Monday, 22 September 2014

Following the herd

After doing the point a few times and heading to the east coast a number of times recently I decided to have a look at some rare birds which I knew were there... yes I was a bit of a sheep and went to Burnham Overy Dunes, there I've said it I went and twitched some scarce migrants and I enjoyed it.

I headed up the BO dunes path in pitch black at 06.00 with a mist and light drizzle hitting my right cheek, something that many a birder walking north on the north Norfolk coast gets excited about! I arrived at the end of the track and immediately heard a Yellow Browed Warbler closely followed by a red breasted flycatcher, not a bad start. It was still too dark to really see the birds so I headed for Gun Hill.

I got about half way to the hill when I saw an odd looking bird fly in off and flew in front of me at about 30m... the unmistakable oddity that is Stone Curlew! This continued inland (07.06) and into the murk, it was certainly not a bird I was expecting to see on a misty morning in late September but I was pretty chuffed with that. Heading on further a few waves of song thrushes and Robins came into the scrub adding their seeping calls to the huit of the many redstarts that were also present. A few willow warblers showed themselves along with small numbers of goldcrest too, one of the WW's had a really clear yellow throat with sharply marked white underparts, given brief views my mind was thinking Wood, Bonellis etc, but it turned out to just be a willow (pictured below). Things were certainly arriving especially wheatears, redstarts, then a spotted fly hopped into view followed by a pied fly, whinchat, Garden Warbler and redstart, my kind of birding indeed (and I still had the place to myself!). I spent an hour wandering about adding to my growing tally of migrants.

I then decided to check out the East side of the dunes and soon heard another RB fly takking in a small gully, this one was pretty hyper and would not sit still for a second and when it did a fine male redstart would chase it off!... onwards slowly, again more of the same migrants, onto Holkham crosstracks and another tit flock contained more warblers and crests but not the biggy I'd hoped for.

On returning to the dunes in the large hollow next to the pines I heard a loud harsh jjiickkk x3 (like a harsh ZIT), no idea what it was at all, I also saw that 2 people were also looking perplexed, they say that they saw a large pale yellow warbler make the call and fly into the sycamore, after an hour of searching, sitting, eating lunch etc the bird was not relocated. No idea what it was, but it sounded strange and if a large warbler I hate to think what it may have been...not my fabled Icterine warbler again I hope!

Heading back towards the boardwalk a Barred Warbler decided to briefly show itself before flying into a better spot. I have not seen a Barred for ages so was great to get a decent look at it, it was even in a bush with a garden warbler for an excellent comparison, it was a monster! Very difficult to photograph but I think I got all necessary parts in 3 photos.

Back at the boardwalk bush I spent a bit of time sitting and waiting to see what was there, I was rewarded with some very nice views of the Yellow Browed Warbler (finally being able to take my first semi acceptable shots of this lovely sprite, if only it wasn't such a dull day my new camera would have performed better) as well as the red breasted flycatcher. There was also a slightly interesting looking Lesser Whitethroat present in the bush too. It had a very contrasting white throat compared to its darker almost buffy underparts, had a slightly browner mantle and wing to the others I had seen that day, however the head is a typical blue grey rather than sandy brown colour I was hoping for!

Totals for the day
Stone Curlew- 1 S @ 07.06
Wheatear- 17 (many Greenland types)
Spoonbill-3 flew over West
Redstart- difficult to accurately say I recorded 17 but believe there were many more (25+)
Yellow Browed Warbler- 1
Red Breasted Flycatcher- 2
Spotted Flycatcher- 2
Pied Flycatcher- 3
Whinchat- 4 (a lot less than the day before)
Tree pipit- 2
Garden Warbler- 17 (a personal day record surely)
Barred Warbler- 1
Lesser Whitethroat- 3

Wow what a great day, I don't usually twitch the more common scarcities (if you see what I mean) but given that I had the day off and have been trying to find my own stuff for the past few weeks I'm really glad I treated myself to what was on offer at a site that was clearly in form (strange how patchy the bird distribution was on Friday!). I don't think I have ever seen so many Garden Warblers at one location and the bird life, especially first thing in the morning was really quite fantastic, I'm glad I made the early start as I was rewarded with a Stone Curlew and the sights and sounds of many birds passing through. Waxham and Blakeney point will be next on the menu as seems to be pretty standard practise for me... with a little Yarmouth Cemetery mixed in of course just for variety.

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