Sunday, 18 October 2015

This autumn just keeps on giving: Bluetail, Issy Shrike and Pallas's Warbler

I watched the amazing fall of migrants along the north Norfolk coast unfold not in the field but one step removed on the Internet on the BirdGuides website and various blogs, pictures and accounts of  a stellar cast of eastern rares. Work and a child with a stomach bug got in the way of experiencing any of the birds first hand until Friday when finally I could no longer resist and I took the morning off and drove along the coast road to Holkham.

My plan was to walk quickly to where the Red Flanked Bluetail was located down by the Cross Tracks at the Western end of the Pines in some Sallows and then work my way back east spending more time looking at the Goldcrests in the hope of pulling out a Pallas's or Yellow Browed Warbler. And of course the Isabeline Shrike that was present as well, I knew I wouldn't have time for Wells Wood and the goodies on show there.
Grab shot of Red Flanked Bluetail at Holkham
As I walked I could constantly hear Goldcrests and my planned brisk walk slowed as I paused to look at these. Over head there were flocks of newly arrived Redwings calling in flight. I walked past the small trail for the Bluetail and re-traced my steps with another birder who had done likewise. Arriving round the back of the Sallows I joined a small congregation and the bird quickly showed posing for a second , just long enough for me to admire its deep bluetail before disappearing from view. I stayed for an hour and had a couple more equally brief but worse views before tearing myself away.

Next stop was the Shrike which had apparently been showing well earlier, it wasn't when I arrived in its favoured area and it was only when another birder came and fetched me that I got 0onto it feeding along a scrubby ditch line out on the grazing marsh. That was my lot and I needed a brisk walk back to the car and then home for an afternoon of office work.
Isabeline Shrike [and Redwing] digi-scoped through an very old Nikon ED Scope
But I still had a Pallas's Warbler sized itch to scratch, I'd not seen one for a few years and I didn't want to miss the opportunity that this autumn provided, so today I managed to get out for a couple of hours in the afternoon and headed to Holme where a bird had been reported. Getting directions to the area of The Forestry [sea Buckthorn and Sallow scrub] the bird was in I didn't feel overly confident but I got myself in the right area and a couple of birders put me onto where the bird had last been seen. They left me on my own and I managed to pish the bird out very briefly, what a beauty my favourite bird of the autumn, like a Goldcrest dipped in Sherbet that crown strip and yellow rump, yowser! I set the camera on its maximum ISO setting and grabbed a few shots which I have heavily cropped here.
Pallas's Warbler at Holme

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Essence of autumn at Holme: Yellow Browed's and a Firecrest

A busy weekend of chauffeuring to and from children's birthday parties, shopping and a trip to the swimming pool with number one son. But by late afternoon on Sunday I managed to find a couple of hours clear to make the short drive along the coast road from Hunstanton to Holme where some of the influx of Yellow Browed Warblers had been reported on BirdGuides.

Yellow Browed Warbler at Holme NWT
Getting down to the The Firs at 4.30pm I chose to park in the NOA car park, I wandered over to a couple of birders staring hard at a Poplar tree and within a few minutes I had my first fleeting glance of the afternoon of a Yellow Browed Warbler, after a few minutes I had seen this bird reasonably well and taking the birders advice wandered over to the sycamores behind the NWT car park where three Yellow Browed's and a Firecrest had been showing well.

Positioning myself on the sunny side of the Sycamores with a stunted Horse Chestnut all burnt brown leaves in front of them I quickly got onto a flicker in the canopy and soon had good scope views of a Yellow Browed which even posed long enough for a usable but poor quality digiscoped image.

Firecrest in Sycamore at Holme NWT
With time pressing I headed back to the car pausing on the car park side of the Sycamores where within a couple of minutes I was getting good views of a wonderful Firecrest and even managed a couple of so so snaps of this. Soon a Yellow Browed appeared and I managed some much better shots with my DSLR. As I watched a Green Sandpiper called in the distance and I reflected that this quick hour out was in many ways the essence of autumn birding distilled: a warm still blue sky October afternoon, staring into a clump of coastal sycamores, looking for eastern vagrants.