After hearing news at 9.30am of an "unconfirmed report of Alpine Accentor at Blakeney Point", I felt sure this would come up again as confirmed, so I waited for more news – the next message at 11am said "unconfirmed report of Alpine Accentor at Blakeney Point east of Plantation". All very odd, you would have thought it would have been confirmed in what was at least an hour and a half. The confirmed message came at 12.59 from James MacCallum, who had re-found it and was presumably the second person to see it – he put the news out within three minutes of him seeing it (he told me this later on). When this message came up, I was already on my way to Cley, in fact I was just driving through Glandford.
I dreaded the thought of walking Blakeney Point with my recent back, shoulder and neck issues, but decided to give it a go. This meant that I didn't get the chance to see the fabulous male Desert Wheatear at Cley, which was found by Marcus Nash, but I have seen them before – but never seen an Alpine Accentor anywhere!!! The parking had already extended into the over spill field car park at Coastguards and this is where I parked. Pete Snook had arrived just before me and had intended in going to see the Desert Wheatear, but changed his mind and joined me to walk Blakeney Point. Pete had to borrow my second bottle of water and one of my camera bags, as he hadn't planned on walking BP!
I had no choice but to travel as light as possible, so only took my camera gear, 1 bottle of water and my diet snacks in my lightest rucksack. I couldn't walk down there with the usual additional flask of coffee etc, it would have been too risky. The walk out was not too bad to be honest, the tide was out and the sand was quite firm. We walking quite fast out there, but ambled back on the return trek! I can't remember what time we left the car park or what time we arrived to be honest. We were simply focussed on getting out there – time was of the essence, as Alpine Accentors seem to have a habit of being one day birds. The third Alpine Accentor for Norfolk, that Connor Rand found at HBO on 26th April 2014, was only on show for mere minutes!
We arrived at The Plantation and birders were standing just east of here, looking northwards into a gulley in the dunes. The usual panic when you first arrive and then.... there it was! A fabulous ALPINE ACCENTOR, happily feeding away in the dunes! The finder was Paul Laurie, thank you very much indeed! Several Norfolk birders here, including Dawn & Pete B., Ashley B., Richard W., Ian, Chris and Richard, Stuart W., Mike E., Jim L., John G., Jake G., Neil B., James Mc. and others. Two birders from the "north east" called Mike and Les came over and introduced themselves to me – they read my blog regularly, lovely to meet you both!
I took so many pictures of this fabulous bird, but obviously struggling to get the results I want with the Canon R5, as Mike E.'s shot of the Alpine Accentor was stupendous and he was using the same camera and lens as me. I wasn't happy with any of the 645 shots I took when I returned home. The Alpine Accentor flew east just over to the next gulley, where we then watched it from until a Kestrel harrassed it and it flew off north over the dunes. Pete and I left to walk back after this. Stuart White did re-find it again and kindly kept with the bird for Ben C., who had ran (you did read that correctly) up the Point to see this bird – and he did see it, just in time! The last message was that the Alpine Accentor had "flew to roost in a building" at 4.48pm. The walk back was tedious! I take my hat off to Ashley Banwell – how amazing that he was able to do that walk after his accident, unbelievable really! Hardcore Norfolk boi! We joined Mike E. and Neil B. for part of the walk back to Coastguards. We arrived back in the car park at 5.30pm in the dark! The car seat had never felt so good! After a quick coffee and snack I headed home to King's Lynn.
This is now the fifth Alpine Accentor for Norfolk, the first being in 1978, 30th April and stayed for 5 days at Sheringham. The second record was at Overstrand in 2004, 20th April, one day only. The third record was in 2014, 26th April and only on show for a short while. The fourth record was at Scolt Head Island NNR in 2016, 12th April and also one day only.
More pictures later......