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Sunday, 13 October 2013


My Jewel in the Crown! My first Self-found Pallas's Warbler!


One of the best day's birding I have had and havn't seen a soul!

It took so long to write up my blog last night and also to write up the Norfolk news and I ended up going to bed really late. So I had a lie in this morning, mistake! Pager bleeped up with "Parrot Crossbill at Stiffkey" – Arghhhh......!!!!! Left the house with no make-up and unbrushed hair! Thank god I did my sandwiches last night. Birding is so much harder than going to work! By the time I get home, sort out all the gear, dry everything out, make sandwiches etc etc its so late! No time to rest at all! Massive fun birding every day though, with East winds and rain in October – what more could you ask for!

Ok, so I'm on the road, heading for Stiffkey, its raining and I'm trying to plan the rest of the day. Now, every birder will have parked at Stiffkey Campsite carpark and all of them will be heading west to find this Parrot Crossbill. So I decided to park further west at Garden Drove, Warham on the concrete pad and walk down the track, in hope that all the birders have flushed the bird towards me!!! Loads of thrushes and robins scattering as I drive up the track to the concrete pad. I phoned another birder who told me the crossbill had not be re-located. I looked across at East Hills and could see the tide racing in. That could be pretty awesome out there today! Walking out there would be a massive risk if a good bird turned up on the coast. High tide was just after 2pm and it was now 10.45am. Going out now, mean't that I wouldn't be able to start walking back again until after 5pm until the tide had receded enough, to get back across the big creek. So walking out to East Hills mean't I wouldn't get time to bird anywhere else. A super quick decision had to be made – ok go for it! Packed my gear up, put wellingtons on, walking stick in hand and proceeded to walk down the track. I didn't stop to bird on route, as I really needed to step on it,to get across the big creek in time, but did see robins, redwings, blackbirds and chiffchaffs on route.

It was really wet on the track out to the hills, it was difficult to keep tabs on the footpath, which weaves in and out anyway, without the floods of water to add to the confusion! The sun was out now, which is not what I had expected! Had a wonderful surprise of a Short-eared Owl which I flushed from the marsh, no pictures though as camera safely packed away until I reached the dune ridge. Lots of Brent Geese out here and I counted 60 Shelducks with them. I managed to walk out in a record 45 minutes and didn't fall over once which was an added bonus! On reaching the small pine tree on the dune ridge I got the camera out ready. I was very excited and even more excited when later on I realised I was the only lucky birder out here!
 Robin Extravaganza!

 Goldcrest searching for food in the sycamore glade.

 Robin enjoying my lunch!


 'Continental' Blackbird feasting on the blackberries.

There was a massive fall of birds on East Hills. I am not particularly good with numbers but there were at least half a dozen robins to every tree, bush, plant you saw, incredible numbers, you're talking hundreds of robins out here, seriously! Also at least a couple of hundred of each of Redwings, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds and much lesser numbers of Fieldfares. A Sparrowhawk zipped through the pines. In the sycamore glade where I spent most of my time, it was dripping with birds – I didn't know which way to look first, it was almost exhausting! Dozens of robins in the sycamores, brambles and leaf litter. Lots of: Chiffchaffs, both male and female Blackcaps, Wrens, Goldcrests, Bramblings. I tried so, so hard to find a robin with a blue tail!!! I have scrutinised so many robins today! Smaller numbers of Chaffinches and Hedgesparrows. It was very cloudy and raining on and off, whilst I was out here. I sat down briefly to have my lunch and made a robin's day with titbits from my sandwiches. I flushed Woodcocks all the way along and counted 8 by the finish. At the furthest, most western part of East Hills, was where the biggest concentration of thrushes were, feeding in the large bramble area – they scattered everywhere! Out in the harbour, the tide was now in and the scene of hundreds of Brent Geese on the sea and so close to me, was just stunning. The white sand on the beach was gusting along in the wind and it looked so beautiful – I love this place. No dogs, no people – so peaceful and atmospheric!
 Brent Geese gathering in the rain.


So many birds to check out. Photographed some Chiffchaffs feeding amonst the brambles. It is virtually impossible to photograph Redwings, they move so fast! I did manage one shot, obscured by brambles though! Dozens of Redwings, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds kept flying past me and flew in the sycamore end of the hills. The robins out here were like flies, so many and had to painstakingly check every one to eliminate male Red-breasted Flycatcher and Red-flanked Bluetail! Continued to flush woodcocks from beneath my feet, but didn't get any footage on the camera! In one very small sycamore I counted 8 male Blackcaps just in this one tree alone! I was just about to try and photograph them when the rain became heavy and they melted away into the brambles. Watched a dramatic scene of a Sparrowhawk chasing a Redwing right in front of me – it was so close, but the Redwing got away – lucky bird!
 Redwing – tons of them, but not camera friendly!

