Monday, September 22, 2014

North Norfolk at the weekend

Masked Shrike?  Whatever.  I was in North Norfolk for the weekend.  I was dragged under duress by my girlfriend who wanted to escape the hustle of the big smoke.  Go on then.

A stocky gentleman approached us, face hardened by plenty of twitches no doubt, hardened by the highs and the lows.  "The bird is just up the track here..... when you get to the green bin, turn right and follow the birders".  Well how warm and forthcoming that was, and that's really how it was for the whole weekend.  Birders enjoying the scene, uniting with their peers young and old, singles and couples, black and white.  It was palpably utopian and a real joy to be a part of it.

So it started at Burnham Overy.  The skies were grey, but there were plenty of birders and a fair few birds.  The bushes alongside the path up to the seawall held a decent flock of titmice that contained a Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, and Chiffchaff.  Three Spoonbill flew gracefully across the marsh, a Grey Plover and two Knot sat pensively on the fresh mud.  Plenty of Swallow were flying round the pools east of the sea wall with a few House Martin and a single Sand Martin.  I failed to connect with the Black-Necked Grebe that had been present for a while.

Northern Wheatear dashed around in number along the coastline, one of my favourite birds.  A single Whinchat sat along the fenceline and there were at least six Common Redstart seen on the walk towards Holkham.  The highlights were two Red-Breasted Flycatcher both of which were typically flighty, but gave great views as they darted out of the hawthorn, one next to the boardwalk, and the other low down on the wired fenceline adjacent to the sea-wall.  Further east of the boardwalk, a Barred Warbler showed typically briefly low down in the vegetation, but seen well for its abbreviated appearance.

Onto Wells Wood, and it wasn't long before connecting with the Olive-Backed Pipit, a bird that has no understanding of what it means to be a pipit as it crept cautiously within the tall grass near the dell but seen well as it traversed the muddy path.

And there was darkness on the first day (along with a couple of pints and a pie).

The next morning had a totally different feel, brighter but with a strong onshore wind.  With the report of a Long-Tailed Skua at Cley, we headed over to find that it had drifted east toward Salthouse.  So we headed over.

Now seawatching is something I don't do very often.  If feels strange and unconventional, I can imagine it to be a bit like playing football on Andorra's home ground.  Sitting on the damp shingle also makes your arse go numb.  But there were seabirds going past, of which I managed to identify two Bonxies, four Arctic Skua, eight Red-Throated Diver, two Razorbill, two Guillemot, four Manx Shearwater, a decent movement of Sandwich Tern and Common Tern, regular flocks of Dark-Bellied Brent Goose, and inevitably Gannets moving through most of which were first year birds.

Further east of the Beach Road, were a few clumps of bushes and a number of birders forming the front-line.  The reason for this were the two Yellow-Browed Warblers delighting the crowds as they flitted around a young oak along with a Goldcrest.  The hawthorn next to it hosted another Barred Warbler.  This one had no idea how to behave as it sat on top of the bushes feasting freely on blackberries.  It was a brute of a bird, but showed brilliantly - having not seen one before this year, I've had a singing male in Poland, and now three more in eight days.  I was thrilled to have seen this one so well.

A shoddy video below shows footage of Olive-Backed Pipit, Red-Breasted Flycatcher, and the Barred Warbler.

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