Sunday 25 August 2013

A decent sprinkling on Blakeney Point

There was all sorts of good stuff in Norfolk yesterday but I had things to do and the weather was bad so it was Sunday before I could make it out. Nick and I met up at 7.30 this morning in Norwich and set a course for Blakeney Point.
I was hoping to catch up with a Booted Warbler as it still remains a life bird for me. We took a slight detour first and stopped at Gramborough Hill to look for Wryneck. We got there just ahead the crowds and managed decent if not distant views as it moved from one set of brambles to another before finally perching out in the open on a fence post with a Spotted Flycatcher and a Whinchat for company.

Wryneck, Gramborough Hill, Norfolk - 25th August 2013
We viewed it in the company of ten or so others but the numbers seemed to be swelling as we made our way back. We stopped briefly to take a couple of shots of this quite tame Dunlin.

Dunlin, Gramborough Hill, Norfolk - 25th August 2013
After that we reached Coastguards, we gathered our gear together and began the long trek out along Blakeney Point. I had my 500mm f4 lens, tripod and head, bins and rucksack. A lot to carry on an eight mile round trip across shifting shingle. My shoulders are aching as I write but it was worth it. We didn't come across any 'rare' stuff but lots of good scarce migrants.
As we walked the first stretch towards Halfway House, we had decent numbers of Whinchats and Redstarts, several Yellow Wagtails, a few Wheatears, one Pied Flycatcher and a single Garden Warbler.

Garden Warbler, Blakeney Point, Norfolk - 25th August 2013
We asked various people along the way if there had been any sign of the Icky or Booted but it was negative news on that front.
One gentleman I met along the way was Tom Green, who in the late 1960's had spent a year on Cape Clear Island as bird warden. He wrote about his experiences in the book 'Echoes from Cape Clear' - see more here.
It was good to hear of experiences back then, finding firsts for Ireland like Western Bonelli's and other great birds like American Redstart. It's sad to think that BWI don't even have a warden there right now.
Anyway, while we walked we had a nice dark phase Arctic Skua chasing a hapless Common Tern along the seaward side of the shingle. We stopped at The Hood where we enjoyed views of a second Wryneck before coming around the opposite side heading towards the plantation where birders behind us flushed yet another Wryneck. We took a little bit of time to try for better views of that Wryneck without success. Nick and I decided to head on while Tom called it a day and bid his goodbyes.
At the Plantation a small group of birders were relaxing, having their lunches and watching some migs flitting about.

Birders watch the Plantation at Blakeney Point - 25th August 2013

There were at least two Pied Flys in there, three Willow Warblers and one Garden Warbler. The Pied Flys were quite obliging as they dashed out after moths, caught them and returned to perch on the wire fence as they devoured the poor moth.

Swallowing one moth.....

and eating the next one!
I watched the plantation as I ate my lunch (very relaxing) and then headed over to the small red-brick building nearby where a very smart male Common Redstart was making some sallies after moths and other flying insects. Now, I have been trying for ages to get decent Redstart shots. Mainly at East Wretham Heath but also over in Latvia - I've had zero success. This bird was a little less bright than a full summer male but he was smart nonetheless. In my first efforts to get a shot, he seemed to get spooked by my shutter sound. Eventually, I crept close, lay flat on my belly with my lens resting on my rucksack and that seemed to do the trick. He couldn't really make out a human form from my shape, so he was happy enough to perch out in the open and soon got used to the shutter clicking. I got the best shots I've ever managed of Common Redstart.
I filled a 8GB memory card, but here's a sample of two.

Male Common Redstart - Blakeney Point, Norfolk - - 25th August 2013
And a short movie clip here

After that, we decided to make our way back. I had a little spring in my step after getting some decent shots but the shifting shingle soon got rid of that. We had plenty more Redstarts, Whinchats, Willow Warblers, Spotted and Pied Flys on the way back but by the time we had gone past Halfway we were knackered. Nick suggested we drop down onto the hard sand and do the last bit the easy way. I had run out of water so by the time I reached Coastguards I was very tired and very thirsty. We were thinking of heading towards Stiffkey to look for the Greenish Warbler but it had been negative news on that since earlier in the day. Anyway, we were both wrecked, it was now after 5pm and we'd been out since 7.30am so it was time to call it a day.
Nick said today on Blakeney was 'a decent sprinkling' rather than a fall! I was very happy with that 'decent sprinkling', even if I had been looking at many of these species a few weeks ago in Latvia. A pity not to see Booted, Greenish or Icky but I can't complain. I have a cold beer in the fridge to round off a great days birding.

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