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Sunday, 18 October 2015

Unprecedented Day – Tons of Birders & Rares, But 999 Ended The Day Badly!

The Drinking Pool, Wells Woods

I arrived at Wells Beach Car park before sunrise. Mission: to see and photograph Ashley's Saunders's Red-flanked Bluetail that he found yesterday. I saw it last night, but not for long enough. How can you ever tire of watching one of this stunning little birds! There were around 10 cars already in the car park, I was surprised there was not more to be honest. I heard later (as I expected) that people could not get in the car park later - the car park is currently being re-vamped and there are bulldozers/diggers digging up and re-doing TWO-THIRDS of the entire car park, only leaving a very small amount of parking spaces. I'm guessing this re-vamp was organised around holidaymakers not being here in October, but they hadn't allowed for the fact that in birding world, when October is dripping with rares, its like a Bank Holiday Monday daily! – they hadn't really thought about that at all and also have lost lots of money, through turning people away yesterday.
The Drinking Pool, Wells Woods

Anyway, I packed up my backpack for the day, in case I suddenly had to walk to Holkham or further for a mega. When I arrived at the drinking pool, there was only one other birder sitting and waiting patiently for the bluetail to appear. I was surprised there were not more people here already. It didn't take too long for me to spot the gorgeous Red-flanked Bluetail flicking about in the central area of the drinking pool fly catching and pumping his tail – every so often he would call – magical to watch, texted RBA. I quickly observed his favoured feeding areas, which basically was the entire area of the pool area, but especially a bramble/birch area in the centre. For those of you that don't know, the 'drinking pool' doesn't have any water in the bottom alot of the time, but is a huge basin of different shrubs and trees including birches, sallows, bramble, Hemp Agrimony etc in the middle of the woodland – a beautiful setting. The RFB was very mobile, there was lots of branches and leaves obscuring the bird when it did sit still for a few seconds, so difficult to photograph. I managed to obtain a few good record shots, but no jaw dropping ones! As the pager news broke that the RFB was still here, birders and photographers arrived in droves. Whilst I was there, everyone behaved very well overall, apart from one photographer (older guy all dressed in camo gear) who selfishly walked down and near to the middle, which was only a couple of yards from the bird's favoured birch/bramble – he had no binoculars – I don't get this new breed of photographers who are not birders at all – I presume they are purely here to make money from their photographs. How can you take photographs of birds and not be a birder? – I don't get it all! I could have easily abused the situation when I arrived so early this morning and walked down into the middle, but to me that would have disturbed the bird uneccesarily and it would have been selfish to my fellow birders. It annoyed the hell of me seeing that photographer stood where he was. I left, but as I did, I walked round to the photographer and said 'Excuse me'.... no response, said it again, louder, still no response... said much louder 'EXCUSE ME' – realising I wasn't going to to give up, the man turned round and I said 'you're standing far too close, do you realise you standing where the bird favours to feed?' The reply I got was muffled and he pointed as if to say the bird was still feeding. I didn't pursue this any further, what was the point, he wasn't going to move. Where was Eddie when you need him to haul someone out!!!

I wanted to try and see the Blyths's Reed Warbler again, but I was drawn west in an attempt to see the Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler and Pallas's Warblers. As I walked west along the main path, I just could not believe the amount of birders around – probably a few hundred at least, it was quite staggering. I have never seen so many birders in place, aside from a major twitch. There were around 50 I noted at one point just to view a single Pallas's Warbler. Lots of birders I didn't recognise as obviously birders had come from other parts of the UK to enjoy our massive spectacle of birds. Although I like to get away from the crowd to enjoy my birding, it was fabulous to see so many birders in one place. Along the main track I saw a Firecrest and a Pallas's Warbler (distantly) – I didn't see the Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler though. I continued west towards Holkham. In one clearing I watched 3 Blackcaps together in one bramble along with another birder. I diverted through the pines, across the edge of dunes at Holkham and through the back of the pines along a pine needled path in search of a my own bluetail or OBP. Nothing found apart from Goldcrests. Diverted down through the trees and came out at 'Salt Hole' to be greeted by 3 Little Grebes. Continued west and had stunning views of the Isabelline Shrike perched on a hawthorn bush and watched this along with Alan and Ruth Davies (Biggest Twitch) and others – the light was poor for photography though. Also watched a Treecreeper fly across.

