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Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Twitch, Dip and a Black-winged Pratincole!!!

I have had a diabolical week for birds, no Great Knot, no Long-tailed Skua, no Black-winged Pratincole at Cley and this evening dipped on the Woodchat Shrike!

I packed the car up this morning before work with all my birding gear, tea for tonight, drinks, clothes to change into etc – I was going to Breydon after work to see THE Great Knot..... or maybe 'knot'! My heart sank as I saw that only too familiar message on the pager 'no sign of Great Knot by......'. These 'no sign of' messages continued throughout the day, so that was that!!! Failure! When I finished work, I looked at the RBA website to see that there was a Woodchat Shrike at Gramborough Hill, Salthouse, so with a determination not to give up and go home, I changed into birding clothes and made my way to Salthouse. It was a beautiful evening, but ridiculously hot, far too hot for me.

As I parked the car in Beach Road, Salthouse I bumped into Jacquie and Dave Bridges who had not seen the Woodchat Shrike. I also found out later that it had not been seen since 5pm. It was now 6.20pm. I do wish someone had put the 'no sign of' news out, I would have gone birding to Burnham Overy Dunes instead. I carried on to Gramborough Hill anyway and sat patiently with a few other birders, no sign at all. Even Steve G. hadn't seen it, which surprised me, he doesn't miss much! My instinct told me to search further east and I walked all the way to Kelling Water Meadows to continue my search. Reed Buntings, a big flock of Linnets, Goldfinches, Meadow Pipits and a Kestrel were seen and on the pool itself were around 12 Black-tailed Godwits, a Little Egret and a few Black-headed Gulls. I was insanely hot and I trudged back slowly to Gramborough Hill. Just before I reached the hill a message bleeped up on the pager "Black-winged Pratincole at Stiffkey Fen at 8.20pm" – had I got time to get there before dark? Hmmmmm....... well why not, give it a go, nothing to lose, I had missed everything else this week! Speeded up my pace, ringing Eddie on route (he doesn't have a pager) and was very pleased I had called him to let him know.

Drove to Stiffkey Fen quickly! Slung the car on the side and jogged slowly along the path. The public footpath is a disgrace – I have never seen it like this, completely overgrown, I could hardly get down there and also a huge ivy covered tree across the path which I had to get down really low to get under and Eddie (told me) that he had to crawl to get under it! As I reached the steps to the sea wall I could see a handful of people standing on the bank. A very nice birder called Bill let me look through his scope (several times in fact! Thank you very much) and there it was – a cracking Black-winged Pratincole sitting on the edge of the one of the islands amongst Lapwings, Black-headed Gulls and also a single Knot (not any bigger!) at 9.03pm. Huge thanks to the birder who found it – he was there, but didn't know his name. Eddie arrived and also a birder from Kelling (who told me earlier he had also missed out on the other good birds this week), so he was pleased. We watched this wonderful bird until 9.15pm until we just couldn't see any more! Phew – the evening had been saved!

Walked back and witnessed poor Eddie having to crawl under the tree – crazy! On the way home I saw two Barn Owls between Stiffkey and Wells – arrived home around 10.15pm!


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