A totally mega day on the North Norfolk Coast 17th October 2020




Eastern Rufous Bush Chat - a mega bird if not a mega photo!



The first full day of our Norfolk Houseparty for Two dawned very wet and we would have been forgiven for staying at home. But our lvoely guests Barry and Wendy are old hands at Norfolk birding and, like us, were keen to make the most of their time here. We donned our waterproofs and set off along the seawall from the house here in Burnham Overy Staithe. it was an exceptionally high tide, the whole of the saltmarsh flooded by the sea. Birds were everywhere. The skies were full of geese, ducks and waders zoomed across the flooded marshes and Marsh Harriers hunted the reedbeds and wet fields. A flock of gulls drew our attention to a large otter that was making its way across the marsh. What a fine animal to see so close to 'home'.

As we walked, luckily the rain eased off and we were able to enjoy even more birds with the better visibility. A flock of Bearded Tits clambered up in the reeds and gave some wonderful view. Beyond them a Great White Egret flapped across the fields and landed in dead tree as hundreds of Golden Plover swirled above our heads.

Then our plan for the day changed dramatically: news of a mega rarity just along the North Norfolk coast at Stiffkey! An Eastern Rufous Bush Chat had been seen on the edge of the saltmarsh not far from Stiffkey campsite. With only a tiny of number of previous UK records and none of these available to lots of birdwatchers, we knew this was going to be a very popular bird. So we scurried back to base, jumped in the car and headed for Stiffkey. We parked in the village, assuming that the narrow lane down to the saltmarsh would be chocka with cars already and walked swiftly to the saltmarsh. Ahead of us, we could see a line of birdwatchers standing staring at a patch of sueda bushes. We slipped and slithered our way along the muddy path to join the other observers. Our friend Trevor Girling was in the group and he kindly gave us good directions to where the bird had last been seen.

Luckily we didn't have to wait long before this rufous-tailed rarity flew a short distance over the bushes and then dived out of sight. Phew! We had all got a glimpse at least of this incredible bird. Two more flight views followed before the Eastern Rufous Bush Chat landed in full view on a dead stick right out in the open and we all enjoyed superb views through the Leica telescopes. We even managed to obtain a few grainy record shots with our bridge camera to remind us of this totally mega sighting. What a thrilling encounter to enjoy of the first full day of our Houseparty for Two! Birders were constantly arriving, and good to report that everyone was very considerate keeping a reasonable distance apart, and where this wasn't possible, everyone was wearing face coverings, although a few people did fall victim to the very slippery conditions and at least two ended up in the muddy creek nearby!


Pallas's Warbler made a superb addition to our daylist at Stiffkey!



As we headed back towards the car we were very lucky to have a wonderful encounter with a stunningly beautiful Pallas's Warbler at the east end of the Campsite Wood at Stiffkey. This tiny gem of a rarity had come all the way from Siberia to end up here on the North Norfolk coast. We then headed into Stiffkey for celebratory hot drinks and delicious cakes - what better way to celebrate fantastic birds!

After our refreshments we headed to North Point, a small wetland near Wells-next-the-Sea and timed our arrival perfectly as our friend John Gregory had literally just found a Barred Warbler in the hedge bordering the wetland. We enjoyed wonderful prolonged views of this chunky grey warbler in the sunshine. We finished off this wonderful day back at base in Burnham Overy Staithe watching a beautiful ring-tail Hen Harrier quartering the marshes, seen from our balcony in the evening sunshine while enjoying a cup of tea. Life doesn't get much better than this!



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