Monday, 27 September 2010


Unmentioned in my write-up yesterday was an unexpected phone call from a freelance journalist, called Jo Riley (see ) asking about my experience on the Point, looking for the Flycatcher. We chatted and I ended up forwarding my and Julian's pics for consideration for an article:

Todays papers:
Daily Mirror
 Daily Telegraph
Daily Express
 (the only paper to acknowledge Julian as the bird's photographer!)
I can also be spotted in the crowd pics of the lower two - shame you can't make out the Disney Parks logo on the back of my cagoule!

See also:

It also made The Sun
(congrats also to Penny for her crowd pics (and others I do not know))

I did make it clear that the birds identification was unclear and probably back to Alder or Willow, but I expect the text had been passed on by then.

PS The relivancy will be unkown to most but lovely to see a rainbow in the pics!
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Sunday, 26 September 2010

Okay, so what exactly was the 'Blakeney' Point?

With the proposed identification of the Empidonax flycatcher on Blakeney Point seemingly gone full circle, through nearly every possibility, back to probable Alder (or Willow) Flycatcher - a pairing that is seemingly often not identifiable in the hand, let alone in the field - one might ask the question: was it worth it?
The simple answer is, 'Yes!'

I was still at home in Dereham when the news broke, having wimped out of going sea-watching - leaving at 4.30 am. I read the pager message with incredulity, yet couldn’t help myself, but jump up, get dressed (yes, it was 1.07 on a Saturday afternoon!), tell Louise I was off to Blakeney Point to try and see a bird that might be unidentifiable (!) and get in the car. I made a couple of calls to check friends had got the news and received one from someone I had recently been called their sycophant - the irony! After a rather hairy drive up to the coast, I was surprised not to find the NWT there charging for parking! The grass area had been opened up and I parked close to the west bank. Even as I stepped out of the car the first squall hit and I got soaked putting on my waterproofs!

The NWerlies were much stronger than I expected, based on the winds at home, and with rain showers and the occasional hail. The walk down to the plantation is difficult in the best conditions - heavy shingle nearly all the way, interspersed with avoiding suada and other obstacles, and zigzagging to find the occasional relief of firmer ground, but with this combined with the atrocious weather there were times that I thought I wasn't going to make it! I kept on expecting waves of people to be overtaking me and disappearing off into the distance but the only waves were those crashing over the beach creating horizontal spray that hit like a wall (I was glad I was wearing my sunglasses(!) as they protected my eyes from the onslaught!). With the misnamed Halfway House dawned false hope that progress was being made, yet it took forever to reach and longer to leave behind! The slog took me nearly an hour and a half, with the relief of firmer ground for the last part, combined with the news that the bird was possibly a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher not recorded in the Western Palearctic before) I spurred on through the pain barrier to the plantation.

On arrival, and to immense relief, the bird was on show. I made my way toward the scopes and quickly managed to 'borrow' one set up on the bird (thanks Mark)- absolutely cracking views immediately obtained, in excellent light, of the bird back on, where the prominent wing bars and feather fringes were striking - primarily whitish, but with tinged yellow-buff on olive-brown upperparts. Large-headed in appearance, with a full complete eye-ring that was not as thick as expected. The bird then turned and showed (to me) a yellow wash on the underparts that seemed deeper in colour on the throat. Also noted was the seemingly short(ish) primary projection and neat rounded off tail.

Having seen the bird well, and still ever changing weather, with squalls then sunlight, I then turned to enjoy the other aspect of twitching, which is the social side of meeting up with likeminded (!) souls, who were as mad as myself and made the same mind-boggling journey down the shingle. It was great to see Norfolk birders that I hadn't seen for a while and chat and reminisce, after the celebratory handshakes (yes, I celebrated seeing someone else's find, as did many others, it was like a being at a party - it wasn't mine, but I can still celebrate! It would have been good to celebrate with the finder and pass on thanks and congratulations, but James (McCullum) was no-where to be seen! So my thanks and gratitude are given here!) To hear the latest gossip (Little Bustard photographed near Feltwell last summer !!!) and share the latest updates and comments (I see an East Coaster has made his views about laziness known, but I hear he is beginning to learn the frustrations that family commitments bring to birding - that's life). To see Josh arrive at a twitch, which itself was enough, but dressed in shorts, Bermuda short-sleeved shirt and sandals was just a sight to behold. And hats off to the commitment of the man who walked the point in his shirt and tie (I believe he didn't see it, but would love to be wrong)!

In between chats I returned to the bird, at one point managing to get the pleasing (to me) images of the bird as it continued to show well at times. I still don't think any pictures I have seen do the colours of the bird justice. Did I (and others) imagine the amount of, and positioning of, yellow combined with the olive-brown upperparts? Well it seems so! But hopefully the identification will be confirmed somehow. However, would it really matter? No! The experience of the twitch, well for me anyway, completely outweighs the addition of a number on a list. Whatever, it was an American flycatcher that had somehow made it across the Atlantic and down the North Sea, surviving all the perils of the journey - whether partly ship-assisted or having made landfall after the recent 'hurricanes' up north and then blown south in the strong northerly movement as it tried to continue its journey! It doesn't matter! It was a great find, wonderfully shared and an exhilarating twitch, which combined all aspects that makes this such a 'rewarding' hobby!!

