Many of the good birds of the weekend had already passed through, but i still thought I'd give Wells Wood a look, with nothing else to do on my day off. The constant drizzle felt blissful compared to last Saturday's rain and gale force winds. Walking the sea wall to the woods i saw 3/4 Wheatear, and then by the toilet block in the woods found my best bird of the day, a Red-breasted Flycatcher. In the Dell i found 2 Redstart, 1 Pied Flycatcher and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. A few tits flitted in the treetops but the light was not great to look through the canopy. The scrubby area south of the main path proved to be the best area by far, i walked the area twice, turning up 1 Ring Ouzel, c20 Brambling, 4 Redwing, 5+ Redstart, 8 Blackcap, 1 Barred Warbler, 2 Whitethroat, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Garden Warbler and numerous Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. Between times i walked a short distance towards Holkham on the main track to where the Bonelli'sWarber had been seen earlier in the week. No sign of the Bonelli's today, but while in the area with another guy we found a second Barred Warbler, Garden Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and 3 Redstart. Robin seemed to be in every bush and probably included many 'migrants', a large number of Pink-footed Geese where in the fields south of the woods and more seemed to be joining them in off the sea. I thought about walking to Holkham hoping to find the Wood Warbler, but 3 hours of drizzle had me quite wet. Walking back via the toilet block it was nice to see a birder i had sent in that direction earlier had finally found the Red-breasted Flycatcher and a flock of Siskin flew through. Although quick look in the bushes by the lifeboat station failed to turn up much, 2 probable Twite few over landing on the saltmarsh across the channel.
A trip to Yarmouth with Laura's younger sisters was interrupted at 2pm when my phone rang, 'MEGA Flycatcher on the Point!' Gary was on his way but i couldn't really go. Well after 10 minutes i changed my mind, playtime in Yarmouth was over! I was dropped in the car park at Cley about 3.45pm. I started walking against a gale force wind and driving rain, with no birding equipment or real water proofs. I was still thinking Willow/Alder Flycatcher when Gary text again, 'Yellow-bellied Flycatcher', honestly I've never heard of it or have a clue where it's from. But if correct this would be a 'MEGA MEGA' a western palearctic first. Lookig up between waves of lashing rain i saw a Leach's Petrel flyby in the surf. I met Gary near Yankee Ridge as he started to walk back, i borrowed his binoculars and carried on to the plantation. I joined the throng, the bird was skulking away, a brief flash of the bird could have been 'any' bird. 15 minutes later the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher showed well for 3-4 minutes, pinching a scope i got some good views, before my line of vision was blocked. With Gary, my lift halfway back i called time and started walking back, much easier with the wind behind me. A Puffin zipped past before i decided to walk along the marsh edge rather than beach. I disturbed 3 Wheatear along with a probable Snow Bunting around Halfway House. Back in the car, Gary and I agreed this had to be the hardest twitch we had been on, wet and cold we drove home knowing if the ID was confirmed we had just seen the biggest and best bird of the year.
The whole of this week I'm off work, and predictably the forecast hasn't looked good for birding in Norfolk. So last Sunday when Gary suggested a foray outside of Norfolk i jumped at the chance to see at least something decent this week. We headed for Kent hoping to see Wilson's Phalorope, White-rumped Sandpiper, Great White Egret and Ring-billed Gull. Leaving at 5am we were at Westcliffe-on-sea by 7ish, to look for 'Rossi' the returning Ring-billed Gull. I've looked for this bird on at least 5 previous occasions without luck, but today he sat on the beach only a few meters away. Our early visit no doubt the key, as no people were about to distract him with a bag of chips. News on the other birds had us first heading to Oare Marshes. Walking along the sea wall we soon located a large mixed flock of waders, Godwit, Curlew, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Golden Plover, and as we were advised 'somewhere' a White-rumped Sandpiper. We briefly picked up the bird in flight before we waited for the flock to shuffle around, finally the White-rumped Sandpiper moved into the open but only for a short while before burying itself once again. A juv. Curlew Sandpiper was also amongst the flock. Moving off we headed for Grove Ferry NNR, the Wilson's Phalorope had flown out of view and not been seen for over 1 1/2 hours, but we sat down to wait. The tall reeds masked many areas of the scrape and pools so the bird could have been under our noses, after 30min or so the distinctive bird flew in and fed on the back of the scape. Although a little distant a great bird to see. The Wilson's Phalorope was the 3rd North American bird of the day and with time on our side we headed to Dungeness hoping to add Great White Egret to the days list. The wind was blowing strongly across the reserve, if the GWE was there it was anchored down well out of view, so after a quick flit around the reserve, we headed home. Lots of Chiffchaff were on the reserve, holding on until the last minute to leave and a Hobby was also of note.
