With the weather again looking rather decent for a trip across to the east coast, it wasn't hard to see why we filled the car with 5 birders very quickly!
With the presence of an Isabelline Shrike lingering on the north coast of Norfolk, and copious numbers of other mouthwatering scarcities lingering around it wasn't particularly hard to find where we would be heading either. And for 4 of us in the car it would our 4th day in Norfolk in 2 weeks!
So, wanting to make the most of our time out east, a stupidly early get up time, and 3 hours later, and as the sun started to rise ahead of us, we were only a short distance from our first location. 2 Barn Owls flitted over the car as we drove, which as always, was a great start to the day.
Walking out to the whirligig at Warham Greens, the seeps of migrating Passerines could be heard, with winter Thrushes and Meadow Pipits on the move. As it grew lighter, the vismig grew stronger, and good numbers of Brambling were moving over west with Chaffinches. Singles of both Redpoll and Siskin also went over, but it was quite clear that people were quickly losing hope for the Shrike. We searched though. Small flocks of waders and ducks gave us flypasts, with Common Snipe and Golden Plover going over and large numbers of Little Egret moved out of their roosts. A single Spoonbill flew past distantly before ditching into the Blakeney saltmarsh but it wasn't exactly the dreamed for start of the day.
As I wandered around, the rest of the group saw the first Yellow-Browed Warbler of the day, but I personally missed it.
Cutting our losses, we chose to move over to Cley Beach, where a Grey Phalarope had been residing for a few days. Luckily this one wasn't hard to see, spinning about on a tiny puddle adjacent to the shingle ridge. Needless to say, scope filling views were had, and we all had a large grin on our faces!
Phalaropes are great birds whenever you see them, but there is always quite special when you see one up close. No doubt a result of the birds innocence, the crowd possibly being the first humans it has encountered in its life. The arrival of a party of Brent Goose flushed the bird, giving us great flight views as it flew across to the road, and then back again! What a smart bird!
Further up the shingle ridge, another hoped for target of the day was showing, and we were all treated to superb views of a rather stunning sandy 1st winter male Snow Bunting. Again, another confiding bird, which happily fed down to about 30ft range. Scope views were again first rate, and it added another highlight to our ever increasing day list.
The Bunting gave us a brief flight view down the ridge, where it was joined by a Wheatear, and both fed happily as we chose to move on to Holkham to look for the Rough-legged Buzzard.
Over the course of the last couple of years, this has quickly became one the most aggravating birds I have spent time trying to find. Multiple trips spent looking for them and still they manage to avoid me! As we pulled into Lady Ann's Drive, a quick phone call from Espen (Who was also birding in Norfolk that bad) said he had just seen the Buzzard flying out towards East Hills! As with my luck though, we drew a blank, and we also dipped the Pallas's Warbler, which we walked the wrong direction for. 2 Red Kite,a Peregrine and 10 Common Scoter were little reward, but this was to prove the only low point of the whole weekend...
As with our last day of the Norfolk weekend, we chose to head back west to finish the day, being slightly closer to home, and it became easily the most productive site of the day. We made our way around the Meadow trail behind the visitor centre, and it didn't take long for a Yellow-browed Warbler to start calling as a Tit flock moved through the Willows. At one point it was calling in the tree right above our heads, when another started to call further away, so there was at least 2 birds present.
As we walked out of the trail, a female type Merlin sped across over our heads as it barreled east.
Huge numbers of dabbling duck were present, with Teal, Shoveler and Wigeon being the most numerous, and among these were smaller numbers Pintail and Gadwall.
Also present across the extensive areas of mud were good numbers of waders, with all the expected species being present, the highlight of which was a Spotted Redshank which dropped into the lagoon. Among the pre-roosting gulls, a rather dapper Mediterranean Gull was swimming around among the Black-heads, but the sea was calling.
But it was rather quiet! Until the long staying Black-throated Diver surfaced in front of us, which proved to be one of very few birds on the sea. Seeing that our time here could well be wasted we started walking back down the track.
A female Stonechat was feeding from some bulrush on the edge of the path, so it aimed the scope at it, and immediately a smaller bird flicked up and instantly started ripping apart a bulrush head. Smaller than the Stonechat, with a rufous back and pale grey head!!
There was a Penduline tit feeding no more than 20 feet away from us!
My initial response I cannot post here due to its rather explicit content, but within seconds, the crew was on the bird, Liz had snapped a couple of record shots as I faffed around and called over a number of people standing on the track around us!
It was hard to believe we had just found a Penduline Tit, and at one of the most 'populated' and well visited reserves in the UK, my first 'BB' self find, ecstatic! Soon the crowd started to develop, and we all enjoyed crippling views of the star of the show as it continued to rip apart the bulrush heads.
Everyone was on it and news went out about its presence, and soon more birders started to appear. Apparently, it was the first Penduline Tit seen at Titchwell in 13 years, so I was incredibly chuffed to find it!
The bird started to move away as the crowd grew larger, and once it moved along the Parrinder bank towards the hide we headed back to the car as more than anything I needed a reality check!
We returned to find the crowd we had caused...
But the bird didn't show again (Although it was seen again very briefly the next day), so we spent time scanning the Gulls (A single adult Yellow-legged Gull being the highlight) and talking to a variety of NGB's and other birders who had made the rush to get here. Sadly few of them had seen it, with the bird only having been on view 40 minutes but it was a great way to take in that we had just ended the day by finding a BBRC description species!