Monday, 14 October 2013

A weekend to live long in the memory

Saturday 12th, I picked up Connor around 6.30am and we headed to Waxham with migrant hunting in mind. It was clear that the NW blow and rain had dumped many common migrants. Every bush had a Robin, some more than one. There were also almost equal numbers of Song Thrush and Blackbird. As the sun rose, slowly more birds became active. Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Goldcrest and ticked and tacked from cover. Superb stuff! Overhead, Brambling and Redpoll were moving, and some did rest long enough for decent views. Heading out into the dunes towards the pipe dump, we encountered a female Redstart and a Woodcock on route. Still, birds were arriving including more Thrushes and even a few Skylark. Without much success around the pipe dump itself (a Robin with a sore throat gave us a headache for a while) we headed back to the car and onto Horsey.

Although there were less birds around by mid morning, little clumps of cover were alive with activity. In the same patch of scrub and pines that last year held a Red-flanked Bluetail, this year gave up a Yellow-browed Warbler! Smashing, a fist pump moment from me. We were onto something half decent. A walk to the holiday park and loads of grounded Chaffinch and Mipits were present, and we lamented not carrying our optics down here.

Winterton was quiet, although we only checked South Dunes whereas the reported action was in the Northern section. On the way to Hemsby, I remarked how the copse off King's Loke must hold a Pallas's Warbler today, and so it was! The local birder Ryan had just located the sprite before we arrived. Connor managed a glimpse but I missed this one. A Yellow-browed Warbler called, and any patch of cover held a Thrush. A Redstart was also a decent find. Love Hemsby, but that copse can be time consuming! A Dusky next weekend??

Finally, Great Yarmouth cemetary. It was good of Connor's pal Jason to meet us, for he was quick to put us onto the Red-breasted flycatcher feeding high up in the sycamores. Despite not connecting with anything rare, we left satisfied after a great day's birding.

Sunday 13th, and my plans to do the patch early doors were put on hold by some atrocious weather. Instead, I cracked some school work and headed back to the coast after lunch. Horsey again, and the strong winds seemed to be keeping the smaller birds down. On the beach, I had 19 Snow Bunting and a Woodcock. At Waxham, I heard a Yellow-browed Warbler and another birder told me he had a Long-eared Owl in the woodland behind the holiday cottage near the church.
With time running out, I finished the day at Happisburgh. A Wheatear was at the coast watch and 100's of Pink-feet were in the stubble. I almost ran over a couple of newly arrived Redwing near the cricket pitch, but the pines there were silent. I drove away from the village in two minds: do I check Cart Gap and the fields for a Richard's Pipit, or do I stop off at Whimpwell Green and hope for a Rouzel in the paddocks? Still not really in a mind for a decision, I indicated at the last minute and pulled off the main road and parked by the horse paddocks. I do like this spot, and I can thank James Appleton for putting me onto this area a few years ago. Arriving at the edge of a newly ploughed field, it was lively. Plenty of Robins ticking away, a Brambling wheezed and I also glimpsed a Mealy Redpoll with a largish white rump (pretty sure it was 'just' a Mealy). Then, a small bird flicked down from the hedge and landed in the field no more than 10 metres away. Appearing smaller than a Robin, the light was poor and it was not until it was immediately chased by a Robin that I realised I had something special. Orange flanks, blue tail. I uttered a few expletives and almost daren't believe my eyes. The bird then flicked down once again, before flying across the field to the opposite hedgerow. Desperate for a better view, I did not have to wait long. The Siberian beauty landed much closer to me, tail jerking downwards, white throat patch now seen well, the full suite of features. I was looking at a Red-flanked Bluetail, and nobody knew it was here but me. Quite a feeling, and a buzz I have not experienced since I took up birding more seriously less than 10 years ago. I had finally found a good bird! I phoned James A who came down quickly, saw the bird and like me uttered a few expletives (it's catching). I then called up a few locals and put news out more widely. I was glad Tim Allwood could make it, since I have seen some of his good birds in the past and he has always been helpful and full of advice.

Forgive me for over-indulging, and I know it was 'only' a RFB (increasing records over last few years) but for me this was a milestone. Not living on the coast limits my chances of rarity finding, fact. I do most of my birding in the broads, and I love it. This weekend was a bit special. I knew it would be decent, and as the weekend went on and I found the odd nice bird, I was determined to keep out in the field as long as possible. I got lucky, but perhaps in the past I have been unlucky. Next Saturday, I anticipate a shedload of marking and it would be nice to spend some time with Debs after a few weekends away. That might be it for a while in terms of hunting for hours, but after this weekend I am determined to grab these moments and experience the thrill of migration whenever I can.

Photo courtesy of Gary White. Thanks.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Signs of migration on the east coast

Ricky and I were keen to get in on the early October action so headed to to Caister Saturday morning, hopeful of some vis-mig and perhaps something rare too.
We began at Caister golf course after a quick look for the Rose-coloured Starling (I caught up with this bird last weekend, and since Ricky already has it on his list we decided against a thorough search). 100+ Meadow Pipits were moving through, many coming to rest on the course. This bode well. Overhead, we had 7 Redwing and a single Fieldfare. 3 Stonechat were showing well, perhaps local migrants or looking at the habitat, residents.
We extended our search to the northern side of the town, scanning the beach for any early Snow Buntings. No sign of these delightful winter visitors, but we did pick up 2 striking Wheatear. Probing the shoreline was a single Knot.Walking the heathland north, one berry bush was home to 6 Blackcap (5 females interestingly) and a single Whitethroat. 4 Brent Geese flew south for the winter, navigating around the wind farms. Red-throated Divers were in evidence on the sea.
Onto Hemsby, and bar a Goldcrest, Redwing and 2 Chiffchaff the migrant action was minimal in the scrub. Ricky picked up a distant skein of Pink-feet, must have been at least 100 in there.
Winterton was pretty quiet, although we did see 2 Small Copper and a number of dark, hairy caterpillars. Ricky has some photos which I am hoping he will stick on his blog so someone can ID them.
At this point Ricky headed home and I decided to go home via Waxham. Again, very quiet here and only a smattering of common birds were seen. 2 birders seen all day- is it really October?!