Sunday, 23 October 2016

Correct Call this time

Sunday 23 October 2016
Had decided late last night to do a really early morning pre work trip to Burnham Overy Dunes. With my mate Tom nailed in Hunstanton I gave Oliver Revielle a call to see if he was up for a pre dawn trip to BOD. He was and we met in heavy rain at 7am . It was dark. The plan, to walk to The Dunes and get there for first birding light. The rain abated and we walked. Raid overnight = birds , we discussed possibilities on the way down ! Fantasies of course.

So first up the Isabelline Wheatear. After a short while watching it we decided to leave the crowd of some ten birders and walk towards the west point. Plenty of skulking Dunnocks on the way to keep us amused and then the pager sprung into life. Apparently there had been a Desert Wheatear at BOD yesterday, but only just identified from photographs. Crumbs, that added a skip to our walk. If the rain had kept the Isabelline Wheaear here, who knows perhaps the Desert was still lurking somewhere. We had good walk round, made all the nicer as we were the only people there apart from one other birder.

That other birder suddenly shouted "lads" (very generous of him to include me in that genre) ... and within a few seconds we were watching a Desert Wheatear. The three of us watched it for a good few minutes as it flew around the spit and back to the container area. Info was put out re the re location and we retreated with our two Wheatear day, me to work and Oli back to home.

Here some pics of the Desert Wheatear: it started quite a way off , a grey bird on a very grey background, then we were lucky enough to have it fly straight towards us and start to preen..

 Come on show us your tail
The Isabelline Wheatear on way back
 and a Little Egret landing in the Marsh, pretending to be an Eagle hunting fish

Wrong call

22 October 2016
Tom Bedford up in Norfolk from landlocked Oxford to see a few autumn migrants with a morning to spare, so where to go ? We decided on Burnham Overy Dunes, then with news of a Pallas's Warbler and a dead Fin Whale overnight I decided to avoid the crowds and "do" Warham Greens. As we drove past Burnham Overy Dunes BOD early next morning there were only two cars at the pull in , so no crowds, but sticking to plan (plan B) we headed to Warham.

A good time, with lots of Goldcrests, Brandlings and Thrushes. Nothing rare but a great walk and migrants a plenty if only common ones. The fantasy of tripping over a Siberian Rubythroat was of course just that. We started our return trip due to domestic time constraints and then the pager beeped a Mega. Where was it ? ... well at Burnham Overy Dunes of course, where we had decided to go before I changed the morning venue ... oops ... what was it ? an Isabelline Wheatear ..oops again  :(

So with just enough time to swerve into BOD and yomp down to see the Isi, we didn't really discuss how, if we'd stuck to plan A, we may have found that particular rarity. We arrived amid a fair few birders and saw the Isabelline Wheatear. Pics here:

Tom returned to Hunstanton and I tried the Paddocks at Holme, but very little was moving.
Then home. Evening wondering where to go the next day. Tom was nailed in Hunny but I started to lay plan for an early blast to BOD.....................

Friday, 21 October 2016

It may be a race ?

Thursday 20 October 2016

Met up with Oliver Reville at 8am for a walk down to Burnham Overy Dunes / Gun Hill. Winds had been west to north west but overnight had turned northerly, so while a good direction perhaps not been blowing long enough for something exciting, still it's Norfolk, it's October and it was northerlies - we left the pull in just east of B Staithe and began our walk.

It's always nice on such occasions when the car pull in area is empty as you know that at least for the first part of the walk you are the first birders there. Then you can hope that none are walking from the harbour so you really are the first to The Dunes. Today this was the case.

The newly surfaced path half way down is I'm sure very nice and even now but I do wonder about the numerous Devil's Coachorses I've seen on the old path, often standing guard over a meal - now I think it'll be too sterile for them. But given the Norfolk weather perhaps it'll soon return to it's former un splendour ! ( my apologies to The Environment Agency who I'm sure are doing good things ).

It was windy and a bit drizzly as we walked down. Not much to see en route apart from the usual Norfolk Filth of Egyptain Goose, but at least some real birds with a few Pink-feet in the fields.

