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Monday 22 October 2012


Thousands of birds, one of the biggest falls
I have EVER witnessed!!!

I awoke to a foggy morning. I just knew with east winds and fog, that today was going to be frustratingly awesome whilst I was at work! The first hint I had of this mega day was a text from a friend reading "Thrushes! big fall of them" – read this late morning when walking back from the carpark at work after taking a patient home and a second message reading ".....1000's of thrushes....." and then later on "Bluetail Stiffkey Campsite" and OBP Holme Firs!!!!!!!!!!!! Arghhhhhhh!!!!!!

At least I had had the sense to pack the car up with birding gear before I left for work this morning. I am very lucky this week as I am starting work half an hour earlier than I normally do which means I am finishing at 4.15pm – half an hour can make a massive amount of difference when there is so little light left in the evenings now. Mind you, after this coming Saturday it will be dark anyway at 4.15pm when the clocks go back!

Obviously I left work extremely promptly! As I ran down the corridors in the hospital to my locker room to get changed, people turned to look and must have been thinking there was an emergency – IT WAS AN EMERGENCY! I was out of the door, flew round the traffic jam and was at Holme by 5pm.

Holme Reserves 5pm-6pm
Driving along the Firs Road I could see robins, redwings and blackbirds everywhere. The fog was much denser here, than in King's Lynn. I sensibly decided that I would have little chance of seeing the Olive-backed Pipit at Holme NWT (Congratulations to Gary Hibberd who found this bird) and in failing light, so decided to look for my own birds on route to the reserves. I parked by the 5-bar gate half way down the Firs Road. As soon as I climbed up the bank to the coastal footpath I saw 5 Ring Ouzels sitting in one small hawthorn! Its many years since I saw a fall of birds like I did this evening. Even though I only had an hour of light, it was so worth it. As I walked along the coastal footpath and through the NWT Forestry, hundreds upon hundreds of redwings, blackbirds, fieldfares and robins scattered in all directions. The 'chackings' and calls of all these birds were just simply awesome. I was alone amidst this huge fall of birds and I didn't know which way to look first!!! There just HAD to be something rarer here. If the light had been better, there just had to be something mega here – there just had to be! But this spectacle was rare in itself. The difference between yesterday and today was mind boggling! Birds continue to scatter as I walked – an explosion of birds. In the sallow bush were Holme's first red-flanked bluetail was (the one I photographed) there were more goldcrests than leaves on the bush! The goldies were in a feeding frenzy after midges and flies, stocking up before dark – they were oblivious of my close presence. Just watching these goldcrests was magical in itself. I continued walking through the dunes scattering birds all the way to the NWT and HBO – on route I found at least another 7 Ring Ouzels – think there was more than this, but couldn't be sure as they flew away in the fog. As I reached the NWT path to the beach, I had a quick look on the beach and could see several robins sitting on the wooden sea defence posts and also watched more thrushes coming off the sea! It was just so incredibly exciting. I so, so wished I had been off work today and would give the world to have had this week off as holiday!

At Holme Bird Observatory Sophie (Warden) was just coming to the end of ringing loads of birds. Sophie said she had "never seen it like this in all my twelve years of being at Holme". I didn't really chat, as it was like a military operation going on in the ringing shed. Two people ringing and one writing in the data!!! After Sophie assured me that she hadn't got anything mega in the bags, I left. I was very kindly offered a lift back with the NOA Chairman (now dark) to where I had left my car.

Visited my parents and give them all the bird news. Mother said she had seen lots of birds flying over the garden today including a flock of redwings that had stripped a hawthorn in her garden in under half an hour!

Phew! I am shattered now. Wish I had been shattered from birding all day, rather than work and one hour of birding though! I am going to pray that it stays foggy all week. Just imagine that – fog all week, birds grounded, more birds coming in and a gloriously sunny day on Saturday. If that were to happen, Saturday could be the most awesome day's birding in Norfolk EVER!!!! For those of us working all week, ensure you keep Saturday free - cancel dates, dinners, family outings and all things secondary to birding!!! For those of you able to get out in the field this week – good luck and enjoy!

Main Highlights in Norfolk – RBA
I can't even begin to add all the birds listed on Rare Bird Alert today but in summary:

Thousands and thousands of thrushes all along the coast including: redwings, fieldfares, blackbirds, song thrushes. Also thousands of robins, bramblings and goldcrests. Hundreds of ring ouzels. Black redstarts, redstarts, redpolls, tree pipits, lapland buntings, woodlarks, twite, firecrests short-eared owl.

RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL at Stiffkey Campsite
Siberian Chiffchaff and Shorelark at Salthouse
Yellow-browed Warblers at Horsey, Holkham, Stiffkey, Warham, Trimmingham and Snettisham
Hawfinch at Snettisham Coastal Park
2 Snow Buntings Hunstanton
Long-eared Owl at Holkham
Richard's Pipits at Waxham and Sheringham

Fog still forecast for all day tomorrow

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