7 May 2016
Burnham Overy Staithe
Light south easterly winds overnight with rising temperatures. I awoke to a slightly foggy start to the day. I was up shortly after dawn and after a light breakfast and cup of tea I drove straight to Burnham Overy Staithe. I walked out to the dunes. A Bittern was booming from the reedbed, audible even from the road. I checked the various pools, slightly obscured in the mist. A Common Sandpiper was feeding on one, and lots of Lapwing and Redshank were breeding on the marsh. I checked the bushes at the end of the boardwalk, finding just a single Willow Warbler, then walked to the second patch of bushes where I startled a female Ring Ouzel. It flew to the nearby fence posts where I phone scoped some quick images.
|Female Ring Ouzel|
As I walked around the Hill a Spotted Flycatcher flushed toward the point bushes. As I arrived it was feeding in the isolated Sycamore with a second bird, while 3 Wheatear fed nearby. I walked back along the point seeing a couple of Common Whitethroat holding territory. Next I walked east through the dunes checking the bushes. A Kestrel overhead, more views of the female Ring Ouzel and several more Wheatear.
I reached the edge of Holkham Woods where after checking the bushes in the dunes I scanned over the marsh. A Willow Warbler, a Lesser Whitethroat and several territorial Common Whitethroat. The Great White Egret, now in full summer dress, was perched on a Willow, sporting a black bill. Cormorants were nesting in the trees, Little Egrets fed on the marsh and Lapwing and Redshank were numerous.
I played a recording of Iberian Chiffchaff. I don't often use playback as I've found the results to generally be negative, often causing a bird to disappear. However on this occasion with a non-singing, potentially rare and very cryptic species I thought it was worth a try as it may result in a reaction of some sort, perhaps a clinching call. And with both Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler in the same bush there was at least a control element.
The reaction was instant. Initially the recorded song caused some response from all the birds in the bush, but most lost interest almost immediately and dissolved back into the cover to feed or flicked away out of sight. All except one. The presumed Iberian went into almost slow motion. It stopped feeding, and hopped straight towards me into the outermost and very exposed branches. It showed brilliantly as it moved slowly from branch to branch, looking for the source of the song. It remained on view for several minutes, then started to feed again moving gently into the back of the apple tree. I was able to compare it with both Common Chiffchaff, constant tail dipping, much duller olive green back/wings, dull green wash on greyish underside, jet black legs, fainter supercilium, and noticeably shorter winged; and to several Willow Warbler, framed pale centred cheek, pale orangey pink legs, cleaner below with a flush of yellow to the breast, longer primary projection, pale supercilium and no tail dipping.
Frustratingly I had not carried my camera, not wanting to inflame a rather sore shoulder. I did have my iPhone and my scope, which I'd been using during the morning, and given how well it showed it had to be worth a try. With everything setup I played the recording again. Instantly from out of sight the bright green and yellow Iberian-type Chiffchaff appeared and again came to the front of the bush hopping slowly around and giving me a chance of some images. A feeding Chiffchaff completely ignored the song and continued to feed, and no Willow Warbler reacted at all this time. Taking shots of a moving warbler in an apple tree at 5m range with a phone connected to a telescope was never going to be easy but the subject behaved kindly and I managed a few images. It stayed on view for maybe 5 minutes, before moving down into the base of the bush and evaporating into cover. For comparison I played a short snap of Common Chiffchaff song. No reaction at all, it stayed out of view. Another burst of Iberian Chiffchaff and it came back into the tree, though didn't show so well this time, staying more hidden in the middle of the tree. Unfortunately it did not call at all - in fact none of the phylloscs were vocal this morning.
|Slightly obscured, but showing just how vivid and colourful the bird was - almost a Chiffchaff in Wood Warbler clothing|
|Bright yellow throat, yellow supercilious, white belly and reddish feet|
|Pale lower mandible|
|Eye ring restricted to below the eye|
|Dark, not black legs, and paler reddish feet|
|Long-winged, with hint of a pale panel in the secondaries|
I set out along the sea wall. As I reached the first corner a very white bellied lark ran across the path ahead of me. I reached for my bins and was surprised and delighted to see a superb Short-toed Lark feeding about 25m away. I quickly got the scope on it and grabbed my phone for some record shots. With some images taken I quickly tweeted my find out to the World, but as I did so a dog walker approached and spooked it into the nearby field. I waited a few minutes and it flew back in allowing a slightly closer approach and some more images before another walker scared it off the path. I didn't see where it went, but moved back to the corner which gave views in both directions along the wall.
The other birder was still stood by the fence in the dunes. I waved to get his attention but he didn't seem to register. I saw him walk into the dunes and stop as if he had seen something. He scoped it for a while then walked back to the fence. I saw him talking in his phone, then he waved at me. As I walked towards him the Lark reappeared on the wall ahead giving more brief views before it flew again. I walked around to the other birder and he said he'd found a Short-toed Lark in the dunes. I told him I'd been watching it on the wall and so we walked back to see if it had returned. With no sign we tried the dunes and soon relocated the Lark. We watched it feeding for some time before it flew over us and out towards the wall.
Cley NWTMac fancied a walk so we headed over to Salthouse for lunch at the Dun Cow and a stroll. We started at Cley where the Black-winged Stilt was sleeping. A smart summer-plumaged Knot was feeding outside the hide, a couple of Dunlin and a variety of smart Ruff, including a bold male displaying with three, rather disinterested, Reeves. The Stilt awoke and gave good views. After lunch we walked around Salthouse checking the various floods and scrapes for any migrants. Just a few more Ruff in various colour forms were seen.
|Black-winged Stilt - remarkably only the second ever at Cley|
Late afternoon I drove to Titchwell and walked out to the Parinder Hide. Two smart Temminck's Stint, an adult Little Stint, 5 Greenshank, 3 Little-ringed Plover and 3 smart Little Terns were seen on the flood.
I finished a rather exciting day at Choseley Drying Barns where the traditional Dotterel trip was feeding way out in one of the ploughed fields. The views were distant, but always great to see.