Sunday 10 May 2015

Right place, right time - Citril Finch twitch

The ball bounced my way today. I was en route to Choseley Barns for Dotterel when a text came in from Nick Watmough asking if I was up twitching the Citril Finch at Holkham Pines. The thoughts of a crowded twitch and distant views of the bird with little chance for a photograph were slightly off-putting but it was Britain's only second record of Citril Finch since the 2008 Fair Isle bird and I was only twenty minutes from Holkham - I caved in and went for it!
Being close to Choseley, I stopped first and took a look at the Dotterel. I counted nineteen though I believe it has been up to twenty-nine. The last time I saw this species (and only other time for that matter) was in Cork in 2012 and they were juveniles. I had not seen a proper female bird, even at a distance they were impressive.
Anyway, I didn't hang around and was soon skimming along the A149 coast road towards Holkham. I parked up at Lady Anne's Drive where I met Nick and we began the trek towards the far side of the pines where it meets Burnham Overy Staithe. It was a good half-hour yomp but there were plenty of Warblers singing en route, Grasshopper, Whitethroat, Cetti's, Sedge, Willow, Chiffer, Blackcap and Reed. Within two  minutes of arriving the bird was re-located, feeding on the deck at the base of a pine but in thickish cover. Despite my best efforts and to be fair, with a bit of help from one very decent birder who did his best to put me onto the bird, I couldn't see. The best I had was a flight view as it broke cover. I wasn't 100% sure about ticking it on those views but still had time if I was patient. For the next hour or the bird was in absentia. Having said that no-one was really looking too hard. There were probably one hundred plus birders but very few with bins to their eyes. James Lowen, myself and Nick got bored and began to wander about. I spent time at the same spot it had been earlier but no luck. Then, as it happened, James and a few others relocated it further west in a small gulley. Cue one hell of a stampede down the dunes and back up before the bird flushed and flew over our heads to the spot we had previously all been standing around. Anyway, this time it was a little easier to pick out. After a little confusion about which pine tree it was under, I managed to get onto the bird and enjoyed excellent views as it fed on the short turf below a stunted pine tree.

Citril Finch, Holkham Pines / Burnham Overy, Norfolk - 10 May 2015
Although the crowd was sizeable, behaviour was generally good. I did see one woman tell another birder to "Fuck off" when he requested her to sit down because she was blocking his view - it wasn't an unreasonable request in my opinion and her reaction was over the top. Still apart from that, the crowd was well-behaved and once everyone had seen the bird well, the banter was great craic!

A selection of the crowd enjoying Britain's second Citril Finch
The journey back seemed to take forever, thirst and hunger were kicking in but so too a sense of satisfaction. I hope James, Nick and I didn't look too smug to those who were just arriving and heading to see the bird.
Back at the car I enjoyed a well-earned sambo and a chat with Rob Holmes. After that I headed home and had a good wash after all that dirty twitching ;-)

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