Sunday, 7 September 2014

Wrynecks, Whinchats and a Tufted Duck

My home patch has been frustratingly quiet. With reports of many migrants on the coast, particularly Whinchats, I've set off on a circuit of the marshes hoping each time to see some sign of autumn migration. Last year we had Whinchat and Wheatear; this year, so far, precisely nothing. There've even been 6 Whinchats just up the valley at Claxton for heaven's sake, surely one could have stopped here!
My efforts to see Wryneck had also been failing. My first attempt was at Yarmouth Cemetery about 10 days ago. I arrived in the mid-afternoon to be told it had flown in to a bush and had not been seen again. Despite much searching by me and another birder, we failed to locate it but at least I found myself a dapper Pied Flycatcher, my first of the autumn, so the visit was not in vain.
My birding activities the following weekend were restricted to a 4 hour window on Saturday afternoon due to work and sporting commitments (my daughter doing the sporting bit in Letchworth, me being the taxi) so my husband and I elected to visit Winterton hoping for Wryneck and Greenish Warbler. Arriving just north of the totem pole we found one birder staring at a dense clump of bushes. Sure enough, the Wryneck had been showing well on the short Winterton turf but had flown into a bush and disappeared. Despite searching hard for 45 minutes, there was no sign of the Wryneck, or of any other birds for that matter, so with limited time we gave up and turned southwards hoping the Greenish Warbler would be more obliging.
The warbler had been quite elusive at times and a small crowd of birders was gathered by the "Valley" waiting for it to reappear. Fortunately we had timed it right and didn't have long to wait as I noticed a small bird flick into the back of a willow and then pop out in the open on the front of the tree. It performed beautifully, flitting back and forth from the willow to a huge buddleia, constantly flicking its wings.
Sunday was spent with my daughter at Letchworths annual Duck'n'Dash, nothing to do with birds, but an aquathlon ie a biathlon composed of a 600m swim followed by a 6km run. My daughter was competing as the swimmer in a relay team, the other half of which  was my friend and fellow birder James Walsh doing the running bit. Considering that they were essentially a Junior + Veteran team, they came a very creditable close 3rd against Adult+Adult teams.
During this week, I had time for an hour or so's birding back at Great Yarmouth Cemetery. Whinchats were posing here using gravestones for lookouts, another Pied Flycatcher hunted insects above them and I was pleased to catch up with a classically tail-quivering Redstart.
Yesterday, I was tied up yet again, this time for a wedding but finally managed to get out to Kessingland this afternoon where 2 Werynecks had been reported.
This time, I arrived to find a group of birders watching a Wryneck feeding distantly at the base of a bracken covered ridge. I could see where the bird was through bins but this was definitely a scope job at this range and in the short time it took me to put my scope up, the bird had been flushed by dog walkers and I was just in time to glimpse the Wryneck through my scope as it shot over the ridge into the bracken. The other birders left and I moved forward to a better position but it was an anxious wait before the Wryneck popped back into view on the grass. Focusing my scope on this bird I was stunned to see another Wryneck drop in next to it. I had two Wrynecks side by side in one scope view, simply breathtaking! One Wryneck quickly hopped off out of view but the other was very showy. After walking to Beach Farm and back, where I saw one each of Pied and Spotted Flycatcher, one of the Wrynecks was perched in full view on a bramble patch on my return.
This evening back at home, a final walk around the marshes at last gave me a patch year tick for September, not a hoped for Whinchat but a Tufted Duck, a bird I haven't seen here for 14 years! Even on a small regularly watched patch, birds can always surprise you.

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