Monday, 2 November 2015

A good Chat to round off the autumn

A little bit of a hiatus from birding following my Fair Isle trip, partly because I wanted to and partly because I had to. The break was good but it did mean missing out on a few good days of birding in Norfolk when Red-flanked Bluetail, Isabelline Shrike, Olive-backed Pipit and Hume's Warbler were all on offer. Anywho - the weekend before last I had a chance to steal away for a few hours so I decided to head over to Caister-on-Sea for a very fine male Siberian Stonechat. I had not seen Siberian Stonechat before, there are 8 Irish records and 370 British records to date. This particular bird was not assigned to either maurus or stejnegeri and it is presumably hard to assign it to either race as well. When I got there the bird was showing well but distantly. It had a favoured perch atop a gorse bush along the edge of one of the fairways at Caister golf course. It made frequent sallies from this perch to catch flying insects when it showed its nice dark underwing coverts. Sadly I didn't get any photos of that though. It looked like the bird wasn't going to come close but once or twice it was flushed by passing golfers and that seemed to push it back down the fairway and deeper into the gorse which meant it came closer to where birders were standing. I took up position and waited for the golfers to pass and managed to obtain some reasonable shots both of which showed its clean rump nicely.

Male Siberian Stonechat, Casiter-on-sea, Norfolk, 25th October 2015
Last weekend then I was out on Sunday for the day. The thick early morning mist had burned off by 11am and it turned into a exceptionally beautiful autumnal day. I birded around Happisburgh for the first hour or so but failed to see any migrants at all. I thought there was an outside chance of Pallid Swift or Desert Wheatear and a reasonable chance of Siberian Chiffchaff, Firecrest or Black Redstart. At Happisburgh I had none of those but did a little better later in the day at Horsey Gap where I had two female type Black Redstarts. One was hopping around the roofs of the buildings beside Waxham Sands caravan park (and was a little distant for any meaningful photos), the second bird was in the compound just past the car park (a spot I've always thought would hold a Black Redstart sometime). This bird was a lot more obliging.

Black Redstart, Horsey Gap, Norfolk - 1st November 2015
I have a feeling that's it for the autumn. The winds are southerly all week and then swing west before the weekend, not great for the east coast. Something might turn up but I won't hold my breathe. Having said that its not been that bad of an autumn. From mid-August to the first of November I've had many of the scarce migrants you would expect such as Lesser Whitethroats, Pied Flys, Common and Black Redstarts, Whinchats and whole bunch of Yellow-browed Warblers. I've also had two Bluethroats, a very fresh Icterine Warbler, at least two Barred Warblers and several Common Rosefinches. Throw in a Blyth's Reed Warbler that got me my first Birdguides Photo of the Week and my first UK Pallid Harrier and top it off with three lifers in Thick-billed Warbler, Western Bonelli's Warbler and Siberian Stonechat and it hasn't been all that bad really!

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