Sunday 9 November 2014

Surf Scoter at Holkham and two Desert Wheatears

Nice early start this morning, with a certain Surf Scoter at Holkham the target bird.
Arriving in Norfolk around 8am we parked up at the bottom of Lady Anne's Drive and took the boardwalk path out onto the beach heading for the bay.
The water's edge is quite distant, making the birds even more challenging to scan. The first flock of Scoter found held all Common Scoter, but a Red-necked Grebe and a Great Northern Diver were both present close by.
Another flock of Scoter found but again only Common Scoter seen.
A walk down to the West end of the bay, produced another flock of Scoter, and among this flock was the target bird. A stunning male Surf Scoter, the obvious white nape patch standing out among the flock of mainly female Common Scoter.
Among the flock were a couple of male Common Scoter and also 2-3 Velvet Scoter mixed in for good measure. 
After getting the only other two birders present at this time onto the bird and putting the news out, it was time for us to return to the car park.
A brief search around the crosswalk for a reported Pallas's Warbler failed to find the bird. 

Burnham Overy was the next target area, and after a short scan of the area a cracking Rough-legged Buzzard came into view.
Brian had two birds in the air together before one drifted away, we watched the remaining bird hunting over the dunes for around 30 minutes before it landed briefly in a nearby field and then after another short period of hunting drifted off.

Our third stop was to a place I had never visited before, Gorleston-on-sea.
Where after parking up at the suggested area of Pier Gardens, we found very strong winds blowing straight across the beach.
Sand and optics are not something you want to mix, but after quickly locating the Desert Wheatear we found the bird showing down to a few metres.
It had moved further along the beach from the reported area, and had found a drainage pipe to take shelter in.

Desert Wheatear at Gorleston-on-sea

The strong winds and biting sand storm didn't stop it from scanning the surrounding area and run out to snatch it's prey from the sand whenever anything was spotted. The bird took no notice of the small group of birders and would approach to within a few feet at times. 
After an hour or so the sand storms became to much and we retreated to the car.

There had been reports of another Desert Wheatear present at Lowestoft, this time a male, and it seemed rude not to pay it a visit on the way home.
The last time we pulled into Links Road car park we watched a smart Iceland Gull feeding among the car's in the car park, this time we found an even more confiding Desert Wheatear present.
The news services were requesting birders "view from sensible distance" normally something must birders don't need telling.
We found the bird straight away and there were only three other birders present. We walked past them some twenty metres and within a couple of minutes the bird had flown along the seawall and landed no more than two feet from me.

Desert Wheatear at Lowestoft

Brian had to back away to get the bird in the frame of his camera, it was that close!

A cracking day's birding, Surf Scoter made it on to the list at last and two Desert Wheatear's seen on the same day!