20 May 2024

20 May 24 - An Unexpected Urban Turn Up

On the afternoon of 18 May 24, news broke of an Indigo Bunting on an urban garden feeder in Whitburn, just a few miles North of Sunderland. When photos appeared on twitter, it was clear it was a very blue individual. Initially, I was undecided whether I would be travelling North the following day. But as the day continued, news came through to confirm it was an unringed First Summer individual. I was up early the following morning in the hope of early news. But the Indigo Bunting wasn't seen. It wasn't seen until around 13:00, but with a journey of about six & a half hours, it was too tight to have a realistic chance of seeing it before it got dark.

The following morning, there was positive news that it had been seen singing in the allotments close to the house where it was initially seen. I quickly finished my breakfast & was heading off for Whitburn. I finally arrived about 14:30 after a few delays on the journey. Talking to some of the waiting Birders, it was clear that the Indigo Bunting hadn't been seen for an hour & a half and that sighting only involved a few individuals. This clearly wasn't going to be easy.
Tree Sparrow: There were reasonable numbers of Tree Sparrows around the allotments
After about thirty minutes, I saw a Bird fly from the houses over the allotments & disappear into the trees by the adjacent cemetery. To my eyes, it looked to be the Indigo Bunting, but I couldn't be one hundred percent on the views I had. Others closer to the houses shouted that was it the Indigo Bunting, but it remained untickable.
Tree Sparrow
There were a couple of worker Early Bumblebees feeding on the allotment flowers. I was struggling to figure out what they were, so grabbed a few photos with a plan to identify them when I got home. I was still struggling with the identification, but a twitter appeal produced an quick identification from the walking natural history encyclopaedia Sean Foote.
Early Bumblebee: Worker. I'm slowly getting more familiar with Bumblebee identification, but sometimes I really struggle to figure out the identification
Early Bumblebee: Worker
Early Bumblebee: Worker
Early Bumblebee: Worker
Early Bumblebee: Worker
Early Bumblebee: Worker
It was a bit over three hours of waiting, before there was a shout that the Indigo Bunting was in view in the small road next to the original garden. But it had dropped into a heavily bushed garden by the time I arrived. I had just asked some Birders to move off a private parking area to placate an irate neighbour, when the Indigo Bunting flew out of the garden & back in the direction of the allotments. As I rounded the corner, I saw raised bins & a camera pointing towards the allotment trees, which was a good sight that other Birders were watching the Indigo Bunting. A quick request for some directions & I was onto the Indigo Bunting. This was my 562nd species for the UK & Ireland, with just seven species seen in Ireland.
Indigo Bunting: It was on view for about five minutes before it flew along the edge of allotment and disappeared
Given it is First Summer individual, then there must be a reasonable chance that it arrived last Autumn and has been located on its Spring migration. This was its final day before disappearing. With a Myrtle Warbler and two Dark-eyed Junco sightings this Spring in the UK, then it looks to have some good supporting species to back up this sighting as a pukka vagrant. However, I will have to see if BBRC are equally convinced about it being a wild individual.