Near the crosstracks at Holkham, news came through of Northern Treecreeper 10 minutes ago at 2.10pm – bumped into Ashley Banwell and we tried to find where this had been seen, but no joy. Ashley continued east and I headed west. I stood by the gate near the pond, just west of Washington Hide and watched Blackbirds and Robins feeding on the grassy track. Returned to crosstracks and bumped into the Northern Treecreeper finder, Stuart White! He showed me where he had seen the Treecreeper and I decided it would be a good place to have lunch. Unbeknown to me, the Northern Treecreeper was being watched only 50 yards west of me I discovered, when birders I knew walked past me! So, sadly I never got to see one today.

Headed into the cherry trees/bush and round the back (reed bed side) to watch my second Red-flanked Bluetail of the day in much more chilled circumstances! Also saw a Pallas's Warbler briefly high up in a tree by the main path which someone else had found. I made the crazy decision to walk to Burnham Overy Dunes to search for birds. There were so many birders at Wells and Holkham, I wondered if anyone had searched Burnham Overy Dunes?! It was tough walking that far, but made it. It was now raining and the wind remained strong. I didn't have time or energy to cover the whole area, but concentrated on the end section of the dunes just west of the pines, covering the subalpine pit as I call it and all the hollows/bushes. It was so windy, anything that had dropped in would be hunkered down for the night. All I managed to flush out were Redwings, Blackbirds, Robins and a Wren. Poor result for a long walk, but at least I tried. I didn't see any other birders here at all. It was now 5pm.

Headed back – even tougher walk back. Took me one hour with birding to get to Lady Ann's Drive. Chatted with some birders briefly who were staying here for a few days. Only Goldcrests, Robins and Thrushes seen on the way back. I also thought I had a Great Grey Shrike in a field but it seemed to magically disappear. It took another hour to get back to Wells car park, arriving back at my car drenched and shattered. Collapsed in the car with exhaustion. Placed my wet coat, bins etc in the car.

I quickly rang my Mother before I set off to see how things were at home. Mother had to call the Matron out on Friday as Father didn't seem himself – his speech wasn't quite right and the Matron thought that he may have had a mini TIA, but all resolved later and he was fine. He was also fine this morning (Saturday). Father had his usual afternoon nap, but later on Mother couldn't wake him up and he wasn't speaking to her at all – at around 5pm. I didn't know anything about all of this until I phoned at 7pm. I was annoyed to say the least that Mother had not phoned someone sooner. She had tried to phone the Community Matron who did not answer her phone. I flew in the car to Holme arriving at about 7.30pm. As soon as I saw my Father I dialled 999. His eyes were open, but he was unresponsive, his face was like stone, no eye or mouth movement. My instinct told me that father could understand me though and he was able to follow instruction and attempted to lift his arms when I asked him. His eyes were glazed and he looked awful. I can understand Mother not wanting Father in hospital, neither do I but this was a no choice situation. Lots of things then went on between Mother and I that is not appropriate to put on here – let's just say I think she was feeling guilty about not phoning for help earlier and I got the brunt of it. The Paramedics were awesome in a dire situation and were there within 5 minutes (they must have come from Hunstanton). We had to clear the room and the porch for them to get him out of the house. Mother and I followed the ambulance. We waited with Father in A&E. He went for a CT scan and we waited for ages. Staff in A&E lovely, especially Tracy who was an NA I worked with for many years. Father very uncomfortable on the resus trolly, which obviously isn't mean't to be comfortable. Saw a very nice Doctor who was brilliant and did all the usual tests and told us the scan had showed a small stroke (no bleed thank goodness). It was torture to leave and Father got very upset and wanted to go home 'now'. So we left him on the resus trolley in A&E.

This morning (Sunday) I was furious to hear, that he had been on that resus trolley all night and half the morning as the hospital was bed blocked – no beds available. He was shortly going to be admitted to the Stroke Ward when I rang them this morning.

So an awesome day turned out be utterly crap at the end.



  1. Sorry to hear about your Dad, Penny...
    thinking of you your Dad... and your Mum...
    she'll be going through hell given what you wrote.
    One day, we'll be aged...
    at least your folks have a group of caring daughters!

    You need a SMILE, Penny...
    read my Birding Fraternity post on Aigronne Valley Wildlife...
    you'll be able to recognise / identify with some...
    and I found a cartoon just for you!!
    Keep well, your folks need you!