I had planned a day out in Staffordshire for today; starting off at Westport, then I’d offered to help with the duck count at Blithfield before heading to Branston and then onto some other pits. Quite a busy day. Then, late on Friday, a mega came on.
17:08 ***MEGA*** NORFOLK RUFOUS-TAILED ROBIN N OF WELLS AT EAST HILLS THIS AFTERNOON.BN
Initially, it was thought that the bird was on a tidal salt marsh, but all this was soon cleared up, and in fact it was on a track at Warham Greens. However, clear skies were forecast and we knew there would be a very strong chance that it would not be present in the morning. However, it was a Saturday, and PJ suggested that we went anyway. RSu joined us, and I picked them both up at 03-30hrs. I was to be the only driver for the whole day as GAS was still not driving yet.
Warham Greens, Norfolk – 07-00hrs We drove up the track and we were guided into a field to park by LGRE. There was quite a crowd gathered already by the track, and we stepped through a hedge and stood on the edge of a field, waiting for the sun to come up and warm the bushes. There were already birds flying over, and we saw several flocks of Golden Plovers and Pink-footed Geese over. All of a sudden, the massed crowd started walking down the field. At first we thought that the RUFOUS-TAILED ROBIN had been found but we then realised everyone was not walking with purpose and in fact just getting into position. Another party were working their way down the lane. When they reached the bottom, I think everyone realised that there was no sign of the RTR, and it had done the widely predicted bunk during the night in clear skies. We stood around for a short while before wandering back to the car. We saw a Brambling, an Egyptian Goose flew over, three Lapland Buntings flew over calling, a Barn Owl flew over, there were some distant Brent Geese on the saltmarsh plus several Little Egrets. With a BLUETHROAT reported at Stiffkey and a RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL at Holme already reported, there were a few bits for us to go for.
Holme NWT, Norfolk – We headed along the coast to Holme next for the RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL. We were stopped along the track by the first hut, and asked specifically where the RFBT was. He assured us it was in the NWT reserve, and so we paid him £3-50 each. We followed his directions and ended up in the NOA place. We didn’t last too long in there and we were asked to either leave or pay another £3. It was quite annoying to then walk on a public footpath through the dunes. We soon found the crowd waiting for the RFBT to reappear – it had showed only ten minutes previously. It was slowly turning into one of those days. We stood around for a short time, but I soon got bored and wanted to actually see something. I walked along the path and did a bit of sea watching. It was flat calm and extremely sunny. There was not much to see, but there were two Red-throated Divers, a Gannet and a Great Crested Grebe. A Brambling also flew over. We all wandered off a bit, but then I saw people moving quickly through the woods. We headed back to find everyone heading in the same direction. When we finally caught up with them, I saw a silhouetted bird shape tumbling through a tree. It then flew, and so I headed off in that direction. I stood again and waited. Someone spotted the RFBT again, but I couldn’t see it from my angle. I was crowd watching more than birdwatcher, and I was able to keep up with the bird. Eventually, I managed brief views of the 1w Red-flanked Bluetail as it was perched on a branch at the bottom of a bush. The crowd all soon caught up, and it was gone. I felt as though the bird was being chased and it was not being allowed to settle. But everyone was desparate to see it. We eventually followed the crowd and encircled a bush but there was no further sign. As we stood and waited, reserve staff were frantically putting a rope fence up around the bush, no doubt trying prevent the twitching hordes from trashing the bush. What with the confusing problem of two reserves in the same area and then this, and along with all the £3-50's they had raked in, we decided to leave Holme with rather a bitter taste in our mouths.
PJ took this photo of a Comma at Holme NWT/NOA today
Stiffkey Fen, Norfolk – We decided to head back along the coast to Stiffkey where the BLUETHROAT had been seen. I was originally heading to Stiffkey Campsite Wood for the YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER but I managed to miss the turning. We started walking down to the Fen, the first birder we asked told us that the BLUETHROAT had been seen to fly off some time ago. We continued down into the wood by the stream where we were told there was a YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER. We stood around but it wasn’t too long before we heard the Yellow-browed Warbler calling. We stood around long enough to eventually have several brief glimpses of it in the trees, but it never showed well. I was almost certain a second bird was in the area as well.
Weybourne, Norfolk – We were sort of on a roll now, with poor views of fairly decent birds, so we decided to go to look for a very elusive RADDE’S WARBLER just a bit further along the coast at Weybourne. There was a small crowd gathered, but there had been no sign of it since it had been tape lured earlier. I tried to do the same with my phone but it just wasn’t loud enough. We suggested to other birders to try to play the call, but again it failed due to loudness and connectivity. There was a Cetti’s Warbler in the same bush. This rather summed up our day and we headed home.