Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Dell. Where birding dreams go to die.

Easterly wind, Norfolk rammed with rarities, Holkham pines, stretching about 4km from Burnham Overy dunes in the west to Wells in the east is probably the pre-eminent woodland in the UK for rare birds in Autumn. Lady Ann Drive is smack in the middle and its here I pitch up at around 10 am.

For the morning I head west to look for a Radde's Warbler. It appears to have gone, but never mind I see four Yellow Browed Warblers, a cracking Firecrest, and out on the dunes a distant but clearly visible Great Grey Shrike, a Redstart, a Great White Egret in an adjacent ditch, and oodles of Thrushes and Starlings including my first Fieldfare of the winter and sufficient Song Thrush and Blackbird to mean they are clearly migrants.

The Road to the Dell is paved with good intentions.
But rarity-central is The Dell, at the other end of the pines. Yesterday it held Arctic Warbler, Radde's Warbler, and Olive Backed Pipit. the OBP has been seen today so off I yomp, ignoring calling YBWs on the way. I arrive to find a lot of morose and downcast birders standing gloomily around, and a huddle of people staring forlornly at a small grassy thicket. The pipit was seen just here, briefly, hours ago. And so it continues, with masses of Robins and Goldcrests, some Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs and a constant stream of thrushes overhead, but compared to the morning there is nothing.

This is not the first time I've struggled in the Dell. I wonder seriously what the ratio of birds reported to birds seen is, i.e. of the fifty or so birders who pass through the Dell on a day in October, how many actually see whatever the star bird is? Its a Bermuda triangle for rarities. It was so much easier in my student days bashing the Yorkshire coast. Far fewer bushes to bash for about the same number of rarities.

The Olive-Backed Pipit was here. And may still be here. Who knows?
Perhaps I'll just do the reserves next time. Clearly signposted easy-to-see birds. Or stick to the dunes.

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