With a week off work i thought would finally get an opportunity to get in a good sea watch. Westerlies are forecast all week so Saturday was my only real chance to go with some moderate NW overnight. I left the house at 4.30am and walked to the station, arriving at Sheringham at 6.15am. I soon had a Manx Shearwater pass mid-distance it was then quite until the Sandwich Tern started to move though, with Skua appearing to harry them. c20 Arctic Skua, 2 Great Skua, 1 Pomarine Skua and 1/2 Long-tailed Skua passed through in 2 hours, although some birds circled back and probably got counted twice. The LT Skua was called by a regular in the shelter and at first look I'm not sure would have correctly called it, i can see why it causes so much debate on the message boards. A distant shearwater was noted as Sooty Shearwater, but shearwatersp. only totalled 4 in 2 hours, with 2 being to distant to ID. Gannet were passing through in reasonable numbers, mainly travelling east. (167e/86w). Other birds of note included 3 Red-throated Diver, 6 Pink-footed Geese, 1 Fulmer, 5 Common Scoter and a few odd waders and ducks.
I munched my way through a bacon bap before James join me on the bus to Cley, i was originally going to go straight home so anything we could see would be a bonus. From Daukes Hide we located 2 Little Stint and a few Dunlin but wader number were very low. A large number of Wigeon were probably new arrivals. The wind had dropped and the North Scape was as deserted as the others, so we walked the ridge towards Salthouse. After hearing a Lapland Bunting overhead we eventually located 4 on the ridge behind Arnold's Marsh. Walking to Salthouse we added Greenshank, Spotted Redshank and 2 Wheatear on a rather disappointing walk. The Dun Cow failed to give me any further pub birds, but to pub dragonflies in Migrant Hawker and Common Darter. Sheringham had provided a good sea watch considering the mediocre conditions, and Cley as half expected was quiet, but all in all no pleasant day out.
....was all i had to show for the 7 1/2 mile walk along the coast from Cley Coastguards back to Sheringham. I wasn't hopeful for much as the wind had swung around to a strong SW, scuppering any plans to sea watch or finding many migrants. I caught the 8.23am train and the trip to Sheringham produced some of the best birding of the day, 2 Buzzard, a Sparrowhawk and what was to be the days biggest surprise 2 Quail near Northrepps. They'll soon be leaving and are normally hiding in the crops, but the harrowed ground gave these two nowhere to hide. At Cley the wind was strong, anything good was going to be skulking down low. A quick look on North Scrape just gave the normal waders, so i soon headed off towards Salthouse. Behind Arnolds Marsh a Wryneck has been present a week, but despitelookingthought the bushs and scrub i didn't find it. (I later learned no one saw it all day.) In the same area though a group of 7 Lapland Bunting fed on the shingle ridge, but were easily spooked by walkers. 2 Wheatear and a lone Whimbrel were the only migrants i could find, though a fly through Merlin let me know Winter is on its way. Moving onto the Little Eye at i found a further 4 Wheatear, 1 Whinchat and a few juv Common and Sandwich Tern. Grambrough Hill so often a migrant hotspot gave me close views of Kestrel but only another Wheatear to the migrant list. Weybourne looked more promising with the seaward side of the hill sheltered from the wind. With 6 Wheatear, 3 Stonechat, 3 Meadow Pipit, 1 Whinchat and a Willow Warbler, that was debatable. The walk from here to Sheringham along the coastal path was even less eventful with a Whitethroat and 2 Wheatear hardly worth noting. Not the best migrant hunting conditions by a long shot but t was still nice to get out.
