I had to get some things for my parents before going birding this morning, so didn't get out that early. I had intended to walk East Hills, but when I arrived at Garden Drove, I could see 7 people already on the way out, so decided to give it a miss. Plus it was bitterly cold and the tide had still not gone out far enough for my liking, four hours after high tide! I heard later, that some birders attempted to get out very early and got wet. I certainly wouldn't go out early, the quick sand and water at the big creek is not a good combination! Crazy if you do, but each to their own! The North Easterly wind was much stronger today and I decided to find some sheltered spots to search for birds.
Walked east to the old barn and searched inside the sheltered walled area for birds, but none found. I then returned to the concrete pad and spent a long time birding Garden Drove, which was full of Goldcrests, but little else. Bumped into Ashley Saunders (Oriole Birding) who had just been watching Bramblings, 2 of which I saw later on. Flushed a Song Thrush from the copse, but nothing else apart from Goldcrests. Saw a Red Admiral butterfly on the ivy.
I decided to dig out some more cash and paid for 2 hours parking at Wells Woods which would be considerably less blustery than East Hills. A Bollywood film was being filmed on Wells beach and part of the car park was taken up with film crew. Bumped into Ashley again and we decided to swop phone numbers in case we found anything. Both Ashley and I wanted to find an Olive-backed Pipit!
My search began. Lots of Goldcrests as expected. Climbed down into the dell and crept around trying to find something blue, yellow or striped! My phone rang – it was Ashley who said in fairly calm voice 'I think I have found a Blyth's Reed Warbler'!!! I didn't take long to find him!!!
You suddenly become incredibly alert when you are in this situation! I peered into the bush where Ashley had last seen the bird. Nothing. Nothing at all! Where was it? Now as we know, Blyth's Reed Warblers can be little s*ds to see and this one was no exception. We searched hard for an hour! I decided it wasn't going to materalise anymore and made the big mistake of going off looking for birds and left Ashley to continue to search for his bird. I had just reached the big pine tree, where you cross over to the drinking pool, when my phone rang. Ashley had just seen the bird perched up briefly...... BOTHER!!! Ran back to find Ashley and the bird showed for a nano second, but I couldn't see it, when Ashley tried to point out where it was. We then spent quite some time keeping track of it, listening for the 'tack' call and hoping and waiting for it to appear from the brambles. It was moving around a large area, but we managed to keep with it. At this point I had only flight views and poor glimpses behind foliage. We also watched it fly up high up into the birches at one point! I didn't know that Blyth's Reed Warblers did this, but Ashley told me they did, as did R.M. when I asked him about this later. I could see in flight that this was a very pale brownish/grey bird with almost white underparts.
When Ashley felt sure of the ID he tweeted the news out to RBA. Steve G. was the first person to turn up, who had happened to be birding in the woods. It wasn't long after this, that I had my first proper view. I suddenly saw what looked good for the bird, land on a thick branch between a gap in some brambles. Put my bins up and at last had a clear, but short view of the bird. I could see a brown/grey head and back with what looked like almost white throat/chest and a pale, narrow supercilium. Being honest I can't remember seeing the exact colour of the bill in the short time that I saw it – but basically browish! I couldn't see the wings or tail as they were obscured behind foliage. I immediately put the bins down and raised my camera to watch a Robin flushing what could have been a cracking photo – still cursing that Robin now! Birders started to arrive and it was seen in flight once or twice and possibly in a favoured bramble, but as time and light went on, there were no more sightings. I don't think anyone heard it call later on.
See Ashley's account and video of the Blyth's Reed Warbler here.
I left Wells and headed west to drop in some shopping to my parents and chatted to them all about the last few days. So much to do this evening. The bird news took ages to write up and so did this! Pictures to edit and parent's on-line food shopping. Its going to be a long night!