Back in the sycamore glade – I continued my search for something rare. The goldcrests were so cute and sweet and were feeding just above my head amongst the dripping sycamore leaves. Suddenly I had my bins on a phyllosc above my head – wow, it was a Yellow-browed Warbler!!! Wow, things were looking up. But, I couldn't find it again and didn't get any pictures sadly. The pager had been bleeping up with good birds in Norfolk all day long including Cous's Arctic Redpolls, Pallas's Warblers, Red-breasted Flycatchers, Bluethroat etc and the hottest messge a Red-flanked Bluetail at Happisburgh – this was becoming really tiresome! Out loud I said "at least let me have a Pallas's Warbler PLEASE'. A few moments later I found my first self-found PALLAS'S WARBLER!!!! Wahooooooo!!!!! There it was flicking about in a sycamore in the rain at 4pm, I just couldn't believe my luck, so exciting, I was on a roll now. Just needed that dreamy 'bluetail' to finish the day! There was loads of brambles between me and the Pallas's Warbler, so took a distant picture initially. The camera came up with the message 'lens error' – I was not happy, tried again, same again, turned camera off and changed the f4.5 setting to f4 and got one picture only, out of focus, but you can see what it is. I moved round the brambles to get a better picture and was mortified when I couldn't re-locate the bird again!!! I could have cried, here I was on my own with no one else to tick me off for getting too close, I could have got frame filling shots and the bird had disappeared!!! Well it must have been there somewhere, but I couldn't find it. The light was fading too which didn't help. I also saw a Firecrest briefly with a goldcrest in the sycamore, but it too disappeared quickly.
 My First Self-found Pallas's Warbler!

The rain decided to fall heavily. I stood still, leaning against a tree in a failed attempt to shelter. I gazed into the Pallas's Warbler sycamore tree and stood here for well over half an hour until eventually the rain eased off, well mostly. As I moved, the leaf litter to my right was alive with birds as I walked through to leave. One of the birds was a Mealy Redpoll and was calling as it fed amongst leaves above me – a nasally type call. I got the camera out to photograph it, but it disappeared from view - bother! Why did the day have to end now! Goodness knows what had dropped in with that massive rain storm. The light was fading fast and I NEEDED to leave asap. It was 5.30pm and I was still in the sycamore glade – shift it Penelope! Leaving here was torture. The walk back was also torture! As I left, I continued to see Robins flicking about, even in the last big pine tree before the tidal pool and a Brambling was also feeding on the short turf. The walk back across the beach was not funny at all – it was really wet and the big creek was alot fuller then it was when I walked across earlier! I sighed with relief when I got across and again when I got across the smaller, deep creek. The walk from here on was muddy and very wet and I started to panic with the light quickly disappearing. I jogged some of the way back. I really don't know how I didn't manage to fall over, even with the running – it was hilarious really! I arrived back at the copse at the end of Garden Drove at 6.30pm – it was dark!  Crazy, crazy bird!!!

Back at the car, I could not be arsed to remove my wellingtons, which are size 4.5 and too small for me (bought them this size on purpose, they don't come off in the mud). I was wet, muddy, hot and tired. Dumped everything in the car and drove home in the wellingtons. Got home at 7.30pm. Had a big battle with the wellingtons! It took ages to sort all the wet gear out, put stuff in washing machine etc before I could start even writing this post!

What an amazing day and I still have Monday and Tuesday to search for rares, before I go back to work on Wednesday, so exciting!

A few more pictures from the iphone to be added later on.


  1. Fantastically exciting to read!! Well done, you1

  2. Don't normally get round to commenting on blog posts but this was an exceptionally good one - a day on your own in Norfolk in the middle of a big fall and finding a Pallas's Warbler. This will be an inspiration to many. Peter Walton

  3. Hi Peter
    Thank you so much for taking the time to reply and for your very kind words – made me smile!

  4. I met a guy at Warham Greens last week who asked if I knew you. I said no, but I read your blogs with interest - and occasionally envy! ;)

  5. Hi Jay - thank you for your comments!