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, 17 November 2016

Siberian Stonechat, Yellow-browed Warblers and Great Grey Shrike

On Saturday 8th October I knew Burnham Overy would be crawling with birders so decided to go somewhere quieter.  I started off at Broad Lane, Brancaster, a fab little location that I had discovered for the first time during the week before and found it teeming with birds.  Not quite so many birds this morning, but one of the first was a calling but invisible Yellow-browed Warbler.  There were a few thrushes, mainly Song Thrushes and Redwings, at least 3 Blackcaps and a Brambling.  Then a second, silent, Yellow-browed Warbler appeared briefly.

Yellow-browed Warbler, Broad Lane, Brancaster, 8th October

Looking over to the dunes I could see a Short-eared Owl heading west past the clubhouse.  I decided to do Gypsy Lane next but it was quiet here - Siskin and 2 Redpoll sp. west were the highlights, along with a Treecreeper.

Redwing, Gypsy Lane, 8th October

Next stop Titchwell Church, a site that I can't believe I've never birded before.  Brambling, a couple of Blackcaps and more thrushes was all I could find today, but there's potential for a lot more here.  Many times I've driven up or down Chalkpit Lane and wondered what the chalk pit would be like.  From the road it looked like it might be quite a nice little spot that would probably hold things like Yellow-browed Warblers in the autumn and sometimes probably much better things.  But there isn't much parking space right next to it and I'd never got round to making the effort to walk up to it from the village.  Now I was already parked in the village it was the perfect opportunity to see what it was like.  It's pretty close so no problem at all to stroll up from near the church, and the local folk have done a good job of making the place nice.  It used to be used as a dump and you can still see evidence of that, but they've cleaned it up nicely, made a good path through it and planted it up.  The biggest mature trees are Ash I think but there's a large variety of other species of tree and shrub.  It's a bit of an oasis of quiet and calm on a windy birder-swamped day.  And it held birds, pretty much exactly like I thought it would.  Not vast numbers, but a good few thrushes, at least 3 Chiffchaffs and, audible the second I stepped in, at least 2 Yellow-browed Warblers.  It's not hard to imagine a Mugimaki Flycatcher spending a few days in here without anyone noticing.

Yellow-browed Warbler, Titchwell Chalk Pit, 8th October

Next stop was Thornham where I took the path round Marshlands.  A Yellow-browed Warbler was calling in there but I hadn't got very far when I received a phone call which required a speedy drive home and an emergency trip to Norwich.  Was in Norwich when I received news that the Black-browed Albatross had been seen again off Scolt Head flying west.  Dropped Vitty off at home and sped up to Hunstanton where the albatross had now been reported flying into the wash.  Perhaps it would turn round and come back out?

There were lots of Gannets coming out but no Albatross.  At least not that I saw, although one small group of birders seemed to think they'd seen it, despite none of the rest of the 20-30 birders looking seeing it.  A late Whimbrel called briefly but the best thing seen was a funnel cloud (thanks Dave H).  Also a Barn Owl at Colkirk on the way home.

Next day I was free in the afternoon and decided to have another look at the Chalk Pit.  Apart from anything I'd heard what sounded a bit Pallas'sy the day before, although I'm pretty sure it was just one of the Yellow-browed Warblers calling oddly.  Same thing occurred today but I spent a lot of time there and was never able to confirm Pallas's and only ever heard the Pallas'sy call when there was a definite Yellow-browed Warbler in the same area.  It was never convincingly Pallas's and I'm all but sure it was just variation in the Yellow-browed call.  There was also Blackcap and a couple of Chiffchaffs in there and 2 Red Kites flying low over the pit.

Red Kites, Titchwell Chalk Pit, 9th October

As I was looking round the church yard I came back into phone reception and received news of a Siberian Stonechat at Thornham Point.  I was nearby so headed straight there.  From the bank at Titchwell could see a small group of birders looking for it.  A call to Penny who was among them confirmed that they hadn't seen it for a while and it was flightly and elusive.  Not sure how far it ranged I decided to stay put and scan the saltmarsh from where I was.  After a while a call from Penny (thanks!) confirmed that it had been seen again, and I headed over to join them, accidentally flushing a fabulous Short-eared Owl on my way.  A lovely Siberian Stonechat that had apparently been found by James McCallum and Mark Golley on what I'm told was James's first visit to Titchwell in years!  Often tricky to see though as it kept low and frequently dipped out of sight.

Siberian Stonechat, Thornham Point, 9th October

It was getting dark as we headed back through the reserve - there were some Yellow-legged Gulls out there but it was too dark to see them properly.  This Spotted Redshank next to the path was taken on maximum ISO.

Spotted Redshank, Titchwell, 9th October

On 11th October I decided to return to Burnham Overy in the hope that it being mid-week there wouldn't be too many other birders there.  I arrived at first light to see a group already on their way out and changed my mind!  Instead I nipped over to Thornham and decided to work my way east from there.  There were a few thrushes at Thornham, at least 3 Blackcaps and a couple of Bramblings, but it wasn't heaving with migrants.  A Barn Owl quartered the field while a Little Owl called nearby.

More thrushes at Titchwell church, a Grey Wagtail and a Brambling.  There was another Brambling on the way up to the chalk pit but not so much in there today.

Titchwell Chalk Pit, 11th October

There wasn't a huge amount to see as I wandered through the trees along Gypsy Lane - fewer thrushes than of late, the odd crest, 3+ Bramblings.  A Grey Wagtail was heard and further down the nice weather meant that Bearded Tits were in evidence with small flocks exploding out of the reed bed at regular intervals (though none actually departed, so hard to know how many involved - at least 20).  The odd Snipe flying around too.

Snipe, Gypsy Lane, 11th October

One of 3 Cetti's Warblers showed quite nicely (if a bit too far for photos) and at the pool at the northern end of the path a Yellow-browed Warbler was calling.  There was a Wheatear along the footpath and another on the practice green, and then I walked on to Broad Lane.  Fewer birds here than in recent visits but I was pleased to see 2 Mealy Redpolls drop in briefly.

Mealy Redpolls, Brancaster, 11th October

Redwing, Brancaster, 11th October

Next day I headed up to Burnham Overy again and although there were other birders out there early I stuck with it this time.  The walk out was uneventful, although I got my first distant view of the Great Grey Shrike that has been around for a few days.  There was a lot of rain as I did Gun Hill and that end of the dunes, but plenty of birds.  Final totals included 80 Redwings, 70 Song Thrushes, and 25 Goldcrests, though these were probably underestimates.  Also 6 Blackcaps, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Wheatears, 5 Brambling and Grey Wagtail.  A Woodcock was flushed and a Redstart sp. seen in flight (got the impression it was Black, but not 100% sure and couldn't relocated it - a Common Redstart was also present, not seen by me, but was a different bird).  A young male Merlin was seen and a Peregrine was on the beach.  Also a Red Kite seen.

Bramblings, Burnham Overy, 12th October

Redwing, Burnham Overy, 12th October

Blackcaps, Burnham Overy, 12th October

Reed Bunting, Burnham Overy, 12th October

I got another better view of the Great Grey Shrike as I headed through the dunes - it popped up just in front of me.

Great Grey Shrike, Burnham Overy, 12th October

This Dunnock was the wrong accentor.  Another Dunnock showed peculiar white spectacles, but sadly they aren't the fieldmark of any rare eastern Accentors.

Dunnock, Burnham Overy, 12th October

At the far east end I heard a Yellow-browed Warbler call briefly and I could see the Great White Egret at Holkham.

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