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Super-Steve's Seaton Serin

The only previous Axe Patch Serin was a November bird which flew past Steve during an Axe Cliff viz-mig watch more than a decade ago. It was a right gripper at the time, and as the years have gone by it's also become something of a blocker. Of course in those days Steve used to go birding. Unlike now. Now Steve has a family, and a serious 9-to-5 job, and a conscientiously responsible attitude toward both. Birding-wise this is a killer. Back in the day Steve was finding rare birds every other week. The man was a machine, and his ridiculous find rate is sorely missed by Axe Patch birders. However, the fact that Steve now only gets five minutes birding a month was the first item on the agenda at a recent Rare & Scarce Birds Association meeting, where the committee quickly realised it was a problem they could work around...

So, Steve Waite. How are we going to handle this?
Well, as he only gets five minutes a month nowadays we need to think about giving him something when he's not birding. Any suggestions?
What about when he's walking to work?
Excellent idea! We need a volunteer...
[A female Serin raises a wing]
Thank you. Oh, and don't forget to call a few times; he won't have binoculars.

And so it was that our Serin waited patiently for Steve to walk by yesterday morning, and then made sure she caught his attention. Unfortunately she botched it a bit. First, she forgot to give the usual ripply trill type flight call, and went for a rather more off-piste nasally thing. Plus she gave rubbish flight views (leaving Steve with all the frustration of a 'probable' sighting) and didn't hang about for someone else to nail later in the day. It is unlikely she'll be entrusted with such an important mission in future.

Today was her last chance...

Steve and I met up shortly before 08:00 this morning and headed for the Riverside Way area of Seaton. Within minutes we had a small bird fly over us. It might have been a Serin, it might not. But you know how it is in such situations; in the absence of a better option you just follow it up. And as the bird appeared to have come down behind the little trading estate, that's where we headed...

Strolling along, chatting and looking, and occasionally raising our bins at a Robin or Dunnock or something, we reached a corner and stopped, still nattering. Hmm...nothing. Suddenly a small bird popped out of the weeds and perched a few feet up in a spindly young tree, flashing a bright yellow rump en route! Both of us had caught it, and in unison exclaimed: 'That's it!' Sure enough, despite multiple obscuring twigs, we could see our prize - a streaky little female Serin - peering at us. Steve reminded me I had a camera, so I fumbled it out and got a few shots before the bird flew. And when it did fly it let rip with a short burst of classic Serin trill. Perfect!

Here are the best two photos. Almost identical, but not quite...

A beady eye and a stubby little bill. Quite clever how the P900 can thread its way through all those twigs and focus on the bird. Very pleasing.
A tiny bit more rump visible in this shot, and some yellow wash on the head too.

Unfortunately that was it, performance-wise. And despite quite a few birders out looking, the next sighting wasn't until about 13:00. I spent some time this morning trying to relocate it, and was rewarded with a bonus Black Redstart on the SE corner of the Tesco housing estate...

Black Redstart. Another full zoom, hand-held pic.

Finally, both the Serin pics above have been colour-corrected, so to speak. In reality we were blessed with a lovely bit of early-morning sunshine, but of course that gives everything an incredibly warm glow. It is beautiful, but kind of overpowers the subtle yellow bits on the bird. Here's the top image, with the original lighting...

Sumptuously sun-soaked Seaton Serin


  1. A British tick for me there Gav, they are in VERY short supply up here being rarer than Bridled Tern, Feas Petrel, Dusky, Raddes and Humes Warblers, Arctic Redpoll etc need I go on! What a twitch if that turned up in my village...

    1. I had no idea they were so rare in the north Stewart. Understandable though. Its the first one I've seen for years, but I'd happily trade it in for a Bridled Tern or Fea's Petrel!

  2. Gav,to locate this bird after the briefest exposure to its presence is a definitive of how tuned in some of us are, with the natural world around us.

    What a contrast! On one hand we have those of us who seem to have a handle on everything going on around us, while the rest of the world wanders about in a coma, staring into a device while plugged into some synthetic noise.

    1. Very true Ric. Though I do wish I was a bit more switched on sometimes; a bird might call a few times before I tune in to it and realise something interesting is flying over! Not my strongest suit in birding.

  3. Is this where the term serendipitous come from?

    Great spotting.