White-winged Black Tern, Ormesby Broad, 8th September
Lots of raptors in the air here - mainly Buzzards and Marsh Harriers but also a Hobby over the back of Rollesby Broad (and Sparrowhawk at Filby Broad earlier).
I planned to end the day at Cley so in the meantime Waxham seemed as good a bet as any. This used to be my favoured stomping grounds, many years ago when I used to cycle out to the coast from Norwich to do my birding. But since the early 90s I've hardly birded the area - indeed I don't think I'd done the walk down from Shangri-La to the camp since then. Well I didn't quite do all of that this afternoon, I parked on the road at the double bend so skipped the northern section. It's changed a bit - some of the paths that I used to walk down have moved - vegetation has grown so thick round their old locations you can't possibly get through now - but it was pretty much like old times, not least for the lack of birds! By the time I reached the smaller campsite I'd had just a single Wheatear in the way of migrants - it wasn't the afternoon fall I was hoping for!
I glimpsed a warbler disappear into a bramble without getting an ID on it. I resisted the temptation to walk on despite the voices in my head assuring me it was probably just a Whitethroat. I've realised that one reason I find so little in the way of rare birds is that I glimpse something that looks interesting, wait a few seconds/minutes without seeing it, convince myself it was something common and walk on. If I stuck it out every time I reckon I'd have found a decent bird on some of those occasions. So this time I stuck it out. Not sure how long I waited - it seemed for ever but probably no more than 20-30 minutes - but a long time staring at nothing. Eventually it popped out exactly where it had gone in but unfortunately this time my patience was not rewarded - it was just a Whitethroat. Next time!
Round by the pipe dump things were much livelier - several Blackcaps, at least 5 Stonechats, lots of Goldfinches and a variety of other common biirds making it all feel birdy unlike the walk down to there.
Goldfinch, Waxham, 8th September
I was now standing at precisely the point where I had found my first ever self-found Red-backed Shrike, 22 years ago. That was part of the reason why I had chosen this stretch rather than the line of trees further north - I fancied finding another and with one found at Salthouse that morning it seemed a realistic possibility. No sign of one here today though so I moved on. About 30 seconds later I found myself staring at a Red-backed Shrike!! Bingo! Not the easiest bird to get close to for photographs, but giving great views from a little further back.
Red-backed Shrike, Waxham, 8th September
A few more birds at the campsite, but I turned round once I reached there, pausing to take in more views of the Shrike. I was surprised to see a Kingfisher heading low along the side of the dunes, nipping between me and the Shrike before continuing south. Don't know what their status is here, but they're a pretty scarce migrant at other dry coastal stations I'm more familiar with. A lot scarcer than Red-backed Shrike in fact.
As I headed back north I discovered at least 4 Whinchats along the fenceline north of the pipe dump - I'd looked here on the way down and not seen them, so whether they were new arrivals or just moved round from somewhere out of view I'm not sure.
I'd planned to stop somewhere else on the way up to Cley but time was pressing on and in the increasingly gloomy conditions I figured I had better get a move on. I was keen to study some gulls - hoping to get some learning in on Caspian and Yellow-legged ID. Apart from Black-tailed Godwits and at least 75 Ruff there weren't many waders on show. A single Greenshank was the best and I couldn't pick anything of interest out from among the ducks either. The gull flock was disturbingly small and lacking anything of note.
Mark and Eddie turned up and with them came a few more large gulls. Mark picked up the 3rd winter Caspian Gull that's been turning up the last few nights almost immediately. Pretty sure it wasn't there before he arrived! The conditions were pretty rubbish with drizzle making visibility poor and this may also have impacted the number of gulls coming in. But Mark was on the ball and picked up an interesting juvenile fuscus-type Lesser Black-backed Gull (Baltic Gull). It looked good but we won't be allowed to count it... they're deemed unidentifiable so no unringed examples will be accepted currently.
apparent Baltic Gull L. (f.) fuscus, Waxham, 8th September
Mark again picked out a candidate Yellow-legged Gull, but it seemed unusually dark and was very advanced for a second-winter - we wondered if it may instead have been a hybrid. Two more Yellow-legged Gulls appeared more straightforward (in as much as Yellow-legged Gulls in the half-dark are ever straightforward - which isn't much for me) and Mark picked up another young bird flying off. In some ways it was disappointing that there weren't more, but I enjoyed what I saw and the fuscus-y thing was especially interesting.