A few Dunnocks, Linnets and a Blackcap at the bushes by the end of the Broadwalk. Oli suggested a look at the sea but we were soon turning back from crossing the dunes to search for possible migrants as without a scope between us we decided this was better use of our time. If we'd known a 40' Fin Whale had been washed ashore just 100m on we'd have probably continued.

But we continued west towards Gun Hill. We were distracted by many Redwings and Reed Buntings and then as we walked through the lower path alongside the sueda bushes I saw a Sylvia warbler fly up in front of me and disappear back into the cover. I alerted Oli and we spent the next 30 minutes trying to get decent views. We had quickly seen it was a Lesser Whitethroat but given the time of year we were keen to get good views to see if it was one of the eastern races. Well this individual was a complete pig to see ! it spent as much time running through the sueda as it did in the bushes. Eventually we managed to get some photos, all looking pretty poor in the back of the camera. So a Lesser Whitethroat with a pale sandy back. That's all we could see.

A quick look  at back of the camera pics and Garners book and we felt at first it looked quite good for Desert. We were a bit hooked up on the outer tail feathers until we turned to page 81 of Garners book and saw the nominate race had a similar show of white, with the thin line down the middle on T6
So it was possibly all down to colour and while our bird did show a pale sandy mantle the head was seemingly too grey...... in short we didn't know !

Time to get help... I e mailed a few people pics and asked for their thoughts. Blythi was the general feeling, esp as it's thought most first calendar birds in Uk are Blythi, but the pic was so similar to one of the Desert in Garners book we still held out a glimmer of hope for this. In essence  we don't know and await the comments of those that do....

here then a some of the pics I managed: poor light, windy, incredibly mobile bird that loved to hide and run (my excuse anyway)

Let's hope others see it and can shed some light.

Thursday, 20 October 2016


Monday 17 October
Decided on a quick visit to Warham Greens where yesterday a Radde's Warbler had been showing well, but domestic duties had me housebound for the day. On arrival things didn't look good.....
I gave it half an hour, others had been here since first light and nothing. So went along the Marsh track. Thrushes were plentiful, still piling in from the North Sea but always jumpy and unapproachable. Here a Fieldfare in the distance.
Out on the marsh itself there was a ringtail Hen Harrier, loads of Little Egrets some Brent Geese and a good flock of Teal flew past.
 Even this Brent Goose was keeping an eye out for the Radde's !
Still more easterlies forecast later in the week so who knows, but beginning to get a bit late.....

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Less hectic

Saturday 16 October 2016
An early morning walk to Burnham Overy Dunes held no surprises unlike yesterday but was as pleasant as ever.
Flocks of Starlings were tumbling around the marsh.
Some 40 plus Bramblings were feeding in a hedge and a Stonechat finally sat still for a nano second to be photographed.

Not much else, but news of a Barred Warbler by the harbour had Oli and I dropping in en route to breakfast. Typically elusive but it did show briefly.
The elusive Radde's must be out there somewhere - indeed it was and over coffee back at the Deepdale Cafe the pager announced a Radde's Warbler at the end of the broad walk at Burnham Overy Dunes - just where we had been ! - Bum, but that's birding. Winds turning briefly south, then mid week more easterlies forecast...... Oh boy here we go again hopefully

Sibe attack

Friday 14 October 2016
There are birds in field guides that you think you'll never see and there are those which look great, you really want to see , but again think you'll never see. Siberian Accentor is one of those and with it breeding in Siberia regions then migrating to south-east Asia for the winter, that's a double whammy and confines itself just to my bird books.

Last week the relentless stream of easterlies, brought about by an anti-cyclone sitting over Scandinavia brought one of these Megas to Shetland. Incredulous news, a first for Britain, but what a bird ! The cheque book birders and top listers were away, and £700 later had bagged a dream bird, added to their list and presumably sat back contented with what surely they thought must be a true blocker.

