After the excitement and travelling of the past 2 weeks I was hoping for a quieter weekend. Friends were coming over on Saturday and I planned for a gentle days birding on the Norfolk coast on Sunday. Things changed with the news that my mother was in hospital having fractured her pelvis in a fall. A trip to Derby was now required. It was an early start on Sunday; my younger daughter needed to be dropped off at a swimming gala at Bury St Edmunds at 8am before I headed north. Hence I was on the A14 north of Cambridge when the pager mega-alerted. I couldn't believe it, a Citril Finch in Norfolk! I had only commented the previous weekend it was about time for another big bird in Norfolk. Now it had happened and I was heading away from my home county. I briefly considered the option of going to Derby via Burnham Overy but decided it wasn't really a practical and consoled myself instead by calling in briefly at Ferry Meadows, Peterborough just off the A1 for a Red-rumped Swallow.
I arrived in Derby as the pager started reporting the Citril Finch as showing well and texts came from friends first asking what I was doing about the bird and then commiserating after I replied. I sorted out my dads phone answer machine then, after my brother arrived, headed to the hospital. My mum was very bright and the news was better than expected, no surgery was required and physiotherapy was to be started that afternoon. After the hospital visit, we took my dad to the supermarket and introduced him to ready-meals. He can't cook and he had been living on fish and chips from the local chippy. After teaching him how to use the microwave, having a sandwich and a cup of tea it was time to leave. It was 15.45. I typed Holkham in to my sat-nav and it gave me an arrival time of 18.47. Should I give it a go? I had to work the next day, so time would be tight then too and Holkham was only a small detour off my normal route. It was worth a try and I set off hoping the traffic gods would smile on me. A hold up could spell disaster.
As it turned out, the gods were munificent. Every single traffic light through Nottingham was green, the traffic on the A52 was travelling at speeds near to the speed limit and even the normally cursed A17 was moving at a good pace. The minutes were steadily dropping off my e.t.a but once I hit the empty B roads of Norfolk they poured away and I pulled in to Lady Ann's drive at 18.17. Even the ticket machine joined in my good fortune by giving me my money back plus an extra 50p along with my ticket! There was just the 1.5 mile walk to complete which seemed endless. Happy birders on their way back from the bird reassured me it was showing well and "looked settled", (frequently words of doom) and at long last I turned a corner, walked over a small brow and came across a group of maybe 10 birders and Richard Thewlis painting. I had expected a bigger crowd but this was indeed the bird. I asked the nearest birder (who turned out to be Chris Craig) if I could look through his scope (thanks Chris) and after an anxious few seconds when the bird was hidden behind some vegetation, the Citril Finch finally emerged in to view and on to my list. Huge relief and joy! I enjoyed excellent views for the next 15 minutes as it fed on seeds on a tiny patch of sand on a bank right on the edge of the pines. Then suddenly it flew up in to the pines on my right and was not seen again that evening.