Sunday 12 May 2013

Warblers finally play ball!

I got a facebook message on Friday from Cork birder Floss Gibson to say that he would be in Norwich for a quick visit. So over a few pints and a curry on Saturday evening we devised a plan to hit a few local spots around Norwich on Sunday.
I picked Floss up at his hotel on Carrow Road at 10am (a respectable hour) and we headed first to Whitlingham CP. The morning had started overcast and warm and a big flock of Swifts were feeding above the visitor car park. We counted about thirty at first but by the time we reached the broad it was clear there were far greater numbers in, hundreds in fact flying low over the water hawking insects.
We stopped after about thirty yards to listen to a Reed Warbler which was singing very close to the path. It was within a few feet but stayed well buried singing away happily to itself. A second Reed Warbler was singing further up the path and a nearby Sedge Warbler was giving it a good run for its money also. We could see movements in the long grass but the bird stayed buried deep, however eventually it broke cover and flew a short distance, pausing briefly to sing from a reed stem and pose for a photo.

Reed Warbler, Whitlingham CP - 12th May 2013
We pushed on. I wanted to show Floss some Garden Warblers so we headed towards a couple of likely spots further along the path. The first place seemed quiet but Floss picked up a single bird moving around in the cover. We watched for a while and noticed a second bird so hopefully a pair. As usual photos were tricky. A Willow Warbler sang in the same area and when I took a few quick shots the bird flew over towards us on hearing the sound of the shutter. It sang a few verses from the branches directly above us before deciding we were not worth bothering with and headed off again.

Willow Warbler, Whitlingham CP - 12th May 2013

Further up the path we had several more Blackcaps, Common Whitethroats, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs. We stopped to look at a Common Whitethroat around on the north side of the broad when a bird popped out of the brambles. My first impression was of a pale phyllosc but once I got the bins on it I could see it was my old friend the Garden Warbler. This one was certainly much more showey that the other birds we'd seen but it was still difficult to get a clear shot. At one stage a second bird appeared with it suggesting a pair. One of them posed atop a bramble for a second or two, I fired off a couple of frames before we decided that discretion was required and we left them alone.

Garden Warbler, Whitlingham CP - 12th May 2013
Satisfied with what we had seen I suggested we head to nearby Strumpshaw Fen for Garganey. As we took our lunch in the car park a single Hobby flew overhead. A tick for Floss!
At the first hide we enjoyed great views of two male Marsh Harriers and a Common Tern hunting and dive-bombing.
We walked over towards the tower hide to look for Garganey, sadly we lucked out on these but enjoyed nice views of hundreds of Swifts over the reed beds and high up in the sky. We could see a single Hobby hawking insects but it stayed at quite a distance. With time ticking on we headed back towards the car stopping off at the first hide for one last look, this time we had not one but two Hobbys. As we tried for shots a third bird appeared and we both had binocular views of all three Hobbys hunting together. They remained distant and the skies had darkened, but three together.......fantastic!

Record shot - one of three Hobbys at Strumpshaw fen RSPB - 12th May 2013
Our final stop was Bluebell March at UEA campus for Cuckoo. I had two possibly three birds here earlier in the week but now the temperature was cooler, the rain was starting to come down and there was no sign of any Cuckoos. As the rain got steadily heavier, we decided we had done well enough for the day so headed home.


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  2. Thanks Graham, a great day out, despite the Scarlet Macaw from the evening before! ;-)

    The Reed Warbler shot is a real beauty!