Friday, 23 October 2015

Olive-backed Pipit at Muckleburgh Hill in Norfolk

We made our way to Muckleburgh Hill and on arrival found the parking situation to be the same as that at the Shrike site, but with only a small car we managed to get a space. We made our way to the hill, passing various birders informing us that patience was the key and the bird will show eventually. We arrived and the bird was right in front of us, not ten feet away! Skulking through the bracken and seemingly oblivious to the hoards. I rattled off a couple of shots in case this was my only chance and then the bird flew. Upon reviewing my photos, I realised that I had got the completely wrong settings and everything was completely blurred (more so than normal anyway!), gutted! We waited for a bit to see if the bird would return and in about 10 minutes it did. A bit further away and again skulking about, low to the ground, but great views were had with the bird feeding and even doing a bit of preening. The bird then seemed to disappear behind a clump of bracken and vanish. It was at this point that we decided to cut our losses and go for the next bird(s).

We drove to Wells Woods, parked up and paid the rather pricey sum of £3 for 2 hours (I thought it was a bit dear anyway!). We walked to the drinking pool where a 1st-winter/female Red-flanked Bluetail had been showing and after a bit of a wait and several Goldcrests later the bird showed on the far side from us, always on the move and in dark cover, but the blue tail was unmistakeable. Unfortunately photography was not an option at that distance and with very poor light and so I contented myself with views of the third lifer in a day. Someone announced that the Hume's Leaf Warbler was showing and so we all moved off along the main track, perhaps I will get my fourth lifer I thought! A small group of birders were standing just off the path, but the group kept going, but we stopped and asked what these people were looking at, a Pallas's Warbler came the reply. There in the top of an evergreen oak was a gorgeous Pallas's Warbler, flitting in amongst the foliage, calling occasionally and showing its rather fine central crown stripe, with it even hovering and showing the yellow rump. Again, I had to be content with views. We then made our way the short distance to the Hume's site and there, in amongst a Hawthorn bush was the bird, calling, but never showing that well. Five out of five! This was definitely a day to remember! The only 'dip' was the Blyth's Reed Warbler, a notoriously skulky bird that was definitely not showing itself whilst we were there, it may have done if we had more time, but the two hours were almost up and hunger got the better of us. We left Wells Woods and went into the town of Wells where fish and chips were enjoyed.

Quite a day, the sort of day that makes Norfolk famous amongst birdwatchers. When will it be repeated, I wonder?!

I am afraid that the only photos I have for your perusal are those of the rather fine Olive-backed Pipit, a superbly marked individual and my 'bird of the day'.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Isabelline Shrike at Beeston Common in Norfolk

Over the past couple of weeks the wind has been coming from the east and with it all sorts of birds. The Norfolk coast has been littered with rare and scarce migrants, a lot of which I have never seen before. Pallas's Warblers, a couple of Hume's Leaf Warblers, a Blyth's Reed Warbler, several Red-flanked Bluetails, an Olive-backed Pipit and at least 3 Isabelline Shrikes were all on the radar and with Lisa having a rare weekend off and Sunday being free for me as well, we decided to visit the county in order to try and see some these eastern beauties and even treat ourselves to an overnight stay in Little Walsingham.

The first bird I had my eye on was a very obliging Isabelline Shrike that had been showing all week at Beeston Common just outside Sheringham. We arrived at the site with drizzle in the air and a thick grey sky, but that hadn't deterred other birders as the rather large parking area was full with cars. Luckily someone was pulling out just as we got there, so we managed to pull in and make our way to the birds' haunt. Where was everyone, we wondered and more importantly, where was the bird?! We saw a large group of birders in the distance all staring intently at a row of hedges, ah, that must be the site I thought, but no, the Shrike duly appeared on top of a hawthorn bush not 40 yards in front of us. Lovely views were had, the bird even ventured forth to catch a few wasps, but the group of birders still continued to stare into the aforementioned hedges. A couple of birders walked past us and I mentioned the fact that the Shrike was showing in front of me, but they weren't interested in this rare bird from the east, they had come to see a Long-eared Owl that was roosting nearby. That's what the group were looking at! It seemed quite strange to me that there were far more birders staring at a brown blob in a dense hawthorn hedge than there were at this very showy Shrike. Now don't get me wrong, a Long-eared Owl is a great bird, but a non-moving, brown blob can only keep me entertained for so long, especially when an Isabelline Shrike is flying about, hunting various insects, causing panic to the local Robins and Blackbirds and being thoroughly entertaining.

We stayed for a while watching this 1st-winter bird and then decided to venture west in order to 'bag' the other birds that were on show. That tale, dear readers will follow shortly, but for now I will leave you with some other images of the Isabelline Shrike.