After several weeks without much long distance birding, decided to go out for the day. Plenty of good stuff knocking about now, but most of it is in Cornwall and the Scillies-not much good for a gentle Sunday out. Decided to go to Graffham instead where last weekend's ex hurricane had left a few birds.
Arrived and was worried to see signs for the Graffham Water marathon-marquees, bunting the lot. Luckily we arrived before the crowds and it was still quiet. Walked out to the dam and saw a few birders in the distance, but not much birdlife-a few gulls, plenty of geese and some grebes. Colin looked over the edge, decided he wanted to photograph the Ringed Plover and then we noticed the Grey Phalarope sleeping-I had assumed it would be on the water. Eventually it woke up and performed well-and the returning birders who had walked straight past it had a good time as well.
No sign of our main bird, the adult Sabine's Gull. We heard it had been seen in one of the north-western bays so drove off and through the village, parking at the end of the lane.
Met a birder who had not seen it in the reported bay, so eventually headed west and met two others who called me over. Had great views of the bird flying around in conjunction with a Black Headed, but it was quite distant.
It eventually flew off and was seen to land on one of the beaches so we followed. Got pretty good views from fairly close range looking through the trees but my stake out at a clearing failed as it flew off again.
Having now been joined by a small crowd, we made our way back, trying to get good views on the ground, but it kept flying off, until it reached what we were told was it's favoured beach, where it really performed at close range-I was getting almost full frame images.
Only once have I ever seen an adult Sabines in breeding plumage-and that was on the Scillonian pelagic in August 1996. To see one inland is incredibly unusual-most of the storm driven birds tend to be younger birds, which also seem to be what we invariably see on decent sea watches.
We decided to head off to Clacton where the juvenile Pallid Harrier had been reported early morning, but a later message saying no sign since mid morning prompted us to turn round, luckily just a short distance from Langthorns Nursery-I have put a new fence and arbour up so needed a few climbers which I knew they had. Also had a few impulse buys but I think the butterflies would like them.
Incidentally this has been the only place I've been this year where Painted Ladies have been seen in any quantity.