The Ortolan Bunting appeared on the pager late last night and was seen at 5.30pm. This sighting stirred several people up and there was talk amongst birders that it was an unusual time of year to see an Ortolan, but it was the right time of year to see a Grey-necked Bunting, which would have been a first for Britain!!! OMG!!! No one seemed to know who found last night's Ortolan Bunting at Blakeney Freshes. So no one knew if it flew off at 5.30pm or stayed around a bit longer etc.
The thought of being at work all day with a possible first for Britain at Blakeney, was too much to cope with, so I made the crazy decision to drive to Blakeney this morning before going to work! Total insanity I know! The last time I went on a twitch before work was for the Great Snipe at Cley. I painted the following picture in my mind – find bird, re-id as a Grey-necked Bunting (did loads of homework on GNB last night!), photograph bird, obtaining cracking shots. Drive back home with a big grin on my face, before the hoards turned up and be insanely happy at work all day. Wake up Penny! But it would have still been fabulous to have seen an Ortolan Bunting aswell! Anyway, the following is an account of what actually happened!
Arrived at Blakeney Freshes before sunrise at 4.20am! I can't quite believe I am typing this to be honest (crazy). Parked by the gate to Friary Hills. Started walking along the footpath opposite the Blakeney Manor Hotel. The light was so beautiful and as the sun started to rise, the sky filled with an orange glow, it really was magical indeed. At 4.35am three Spoonbills flew west overhead, which was a lovely start to my morning! I reached the sluice where the OB was seen last night – several Sedge Warblers were flicking about in the reeds, Reed Buntings singing, Meadow Pipits chilling out on posts, Goldfinches in bushes and several Redshanks were seen. Godwits, Oystercatchers, Mallards and Shelducks were zig zagging overhead and in a single tree not too far past the sluice, I watched Wrens, a juv. Great Tit, Linnets and Hedge Sparrows. I climbed up to join the coastal footpath and then followed the path opposite which peters out to mud flats. Standing at this point I can see Half Way House (BP) on my left. I photographed a Reed Bunting silhouetted against the orange light, before re-tracing my steps back. As I climbed over the bank to drop down onto the lower path, I bumped into Dave Holman who's greeting to me was "Good to see another loony here"!!! I smiled and said good morning. Dave said he also had been thinking about Grey-necked Bunting. We both covered the area with a fine tooth comb and Dave walked back via the top coastal path and I followed the bottom path. Got some nice pictures of a Meadow Pipit sitting on a post. Back at my car I could see Steve G. who also then searched the area. I walked around Friary Hills and saw Chiffchaffs, Greenfinches and Jackdaws. Back at the car I saw Dave again who took my mobile number in case he found the bird. I then drove to Walsey Hills to have a quick look along the bottom path. The path is becoming very overgrown with bracken – heard Chiffchaffs and Chaffinches, but that was about it apart from photographing a Speckled Wood. A Grey Heron was perched up and preening in the top of a pine tree at Snipe's Marsh and the sun was started to warm things up. I was going to Bishop's Hide, but I remember looking at my watch at 7.00am and deciding that there wouldn't be enough time to go there. I returned to Blakeney, just to make sure I hadn't missed anything and passed Steve G. on route who had had no joy. I left Blakeney at 7.22am and arrived at work at just after 8am! Sat in my car and had a coffee and ginger marmelade sandwich and walked into work on time!
I managed to get through the day very productively I felt and didn't really feel tired at all. Although when I got home, my eyes started to drop as I typed this post and I am now struggling to keep awake. A VERY early night is required I feel!
I have found out this evening that the finder of the Ortolan Bunting was an S. G. Nicholls, so Congratulations to you! Its just a pity it didn't hang around this morning, but that's the way it goes sometimes!
PHOTOGRAPHS TO BE ADDED