Having had a good afternoon on the Saturday in the tranquil surrounds of Great Yarmouth Cemetery (2/3 Yellow-browed, Brambling, Ouzel over), and spurred on by news that a Radde's had been found out east, I elected to go for an old school weekend, retracing my steps that led to the Bluetail a few years ago. Ironically, I could even follow a new route, with the opening up of a new coastal footpath that links Sea Palling with Waxham and I believe extends further. I have never been more excited to see a hedge freshly trimmed (!). The track now means one can walk in amongst the coastal scrub, without looking down upon it in frustration thinking, how the hell do I get in there? It didn't take long for it to feel very birdy indeed, Joe and I picking up at least 1 Lapland Bunting in-off soon after 8am. Meadow Pipits seemed constantly on the move all day, and every step revealed a wary Thrush or Robin darting out of cover and away from us. Surprised not to pick up a Yellow-brow, for now we had to settle for Brambling and Siskin moving overhead. It was on, and we knew we were in with a real chance of finding something. If conversation dipped, Joe was quick to remind me "it will be in that next bush Jim!".
Arriving at Horsey, some people were ringing/trapping rare birds and the tapes were playing loudly. It was difficult to tell whether we were hearing Yellow-brows for real, until one chap kindly informed us that we probably were, for their recording was of a YBW quickly followed by a Goldcrest. With that eliminated, we heard at least 2 birds here and saw one. Please note at this time, YBWs were regarded by RBA as 'scarce', so we were rightly/wrongly pleased with our work. 4 Lesser Redpoll chattered loudly as they came in, perhaps interested in the tapes, refusing to alight anywhere in view.
The pipe dump was not especially exciting, a few Reed Bunting the only migrants of note bar the now expected Crests and Thrushes that accompanied us on our walk. Another shower, and another rainbow- heralding more arrivals? Pressing on back to Waxham, we stopped at a Sycamore south of Shangri La cottage (now a Passivhaus, why can't all houses be made to this design?). The tree was dripping with Goldcrest, and I recall Joe asking after 5 minutes can we be sure they are all Goldcrest? I was quick to say no, this deserved our time. Within minutes, Joe dropped the Pallas's Warbler bomb, was it one? I managed to get onto the bird in question, and without question we were looking at a splendid Pallas's Leaf Warbler, probably fresh in from Russia. Fist pumping and much adulation ensued, and after a brief gap we located the bird again. We contacted Tim Allwood, who thankfully was nearby with Andy and both came down to enjoy the bird with us. A couple of twitchers arrived, one who had been in the area anyway and was thankful to be given the heads up. Once another chap arrived, we moved on, still buzzing as we would be for the rest of the day (even work felt manageable today!) Regarding the bird itself, even without a decent view of the lateral crown stripe the identity was assured. The thick, custard coloured supercilium and dark eye stripe stood out, and the bird spent more time hovering for flies compared to the nearby crests. It called only 3 times whilst we were there, a much cuter squeak than a Yellow-browed, of which there was also one in the sycamore but briefly.
We had a look round some suitable habitat in Happisburgh, but in truth the prize was in the bag already. Surprisngly, another Pallas's was at the dung heap by the coast watch point, and we had checked there so perhaps another new arrival. A further bird was found down in Suffolk at Bawdsey, and today another in Great Yarmouth cemetery. Smashing birds, great to locate one and share it with others. Finding himself a lifer, that's the way to do it Joe!
Pallas's Warbler, photo by Tim Allwood
Me pausing to take photo of exciting habitat