I paid my entrance fee at the Queen Anne Drive car park and headed off to the first exhibit - Isabelline Shrike. I spent a half hour watching the bird work the hedgerow, dropping down frequently and once impaling a worm on a thorn. There was one other birder there; as I fiddled with my adapter and camera finally ending up with the horror below as my best effort he calmly clamped his iPhone to his scope eyepiece, stood back and calmly took a video. I think I'm wasting my time with this adapter lark.
|That's the Isabelline Shrike. You can clearly see the distinctive reddish tail and dark eye patch. Honest.|
He introduced himself as G and we paired up for the day, luckily for me G turned out to be a former twitcher, full of skills and knowledge but relaxed enough to approach this as a fun day out. G was less lucky as he got me. My only material contribution came next as I took us to the bush that had previously held the Red Flanked Bluetail. Last week I had stood in a crowd and had 5 seconds of view; today the pair of us had the bird to ourselves, quietly working its way through the undergrowth, even flitting through the branches above our heads at one point. Blue tail, red flanks, white chin, the lot. fantastic.
We worked the area a bit and G had a Pallas's Warbler stick its head out at one point, but we couldn't refind it, only masses of Goldcrests. On the way back to the car park we found our only group of birders of the morning at our next exhibit, a Firecrest. It gave typical Firecrest views, i.e. a fleeting glimpse of the head and shoulders but nothing else before it dived deep into the middle of a Holly Tree. One of these days I will see an entire Firecrest in full view.
Next we headed toward Wells Wood. Again the groups of birders were our guide; a large group stood under a group of spindly oaks watching a Hume's Leaf Warbler. It was earning its keep today, consistently calling and at intervals perching in the open to allow the crowd to admire its slightly faded look.
Next the Blyths Reed Warbler exhibit. the bird had not been seen for two hours and with only a few people looking for it out prospects were dim. G brought his experience to bear, and also his iPhone. A few "chuck-chuck"s from the bird call app were soon met with a response in kind from deep in the brambles. We then followed the line of gently moving flower heads until we began to see the bird working its way though the undergrowth. Larger than I had expected, it was washed out grey. It gave the characteristic "inverted banana" posture a few times, and was constantly flicking its tail. How to definitively tell it from Reed? No idea, but the affirmation of the crowd is good enough for my list! A smart little bird and thanks to G for finding this lifer.
|Ideal Blythe's habitat. Less than ideal birding habitat.|
Supporting birds included an obliging and colourful Brambling under some pines, a couple of Chiffchaffs, a pair of Stonechat, a few Common Buzzards and Marsh Harriers, Redwings and Skylarks overhead.
I was left with some intriguing questions. Birders have a choice of visiting the exhibits or finding their own; how long does it take to find your own? Our experience from the Blyths was you could spend all day and not find one. How many other skulkers are there out there? A late Olive-Backed Pipit was reported after I left, and a second Bluetail was found over the weekend, so I suspect there may be quite a few other undiscovered skulkers in the 3-mile stretch of thick woodland. By contrast, I suspect most Shrikes have been found as they sit on the top of bushes out in the open.
Thanks to G for excellent company and expertise. Another smashing day in Norfolk