Sunday, 26 June 2016

Another Great Dot

The Great Knot is still on the North Norfolk coast, usually seen at Scolt Head or Titchwell, so Colin and I decided to go for it yesterday. It's been almost 20 years since the Teeside bird  (October 96) which we saw reasonably close in before sunrise roosting on Greenabella Marsh and later on the far shore at Seal Sands-hence the dot. The few records since have not tempted us but we thought it would be a good day out, maybe get a few year ticks and there is always a reasonable selection of  good birds at this time of year, added to which we have not been to the Norfolk coast since the start of the year.
On Friday night the Great Knot was actually roosting on Gore Point at Holme but by the time we reached Kings Lynn it had flown east, either to Titchwell or Scolt Head. Knowing that it spends a lot of time on Titchwell beach or the fresh marsh we went there, fortunately it was early enough that the car park was still quiet.
Had to leave Colin at the bench overlooking the Thornham pool while I returned to the car and changed-it was a lot warmer than expected. Encountered a Black Tailed Skimmer and my first (!) Red Admiral of the year while I did this, and heard plenty of pinging Bearded Tits as well.
Found a big flock of waders on the fresh marsh with a few birders scanning them. Predominantly Knot, in various plumages, with a lot of Black Tailed and a few Bar Tailed Godwits. Some Ruff were also around as well. Bumped into Mike Illett who had been to Gore Point earlier and he pointed out the two 1st summer Little Gulls on the far fence posts. We moved to Parrinder Hide in order to get better views of the wader flock, but after about half an hour everyone had concluded that the Great Knot wasn't present, so we decided to head to the beach. We never got there, we got to the path to be told that someone was watching it at Scolt Head.
A quick decision was made and we decided to head to Brancaster beach, as did about a dozen other car loads. It was high tide, but not a big one so the road to the beach car park was passable, then it was just a long mile slog along the hot beach to the western end of Scolt Head, past a lot of rather bemused day trippers. Fishing terns on the way were a distraction-mainly Sandwich and Common, and several Little, but with the amount of boating activity we didn't see much else.
By the time we reached the small group watching the Knot flock on the shore of the western end of the island beside the tern colony the Great Knot had gone to ground. I had just got onto the left of the flock, following directions and had seen it disappear around the back. In the heat haze at that distance there wasn't much to see of it. About five minutes later it was picked up on the right hand side where it promptly sat down. This made it incredibly difficult to locate and even though the precise location was known, not everyone could see it. After a while many of the Knot started to move, joining a much smaller flock and eventually the Great Knot was revealed. It stood up, and during the steadier moments a reasonable amount of plumage and structural details could be made out. Naturally I tried to get some phone images and a video sequence. This is only about half the Knot flock so I thought I'd better add a hint.

After a spot of lunch we had to think of something to do for the afternoon. Titchwell was pretty full when we left so that was out, there wasn't much else along the coast so we headed home calling in at Narborough railway line. Unfortunately the sun was soon behind us though it was still warm and humid. Didn't expect to see many butterflies and this was the case, a few Common Blues and Meadow Browns, a couple of Small Tortoiseshells and Speckled Woods, a Large Skipper and a rather tatty female Brimstone. The Marsh helleborines were not quite out, but really abundant, the Pyramidals looked nice and there was quite a variation in the Southern Marsh. Colin found a few examples of what I presume to be Knapweed Broomrape as well. I tried to get a few shots of some of the bees and hoverflies etc but none are keepers.

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