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Sunday, 14 June 2015

Laughing All The Way To The Point!!!

Long Hills, Blakeney Point
Taken in pouring rain and dire conditions!

I got up early and packed my car with birding gear, flask, sandwiches etc for later. Went to work for 8.30am and luckily we finished earlier than expected (Sunday is to assess new patients only, different from full time hours in week) and we were out of the door just after 2.30pm. It had been gloomy and raining again this morning, but now the skies were brightening! The weather looked exciting – as I drove to Cley, I was thinking about all those rares popping out of the sueda bushes in the sunshine!

Arrived at Coastguards, Cley at around 3.30pm. A good number of birders arriving back from Blakeney Point were chatting and recovering in the car park. Changed some of my work clothes, but left black trousers on, couldn't be bothered to change them. Made a coffee and had a quick sandwich for my lunch/tea. The sun was now out, how wonderful. Chatted briefly with Ian and co about their views of the Blyth's and Paddyfield Warblers. Started to pack up my rucksuck when suddenly someone shouted LAUGHING GULL! I swung round to see birders pointing to a gull heading west over the shingle, I shot across the carpark and joined a small crowd to watch a stunning adult Laughing Gull heading west over the waves at 4.13pm!!! Couldn't believe my luck! I then ran back to car to get camera, but on my return it had got as far as the tractors and boats and was sadly too far for photography. It didn't hang about. I didn't know who had found it at this point, but it was me that rang it out 2 minutes later to RBA – I knew every second counted as people were walking to and back from BP. After phoning RBA I tried to phone LGRE who had started walking the Point about 20 minutes ago, Mark G. who was also somewhere on BP, Eddie M. and Pete S. neither of which were on course to see this fabulous gull. Lee had only gone and seen it sitting on the beach briefly, just east of Halfway House and had got a fabulous picture in flight, which I saw on the back of his camera later on, lucky man! Mark G. also saw the Laughing Gull as it flew over his head, as did several others. But sadly there were also others walking back that either didn't look at their pager or simply didn't jam in on this awesome gull.

Found by Adrian Kettle
Flew west past Coastguards at 4.13pm
West past Halfway House at 4.16pm,
West past Long Hills, Blakeney Point at 4.20pm.

After all this excitement, I was ready and raring to go! Met a birder called Steve from Notts who reads my blog daily and we chatted briefly, nice to meet you. Sorry that I went off in a bit of a hurry Steve, I was on a high from the Laughing Gull and wanted to get going in case the gull had decided to hang about somewhere along Blakeney Point. The weather changed rapidly – dark clouds filled the skies and not long after I started walking, the rain started to fall!!! The weatherforcast was wrong (again), it was supposed to be dry this evening. I was out for the long haul, there was no going back, no giving up, no being girly and was going all the way to The Plantation. I was laughing all the way – couldn't quite take in, that I had just jammed in on seeing a Laughing Gull!

I made a huge mistake not changing my work trousers, they quickly became soaked and the material became heavy. I hadn't dressed sensibly at all and with a cotton hoody top underneath my paramo coat I felt really cold. The sea looked ferocious and huge waves rolled in with the very strong NW winds. I worked my way through the sueda to look for birds and flushed several Meadow Pipits, Linnets and Reed Buntings. At Halfway House I joined LGRE, Mark G., Eddie M., Rob L., Lucy M., Pete D., David B. and others to enjoy several flight views of the Blyth's Reed Warbler and then finally the bird perched briefly on a branch of sueda, which I just had time to photograph! Lee showed me his Laughing Gull picture which looked awesome as it flew over the breakers. The rain got worse, but I was determined to carry on.
Long Hills, Blakeney Point
Taken in pouring rain and dire conditions!

David Bratt joined me and we headed to Long Hills in the pouring rain to look for the Paddyfield Warbler. We passed two birders who kindly told us of the exact location as they had left. We reached the fenced off blue string and walked all round towards the back and David luckily flushed the Paddyfield Warbler. It wasn't going to be sitting perched up in these conditions though. I carried on alone to The Plantation. My shoes were squelching with water, my legs were freezing cold with the drenched, heavy trousers and my coat didn't feel waterpoof anymore. The pager got so wet (inside my waterpoof pocket, yeah right! £300 coat not waterpoof!), it stopped working and I had to move my phone to the inside of my coat. I was worried about my camera, which I had wrapped up in my scarf to soak up dampness from photographing the Blyth's, then inside a bag and inside two waterpoof bags inside my rucksack, but my rucksack was dripping.

It didn't take too long to reach The Plantation from Long Hills. I sheltered by the Tamarisk with 2 Meadow Pipits who seemed alarmed at the state of this dripping mess of a human being before them. As I stood here to take shelter from the wind by the old laboratory I suddenly became aware that the rain had stopped! I got very excited by a bird that erupted from the large sycamore in the plantation, but it turned out to be another wet and bedraggled Meadow Pipit. I sighed with disappointment. Walked round twice, but no other birds appeared. Started to head back. I was determined to try and find something, so walked back through the sueda bushes. This paid off as I found a Chiffchaff and a Male and later on a Female Wheatear. Also saw a Ringed Plover with Oystercatchers. I had my best views yet of the Paddyfield Warbler all by myself, skulking about in the sueda bushes, right by the shingle on the seaward side on the way back at 8.10pm – but it never sat still long enough for photos and in any case, I didn't dare get the camera out of the bag with the state of the rucksack.
Walking back from Blakeney Point

At Halfway House I looked for the Blyth's Reed Warbler again, but no luck on the return. But I had a fantastic view of a Male Peregrine zooming close past me at eye level, over the shingle at 8.45pm. The Peregrine was quickly chased by an protective Oystercatcher, who pursued it like the devil possessed until it was out of territory! Enough was enough, I crossed over the shingle to walk back along the beach. I spent a few minutes taking pictures of the stunning and dramatic sunset and a short video of the dramatic waves. I mis-judged a wave and the trousers and shoes got re-soaked again! I speed walked back as fast as I could, but then started to flag. I felt seriously cold now and I imagined being tucked up in bed with hot water bottles, what I would give for that right now! Several Sandwich and Little Terns were seen, but nothing else of note. Eventually I plodded warily over the shingle to my car at 9.50pm. Changed my top, but kept wet trousers and shoes on, too much hassle to change those aswell. It seemed to take forever to get home, arrived back at my house at 11am.
Walking back from Blakeney Point, drenched from the rain, but stunning skies.

Wet gear takes so long to sort!!! It will be days before I am able to wear those walking shoes! Its not often you get to see a Laughing Gull, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Paddyfield Warbler, Wheatears and a Peregrine all after work in one evening, just a pity the weather was so atrocious! The walk to BP was almost as bad as the Alder Flycatcher Twitch – I'm sure several of you remember that very clearly! The camera seems to be ok, but the pager is laying next to the radiator, with battery out – I will just have to hope it dries out and works again, hopefully by tomorrow!

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