Saturday 19 April 2014

Return of the Breckland Redstarts

Yesterday I kept it local and birded around Marston Marshes and Eaton Common in west Norwich. My first Common Whitethroat of the year, a singing male was the highlight although Marsh Tit, two Cetti's Warblers and a ringed Chiffchaff were nice. Plenty of yodeling Blackcaps including two males, having a right sing-off with each other, was fun to watch also.
Today I decided to drop into East Wretham Heath seeing as a male Common Redstart had been reported from there yesterday.
I arrived about lunchtime and managed to pick up a smart male bird feeding in the vicinity of the hide. The females, I believe, come in slightly later. This particular male was giving some short bursts of sub-song / song but spent most of the time moving around from place to place, it really was quite mobile.
I have always found Common Redstarts to be very difficult to photograph. They seem to be very flighty and wary except on autumn passage when they are slightly more approachable. However by then the handsome males have developed pale fringes to the feathers and are perhaps not as striking. I reckon the best place to photograph them is Gilfach Farm in central Wales but that's a five hour drive at least from Norwich, so I'm not in a rush to do that. Even in Latvia, where they are common around the gardens and parks of Jurmala, I've struggled to get decent images. The slightest movement seems to spook the males away.
Today I tried the sit and wait approach, or rather lie and wait. I placed the lens on a bean bag, got down on my belly and waited...........three hours later I had some reasonable shots, although my back and shoulders are now killing me and my bladder at the end of it all was ready to burst.

Male Common Redstart, East Wretham Heath, Norfolk - 19th April 2014

For me, there is scarcely a finer or more handsome bird than a male Common Redstart in fresh breeding plumage.


  1. any sightings this year, Graham?
    I found none last Wednesday (27th May)

    1. Hi

      Been there myself six times this year between mid-April and mid-May and no sign.