A diary of my birding activity covering highlights and photos from my birding adventures. Mainly Norfolk (UK), occasionally beyond. I might mention the odd thing that isn't avian, but for moth and other insect news check out my mothing diary.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Siberian Accentor and Isabelline Wheatears

I'd decided not to go for the Siberian Accentor in Yorkshire while there were easterlies in Norfolk and finding a Radde's Warbler made me think I'd made the right decision.  But the Accentor outstayed the easterlies so in the end I had a chance to see that as well, and headed up to Eastington with Dave on 18th October.  We would have liked to have spent a full day there birding the area but for reasons too boring to describe here we would only have enough time to see the main target and perhaps one or two other rares in the area if we were lucky.

Not sure I have any readers who need this explanation but Siberian Accentor is a rare relative of Dunnock that until this year had never been recorded in the UK and only a handful of times anywhere in Europe.  This year has seen an incredible arrival of them in northern Europe - well over 200 recorded including 13 in the UK (the Yorkshire one being the closest I think).

Anyway, we rocked up to Easington mid morning and as we walked up the road to see it we noted lots of Chiffchaffs - far more birds had arrived here than I had seen in Norfolk recently.  We were advised by people coming back from the Accentor that we wouldn't need our scopes (what were we meant to do... abandon them on the road?) and indeed we didn't - we hardly needed our bins!  The Siberian Accentor was hopping around just the other side of a small fence, sometimes too close to focus on.  It was strangely hard to get decent photos of it - not quite sure why.  These are the best of hundreds taken - ok, but for a bird that was virtually in touching distance not as good as they ought to have been.

Siberian Accentor, Easington, 18th October

Once we'd had sufficient views of this we would have gone straight down the road to see the Isabelline Wheatear but were under the mistaken impression that it hadn't been seen this day (very poor signal here making it hard to get up to date news), so we decided to enjoy the Accentor a little longer.  Eventually we realised that the Wheatear was in fact still there, so wandered down to see that - or more like rushed down as by now we hadn't got much time before we had to go.  In the relative shelter of the Siberian Accentor site we hadn't appreciated how windy it was but standing on the sea wall overlooking the open fields it was hard to keep optics still enough to get a good look at the Isabelline Wheatear.

Isabelline Wheatear, Easington, 18th October

Apparently Dave saw another bird close to the Wheatear but with the noise of the wind I didn't hear him mention it - I didn't see it and didn't know about it until I processed my Wheatear photos and found that one of them had a Lapland Bunting behind it!

Lapland Bunting and Isabelline Wheatear, Easington, 18th October

On the way back to the car we paused to have a look at a flock of 50+ Tree Sparrows.

The following day I headed up to Sheringham for a sea watch.  The strong north-westerlies should have produced more than they did but there were a few noteworthy birds that made the effort worthwhile, including 2 Velvet Scoters, Red-necked Grebe, 3 Pomarine Skuas (along with 8 Great and 3 Arctic Skuas), Little Gull and Puffin.  Things eased off late morning and I decided to call it a day, having enough time to get home and work the afternoon (I'm on unpaid leave now so didn't want to waste it).  As it turned out things picked up during the afternoon with over 50 Little Gulls and a Sabine's Gull among other things - typical!

On the evening of 21st a flock of Pink-footed Geese flew over my house after dark - sounded like quite a large flock.  A Grey Wagtail had been heard earlier in the day - heard several days in October.

On Saturday 22nd I thought there would be too many birders at Burnham Overy again so went somewhere quieter, Brancaster.  Turned out to be a bad decision as I ended up having to go to Burnham Overy after all.  Broad Lane was pretty quiet - hardly any thrushes though a flock of 30 Brambling flying over was good.  I headed down towards the beach with a view to walking up Gypsy Lane and was surprised to see a Water Pipit on the practice green.  A flock of 10 Bearded Tits flew up from the reeds as I headed up Gypsy Lane.

Bearded Tits, Gypsy Lane, 22nd October

When I reached the wooded part I received news of an Isabelline Wheatear at Burnham Overy.  That's a bird that I (and most other people) had never seen in Norfolk so I needed to get over there as soon as possible.  I was reluctant to hang around as I could foresee people flushing it over to Scolt Head where access would be extremely tricky but I was about as far from my car as I could be on my circuit.

I got to Burnham Overy as fast as I could and was pleased to find the Isabelline Wheatear still showing nicely, alongside a Northern Wheatear.  It was nice to catch up with lots of birder friends I hadn't seen in a while too.

Isabelline Wheatear, Burnham Overy, 22nd October

A Pallas's Warbler appeared in the bushes in front of us, although it was very hard to see.  Sadly we didn't know that just a few yards west of where we were standing someone photographed a Desert Wheatear - news of this only emerged after dark.  Another Northern Wheatear appeared on my way back to the car.

I had a quick look round Burnham Deepdale churchyard but apart from a few Redwings and a Brambling there wasn't much doing.  I walked along the coast path to somewhere between Brancasters Staithe and Brancaster but it seemed very quiet.  A Yellow-browed Warbler called briefly and 3 Red Kites were over Brancaster Staithe, but that was it.

Redwing, Burnham Deepdale, 22nd October

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