A free day, and a strong NW wind onto the Norfolk coast. I'd have preferred a N or NE, but this will do. So I pitch up at Cley Coastguards (now pay and display!) and join Mike in a small line, both of us looking to get our year lists up to 200 in this year of limited opportunity.
There are lots of Razorbills(181), Guillemots(182) and Red-Throated Divers(183) close in, with later a few corpses on the shingle, and apparently some movement such as Mandarin W. I set the scope up and pretty soon I'm onto a gull with clear two-tone plumage, dark body, fore wing and leading edge and white primaries and trailing edge. A few others get onto its and yes its a Sabine's Gull(184) Fantastic. It flies W, at its leisure, and we get decent middle-distance views of this impressive bird.
There are a steady stream of ducks moving West, mainly Teal, Wigeon and Common Scoter), but we manage to add Great Skua, Pintail, Red-Breasted Merganser(185) to the list, see a female Merlin(186) belting west over the eye field, a Rock Pipit (187) and Purple Sandpiper(188). So we are very happy although we don't pick up the two Grey Phalaropes but no-one gets everything. And on we go.
We call in at Burnham Overy. On our way to the dunes we saw lots of Pink-footed Goose (189), a few Barnacle Geese, etc, and then I set my scope up and Mike wandered into the dunes in a futile search for any passerines (saw no migrating finches or thrushes at all all day). On my own, I scan the sea, and find, unbelievably, a small party of a few Kittiwakes and two more Sabine's Gulls heading west, their contrasting bright white and dark grey plumage almost shining in the scope.
Finally Titchwell where a Rose-Coloured Starling has been coming to join a few hundred Starlings at roost. We head out to the beach and Mike picks up Greenshank on the way out, then on the expanse of beach (it being low-tide) have some great views of Sanderling and Bar-tailed Godwit high up on the beach and amazingly another Purple Sandpiper this one allowing us to get quite close.
The sun is setting so we head back to the freshwater marsh to join others waiting for the roost. Out on the newly shovelled mud there are a few hundred Golden Plover, 2 Ruff, various other water-related birds, and as the sun descends in the sky some Marsh Harriers cruise over to the roost in the SE corner.
There are, however, not many Starlings, about a hundred hunched together on the mud. But as the light begins to go others come in, in tens, then hundreds. The numbers soon swell, and the flock keeps flying up in ripples and resettling. They make quite a sight, as groups bathe at the waters edge sending spray everywhere, and the birds are in a range of adult and late-juvenile plumages. Still no Rosy Pastor. As the light dims further and the temperature drops, and the numbers of Starling goes up into the thousands, it is becoming increasingly clear that the star is not going to appear on the stage tonight. It would take a miracle to see it now. People are beginning to drift off. I keep searching through the scope, and miraculously, there on the water's edge for a few second is , well ...
It's not a common Starling in standard plumage. It is quite pale cold grey underneath. It has a solid block of dark wing plumage, and in the brief time I have it is facing quarter-angle towards me so I cannot see the back well. And then it is gone.
I'd have preferred more time to get a good look. I was expecting something a bit more buffy all over. But I recalled a photo (here) which I checked out afterwards and I think there is nothing to be gained by worrying about some weird plumage aberration in Common Starling. Where's the fun in that? Lists don't fill themselves, so there we are. Rose-Coloured Starling. 190.