A day of supercilia and wingbars: Norfolk birding at its best 18th October 2020




Pallas's Warbler shows off at Thornham Harbour



We woke up to heavy drizzle on the North Norfolk coast but we decided to stick to Plan A, donned our waterproofs again and headed off along the seawall at first light from Burnham Overy Staithe. The drizzle had now turned to steady rain and there was a stiff northerly breeze making conditions pretty unpleasant but we ploughed on and did our best to spot birds in these grim conditions.

A Kingfisher sat on a post alongside the creek as the tide flooded in. The sky was full of the sight and sound of thousands of Pink-footed Geese as they left their roost and headed out to feed in the surrounding fields. After we had walked about a mile, we began to wonder just why we were doing this when we could have been back at our cozy house drinking mugs of steaming tea! But after a brief discussion we all agreed that the sky to the north did in fact look brighter and we should keep going out to the dunes.

By the time we reached the dunes the rain had stopped and we were in the shelter on the south side of the peninsula. We scoured the area carefully but it has to be said there were not huge numbers of migrants. Redwings, Goldcrests and Reed Buntings were the most obvious birds and Ruth picked out a lovely Lesser Redpoll feeding with Goldfinches. On the edge of the saltmarsh we came across three Twite feeding with a small flock of Linnets, always lovely to see these scarce finches. If migrants were in short supply, waders and wildfowl were in abundance, literally thousands of individual birds seen in this beautiful coastal area. At the west end of the peninsula we scanned the sea with the Leica telescopes and picked up some nice additions to our trip list including a drake Velvet Scoter, Red-throated Divers, Great Crested Grebes, Gannets and a fine adult Mediterranean Gull.

On the walk back to base we had great views of two Cattle Egrets feeding alongside a herd of Belted Galloways close to the seawall and we could see these small white herons were feeding mostly on frogs disturbed by the cattle. At least four Great White Egrets and some 20 Little Egrets were also seen in the area. Other highlights on the return leg included wonderful views of a male Bearded Tit, a Cetti's Warbler both seen and heard, Marsh Harriers, Peregrine, and hundreds of Golden Plover. As we neared the end of the walk, Wendy spotted a small bright warbler in the bushes not far from the house. We all quickly got on to the bird and it proved to be a gorgeous Yellow-browed Warbler, complete with bold supercilium and two wing-bars. What a fantastic bird on which to end our walk. This beautiful visitor from Siberia really showed off in the late morning sunshine.


Common Redstart gives a good view



In the afternoon, we visited Thornham Harbour where we had heard that a Pallas's Warbler had been seen in the bushes around the beach car park. We know this area very well and it was hard to imagine a Pallas's Warbler in the stunted bushes at the harbour but when we arrived, there was a good size group of birdwatchers and photographers all staring at the low bushes around the car park. We quickly joined them and almost immediately saw the stunningly-beautiful Pallas's Warbler. Not only a bold supercilium and two wing-bars but a central crown stripe and beautiful yellow rump. Pallas' Warbler is one of those birds that we drooled over in the field guide many years ago when they were incredibly rare in the UK and we dreamt about seeing them one day. Fast forward to 2020 and we had seen two in as many days, and such beautiful birds they are too.

After feasting our eyes on the Pallas's Warbler for ages, Ruth noticed a Common Redstart working its way through the bushes towards us and this lovely late migrant approached to within a few yards of our position on the seawall, another really beautiful bird to enjoy on our Norfolk Houseparty for Two.


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