Here, There & Everywhere Part IV: Wheatear Mania

Whilst on Scilly, three birds turned up in Norfolk: an Isabelline Wheatear was the real MEGA, but a Desert Wheatear & Dusky Warbler on patch couldn’t be ignored…

So, 8 hours driving & a late night later, we woke up fairly late & drove to Burnham Overy. This would have been a very valuable county tick for both me & dad; I am nearing 300 Norfolk birds fairly quickly- this wouldn’t be my first this year though…

We got out to the dunes in fairly good time, and walked west to Gun Hill. I was reminiscing just how many rarities I had seen here: my first Barred, Booted, Greenish & Icterine Warblers were all in the bushes leading up to the dunes. We arrived at where the Isabelline Whatear was; turns out it was in the same bush as where I’d seen a Spectacled Warbler!! And in that area it remained for when we were there, never sitting for prolonged periods, always being chased off by Reed Buntings or a Stonechat. We also had Lapland Bunting & Lesser Redpoll fly over.

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About the best shot I could muster of the Isabelline Wheatear at Burnham Overy Dunes.

After a couple of pleasant hours in the company of the wheatear, we made our way back, stopping for lunch in Wells & then pressed on to Cley…

I hadn’t been on patch for a while, and almost as soon as we stepped out of the car, I got my first patch tick of the trip: an overflying Water Pipit. As well as this, there was an extremely late Wood Sandpiper on Iron Road pools (yes, a Wood Sand on October 29th, not a yellowlegs unfortunately…), but our main quarry here was on the beach…

I had only seen Desert Wheatear twice before, both on the same day almost two years ago that day, so to see one on patch was truly momentous- a stonking male as well!! We saw it very well on the shingle, and then moved on.

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My first Desert Wheatear- a female at Gorleston on the 9th November 2014…
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… swiftly followed by my second at Lowestoft, this time a 1w male…
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… and finally my third, another male, on October 29th 2016, on patch.

So, with the bird now moved off, we moved on for other ‘patch points’. Firstly, a Long-tailed Duck that had been in front of Babcock Hide for some time (unfortunately no Jack Snipe). We also failed to find the snipe at Shooter’s Pool, but I finally got Pintail on patch this year, when one was scoped on Pope’s Marsh. But we were not done yet…

We got into Walsey Hills & met up with good birding friend John Furse, who had heard it earlier. We first got in, and heard a Dusky Warbler calling quite rapidly right next to one of the various mist nets dotted around the place. We stood there listening to it (with a crowd of ten or so people) for five minutes until the warden came round. We told him we were listening to it in ‘those brambles’, only for him to tell us it was a tape!! Now utterly frustrated, and John having a laugh at our expense, we moved on to the back field. This time, definitely THE bird, was heard calling & seen flying into the main tree belt at Walsey: RESULT!! Now completely satisfied, we made our way slowly home.

PATCH NEWSFLASH: What was going to be the fifth part of this series, a seawatch at Cley the next weekend, yielded eight more patch ticks including Lapland Bunting & Waxwing, two more of my target birds, and also Red-necked Grebe which I was not expecting at any level!!

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