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Sunday, 5 October 2014

STOP PRESS! STEPPE GREY SHRIKE at Burnham Norton and A First for Norfolk!

A First for Norfolk at Burnham Norton this afternoon!
Found by Paul Tabor, Paul Parsons and Martyn Hnatiuk.
Thank you all very much indeed!

I have been stuck in the house for the last two weeks (with my injured ankle, for any of you that are behind on the blog!) and tomorrow I am returning to work. The car has also been stuck on the drive, but I needed to know if I could drive to work or if I needed to ask a colleague for a lift in the morning – I sat in the car and decided I could use all pedals. I was screaming to get out of this house so decided to drive a shortish distance and have a relaxed and chilled afternoon. As I was driving along the A148, I kind of regretted this decision, as my ankle felt a bit painful when I used the clutch! I stubbornly didn't want to go home though, it was such a beautiful day and it felt fabulous to be out!

Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve
I heard that kingfishers have been showing well at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve and decided this would be a nice sensible place to visit. I arrived at the carpark late morning. It would have been nice to arrive at 8am for good light, but next door's dog barked until 1.45am (until someone arrived back from their night out) so it was impossible to get up early. I had put my serious winter boots on to support my ankle, but it was so hot – seriously warm for October! Firstly I needed to renew my membership and fill in a direct debit form, so it doesn't lapse again. The visitor centre has changed a bit since I last visited and it all looks very nice indeed and beautifully laid out. Tea and coffee available, snack bars etc, books, jams, clothing etc! Tables and chairs with visitor centre book to sign (father used to do this at HBO). Four Harvest Mice were in a large, open topped aquarium which I'm sure would be popular with the youngsters – they were adorable! Very helpful staff with welcoming smiles. I was fascinated reading on their Facebook page this evening HERE that they are "....about to add one of the country's first completely accessible aerial boardwalks too....."!!! This sounds awesome!!!
Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve

I ambled slowly along the boardwalk and headed straight for the last hide – 'Paul Johnson' hide, I think it was called. Saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker and heard a Nuthatch on route. Several dragonflies skimming along the dykes in the warm sunshine – it felt like mid summer! I was too hot in my coat, but the ankle was holding up well and it was just fabulous being out – you appreciate nature so much more when you have been stuck indoors! Just before the hide the pager bleeped up with 'Norfolk possible STEPPE GREY SHRIKE Burnham Norton.......' BOTHER! Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE racing off to see rares, BUT today I needed to take things gently and plus I wanted to see this kingfisher.... it was afterall only a 'possible'. I decided to carry on to the hide until positive news hit the pager. Just as I opened to the door to the hide, Julian B. came out – he was off to Burnham Norton! I sat in the hide and it wasn't too long before a cracking Kingfisher flew in and landed on the perch! Took a few shots and then the pager bleeped up with confirmation that it WAS indeed a Steppe Grey Shrike! Left the hide and ambled back to the carpark at a faster pace!
Birders enjoying the Steppe Grey Shrike

 Video does improve a bit towards the end!

Burnham Norton
As I drove along, I was wondering how far away I would have to park my car, as the carpark would have been filled ages ago, but on arrival I got lucky – there was one space left! Cars were parked all the way along that narrow little road. Not an ideal place for a good bird to turn up, but this place has produced no end of goodies in the past including the last good bird I saw here, a Stilt Sandpiper – well I think that was the last 'rare' I saw here. Andy W. caught up with me as I walked along to where the bird was. I was very lucky indeed, as the walk wasn't too far along at all really. Joined the crowds and had fabulous views of this stunning Steppe Grey Shrike – a first for me and first for county – what more could I ask for!!! It perched on hawthorns, fence wires and at one point flew across and spent a while on a yellow digger in the middle of the marsh! I confess (being really honest here) I got a bit too close to begin with and I apologise to anyone I might have upset – I hadn't realised how close the bird was, to where I had walked to and stopped when someone highlighted this. I couldn't see the bird from this position as it was obscured by reeds, so didn't gain anything at all from where I stood! Loads of happy birders there and lots of familiar faces – too many to name. I spent the rest of the afternoon here enjoying this fabulous shrike. A young birder standing near me watched the shrike coughing up a pellet. The shrike was distant most of the afternoon and was happily feeding away – even too far for phone scoping really, but I managed a couple of videos when it was perched on the hawthorn in the centre of the field. I noticed a head of red hair in the crowd – was very pleased to see James McCallum here – means he wasn't down BP finding any megas – I couldn't possible walk out there today! I was really baffled why Pete S. had not turned up and even more so, when he didn't answer my phone calls or texts – I found out later that after being at work all morning, he decided to have an hour's kip, and with phone on silent, had fallen asleep all afternoon until 6pm!!! Oh dear! I watched the shrike up until just before 6pm and then made my way back. Bumped into Holme NWT Warden Gary Hibbard, twitching... whatever next! Also nice to see Vernon Eve and Robert Smith. Connor and Kieran had made it just in time before the light went! It was really, really cold now! Had a coffee and sandwich and then drove back to King's Lynn. Once home I rested ankle on ice, watching 'Strictly'!
Sunset as I left Burnham Norton


  1. Glad you saw it Penny, can't beat finding a lifer on a weekend away!

    1. Congratulations, Paul! And everybody else who saw the bird of course! Worth playing Make Some Noise by Big Big Train, don't you think? ��

    2. I did as soon as I got home Tobbe!

  2. Hi Paul, THANK YOU! Congratulations! Made my day and many other birders! What a fabulous weekend you had!