Last Saturday, I caved and joined the throngs of visiting birders at Burnham Norton to see the Steppe Grey Shrike. Now, my Helm Shrike ID guide is in a box somewhere for removal but I did note at the time what a compact little bird this was, with lovely peachy hues on the flanks and pale mandibles with a black tip. I never tire of Shrikes and this one was a real crowd pleaser. A helpful chap on Birdforum pointed out that the Lincolnshire bird was if not more confiding, so perhaps that is indicative of this subspecies of Southern Grey Shrike. Debs and I watched with amusement as he fed on mealworms which had been provided. Overhead, Pink-footed Geese were returning to Norfolk for the Winter no doubt surprised by how mild it was, and still is.
The following day was my only real window of opportunity to get to the coast, what with moving this coming weekend. I went round Church Marsh first thing, 2 Kingfisher and Teal numbers building the highlights. Out East, Began at Waxham, very quiet save for an odd ticking in the small wood near the holiday cottage. Couldn't pin it down to anything and the bush I assumed it had come from gave nothing up. Of course I was thinking Radde's, but I have also heard some Robins make odd noises over the years. Hard work from Horsey corner to the pipe dump and back; Brambling south and steady passage of Mipits all I could muster. Then drove to Happisburgh. Whimpwell Green silent, no repeat of last year. Heard a single Yellow-browed Warbler at the edge of the cricket pitch in the village along with Richard Moores. That was to be my lot, and although it felt right, I was clearly a day early having looked at the charts.
I left the house at 7 the following morning.....for work! I stood and listened in the garden, for overhead in the drizzle and gloom were probably 100's of Redwing streaming through the village. On arrival at work, I went out to the playing field and still more were passing through, now in Beccles. I had that sinking feeling as I went back to my room to sort out lessons for the day.
I was pleased to hear from friends of their successes on the coast, Monday and Tuesday certainly produced the goods and as many have commented, if it had been a weekend who knows what else may have been found. It was less pleasing to hear of the poor behaviour at some of the twitches, and of some 'birders' intolerance for those that use the countryside for anything else other than birding. Neither act gives the hobby a good name.
So, southerlies for the next few days. Perhaps a rare Swift may make an appearance, and I would expect the first Brambling to arrive further inland. I have already heard Siskin calling at Church Marsh, so a change in the temperature late October and no doubt the Redpoll will follow. A Common Snipe called as it flew over our house last night, a reminder that things are changing and moving.