Broad-Bodied Chaser

Broad-Bodied Chaser
Wing Mosaic (Broad-bodied Chaser): Winner, Nikon In-Frame Competition August 2010

Spoonbill

Spoonbill
Spoonbill: Birdguides Photo of the Year 2012 Runner-up

Friday, 21 October 2011

Norfolk Masses Out-Flanked by the Rufous

With news of some easterly winds on the way I managed to squeeze in two more days in Norfolk last weekend. Friday morning saw a promising start with a Yellow-browed Warbler soon after dawn at Walsey Hills. 

Dawn from the top of Walsey Hills:



At Salthouse a few Turnstones were feeding on the pools:




A Black-headed Gull:



A spell in one of the Cley hides was interesting with a large group of Black-tailed Godwits producing some interesting behaviour.

One in particular was of interest - it had a broken leg, or was a runt - it was the only one of at least a hundred which had some heavy summer plumage.  It was constantly harassed by the other Godwits and eventually flew off.  Although feeding well, its actions were incredibly clumsy, for some reason its disabled leg was forced up its back in a kind of Eric Morecambe type of feeding action!



In flight the Godwit showed how the leg problem had removed tail feathers:



Some of the other birds gradually came closer later in the morning:






After Cley, Wells Woods and Holkham seemed like a good destination.  Strangely quiet, very little was seen or heard, with the exception of another Yellow-browed Warbler calling.  A two hour walk was very nice but appeared to be no more than a pleasant sunny autumn afternoon.

Then things suddenly got more interesting.  Whilst ambling back to Holkham through Wells Woods, a message came through that a Rufous-tailed Robin, a bird only previously seen once in the UK and never on the mainland, had been found at East Hills.  Although less than a mile away as the Robin flies, East Hills is almost inaccessible, and I was aware with an incoming tide there was no chance of getting there that afternoon, so I carried on my walk.

As the second message came through, my amble turned into a sprint as the bird was clearly not at East Hills but somewhere at Wareham Greens, where I had been earlier that afternoon.

I pulled out of Lady Ann's Drive in front of a well known Norfolk birder who was travelling at a decent speed.  I knew straight away they knew where they were going - I didn't - so I kept in front and waited for them to indicate before taking the same track off the A149 straight to the right spot.
There were a good number of people there, more than I had expected, with more arriving behind me.  The bird had been located in the tops of some of the trees along the lane.  I got several poor views of the bird as it moved along the tops of the bushes and trees northwards. 

I had a chat with one of the finders; I believe James McCallum finally identified the bird after some hard work to locate and get decent views over the previous hour.  There is a terrific account of the afternoons events are here:
http://uk400clubrarebirdalert.blogspot.com/2011/10/rufous-tailed-robin-at-warham-greens.html 

The light was fading fast and it was eventually given up as darkness fell and people drove away in the moonlight. 

Hoping for better views I joined the inevitable throng the next morning pre-dawn.  Given the clear night and perfect conditions, as it got light it became evident that the bird had clearly moved on. Most had travelled many miles from all over the country and you can only feel for them heading off without seeing the bird.

Tired, disappointed, some of the 800 or so at dawn:



I headed off to Holme where a Red-flanked Bluetail had been ringed and released early in the morning.  It had been relocated but was proving elusive.  Two minutes before I got to the car park it had dissapeared, with confusion as to which direction it had gone. 

I called into the NOA observatory where Sophie, the warden, didn't help my disappointment by showing me a shot of the superb Bluetail in the hand during ringing.  I also purchased a copy of the NOA 2010 report which featured the following two shots I had taken the previous Autumn:

This Ruff image, taken in September 2010 on Redwell Marsh, is featured on the back cover:


Red-necked Phalorope, Redwell Marsh, Holme, September 2010:


After a good search for the Bluetail I left others to it and went over to Titchwell. The highlight was a Short-eared Owl which flew in of the sea and landed on the beach amongst the gulls. Clearly exhausted, it made its way up to the dunes and went to rest in some grass, proving surprisingly hard to locate.  While birders kept a good distance, even a dog which ran up to it failed to flush the Owl from its resting location.



In the late afternoon I called back into Holme, where the Bluetail had been relocated. It was in the NOA side of the reserve, popping up on a regular but brief basis into view - a very beautiful bird and one of the best passerines you can hope to see.

The Bluetail, the worst image of the day but certainly the best bird:








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