News came through late on Saturday evening that someone had photographed a HORNEMANN'S ARCTIC REDPOLL in Suffolk. Its presence was confirmed on Sunday, and by all accounts it was showing extremely well as it fed on the beach. It continued to show all day, and so as we were both free on Monday, I made plans with GAS to head down. He picked me up at 04:00hrs, and we arrived at a dull, windy Aldeburgh at 07:50hrs. For a Monday morning, it was quite surprising that we had no delays en route.
There were only two other birders on site. We soon realised there was no sign so far this morning. We met up and discussed where we though the bird had been and where we thought it might be. I headed south down towards the Martello Tower, while the other birder headed north. GAS stayed in the middle just in case.
I was on the way back up when GAS started ringing and waving frantically at me. However, I'd already noticed the birder who had walked north was now kneeling down and pointing his camera at a bush. I'd got quite a long walk to get back, but I took my time. As I got closer, I thought I'd better have a quick glance at it through my bins in case it flew off. (I learnt this harsh lesson from costly mistakes before. We visited Inner Marsh once to see two Long-billed Dowitchers. All the waders were asleep in front of the hide. Instead of asking someone, I thought I'd test myself and find them all by myself. I started scanning through, and then a Merlin flashed past and flushed the whole flock. The Dowitchers weren't seen again!) As I lifted my bins, the Hornemann's flew off. I watched its white Brambling-type rump disappear off over the houses and drop out of view behind the boat yard. Everyone else had been watching it at point blank range, and I'd had a brief flight view.
We walked around a bit, and then just waited. There was no sign through the fence of the boat yard. Eventually, Rainham Howard refound it. He watched it fly from the boat yard, gain height and fly south down towards the Martello Tower. A few of us walked down, but again there was no sign. It certainly wasn't behaving like it did on Sunday.
I was knackered by this stage and so I just sat in the car. At about 10:30hrs there was still no sign. I stood by the car for a bit, but most birdwatchers were just standing around chatting. The birder in the car behind me started watching a bird high in the sky flying towards him. I managed to follow it and knew immediately it was the Redpoll again. It flew right overhead and carried on towards the boat yard. It landed on a mast, and I shouted to a group of Suffolk birdwatchers in front of me. They decided to walk up the path a bit. It soon dropped off the mast and landed out of view behind the houses again. There was a mass movement towards the town. A group managed to pick it up again on the ground. Some birders tried to find their way behind the houses, others stayed where they were. But it had been lost again.
We decided to stroll back to the beach. We made for the car again. GAS then spotted a birder lying on the beach with the bush just in front of him. It took me a few moments to realise what he was doing. We walked straight up to him and there was the Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll feeding away. It was a strange few moments. I presume he was as surprised as the rest of us that it had suddenly returned to its favourite bush. He was snapping away, taking photo's and presumably had forgot to wave to everyone.
We enjoyed fabulous views of it as it fed a few metres in front of us. Taking photo's was difficult due to the freezing temperatures, and you couldn't take your gloves off for long. It had taken me nearly four hours to see the bird after missing it's first showing!
A few pictures of the Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll in Suffolk
The crowd were quite well behaved except for the one who moved right in front of my scope. I whistled him. He looked at me and carried on snapping away.