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Saturday 26 October 2013

'Swift' Twitching!


Last night the Pallid Swift at Cromer was seen flying around the church in the town centre and some thought that it may have roosted there. It was therefore far too tempting not to be standing there at first light this morning, just in case! I was up early and got to Cromer just after 7.10am.

Cromer Church
By 7.20am I was standing next to the huge church in the high street and scanning the turrets and ledges for a Pallid Swift. Minutes after I arrived a very familiar face appeared next to me – James McCallum, who's reputation for not twitching is disappearing fast!!! I remarked to James a bit later that he would be 'doing Happisburgh next for the 'Radde's'!!! All four sides of the church were covered, there were six birders including ourselves, waiting and hoping for a Pallid Swift to wake up! It was fascinating standing here for all kinds of reasons. As James remarked, the light was stunningly beautiful – as time progressed the spire of the church glowed orange, which increased in intensity as the sun rose. Racing Pigeons, Jackdaws and Starlings were seen on the church itself. Birds overhead included 3 Pied Wagtails, 2 Siskins, 1 Heron and best of all a Chiffchaff was heard and seen in the small ornamental tree in the churchyard (saw it after you left James). It was a beautiful morning and the bright blue skies above, beckoned to be adorned with a Pallid Swift! Several passers by stopped to ask what we were looking at and seemed quite interested and wished us good luck. It was cold standing here and remained fairly chilly throughout the day. I gave up at 9am, phoned RBA to update and then left. At 9.09am the first message came through of a Pallid Swift seen at Overstrand flying east at 8.40am. A message came via the pager that there was no sign of yesterday's Radde's Warbler at Happisburgh Church, but I wanted to go and look myself anyway.
 Jackdaw – Cromer Church.

 Jackdaw – Cromer Church.

  Jackdaw – over Cromer Church.

 Ferel Pigeons flying over Cromer Church.

Heron flying over Cromer Church.

Trimingham Clifftop Wood
Stopped here on route to Happisburgh. As usual when I walk into this wood I found no birds at all, oh apart from a robin. But I did find lots of sweet chestnuts and filled my pockets! Walked back to the car and as I drove past the church, thought about stopping to search the scout hut area and bushes next to the cliff edge, but decided to carry on to Happisburgh.

Happisburgh Church
This magnificent church is set in such a grand setting, on a hill on the seaward side of the village. The churchyard is partly formal with mown areas, but has wild flower areas and brambles bushes and had that kind of rambling look about it – it was really lovely. I searched hard for the Radde's Warbler, but they are such skulky birds, it could still be in there! Lots of cover here and no other birders around. Hundreds of Starlings flying over, Goldfinches and Meadow Pipits. In the trees at the bottom of the churchyard, there were Great and Blue Tits, Greenfinches, Goldfinches and Hedgesparrows. It was so beautiful, I could have spent the rest of the day birding round here. I was very tempted to climb the 133 steps up to the tower of the church for the spectacular views, but decided to continue birding. I must do that another time. If climbing church towers is your thing, you need to do 'The Stump' at Boston (Lincs) – its hard work, but the views from the top are jaw dropping – you can see Holme Reserves from the top! Anyway, I digress. As I was having a coffee and snack, a text came through from a friend, that James Mc. had seen TWO Pallid Swifts at Trimingham near the church!!! How frustrating was that!!! I left to return to Trimingham.

Trimingham Church
Parked the car by the church and crossed the road to walk around the scout hut and bushes around the cliff top. No birds of note really. I sat on the white chair on the cliff edge and scanned the skies for a Pallid Swift, but no luck. As I was walking back through the bushes another birder walked towards me who had just had a swift sp. over his head as he was driving – he stopped the car by the church but could not re-find it. A message then came through on the pager of a Pallid Swift at Trimingham, by the church at 'The Brambles' – OMG.... there was one here, now! The moment had gone, the swift had gone and by the time I found where the 'Brambles' house was, it was most definately gone! I decided to stick it out and stood by the church and waited and watched. Graham Etherington was driving past and stopped to tell me he had seen a Pallid Swift at 'The Mast' and had also photographed the bird. He then drove east, but came back a little later and very kindly told me there was one showing now, a bit further up the road, just past Trimingham Wood layby, where several people were watching it. I jumped in the car and joined others in a layby on the A149 to watch a distant Pallid Swift. The bird swept over a wood near to the cliff, so I walked along the field edge to get closer views, which I did obtain for a while, but it returned to where I had first watched it. I walked back up to the main road and shortly after this the swift appeared to head towards Trimingham Clifftop wood. So I drove the car to the next layby and walked part way along the track to the wood and had stupendous view of this wonderful Pallid Swift right over my head. It stayed in here for ages and Carl Chapman also joined me a bit later. It was so difficult to photograph and I took hundreds of shots. News came through of another Pallid Swift at Cromer, below the lighthouse. I fancied photographing a different bird, so off I went!

Cromer Lighthouse
Parked the car in Warren Lane and walked through the hedge to the cliff top and then walked east towards the base of the lighthouse. As soon as I walked over the ridge to view the lighthouse, my second Pallid Swift of the day appeared right over my head! This bird was much paler than the Trimingham bird. Again, very difficult to photograph, especially in the now failing light. Fabulous views though in dramatic dark clouds. Watched the Pallid Swift with a few other birders, updating RBA throughout and then left.
Cromer Lighthouse

Parked up at the carpark on the cliff top in Cromer and had a coffee and a sandwich. I had a horrible headache, felt really cold and didn't feel well at all. It was a real job to drive home.

I don't think anyone knows how many Pallid Swifts were seen today in Norfolk – there has been so many sightings!

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