Went to Norfolk with Colin yesterday. He had a bit of work to do beforehand so we did not get to the coast until mid morning, but we did not miss much. It was a bit like the old days with good birds everywhere and we managed to get most of them one way or another.
First stop was Beeston Common where the Isabelline Shrike had been present since monday. Last time we were here was for a Hoopoe in I think 1992, and it seems to have changed a bit. The Shrike was pretty easy to find, being only a few yards from the lay bye, using the hawthorns as perches to hunt from. Tried a few phone images, and got a nice video sequence which I tried to upload to Youtube last night but it has not appeared for some reason. Will try again later and post a link.
Next stop was Muckleburgh Hill where an Olive Backed Pipit was showing very well. Turned out to be very busy and parking was a bit difficult, not helped by it appearing to be bin day. Only had a short walk around to the north side and then up to the open heath area. Struggled to find the Pipit even though cameras were firing and people had it in their scopes but eventually I worked out where it was-a lot closer than expected. It performed very well but it often disappeared in little hollows and the dead bracken patches.
We stopped off at Salthouse for a quick scan from the duck ponds, but apart from a few gulls, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard and Godwits there was not a lot to see so we carried on to Stiffkey.
A Great Grey Shrike had been seen earlier but had moved west. We headed off with a few others, until we met a returning group who had failed to see it after an hour's search. Brent Geese, Curlews, Redshanks and Little Egrets were on the salt marsh, but I was hoping to see a Hen Harrier.
After lunch, the afternoon was spent in Wells Wood, and several hundred birders had the same idea.
Just beyond the boating lake, a Blythe's Reed Warbler had been present for a few days. The Dell is not an easy place to work and although we heard it from the path (well a bird went tack a few times and everyone else was calling it Blythe's rather than Blackcap so I went along with it). While waiting, a distant Short Eared Owl was seen heading south over the marsh.
We carried on west accompanied by the constant calls of Redwings and Goldcrests. A small group had staked out a Firecrest, which proved hard to pin down in the sallows and sycamores, not surprising considering the vast numbers of Golcrests. A bit further on a Hume's Yellow Browed Warbler was heard calling several times but I did not see it.
We carried on and met a large group watching a Pallas's Warbler in a group of oaks. This showed really well at times and then crossed the path and into a smaller tree where it was seen frequently flitting around. Again the Goldcrests were a problem, and Colin and I got a bit confused when a Yellow Browed Warbler flew out when we locked onto the wrong bird. The Pallas's eventually settled down and I got a few good images catching flies.
The light in the woods was very poor and I was shooting at iso 12800 in order to keep a decent shutter speed.
Having paid for four hours parking we slowly made our way back. Stopped off at the Hume's again for a while. Still calling from time to time and got a few glimpses low down in some of the birches but it was very mobile, always kept very low and people were as usual getting mixed up with the crests. We actually met someone who had seen the Blythe's Reed, and found out that there was another Pallas's there as well but decide not to linger.
We left around 4pm, but not until we stopped off south of the caravan park to join a search for two Great Grey Shrikes. Thought we had missed out as dog walkers had flushed the bird in the paddocks but at the last minute I found a very distant bird down near the golf course. Could not stay long as the estate manager was not happy with us parking on the road, so we departed.
The one bird we did not try for was the Red Flanked Bluetail which was west of Lady Annes Drive, and a bit too far in the time we had. Rather surprised to hear a report as we left that it (or another?) was near the drinking pool and not far from the Hume's. Still it was pretty good day to put it mildly very reminiscent of the great days we had in the mid 90's.