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Tuesday, 6 May 2014

MEGA DAY! Western Subalpine Warbler, Osprey, Garganey – the list goes on!

Trapped and ringed at Holme Bird Observatory
by Warden Sophie Barker at 6.35am

"Early Bird Catches the Worm!"

Andy Wilkinson has also had a few days off work and his last day off was today. We had loosely discussed yesterday, to meet up to go birding today and I made the suggestion about meeting up at Holme at dawn, his reply was 'that would mean I would have to get up at 4am'. So, while Mr W. snoozed in East Norfolk, I crawled determindly out of my bed! The alarm went off at 4.30am. I snoozed until 4.50am. Made flask, had breakfast etc and left the house by 6am. I was determined to get to Holme early, just in case Sophie was lucky enough to catch yesterday's Subalpine Warbler. It was raining hard first thing and this continued on/off for a good few hours before the sun hit us all with a mini heatwave!

I parked up by the Hun Bridge at Holme, just before the Firs Road, to get my binoculars out of the boot and ready to hand! As I was doing this, I saw two cars whizz past me – Titchwell RSPB Warden Paul Eele and the other was Mark Bradberry – did they know something I didn't?! I was soon seconds behind them along the Firs Road!!! Very annoying to have to get out of the car to shut the 5-bar gate behind you, when you are in a hurry, but rules are rules! Parked up on the NOA carpark and Paul and Mark were gone ahead of me already. Got my camera out and quickly walked up to the observatory. My heart was racing with excitement when I quickly discovered that Sophie HAD indeed caught the Subalpine Warbler at 6.35am!!! Whooooo, so exciting!!! I never expected to be this lucky and had not thought about the fact that I needed my 100mm macro lens for close up shots and only had my 300mm lens on my camera, so whizzed back to the car to get this when I was told I had time..... just. Sophie had already rung the bird and taken the biometrics etc and the news was put out as I arrived. The second time the bird was taken out of the 'bag' was only briefly for a few photos, before being rested for a few more minutes before release. As Sophie took the bird out of the bag it somehow seemed so small and looked a bit damp from the rain – but so exciting to see! On release the bird shot off directly behind the ringing hut, through the sea watching hide area to the back of the pines, but people felt that it would more than probably return to the area where it was caught this morning, which was in the first mist net along the main bank in the Heligoland trap area. People present to see this bird were: Sophie Barker, Jenny Barker, Gary Elton, Paul Eele, Mark Bradbury, David Bratt another birder I didn't know and myself. With the bird now released, there was lots of smiling and laughing for a few moments and then down to serious discussion about the exact race of this bird – Western or Eastern? General consensus was that this was a Western Subalpine Warbler, but further advice was sort by the picture being tweeted etc. See ID article HERE. All pictures taken were on mobiles phones – see Paul's fab pictures HERE. I was the only person with an SLR camera, not that it makes any difference. I personally find it more difficult and pressurised to take sharp pictures of a bird in the hand when you only have what seems like a few moments, rather than being in the field. Most of my pictures were pretty rubbish really with several out of focus shots, but hopefully they will help with clarification of exact ID. Obviously I hoped very much throughout the rest of the day, that I would be able to photograph this fabulous bird sitting in the scrub, but this wasn't to be!

Smiles all round for Warden Sophie Barker and Assistant Warden Gary Elton, moments after releasing the Western Subalpine Warbler!

Now for the rest of the day! There was a massive movement of hirundines from first light until dusk, mostly Swifts and Swallows, which was fabulous to see – Holme birder Robin Jolliffe reckoned on 'twelve hundred an hour' at first light in the rain. A Spoonbill flew over the observatory east at 8am. Lots of Whitethroats whizzing about. The Yellow-browed Warbler had been heard singing and seen briefly by a few people throughout the day, but neither seen or heard by me, which was very frustrating. Back on the NOA carpark I had a coffee and a jam sandwich to celebrate. Phoned Andy W. to point out that he should have got here earlier – he joined me birding later on. Meanwhile, Andy B. kindly informed me about a drake Garganey that he had seen just in front of the last hide at the NWT Wader pools! Fabulous! So off I went with a couple of other birders to have a look. I didn't really expect to see this filling the frame of my camera and I was right, it had gone..... not a trace! Trudged back to the carpark. I then heard it had been seen on the pool just south of the Firs Road (approaching the reserves). So off I went again and this time struck lucky – a wonderful Drake Garganey in the pool feeding happily at 11.20am – managed to get some distant record shots. There was also a cute, fluffy baby Lapwing! I returned to the NOA carpark again.
Drake Garganey – Holme NWT.

Lapwing chick – Holme NWT.

The Firs House – NWT.