Thanks again, James (and Paul?), and Dave, Julian and everyone else whose company made the experience even more special! Was it worth it? Is twitching worth it? Do we twitchers deserve the ridicule? Well, the obvious answer to all of these questions is a resounding, 'YES!'

PS Am I being lazy as I am still at home writing this on a Sunday morning, when birds are being found all over the Norfolk coast? Yes and recovering (maybe this will make me get fit!) But then again, as someone has implied this past week, I am not a 'proper' birder anyway (but at least they know me!:)

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Saturday, 25 September 2010

Julian Bhalerao Flycatcher pics

As Promised:

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MEGA: Empidonax 'presumed Yellow-bellied Flycatcher'

Some of my pics that might add to the debate (although I doubt it!) Might add a report of the twitch later if I regain my energy! Also, will hopefully be adding some of Julian's pics later - they looked stunning on the camera!

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Monday, 20 September 2010

Osprey Revisited

Can you tell which I took and which Julian took?!?

Wonderfully, he was more pleased with this flight shot of a Mistle Thrush! Actually, I can understand why!
...and a couple more of his from the weekend!
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Sunday, 19 September 2010

Osprey - Swanton Morley

About 20 minutes after a much appreciated call from Dave, we were watching the Osprey circling low over Curly's Lake. Previously, it had been perched up and later we had it over Holkham Lake before it drifted off east. It reappeared just after I departed, returning from the east back to Curly's Lake. Unbeknown to us, the bird had been present all afternoon and in the area for 'about five weeks', according to a local fisherman!
Also noted were a Sedge Warbler and a small number of Chiffchaffs, as well as Green and 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Marsh Tit.
Below are some terrible pics taken in bad light - expect much better on the diary pages of Dave's website later:

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Friday, 17 September 2010

Raven' Mad!

Do you ever try to talk yourself out of a sighting? That's what I tried to do today! Why, you ask? Because of the disbelief, incredulity and dismissive nature of some of my 'peers'. Sad isn't it!

Anyway, an early start, wanting to try and see some Lapland Buntings, had me out on the road with Barn Owls at Dereham, North Earlham and County School. Just as I was heading north out of Wood Norton on the B1110, I spied a Buzzard sized bird out of the corner of my eye. Expecting it to be the said species I was surprised to be greeted by a huge jet black bird! It turned away from the road, slightly spreading its obviously wedged shaped tail! I was struck by the length of the wings and the clearly defined 'hand'. Even the thick neck and heavy bill was noted. A stunning Raven! I turned an stopped to see the bird departing west towards Swanton Novers Great Wood in the company of a couple of Rooks, which it naturally dwarfed!

Onto Cley I made my way down the East bank to the pinging of Bearded Tits. Arnold's Marsh held a good variety of waders, but my quarry lay further ahead, so I headed east along the shingle ridge. My eyes kept on being drawn to the sea, which again seemed quite busy, with more Arctic Skuas passing and the occasional Bonxie - all viewed just with bins. After a while, about half way down Arnold's a group of 5 Lapland Buntings flew up, chippering away and landed nearby. I continued further down and located a lovely group of ten birds half way down the Sea Pool. Stopping to watch them for a while, my attention drifted back to the sea. A couple more Arctic went passed and then a brute of a Pomerine Skua cruised past! A little later and a few more Arctics on, another pale dainty Skua went through - Long-tailed? Probably! The group of 5 buntings were again seen on the way back. A special morning.

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Thursday, 16 September 2010

Opportunistic Seawatch

Having seen the local news suggest that there would be NWerlies this morning, I decided to have a look at the sea from Salthouse before work. Arriving around 7 am, I immediately noticed that the winds were Werly, if not with a bit of South! However, a quick look produced a few Gannets, so I decided to give it a 'few' minutes. Quickly a number of skuas had passed, most identified as Great, with smaller numbers of Arctic and a number of un-i'ded (!) distant birds, inc a probable shearwater sp (!) Then a small, graceful, light Skua came into view at mid distance, bouncing along as it passed (yes, that's my description for this scarce 'description required bird'!!), a juv Long-tailed Skua. A few more Bonxies and Arctics passed in the 1/2 hour I was there before I disappeared off to work! Presumably the NWerlies were further North and had still moved birds down the North Sea.

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Julian's Elusive Warbler and Showy Shrike

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Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Casual Birding

Having returned from a few weeks in Florida a couple of weeks ago, I had missed the main arrival that had befallen Norfolk. There had been some excellent scarce birds around, particularly at Holme, but I haven't been inspired to rush up there!

I eventually went and saw the Wryneck at Cley on my way to work and was immediately greeted with moans and groans about photographers etc getting too close (also post on Birdforum). However, despite all this gossip, the bird was still present and showed well, appearing from its roost in the brambles then feeding amongst the spares vegetation. I managed to get others on it and suggested to new arrivals that it would be good not to get too close. Viewing from such distance was not necessary, but kept people happy!

A couple of forlorn walks around Walsey hills, looking for the reportedly still present Icterine, were only enjoyable through the fresh air I got! As productive was Gramborough Hill, but at least a few warblers sulked to give me hope!

Oh well, maybe I'll get out again, but then again...

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