Not so however, as with continued easterlies and more of these birds turning up in Sweden, Germany and Poland, another found it's way to Spurn in Yorkshire. News received on my pager at 3.30pm while working in the shop and by 6pm I had negotiated the necessary domestic permissions, Malc had kindly agreed to run the shop and Oli was as keen as mustard.

5 am the next morning and it was off to Hull !
A drizzly drive over the Humber Bridge, but at least drizzle would keep the bird down and hopefully stop it thinking about moving onto Thailand ! On arrival at Easington we were ushered to a car park in the village and walked to where the bird had been seen. A queue of people waiting and thoughts now turned to why didn't we leave at 3am ? were spinning round my head as I envisaged everyone looking skyward as the Accentor took off never to be seen again.

All was well organised and within half an hour I was looking at a fantastic Siberian Accentor. Oli and I made three repeat trips to "back of queue and look again" and saw the bird feeding on the ground closely. It was with our Accentor, The Dunnock, and when we left was still happily feeding.

The day ahead then.... next on the list was a Shorelark.

and then some walking around the lanes. The bushes were full of Goldcrests and Robins, birds were literally falling out of the sky and into the nearest bit of cover. In the next hour we must have seen 150 Robins, they were everywhere and close enough almost to touch.
We had a brief view of a Firecrest and then an equally brief view of an extremely mobile Pallas's Warbler.
A seawall beckoned for some reason and we decided to leave the crowds and walk a track leading east to see what we could find. Mealy Redpoll and Woodcock were the first two notables but the sheer numbers of Robins was still mesmerising. They were in fields, on paths and in the Spartina grass, and rocks on the shoreline.
Then a Redstart popped out from the Spartina.
 Showing off it's characteristic rump and outer tail feathers

News of other birds was coming thick and fast, Radde's at The Point , Olive-backed Pipit near the Cafe, we tried for the OBP but to no avail. So time for breakfast. £4.95 for a full english breakfast including a drink - we really knew we weren't in Norfolk !
Refreshed and we returned to Spurn. A less confiding but fine male Redstart helped us with the disappointment of missing a Little Bunting by a few minutes. A group of Bean Geese had the locals very excited.
But more exciting for me was a showy Mealy Redpoll.

A great day and it ended with a final trip to the Siberian Accentor, no queue this time. 
We started as we ended, a mega bird and one I never thought to see. But in a strange way this was bird spectacle of the day - I have no idea how many must have been dropping out of the skies, we saw around 250 , a fraction of how many must have been present.
Horrible traffic to the Humber Bridge and closure of the A17 did nothing to dampen our spirits - a great day !

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

3200 ISO anyone ?

9 - 11 October 2016
The last few mornings have seen me down at Titchwell trying to get a picture of a Yellow-browed Warbler. Having found these great little birds at various sites along the coast I thought it was time to have a look at the ones reported from Titchwell, up to five individuals at times.

Early morning is definitely the answer at Titchwell as after about 11 am (at work anyway by then) the place gets rammed. Virtually the first bird seen was a Yellow-browed but as ever deep in the vegetation. So after a nightmare time with settings change on the camera I reverted back to my aperture priority mode and tried to get this fast moving little warbler nailed. Up to 3200 iso to give any chance of a non blurred pic and after many many terrible snaps, this was the best I could manage.

 There was a patch of sunlight but of course the Yellow-browed never went there, this Redwing did momentarily.
Having spent quite some time showing people the Yellow-broweds I ventured out of the woods and into sunlight ! but more importantly onto some Goldcrests which had been bathing and feeding.

Fantastic little birds weighing in at the same as a five pence piece or twelve paperclips they are able to fly across the North Sea, to make landfall on the Norfolk Coast. 

Then finally a Bar-tailed Godwit and Curlew
 to round off the last few days, down in the mud at Thornham.

Overcast today and work beckons, but maybe just maybe a quick walk down to Burnham Overy Dunes, as with Radde's Warbler, Olive-backed Pipit and Arctic Warbler all at Wells Woods BOD should be quiet of people.... Hmmm