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.
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.