I walked to the NWT Forestry to try and find something exciting. The main excitement here was butterflies – Wall Browns were everywhere as were Green Hairstreaks, Small Coppers, Peacocks, Tortoiseshells and a few Red Admirals and also some Common Blues. There was a single Wheatear on the short turfed area and 3 Linnets. I could see a Little Egret on the 'Saltings' distantly. Swifts and Swallows still piling through west in the beautiful blue skies with fluffy white clouds (see below). A Whimbrel flew over calling at 12pm, 2 Cuckoos also calling. Several Whitethroats here, a Robin and a Hedgesparrow. Whilst on the phone, two birds flew west that looked interesting – managed to see one of them just in time – a female Peregrine at 12.15pm! I don't know if the second bird was also a peregrine or not as it had disappeared quickly below the dune ridge. 2 Marsh Harriers seen over Holme marsh.
Gore Point, Holme Beach, from the NWT Forestry.

Wall Butterfly.

A gruesome find in the NWT Foresty!
Anyone know what bird this is please? Moorhen maybe?

Back at the NOA carpark, I met up with Andy W. We heard 2 Grasshopper Warblers reeling – several people had seen one of them perched and 'reeling' on a bush along the Firs Road, but not when we looked! Went back to show Andy the Garganey on the pool, where it remained throughout the day. Walked around the pines, back to the observatory and along the lower east bank path to search for the Yellow-browed Warbler – no luck. Went back to the carpark and sat and had a leisurely lunch and a well deserved snooze – well I tried to snooze, but someone wouldn't stop chatting – smile! Someone hadn't got up quite so early!
'I really wish I had got up early now and I can't believe we can't find this yellow-browed'
Only joking Andy! – hayfever starting I think or was it a 'late night'!

This spider was in the yellow gorse flowers by observatory – Wolf spider?

Green Hairstreak by observatory.

Back at the observatory again to look for the YBW – again no luck! I think people turning up thought it would be a doddle to see – it wasn't. In fact, it felt like it wasn't there at all! At 4.20pm a message bleeped up on the pager to say an Osprey was seen flying west over the In Focus shop at Titchwell, then Thornham Harbour at 4.18pm – OMG that was 2 minutes ago! We were standing on the lower path next to the slope adjacent to the observatory. I said to Andy, we need to gain height quickly..... I raced up the slope quickly with Andy and also Pam (Connor's Nan). We scanned as quickly as we could. Suddenly I picked the OSPREY up, flying high west just before Holme Church at 4.26! Magic! Phoned out to RBA and a couple of local birders to alert them. I could see people standing on the viewing platform at the obs looking happy and found out that they had also seen the Osprey. Thank you to whoever phoned the Osprey out at Titchwell (guessing V.E.) so promptly, much appreciated and just makes everyone else happy! I love it when people report a bird, as it makes its way along the coast – its fascinating knowing how long it takes to get from one place to another! At the observatory Ray Roche thanked me for the call, but said he couldn't reply as he was also watching the Osprey! He had also seen a Whinchat out on the marsh, but we couldn't see it now. A few minutes later along the main bank, Dave Holman had the Whinchat in his scope, very conveniently for us at 5.35pm – thanks Dave! Dave's wife (sorry don't know her name) found a fascinating little copper coloured beetle (see photo). Searching the net quickly, it sounds like a carnivorous ground beetle from the family Carabidae – someone correct me if I'm wrong please?
Carnivorous ground beetle?
At the top of the NOA entrance steps.

The rest of the evening was spent chasing birds we didn't see! Walked round the back of the bungalows to the paddocks to find purring Turtle Doves – didn't hear or see neither. Went up to Choseley to look at the Dotterels and Stone Curlew which have been reported throughout the day. We scanned the field for ages. My eyes were tired now and it was cold. I almost felt delirious – searching every stone and clod in those fields, nothing, nothing at all, apart from 2 Grey Partridges. 2 Yellowhammers at the drying barns, no turtle doves there either. A birder and wife on holiday here, kindly told us where they had seen some dotterel earlier today near Burnham Market, so off we went to search! On route we saw loads of Grey and Red-legged Partridges and Hares. No dotterel on view at the directions we were given. But we did see a stunning, totally black pheasant – of course the camera (unusually for me) was sitting on my passenger seat, so no pictures obtained!
Grey Partridge at Choseley, where the dotterel were!

Sunset over Burnham Market.

We left here at 8.20pm. Andy went home east and I had to go to Holme to pick up my sister's mobile phone that she had left there yesterday! I could have done without this to be honest by hey ho! Showed mother Subalpine Warbler pictures and then whizzed back to King's Lynn to Lucy's to return phone. I arrived back home at some bizzare hour of around 9.45pm. Put the best few pictures on the net, started to write blog and kept falling asleep. Went to bed at an insane time and knew I wouldn't be out in the morning! An exciting, but exhausting day!

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