Monday 31 August 2015

Bank holiday Bluethroat

Ah the bank holiday weekend. At last! Seemed to take an age to finally roll around. Last weekend I was otherwise engaged and missed the decent arrival of drift migrants, this weekend I hoped I would make up for it. Sadly though conditions were a little less favourable.
Saturday though was more about socialising than birding, James Lowen hosted a garden party to celebrate him and his family's first year in the fine city of Norwich. A great time was had by all. Fly-over late Swifts, House Martins and Sparrowhawk kept the birders entertained. The craic and banter was top class also.

Guy Kirwan, Yoav Perlman, Graham Clarke, James Lowen and Nick Watmough (Robin Chittenden, Andy Musgrove had escaped at this stage)
On Sunday - with my head being a little foggy, I ventured out after lunch only. I reckoned the Winterton Bluethroat was worth a punt. I got to the spot on the north dunes around 2pm, picking up Wheatear and this smart juvenile Whinchat along the way.

Whinchat, Winterton on sea, Norfolk
At the pool where the Bluethroat was there were maybe three other birders, so certainly not over-crowded. The bird was visible but keeping well back behind the vegetation, always on the deck and mostly obscured by grasses, sedges or other plants. Getting a shot was tricky , the light was atrocious and bird would not stay out in the open for long. But patience paid off and at high ISO (at least 1600) I managed a couple of reasonable shots.

Bluethroat, Winterton on sea, Norfolk
This morning I'm awaiting the rain and wind to ease on the coast before heading out with Nick, James and Yoav to look for migrants. Fingers crossed for something good before work tomorrow!

Monday 17 August 2015

An early Icky

With a light fall of early migrants on Friday I headed out Saturday morning for a potter around east Norfolk. But by Saturday the wind had switched from east to north so I wasn't expecting too much.
At Horsey Gap I had three Lesser Whitethroats between the car park and Waxham Sands, local birds or migrants I couldn't say. I covered the path south from the car park as far as the Nelson's Head track but could only muster up a family of Stonechats and a soaring flock of about thirty Common Cranes (which I guess isn't too bad). I had a brief punt around the totem pole at Winterton north dunes, apart from a few Swallows it was dead (footnote: pity I didn't keep walking towards Winterton from the Nelson's Head track because a juvenile RB Shrike was found there later in the day - d'oh!).
On Sunday I did what I probably should have done the day before and went after someone else's bird....namely the Burnham Overy Icterine Warbler. Its a quite a walk from the make shift 'car park' on the A149 to the start of the board walk, especially with heavy optics and tripod. I passed by a group of birders waiting for a Barred Warbler en route, there had been no sign of that for two hours as I passed so I kept going for the Icky. At the Icky spot the bird had been in absentia for twenty minutes or so. Those present trotted out the dreaded lines...."you should have been here earlier", "very confiding chap", "giving itself up" etc. etc. Not what you want to hear. Anyway, in due course it put in an appearance but it was mobile. I spent the next couple of hours waiting for it to return to the hawthorn where I had first seen it but it wasn't playing ball for me. Those who had seen it called it a day as it went missing for almost an hour and by 5pm I was left on my own with no sign of the bird. I was starting to settle for the record shots I had taken earlier. As a last resort I wandered around to the far side of bushes where the apple tree was and just then the bird popped up in the brambles just in front of me. I managed a couple of minutes with the bird before it vanished into deeper cover.

Icterine Warbler, Burnham Overy Dunes, Norfolk - 16th August 2015
You don't always get such good views of warblers, this individual was very fresh looking, the pale panel on the wing was obvious as was the short indistinct supercilium, pale eye ring and long primary projection (by comparison to Melodious). So, happy enough with my shots I started the trudge back to the car.  This time with a little spring in my step.

Burnham Overy - looking back towards Holkham Pines and the sea
So this was easily the best views I've had of this species. I remember ticking Icterine Warbler for my Irish list on Cape Clear during the spring of 2009 and that was elusive to say the least. Even though they're plentiful during the summer in Latvia, I've never captured a decent photo of one. And apart from some decent images, this was a UK tick to boot.
I stopped briefly to chat to the birders who where still hoping for a decent view of the Barred Warbler, glimpses were all that they were getting so with that I kept on for home.