A message yesterday alerted me to a single juv Black Tern at Whitlingham, a would be patch tick, but after a meal at the in-laws meant i was hoping it would stay around. After the briefest of lay in courtesy of the gas man, Laura and i went down to Whitlingham about 9.30-10.00. We hadn't stopped the car and i had a Black Tern flying over the Great Broad, and upon stopping i soon located a further 3 birds. The last couple of years despite the regular passage I've only seen Black Tern while sea watching so it was nice just to spend some time looking at the plumage detail. A Black Swan has also returned to the area and was in the conservation area, and just as we were leaving a Common Buzzard flew over the car. We then moved onto Rockland Broad in the hope of catching up with an Osprey in Norfolk. Walking along the track i peeped through the trees to see another juv Black Tern but little else on the Broad, so we continued onto the hide. Just prior to the hide i scanned out towards Buckenham and Cantley Marshes, and found the Osprey although at distance flying along the river. We sat in the hide for about 30-45 minutes. Two Black Tern were present along with the usual waterfowl and gulls. The Osprey didn't return while we were there, but a Kingfisher flew past the hide just before we left to cap off a pleasant morning.
We might not have the skills of the 'Punk Birders' but someone must be reading our birds and beer pub watching blogs, Gary was asked recently '...are you one of those 'drunk birders?'. On Sunday for the first time in a few months Gary, James and myself went out again as a trio to hunt for autumn migrants. With the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler leaving Yorkshire overnight, we instead headed for HolmeNOA and NWT reserves. We first looked in on the juv.Red-necked Phalorope at NOA'sRedwell. A smart male Redstart added a little extra value to the £3 fee for entering the hide! We had a walk around the forestry behind the NWT Info Centre where eventually Gary located a Pied Flycatcher, but little else was around. Along the entrance track we watched a Garden Warbler catching flies at close quarters, a female Redstart, Stonechat and a juv. Red-backed Shrike, before two Peregrine then drifted over low. We then went to the pub, not just pub but the best birding pub there is, the Dun Cow at Salthouse. Here i added 5 new 'pub ticks', Canada Goose, Common Tern, Hobby,Whinchatand Greenshank. We also picked out Sandwich Tern, Wheatear and Gannet all good pub birds. Doubling back to Stiffkey we eventually caught up with a Barred Warbler not far from the campsite, and also saw Garden Warbler and Whitethroat. A brief stop at Cley coastguards failed to turn up any Lapland Buntings but during a quick seawatch we saw dark, light and intermediate Arctic Skua, a few distant Gannet and a close flyby Guillemot. With the sun starting to fall in the sky we walked the back of Weyborne Camp. We failed to locate the Wryneck seen earlier in the day, but Gary found our second Red-backed Shrike of the day, large flock of 30+ Pied Wagtail failed to hold a White Wagtail and a couple of Wheatear flitted about in the orange glow.
This week as been the best so far for autumn migrants, with lots turning up in North Norfolk, but i was stuck at work, then ill. Today the only birds of note where at Holme, a rather long drive for Barred Warbler and Red-necked Phalorope when not feeling 100%, we instead opted for a lay in and something more local. With the Willow Emerald Damselflies relocated again at Strumpshaw that was our first stop. Although Lackford Run is closed, part of the Fen Trail has been reopened to allow views of the damselflies. Luckily someone had just located a female as we arrived and then a male was also found, a little to far away for good photographs but i tried. As the sun came out Common and Ruddy darters appeared everywhere, and we also saw Brown Hawker, Southern Hawker and probably a Norfolk Hawker, but its a bit late for them to be flying. From the Fen Hide we watched a Hobby zipping around and two Marsh Harrier, but bird life was lacking. We then went on to Ranworth, enjoying an ice cream before returning home.
I recently moved back to North Walsham and needing a new local patch, I soon settled on a few of my old favourite sites, but they were spread around town. All are close to the old railways track beds and my new house sits at the apex of all 5 lines that once radiated out from North Walsham, these form the arteries joining everything up. My 'Birding Alone Old Lines' patch was born, revisiting the old birding sites of youth, via the Old Railway Newtworks.